The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)By: Deanna Roy
I had only just begun to turn when he said, “My brother is not who you think he is.”
The fire that had recently set my face aflame burst hot. “Of course he is. I’ve known him since I was born! I know everything about him!” It wasn’t true, but it felt true. I hadn’t missed a single one of his birthdays. I was there when he learned to ride. When he broke his arm falling off the back fence. When he buried his father.
I wanted to say these things, but Bennett’s gaze dropped to my thin shirt again. I wanted to slap him. But I stood there as he took me in, my tiny shorts, muscled dancer’s legs, and bare feet. I wasn’t sure which I felt more like — a street beggar or a prostitute.
Bennett finally brought his eyes back to my face. “I’m sure if he’d felt tempted, he would have come to you,” he said. “Be glad he considers you the kid playmate. Your heart is still in one piece.”
My head wanted to explode with things to say to defend Quinn. But this was my mother’s boss. She loved it here. I couldn’t ruin it for her.
So instead, I ran through the stable and back to my little room.
Tomorrow, the rest of my life would begin.
Six Years Later
The taxi pulled away, its tires crunching as it circled the giant fountain in front of the main entrance to the estate.
I could have gone around to the back, where staff and deliveries came in. It was much closer to my mother’s guesthouse. Technically I was here to see her.
But my visit home was also about Quinn. My life had changed a lot in the six years since I left. But my longing for him would not die. It affected everything. I hadn’t managed to have a relationship that lasted more than a week. As soon as the man wasn’t Quinn-like, my heart shriveled like the Grinch. My iPhone had more blocked numbers than a retired call girl.
So I was home. During my break between ballet seasons, I was going to get him out of my head, one way or another.
The hot breeze ruffled the tendrils escaping my intricate braided updo. I had forgotten how hot San Antonio could be in the summer. If I stood out here very long, sweat would wilt my sharp Versace suit. Already my feet felt pinched in the four-inch Louboutins.
This was stupid. What was I thinking? Showing up in fancy clothes and pricey shoes? I was just a kid playing dress-up.
The urgency to get away from the big double doors became intense. I did not want to be seen stalking the front like a crazed fan. I needed to do this the right way. Establish myself in the guesthouse. Practice ballet with my mother. Find out why she missed my last show. And watch Quinn from a distance until I figured out what to do about this annoying never-ending crush.
Time to trudge around to the back where I belonged.
I picked up the handle of one of the bags and tilted it down to roll. I shouldn’t have worn the spike heels. Now I would suffer in them while I wheeled my luggage down the path in the heat.
But it had been a nice illusion, even for just a moment.
I paused. Might as well get the full effect before I gave it up. I closed my eyes and pictured another Juliet, one whose social standing would attract someone like Quinn, pulling up in an expensive chauffeured car. The butler would open the doors and greet me, sending out his young staff member to take my bags. I’d be escorted inside and given a cocktail on the patio. Quinn would come down, pleased to see me.
I had to stop.
I reached for the second suitcase. I had traveled as light as I could, but this was a monthlong stay. So I had a lot.
As I tried to maneuver the two bags, the strap of my purse slid off my shoulder. I let go of a suitcase, and it fell over onto the paved circle. The clever beaded charm that helped me identify my luggage smashed into pieces, the colored bits rolling across the ground.
Damn. Thankfully nobody was seeing the hot mess I was in front of the grand mansion.
I drew in a deep breath to steady myself. Nothing about this day was going to be easy. Coming back had turned me into a sniveling teen all over again.
And of course Mother didn’t even know I was coming. But she hadn’t explained why she missed my last performance in New York. Her evasion when I asked her left a tendril of unease in me. So I closed up the room in the walk-up I shared with three other girls and got on a plane.