Claire Ross has never been good enough. Not for the girls in the elite group of dancers in her class and certainly not for the approval of her ballet teacher, Mr. Robins. She definitely doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror. Simply put, she doesn’t love herself, so how could she possibly love someone else?
After twelve years of friendship, Sebastian Reyes’ adoring gaze holds more. They soon find themselves unable to control their feelings for one another.
When tragedy strikes, Claire finds herself in a very unlikely and unfavorable position. Regardless of the weight of the emotion, she must make difficult decisions that impact the rest of her life.
Will Claire see that her true love has been right in front of her? Happily ever after isn’t just for fairy tales. To get hers, all she has to do is trust, open her heart and fall.
“I gotta go. I’m sure my mom is waiting on me.”
“I need you to put your shoes back on and come with me for a minute.”
I shake my head. “I can’t, Sebastian.”
His eyes are pleading with me. I’ve known him almost my entire life, and I’m not sure why it’s so important, but he’s serious. “She’ll be mad if she sees people leaving and I’m not out there.”
“Tell her you got held up…in trouble with Robins.”
I laugh. “Sad thing is she would probably believe that.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before I changed?” I roll my eyes and plop down on a bench.
He paces in front of me, rubbing his hands together. “Stupid Audrina wanted to practice something.”
“Of course she did.”
“C’mon, Claire.” He rolls his hands together like he’s doing some disco dance or something.
“Your jig isn’t helping. Chill.” I take a couple of deep breaths. The truth of the matter is that he’s had me breaking all kinds of rules, living on the edge today. My nerves started out as these perfectly polished and sparkly little crystals. And then in a matter of hours, he’s managed to add some air and heat then spin them into cotton candy. Sticky, messy, bundles of the same crystals waiting for him to slowly devour at his leisure. “You’re making me nervous.”
“You think I’m making you nervous?”
I glance up through my lashes. “Yeah.”
I tuck my bows under the ribbons and stand up. “Okay. All finished. Now what did you want with me?”
We walk back into the studio through one of the back doors. Robins is at the front desk chatting with some of the company moms about tomorrow. Nutcracker tryouts. I can’t believe I forgot.
Sebastian turns and faces me. We’re in the same spot as we were earlier before Audrina so rudely interrupted us the second time.
I cover my mouth. “I forgot about tomorrow being Nutcracker tryouts. Robins didn’t even mention it in class.”
“Well, of course you didn’t.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing.” It means you’re making me a total mess, Sebastian. But of course, you’re completely level-headed. Mom said this would happen. And I’m about to get in trouble. Busted. Probably grounded. Boy trouble. Let the fun begin. “What did you want?”
“I want you to pirouette then fall backward and let me catch you.”
“Absurd. And I don’t have time for this.” I shake my head. “Sebastian, I don’t know what you’re trying to prove. It’s sweet, but I’m never going to be your partner.”
He balls his fists and clenches his eyes closed. I’ve seen him pissed at Robins. They get into it all the time. “Just do it, Claire.”
“Fine.” I huff. I do a passé relevé, push my feet into the floor, and pull my ribs in as my body starts to turn. Finally, when the momentum starts going, unaware of where Sebastian is, I have to totally trust him, and I let my body fall backward. “Ahh.” My scream is muffled as my body is flipped and my face lands against his mouth. The kiss is quick.
“Shh. I’ve got you. Thank you for sparing my balls.”
I sigh in his arms and start to giggle.
He grins and puts his finger over my lips. “I don’t want Robins to kick us out. Before Audrina interrupted us, I was trying to show you something.” He puts his hands back on my hips. “Hand in mine.” I put my hand in his, and he rests his other one on my hip. “Promenade into an arabesque en pointe and watch yourself in the mirror.”
Doing as I’m told, I try to forget that my mother is probably ready to scold me or rip me a new one in the car. Never mind the disturbing thought she may have to even come in to get me. What would she say if she saw me in Sebastian’s arms after our conversation last night? She knows I’m not his partner. She knows I’m not even doing partners work. Would she be happy for me? Or would she know I was just doing this because I liked him? Focus, Claire. Now’s not the time to be distracted. Focus.
“Do you see yourself, Claire? Do you see what I see in the mirror?” he asks.
I shake my head. “I don’t know.”
“I see grace. I see beauty. I see so much potential. Lift your head up.”
When he tells me to do something, I don’t even think twice. My head automatically lifts. Is that how this partner thing works? It just comes naturally like that? And do bodies move so easily with each other? Don’t people step on each other’s toes or fall over each other’s feet? “Is that all you see?”
“I see an incredible dancer. And I wanted you to see her before you audition tomorrow. I wanted you to hear me in your ear, and I wanted you to see us in your head. More than anything, Claire, I want you to believe in yourself.” And when I least expect it, his hand shifts to below my thigh right under my knee and tilts me downward into a fish dive. I improvise as to how I think I’m supposed to be positioned because I’ve watched enough of them, studied enough. It’s a pretty horrible form, but we don’t fall, so I guess that counts for something.
Even though I know I’m not going to get a partner role or any big part, the fact he would do this for me, that he’d go through this to try to show me what he sees in me, means so much. “Thank you, Sebastian. This is so special to me.” But I’m going to be in so much trouble with my mom I may not even get to try out for Nutcracker.
“You still don’t see what I see in the mirror, do you?”
I glance away. “It took years to lose myself.” I shrug. “It’s going to take more than a day and a dance to find me.”