Monday, September 18, 2017

Teaser for Take a Chance on Me

I don't tend to post a lot of teasers, because I never want to give too much away with my upcoming books. But I've been totally immersed in Take a Chance on Me, the next book in my Firsts and Forever series, and I really wanted to share a taste of it with you. The scene at the end of this post contains no spoilers, just FYI.

Take a Chance on Me is Quinn's story, and it's coming out in early October, exact release date TBA (I always just send them to Amazon the moment they're done, so I can never really predict what day that'll be). His love interest is a police officer named Duke, who's been in the background over the course of several books in the series (he was Cole's uptight roommate in All I Ever Wanted, which came out in June).

Here's Quinn on the cover:

He's a ballet dancer, and absolutely passionate about his craft. In a scene I just wrote this past weekend (which still needs to be edited), he and Duke are having dinner at Chance and Finn's house (the main characters from Coming Home, book 9 in the series). I love several things about this scene: getting to really learn what ballet means to Quinn, revisiting some of our old, familiar characters, including sweet, fragile Elijah (who we also met in Coming Home), and watching Duke's reaction at the end of the scene. Just to set it up a bit, this is told from Quinn's perspective. He's just arrived at the house and is meeting Elijah for the first time. I hope you enjoy it! <3

And then there was Elijah. I’d been told the tiny, blue-eyed blond was nineteen, but he looked much younger. He sat off by himself with his knees pulled up to his chest, reading a thick textbook, and he glanced up and nodded when Chance introduced us. On the drive over, Duke had explained that Elijah and Colt used to date, and that Finn had become Elijah’s legal guardian, because the kid had been a runaway with no one else to turn to. That had to be awkward, living with his ex-boyfriend’s family.
Elijah seemed completely isolated, even in a room full of people, and I found myself wanting desperately to be his friend. I knew Finn and his family cared about this kid, but he just looked so fragile, and his eyes were haunted, in a way that resonated with me, deep down. Even without knowing the particulars of what he’d run away from, I understood, and I wanted him to know I did.
At the same time though, I knew at a glance that it’d be way too easy to overdo it and freak him out. So I reeled in the urge to give him a huge hug, and instead, I plucked three cookie pops from the bouquet I’d begged Duke to make for our hosts. I gave two of them to Colt and Cory as I joked about ruining dinner, and then I crossed the room to Elijah and said, “Please accept this raccoon on a stick, from one hot blond to another.” When he grinned, it felt like a total win.
He took the treat from me and asked, in a soft voice tinged with a faint southern accent, “Where’d you get a raccoon-shaped cookie?”
“I coerced my boyfriend into baking them for tonight,” I said as I sat down in the club chair beside his. “It’s part of a woodland-themed cookie bouquet. There are also bears, pine trees, and a ton of squirrels. But I happen to think the raccoons are the best, because of those little masks. They’re like, nature’s Hamburglars.”
When Elijah burst out laughing, I wanted to do a fist-pump. Apparently it was fairly unusual, too, because every member of his family stopped what they were doing to glance at him. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to notice, and he asked, “Why a woodland theme?” He started to raise the cute critter to his lips, but then he took pity on it and chose to save it.
“My thought process basically consisted of, ‘well, who doesn’t like squirrels?’ Later on, I realized my logic was faulty, because anti-squirrel prejudice is actually rampant in our society. But by then, Duke was fully committed to the woodland theme, so it was too late to bail out.”
Elijah grinned and said, “Did you buy the sweater to match the cookies?”
I looked down at my snazzy red sweater with a raccoon knit into the front of it and said, “Oh no, I already owned this.”
“Dude, do you have something to say about my righteous raccoon sweater? Because this is bad-ass!”
“If you say so. Where’d you find it?”
“At a yard sale! Oh my God, they’re so much fun! They’re like, a huge scavenger hunt, except you don’t know what you’re looking for when you start off.”
He grimaced a bit. “So, that’s a used raccoon sweater.”
“Yeah, but it still had the tags on it, because who on earth besides me would ever wear such a thing?”
“I have absolutely no answer to that.”
“Yeah, me neither, actually.”
After a pause, he said, “So, Finn mentioned you’re a ballet dancer when he was talking you up earlier. I’m curious, are you able to stand en pointe?”
“I’ve always wanted to ask, doesn’t that hurt? Because it looks incredibly painful.”
“Hell yes it hurts! Here’s a little secret about ballet: it all hurts.”
“So, why do you do it?”
“Because some things are worth suffering for.”
“Is it, though?”
I said, “I think I love ballet in part because it’s difficult, and because it pushes my body to its absolute limit. It’s hard to explain, but I get a deep sense of satisfaction out of excelling at something so challenging.” 
“That makes sense.”
“I also happen to think ballet is one of the most beautiful things in all the world.” I lowered my voice and admitted quietly, “And when I dance, I feel beautiful. It’s the only time I do. Or it was, before I met my boyfriend. He makes me feel beautiful, too.” I grinned shyly and glanced at Duke across the room, who was chatting with Chance and Finn around the long, stainless steel bar that fronted the kitchen. “Ballet also makes me feel powerful, and in total control of my body. I needed that desperately when I was a kid. I guess I still do.”
Elijah met my gaze, and a look of understanding passed between us. I knew right then he’d been hurt, the way I had. Or possibly far, far worse.
After a moment, he said, “I’ve never seen ballet performed live. I’m curious now.”
I said, “I’m doing a show in three weeks, so I’ll send you and your family some tickets if you want. Just be forewarned, the show gets a bit adult in parts.”
When he reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind his ear, the sleeve of his huge, blue cardigan fell back, revealing a delicate charm bracelet. His voice grew softer than usual when he said, “That, um…that might be a bit uncomfortable for me.”
“How about coming with me to watch the San Francisco Ballet perform?”
“I don’t know. I don’t do well with crowds.”
I got up and bowed deeply, then said, “In that case, I cordially invite you to the patio for an uncrowded and family-friendly performance of one of my very favorite routines.”
Elijah’s eyes went wide, and he stammered, “Um, you really don’t have to do that.”
I’d obviously crossed the line from friendly person to scary lunatic as far as Elijah was concerned. I tried to reel it in a little by dropping to one knee, so I wasn’t standing over him, and saying softly, “I’m a lot, I know. When I meet somebody I want to be friends with, like you, I usually try too hard and just make it awkward. But there’s one thing I can do well, and that’s dance. And yeah, I know it’s weird to want to dance for you, but weird is kind of what I do.”
He watched me for a moment, then asked, “Why do you want to be my friend?”
“Because you laugh at my jokes, and because you think that cookie is too cute to bite its head off, which makes me think we have a lot in common.”
He glanced at the cookie pop in his left hand and said, “I’m actually considering shellacking it, so it’ll last forever.”
I tilted my head toward the patio at the back of the building and said, “Come on, let me show you what ballet is all about. I already embarrassed myself with the raccoon sweater and the bizarre request to dance for you. Let me achieve the trifecta of awkwardness by actually going through with it.”
Elijah stared at me for a moment, and then he grinned a little and said, “It’s nice not being the weirdest person in the room for once.”
I jumped up and exclaimed, “That’s a yes, isn’t it?”
He got up too and said, “Sure. Why not?”
A few minutes later, Duke, Elijah, and the rest of his family were lined up in chairs on the edge of the patio, which had been cleared of furniture. I’d done some stretches, stripped down to just my jeans, and cued up a song on Finn’s stereo, which he’d very accommodatingly relocated to just inside the back door. I stood facing the bay and my little audience, lit by the strands of white bulbs which rimmed the cement patio, and said, “I wanted Elijah to experience ballet first-hand, so thanks for humoring me. This is the number I performed when I auditioned for the San Francisco Ballet. I hope you like it.” Colt and Cory looked bored, while everyone else had a politely interested expression fixed in place. They were probably expecting the death scene from Swan Lake, or some tired shit like that. I grinned a little and pressed a button on the antiquated stereo.
Everyone’s eyes went wide when Bohemian Rhapsody started to play, even Duke’s, and he should have known me well enough by that point to guess I wasn’t going to do anything conventional. During the a cappella introduction, I swung my arms around and leaned so far backwards that my fingers grazed the concrete. Then I moved deliberately around the patio, executing a series of pirouettes, arms up, toes pointed, head back, in perfect form, just like I’d been taught.
When the tempo picked up, I brought it. I leapt high into the air and spun, dropped onto the deck and rolled across it, then pushed off, arching my body. For the next few minutes, I reacted to the music, I became it, forgetting everything but how to move. I executed a flawless series of grand jettes, wide, soaring leaps across the stage. I felt so alive! My body responded with everything it had. It knew that routine, every note, every moment. I swirled across the stage, bending, twisting, and leapt into the air again, defying gravity, completing two complete rotations before I landed. I reached out, elongating my body, then jumped and spun again. It was as natural and familiar as breathing. It was strength and beauty, power and grace. It was everything.
As the final notes of the song faded out, I slowed, then stilled with one arm raised overhead and my right leg stretched behind me. All was silent for a moment. I’d forgotten where I was. Then someone exclaimed, “Holy shit!”
I looked up and remembered my little audience beside the bay. They were still staring at me with wide eyes. In the next instant, Elijah leapt to his feet and started clapping wildly. The rest of the group followed his lead, and I grinned embarrassedly at my standing ovation and took a bow.
Duke crossed the cement patio to me, dipped me back, and kissed me passionately. Then he looked deep into my eyes and whispered, “You astonish me.”