Execution (Off Balance #2) by Lucia Franco
Genre: Forbidden Romance Over 18 years
Publication Date: April 23, 2018
The move to World Cup Academy of Gymnastics is the greatest challenge Adrianna has encountered. Punished for Coach Kova’s overwhelming desires, she’s reeling with resentment while she sits out the first meet of the season. As Adrianna fights to regain her focus, he pushes her body to the extreme, leaving her mentally and physically exhausted.
Kova underestimates Adrianna’s endurance, and gravitates more toward her, despite his internal battle raging within to stay away. They try to disentangle themselves, but the tension between coach and gymnast mounts, engulfing them both in a forbidden world of deception and passion.
The one place where they should never feel alive, is where they find complete absolution. But one slip, one wrong landing, a missed grip, and everything they built can come tumbling down, damaging both their professional and personal lives.
“There was something downright magnetic about Kova that drew me to him. An allure, a fascination. And something as powerful and as captivating as him could only ever end in utter destruction.”
My emotions are everywhere. I’m a crying, gasping for air, ache in my chest, mess. I can’t think straight. The emotional state I’ve been left in from EXECUTION has me feeling as if it couldn’t be possible to feel anymore. I’m emotionally wrung-out in the most excruciating, yet BEST way. And to clarify, I only say “excruciating,” because I NEED MORE of Ria and Kova. I need more of this illicit, gritty, yet beautifully heart-aching love affair, and these characters that suck me so far under, that I never want to come up for air.
“You have not made my life harder, if anything, you have made it brighter. Pozhaluysta, do not doubt that for one minute.”
I have to touch on two things in this review. The first being Lucia’s writing. Her prose when it comes gymnastics is hypnotic and goosebump-inducing. I literally almost cheered-out-loud while reading Ria’s performance scenes. The way she so easily has each move associated with gymnastics come across in black ink, is just as skillful, technical, and thought out as if a gymnast themselves would perform them.
And finally, my last topic, Kova. This beautiful Russian man is such a complex character—much more than how he is perceived. Every time he spoke Russian, I swooned a little more, or my heart endured another crack. He has a hard exterior…one that many can’t break through, but every time Ria slowly chipped away at him, the emotion he showed, the more he continued to solidify himself as one of my favorite heroes. I’m not going to say some of his actions didn’t break my heart, because he certainly did…on multiple occasions, but I stand by my statements of never cutting a character out until I read the words, “The End.”
“He was a temptation I couldn’t resist. I was a desire he craved. We were the worst and best kind of combination.”
This sinful, addicting, captivating story of a coach and his gymnast continues to be one of my favorite stories ever. EXECUTION has been one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I can positively say, it surpassed every single expectation I had. The emotional depth these characters began treading in this installment is everything I hoped we’d start to encounter, and I can’t wait to see what comes for them in RELEASE!
“Tighten up, Adrianna. Squeeze your thighs and butt. Everything needs to be firm so you do not sway. The tighter you hold yourself, the less you fall. You cannot loosen for one second. I do not want to see anything jiggle on you. Keep your focus.” He paused. “By the way, your mother gave me a ring yesterday. Such a lovely woman she is. So caring of her daughter.”
I stopped and looked down at him, letting out a gush of air I hadn’t realized I was holding.
“Uh huh. Start over.”
I ignored him. I couldn’t believe Mom called him. “What did she say?”
“What did she say, Kova?” I pushed, snapping at him. I probably looked like a psycho to him, but he held firm and wouldn’t speak until I started up again. I huffed under my breath and jumped. Typical Kova. He always had to get his way. My coach was an exasperating man.
“Just that she wanted to know how her precious daughter was doing. I told her you were getting there but still had a long way to go.”
I lowered my eyelids. “Of course you did. What else?”
“She said she was concerned about your diet and wanted to make sure you were eating nutritious meals. She mentioned when you went home for the holidays you let go and ate everything in sight. She wanted to make sure you are not still on that same path. Something about you had to buy new clothes because your old ones did not fit.”
My heartbeat sped up, and my lips parted. The animosity in her words rang like a siren in my head of things she’d said to me that I did wrong in her eyes. Moisture beaded above my top lip. I gripped the jump rope handles tighter, my skin burning against the plastic. I jumped faster and harder.
Kova was still speaking but I only caught the tail end of a few words. I wasn’t processing any of it; all I could focus on was the fact that my mom had called him and fabricated lies and he listened like a good little sheep. She took vindictive to a whole new level and I had to wonder why she was trying in vain to sabotage my gymnastics career. She wanted to ruin me for the sake of ruining me. It was the only plausible reason I could come up with and a side of her I hadn’t yet seen. I was her daughter, she was my mother. I didn’t understand her attitude toward me.
A prickling sting deflated my chest and my breathing grew strenuous. I slowed down until I stopped completely. My arms dropped to my sides, and I stood with one foot positioned slightly in front of the other, staring in a blank trance at nothing but feeling everything.
A muffled cry burst from my lips and I threw the rope to the floor. Kova jerked back. Tears filled my eyes and my heart ached, not because I was sad, I was, but more so because I was so irate and filled with resentment that my own mother would purposely set out to hurt me. I hopped down, formed a fist, and dropped it down on the balance beam as hard as I could. I shoved at the side of it trying to push it over, shoving my weight against it, which could never happen. It was too heavy, but it felt good fighting against something.
“God! I hate her! Hate her with a passion!”
“Hey,” Kova said softly, coming up behind me, but I couldn’t stop.
“I can’t stand her! No matter what I do, it’s never enough. I never over ate anything, and I bought new clothes because I lost weight. Because we had stupid parties she forced me to attend. She is such a liar.” I kept my back to Kova so he wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes. “And you played right into it, making me sound like I’m hopeless, like an amateur who still needs years of work, and even that might not be enough. You gave her exactly what she wanted and she fed off that, I know she did. She has it out for me, always has, always will. Nothing I do will be right for her.”
A fat tear slipped from the corner of my eye, and I walked away. I didn’t take more than a few steps when Kova clutched my arm in his hand.
“Stop,” he said gently. “Ria, I told her you still had a way to go because the truth is I am not ready to let you go yet.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Just give me a few minutes, Kova.” I yanked my arm away and pushed at his chest. “I’ll be right back.”
Kova grabbed my wrist. “Stop. Listen to me.”
I shook my head. “Please, just let me be for a sec and I’ll be fine.”
“Kova! Just leave me alone!” I screamed.
But he didn’t. Kova pulled me to his chest and I immediately fought against him.
“Get it out,” he said. I shoved at him and cried harder, giving him everything I could. I hated that he was doing this to me and appreciated it at the same time. “Fight harder, hit me if you have to, just get it out.” I struggled between crying and shoving, but Kova didn’t let go, and something in me cracked.
My efforts slowed, and I covered my face and let the tears flow. I poured everything out against his chest. Everything I held in over the past year. From my mom and her backhanded compliments, to the rigorous training I demanded of my body, to the illicit affair I had with my coach. I cried over everything, and he let me.
“Shhh… just let it out,” Kova said, rubbing soothing circles on my back. “It is okay.”
When my cries and hiccups subsided, I sniffled and expelled a huge breath. I felt like a burden had been lifted from my shoulders and I could breathe again.
Stepping back, Kova tried to lift my chin, but I kept my gaze cemented to the floor. I was too embarrassed. I didn’t like crying to begin with, and I sure as shit didn’t want to show him my tears. Tears showed weakness, and I wasn’t weak.
He tried to lift my chin again, and when I didn’t budge, he sighed and got down on one knee so he was eye level with me.
“Jerk.” A sad chuckle escaped my lips. “You always find a way to get what you want.”
A competitive athlete for over ten years, Lucia Franco currently resides in sunny South Florida with her husband and two boys. Paranormal romance was her first love, but she has a soft spot in her heart for small-town and reunion romance stories.
When Lucia is not hard at work on her next novel, you can find her relaxing with her toes in the sand at a nearby beach.
Find out more about Lucia at authorluciafranco.com. Make sure to join her newsletter to receive exclusive updates and more!