Breathless Page 5

Quinn threw her body into the music, trying to match Adam’s complicated choreography. He was a couple years older, but she’d known him since she was a kid, when their parents dumped them in the same ballet and tap combo class. She’d recognized his talent even then, the boy in scuffed dance shoes and frayed sweatpants who moved like a slave to the rhythm. They lived at opposite ends of the same neighborhood, so they’d gone to different elementary and middle schools—but when she was a freshman in high school, they’d caught up to each other. He’d been a junior, lean and agile and always smiling. With his dark eyes and dark hair—not to mention his talent—she’d crushed on him for weeks, following him around like a puppy dog.

He’d been totally sweet about it—until the day she cranked up her nerve and declared her feelings for him.

He’d kissed her on the forehead and told her he wasn’t into girls. Then, presumably to soften the blow, he’d confessed that he was personally crushing on the football team’s starting center.

Unfortunately, the wrong guys had overheard him. Quinn never knew who did it, but someone had punched Adam in the back of his head when he was standing at his locker. Perfectly timed, Adam’s head had snapped forward, right into the metal plate that stuck out to hold a combination lock.

She’d heard that it had taken fourteen stitches to close the gash on his lip.

She hadn’t heard it from Adam—he never came back to school. She’d tried to reach out on Facebook, but his Wall was full of epithets.

And the next day, his account was deleted altogether.

Quinn kind of lost track of him until last year, when he’d shown up at the Y, saying his basement apartment was just too confining. He’d gotten his GED instead of returning to high school, and now, at nineteen, he was working two jobs while taking here-and-there classes at the local community college.

But he could still dance like no one she’d ever seen.

Quinn missed a cue and almost ended up with her face planted in the wood floor. Adam caught her, and she struggled to right herself.

“See?” she snapped. “I can’t keep up with you.”

“No,” he said, putting a hand on her waist to set her straight. “I actually think your friend was right. It was missing a partner.”

“Do you know anyone who can do it with you?”

Adam gave her half a smile. “I thought you were.”

Her eyes flared. “No! This is your audition piece. I’m sure you know someone—”

“I do know someone. I’m looking at her.”

“Oh, I get it, you think having someone do a face plant on stage will make you look better?”

Now he grinned. He was insanely adorable and she was instantly reminded of why she’d had a crush on him in the first place. “Afraid?”


“Yes,” Nick called from behind her. “She is.”

Quinn scowled. “I’d mess it up for you.”

“I’ve auditioned three times and gotten nowhere. I don’t think you could mess it up for me.” He paused, and his eyes went serious. “There’s a different energy to it now. Can’t you feel it?”

Actually, she could. Despite nearly smashing her face in, up to that point, the music had seemed to carry her, like her movement and the song had combined to form something more potent than just a hastily thrown-together dance in a dusty backroom studio at the Y.

She bit the inside of her cheek, trying not to imagine how massive and ungainly she looked next to Adam. “When is your audition?”

“Next month. Four weeks.”

“Four weeks?” she exclaimed. “Are you kidding me?”

“Come on, that’s nothing.”

“Yes, but—but—”

“Don’t let her out of it,” Nick said.

Quinn swung her head around. “Maybe we can cut the commentary?”

Nick met her eyes from across the room, and held them. “Sure, if you say yes.”

“But I don’t—”

“Jesus, Quinn,” Nick snapped. “What else do you have to do?”

And that was one of the things she liked about Nick. He put up with her whining until she was almost sick of herself, and then he called her on her bullshit.

At least it would get her out of the house and away from her mother. And Jake.

And away from those idiot cheerleaders.

And maybe, somewhere deep down inside, she really wanted to see if she could do this.

She looked back at Adam. “All right. Let’s work it out.”

They sketched out a routine, modifying his original piece to incorporate a partner, putting together some moves that she could work on alone.

The whole time, Nick sat without complaint, even when she asked if he needed to go. He’d shrugged and said he was enjoying the music. She’d had other guys come to the studio before, but they usually sighed and started shuffling around after a half hour.

Nick watched. It was both flattering and unnerving.

They danced until her muscles ached and the director was walking around, turning off lights and threatening to lock them inside.

Then they were walking outside, stepping into the cold night air, their breath just starting to fog.

Yes, she was definitely regretting the little booty shorts. Quinn shivered.

Nick had keys in his hand, and he hit the clicker. The lights on his brother’s red work truck flashed. “Get in,” he said. “I’ll put the heat on.”

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