With Every Heartbeat (Cities of Love) Online - Melody Grace

There are some things in life we know to be true, beyond logic or reason, science or faith. Irresistible truths, they’re called, the things we seem to instinctively grasp, as if the knowledge were imprinted deep in our DNA, written on the very fiber of our souls.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known I would be a dancer. From the moment my mother laced a pair of tiny pink ballet slippers on my feet, my destiny was set. I would be just like her, a prima ballerina, one of the greats; gliding across those hallowed stages, moving my audience to tears. Nothing else mattered. Nothing would ever be so true.

Or so I thought.

Then I came to Rome. And here, among the ancient statues and the glistening fountains, on the narrow, cobbled streets, and in the bustling piazza squares, I found a new truth. Bold. Passionate. Irresistible.

His name was Raphael.

He blazed into my life, bright as a comet, a brilliant supernova that blotted out the sun and sent my careful plans shattering into mere darkness. I burned for him the way I’d never known before; for the first time, I understood what it was to be alive. To dance for joy, not habit; to move with someone, and feel our souls expressed with every movement, with every heartbeat.

He was a truth I couldn’t deny. But what about my first love, dance? Could I ever choose between them? And if I chose wrong, would I ever be the same again?

Because that’s the dangerous thing about the truth: once you grasp it, it cannot be un-learned. And once you feel love, real love, you can never forget the taste of those kisses, the sun-drenched mornings, the secret pleasures of the gasping, restless nights.

Raphael was my truth, but would he be my destiny?

I’m in a gorgeous square in the middle of Rome, staring at the most beautiful fountain I’ve ever seen, when it hits me: I think I’ve just made the biggest mistake of my life.

All around me, the rest of my dance troupe are happily snapping photos of the view, but all I see when I look into the water is the impossible task ahead of me. Two months to dance like I’ve never danced before. Two months to save my career before it’s over for good.

Maybe I should just go home.

No. I stop that thought dead. There’s no way I can ever go home.

It was a last-minute, out-of-the-blue thing. I came home to find my mom dragging my suitcases out of storage, a determined look on her face. “Someone dropped out of the touring company,” she announced. “I pulled some strings and got you the spot. You leave for Rome tomorrow.”

Rome?

I stared at her, gaping. “I don’t understand.”

“I was dancing solos at your age.” Mom paused to give me a look, the familiar mix of disappointment and impatience that makes my heart clench with guilt in my chest. “The Black Swan, Coppelia ... But you’re still in the corps de ballet,” she said, referring to the lowest rung of the company, the nameless, faceless group who dance behind the major stars, out of the spotlight.

There’s no shame to the position, it’s where all dancers start. I remember being thrilled the day the letter arrived: I’d been accepted into the American Ballet Company, the most prestigious dance company in New York—and the world. All of my hard work, the years of training and sacrifice, had paid off. I could finally make Mom proud.

But the shimmer of membership quickly faded. Soon, just being one of the company wasn’t enough. It was about moving up, getting noticed, winning solos and larger roles. The training got harder, the competition more fierce. For the past year, I’d felt like I was running on a treadmill that only went faster: pushing myself harder and harder, just to stay in the same place.

“I’m trying, Mom,” I explained quietly. “You’ve seen how hard I’ve worked.”

“I know.” She gave a brusque nod. “It’s the director. He’ll never give you a break, not as long as you’re my daughter.”

I shifted uncomfortably. My mother’s legacy is inescapable. As one of the best prima ballerinas of her age, she has a legion of fans—and a long list of people she trampled on her way to the top. “He’s not holding that against me,” I murmur.

“He is, which is why you’re going to Rome. All the top dancers are staying here for the fall season,” Mom added. “This is your chance to win a