Danny Schaer, a Swiss champion figure skater who has freshly graduated from the Juniors circuit, takes his first steps onto the Seniors stage -- or rather, rink. His first months as a Seniors competitor involve a new coach, a changing body, and the attentions of two other skaters: Danny’s new rival Andrei Lebed, the Yellow Swan of Russia, and Danny’s new rinkmate, the beguiling ice dancer Noah Favre.
Andrei makes it very clear that he has high expectations for Danny, both on the rink and off. Noah, on the other hand, keeps his feelings about Danny to himself, always staying just out of reach -- until, abruptly, he isn’t.
As Danny’s relationships with the two deepen and change over his years in the Seniors figure skating world, he can never lose sight of his main goal, the one thing the three of them have in common: a burning desire for the gold medal and a place in the annals of history.
Danny scrapes a fourth-place finish at the Final after the free skates, and Andrei a silver. They have just enough time to wink at each other before their coaches sweep them back home to their respective countries.
There’s a scant few weeks between the Final and the European Championships, and Nico and Danny spend them drilling his free skate with three quads, until he’s seeing jump compositions behind his eyes when he sleeps. Then it’s off to Helsinki.
They arrive two days before the start of the competition, and to Danny’s delight, Noah and Noemi do too. They meet for dinner in a little restaurant three blocks from the competition hotel. “Are you going to do a mating ritual over the check again?” Noemi asks baldly, a glass of wine in. Danny snorts.
“It’s not a mating dance,” Noah says mildly. “And no, if you’re so insistent, you can pay your own way this time.”
“It’s sponsors!” Noemi says, doing jazz hands. “It’s all sponsors!” Noah rolls his eyes but covertly winks at Danny.
“I’m knackered,” Noemi says as they walk back to the hotel. It’s snowing lightly, a sweet dusting that makes the Finnish street look a bit like a fairy tale. “It’s a bath and bed for me.”
“I should do the same,” Noah says. “What floor are you on, Danny?”
“Twenty-seven,” Danny says, fishing his key out of his pocket to read the room number.
“I’m on twenty-six.”
“Fifteen for me,” Noemi says. “Which means I get my own room and my own elevator.” They’ve arrived at the hotel, and duck into the warmth of the lobby gratefully. “Good night, boys,” she says, walking toward the elevator that will take her to her floor. “See you at practice tomorrow.”
Noah and Danny wander over to the elevators that service floors twenty-five to thirty. “Are you nervous?” Danny asks, falling back on the conversational staple of every competition.
“Not about the competition, no.”
“What are you nervous about?” Danny asks, but Noah just shakes his head and steps into the newly-arrived elevator.
The elevators in this hotel are slower than any Danny has been in before, and it takes a long time to get to floor twenty-six. He becomes aware of Noah’s eyes on him, steady and heavy like a weight, and looks up at him.
Noah’s expression is intense, the face Danny has seen on him before every competitive skate since they were rinkmates. As Danny watches, he reaches out, slowly pushing his fingers into Danny’s hair. “You have a leaf,” he murmurs, pulling it out and flicking it to the floor. A tingle starts at the place Noah had touched and spreads over Danny’s whole body, and as Noah takes a step closer and leans in Danny lets his eyes fall shut and ...