*Shrieks with excitement*
I’m soooo happy to finally be able to share with you all a sample from my next release, A Rehearsal for Love, coming later this month!
Malia and Blaise have been an incredibly… interesting pair to explore. And I hope that you’ll find them interesting as well!
But for now, here’s a little taste of what’s to come. 🙂
(Note: Sample unedited and subject to change)
“One, and two, and three, and… shit, that’s not right.”
“Malia, you better get goin’ before your ass is late to class again!”
I thought about yelling back, but there was hardly any use. Since Mama was letting me stay with her while I pieced my life back together, the last thing I wanted to do was start a fight just to hear her use that as a bargaining tool.
“I’m lettin’ you stay here for free, the least you could do is…” was easily her favorite line since I had moved back which meant I had to get out of here quick. But that certainly wasn’t gonna happen if I kept wasting my money on these damn community college classes instead of investing in what I really wanted to do.
I had been dancing since I was a little girl. Jazz, tap, ballet, samba; you name it, I did it. But my first love was always hip-hop. There was something about the fast tempo and heavy bass that took my energy to heights otherwise unreachable. Even as a 22-year-old, the passion still brewed. The only difference now was that my mama was no longer footing the bill. To her, doing dance as a child was cute, something to do, something to keep me out of trouble. But doing dance as an adult was just some silly dream that I supposedly should’ve let go of years ago.
No matter how many times I explained it, no matter how many lucrative opportunities I showed her, in her mind, dance would never be a career. It was a hobby. And real careers could only come from getting a college education. So here I was, pleasing her by heading to class.
I snatched my backpack from under the bed and found a windbreaker jacket to throw over what was practically my dance uniform; a sports bra and leggings. Then I checked my hair in the mirror – a mess of a high ponytail – and quickly decided against fixing it so that I really wouldn’t end up being late to class.
I only made it a few steps out of my bedroom before I was stopped in the hallway by my mama saying, “Nu uh, Malia. You are not leaving here with your hair lookin’ all crazy.”
I sighed, smoothing a hand over my edges that had already began to frizz up from the sweat I worked up while dancing. I knew if I didn’t get out into some cooler air quick, it was only gonna get worse. So I continued my trot to the door as I defended, “It’s not crazy, ma. It’s a ponytail. I don’t have time to do anything else.”
“Girl, what if you run into your future husband when you leave here? He ain’t gonna want your ass if you’re lookin’ like all…”
I cut her off before she could go any further. “All what? I’m just going to class, Mama. Not to the ball to find Prince Charming. And if he’s really my future husband, he’ll see me like this and appreciate it.”
“Bye Mama!” I yelled as I jetted out of the door and jogged down the stairs of our apartment building. My backpack was light, so I thought about continuing my jog all the way to campus instead of walking. But I quickly decided against it once I realized I hadn’t reapplied deodorant after going over my steps.
Let Mama’s crazy ass distract me as always…
It was her idea for me to start taking these classes in the first place. I had already proven myself as a failure of a student when I gave college a try right out of high school, so I wasn’t sure why she was still pressing the issue years later. Well… I did know why. A degree equals a career and all of that. But she knew going to college didn’t really align with my inner compass and had managed to guilt trip me into doing it anyway.
Still, if sitting through a few hours of mind-numbing number crunching would keep her off my back then I was down. Between that and my part-time job as a waitress, I didn’t spend much time at home anyway. And I would be there even less if I could afford what I really wanted to do; take dance classes. I hadn’t participated in one in years, just a few workshops here and there when celebrity dance choreographers came to town. But those sporadic opportunities were just enough to keep me on track, showing me that I had what it took each and every time I kept up with the other dancers who were training on the regular.
“I’d kill to be able to train on the regular,” I thought to myself as I strolled down the street headed to campus.
Our neighborhood was the definition of comfortable, with plenty of small businesses and familiar faces to go around. The block was practically filled to capacity other than the corner lot which had worn a For Lease sign like a second skin. Growing up, it was rumored to be haunted by a lady who had murdered her cheating husband in a crime of passion which was why it always remained on the market. But as I watched a small group of people congregate outside of it, taking pictures and shaking hands while a construction worker hung up a sign behind them, I instantly realized that someone was finally taking a chance on it.
I tried to keep my head down as I passed them, not wanting to look too nosey. But of course I was curious to see what was going to be added to the neighborhood, even if I wasn’t planning on being here forever. I attempted the slightest peek out of my peripheral, one that wouldn’t make my snooping so obvious. But it wasn’t enough to actually catch what the sign read.
I had no choice but to keep walking, to act natural like an everyday passerby, and I was almost in the clear when I heard someone call after me.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
I turned around and was locked in by a set of eyes that embarrassingly caused me to gulp. They were dark – too dark – so damn dark that I was already convinced whoever he was, was somehow related to the devil. But he couldn’t possibly be related to the devil and be this fine.
Wait a minute…. what’s that they say about the devil being dressed as everything you’ve ever wished for?
His smile was incredibly friendly, non-devilish friendly, as he asked, “Hey, you think you can snap a few pictures for us?”
I took a step back, getting a view of his entire frame from head to toe. The mahogany skin, the fresh fade leading to the masterpiece of his full beard, the incredible physique that somehow managed to flourish even through his simple t-shirt and jeans.
It all looked… familiar.
And once I took a real look at the new sign hanging up above him, I realized he was…, “Blaise. Blaise Anthony. Oh my God!”
I pinched my own arm to keep myself from jumping into his.
Blaise Anthony was easily in my top five favorite dancers ever. From background dancing to choreography, he had worked with the best of ‘em. Music videos, tours, movies. You name it, he did it. And what made all of that even more fascinating was the fact that he was only a few years older than me. So while I was wasting my time with community college courses at twenty-two, he had probably already been around the world twice by now.
What a life.
He was totally unfazed by my fangirl moment, probably use to getting the same reaction from any woman he came across, as he ran a hand down his perfectly-lined facial hair.
“That’d be me. And you are?” His tone was so sultry that I almost missed the question.
“Me? I’m… Malia. Not the Obama one though. Just regular Malia.”
He laughed, deep and hearty, as he replied, “Yeah, I could’ve guessed that. But umm… you think you can take this picture for us?”
I looked around him at the group of people all waiting for an answer, suddenly remembering that was the entire purpose of our interaction. And I tried to hold in my embarrassment when I answered, “Oh. Of course!” Sticking my own phone in my pocket before he handed me a bunch of others. I waited for the group to get in perfect position in front of the building, then snapped a few pictures with each phone just in case somebody had accidentally closed their eyes.
“Thank you so much, Malia,” he said as I handed the phones back over.
I almost blushed from the sound of my name rolling off of his tongue. And while that straddled the line of embarrassing as well, I felt justified in blaming it on the fact that this was BLAISE ANTHONY I was talking to. Not just any old neighborhood business owner.
“And I hate to ask for more favors. But if you know anyone who dances around here, I’d really appreciate it if you sent them my way.”
“I dance!” I blurted out before I could filter myself.
So damn embarrassing.
He sounded surprised, but also intrigued as he asked, “Really?” Stepping away from the crowd to give me his full attention.
My usual passion about dance somehow managed to disappear thanks to his closeness. So instead, I tugged the corner of my lip between my teeth before I quietly answered, “Yeah. Well I used to… when I was younger. Now I just… do it as a hobby, I guess.”
I could tell it was mostly empathy when he replied with a half-hearted smile, “Well if you’re ever looking to get serious, you should come through and check it out. We’ll be doing a few free classes once we have our official grand opening in a couple weeks.”
His words were like music to my ears, though his tone made anything he said sound like the perfect verse of a love song. But still, I was able to separate the two – his invitation to dance class and his timbre – as I gave my ponytail a swipe, suddenly wishing I would’ve listened to Mama about the whole crazy hair thing.
“Nice. I’ll be sure to swing by,” I pushed out, forcing a smile that felt almost as awkward as our conversation. And then I just stood there, lost in his eyes and completely forgetful of where my ass was actually supposed to be going.
Blaise must’ve felt the awkwardness as well, forcing him to inquire, “I see you have a backpack on. You in school around here?”
I’m gonna be late.
Instead of giving him a full explanation, I tossed out, “Yeah! See ya later! Nice to meet you!” Then I took off on the jog that I had originally sworn off, hoping I wouldn’t be paying for it with funk later.
All Malia ever wanted in life was to become a full-time, professional dancer.
Unfortunately, barriers in the form of half-assed attempts at getting a college education, a less than supportive mother, and the lack of dance classes in her area stand in the way of achieving her ultimate goal.
But that all changes once choreographer Blaise Anthony comes to town, bringing both his experience in the dance industry and a brand new dance studio.
Malia is instantly captivated by the idea of not only being able to give her full attention to dance, but also to be trained by one of her idols in the process. But when the two finally collide on the dance floor, an undeniable chemistry that goes beyond an eight count arises.
And while Malia might’ve thought she was coming to dance towards her dreams, she quickly learns that she’s actually rehearsing for a whole lot more…