The Billionaire's Ballet (Friends with Benefits)

By: Deanna Roy

All I could do was try.

Mother hadn’t spotted me yet, so I turned back to the party.

Quinn had deserted the twins and was dancing with a girl I didn’t recognize. She was lovely, pale and blond, tall and willowy. She couldn’t dance, though. Every so often they had to pause because she lost her footing.

After a few more missteps, Quinn pulled her close and they moved together in a slow shuffle, her cheek on his chest.

I had to look away.

“I see you up there, Juliet,” Mom said. “Are you spying on another party?” She stood at the base of the wall and peered up in disapproval. “I’m sure you only had to have asked and the girls would have invited you.”

I knew who she meant by “the girls” and frowned at the mention of the Claremont sisters. I searched the party and spotted Rose and Pearl. They were hiding in a dark corner, both too young to really join the festivities. Rose was thirteen and snobby to the core. Pearl was only ten, but looked up to her sister and followed her lead.

Neither were talented dancers, but Mom always worked with what she got. Dance had been a critical component of the Claremont lifestyle, and my mother had been hired at the birth of Estelle, the eldest Claremont, and kept on full-time.

Fortunately the Claremonts had more girls, so Mother had a job here at least until Pearl grew up. By then, hopefully I would be situated somewhere that I could bring her with me.

Where was Quinn? I’d lost him in the crowd.

I had only just found him again among the partygoers when I felt my mother tug on my ankle. I looked back. She had climbed up behind me.

“It’s our last night,” she said softly. “I had hoped to spend a little time together.”

She was right. Watching Quinn flirt with girls at his social level wasn’t going to make my final moments on the estate any better.

I swung my legs around and jumped down. Mom followed with a graceful leap and put her arm around my waist. I fell in beside her and our steps naturally moved at the same gait. She had taught me well, and now was my time to shine. I had to buck up, put my past behind me, and get over Quinn.

Chapter 2

My evening with Mom had been cozy and calm, going through my bags and making sure my accounts and credit cards were in order.

But there was no way I could sleep.

I opened my window. The sounds of the party still filtered past the wall. It was winding down. I knew these events well. When they began, glasses clinked, greetings were shouted, and the music swelled.

The party would crescendo like a dramatic moment in an opera. The voices would become a wave of sound. Laughter would break out. Inevitably something would get broken or crash.

Then cars would begin to leave, one by one. The casual attendees moved on, and the smaller group of those who had settled in would remain until the wee hours. That’s where things were now.

I heard a splash and some laughter. Someone was in the pool. I pictured Quinn skinny-dipping with the blond and my throat felt thick.

He had no idea I felt this way. I had never let it show. But I couldn’t stay away, not this night, my last one. Maybe if I told him how I felt, it would change things.

Yes, maybe he was hiding it too! And I would explain it to him, and he would smile and say, “If only I had known!” And “Of course you can’t go to New York! You must stay.”

And he would kiss me. Not on my eyelids, but a real honest-to-goodness kiss on the mouth.

The feel of soft grass on my bare feet surprised me. I looked behind and realized I was out the window.

I should go back. Get my rest. Prepare for the early morning and the flight.

But I didn’t.

A line of small Malibu lights illuminated the path, but I kept away from their glow. The shrubs and trees hid me as I moved toward the main estate. I couldn’t see over the stone wall without climbing it again, but my tiny white sleep shorts and spaghetti-strap shirt might make me visible against the night sky.

God, I was walking out here in my pajamas!

I felt bold. Something hot bolted through me as I imagined Quinn seeing me in this outfit. I glanced down at the thin stretchy shirt. No bra. That was obvious. I shivered.

I walked along the wall until I came to a gate. I peeked through the iron bars. A few people sat around the pool, dipping their legs in. A girl in a bra and panties was in the water splashing around.

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