Home > Dance For Me (Fenbrook Academy #1)(14)

Dance For Me (Fenbrook Academy #1)(14)
Author: Helena Newbury

A little voice told me that I’d been on these trips plenty of times before, and they’d never seemed quite this boring. Talking about my work had even been kind of fun, after months spent alone in the workshop. This time, though....

This time it was different. This time I’d seen an alternative. Natasha.

I thought of her, pirouetting smoothly on the stage, flowing from one position to the next with a lightness that didn’t seem possible. The way she’d move slowly and then explode into a run, or how she’d jump and catch her balance like a cat...she made it seem so effortless. I remembered the way her hair blazed and shone when the light hit it. And when she smiled—especially if it seemed like she was smiling because she saw me—it made something swell up inside me, like—

“Interesting.” A deep rumble behind me. I turned to see the white-haired CEO of the company standing there. The meeting had broken for lunch while I’d been daydreaming and people were milling around. For some reason, he was looking down at the notepad I had in front of me. I looked too.

We both stared at the full-page sketch of a ballerina. I hadn’t even been aware of drawing it.

***

That afternoon, I sat near the back and tried to figure out what to text to Natasha. I wanted to let her know I was thinking of her, but I didn’t want to come over as creepy, or weird. We’d only seen each other a few times, after all, and that had been business. Well, mostly business.

I had to be charming, but flirty.

But not seedy.

But interested.

But not pushy.

I sighed. How can it be this hard? It had always been easy with the society women I’d dated...somehow, I’d never worried about what they thought of me. With Natasha, that was all I thought about.

Eventually, I settled on: “Thinking of you.”

I didn’t hear back for an hour. Then: “Thinking of you too.”

I looked to the front of the room. They were talking about how their new fighter jet maneuvered—exactly the sort of thing that would have had me in rapt attention a week ago. Now it just seemed...flat.

I texted back: “How’s your day been?” That was okay, right? Friendly but open-ended.

A minute later: “Rehearsal. Modern class. Going to take a shower now.”

Right then, Fenbrook was the most interesting place in the world. I wanted to know everything. What was she rehearsing? Modern? Modern what? Modern history? Did they take other classes as well as dancing and stuff? Or was modern a dance style? I’d have loved to watch her dance modern. Actually, I realized, I’d have happily watched her dance the damn Macarena. And the shower comment...I knew that had been completely innocent, but it kicked off all kinds of thoughts.

I waited until I thought she’d be out of the shower—a few minutes was enough, right?—and then texted: “Good shower?” Immediately, I regretted it. That was too flirty.

Minutes ticked by. No reply. Five minutes. Ten.

“Very good thank you ;)” came back. She was flirting with me. Then, a few minutes later: “Off to Harper’s now.”

Who was Harper? A girl? A guy? Was it some guy’s house? I thought of her going to some open house college party with kegs of beer and chisel-jawed actors, while I was stuck in Virginia. I didn’t want to go overboard on the texts, so I sat there and stewed for a while and then, while I should have been listening to some guy talk about jet thrust, I found http://fenbrookacademy.com on my phone and discovered under Life at Fenbrook that Harper’s was a coffee shop, and that made me feel a little better.

How was she doing this to me? I didn’t remember when I’d been this wrapped up in a girl. I wasn’t sure I’d ever been this wrapped up in a girl.

***

The next day, Tuesday, I couldn’t concentrate at all. I texted her again, but she was in class or at rehearsals most of the day so replies came slowly and I didn’t want her to think I was stalking her. By the end of the day I was mentally worn out and physically jumpy. I was used to working with my hands, feeling comfortably worn out at the end of the day. Nine hours in a conference room chair didn’t agree with me.

I hit the hotel gym and heaved dumbbells until my muscles burned. It felt good, but it didn’t feel satisfying like it should have done. I felt like I was hungry, but not for food. Like—

Like I missed her.

That was ridiculous. I’d seen her on Friday—it had only been four days! And yet—

The door crashed open and Carol strutted in, in designer workout gear and drinking from a water bottle that looked like it belonged in an art gallery. “Really?” I asked her. “I can’t even be alone here?”

“I didn’t come here for you,” she said with a sniff. “I came here to run.” And she stepped onto a treadmill and cranked it up to a jog.

For a few minutes, I lifted and she ran in blissful silence. Of course, it was too good to last.

“I need you up early tomorrow,” she told me over the expensive whir of the treadmill belt.

Her tone sounded warning bells in my head. “Why?”

She was silent.

“Where are we going?” I pressed.

She looked round at me and smiled. Realization dawned and I let the dumbbells crash to the ground, drawing angry looks from people around me. “No!”

“You’ll enjoy it. You always liked the Starbucks there....”

“Damnit, Carol, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Would you have come to Virginia if I had?”

I stormed out.

***

The annoying thing was, as I sat there in the sun on Wednesday lunchtime, sipping an iced mocha latte, it was kind of fun. Just a little bit.

“I told you you’d enjoy it,” Carol reminded me from behind her huge sunglasses. “Who wouldn’t like this?” She indicated the sunshine, the happy office workers relaxing around us, and the five towering walls that surrounded the plaza.

Maybe for the thousands of people who worked there, it was normal—maybe they didn’t even think about it. But I’d only visited twice before and I still got a kick out of...well, just being at the Pentagon.

“Maybe you could get your ballerina a pen,” Carol told me, sucking Frappuccino from her straw. “They have a gift shop.”

I smiled. Bringing Natasha a gift would be cool. It would be nice, to share a little of my world with her—the cool part. I pulled out my phone and typed a text to her: “Guess where I am?”

A few moments later, as we finished our drinks, a reply. “Where?”

And then I froze, my thumbs hovering over the phone. What was I doing? How in hell was I going to explain being at the Pentagon? As soon as I said it, she’d know I worked in defense. Then she’d want to know what I made for them....

Something knotted in my stomach. The last thing I wanted to do was to lie to her, but.... I typed out: “Drinking Starbucks in the sun.” Which must have seemed like the lamest reply ever.

“Come on,” said Carol, taking my drink before I’d finished it. “We have a general to meet.”

Part of me wondered if I was being stupid. Maybe Natasha wouldn’t care. Maybe she’d be just fine with me making weapons. But deep inside, I knew that wasn’t the case and not just because I was getting to know her. It was because I was starting, very slowly to look at what I did in a different way—an outsider’s way—and I didn’t like what I saw.

***

That afternoon, when my part of the briefing was done and Carol was telling the military about how this latest design would be faster, more efficient, more lethal, I opened up my laptop and started browsing the internet. I wanted to get Natasha a gift, to make up for lying to her even though she was oblivious to it. A dress for our date would be perfect...except I had no idea where to start. Sleeves or no sleeves? Long skirt? Short skirt? I could at least guesstimate her size, after studying her so closely while she danced, but in terms of women’s fashion I was shooting blind. I knew what I thought looked good, but that was it.

I knew my limits. That night, I drafted in two female hotel receptionists and let them argue over which of my shortlist they liked best, then picked the one they settled on. When the confirmation finally popped saying the dress was on its way to Natasha’s apartment, I felt slightly better.

I couldn’t wait to see her again.

Chapter Fifteen

Natasha

It was only Thursday and I missed him—a lot. It took me a while to admit it to myself, but I got there in the end.

He’d texted the first day. I still wasn’t sure about the winking smiley I’d sent with the text about taking a shower—had that been too much? Then a few days later, there’d been a cute text about him drinking Starbucks in the sun. I loved the fact he got a kick out of doing something simple. It made me want to sit out in the sun somewhere with him—Central Park, maybe. Listening to Karen’s quartet play, nestled up against him on the grass, sounded a lot like perfection.

I was jerked out of my daydream by my phone ringing. Not a text but an actual call, and his name was on the screen. It was after six—maybe he was done with work for the day.

I sat up on my bed. “Hi.” It was the first time we’d ever spoken on the phone, and it made me more excited than it really should have.

“Hi, Natasha.” The sound of him saying it made me smile. “Where are you?”

“At home. Quiet night in. How’s Virginia?”

There was a pause. “Dull,” he said eventually, and it sounded like he was surprised by his own answer. “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“Will you dance for me?”

I blinked. “You mean: when you get back?”

“I mean: right now. Got Skype?”

I looked across the room to my aging laptop. It was hunk of junk compared to Clarissa’s wafer-thin model, but it worked. “Yes....” I said doubtfully.

“Will you do it?” He paused. “I mean, obviously I’ll pay you....”

“You don’t have to pay me,” I said quickly. And then realized that that pretty much amounted to a yes.

Why was I so hesitant? What bothered me about the idea? I mean, it seemed a little crazy, but so did dancing for a millionaire in the first place. Was it the thought of performing on camera, like some borderline-prostitute cam girl? Ridiculous. It was dancing, not sex.

“Okay,” I told him, and gave him my Skype address. He called, and suddenly I could see him. Ohmygod he looks good in a suit! His hair was sort of tousled, as if he’d been running his hands through it, and I longed to do the same. Those perfect blue eyes were staring straight back at the screen, almost as if—

Oh yeah. He could see me. I looked down at myself: a t-shirt and jeans, the minimal make-up I’d worn for class and bare feet. Not great, but it could have been worse.

“Is that your hotel?” I asked, looking at the huge bed behind him.

He nodded. “Want to see?” And he turned his laptop slowly around, giving me the tour. It was a suite, with its own lounge and dining areas and a huge bathroom. It was several steps above any hotel room I’d ever stayed in, even if looked more business than romantic.

 

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