Only The Brave Try Ballet
Step up, Grant Farley…not your typical ballet student!
Football pro Grant Farley is nursing an injury and needs to get back into shape—fast. Ballet wouldn’t be his first or even his last choice, but he’s desperate. Enter tantalizingly prim teacher Jasmine Bell—one disapproving arch of her eyebrow and Grant knows he’ll enjoy getting her tutu in a flutter!
But it’s not only Grant’s flexibility that Jasmine’s pushing to the limit! He knows she feels the heat between them, so why won’t she give in to it? Time to convince Jasmine that if she’s brave enough to dance en pointe she can certainly handle a fling with him!
"A wonderful, fun, sweet and sexy read, Only the Brave Try Ballet is most definitely one you need to read. A great debut from a fabulous new voice in Australian romance fiction!" - My Written Romance
"The read had loads of crazy sexy fun mixed with a good dose of old fashioned realistic emotion...Passionate, sexy as all heck and the perfect read to let you know life has pitfalls but there is always a way to get back up. Watch out world Stefanie London has arrived!!" - Contemporary Romance Reviews
"This is one of those wonderful stories that is both entertaining, yet heartbreakingly real. It doesn’t matter that Jasmine and Grant have high profile careers. The author has given us real people with real problems and the reader will barrack for them from the sidelines because this is a novel with heart." - Goodreads
"Man, what a fun book! Mind you, it wasn’t all hearts and flowers – there were some pretty deep subjects tackled, but getting there was a great ride...it all came together very sweetly with a satisfactory ending that left me with a big grin on my face." - Harlequin Junkie
What do a ballerina and a football player have in common? It was the question Jasmine Bell pondered as she watched the footballer in front of her struggling to master a plié. Discounting a need for flexible hamstrings…they have nothing in common. Absolutely nothing. Yet here they were.
She stood in the middle of the studio, wearing her usual uniform of a black leotard, tights and ballet shoes. These items were like a second skin to a dancer, but tonight she couldn’t have felt more exposed than if she were standing there butt-naked. She folded her arms tight across her chest.
‘Let’s take it from the top. Keep those shoulders down,’ she said, forcing a calming breath. She loosened her shoulders, rounded her arms into first position and turned her feet out to match. ‘Prepare…left hand on the barre and plié—one, two, three, four…’
The man in front of her smirked as he followed her instructions with a lazy swagger. Everything about Grant Farley got under her skin, from the cocky grin on his face to the way his thick blond brows rose at her when she spoke. He was a man designed to destroy a woman’s concentration.
Keeping her distance, she watched his movements and provided assistance verbally. Usually she helped her students by guiding them with her hands, but there was something about him which made her mind scream Look but don’t touch. Maybe it was because he moved with a self-assurance that she envied, or maybe it was because after her six months of celibacy he looked good enough to eat.
Much to her chagrin he was a quick learner, and rapidly gained ground despite his insistence on goofing around.
‘You’re doing well,’ Jasmine said as they paused between repetitions. She was determined to be the consummate professional, even if it was harder to pull off than the pas de deux from Don Quixote Act Three. ‘I can see improvements already and it’s only your first lesson.’
‘It’s not exactly difficult,’ he responded, his blue eyes meeting hers and sending a chill down her spine. His tone dismissed her praise. ‘I’m bending up and down on the spot. A two-year-old could master that.’
Jasmine bristled. Only a beef-head Aussie Rules footballer would fail to see the importance of the step she’d taught him.
She pursed her lips. ‘That’s an over-simplification, don’t you think?’
‘Not really.’ He crossed his arms and leant back against the barre, appraising her. ‘You can give it a fancy French name if you want, but it’s just bending your knees.’
‘Well, I never thought a career could be made out of chasing a little red ball.’ She tilted her chin up at him. ‘But there you go.’
‘Our balls aren’t little,’ he drawled, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
Her cheeks flamed. She ignored the innuendo and started the music, preparing herself to repeat the exercise facing him.
‘Once more from the top.’
As the music started he followed her lead, bending with his feet in first position. The teacher in her couldn’t ignore the fault of his technique, as he bent his hips moved out of alignment and his feet rolled inwards. She instinctively reached out to correct the error but retracted her hand when her brain kicked into gear.
‘I don’t bite.’
His wolfish grin seemed at odds with the promise of safety, but Jasmine wasn’t going to let some arrogant joker mess with her head. She was the teacher; she was the one in charge here.
‘You need to keep your hips steady.’ She stepped forward and placed a hand on each hip. His muscles were tight and flame-hot beneath her palms. He bent down into plié once more and she guided him, ignoring the frisson of electricity that shot through her.
‘Make sure your core is pulled in. It will increase balance and stop you rocking forward.’
‘Like this?’ He grabbed her hand and placed her palm against his stomach. She could feel the ripple of each muscle through his T-shirt. His sports tights moulded every curve of his muscle, every bulge…
Jasmine gulped, her blood pounding as though she’d run a marathon. Get it together.
‘Yes, like that.’ She withdrew her hand, the heat of him still burning her fingertips.
She was going to strangle Elise, her soon to be former best friend, for roping her into this disaster waiting to happen. She was going to—
‘Earth to Bun-Head.’ Grant waved a hand in front of her face, chuckling when she returned her focus to him. ‘I don’t see how this is helping my hamstring. Shouldn’t we be stretching or something? We need to speed up this flexibility thing. I’ve got an important game coming up.’
He shook his leg and rubbed at the muscle.
‘Flexibility is a slow process. You can’t turn up to one ballet lesson and expect to be a contortionist. It takes time.’
‘I’d settle for being injury-free,’ he replied. ‘But if you want to show me how you can put your ankles behind your head then be my guest.’
‘This is not Cirque du Soleil.’ Jasmine bit each word out through gritted teeth.
‘It might as well be.’ He checked the clock above them. ‘Though, shocking as it might seem, I’m not here for the laughs. I want to fix my hamstring and get back to spending my time on real training.’
Jasmine wasn’t ready to let him have the last word. Sure, she had her motivations for agreeing to take Grant on as a student, but that didn’t give him licence to be rude. ‘I’m not exactly here for enjoyment either.’
‘If you loosened up you might find some aspects of it enjoyable.’
She sucked in a breath and willed herself not to respond. Glancing at the clock, she held in a sigh of relief as the hand neared eight p.m. Their hour together had hardly been successful. In fact she could chalk it up as her most frustrating lesson ever…and this was only the beginning.
‘Is it that time already?’
His amused tone set fire to Jasmine’s resolve to play cool, calm and collected. She wanted to slap the mocking look right off his ruggedly-handsome face. He raised an eyebrow, as if to punctuate his question.
This was going to be her life two nights a week for the next six months, and she wasn’t looking forward to it one bit! Unfortunately these lessons weren’t about the ideal way to spend her free time. No, it all came down to dollars and cents. Once again she was in a position where she needed to play up to some arrogant guy who thought he owned the world to be able to pay her bills.
‘I think we can finally call it a night,’ she said.
‘Don’t sound too upset to be rid of me.’ He uncrossed his arms and leant forward, his broad shoulders casting a shadow over her.
‘The lessons are for one hour, Mr Farley.’ Her voice was tight and her lungs were arid and devoid of air. ‘If you want more time you’ll have to arrange it with the studio owner.’
‘One hour is plenty, Ms Bell,’ he teased, and raked a hand through his thick blond hair.
Why did he have to be so damn attractive? Her insides flipped as his hair sprang back into place. She headed towards the door to the waiting room and he walked with her, a little too close for comfort. The scent of his aftershave found its way to her nostrils and filled her head with unwanted though not unpleasant images. She shut her eyes for a moment, pushing away the desire which flared like the lighting of a match.
He wasn’t good-looking in the traditional, clean-cut way she preferred. But there was something about his rough-around-the-edges look that drew her in. He had a strong jaw and razor-sharp cheekbones; his nose was crooked, as though it had been broken at some point and hadn’t healed properly. She had a strange, powerful urge to run her fingertips over the bump, to confirm her suspicions.
She bit down on her lip. There was no way in hell she would let herself fall for a guy like him. Egotistical, cocky guys were a thing of her past, and she intended to keep it that way. It was strictly business, and after he paid her for the lesson she could go home and forget she was selling out. Forget that her dream had been reduced to this BS.
Grant walked over to his duffel bag and rifled through it, withdrawing a thick envelope. He thrust it in her direction.
‘This should cover me,’ he said. ‘Coach thought it’d be easier to pay up front since you only take cash.’
The rewarding heaviness of the envelope sat in Jasmine’s hands. It would cover her rent and bills for the next month or two, and give her a little breathing space. Relief coursed through her, immediately followed by a wave of shame as she tucked the envelope into her handbag. She didn’t bother to count it. A guy who earned more than a million a year, if you believed the papers, was hardly likely to scrimp on a couple of hundred dollars for ballet lessons.
‘Thanks,’ she muttered without looking at him, dropping onto one of the couches and peeling off her legwarmers.
‘Just so we’re clear, this is something I have to do to tick a box. I don’t have any secret dreams of wearing a tutu and getting up on stage. So don’t take it personally if I don’t crave your feedback.’
Self-important, arrogant, egotistical…
‘Fine.’ Untying her ballet shoes, she reached for her fleece-lined black leather boots. Her body was cooling down and her ankle ached. Grimacing, Jasmine rubbed at the soreness, feeling the rippled skin of her scar underneath her tights before sliding the boot on. ‘You’re here to tick a box. I’m here for the money.’
If he wanted to play it like that, then he could expect an equal response from her. Hopefully the weeks would pass quickly and then she could move on to figuring out what to do with her life.
As he pulled a pair of tracksuit pants from his bag Grant’s leg muscles flexed and bulged through his leave-nothing-to-the-imagination sports tights. She’d spent the whole hour forcing her eyes up and away from the tight fabric that stretched over his thighs and…well, everything.
Heat crawled up the back of her neck and pooled in her cheeks. She pulled her eyes away as he stood and turned to her, staring at the ground as she pulled on her boots.
‘See something you like?’ he asked, his smile indicating it was a rhetorical question.