Read Dance For Me (Fenbrook Academy #1)(15) online free by Helena Newbury
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Dance For Me (Fenbrook Academy #1)(15)
Author: Helena Newbury

“Yours looks more interesting,” he told me. “Nice bike.”

I looked over my shoulder so fast I almost gave myself whiplash, taking in the hulking great exercise bike in the center of the room, the unmade bed, the washing on the floor. Now I realized why I’d been hesitant about doing this: he was getting a glimpse into my personal world. The weird thing was that even though it made me a little nervous, it didn’t feel anywhere near as bad as I would have thought. It actually felt kind of good, that he was seeing the real me—or at least some of me. If I’d had time to think about it properly beforehand, I probably would have said no, but having done it I was glad I’d agreed.

“I like riding it,” I told him, and then wanted to kick myself because that sounded so stupid. “When I’m riding it, I’m just doing that, you know? It helps me forget stuff.” Careful!

But he just nodded as if he understood. “It’s building things, for me.”

We just looked at each other for a second, realizing that maybe we were more alike than either of us had suspected.

“So. How do we do this?” I looked around. “There’s not a lot of room.”

He nodded. “I’ll be happy with whatever you can do.”

I found some slow and tranquil music online and was about to hit “Play” when I realized I was still in a t-shirt and jeans. Combats I could dance in, but jeans were impossible. I’d have to get changed.

“Umm. Hang on a sec,” I told him.

“What’s up?”

What was the thing to do here? Go to the bathroom and come back? That seemed rude. But I couldn’t just strip off in front of him, or this really was going to feel like some webcam sex thing....

...the idea of which didn’t completely fill me with horror.

“I’m just going to put something over the camera while I change,” I told him. I found a black t-shirt, thick enough to be opaque, and draped it over the top of my laptop. “There. Can you see?”

“Not a thing.”

“Really?”

“Completely blind.”

I put my hands on the hem of my t-shirt...and then, still shy, I turned my back to the screen. I pulled off my shirt and jeans and got into tights and a leotard. Only then did I turn back.

The t-shirt was lying on the keyboard, having slithered down at some point. Darrell was looking right into my eyes.

“When did that happen?” I asked lightly.

“Seconds ago,” he deadpanned.

I just stared at him, a dark heat building inside me.

“I averted my eyes,” he told me.

I was pretty sure he was lying, which only made me hotter. God, how did he do this to me? I wondered if it was the same for Clarissa, with Neil. To cover my embarrassment, I sat down and strapped on my pointe shoes.

“Does it hurt?” he asked me. “I mean, going up on pointe. It looks like it hurts.”

I shook my head. “Not really. Tiring, not painful.” I stood up and started the music.

There wasn't a lot of room, so I focused on my arms—slow, measured sweeps that took me from bras bas to second to fifth. I leaned forward into third arabesque, one leg up behind me. The floor was wood, and glossy enough that I managed a promenade, rotating on one leg as I had in the park. Part of me still only wanted him to see the perfect stuff—the perfect me. But as I danced for him in that messy room, my outstretched foot inches from an exercise bike, things started to change. I stopped thinking about impressing him and started just doing it because it gave him pleasure. I came up on pointe and then sank down into a plié, and I was close enough to the screen that I could look him in the eye as I did it, watching him watch me. I formed a wide "n", lower legs vertical and calves horizontal and straining.

"You're beautiful," he said, and it was so out of nowhere that I wobbled. "Sorry," he said quickly. "But you are."

I flushed, unsure what to say. I wanted to tell him how much I loved his eyes, or the softness of his hair. But I just sort of nodded awkwardly. And going through my mind was, You think that because you don't know me.

But he was getting to know me. I'd wondered before if he felt the same way and now the texts and this call had given me my answer. He really did like me, maybe just as much as I liked him. Maybe more than "liked". This was going beyond just physical attraction, now. This was getting into serious territory—seriously exciting and a serious risk of him finding out about me.

I rose up out of the plié before my legs collapsed, and as the music ended, I leaned forward, closer and closer to the screen. We both had the same idea at the same time. We didn't actually kiss the screen—we stopped just short of it, with our eyes closed and our lips slightly parted—but it felt like we kissed.

"I can't wait for Monday," he told me. "I'm sorry I had to go away."

"Me too."

We talked about the date. Dinner at a fancy restaurant I hadn't heard of. A drink first at a bar I definitely had—the same one celebrities were photographed in, in all the glossy magazines.

And then what? Back to the mansion? Back here? A demure kiss on the cheek? Would it count as our first date, and sex would be too much, or were we technically on our third now?

I said goodbye and ended the call, then sat there staring at the screen. Monday still seemed like a month away, and with every day, the feelings grew more solid, more real. Being apart only seemed to make it more intense—what the hell did that mean? That this was the real thing? Or that I was setting myself up for some huge disappointment when he returned?

***

The next day when I got back from classes, Mr. Kresinski had taken in a package for me. When I stripped off the outer paper, I found a gold and green box with the black lettering of some store I’d never heard of.

The printed note said, “For you to wear on Monday.”

Inside the box was a dress so beautiful I caught my breath.

It was a cocktail dress in some soft, red fabric that seemed to flow over my fingers when I handled it. The skirt looked like it would reach down to just above the knee. It had a halter neck and a neckline that was sexy, but not over-the-top. It was...elegant. I didn’t have anything that was elegant. I’d have to put my hair up.

I slipped out of my clothes and tried it on. He’d got the size right...but given how closely he’d been watching me, that didn’t surprise me. I’d been right about the neckline. There was some cl**vage on display, but it was the right side of sexy.

The skirt, though.... I looked at my legs in the mirror. It wasn’t like my legs were bad—several hours of dancing a day has its benefits—but I wasn’t used to seeing them bare. I either wore tights thick enough to hide the dressings I used on my scars, or pants. The skirt hid the scars fine, but I was very aware that underneath it, my thighs were bare. I’d just have to be careful.

I saw that I’d have to take the dressing off: the dress kept clinging to the edges of it. Luckily, I’d cut very little that week—just once, on Tuesday morning, after a nightmare had left me shaky. If I could manage to hold off until Monday, the cuts would be healed enough that I could get away without a dressing. Darrell would never know.

***

On Monday night, Clarissa helped me pin my hair up. I wished I had some jewelry that would look sensible with it, but everything I owned looked cheap and tacky next to the expensive fabric. I went easy on the make-up—I didn’t usually wear much, unless I was on stage. Clarissa pressed me to put on more.

“I don’t want to go over the top,” I’d told her.

“It’s a date with a millionaire, in a cocktail dress. I’ve heard of that restaurant. You have to book a table now if you want your grandkids to eat there. It’s not possible to be over the top.”

I grudgingly spent a bit more time on my eyes and lips. When I came out of my room again and Clarissa saw the whole thing—dress, hair, make-up and my best pair of heels—she squealed.

“Don’t,” I told her. “I’m nervous enough.”

“Pfft. What’s the worst that could happen?”

***

Clarissa asked if I wanted company until Darrell arrived, but it wasn’t as if I was going to some dive bar. This was K35, a place so painfully cool and horrendously expensive I’d never so much as dreamed of going. Okay, maybe dreamed. Besides, I trusted him to be on time—he’d said he’d be there at eight.

Just to be sure, though, I timed the cab to get me there at a few minutes past. As I opened the door and stepped out, the dress making luxuriously soft little sounds as it brushed against my legs, I felt at least eighty percent like a movie star. I walked up the curving white staircase, feeling the glances of envious tourists as the doorman held the door for me.

I wasn’t quite ready for the wall of sound and the warm press of bodies that greeted me. I’m not sure what I’d been expecting—people lounging on cushions and harp music, perhaps—but it seemed that the rich scrummed around the bar just like the rest of us. I could feel the panic rising in my chest as I felt eyes on me, a million strangers who might suddenly see me for what I really was—a pretender, a shell. What I’d done burned inside me like white-hot lava. Surely everyone could see it?

Calm down. Find Darrell.

I gritted my teeth and pushed through the crowd to the bar. Thankfully, a large crowd chose that moment to move away from the bar and there was suddenly some air. A few bar stools even opened up...but there was no sign of Darrell.

I checked my watch: five past eight. He was probably stuck in traffic. OK, fine. I was a big girl. I’d sit at the bar for a minute until he arrived.

Maybe eight seconds after I sat down on a stool, a guy slid in between the stools and stood next to me. Thirties, with straw-colored hair that was already starting to thin. “Hi! Buy you a drink?”

I forced my best smile. “I’m fine, thank you. I’m waiting for someone.”

He grinned and made no move to leave, so I whipped my phone out and called Darrell. I could chat to him until his cab arrived.

His phone went straight to voicemail. Why would he have it turned off? I tried not to let my disquiet come through in my voice. “Hi, it’s Natasha. I’m at the bar. Just checking in.” Then I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I hung up.

“Natasha. That’s a beautiful name.” The blond guy was still there, and apparently, he’d been listening in.

I gave him a tight little smile and then looked away.

“Come on, let me buy you a drink while you wait for him. Hey!” The last was to the barman, who sauntered over. “I’ll have another one of these. Natasha, what do you want?”

He’d obviously read some dating guide that said using a girl’s name would make her feel close to him, or special, or more likely to drop her panties or something. “I’ll have a cranberry juice—I’ll pay, thank you.”

“With a shot of vodka in it, and I’ll pay,” said the blond man.

“No shot, thank you.” My voice was icily cold. The barman nodded and walked off and the blond man sighed and went back to his friends.

 

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