The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)By: Deanna Roy
I hadn’t been back to San Antonio since I left. Mother always traveled to me, using her savings for grand trips to L.A. and Paris and Montreal to watch me dance. Holidays were busy with The Nutcracker or holiday fund-raising events.
I hadn’t seen a need to come home. If this had ever been home.
But I worried Mother was out of money. Ballerinas at my level did not make a lot, especially living in the city, but I would try to help her if she’d let me.
I fastened my handbag to the handle of one of the suitcases. I’d come back to clean up the beads where they sat on the pristine gray drive like a Mardi Gras castoff. I had just gotten the luggage under control when the front doors of the estate flew open. A butler I had never seen before hurried out.
“I am so sorry, Miss Parker. We weren’t expecting you for another two hours. Did you take a taxi? We could have sent a car for you.” He hurriedly motioned to a young man I didn’t know to retrieve my bags.
“Oh!” I said. “I think there has been a mistake. I —”
I stopped short when Quinn appeared on the front porch in tennis gear. He rested a racket on his shoulder. “You’re awfully dressed up for a tennis pro.”
My voice didn’t seem to work as I took him in. I was already flustered and not ready to see him yet. He was twenty-seven now, tan and muscled in the fitted shirt over loose shorts.
It was also a Tuesday afternoon. Didn’t he work?
“Miss Parker, I’ll escort you to your guesthouse,” the butler said. “Would you like a golf cart to take you around?”
My lips were frozen. Quinn was staring right at me, but he didn’t see me for who I was.
Should I try to pull this off? Tennis pro? He obviously didn’t know this instructor very well. Maybe I resembled her picture.
I stood up straight, tugging on the bottom of the smart fitted jacket to my suit. We looked at each other, and I could see the interest in his eyes. He’d just broken off an engagement to some actress, I knew. I had a Google alert on his name.
He didn’t look particularly devastated about it. His gaze raked over my tawny gold jacket and matching skirt, down my legs to the achingly high Louboutins.
“Won’t you come in for a quick drink before we hit the nets?” Quinn gestured to his outfit. “I had planned to lob a few balls before you arrived, but perhaps we could talk strategy first. Over some champagne? Or would that ruin our training regimen?”
I still couldn’t speak. My heart hammered. He held out his hand to me. I itched to take it. It’s what I’d always wanted.
The young man stood with my bags, waiting on my order. I could go in, see the ruse through. I wouldn’t get far. The cook would spot me. Or one of the girls. Although if Quinn couldn’t see it…
“Miss Parker?” the butler asked.
I was about to admit who I was when a glossy black Mercedes pulled up to the circle drive. Probably the real Miss Parker, and I was about to be outed.
I turned around, trying to decide if I should admit who I was or just let it happen.
But the driver was Bennett, Quinn’s older brother.
“Oh, it’s the boring brother,” Quinn said. “Let’s hurry before he spoils all the fun. I’ll tell you straight out, he was not thrilled about my idea of bringing a tennis pro out full-time.”
Quinn had always disparaged Bennett’s seriousness, but back then it was always playful. Now his words had an edge to them.
My voice didn’t want to work, and the explanation about who I was stuck in my throat. The moments hurtled by as Bennett stepped out of the car.
Quinn moved from the doorway to stand beside me. I turned to him, thinking surely now that he was close he would see who I was.
“I’m happy to walk you to your cottage myself,” he said. When his hand touched my elbow, I positively glowed.
If only I could keep up this ruse a little longer!
Bennett headed up the steps. He nodded to the butler. “Hello, Adams,” he said to him. He glanced at me. “Hello, Juliet. Nice to have you back.”
Then he went inside.
My face blasted hot. He knew me! Now what would happen?
Quinn’s head snapped around. “Juliet?”
I forced a smile. “In the flesh!”