Date Archive

July 2015

The one with a NEW SERIES!

OMG. OMG GUYS.

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Ahh. I’ve been sitting on this news for a while, and have been so eager to announce it. And wouldn’t you know that when it’s actually announced, I am totally unprepared! So I’m rushing to put this post together, but I’m so excited that I can’t think straight!

So bear with me… we’ll start with the basics.

I SOLD A NEW SERIES!!!

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AND IT’S YA!!!!

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AND HIGH FANTASY!!!

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AND AHHHHHHHH!!!!

The deal was announced today on Publisher’s Weekly. The series is currently titled Stealing Storms, and the first book is called ROAR.

Roar announcement

Okay. Breathe. I’m breathing. Where to start?!

Let’s start with the genre.

Some of you might know that long before I ever put pen to paper and wrote Losing It, my first writing love was YA fantasy. The first book I ever finished was YA fantasy. The first book that ever got me an agent was YA fantasy. YA fantasy (of various kinds) is what I lived and breathed for five years before one summer I took a break to work on something different about an awkward girl in college who sort of accidentally nearly hooks up with her college professor. That book became far bigger than I ever could have imagined, and as a result I spent three years and many books writing New Adult romance. And I have had an absolute blast. And I have every intention to keep writing romance.

But I missed fantasy. I missed YA. If you’ve ever followed me on social media, you’ll note that I recommend far more fantasy and paranormal books than I do contemporary because it’s what I read the most. And my absolute FAVORITE thing to read, the thing I repeatedly ask for recommendations for, is high fantasy with a strong romantic plot (If you don’t recognize the term “high fantasy”- think books that take place in a fictional created world separate from our own– LOTR, GoT, etc). I’ve pretty much devoured anything put in front of me that meets that description. Some favorites include the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore, the Tairen Soul series by CL Wilson, Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J Maas, The Study series by Maria V Snyder, and more.

But as evidenced by the fact that I continually ask for recs, there just aren’t enough books out there like that in my opinion. And I have this pesky little character flaw in that when I want to read something and can’t find it… I HAVE to write it. I just can’t help myself. I did it with LOSING IT when I was craving funny NA amidst all the angst. I did it with INSPIRE when I wanted more paranormal amidst the contemporary. And now I’m doing it with ROAR. And it’s something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time, and I am just so excited and grateful that it’s finally happening. And I’m all weepy and emotional.

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I’m also INCREDIBLY excited to work with both Tor Teen and my editor, Whitney Ross. Whitney and I met a few years ago after she read LOSING IT, and I’ve pretty much thought she was the sweetest thing ever since then. And I love Tor’s books, and have heard fabulous things about them from authors on their list. And I’m just so excited to be writing high fantasy romance, guys! You can expect lots of swoon against a back drop of a new and different world that I am so in love with!

 

A little more about the story!

I grew up in Texas. I lost countless trampolines and bicycles and God knows what else to tornadoes as a child. I had a specific book that I read whenever there was a tornado and my parents stuck me and all our pets in a bathroom to hide (I read to our dogs. They loved it. Take my word for it). My middle sister desperately wanted to be a storm chaser when she grew up, so we watched countless storm movies (I’m looking at you, Twister and Devon Sawa in Night of the Twisters. Yeah,you).

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So I, as the younger sister, of course picked up the fascination. And it’s stuck with me for the rest of my life. I used to talk about writing a contemporary book about storm chasers, but I was nervous about getting the science right and had such a hectic writing schedule that I was never sure I had the time to do proper research. So I once jokingly mentioned I should write a fantasy book about magic storms, then I could just make up whatever I didn’t know.

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It was a joke. But then this idea began unraveling in my head about a world inundated with violent, magical storms that were almost like sentient beings. I thought about how storms like that would shape the culture and government and religion of the land. I imagined rulers with the ability to  control the storms. Then I added some kick ass storm chasers who hunt storms to siphon off magic to sell on the black market. And finally, I imagined a girl named Aurora, who was destined to become Queen and take over her family’s duty of protecting the land, but with one little problem. She’s yet to show any magical ability. And without it, she’s been roped into an arranged marriage in order to keep the power stable in her kingdom.

But even though she wasn’t born with magic, it’s possible to steal it. If you’re brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master. 

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So Aurora runs away with a group of storm chasers and becomes Roar, a storm chaser’s apprentice. She’s determined to look death in the eye and escape with enough magic to control her own future. But life, like the weather, is unpredictable. And she soon faces an impossible choice.

Queen or adventurer.

Duty or freedom.

Her Kingdom or the storm chaser she loves.

Rora or Roar.

Now about those storm chasers…

I AM SO EXCITED TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOU. They’re this awesome, rag-tag group of misfits who are just crazy and brave enough to take on a very supernatural mother nature. And I mean, really…. you can’t get much hotter than a badass storm chaser for a hero. You’re imagining him in leather, aren’t you? Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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So that’s it!

That’s my news that I’ve been sitting on for months. I hope you’re as excited as me! In fact, you should probably go ahead and add it to read on Goodreads. Feel free to leave your excitement there too. Or ask any questions you might have in the Goodreads ask feature!

And for those who’ve been begging me for news about INFLICT (Inspire book #2), this is why I haven’t been able to give you an answer. Because the YA world moves more slowly than the digitally driven world of romance,  I have to get this book finished and ready to go much sooner than I normally do, and it’s required some rearranging of my schedule. So for the time being, I’ve been working on both this and Inflict. I still don’t have an exact date for you. But I can promise it will be this year. And hopefully I’ll have some more concrete news for you in the next month or so.

And one last shameless plug…

Two of my books are on sale!

Inspire is just $.99 today only as a Kobo daily deal!

Kobo https://goo.gl/FbVsRv

 

Also on…

And All Played Out is $1.99!

Okay now that’s really all! *tackle hugs for everyone*

With Awkward Love,

Cora

The One with MORE Mateo and Nell!

A few weeks ago, my street team organized an awesome All Played Out Read-a-thon, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to revisit some of my favorite Rusk couples! I started out with a bonus scene about Carson and Dallas, which you can read HERE. Then I wrote a bonus scene about Silas and Dylan, which you can read HERE. And finally, last but certainly not least – a bonus scene about Mateo and Nell!

This scene is an expansion of sorts on the epilogue. And I’ve included both Mateo AND Nell’s POV.

*Please note: This is unedited. Sorry for any mistakes! ♥*

TORRES

Watching her, I feel proud and terrified all at once. That stage is her field. And her uniform—black robe, white collar, colored ropes marking her accomplishments, and square cap—it’s all strangely sexy, even that loose fitting robe. Because I know how easy it will be to slide my hand beneath it.
Not that that’s something I should be thinking about when I’m sitting next to Nell’s mother. Nell’s badass mother who could give Coach Cole a run for his money in the scary department.

I watch Nell climbing the steps up onto the platform where she’ll receive her diploma, and I swear my heart is lodged in my throat. We’re all clapping, and I want to yell, to scream—that’s what people would expect. Hell, it’s what I expected. I was looking forward to trying to spot the blush on her cheeks when I made sure everyone in this place knew that she belonged to me.

But now that it’s happening… I can’t seem to make a sound. She just… she’s everything I ever wanted. More, actually. And things are moving so fast. She’s graduating. I’ve got one more semester with her while she works, then the summer, and then she’ll be starting graduate school. And I just have to believe that what we have is strong enough, real enough to last.

“I knew I’d be on the verge of tears. But I didn’t expect it from you,” Her mother says, her smile sly.

I laugh, and it comes out hoarse, like I really had been crying. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”

As she shakes the dean’s hand and accepts her diploma, I finally find my voice enough to shout, “Yeah! That’s my girl!”

Her eyes flick up in my direction in the stands, and instead of blushing, she blows me a kiss, and I’m grinning like a fucking maniac.

“You’re not what I expected,” Nell’s mom says.

“Better, I hope. Because your daughter is never getting rid of me now. Not if I have anything to say about it.”

“She’s a smart girl. It’s her say that matters.”

On reflex, I start to reply that she’s more than smart… she’s a fucking genius. But I’m not sure how her mom will react to that particular endearment. So I smile and nod, and sit impatiently as hundreds of other graduates from Nell’s program cross the stage.

A brutal hour later, I see Nell outside, chatting with some of the people she knows from her classes. I run up behind her and scoop her into my arms. She squeals when I swing her around.

“Mateo!” Her fingers grip my forearms where they’re wrapped around her middle.

I set her down and she twists in my arms and leans in to hug me. I dip closer to her ear and say, “I’ll never get tired of hearing my name come out of your mouth.”

“Mateo,” she says again, a touch of warning in it this time, no doubt because her parents are behind me and my hand might be a little too close to her ass. But what can I say? I missed her.

Teasing, I slide my hand down another inch. “You know saying my name is never the way to get me to back off.”

She peels my hands off her body and laces our fingers together. “Later. Dinner with my parents. Then maybe we can spend some time in the library.”

I lift a brow. “The library, huh?”

“Well… I’m only at Rusk for one more semester. And I seem to recall one more list we never completed.”

“Does this list have six things on it?”

She grins. “It does.”

I don’t care that her parents are watching. I tug her forward and kiss her hard. Then whisper in her ear, “I love you, girl genius.”

****
NELL

It’s dark by the time we’ve finished celebrating with MY parents and returned them to their hotel room. I tell them that Mateo is taking me home, but we both know that’s not true. Excitement bubbles up in my belly at the thought of where we’re heading. Books and Mateo are pretty much my favorite things ever. And Mateo in the library? Irresistable.

But I Mateo doesn’t head to the parking lot nearest the library like I expect. Instead he chose one near the quad in the center of campus.

Suspicious, I narrow my eyes and ask, “What are you up to?”

Grinning, he puts the truck into park and pushes open his door. “Who me?”

“Mateo Torres,” I shout through the closed door. “You know how I feel about surprises. I like to know what I’m heading into.”

He rounds the front of the truck to open to my door, and he takes his time gripping my hips and helping me slide off the seat to stand in front of him. He says, “I definitely know all that. Just trust me… okay?”

Trust. I take a deep breath. I’ve trusted him with just about everything else in my life, I can give him this too. I’d give him just about anything.

He laces our fingers together and pulls me out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk. We walk through the center of campus, past dorms and educational building, and we come to a stop at the very center of campus where the university seal is set into concrete and surround by flowers and trees and fountains. The seal has the original founding date of the university, along with the founder, school crest and school motto in Latin.

Confused, my eyebrows furrow and I look up at my boyfriend. He’s not one to typically care about school history. But he stops with us standing right at the center of the seal.

“Care to fill me in?” I ask.

He pulls our hands between us, his thumbs rubbing back and forth over my knuckles.

“You said that you like to know what you’re heading into. And that’s what I’m doing. I’m telling you what you’re heading into. We might have met here at Rusk, and it might be one the main things we have in common. But we won’t be here forever. In fact, you’re going to be leaving really, really soon. And before that happens, I need you to know that I’m in this. That this place won’t just be where I fell in love with you.” Those words never fail to make my heart beat faster, to make my stomach swoop with anticipation. He squeezes my hands and continues, “Someday, this is going to be the place that I ask you to spend the rest of your life with me. Then we’re going to get married because I won’t let you say anything but yes, and I’m going to bring you here and we’re going to climb Big Daddy Rusk, wedding dress and all.” Tears crest over my cheeks at the same time that I choke on a laugh. “And then a long time after that, we’ll bring our kids here, and we can stand on this seal, and tell them what this place means to us. That this school changed our lives by bringing us together. That’s where we’re heading. I may not know what will happen in a month or a year or five years down the road… but I know that.”

I can’t seem to get any words out. I’m a blubbering, crying mess, and let’s just blame on graduation and my family and this being a REALLY emotional day. So without words, I settle for throwing my arms around his neck and kissing him. And kissing him and kissing him until I can’t breathe.

His hands are tight on my hips, pulling me close against his large body, and it’s all so surreal. I cannot believe this man loves me. And that I love him. And that in all the chaos and horror and unknown in this wide world, we have somehow found this good and perfect thing together.

It defies all reason.

A whistle breaks us apart, followed by the glaring flick of a light over our faces. My eyes widen.

A security guard. Jumping out of a golf cart, heading our way.

Mateo grips my hand tight, and starts pulling me away, first at a fast walk and then a run.

“Why are we running?” I say, between huffing breaths.

“Did I not mention that the seal is part of the Sweet Six? They have a regular patrol that sweeps by to run people off.”

“Oh my God, you pervert! After all those sweet things you said, you wanted to have sex on that seal!”

He chuckles, pausing in our escape to grab me around the middle and swing me around, before setting me back on my feet and pulling me into a run once more.

“Oh, we’re gonna get that seal. But don’t worry. We’ll leave that part of the story out when we tell our kids.”

The One with MORE Silas and Dylan!!

A few weeks ago, my street team organized an awesome All Played Out Read-a-thon, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to revisit some of my favorite Rusk couples! I started out with a bonus scene about Carson and Dallas, which you can read HERE. Next up: Silas and Dylan!

This scene is in Dylan’s POV, and it takes place after the events of All Played Out (not really any spoilers though). In it, I reintroduce a “character” that’s going to play a bigger role in the series moving forward.

Note: This scene is unedited. So any mistakes are my bad.

*********************************DYLAN**************************************

As I walk up the steps to Silas’s house, I hear a crash inside, people yelling, and then something shatters. My heart turns over in my chest, and I take the last few steps at a run.

Within the space of a few heartbeats, my mind conjures up all the likely causes of that crash. Silas is fighting again… but with who? Or maybe one of the guys was hurt in practice, and it made him clumsy. Or maybe it’s a burglar. I don’t bother knocking before I push my way inside, and then my heart doesn’t just turn over. It drops into my stomach like it’s been tied to an anchor.

The house is in shambles. Chairs overturned. The stuffing has been ripped out of one of the cushions on the couch. A lamp has been knocked off a table, and the glass from the broken light bulb surrounds it in a halo that glitters when the sunlight from the open door hits it. It reminds me of the scenes in movies where someone’s house is ripped apart because the bad guy is looking for something. And for a moment, I think of last week when Torres jokingly accused Brookes of working for the CIA for like the third time. That *was* a joke, right? Surely.

Dozens of scenarios run through my head, each one more elaborate and unlikely than the one before.

“Damn it, Moore! Grab him!” That was Brookes.

I turn toward the source of the noise in the kitchen, and catch sight of Torres sitting on the dining room table, laughing his ass off. And when I step through the archway into the room, I see why.

No CIA nonsense. No fighting. No injuries.

Nope. Just my incredibly gorgeous boyfriend, wrestling on the floor with an extremely hyper dog. The dog, a brown and gray Labrador/Cattle dog mix that I recognize from our local shelter, can’t seem to decide whether it wants to escape Silas’s grasp or lick his face, so he alternates between the two. If I remember correctly, this was the dog Silas named Bo Jackson the first time he helped out at the shelter with me. I watch as my boyfriend lays there, eyes and mouth tightly shut, hands pre-occupied with a squirming body, while the dog slobbers all over his face. I can’t stop the laugh that bubbles up in my throat, and then all attention snaps toward me.

A slobbery Silas on the ground, laughing Torres on the table, and a stern Brookes, who was picking up the larger glass pieces of whatever it was that had broken before I entered the house.

“Uhh… hey baby.”

I’m not used to seeing Silas look ridiculous. Intimidating? Always. Sexy? Enough to give me heart palpitations. But the expression he wears now—part embarrassment, part little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar—is an entirely new Silas for me.

I cross the kitchen and kneel down beside him, and the dog goes wild, panting and wagging his tail, pushing his paws against Silas’s stomach to try and reach me. I scratch behind his ears, and he makes this adorable mewling sound in appreciation. After about a minute of scratching and petting, he settles down enough that he relaxes against Silas, laying his head down on his chest.

“Who knew Captain Planet could work miracles?” Torres says. “Should make that whole saving the world thing easier.”

I ignore him and focus on Silas. “Want to tell me why Bo Jackson is here tearing up your house instead of at the shelter?”

“I can’t get anyone to take him,” he says, and he’s strangely adorable in his defensiveness. “I keep trying to push him on people, but everything thinks he’s too big or too hyper.”

“That’s because he is too hyper,” Brookes mutters under his breath.

“I couldn’t stand looking at him in that cage anymore. And… this dog… he’s a part of our story, you know? He was just a puppy when I went to the shelter with you the first time. He reminds me of what it was like to fall for you, and I can’t just let him rot away in that place.”

“Awwww!” Torres says behind me, swinging his legs back and forth beneath the table like a child. “Did you hear that Brookes? That monster is part of their story. Who knew Moore was such a softy?”

“Shut up, Torres.” I’d thought the words had come from me, I’d certainly been ready to say them, but it’s Brookes who actually says them. “Like you’re not just as whipped as he is.”

“Hey! I didn’t bring home a dog who destroyed our house. I think I’m still winning here.”

“I went to the bathroom,” Silas says in exasperation. “How was I supposed to know he’d rip everything apart if I left him alone for a minute or two?”

My eyes widen. “He did all that damage in two minutes?”

“It was really more like ten,” Brookes explains.

“He’s a fast little sucker. it took us a little while to catch him.”

Unbelievable. Three college athletes can’t catch a dog.

“Well, he’s not really an indoors kind of pet. He needs space to run and play. Why didn’t you put him in the backyard?”

Silas glares at Torres. “Because there’s still a part of the fence that’s down, and Torres over there refuses to let us fix it.”

“Hey… if you can get a dog for sentimental reasons, I can like that broken fence. It’s part of *my* story.”

Brookes dumps the larger broken glass pieces in the trash, grabs a broom, and tosses it at Torres. “You’re both idiots. And the two of you can clean up the mess he made and decide how to keep him from making it again. Just figure your shit out.”

Brookes stalks out of the kitchen and Torres whistles. “Someone is moody. Think he’s jealous of the complete and utter perfection that is my love life?”

I roll my eyes, and rather than answering, I lift Bo Jackson into my arms so Silas can stand. He goes to the sink, splashing water on his face to clean off the slobber, and when he looks back at me, his long hair is stuck to his forehead and cheeks, and he’s back to being unequivocally sexy.

He crosses to me, and though he lifts a hand to scratch at Bo’s ears, his eyes never leave mine. There’s a vulnerability in his gaze that he only rarely shows me. And each time, it grips my heart so hard I think it might break.

“It was very sweet of you to want to take care of him.” He leans closer, until his forehead presses against mine, Bo wiggling between us.

“I just… when I think about our future. I picture a house with a yard. Maybe a kid or two… and this dog. I just do.”

“If football doesn’t work out,” Torres says, “You could always try for a career with Hallmark.”

“Shut up, Torres.” This time—the words come from both me and Silas.

Hopping off the table, he lifts his hands in surrender. “Yeah, yeah. Fine. Nell’s about to get off work anyway.”

As Torres leaves the kitchen, Silas yells after him, “That fence is getting fixed, Teo! Deal with it.”

His friend waves off his words, and slips out of the room, leaving just the two of us in the kitchen.

“I love you,” I tell him.

“Yeah?” He scratches a little harder at Bo’s ears, and the dog croons.

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t freak you out? With all the future talk?”

Rather than answering, I reach up and wrap one hand around his neck to pull his mouth down to mine. His answering kiss is hard, they always are after he’s let himself be vulnerable with me. He kisses with abandon, with a brutal passion that takes my breath away. Whatever his flaws are, you cannot say that Silas Moore doesn’t throw his whole heart into whatever he does.

Bo whines in complaint when he gets squished too hard between us. And when he jerks, I can’t keep hold of him with the one arm that’s not pre-occupied with Silas. He jumps to the floor and takes off. I try to go after him, but Silas tugs on my hair, slanting his mouth over mine again.

“We’ll catch him in a second. I’m not quite done with this pretty mouth.”

There’s a thud in the living room, and then another crash. After one last lingering kiss, Silas groans and curses as he pulls away.

“He’s part of our story,” I remind him, just a slight note of teasing in my voice as I plant one more quick kiss on his lips.

“Yeah, well, I was hoping fucking you on the kitchen counter could be part of our story.”

I laugh and push him away. “Another time.”

Then together (with one of his hands slipping down to squeeze my ass), we head off in search of Bo Jackson. Our dog.

The One with MORE Carson and Dallas!

A few weeks ago, my street team organized an All Played Out Read-a-thon, and I thought that was the perfect time to revisit some of my favorite Rusk couples. First up? Carson and Dallas. This bonus scene was posted in the read-a-thon, but if you missed it, here it is in all it’s swoon worthy glory!
This scene is unedited, so please forgive any mistakes. Song lyrics are in italics. Enjoy!

**************CARSON’S POV******************
Practice ends a little earlier than expected, so I text Dallas to see what she’s up to, then hop in the shower. By the time I’m out she still hasn’t replied, so I jump in my truck and swing by the new apartment she shares with Stella.

I don’t see Dallas’s little car. I do see both Stella and Ryan’s vehicles. Interesting. Maybe we should go to my place after I find her. We’ll leave those two to do… whatever they’re doing.

Sure enough, I catch sight of her car on my next stop. All alone in a nearly abandoned parking lot by the fine arts building. I pull my truck into the space next to hers and jump out. There’s one door that’s left open at all hours that students come and go through. It’s off around the side of the building and is mostly where the smoker’s hang out. But the dancers and actors and singers have rehearsals at all kinds of crazy hours, so they all use it after hours.

Once I’m inside, I head toward the dance rehearsal spaces from memory. Down a couple hallways, and then off to the right. As I get closer, I hear music, and I know without seeing her that it’s got to be Dallas.

The music is soft and pretty, but there’s an ache in it, a rawness that Dallas always seems to be attracted to. When I’m almost there, I hear her curse, followed by her stomping footsteps, and the song pauses, only to start over at the beginning.

I’ve just made it to the open doorway when she takes her starting position. She’s sitting down with her elbows on her knees and her head hung low.

Slowly, she starts to breathe, letting her whole body move in exaggeration with it, and I imagine it’s timed to the beat of her heart.

This heart is tired and old.

She stretches and twists her body, like she’s slept too long and it’s painful to wake up. Then she rolls gracefully to her feet.

This heart is charcoal and cold.

Her hand pulses over her heart before she does a single spin and ends with her arms wrapped around her middle, shivering.

I know this is what she loves, and God knows she’s brilliant at it. There’s such an effortless beauty to her movement. But she embodies the emotion so completely that it’s hard for me to watch.
The song talks about giving up and giving in, and even as she spins and jumps, she looks moments away from collapsing, from folding in on herself. And this pit opens up in my stomach, and I have to grip the doorjamb hard to keep from interrupting her. I want to pull her into my arms and take away whatever hurt lets her dance like this. I don’t want her to know that kind of grief.

She stretches one leg up behind her. An arabesque I think is what she calls it. But I’ve only ever seen her do it about waist high. This time she pushes it higher, her body tense and still, and I can’t help but marvel at her control. She’s so fucking strong. She starts to lose her balance, and her leg jerks, she hops to try and save it, but it’s too late.

She drops her leg and groans in frustration and digs her fingers into her hair. I take that as my cue to step in and say, “Hey.”

She looks up and gives me a brilliant, albeit tired, smile. It almost completely pushes out the vulnerability she’d had in the dance. Almost.

I cross toward her, slipping off my shoes first so I don’t mess up the floor with my boots. “That looked hard,” I say, referencing that last move.

She frowns, and I wish I hadn’t said anything. “It is. I’ve done it before. At the conservatory this summer. But I can’t seem to get it here.”

I step up in front of her, pushing aside some hair that’s stuck on her forehead. “You’ll get it.”

She shakes her head. “I should have worked harder to keep all the gains I made there. I’ve been lazy. I let myself go.”

“Hey, stop that.” I slip my hand around the back of her neck, underneath the curtain of her hair.

She tries to pull away, saying, “I’m all sweaty and gross.”

I hold tight, refusing to let her slip away. “Sweaty, yes. But I don’t find you the least bit gross.” To prove my point, I dip my head and drag my lips over her collarbone, pausing at the curve between her neck and shoulder to taste the salt on her skin.

Her hands find my waist, and she grabs hold of me, anchoring herself. And that’s what I want to be for her. Always. I want to be the thing that keeps her steady and strong and still.

“Thanks,” she murmurs. And I’m not sure what exactly she’s thanking me for.

“How high you can get your leg isn’t what makes you a great dancer, Dallas. It’s part of it, sure. But I promise… when that music plays, people aren’t watching how perfect your technique is. They’re watching you dance as if you’re holding your heart right there in the palm of your hands, offering up everything you’ve got to the music. I may not know much about dance. But I know that that… what you were doing there before you stopped? That was fucking gorgeous.”

She slumps wearily into me, but her arms wind tightly around my middle for a hug. I return it, squeezing her a little tighter than I probably should.

When she pulls back, I smile and say, “Why don’t you try it again? With me here to help you keep your balance this time?”

She laughs. “You’re going to be my barre again?”

“Always.”

I step far enough away to give her space, and after a deep breath, she closes her eyes and begins lifting her leg. She gets it to the usual spot with no problem. Then after a few seconds pause, she starts to push it higher, her upper body angling forward a little more. When I see her start to strain, her center faltering, I step up and steady her with my hands on her hips.

“You got it. I won’t let you fall.”

She takes another deep breath, and with me still holding her, she lifts her leg even higher, so that her foot is as high as my shoulder. I get distracted by the length of her legs, which in my defense, are pretty damn amazing.

And after nearly thirty seconds watching her hold that position, I lose the last of my self control and let two fingers trail from her thigh to the sensitive area behind her knee.

She jumps, and I slip my other hand from her hip to her stomach, cradling her.

“So this is why you wanted to help,” she says, slightly out of breath.

“My intentions were entirely gentlemanly.”

She lowers her leg to the floor, and when she straightens her body, I’ve still got my hand low on her belly and she looks at me over her shoulder.

“Were?”

“You know your legs are my weakness. Once I start thinking about how they feel wrapped around me, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”

“You know, if you took up dance, you could be my partner. It’s pretty common in duets for the male dancer to hold the female with her legs wrapped around his waist.”

She gives me a sly smile, and whatever patience I had left goes out the window. I pick her up by the waist and slam my mouth into hers, and she wastes no time curling her legs around me.

Against her lips, I murmur, “I think I’m going to need to practice this move a lot.”

She laughs softly, her breath fanning over my mouth. “Practice does make perfect.”

(SWOOON. I MISS THESE GUYS SO MUCH. I LOVE THEM).