You sweep me away, onto the dance floor, where couples waltz and spin and sway. Your hands are politely placed on my waist and your hand is in mine, warm and dry and loose. You lead with practiced ease, guiding me through one dance, and then another. We pause when the band takes a break, and we sip at wine that I find too light, too fruity, too sweet. And then the band strikes up again, and you lead me back out, fit your hand to my waist, where your touch cannot be misconstrued as anything but platonic. You make small talk, but I let it wash over me without responding, and you seem to expect this, to understand it, carrying on a one-way conversation about—I don’t even know what.

I am not thinking of you.

“Can I cut in?” Oh, his voice. Now sharp and expectant, leaving no room for disobedience.

You do not stand a chance, sweet Jonathan.

Big hard warm strong hands take me, spin me away, and his steps are not as practiced, not as smooth, but powerful and implacable and confident. His hand is not on my waist, not polite, not platonic. His hand is on my hip, cupping me intimately. Not quite inappropriate, but very nearly. Fingers are tangled in mine, rather than clasping like friends.

“Hi,” he says, and indigo eyes find mine.

“Hi,” I breathe back.

And we dance. We sway and sweep in graceful circles, and time is like water, one song passing, and then two, and I cannot look away. Don’t wish to. His eyes search me, and seem to see me. Read me, as if I am a familiar and beloved book, long lost and just now found once again.

“What’s your name, Cinderella?” His forehead touches mine, and I fear the intimacy of the scene, his hand on my hip, his fingers twined with mine, our bodies too close.

I must end this dance.

I pull away.

“Wait!” He catches my hand and pulls me back against him.

We are lost in the crowd of dancers, but I know Len is watching and so is Thomas, and so is Jonathan, and this cannot happen, should not be happening. He is too close. He touches me as if we are framed and fitted and formed to belong one to the other, as if he knows me, as if my body is his for the touching.

“Why won’t you just tell me your fucking name?” He sounds very nearly desperate.

“I can’t.” I know not how else to explain it.

“It’s just a name, sweetheart.”

“It’s not. It’s more than that. It’s who I am.” I want to smile, want to throw myself at him, to taste his lips, to feel the hard heat of his chest and the warmth of his arms. I want to say a million traitorous things.

“Exactly.” His fingers leave my hand and slip and slide up my forearm, and God, his fingertips on the tender underside of my forearm is so intimate and so soft that I can’t breathe and I am aroused by that innocent intimacy, my thighs clenching together as I stare up at him, just his fingertips on my forearm, dragging from wrist up and up to elbow, back down, tracing and tickling. “I want to know who you are.”

My fingers go to my lips, touch them where his lips nearly touched mine. I shake my head. “You can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible.”

I have no response for that. I can only tug my arm free, and he cannot do anything but allow it. I walk away, and it hurts, it aches, the pull to look back. The pull to return to him and finish the almost-kiss is like a taut wire speared through my heart, plucked to hum like a harp string. Each step away from Logan makes my whole being sing the song of that plucked string.

I find you on the far side of the ballroom, leaning against the wall with a glass of wine in one hand, engaging Len in conversation. I hear words bandied back and forth that I believe are car terms, the kind of thing I imagine men discuss between themselves in a strange language all their own: horsepower and torque and cylinders.

Thomas, however, is on the edge of the dancing crowd, and those wide black eyes see me, and I wonder how much else they saw.

all material copyright 2015 Berkley Books and Jasinda Wilder




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  1. Jo-Ann Forrest says:


  2. Susan Intermoia says:

    WOW. Sounds intriguing.

  3. Rochelle Koch says:

    Is Madame X a cliffhanger?

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