Climb

By: Sophie Stern

A determined dance instructor who doesn't take "no" for an answer.



A brave-hearted airman who knows what he wants.



They're the best of friends.



But can they ever be more?



When Elliott returns from his overseas tour, he has one thing on his mind: Sassy. He missed her every day he was gone and now, it's time to claim her as his own.



Can he be the hero she needs him to be?





Chapter 1




Sassy





“Dip, and spin, and dip, and hold.” I shake my hips in time with the music, in time with the beat, and I trust my students to follow along. The truth is that I’m losing myself a little bit today. The truth is that I’m getting lost in the music a little bit today

The truth is that I don’t really care today.

He’s back.

Elliott’s back.

He’s home.

He’s here.

He’s back in Colorado and in just a few hours, he’s going to be at Club Kitten. He’s coming to the studio, and he’s picking me up, and we’re going to dinner. We’re going to reunite. We’re going to catch up. We’re going to see each other for the first time in six months.

We’re going to go fucking crazy.

Or I am, at least.

I’m completely in love with the damn fool, and I don’t even know why. That’s a lie. I’m completely in love with him because he’s a decent fucking person, and kind, and sweet, and thoughtful, and funny as hell.

I’m in love with him because he’s been my best friend for just forever and I missed him.

I missed him so much that it hurt, so much that I can’t imagine losing him again. I can’t imagine dealing with another deployment, another separation, another parting. I can’t imagine saying goodbye to him again and I really, really don’t want to.

I can’t imagine anything but getting my arms around him.

I can’t imagine anything but touching him.

So I’m not really paying attention to my students as closely as I usually do. Normally, my classes are terrible. They’re hard and fast and everyone hates me because I’m so damn mean and I make their muscles burn. Then in six months, they thank me because they look fine as fuck and their confidence has skyrocketed.

But those first few weeks in a Sassy class?

They’re killer.

I know it.

I do it on purpose because I want my girls to know that when they work hard, when they sweat, when they feel the pain, they’re going to be rewarded. They’re going to get strong and fit and they’re going to feel like they’re on top of the world.

They’re going to feel like they can do anything they want because they’re brave and strong and sweet.

That’s what Club Kitten is all about: confidence.

It’s about reaching your dreams and learning you can do whatever you like, whatever you want, if you’re willing to put in the time. If you’re willing to put in the hours, the sweat, and the tears, you can do whatever you want.

You can accomplish anything.

Although I don’t work the girls as hard as I usually do, when class ends, we’re all sweating and tired. We’re all a mess. A couple of girls come up to me and ask about the classes I’m teaching the next week.

In an effort to ramp up attendance, I’ve been expanding the class schedule and offering more classes at different times. It’s difficult to run a studio and make the most of my time and my employees’ time, but slowly, surely, I feel like I’m getting the hang of things.

Usually, I teach the upper-level pole classes. Those are the most fun, in my opinion.

It’s in pole level 4 and level 5 where I get to really push the limits of my own body and find out just how strong I am. It’s in these classes where I get to show my students how they can strengthen themselves in a way that is beautiful and empowering.

Today, though, I’m teaching level 1. One of my regular instructors called in sick, so I was happy to take over. I know the other dancers all think I’m this hard-ass, but the truth is that I’m so busy trying to make sure everything runs smoothly that sometimes teaching a lower level class is just fun.

It’s relaxing.

Once everyone meanders out of the pole room, I grab a spray bottle and a pile of washcloths and begin cleaning the poles. It’s important to keep them clean for the sake of hygiene, but it’s not just that. A clean pole is one you can stick to. A clean pole means you aren’t going to slide down and fall at an inopportune moment. A clean pole means you’re going to be able to grip it well. Cleanliness is important.

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