Home > Dance For Me (Fenbrook Academy #1)(12)

Dance For Me (Fenbrook Academy #1)(12)
Author: Helena Newbury

As I waited for the barman to make two more Pretty Women, I gazed around the bar. I always felt I could relax in Flicker, that all of us were off duty here. There were some bars in New York where the actors went with the specific intention of being discovered. Here, almost everyone was either from Fenbrook or hung around with that crowd. We weren’t trying to impress anyone here, except maybe each other.

Not that we didn’t get groups of non-Fenbrook guys—outsiders—coming into Flicker. Come on, the place had a reputation for having actors and dancers working there, of course we did. But groups of actors and dancers can be cliquey and protective, and the guys usually left disappointed. Plenty of times I’d heard Jasmine or Clarissa issue a withering put down to some guy who’d got a little too gropey, or come out with some lame line. Don’t ever, ever, ask a dancer if she can put her ankles behind her ears.

I caught myself wondering if that was why I liked Darrell so much—because he hadn’t approached me in a dark bar, looking to sleep with me. He’d wanted me as a dancer first, and everything else second. It made me feel like I was worth something, like I had something to offer. I really believed that, if I’d rejected his advances, he still would have wanted me to dance for him. Not that I had any intention of rejecting his advances. I smiled a secret smile, the memory of his hands on me sending a swirl of excitement down between my legs. I coughed, self-conscious, and looked around the bar again to stop myself completely zoning out.

I couldn’t stop thinking about him, though. About those whiteboards, and his interpretation of my dancing, the moment when I’d caught a glimpse of his amazing mind. I’d been a little intimidated at first, but once he’d told me and—I flushed—shown me that he was really interested in me, I was just in awe. I realized that I was as fascinated by his ability to create as he was by my dancing.

I took another look around. It was a fairly quiet night. After two years at Fenbrook and nearly as long working at Flicker, I knew all the regular faces and I didn’t see anyone Karen or Jasmine would want to flirt with. I silently cursed. Part of me wanted there to be a distraction, because without one I was going to have to tell them all about Darrell.

I brought over their drinks, together with a water for me and took the money. And then I was out of time. They stared at me hungrily, even the aloof Karen clearly desperate to know.

“Okay, okay.” I took a deep breath. “I was dancing for him—”

“Naked?” asked Jasmine.

“What? No, not nak*d! Where did you get ‘naked’ from?”

“I was just checking. I thought I might catch you out. So it’s really not a sex thing?”

“No! He’s getting inspiration from me.”

They both looked at me doubtfully.

“What is he, again?” asked Karen. “A choreographer?”

“No...”

Karen frowned. “An artist? Is he painting you?”

“No. He’s an engineer.”

They both looked at each other. I sighed. “It all makes sense when you see the whiteboards. It’s about how I move in the air, and....” I trailed off. “Things.”

“So...what is he actually building? A dancing robot?” Jasmine’s expression wasn’t cruel—she was genuinely trying to understand. But I didn’t have a good explanation to give her.

“I don’t know.” I spread my arms wide. “But what does it matter? He’s inspired by me.”

Jasmine looked as if she didn’t completely buy it, but she nodded. “Okay, so you were dancing for him...”

“And I fell off the stage. And he caught me. And then he kissed me.”

Both of them did a delighted little gasp. Karen actually put her hand to her heart. “That is so cute!” Jasmine told me.

I beamed, the pride swelling up inside me. Jasmine clinked glasses with me.

“Do you think he guessed?” she asked.

“Guessed what?”

“Guessed it was deliberate.”

My jaw dropped open. “It wasn’t deliberate!”

They exchanged glances. Then Jasmine asked, “You fell off the stage?”

“Yes!”

“Do you do that a lot?”

“No, but...it was a new stage! He’d only just had it built—”

“He built you a stage?” asked Karen, eyes wide.

“I know. I wasn’t used to the size of it, and I was...distracted. I was thinking about him, and I went off the edge.”

“So you actually fell and he caught you?” Jasmine blinked, astonished. “That’s...genuinely romantic. And klutzy of you.” She punched me on the arm. “Idiot. You’re lucky you didn’t break something. Tell us about the kiss.”

“He caught me and held me in his arms and kissed me,” I said, all in a rush. “And then he sort of knelt,”—I leaned forward—“and we were down on the floor, him on top of me....” They both leaned in, so we were in a huddle. “And then...God, he had his hand on me—”

“Where?” asked Karen, with surprising urgency.

“My breast—”

“Wait,” said Jasmine. “Is there sex? Because if there’s sex, I want popcorn.”

“No, no sex.” I realized I was grinning. Actually grinning. Finding someone I connected with seemed so miraculous, and the whole thing felt so new and exciting, that I’d been scared that even talking about it would somehow end the spell and destroy the whole thing. Now that it was out in the open, that seemed ridiculous. I was glad I’d told them. “And that’s it. We’re going on a date on Monday.”

“Is he paying you?” asked Jasmine.

“No!”

“Okay, so an actual date. Wow. Where?”

“No idea. He’s going to call me.” And spontaneously, we did a ridiculously girly little squee of shared excitement. The coming week was going to be great.

Chapter Twelve

Darrell

I was on my back, lying on a wheeled sleeper with the missile suspended a foot above me. I’d stripped down to a vest and an old pair of jeans while I drained the fuel and hydraulics, knowing I’d get covered in it. Sure enough, my hands were already blackly sticky with oil and from there it was transferring to my clothes. It didn’t help that I was using the front of my vest as a rag every time my hands got too slippery. I was probably going to have to bin everything I was wearing when I was done.

It was Sunday, and I wanted to get as much done on the missile as I could, knowing I’d be taking Monday night off for my date with Natasha. Just the thought of it made me smile. I normally begrudged taking even a few minutes off to eat, but for her I’d have happily disappeared for a month.

A buzzer sounded, telling me a car was at the gates. I cursed. If it was another salesman, I was going to go berserk.

I slid out from under the missile and checked the gate camera. A convertible Aston Martin in racing green. Great. Just what I need. The gates were already opening—she had her own remote for them, and her own key for the house.

It was only a few minutes before the elevator doors opened and I heard the harsh click-clack of her designer heels on the concrete. I was already back underneath the missile, which was probably rude. I didn’t care.

“I see.” Her cut-glass British accent echoed around the huge space. “I travel thousands of miles to see you, and you don’t even greet me?”

I kept working. “It’s only four hundred miles to Virginia. You didn’t come to see me, you came to check on the project, and shop. And I’m greeting you now. Hi.”

I heard her shift papers around on my desk so that she could perch on the edge and knew, knew that she’d be taking a careful look at my screens at the same time. “Darrell! What a thing to say! Seeing you is always my top priority. The project’s completely unimportant.”

I put my hands on the missile’s casing and gave myself a push. The sleeper, with me on it, rolled out and I came to a halt only a few feet from where she was sitting.

Carol was wearing a very tight, very short gray skirt—, which I suspected was for my benefit—and a black turtleneck sweater. Her long dark hair lay in gleaming waves down her back. When we’d done our first deal, I’d hacked the Sabre Technologies personnel files to see who I was dealing with, and that was the only reason I knew she was now 38. She could have passed for five years younger—maybe more.

“Are you looking up my skirt?” she asked, raising one eyebrow.

I ignored that and stood up. The relationship we had was...complex. When I’d first met her, she’d been an up-and-coming research and development exec, eager to make her name, and I’d been a college kid with a killer design but no idea what to do with it. My success had fuelled her success, and although she was now head of R&D with about a hundred contractors to oversee, she was still focused on me, and how much money my next weapon was going to make her company.

Nothing had ever happened, but in those first few months when I’d been going through hell, we’d got closer than we probably should. I probably could have made more money working with another company—Sabre was tiny compared to some of the better-known names in the industry—but the money wasn’t what drove me.

I looked at the missile and she followed my gaze, then slid from the desk and came to stand behind me. She didn’t actually touch me, but she was close enough that I could smell her perfume.

“Tell me. What will it do?”

She knew I couldn’t resist talking about my work. With Carol, I knew there wouldn’t be any shock or outrage. She understood why I did it—she wanted me to make the most efficient killing machines possible.

Sabre Technologies didn’t employ me, but they fed me projects—problems to solve. I didn’t accept any money from them in advance and they didn’t have to buy what I created. That was the way I wanted it: I put enough pressure on myself without having to work to a deadline. Of course, me being out of their control made them edgy—hence the monthly visits from Carol.

I walked around the missile. “When I finish the new system, it’ll be able to dodge incoming interceptors. Maybe go from a thirty or forty percent chance of reaching its target to an eighty or ninety percent chance.”

Carol beamed at me. “Fewer missiles to do the same work.”

I smiled coldly. “Or same number of missiles, but more cities destroyed.” I stopped abruptly. I’d meant it as a light-hearted comment, but I could feel my stomach clenching. That thought wouldn’t have bothered me a week ago. Why did it now?

Carol cocked her head at my tone and looked questioningly at me, but I just brazened it out. Eventually she relented and looked towards the stage. “And what is that?”

“That’s for Natasha.”

She did a good job of looking thrilled for me. If I hadn’t known her so well, I would have bought it.

“Natasha? Have you been taking time away from the project, you bad boy?”

“No, actually. She’s a dancer. She’s been—” I knew she wouldn’t understand. “She inspires me.”

 

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