The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)By: Deanna Roy
God, had I really said that? Like I was twelve?
Quinn stared hard at my face. “This is unreal! It’s like you’re somebody else.”
“Still me!” I said. I reached forward to take one of my suitcases from the butler’s assistant, who stood waiting for me to tell him what to do. “I’ll handle this. I have to go around the wall.”
The butler still looked quizzically at me. He had resumed a more formal position now that the crisis seemed to be over.
“I’m Danika’s daughter,” I told him.
His eyebrows raised as he realized the situation.
I couldn’t stand any of this one moment more. Despite the smart suit, the high heels, the perfect hair, I was still the hired help’s daughter. I snatched my luggage away and took off down the side path that led around the wall.
I heard Quinn say, “Wait!” but there wasn’t enough conviction in it for me. He was the one who didn’t respond to my emails in the first months I was gone.
I was the one who saw picture after picture of the women he’d been with during all these years.
I was so stupid. So stupid.
I ran faster, the wheels on the luggage bouncing as I dragged them down the path.
Only when I had turned the corner past the wall did I stop to take a breath. My feet were used to taking a beating, but the pounding of my heart had nothing to do with the run.
I peeked back around the wall.
Quinn and the butler were heading inside. Quinn tapped his racket on the ground as he walked, as if agitated.
I leaned against the stone. Despite six years of accomplished dance, my acceptance into a ballet troupe that traveled internationally, and my advancement from the chorus to minor roles, I had gotten nowhere.
I was still the girl peering at the party from behind the wall.
The path to Mother’s guesthouse had never felt longer. I had no chance to enjoy getting reacquainted with the paths and trees that were my playground as a child.
I wanted to hide.
Not that Quinn was going to come looking for me. He was obviously expecting some fresh female tennis instructor. A live-in, no less. Now that I thought about it, his hand on my elbow was more creepy than titillating. Did he hit on everyone that way? Had he always? He obviously didn’t know the woman or he would have realized I wasn’t her.
By the time I arrived at the front door, the estate cook was already heading my way, her short legs a blur beneath her ample body in a blue dress and white apron. “Juliet?” she called. “Is that you?”
I arranged my luggage on the porch and waited for her, delighted to see the tiny woman who had worked here since before any of the Claremont children were born. “Yes, Amelia. So good to see you!”
Amelia was small and round and smelled of flour and vanilla, like a walking pastry. She pressed her palms to my cheeks. “You look so different! All grown up! And beautiful!”
“Thank you,” I said. “Is Mother at the dance studio?”
“No, I believe she is out.” A concerned emotion flitted across Amelia’s face.
“I’m sure her schedule has changed. Rose is gone, right? To college? Only Pearl would still be here.”
Amelia’s smile was more forced now. “Miss Rose is in Europe traveling. Miss Pearl has little interest in dance these days.”
“Oh.” I worried that Mother’s job was in jeopardy. Maybe that’s why she didn’t make it to New York. Saving her money.
I would have to adjust my plans. Base out of someplace less expensive than Manhattan. Find a studio that needed an instructor. Maybe we could buy her into one so she wasn’t just working hourly as an instructor, but getting a percentage of the profits.
My mind raced.
“Don’t you worry about anything,” Amelia said. She reached behind me to open Mother’s door with her enormous set of keys. “You settle yourself right in. Will you be here long?”
“About a month,” I said as I rolled the bags inside. “How did you know I was here?”
“Master Quinn,” she said with a grin. “He was carrying on about you.”
My heart sped up again. “What did he say?”
“Just that he’d seen you and that he couldn’t believe it was you!”