Fear sprang in her gaze, but she didn’t shift away. She didn’t look to the side.
She didn’t cower or tremble.
She did nothing but stared right back at me.
I advanced again, lowering my head, gentling my tone. “I don’t love you.”
A small wince from her. She couldn’t hide it.
“But I want to fuck you, and when taking Nova to the ER with you, I didn’t want anyone else beside me with her. I don’t know what that means, but… Right now, I need to fuck you, and right now, I really, really hate seeing you falling apart without me there to comfort you.”
One last step. I was so close to her.
She was breathing hard, ragged.
So was I.
I watched, waiting. I needed to see her decision.
She looked away. “I’m sorry for what I tried to do. I think about it now, and I despise myself.”
I moved in, touching her chin.
I raised her face.
The tears were there again, swimming in her eyes, waiting to be shed.
I cupped her face with both my hands and wiped under her eyes with my thumbs. There. She blinked, and they were gone.
A new awareness was coming up. It was like she was starting to see me for the first time. Then her mouth opened. A small ‘oh’ and that was all I needed.
I moved down, my lips finding hers.
She gasped, opening her mouth wider. Her hands clamped on my arms, and she surged up on her toes. I pulled her entire body against mine and lifted her, carrying her to the bed in the back of the pool house.
We were done talking.
“Quincey, honey. We need you on the line.”
I snapped back to reality and tried to stomp down the flush I knew was already starting. I’d been thinking about Nate, Nate’s body, how his body felt over mine, inside mine, how he intertwined our hands—and I was gone again.
That was Matthew, a hiss from him.
We were in our last rehearsals with Patrice, and I wasn’t paying attention at all. I ducked my head down and went to my place. Matthew stepped behind me, his hand on my waist, and we both raised our hands up.
“What’s going on with you? Patrice has not been happy with your distraction. And gotta say, neither am I.” His hand squeezed my side for a bit.
I closed my eyes, but I didn’t have time for my usual waves of self-condemnation.
“I’ve just been distracted. Sorry.”
I looked over. Patrice was frowning at me, but she was nodding at what Miss Aimes was saying to her. We had only today and tomorrow with our choreographer. She was flying off, and then we’d finish going through the entire production with Miss Aimes. Everything would get polished, smoothed up, and perfected, and Patrice would be back for our first show.
“All right. We’re going to go through it one more time.” Patrice signaled, and the music started.
I went through the steps, but I wasn’t present.
I was back in bed, in Nate’s bed, which had become our shared bed over the last week. So much had happened and changed over the past three months. I signed with Dierek. I auditioned and was cast in this lead, and then everything with my father. All of it seemed to be stumbling at a fast pace, so fast that I couldn’t get my head on straight. I focused on two things. Nova. And dance. I let Nate and his team take over handling my father, which I needed.
Logan said everything was fine, but I knew better.
My father would try again.
The fact he’d stayed away from me this long only meant he had something else cooking up.
Me and Nate.
Matthew had me in the air, and I was moving with him. My legs wrapped around. My back arched. My head was up. I was floating through the air, but I was back there.
I was in Nate’s arms.
The first time in the pool house.
It was a week later, and we’d settled into a routine.
I woke and spent the mornings with Nova until Emily arrived.
Nate would work.
I’d go dance.
We’d reconvene, and Emily would leave at five.
Nate, Nova, and I would have dinner together, and we’d spend the rest of the evening with Nova. Games. Chasing after her. Car rides. Singing. Lots of singing. Bath time. She’d go to sleep, and Nate would find me.
He’d take my hand and lead me to another room in the house.
After we were spent, we’d go to his room, and we’d go again, this time quieter.
There were mornings when I woke him, or he woke me, and he’d be moving inside me when we’d first heard Nova starting to wake.
It was the closest experience I’d ever had to a family.
I was nearing thirty. Dancing. Sacrificing. It was what I did to reach my goal of becoming a principal dancer, but now having Nova, and now being with Nate, I was getting a taste of something I’d never thought possible.
“No, no. Stop!” Patrice’s voice cut through the music.
Matthew had been about to launch me in the air. We were both poised and ready to go, but we looked over, pausing.
I’d not been present, but I knew my footwork. I didn’t think anyone could tell. I had everything down. The looks. The yearning. The love. The awe.
“This isn’t working.”
She strode over, her eyes narrowed. She looked over Matthew.
A new awareness was coming over all of us, not just me. This wasn’t a good look. If they were going to critique or fix, they did it immediately. She came over to us, and she was walking around us. Then she settled back, looking me up and down.
Her gaze wasn’t moving from me.
“This isn’t going to work.”
Fear slammed against my sternum.
I shouldn’t have been daydreaming. That was a lesson learned early on. They could always tell when you weren’t feeling the dance.
“You’re going to do a solo at this time.”
Matthew made a sound, jerking farther back from me.
She ignored him, her gaze fully on me. She asked me, “You have time to learn a new piece?”
A sound rose from the other dancers.
This wasn’t done, not when our choreographer was going to leave in two days.
She heard and motioned to everyone. “Calm down. It’ll be fine. It’ll pick back up, but in this segment, I want Quincey to be the only one on stage.”