Phillip wished he hadn’t left Claire, but what was he supposed to do? Maybe he should have fought harder when he turned twenty-one, but Rochelle wasn’t budging. “Claire is better off with a crackhead mother than some wanna-be hockey player,” she always said. When Claire glanced up at him, nervously ripping a napkin, his heart came into his throat. Her eyes were full of unshed tears, and he prayed they didn’t fall. Or maybe they should… maybe it would help. Hell, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he loved this girl, and he wasn’t letting her end up like her mom and his.
“I love you, Claire,” he said softly.
She shook her head, looking away, and he felt tears stinging his own eyes.
“No, it isn’t whatever,” he said, taking her hand in his. She tried to move away, but he wasn’t letting her go. She looked from their locked hands, up to his face, her eyes slit in a glare as her mouth made a straight line. He remembered when all she did was smile, and he wondered when the last time that happened. Her smile could light up a room, it was contagious, and he missed it so much. He missed her.
“You don’t love me. If you did, you would have never sent me to crazy cat lady, or better yet, never left me with my mom.”
Something broke inside him, but thankfully, he kept it together, holding her gaze as he squeezed her hands.
“I had no choice with your mom. She wouldn’t give you to me. You’re right about Alice, but I’m not letting you go now. I’m going to help you.”
“I don’t need help. I need a place to crash until I’m eighteen. Then I’m gone.”
She finally pulled her hands from his, crossing her arms. The food was brought to them, but neither of them touched it once the waitress left. This was going all wrong, and Phillip had no clue how to make it better. So he decided to go with what his heart was telling him to do.
“You do need help, Claire, and I’m going to give it to you. I have never stopped loving you, and I never will. I may not have been there for you before, but I am now, and I’m not going anywhere.”
Claire reached for her fork, cutting a bite and pinning him with a look. He could see the hurt, the defiance, and the general lack of care for her life. She had been hurt, and he played a part in causing that pain. He hoped that between his love and therapy, she would get the help she needed.
She held his gaze for a long time, before she shrugged her shoulders and said, “We’ll see about that.”
Without another word, she plopped the waffle in her mouth. Her eyes said it all.
Get ready for trouble.
“5, 6, 7, 8!”
Reese Allen stood in the middle of her studio as two of her senior dancers, Mallory and Brian, moved in perfect unison across the floor to “Endlessly” by the Cab. The cut of the song was magical. It had kept her up all night trying to get it perfect. It was worth it though, because watching Mallory and Brian dance to it was pure gratification. They were her best dancers—her go-to dancers when she needed something perfected. She came up with the dance three days earlier, as she stood in line at Subway, when the song started playing. She knew that people thought she was crazy as she moved to the gorgeous music, but that was how she did things. That was how her art was born.
Reese had been doing it that way since she was a kid. Of course, her parents and older sister, Harper, thought she was crazy, but Piper, her twin, never thought so. She just joined in with Reese. It was great to have a partner, but even when Piper wasn’t there, Reese was always dancing. No matter where she was, or what she was doing, choreography was always in her head, always wanting to come out of her. It was surreal and such a rush when she got it completely perfect. It was like she was giving birth to this perfect little baby, and when she paired it with amazing dancers, magic happened.
Reese believed at a very young age that she would be something big one day. She trained since she was three in all forms of dance, mastering everything. She wanted to work as a dancer professionally. Her family supported her completely and sent her off to New York to train with the best. It was an amazing experience. Even though it ended way too early, she was grateful for it. Her dreams of being something bigger might not come true, but being the owner of the best dance studio in Nashville, Tennessee was not easy to come by. She was proud to say that she had dancers from all over the world train with her. She had worked hard for her studio, and it had paid off.
Only two years in, she was named sixth best instructor to train with. She was one of the finest in the industry, and she took pride in that. It wasn’t what she wanted at first, but it was the road she was given to travel on. Her dreams were to headline with artists like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, but that didn’t work out for her. That dream was shattered. If only she could let go of the life she had in New York, then everything would be fine. Until then though, she would want more than what her life in Nashville offered her.
Reese didn’t know why she didn’t feel complete in Nashville. Was it the lack of spotlight? Did she miss performing? Did she want that back? Or was it the man she left behind who still held a part of her heart back in the Big Apple? She didn’t know, but she needed to stop thinking about it all. She needed to concentrate on this dance. After watching Mallory and Brian, she decided she didn’t need to worry. They were going to win with this one.
God, she was awesome.
“Beautiful, guys. Awesome job.”
Mallory grinned over at her, her cheek flushed with color as she took in a lungful of air. Her dark brown hair was in a pile on her head, her green eyes shining with accomplishment as she smiled back at Reese. She was a beautiful girl, with beauty and talent. Brian too, was breathing just as hard. He was the perfect package. His blonde hair fell in his eyes, and he moved it to the side to reveal his light hazel eyes. He was hands down the best male dancer in her company, and she knew he was going to do big things once he left her, which was at the end of the year. Until then though, she was going to work him like a mule, push him until he was the best he could ever be, and then she would pray he got a job with a huge company, making tons of money. That was her dream for all her dancers.