E X C E R P T
I shivered as he hooked a thumb beneath the strap of my leotard, fingering the gray elastic.
“Stop worrying about how you look or seem to anyone else. Just feel.”
Soft fabric kissed my skin as he dragged the strap down my shoulder. Lower. Too low… The underside of my breast had popped out of the material by the time I realized I should have pushed him off.
While I was frozen in place, he took hold of the other strap and wrenched both down my shoulders, allowing a cold burst of air to replace the skin-tight fabric. At that moment, it felt like being on stage, in front of a million people who never looked up from their paper programs. Modesty wasn’t even worth feeling. Before I knew it, I was left standing there with my arms crossed protectively over my chest.
And not even a fake smile could make it all better.
“You will dance the same pas de deux,” Revend explained as he manipulated my body where he wanted it. There was nothing sexual in his touch: a tap on my calf to make me shift to the right, a nudge on my shoulders to urge them to straighten. “You already know the steps in here.”
I flinched as he cupped the palm of his hand over my forehead, simultaneously forcing my chin upright.
“Now, you only need to bring them to life.”
Life? My nails dug into my shoulders as he reclaimed my waist with both hands, grazing the bare flesh.
I stumbled into place, watching our reflection. He towered over me, his chest hard against my back. I could feel every variation of the palm flat against my spine. The calluses at the base…
It was impossible to breathe without testing his grip and forcing the nails just a fraction of an inch deeper into my skin, his words just a tad deeper into my skull, his presence into my soul…
“Don’t tense.” The warning came as he guided a fluid turn. “Extend your arms.”
A million different reasons to resist ran through my mind, but with my eyes closed, it was so much easier to pretend, as he insisted, that this was all an illusion—he wasn’t real. I opened them slowly only to have that fragile lie shatter the moment his gaze bored into my own, its intensity barely tempered by the mirror glass.
I lurched onto tiptoe, stretching my arms out behind me.
“Keep moving! Fluidity, don’t force it.”
I pushed off with my toes at the same time he lifted, guiding me into an arabesque. My arm rose a second too late, but for once, he didn’t call me out on the hesitation. He didn’t say much of anything other than, “Keep your back straight. Elongate your neck!”
By then, I was already flush against him, at the mercy of every vibration rumbling through his chest. Physiology betrayed me; my nipples hardened, teasing the cotton of his shirt.
“No.” Revend’s hand was like an anchor on my shoulder, pinning me in place before I even realized I was starting to pull away. “Ignore it,” he demanded, stepping even closer.
“Wait…” My hands flew up to his chest. I was desperate to preserve what little space there was left between us. One inch…a half an inch…a centimeter. Nothing.
“The movement,” Revend insisted. “Focus on the movement. Ignore everything else.”
Like the voices in my head, maybe? You don’t know him. You can’t do this. You’re hopeless.
Revend was louder than them all, growling into my ear. “I said keep moving. Use what you are feeling to anchor your movements. Don’t hesitate.”
He was unforgiving stone against me—forcing me to work twice as hard to close the required distance. I couldn’t keep up with the pace he’d set, and the whole time, the face staring back at me in the reflection showed nothing but the same empty expression.
“Enough.” Halfway through, he wrenched me around to face the mirror again.
I tried to shield my exposed breasts, but he swatted them down.
“No.” As if to punish me, he pinned my arms at my sides while his gaze raked me over from head to toe.
There was no escaping it. I was half-naked in his grip. Sallow, pale, gawky little Anya.
“Don’t resist the insecurity,” Revend snapped while my teeth began to shred my lower lip. His eyes settled on my heaving chest, and I hated myself for almost wishing that he would look at me like he wanted something more than…more. Even this still wasn’t enough. “Embrace this,” he told me, his breath basting that tender spot between my shoulder blades. “Feel it, and turn it into something else.”
“In… Into what?”
He scoffed as if the answer were obvious. “Passion.”
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