One Last Dance Online - Angela Stephens Page 0,1

where you’re going.” She nodded at Darren and he swayed just a little, showing how his motion was transferred to her through the frame of his hold.

“Ladies, you can’t be limp noodles either. Keep those muscles tight, but your wrist relaxed. Rest your arm along his, fingers on his shoulder. Let him draw you against his chest and brace you.” Sophie matched actions to words.

“Now, once you’re in his embrace, when he moves, you move. The two of you come together to make the dance. If you aren’t completely together, there is no dance. Watch.”

Sophie took a deep breath, gritting her teeth, and nodded to Darren again. He began to move slowly at first. She followed, stepping back as he stepped forward, twisting her hips, forcing her breath slowly in and out. Her body moved mechanically. Sophie knew these steps in her sleep, and Darren was a very competent partner, an accomplished dancer in his own right. They were comfortable with each other, which allowed her mind to focus entirely on her left knee. If it showed the slightest sign of buckling, even just a twinge, she would immediately halt the dance. The last thing she needed was to fall in front of her students.

Darren was pushing her today, tipping her off her axis in a series of complex volcados, leading her into a molinete. Her heart pumped a little harder, bringing a flush to her cheeks. There was a time when it would have been a flush of joy, anticipation. Now, it was just anxiety. The harder he pushed, the more likely her knee was to give out. Still, she reacted almost instinctively to his lead, kicking her leg up and sliding it around his thigh.

Her knee throbbed at the added weight. She froze, pulling out of Darren’s embrace with a small, fierce tug and turning back to the class. Her friend let go, but she didn’t miss his look of worry.

“You see,” she said to the class. “No matter what, the embrace must be strong. It’s the foundation of the dance. Ladies, lean down into your partner on the volcados. Not flat against him. He isn’t a brick wall.”

There were several soft chuckles in response. She stiffened her back as her leg gave another throb, praying her knee wouldn’t give way. Darren caught her eyes, winking, and a small bit of tension eased from her. “Okay, let’s start again. We’ll try it with the music this time.” She clicked her remote and the spicy beat of tango music filled the room.

Darren leaned down as she watched the couples begin moving together again. “Okay?”

“Just a twinge,” she muttered under her breath. She felt him turn his head and study her, but kept her eyes on the class, and Darren knew better than to push it.

***

After the class was over and people had dispersed back to their homes, Darren approached again. “You know when your knee goes like that, it’s okay to sit down.”

Sophie grimaced. “Obviously I made it through the class, so I didn’t need to sit,” she said. “They have to trust that I know what I’m doing. Nobody wants to learn to dance from a cripple.”

“Honey, you’re far from a cripple.”

She glared. Of course she wasn’t a cripple, but she wasn’t able to do everything she used to be able to do either, and for a dancer that was pretty close.

Darren sighed. “Just keep it in mind, Soph. I’m going to lock up. The dinner Wayne made is probably cold by now.”

Sophie laughed. “Noted. Must be nice, having a man cook for you. I think I’m going to do some stretches before I head home.”

“Great. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As Darren headed for reception to lock the front doors, Sophie stood and crossed to the ballet bar. Gripping it in both small hands, she began some slow stretches, focusing on loosening up the tightness in her knee joint. With some difficulty, she lifted her leg onto the bar and bent over it, stretching her hamstring.

She heard the front door open and paused, listening for the sound of Darren’s voice. There was a low, polite sounding murmur—Darren greeting the walk-in—and then a deeper reply. Though she couldn’t hear her assistant’s words, she detected a note of awe and apology in his tone. The other voice, low and smoky, became more urgent. The sound seemed to settle against her skin like cashmere, luxurious and tantalizing.

Sophie lowered her leg and made her way carefully toward reception. Who could that voice belong