Authors: Emily Walters
Published by Emily Walters
Copyright © 2016 by Emily Walters
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems – except in the case of brief quotations in articles or reviews – without the permission in writing from its publisher, Emily Walters.
Table of Contents
“Cara, can you please put these over on the shelf? We won’t need them today.”
Cara Vernell took the stack of costumes from the backstage production assistant and placed them where she had been told, wiping her forehead in the process. When her professor had approached her about her senior year service work, he had given her a ton of options but Broadway had appealed to her. For the last three years Cara had been lucky enough to attend the prestigious Jewel Academy, continuing her lifelong dream of becoming a ballerina. While much of their time was spent in the dance studios perfecting their dancing skills or in the classrooms, the requirements for fourth-year students included working in one of the many areas of the theater industry. Broadway had been Cara’s choice. She was determined to make the most out of her last year at the academy and learning the inner workings of Broadway was only going to add to what she had already learned. Today she was working backstage at the Majestic Theatre as the performers ran through final rehearsals for a new Broadway show. Her job was to help the production team wherever needed and so far today she had carried costumes, moved props, and picked up lunch. It was a busy day, but Cara had enjoyed it.
With a small sigh, Cara leaned up against the wall to rest her feet, knowing that after she left this Broadway assistant position she wouldn’t have much time to do so. As a ballet student she had very little time to do much of anything else. Her life revolved around the academy requirements and ballet practice, perfecting her ballet for a future of performing worldwide. The stage was where she liked to be and she was determined to perform with a company wherever that might be. In less than one year, she would be graduating and Cara could only hope that ballet production companies in France, Russia, or England were in her future.
“Hey! Get out of the way! Don’t you know this spot is reserved for dancers and not wannabes?”
Cara looked up sharply at the sound of an angry male voice, finding a guy around her age staring at her, his hands on his hips. He was gorgeous, with thick wavy blond hair and piercing blue eyes, and Cara tried not to drool at the sight of his athletic body and the way his T-shirt clung to his muscular form. She knew exactly who he was and no matter how awesome he looked, his attitude was enough to make her cringe. Daniel was one of the performers on this production and from day one he had made it known to her that he didn’t like her presence backstage. She hadn’t done anything to provoke him, but he had made it a point to single her out apparently. Usually she stayed out of his way, but it looked like today she wasn’t going to be so lucky.
“I didn’t realize this wall had a sign, Daniel.”
“This entire backstage is reserved for talent,” he sneered, crossing his arms over his chest as he regarded her. “Just because you are in the academy doesn’t mean you have the talent to make it here.”
Cara gritted her teeth as she pushed away from the wall, forcing a tight smile on her face. The last thing she wanted to do was start a fight and get herself kicked off her project and ruin her chances of having a successful final year at the academy. The seniors were required to complete their service project without incident and Cara wasn’t going to have anything to mar her record with the academy, not when she was this close to graduation. While he was a phenomenal dancer on stage, Daniel sucked as a person. She might admire his dance style, but she didn’t have to put up with his attitude. “Excuse me. I have some work to do.”
“Can’t take the heat, Cara?”
“Oh I can take the heat of your criticism,” she said sweetly, brushing past him. When he had asked her who she was the first day of her service work, he had laughed at the fact that she was still a student and not a performer.
“I just prefer to take it from someone who actually knows what they are talking about.” She would show him one day. He was a hip-hop dancer and she was going to be a prima ballerina. Cara couldn’t wait to show him that she belonged on stage as well.
Cara pushed the heavy stage prop back into place and wiped her hands on her jeans, looking out over the empty auditorium with a feeling of belonging. All of the cast were long gone and most of the crew were as well, the rehearsals done for the day. In two days the empty seats would be filled with patrons excited about another Broadway show and the cast would shine under the adoration. Cara herself enjoyed the rush of excitement when she danced in her ballet performances. Over the years she had given many performances but being the top performer on a large stage such as this was her dream. She wanted people to come back to see her dance night after night. She was excelling in her last year, her professors and instructors having nothing but praise for her improvements in her dancing and her academics. If she stayed the course, she would be graduating with top honors. With a dreamy smile, Cara started to hum as she executed a perfect turn in her sneakers, lightly running through her dancing routine that she would practice tonight with her dance instructor. When she danced, everything else melted away. There were no emotions, no feelings, only the sensations of her body moving to the music. Cara finished the routine with a curtsey and nearly stumbled as she heard the sound of clapping, knowing she had been caught.
She looked over sheepishly, her embarrassment turning to annoyance as she watched Daniel emerge from the shadows. Great, of all people to catch her dancing it had to be him. Not wanting to hear his crass remarks, she turned away to leave.
“Wait, Cara, don’t go. That was beautiful. I had no idea you were such a graceful ballerina.”
Surprised, Cara felt a flush on her cheeks as she turned to look at him, seeing no indication of humor or snide looks on his handsome face. Was he really giving her a compliment? “I, well, thanks I think. I mean thank you, it means a lot coming from you.”
“It was really, really good,” he said softly, thrusting his hands into his jean pockets. “Listen, I’m sorry I was so harsh to you earlier. The production has me pretty stressed and I tend to become a dick when I am frustrated.”
Cara couldn’t help but think how adorable he looked trying to be apologetic, some of her earlier mistrust of him ebbing away. She could understand how he felt before a big performance, the need to be perfect and not be the one to mess up in front of an audience. Cara herself had that feeling before each one of her own performances and while she hadn’t performed on a big stage such as this, she imagined the feeling never really went away but intensified. She was under a great deal of stress to finish this last year and not knowing what her future held made her stress ten times worse. “It’s okay,” she finally said, giving him a small smile. “You dance pretty good, I mean awesome, yourself.”
“Awesome on stage, a horrid person with an attitude off stage,” he laughed. “It’s okay, you can call me out. Sometimes I wish people would call me out when I am nasty.” He then gave her a grin, the butterflies in Cara’s stomach going wild at the sight. “I think we should start over. Daniel Wells, a lowly hip-hop dancer trying to make it under the big lights.”
“Cara Vernell,” she smiled. “I’m a fourth-year ballet student with high hopes of being an extraordinaire one day.”
“If you dance like that, you shouldn’t have any problem,” Daniel replied softly. Silence ensued and Cara shifted her feet, wondering what she should say next. She was surprised that Daniel had literally apologized to her for his behavior, a total turnaround from the guy she had traded barbs with earlier. It was like meeting him all over again. “Well, I guess I should go,” she finally said.
“Wait,” Daniel started as she turned to exit the stage. “Cara, would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?”
Cara turned back and looked at him, her heart beating double time in her chest. “Are you asking me out?”
“Well, I hope that’s what you got out of it,” Daniel grinned. “I would like to take you out, Cara.”
“Yes, I would like that,” Cara grinned back. She was really enjoying this new Daniel. Besides what could hurt in one date?
“No way! I can’t believe that your mom would subject you to such torture by taking the ballet class with all girls!”
“She did and she has the pictures to prove it,” Daniel said solemnly, a twinkle in his eye. “I think I still have the leotard somewhere.”
Cara laughed aloud as she took a sip of her wine, thoroughly enjoying herself tonight. Daniel had taken her to a nice Italian restaurant right down from her apartment building and to her delight, he had been a great date so far. He had been genuine, funny, and all-out nice to everyone they had encountered tonight. She couldn’t have asked for a better time or a better person to spend it with. He had kept the conversation going and they each had shared how they had gotten into dancing, finding similarities in the way they had made their mark in the dancing profession. Daniel had been an only child and his mother had doted on him relentlessly, signing him up for anything that didn’t have to do with him getting hurt. Cara too had been an only child and her mother had lived out her own dreams through her daughter, signing her up for every dance class she could get Cara into. While Cara was proficient in ballet, she also knew a little bit of tap, jazz, and ballroom dancing from her years of moving from class to class.
“So, Cara, what are your plans after school? What would you like to do?”
“I want to perform, of course.” Cara swallowed, twirling her spaghetti on her fork. “Hopefully with an international ballet company but I’m not shooting for the big fish immediately. I know I need experience.”
“You dance beautifully, Cara,” Daniel replied, reaching across to touch her hand. A sizzle of heat spread through Cara’s body and she responded with a soft smile. “I will give you some advice. I have learned the hard way about getting into this business. I went to audition after audition before I finally nailed one of them. All you need to do is go out there and own the stage like you did yesterday. If you do that, there will be no doubt you will make it far in this business.”
“Thank you,” she said softly as he withdrew his hand. “It’s nice to have someone who understands what I am going through for once.”
“Oh I have been there,” he laughed, his blue eyes twinkling in the candlelight. “Many times over. You will do fine. Are you ready to go? We could go for a walk in the park.”
Cara nodded and Daniel signaled the waiter for the check. He looked at ease tonight, dressed in a green dress shirt and grey pants that had Cara drooling over his perfect form. She had dressed with care as well, her simple black dress showing off her toned body while her shoulder-length brown hair was pulled back to expose her slender neck. In her twenty-two years Cara could just about count on both of her hands how many dates she really had been on. Her life before the academy was devoted to practices and recitals, leaving very little time for a personal life. Her boyfriend in high school hadn’t understood her need to be in the studio so much and had dumped her right before graduation, which was fine with her. But now, when the end of her last school year was in sight and a new chapter was getting ready to start, Cara was interested in working on her personal life.
They walked out of the restaurant and down the street, where a small park with meandering walkways invited quiet conversation and romantic interludes among its towering trees. Cara liked to run through the park every morning and had done it so much that she just about knew all of the other daily runners as well. It was safe and the night weather was perfect to linger outdoors and enjoy Daniel’s company just a little bit longer. They walked down one path, their hands occasionally brushing each other and sending tingles up Cara’s arm. “So are you excited about the new show?” she finally asked, attempting to keep the conversation light.
“I am actually,” Daniel said, reaching down and taking her hand in his. Cara smiled in the dark as he wrapped his fingers around hers, his touch feeling comfortable. This was crazy, this attraction to him when a day ago she couldn’t stand him. “I have enjoyed rehearsing this one. It really lets me show my hip-hop side which is what I enjoy most.”
“I’ve seen you dance,” she smiled, giving his hand a squeeze. “You will be awesome on this production. You dance with such ease, I wish my dancing was always so fluid.”
“I just allow my feeling to come out in my dancing, you know? Everything just kind of melts away once I start, like my body goes into another zone.” Daniel shrugged, stopping them in the path. Cara’s breath caught as he turned her toward him, squeezing her hand in his. “Cara, this has been something pretty awesome tonight. I am glad you decided to give me a chance.”
“I’m glad you aren’t the jerk I thought you were,” she giggled. “It’s been perfect, Daniel. Thank you.” She had thoroughly enjoyed herself, not to mention the way her stomach was doing all kinds of butterfly maneuvers with him being so close. He was funny, charming, and surprisingly, despite their differences in their dancing styles, they had a lot in common.
“Whew, I’m glad I passed the test then,” he laughed, bringing up his other hand to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear. She swallowed at the soft touch, the tenderness in his eyes as he dropped his hand.
“This isn’t going to be our last date, is it?” she asked softly, her heart pounding in her ears. Her attraction to him was surprising given that Cara hadn’t even thought of Daniel in that way, but once she had gotten to know the professional dancer, her tune had changed. She just hoped he felt the same.
“Hell no,” Daniel grinned. “Not by a long shot.”