The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)

By: Deanna Roy

He stood a safe distance from me. “I know what Quinn said to you. That I was just getting back at him. Revenge for Pamela.”

“Were you?”

He paused. “I was the one who tipped off the photographers.”

My head pounded. “So you were just trying to get even.”

“He was pretty taken with you,” he said. “But I did want to save you the sorrow. That was part of it.”

My anger threatened to spill out, scathing and hot, but I kept it in check. “And what was the rest?”

“You,” he said. “You came onto the estate like a breath of fresh air.”

I didn’t buy it. “You hurt me.”

“I didn’t think that was possible. You were in love with Quinn,” he said.

“No, Bennett,” I retorted. “I was in love with you.” I clapped my hand over my mouth. Why had I just said that?

God. I hadn’t even said it to myself.

Bennett moved forward then, carefully, slowly, as if I might startle away. And he knelt in front of me and held out his hand for the slipper.

I passed it to him, still shocked at myself for what I had said. My eyes pricked with emotion. I had never felt this painful combination of exhilaration and misery with his brother Quinn. It was true that I had wanted to be around Quinn. And I had not been happy after I had gone away.

But Bennett was an entirely different order of magnitude. I just hadn’t recognized it for what it was.

Bennett eased my sandal off my foot, taking a moment to cup his hands over the bruised, reddened toes from my long day of rehearsals and a performance.

“Ballerinas’ feet aren’t pretty when they aren’t in their shoes,” I managed to get out.

He bent to press a kiss on my bare ankle. “It just shows the hard work it takes to appear so beautiful and effortless.”

The shoe glittered as he slid it over my foot. My heel rested perfectly against the back. It fit. Of course it did. Bennett would have had it no other way.

“I don’t have the match for it here,” I said.

“Isn’t that it?” he asked, gesturing at the chair where I had set down the bag Mom had carried. Beside it rested the other silver slipper.

Oh, Mom. She’d been in on this all along.

Bennett took the three strides to the chair and retrieved the shoe.

The second one fit just as perfectly.

I lifted my legs to admire the pair. “They are exquisite,” I said.

He sat beside me on the bed. “So is your dance.”

My eyes wouldn’t quite lift to his face. I felt exposed after what I had said to him. But he was here.

“Do you remember that night in the stables, the night you left for New York?” he asked.

I nodded.

“You told your horse that you loved Quinn and you always would.”

I had nothing to say to that. I ran my fingers along the swirl pattern on the bedspread. I felt small on the big bed.

“I thought about that night all the time,” Bennett said. “That innocent but powerful pronouncement. How you believed it with all your heart.”

I could see the details of his suit jacket, the handkerchief folded neatly in his breast pocket. The gleaming buttons. I still couldn’t look into his face.

“And from then on, I judged every girl I met by the measuring stick of you.”

My head snapped up at that. I had done the same thing. But with Quinn!

“And even when I asked Pamela to marry me, I knew somehow this wasn’t it. She didn’t feel the way you felt about Quinn. And neither did I. So what Quinn told you was probably true. I wasn’t enough. I reserved the most important part of myself and kept it from her.”

He was so close that I could turn my face and kiss him. And I almost did, wanting to erase the pain he must have felt after realizing he’d made a mistake and that he was going to hurt someone.

But I didn’t have to. Bennett was already there and brushed his lips against mine, gently, as if he was just trying to see if it were okay.

I relaxed into him, my body resting against his shoulder. He kept the kiss easy and light, although one hand came to touch my jaw.

After a moment, I pulled back. I had to know where he was with this, what had brought him here.

“What about now?” I asked. “Where is the most important part of yourself?”

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