Dancing is like magic. It makes me disappear. When I dance I’m not a sister or a daughter, not a lover or a friend. I exist in the moment, onstage, where I turn pain into art and pretend the illusion is real. My past is an abomination and my future is unwritten, but my present is pure, fluid, and focused. I’m content, or at least I think I am, until the night I meet a man who makes me want more.
He’s broken, just like me, but in different ways. He’s older and nothing like the men I’m used to. Compared to him, they’re all boys, immature and insipid, while he’s a force of nature, confident and virile. Virile is a word I’ve never used before, and I only use it now because he embodies it so completely.
At first, he fights the attraction between us almost as hard as I do. But when words like destiny and soulmate whisper through my thoughts, how can I ignore them? He can have any girl he wants, but he looks at me as if I’m the girl he’s waited for his whole life. How can I tell him I’m not that girl?
“You can kiss me.”
Cole goes still.
Wide-eyed, I gaze up at him. I can’t believe I just said that. God knows I want to kiss him.
“It doesn’t have to be anything more,” I say when he doesn’t move. “Just a simple kiss to relieve the tension, because we want to, because it will feel good. It doesn’t have to be a complication.”
Surprise flickers in his eyes as they search mine. He licks his lips but still he hesitates, and I want to scream in frustration. Where’s the Cole I met two years ago, the one who homed in on me like a laser at Blackburn’s? The one who in his own quiet way made it impossible to refuse him.
Before I can think better of it, I push up onto my toes and wrap my arms around Cole’s neck, pushing my body flush against his.
“Please,” I whisper, ashamed that I have to beg but willing to do it anyway.
His jaw flexes and thoughts war behind his eyes, but finally his arms come around me as his lips slant over mine. He pulls me closer, and when his hand fists in my hair and gently tugs my head back to deepen the kiss, I’m lost to him.
Cole takes control and there’s no slow buildup, no gradual descent. Passion consumes us, and it wouldn’t matter if a tornado came tearing through the yard. I wouldn’t notice. But somehow Cole keeps his wits about him. He drags his mouth from mine.
“Langley,” he says, his gaze focused above my head toward the slider into the kitchen. Thinking quickly, he moves us to the side, out of view.
“Did she see?” My heartbeat is frantic, my body strung tight.
“I don’t think so.”
We stand there and catch our breaths together. He rests his chin on my head because neither of us have relaxed our arms. We still have them wrapped around each other.
“A kiss between us is complicated, Nikki. Let’s not fool ourselves.”
Slowly, I unwind my arms from his neck. “Why? Because of Renee?”
He leans back to look at me. “Because of us. Because of how this feels.”
This feels incredible, but I can already sense him pulling away. He’s shutting down again, and my racing heart beats even faster because I’m going to ask the question that hangs between us. The one reason I’m most afraid is the source of his hesitation.