Good god, this one took much longer than I expected. But I want to thank all of you for your continued support! You guys keep me going :) As for this next installment, I really hope you enjoy it. As always, make sure to stay tuned for the IMPORTANT notes at the end. Much love! Listen to:
Stay Closer - Zhu
Smooth - Escape The Fate
Love & Pain - JMSN
Skin - Rihanna
All I Do - Majid Jordan
~ Positions ~
I might've stared for hours.
Might've stood in that hall, mouth agape, gawking at it until one of the night custodians discovered me. But the cool, thin hand of my teacher squeezing my shoulder quickly snapped me out of my reverie.
"Congratulations." Her smile was perhaps more broad - more real - than I had ever seen it, and I couldn't help but notice it didn't quite fit her stern face. I whispered a thank you, still more than half in shock. But it was really there. It wasn't a typo.
Elizabeth Cromwell - my name - was actually printed at the top of that list, clear as day.
They'd cast me.
Cast me as their lead dancer in Terpsichore, the most highly anticipated and elite dance exhibition in Seattle. In all of the West Coast, really. That, in itself, was mind-blowing. Marvelous. More than enough. But that wasn't even all of it.
No, winning that part also meant winning the precious time of Mr. Taylor Adler.
That was what had my jaw hanging by a thread.
That was why I could barely move.
To put it into words, it was like telling an amateur street artist that Señor DaVinci wanted to mentor them.
Yes - Taylor Adler was the new DaVinci of dance in the U.S. He'd choreographed for film, for Broadway, for Carnegie, for the bloody Queen of England, I'd expect. Pop superstars would consider it a miracle if he agreed to choreograph a music video or a concert for them.
And now he would be coaching me.
A college drop-out struggling to form a minor career in the Puget Sound Dance Company.
Within a single week, he would teach me six dances. Six. Eight hours of practice a day. That added up to fifty-six hours of his priceless time.
My hands were trembling with a nervous excitement. I still couldn't believe it. Thousands of girls must've tried out.
"Best get some sleep," my teacher said, back to her strict comfortable self. "You'll need it."
I'd taken extra care that first morning.
I'd used my best body wash, fixed my bun so that every strand rested in place, worn my best dance shoes and some clothes that I could really move in. I was bound to make some mistakes, but if I could help it, my appearance wouldn't be one of them.
Somehow, I had managed to sleep the night before, thank god. I needed the focus and, more importantly, the stamina.
But it wouldn't matter. None of it.
Because nothing could've prepared me for what walked into the studio that morning.
Taylor Adler was a legend. Naturally, a man who'd acquired such acclaim had to have some years behind him. I'd never seen any pictures of him, though. He was very private.
All the more reason I expected him to be older. Gray hair. A thin, petite frame. Maybe even a tad effeminate.
My expectations failed me. Big time.
I remember the moment very clearly. I'd been sitting on the wooden studio floor, stretching my legs and doing a few twists. Trying to calm my nerves. I didn't believe him at first when he told me who he was. How could I? All I saw was an obscenely gorgeous young man who must've had the wrong room.
Copper hair tousled sexily about his head, shaggy and perfect. Tall, leanly muscular body. Beautiful broad shoulders. A delicate dusting of freckles like cinnamon across a straight, bronzed nose. Heart-stopping jade green eyes beneath black, curtain-like lashes.
I couldn't breathe.
Wrong room. Definitely wrong room.
But then he said, with - I swear - a voice like milk chocolate, "Elizabeth - hello."
He knows my name?
I swallowed thickly, forcing myself to respond after what must've been a full minute of stunned silence. "Uh...yeah. Yeah - yes. Yes, I'm Elizabeth. Beth. I go by Beth."
"Beth," he amended, and the sound of my name on his lips was like warm water running down my back. As soon as he stepped toward me, I scrambled to my feet. I was starting to figure it out. Starting to guess, at least. To hope.
And then, as he reached out to shake my hand, he said it.
It's hard for me to decide whether my world went up in flames or fireworks in that moment. I just remember the sudden flood of heat to my cheeks. "Mr. - Mr. Adler..." He couldn't have been a day over twenty-five. I grasped his hand as gently as I dared, then pulled it away to avoid further spread of my flush. His hands were warm, fingers long and callused. "It's an honor."
"Just Taylor, please," he said, and I found his grin infectious.
"I see you've already stretched. Excellent. Had plenty of water?"
Did a scone count? I nodded anyway.
"Great. Then we can get right to work." He took his duffle bag down off his shoulder and walked to the front of the room. Out of the bag, he pulled a portable speaker, an iPod and a bottle of water.
Then he took off his sweatshirt.
Oh god, I'm in trouble...
The black T-shirt beneath it clung way too suggestively to his strong, tempting torso, accentuating all the lines and curves of muscle and bone. Holy Hell, his shoulder blades...
Get a grip, Beth.
"Alright..." He clucked his tongue as he shuffled through some songs on his iPod. "Let's get some blood pumping, yeah?"
Biting down on my lip, I nodded emphatically. For him? Anything. I was even tempted to forget about how much I actually hated warm-ups.
He settled on a song, and for a moment I stood in shock at hearing some quite modern, foreign rap flow through the speakers. I don't know what I'd been expecting. Classical, maybe? Or jazz? Certainly not this.
He noticed my confusion, but I guess I wasn't hiding it.
"I spent some time in Sweden," he explained, smiling that charming smile again. "Some friends introduced me to their brand of hip-hop." He beckoned me over to him with two fingers.
I don't think I should've come any closer.
"We're gonna start fast, alright? You okay?"
"Yeah, yeah," I nodded quickly again. "Of course."
"Good. Give me your hands."
Swiftly obeying, I found myself even more swiftly spun in a tight circle. My breath caught, and as the world stopped again our eyes met. He tugged me close with some very interesting, controlled strength that I instantly liked.
"I want you to get very comfortable in my hands, okay Beth? Don't be shy," he said, grip tightening on one hand as the other slipped down to my waist.
I struggled not to gasp, my heart pounding. Nodding had become my specialty.
"A bit of a salsa, now, yes?" he said, smiling that damn smile again. Salsa - good, a dance term. I forced my mind to shift back in that direction, and my gaze shot down to his feet for just a second. Okay. I could do this.
Giving myself a bit of a mental jerk, I let my own feet start to move.
It was interesting. Salsa to such a hip-hop beat. At first, I found myself more than a little lost as he led me through some traditional steps and a twirl. But of course he noticed my tension. I was starting to realize that he missed next to nothing...
"Relax," he said gently, that heart-melting smile making me blush again.
I gathered a deep breath, but even that didn't seem to help.
God dammit...come on, Beth.
His hands suddenly both took to my waist, and that deep breath became pointless.
"Use these hips," he said, seemingly unfazed by my nervousness. Strong grip tightening, he kept our feet moving as he suddenly rolled my hips for me, coaxing them into the rhythm.
A flash of hot desire electrocuted me.
"Yes, like that. Good. Excellent." His hands left my waist as soon as I started to swivel on my own, and I got a fraction of my breath back.
This was bad.
This was really, really bad.
If I couldn't focus through one of the most important weeks of my life, I might as well have quit right then and there.
I told myself to suck it up.
"Be even more dramatic. Really roll your hips - like it's one fluid movement from head to toe. Your entire body."
Swallowing, I did as he asked - or at least tried to.
"Perfect. Perfect. Beautiful. Now make a slow circle. No - don't stop the hips. Never stop the hips," he instructed, face drawn into a mischievous, boyish grin. I caught myself giggling a little.
I swear, his smile could've put sunshine in Hell.
It could certainly make a girl lose her inhibitions.
The song ended before I knew it, and Taylor pulled me to a gentle stop. I felt loose and refreshed, and I didn't think I could hate warm-ups any longer.
"Great, great," he said, patting me on the hip as he went to pick a new song. "Okay, we're going to start on the first dance. It's sort of a salsa-samba hybrid - bit weird, but I'm sure you'll get the hang of it."
I smiled, bouncing on the balls of my feet. I might've been excited. I might've been nervous. I wasn't sure anymore.
"So, basically, we're trying to incorporate traditional dance into modern music," he said. "And you'd be amazed how much a classic salsa can fit with-" he pressed a button on his iPod, "Santana, for instance."
I knew this song.
The sexy groove of the guitar came in, reminiscent of "Smooth," but with a hard twist.
"Is this a cover?"
He smiled that gorgeous smile again and nodded. "Has a little more of a punch to it. I liked it."
I liked it, too.
"Alright, this is a partner dance. Most of them are. There's only one solo piece, I believe. You'll start separate, on either side of the stage. Make your way to the back corner..."
And so it began.
By the end of that day, I was sweating bullets, so certain every muscle would ache that I was hellbent on taking a bath the moment I set foot in my apartment.
He'd taught me the entire first dance - a wondrous, sexy thing I couldn't take my mind off of. The lyrics of the song continued to spin through my head all the way home, dance moves flashing before my eyes.
He really was brilliant.
One dance in and I adored him.
But, then again...he was easy to adore.
The week went by in a blur of music and steps and brilliance and those beautiful green eyes everywhere. I was almost winded by how much I'd learned, not to mention physically exhausted.
Over the course of the last five days, I'd learned a salsa, a solo ballet I was quite nervous about, an exhilarating hip-hop routine, a waltz and a tango. All beautiful. All fun.
I could hardly believe today was my last day with him. My last real day, I guess. He'd be at the performance, of course, but that was different.
With a somewhat heavy heart, I entered the studio, still incredibly curious as to what my finale dance would be. Taylor was keeping it a secret from me, which made me all the more excited and anxious to learn it.
After today, I'd have one evening to practice the dances with my real partners: professional dancers from all around the globe who'd learned the routines far in advance. And, to be honest, that made me more nervous than anything else.
How was I supposed to dance the way Taylor had taught me when it wasn't Taylor's strong hands on my waist? Taylor's hot cheek against my neck? Taylor's deadly eyes on mine?
It just wouldn't be the same.
Taylor was messing around with his iPod when I walked in, and he looked up and gave me yet another one of those priceless, heart-stopping grins. I wanted to weep.
This was a once in a lifetime chance, and it was about to be in my rear-views.
"Hi Beth," he said casually, but there was something in his eyes that told me he was just as excited for this dance as I was.
I just wanted this day to last forever.
Cheesy, I know, but who cares?
"Hi Taylor. So...this is it."
He smiled again and nodded, "This is it. The big finish. It may not be the hardest, but it is my favorite."
My excitement sparked higher. Anything that had captured his heart could surely capture mine.
"We're going to start right off," he said.
"No warm-up today?"
"No, no. I want as much time as possible with you."
And even though I understood his meaning of the words, my heart fluttered.
"This dance is all about romance," he told me, setting up the iPod and selecting the song. I felt a flush crawl to my cheeks. Romance? Oh, how was I supposed to survive?
Slow sax filled the room, sexy and smooth, and I found my eyes falling swiftly to my feet. I'd spent a week with him, in almost every position imaginable, and now this was making me uncomfortable. I couldn't believe it.
"I said baby, what you want from me?" the singer crooned, his voice like silk. "I'll give you anything."
Taylor paused the song with his remote. "It's called Love & Pain," he said, "which are exactly the two emotions I want to convey in this dance."
He was talking to me now, so I was forced to make eye contact. And there was something in his gaze that was different than the other days. Something in the way he was looking at me.
It made my heart beat faster.
"Come here, sweetheart," he said with a gentle smile, holding his hand out to me. I wanted to purr at the endearment, obeying and twining our fingers together. Call me crazy, but I felt a natural ease when we held hands.
I wondered if he felt it too.
Once I was in his hold, he turned me, putting my back against his chest and making us face the mirror. I almost gasped. This was not a new position, but it felt suddenly different.
"Okay, so it starts with only you, alone - center stage. A red spotlight's going to hit you when the music starts, and your head will be turned..." his warm hand caressed the side of my face, gently titling it so that I was glancing down at my shoulder, neck exposed, "like this. Perfect." He moved out from behind me, folding one of my arms behind my back as he went. I was like putty in his hands, allowing him to mold me any way he wanted. An artist's wooden mannequin.
"Now lean back - really curve your spine. Gorgeous. And place one foot behind the other. Excellent. That's perfect. Don't move."
He stepped off to the side now, leaving me frozen and blushing at his praise, and pressed play.
"Now, as soon as you hear the sax, start raising your free arm. Really gracefully. Like a swan. Yes. Beautiful."
As the singer began, he had me start to sway my hips gently.
"Cause my love runs deep as the ocean. Oh, let's sail away. No one's gonna stop us now..."
"Do a slow twirl to your right. Gorgeous. Keep your head tilted just like that throughout."
"You and me can face the love and pain."
"There." He stopped the song. "When he sings 'love and pain,' your parter will enter from the back. Don't look at him, just pretend he isn't there. For a portion of this dance, all he's going to do is watch you."
I nodded, quickly turning away. This, of course, was difficult for me, because I could see him through the mirror. And he was always a massive distraction.
Taylor rewound the song a few clicks and then crossed to the back corner of the studio. Mentally, I went back a couple steps, and when he played the music again, I tried to force my eyes off his reflection as he strode confidently past in the background.
He had this walk. This poise and swagger that made him seem more like a sly cat than a man at times. It drove me wild.
I focused back on the steps, making myself repeat the twirl, far too conscious of his watchful eyes.
He worked me through another few steps via verbal instruction alone, and it wasn't long before I felt like I had a good grip on the base of the dance. A lot of swaying and twirling and slow, swanlike movements.
During the second verse, I noticed Taylor move a little closer in the background.
"Said, maybe, I'm the only thing you need. I know you feel it, don't you?"
"Alright, now I want you to cross your forearms over your stomach, putting one hand on each hip. Good. Now, gently - very gently - roll your hips and turn in a circle. Beautiful. Don't be afraid to be sexy."
My cheeks must've been flaming.
"Or just maybe, perception is reality. Either way, I want you."
The song flowed back into the chorus, and now I could really feel Taylor's gaze burning into my back.
He had me fall to my knees on one of the many "love and pain"'s, portraying heartbreak, then slowly rise as the song began to build to a crescendo.
It went silent, and Taylor had me freeze, his voice starling me - right beside my ear.
"Don't move," he murmured, so I left my arms where they were - one crossed over my chest, the hand up beside my ear, the other extended out behind me.
And then the singer came back in alone, voice strong and powerful, "Love and pain."
As the downbeat hit, Taylor's hands found my waist at last, and I was surprised when he pulled me back hard against him. warmth of his body bled through my tank top, making me shiver, my breath hitching. His jaw was resting upon my shoulder, hot exhales tickling the bare skin of my collarbone.
He was way too close.
Far too tempting.
Before I could even catch my breath, he'd spun me into a low dip, my hair brushing the floor, and then snatched me back up.
"I will never leave you lonely. So come on and put it on me."
I caught those dark green depths, just before I was whipped around again. He twirled me expertly, knowing exactly when to pull and when to give slack. I was breathless and dizzy, merely allowing him to guide me through the blur that was the rest of the song.
As we moved, his lips found my ear once more. "Don't be afraid," he whispered.
"A-Afraid of...of what?" I gasped out, sucking in a sharp breath as he suddenly lifted and spun me. We were covering a great deal of the studio floor in this passionate frenzy of a dance.
And then, all at once, the room stopped spinning, and I was staring deeply into his eyes as the song faded away.
He leaned forward slowly, allowing his warm forehead to rest against mine. I couldn't breathe. In fact, I was fairly certain I hadn't taken a full breath in over two minutes. I was in danger of passing out.
His nose brushed against mine, eyes burning into me, and he whispered, "Of feeling it."
I inhaled raggedly, not daring to blink. My chest heaved between us, breasts brushing against his strong chest, and I found myself both incredibly aroused and incredibly nervous.
He was panting too, like a powerful animal. Like all girls want to see men pant. Skin glistening with clean sweat. Muscles flexing. Eyes bright with the thrill of exertion.
But it was the small movement of his tongue that was my undoing.
As we stared at one another, I caught a glimpse of the small, pink muscle flickering out across his bottom lip to moisten it.
A tiny, pathetic sound that gave away absolutely everything I was feeling in this moment. It put my heart on my sleeve - hung it out to dry - and it left me blushing and desperately trying to find somewhere else to look.
"Beth," I heard him whisper, and it was the vibration of his lips that alerted me to his proximity. It wasn't quite a kiss. Our lips were touching, but only just.
And it was this that made me want it so very badly.
Which was why I couldn't believe it was Taylor who gave in first.
Taylor whose soft, warm, incredibly sweet lips fell upon mine like the forbidden brush of a hand against bare skin. Taylor whose eyes fell shut before mine. Whose head titled and arms closed around me.
And I was brought against his body with the earth-shattering realization that this was where I should've been all along.
It was a kiss that made the prior years of my life a waste of time. Meaningless in comparison.
A deep groan sounded from his throat, sending a sharp tingle through my veins, and his mouth slid off of mine to trace a burning path down across my jaw and onto my neck, finding its destination at my pulse point.
"Taylor..." His name fell from my lips so easily, all at once a plea and an acceptance.
With a decisive breath, he lifted me swiftly off the ground, sliding my thighs over his hips and moving to press my back against the large mirror. I gasped, pulling away from his lips with wide eyes.
And all at once he seemed to figure out what he was doing.
A shuddering, hot breath ghosted across my face, his body trembling ever so slightly against mine. Those equally wide, green irises met my gaze, and I found myself counting the cinnamon dust freckles on his face.
For a long while, he didn't move. Only stared, as if unsure where to go from here.
I didn't dare blink.
And then, ever so slowly, he raised a hand to my temple. I felt his fingers twine into my hair, sliding gently behind my head to grasp something. A moment later, my hair tumbled down around my shoulders out of its bun.
I watched him twirl it around and play with the strands, his other arm still supporting my thigh, palm burning into my skin.
"Taylor," I whispered again at last.
And suddenly the spell was broken. With a sharp breath, he abruptly released me, stepping away and turning around.
"I am...so sorry," he murmured. He snatched his remote off the ground and moved over to the corner to fidget with the boom box, refusing to look at me.
I remained plastered to the mirror, breathless and confused.
"I think that's enough for now," he said, still messing with his iPod. "If you come a little early tonight, I'll run it with you one more time before you meet your partners."
Not only was I not ready, but I certainly wasn't about to leave after something like...that.
"Taylor," I said, a little more forcefully. "Please."
At last, he turned and caught my gaze. "I just need some space, Beth. To clear my head. I lost a little control. It happens. Dancing is passion. And passion can make you...well..." he gestured offhandedly to me.
My mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.
That's what he was calling it? A small loss of control?
Eventually, I forced myself to shut my mouth, clear my throat, and turn on my heel. And I walked out of the studio with the most ridiculous sensation of a broken heart.
His name was Gavin...and he was not Taylor.
Pathetic as it may seem, that was my first thought about every single one of my soon-to-be partners for Terpsichore.
Gavin would dance with me for the salsa, "Smooth." He was tall, tan-skinned and far more muscular than Taylor. He'd also practice with his shirt off.
And he wasn't Taylor.
As Gavin spun me around the room with all the prowess any professional dancer should have, I kept catching myself looking at my dance instructor. My gorgeous, too-perfect, moody, indecisive tease of a dance instructor.
That kiss had obviously meant far more to me than to him.
If anything, tonight he looked cold. Detached. And I wanted to be angry about it, but every time I saw him I fell into a helpless spell and ended up fawning instead.
Stupid, unwise, pathetic, desperate me.
My partner for the hip-hop was Jose, another handsome, tan-skinned buff guy. He'd come from Puerto Rico, had abs that could deflect a bullet, and he frequently slipped into Spanish during our practice together.
And he wasn't Taylor.
Jacque, from France, accompanied me for the waltz. He was tall and gracefully made, with a chiseled jaw and elegant cheeks - a beautiful man, worthy of a sculpture.
And he wasn't Taylor.
I'd dance the tango with Hans, from Berlin, who was strong and lively and succeeded in forcing at least a dozen laughs out of me throughout.
And he wasn't Taylor.
And the one I'd been dreading... "Love & Pain" would be performed with Rodion, a drop-dead gorgeous Russian man with the fiercest eyebrows I'd ever seen. He was so attractive that I knew, had I not already had the vision of another perfect, stubborn prick in my head, I'd have done everything in my power to get him to take me home.
But, as it happened, he wasn't Taylor.
And the dance felt all wrong because I wasn't in those rough yet delicate hands I'd come to know so well. I wasn't pressed against the warm, sculpted chest I longed for. And I didn't get to look into those sea green eyes and count those cinnamon freckles.
But I'd plastered a smile on my face, determined not to let the Adonis in the corner ruin this opportunity I'd been given - no. I deserved.
I wouldn't let Taylor do that to me.
Hell, maybe I'd even beg Rodion to take me home. I could've used that right about now.
A good, Russian sexcapade.
I bet he had the stamina of a lion.
I bet Taylor could take me higher.
Shut. Up. Beth.
The show had to go on. I knew that.
I would just have to make myself forget all about that damned kiss.
The crowd was massive.
I'd been eavesdropping from the side of the stage throughout the entire first set, watching the ensembles dance with incredible ease in front of the thousands.
Okay, I'd known this was a big deal but...not this big.
Seattle usually only got these crowds for rock concerts. Not for dance recitals.
My set would begin directly following intermission. And my gut sank when I realized that intermission was now.
Swallowing hard, I escaped back to my dressing room, slipping into the beautiful, sunset orange cocktail dress I'd been given for the salsa. My makeup and hair was already done, unfortunately, which gave me nothing to fidget with for the next fifteen minutes.
So I opted for staring into the mirror, hoping to eventually get bored with my dull reflection.
I never got the chance.
With stealth I should've known he possessed, Taylor appeared in the reflection directly behind me, nearly knocking me out of my seat.
Why, oh why, did he have to look so incredibly handsome tonight?
He wore a black designer suit with a deep green tie and pocket square that brought out his eyes. He looked sleek. Like a panther.
I almost wanted to close my eyes.
I settled for a deep breath instead.
"You'll be wonderful," he said quietly. Gently. "I don't even need to wish you luck."
I wanted to respond, but I found my throat dry. I could only stare at him through the mirror, our eyes seeming to have a different conversation entirely.
"Thank you," I managed at last, voice broken and awkward.
He nodded - just slightly - stared a moment longer, and was gone.
My head fell into my hands. I was probably messing up my hair and make-up, but I couldn't bring myself to care. It seemed like only seconds later that the stage manager was knocking on my dressing room door, telling me I was on in two.
This was supposed to be the best night of my life.
So many other girls would've died to be in my place, and somehow, I found myself immaturely wishing none of it had ever happened to me.
All because of a man.
Hans and I made eye contact across the stage from behind the curtains, and he gave me a big thumbs up. This was the fifth dance. The first four numbers had, amazingly enough, gone on without a hitch, and the audience seemed to love it.
Despite my inner feminine depression, the thrill of performing had gotten to me, and I couldn't keep the ridiculous smile off my face.
The upbeat intro of our tango almost shocked me, but my body moved on its own, and before I knew it, Hans and I were gallivanting across the stage.
His big, strong hands may not've been Taylor's, but they were dependable and trustworthy, and I let myself go, falling into the rhythm of the dance.
This was probably the fastest dance. By the time the final chords played, Hans and I were practically gasping for breath.
The curtains fell shut, and I was instantly consumed by one of his warm, bear hugs. I kissed him on the cheek, we smiled, and then Hans disappeared off stage right.
I hurried to my dressing room, and as soon as I saw the tight, black gown hanging from my mirror, the grin melted off my face.
I'd been dreading this all night.
As I slipped into my wardrobe for "Love & Pain," I struggled to remain calm. I couldn't afford to panic on stage. Rodion had mastered this dance. I shouldn't have had any qualms.
But it had nothing to do with Rodion and everything to do with Taylor.
This dance felt special.
I didn't want to perform it with anyone else.
It seemed like only seconds had passed before my stage manager was fetching me again and I was making the quick trek back to the curtains.
Just before the manager sent me off to my marker, he said something. It was rushed and hard to understand, but it had something to do with Rodion.
He was probably just telling me where he'd be entering from.
I took my place, setting myself up just as Taylor had told me to. I wondered where he was. Whether he was even watching...
The curtains parted, and that deadly, slow saxophone flooded my ears.
I swayed with the beat, allowing the singer's voice to calm me and refusing to think of anything else.
This was still my favorite dance. I figured I ought to enjoy it.
I thought I had a handle on it. Thought I was completely calm. And then the singer crooned "Love and pain..." for the first time, signaling Rodion's entrance, and all my calm seemed to evaporate.
My breath hitched, and I closed my eyes.
My body was, fortunately, still doing what it was supposed to be doing. I'd practiced this dance so much on my own time that it was probably tattooed on my brain.
But still, inside, I could sense the dreaded moment approaching. The moment when Rodion would touch me and I would have to accept the fact that I'd never get to dance with Taylor again.
I dropped to my knees, remaining there as the crescendo began to build, counting the seconds until I'd have to rise and face my fears.
One more second.
And I was out of time. I had to stand.
Slowly rising from the ground, eyes squeezed tightly shut, I held my breath.
The song went silent, and I knew Rodion was right next to me. I could sense him. Feel his warmth.
"Love and pain."
Hands grasped my waist, and I couldn't help but gasp.
It wasn't him. I didn't even have to look to be sure of it. Because these weren't Rodion's thick, Russian hands. These were the warm, delicate, callused hands I knew all too well.
I couldn't help it. His name just fell from my lips - a quiet, breathless whisper.
Ever the professional, he whisked me straight into the rest of the dance, but I was so shocked I could barely remember the moves I'd known so well not a moment ago.
And with no warning...
He could sense me panicking. He was always able to do that.
And "Relax," was all he said. Just a quiet, smooth murmur in my ear as he twisted and twirled me.
I had every intention to panic. To demand answers. To force him to tell me why he was wearing the black shirt with the red rose in its pocket instead of Rodion.
But a voice in the back of my head reminded me that this was a gift.
That I was getting that last dance with him.
So I shut my mouth.
The dance became as effortless and wonderful as it always was the instant I followed his instructions and relaxed. We spun around the stage with that undeniable chemistry that all the other dances seemed to lack.
I never wanted it to end. I wanted his arms to stay around me like this...hands gripping me like this...eyes watching me like this...forever.
But all good things end.
And with the sudden sensation of the world dropping out from under me, I heard the song melt away, replaced by thunderous applause.
Like a puppet, I let Taylor turn me, and together we bowed.
I clutched tightly to his hand, never wanting to let go, even though I knew I'd have to. The curtains slid closed in front of us, and I heard the announcer begin the conclusions, bidding everyone a good night.
Taylor's hand fell out of mine.
My breath escaped in a heavy wave, shoulders sinking with it.
It was over.
I swallowed thickly, my hand unconsciously moving to my forearm and rubbing. I couldn't seem to find the strength to look at him again, let alone to speak.
My struggle was in vain.
He spoke first.
"Come with me."
And suddenly he'd snatched up my hand once more, and we were off. Walking briskly - no, running. There was an urgency to his stride that I didn't understand.
"Where are we going?" I asked at last, breathless.
"Come on," was all he said. We were weaving through the apparatus of the theater, passing through doorways, down long halls, and moving through restricted areas that he probably didn't even have clearance for.
"Where is Rodion?"
Taylor was leading me swiftly up a set of old looking wooden stairs into what had to be the upper decks of the stage. Ropes and planks and dust. I half expected him to tell me he was the Opera Ghost.
"Food poisoning. Really sudden. I offered to replace him."
For a split second, I pictured Taylor poisoning Rodion's food, but then I realized how ridiculous that was.
"Please, Taylor - where are we going?"
Up another flight of rickety stairs, and now into what looked like an old, forgotten prop room. It was a dead end.
"I think you took a wrong t-"
He had me pressed against the back of the door in an instant, and the words died on my lips.
He was so close. Just like before, in rehearsal. His face was mere centimeters away. And then he leaned forward, making me gasp, and his lips found my ear.
"I made a mistake with you."
I couldn't breathe.
His hands found my waist, and then he was pulling me. Pulling me toward him, away from the door. And the corset of my black dress suddenly felt like nothing against his hot palms.
"I'm not going to make it again," he said.
I stared up at him, at a loss.
What was he doing?
His lips met mine. Gently. Lovingly. With all the grace of a true dancer.
I was tempted to give in to the assumption that this was all a dream. That this was a hallucination resulting from wishing so very hard to have him touch me one more time. It seemed too wonderful, otherwise.
But this was his mouth on mine. His hands running up my thighs. His strong chest against my heaving bosom.
This was him. Not a dream.
And it only took me about ten seconds to decide not to think anymore. To not think and just feel.
He swept me up against him, tighter than before, and spun us around. I gasped audibly as I was lifted onto the edge of an old, sturdy vanity, and all hope of regaining that breath evaporated as he heaved himself up over me, presenting me with what had to be the most stunning view ever.
Panting, he braced himself with his arms, legs bracketing mine, his white shirt clinging to his skin in all the right ways. His copper hair hung carelessly over his forehead, and his eyes were so alive looking down at me.
I could feel him against me - an unmistakable hardness, waiting - wanting.
And yet, he had the good grace to ask, in a low, husky tone, "May I?" ... as if asking for a dance.
I barely had the sense to nod.
And it was exactly like a dance.
Grasping my hips, he slid me further across the vanity until he occupied the space between my legs. With a gentle, yet somehow forceful hand, he pressed on my shin, prompting my leg to bend and my knee to rise.
His eyes locked on mine, he began to trace a path of teasing, barely-there kisses from my ankle to my kneecap. When he reached the crease of my calf and thigh, he closed his eyes and nuzzled his nose back and forth against the unexpectedly sensitive skin.
I sucked in a sharp breath, my head dropping back against the wood.
I could feel the faint scratch of day-old scruff on his chin against my calf, and it sent rippling, electrical shivers up my body.
His hands followed his lips down the length of my shin, caressing and squeezing until I was certain he'd given me an entirely new appreciation of the human leg. What man uses this as foreplay? What man knows that a woman can be affected like this?
My mind was racing, trying to find some logical explanation for Taylor's finesse, but when he lunged swiftly and gracefully forward, giving the skin of my right thigh just beside my groin a sudden bite, I decided to fuck all and chalk it up to a sixth sense. He was simply gifted.
As his mouth became occupied torturing my upper thighs, his fingers busied themselves reaching under me and carefully unlacing the stays of my corset - something I probably couldn't even do myself. And as he finally got it undone and rose up to pull it from me, I mentally steeled myself. I knew what would happen next. Taylor was obviously the sort of man who excelled in...oral skills. He wasn't about to forgo its most infamous practice.
But I had never-
His gentle whisper caught me off guard, and I gasped yet again, eyes shooting to his.
He smiled softly, "Don't over-think it." And he slid my dress and leotard down my legs, letting it fall to the floor beside the vanity. Chilled air swept up against my suddenly exposed skin, and I shivered, instinctively moving to cover myself up. But his hands found mine, and he pulled my arms away from my body, pinning them up beside my head so that he could look his fill. "Don't over-think it," he whispered again, his gaze fixated on my heaving, swollen breasts, sprinkled with goose flesh. "Don't make my same mistake."
His eyes flickered up to mine once more, as if to punctuate his words, and then he leaned down and dragged his bottom lip over one straining nipple. It wasn't a kiss. It wasn't a lick. And yet it sent a pulse so powerful down my spine that I almost climaxed then and there.
"Taylor..." I whimpered. I'd never been one to whimper.
"Yes?" He kept eye contact with me as he nipped playfully at the opposite breast.
I opened my mouth, choked on my words, spluttered and then shut up again, only able to squeeze my eyes shut and throw my head back once more. I probably looked like I was in some sort of anguish, but I think he understood, because he didn't hesitate.
His now very warm hands curved beneath my rear, engulfing the plump flesh and squeezing as he lifted my hips from the vanity, and his lips began a sinful descent from my collarbone to the area just beneath my navel, leaving a glistening trail in their wake.
I slammed my eyes shut, my hands balling into fists by my ears as I prepared myself for what was bound to be an unfathomable amount of ecstasy-
"Do you know why I over-thought things?"
What? He wants to talk about this now? Oh god, this is torture.
He breath was hot against my naked sex as he spoke, teasing so many sensitive nerves it almost hurt. "I don't like casual sex," he murmured. "I don't do casual sex."
He began to trace one finger featherlight over my core, then allowed it to slip between the folds and rocked it back and forth, gathering my wetness. I turned my head aside and moaned into my shoulder.
"But then I realized..."
The sudden tickle of his lips moving against me told me he was so incredibly close.
"...that you, Beth..."
His finger traced a figure-8 down from clitoris to my entrance, teasing me.
"...are anything but casual."
And then, simultaneously, he slid a hot, slick finger inside of me and allowed the tip of his tongue to graze my skin for the first time.
With a strangled gasp, my hips bucked and I convulsed, feeling him lave his tongue down the length of my sex, capturing my essence. I could hear the gentle, wet sound of it, see him close his eyes and nuzzle me, burying his nose against my most sensitive region.
Now I knew what I'd been missing.
It was like all the sensations I'd ever known - all the memories of orgasms and sexual encounters - were dull and lifeless in comparison. This was sensation on steroids, amplified by about a thousand.
I couldn't count how many times I almost lost control as worked me over - couldn't count how many times I almost let the wave crash down just to find that sweet release.
But every time I reached the brink, he would ease up, so perfectly in tune with my body's reaction to him that he knew when it was too much.
It was just like dancing.
Exactly like dancing.
I couldn't help it. I reached for him, my fingers tangling in his silky hair which was beginning to curl at the ends with sweat. I wanted him now.
He seemed to sense my urgency, and he crawled back over me, covering my lips with his.
My fingers found the buttons of his dark, silky shirt, and I made quick work of them, slowly revealing his beautiful, toned chest. It was one of those bodies that could only be described as a dancer's body.
Gorgeous, graceful...and yet so obviously strong and male.
His hands slid down my sides, clasping my naked hips and dragging them up against his - making it quite clear what he wanted, if the hardness I felt was any indication.
"Please..." I whispered.
I had a feeling he was planning on taking this slow. But if all went well between us, there would be plenty of time for that later.
Taylor gazed down at me with hooded eyes, then smiled gently - lazily - leaning in to rub his nose affectionately against mine. My heart fluttered, exactly as it had when I had first seen his face.
"So eager..." he whispered, but he was working at the fasten of his pants, obviously giving in.
And it wasn't abrupt. It wasn't awkward, or slightly painful, or underwhelming, as sex had always been in my life.
It was perfect.
Not rushed, and yet not slow either. Taylor possessed a rhythm that was completely natural and my body liked it a lot. Each thrust grazed that sensitive nerve inside of me, forcing out gasps and mewls and sounds I was certain I'd never made before in my life.
One of his hands slipped down over my thigh, yanking it up around his hip with a surprising amount of aggression. And my eyes rolled back into my head as he sunk that little bit deeper into me.
There was a sudden creaking - the disturbance of a floorboard just outside the door to the prop room. Both of our heads snapped to the side, breathless.
Color flooded to my cheeks.
Were we about to be caught in the act?
It occurred to me then that I had been making a fair amount of noise. I immediately clapped a hand over my mouth. But Taylor wasn't stopping...
If anything, his rhythm increased - and he glanced back down at me with a look that could only be described as devious.
This was a new side to him.
I stifled a gasp, but I couldn't stop the smile from creeping onto my lips. And not the giggle either. It just slipped out.
Taylor responded with a deep, throaty chuckle, and then a groan when I clenched around him.
We were insanely lucky that whoever had been outside that door hadn't heard us - either that, or had they had decided to leave us be.
He must've had me in dozens of different positions that night and well into the morning, leaving me a sweaty, quivering mess with jello for legs by the end of it.
We had been dancing. Truly dancing.
And in the afters, as he placed soft, titillating kisses along my spine, his arms wrapped around me where we had sprawled on the floor, he whispered in my ear, "Would it be unprofessional to invite you back to my hotel room?"
Hope you guys liked part 5! Please review and let me know what you thought :)
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Some of the material in these works may prove to be offensive to several parties. These works are fictional, and any similarities that occur are purely coincidental.