The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)

By: Deanna Roy

I had forgotten this.

It was all so mixed up. My childhood. Nature. Getting away. And Quinn. Was he here as my friend again?

He wasn’t looking at me as a friend. His eyes were hot, his glance falling on key parts of my body.

I could barely stand the tension. “Remember that time we decided to have a campout here in this field?” I asked. “We thought we’d be able to sneak the horses out.”

Quinn laughed, and the moment eased. “There was more security on that barn than Fort Knox,” he said. “When we tried going through the break room window, we set off the alarm and the cops came out.”

“Your dad was so mad,” I said.

“We didn’t get to ride.”

I adjusted my reins. “We did manage to have our night under the stars a little later, though,” I said.

“Did we?” Quinn looked at me quizzically.

My joy dropped a notch as I realized he didn’t remember. It had been an emotional night for me. I was fourteen and just starting to figure out what all these feelings I had meant. Quinn had just come back from a party, seventeen and starting to rebel against his strict father.

I knew he was outside. I often lay on the top of the wall, watching the various Claremonts drive in and out of the six-car garage. Quinn had a little black Porsche. Mom had gone to bed hours before, and I waited for Quinn to come home. He’d already started to pull away, running off with his older friends. He only made time for me when he was stuck at home for one punishment or another. But that time mattered.

He was late getting in, and he and his father had a big argument. When the garage closed, his father made a big show of changing the code on the bay with the Porsche so Quinn couldn’t get his car back out.

I waited. I knew Quinn, and when he was upset, he couldn’t stay inside the walls. So when he angrily evaded the house and went out onto the patio, I raced to the stables.

When he came out the back gate, I was sitting on a stack of hay bales.

“What are you doing up so late?” he asked.

“Couldn’t sleep,” I said.

“Well, come on,” he said. “I could use some company.”

The horses were as inaccessible as they always were back when his dad was alive, so we’d walked the trail that night, guided only by the light of the moon. When we got to this field, we dropped into the grass. Quinn stared into the sky, and I had watched him. I could barely contain the intensity of emotion I felt for him.

We didn’t talk or anything, just lay out there under the stars in silence. He fell asleep finally, and I dared, that one time only, to inch close to him until my head touched his shoulder. He’d shifted and pulled me in.

But he didn’t remember that now.

And I couldn’t forget.

I got off Jezebelle and walked, holding her reins. Quinn dismounted and followed my lead. After a while he said, “Hey, let’s walk with just us.”

We tied the horses to a tree and took off back across the field. The grass was up to my knees and I held out my hand to allow the tips to tickle my palm.

“How was New York?” he asked.

I wanted to lash out, tell him he didn’t know because he never answered my emails. Those first few months were hell, and lonely, and painful and hard. I had no one. The dancers were hard to get to know. And the few girls I was friends with back home had moved on to college or settled into jobs. A friend dancing in New York wasn’t someone they could talk to.

But I couldn’t say all that. I settled on something easy.

“Being a dancer is hard work,” I said. “But the city is exciting. A big change from here.”

I closed my hand around one of the blades of grass and tore it away. I held it to my nose, smelling the sharp scent of it, like a mown lawn. There were no lawns in Manhattan, not the places I went.

Quinn also plucked some grass and sniffed. “Is this supposed to do something?” he asked.

“I don’t smell grass a lot,” I said. “If you want to sit on some, you have to go to Central Park. Most of the other parks are all concrete.”

“Sounds dismal,” he said. “Although the times I’ve been there, parks weren’t high on the agenda.”

“So you’ve been?” I asked. I squashed the disappointment that he hadn’t let me know. “I could have gotten you tickets.”

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