Dancing to her Heart’s Rhythm (Preview)

Chapter One

Lauren dumped the armful of grocery bags on the table in her tiny apartment and folded the wet umbrella up and hung it on the coat hook by the door. It was a cold and wet fall day, and she was glad to be home. Living in New York wasn’t cheap. So far, she had managed to get by with small dancing jobs and the occasional teaching job. She kicked off her shoes and sat down on the couch. She couldn’t rest for long; she had so much to prepare.

A knock on the door made her groan out loud. She wasn’t expecting anyone this afternoon. She had planned on taking the time to practice for her big performance the next day. Dancing on Broadway was every ballet dancer’s dream. Since it was her first performance with the ballet theater, she was very nervous. She peaked through the hole in the door and sighed.

It was Mason. His dirty blond hair was styled perfectly, and his blue eyes were scanning the door as he tapped his foot impatiently. Lauren often wondered how he managed to look so nice all the time. It was almost as if he took his appearance more seriously than some of her friends. She plastered on a smile and opened the door.

“Mason, what are you doing here?” she asked.

“Is that any way to greet your boyfriend?” Mason walked into her apartment, not waiting around for an invitation. Lauren stuffed her frustration back in its place. It was true—Mason was her boyfriend, but sometimes she questioned why that was.

At first, she had thought they were the perfect match for each other, but the more she got to know him, the less they had in common. He hated doing extra practice. He disliked long days of going over routines. Of course, he had very different training than Lauren and a big helping of natural talent. It seemed that things came way easier to him than they did for Lauren.

“I thought we would go out to dinner, maybe walk around the square or something. This week has been such a bore.”

“I can’t tonight, Mason. You know that.” Lauren pinched the bridge of her nose. She didn’t want to blow Mason off, or make him think that she didn’t care about spending time with him, but the truth was, her dance career was the most important thing to her right now.

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“I mean I can’t because the big show is tomorrow night. That means I only have time for two more practices. I need to make an impression in this dance. This could determine the rest of my career being on Broadway or me fading into oblivion. Don’t you understand that?”

Mason leaned against the wall, stuffing his hands into his black jeans. “Of course, I understand, but you have got to let loose sometimes. All you do is practice all the time. Aren’t you tired of it? Sometimes a little rest is better than overdoing practice.”

Lauren frowned. Mason always had plenty of advice on dancing, working out and resting. He thought that just because his parents bought him the best classes and teachers his whole life, he knew more than she ever would about dance in a million years. Even though that might be true, Lauren was confident in what she had been doing. She had been dancing for as long as she could remember, and yes, she had had to work for things a little harder than Mason. She had to practice a lot to get the steps down.

“I have been getting plenty of rest. I make sure to get good uninterrupted sleep every night, and monitor my exercise. I am not about to go on an all-night party the night before the biggest performance of my career,” Lauren went on. She cared about Mason.

He was her boyfriend after all, but she wasn’t going to jeopardize everything she had worked for just for his pleasure. “You could stay and practice with me. We could run through the moves for tomorrow—the dance room is empty tonight. And then we could go out after the performance is over.”

“No, thanks. I’ve been practicing all week. Maybe I will have one of the guys come out with me on the town. We’ll have some fun and relax while you overwork yourself alone. Tomorrow when I dance, I’ll be so relaxed that my moves will come out better than ever.”

“Ballet doesn’t work that way.” Lauren struggled not to roll her eyes. “It’s fine. We’ll see each other tomorrow, I guess.”

“Great, good luck.” Mason walked nonchalantly to the door and let himself out. Lauren felt a little stunned by the silence that he left behind. A part of her had expected him to stay behind and practice with her, though the other part of her knew that he would walk out on her.

That was how it had gone for as long as they had been together. He was always ready to skip rehearsals and go out on the town, as he put it. He loved to go to restaurants, concerts and exploring more than he loved practicing.

While Lauren loved a good outing every once in a while, she avoided them as a rule. She watched her calories at restaurants, made sure she was home with time to spare to get in bed at a good hour, and didn’t have any interest in spending time around crowds of people. She and Mason had polar opposite opinions on some things, and these were some of them.

Her phone rang in her pocket. Lauren didn’t need to pull it out to know who was calling. It was her mother yet again. She let the call go to voicemail while she packed her gym bag and left the apartment. She had some practicing to do and she wasn’t about to feel bad about it.

She took a deep breath of the cool evening air. She could do this. She didn’t need Mason to stay and practice with her. She didn’t need anyone to tell her she was doing the right thing. One day, when she was a well-known dancer and theaters filled to watch her, then she would rest. Until then, she wasn’t about to let anything stop her.

There were so many roadblocks and so many things she had done to get to this point. The many classes she’d taken as a child, the sacrifices she’d made—as well as her mother had made—had been many over the years. There were times when she thought she couldn’t do this anymore. Then she would think of all of those things, and she would become all the more determined to push through.

Chapter Two

Fletcher Grant slowly stretched his patient’s arm out until it was straight.

“Does it hurt?” he asked.

The young man in front of him winced. He had hurt his arm playing football, and it had been a long and rough recovery so far.

“It sure doesn’t feel great,” Duncan said with a grimace. “When is it going to get back to normal?”

“It’s only been five months. It is going to be a while, a year at least until you get rid of the pain completely. After that, I don’t know how soon you’ll be able to play again. You might want to work on building up strength first, so you don’t reinjure it right away.”

There were many things Fletcher enjoyed about being a physiotherapist. Seeing how much his patients hurt from their injuries was not one of them. He had been working in the same small clinic for almost two years now, and had developed a good relationship with most of his clients.

“All right, thanks doc.” Duncan hopped off the examination table. “I appreciate all of these sessions, even if they are uncomfortable.”

Fletcher nodded in agreement. “They are necessary. I have seen a lot of improvement in your arm since we started.” Fletcher opened the door to his consultation room for Duncan. They had been doing grueling exercises for the last forty-five minutes. Sometimes at the end of their sessions, Duncan’s arm hurt worse, and sometimes it felt better. It just depended on the type of exercise he did.

“I’ll see you next week then,” Fletcher reminded him. Occasionally, his patients didn’t come into an appointment. They always said it was because they forgot, but Fletcher often suspected that they just wanted a break. He understood the sentiment.

Of course, no one would like the pain that came from moving their injured arm or leg constantly trying to get it back in shape. However, it was part of the recovery process and the more that it was avoided, the more that the injury’s recovery was delayed.

“Sure thing. See you then.” Duncan left the office, slipping his arm back into the cloth sling he was wearing.

Dr. Fenton came around the corner, holding a clipboard. “Another successful appointment?”

“Yup. His arm keeps getting better, but I am worried he is going to start playing again too soon. He loves to play football and I can see it in his face when we do physical therapy. He is doing all of this just so he can get on the field again and that might not even be an option.”

“If that is what happens, it’s not your fault. You are here to help people, to help them heal. Sometimes injuries people get can’t be cured, and that is just the sad part of this job.”

Fletcher nodded grimly. That was one of the first things he had learned, but it didn’t make it any easier. He often got attached to his patients and loved seeing them progress. He became personally invested in their recovery and it was hard to see them downcast and disappointed when things didn’t work out the way they hoped.

“You know what you should do to clear your mind?” Dr. Fenton brought his mind back to the present.

“What?” Fletcher narrowed his eyes slightly. Some of his coworkers enjoyed going to bars or out on the town on the weekends. He wasn’t one to enjoy those types of activities. He would take a good novel or a quiet show in his apartment over a night in the loud town any day.

It didn’t help that he had heard so much about the dangers of New York. He made a point to stay away from places that were considered dangerous. His parents would never forgive him if something happened to him because he was just being dumb and wanted an evening of fun in the big city.

“You should go to see one of the musical theater shows on Broadway. They have beautiful ballet dancers there this week.”

“Ballet? Really?”

“Yes.” Dr. Fenton held his hands up as if in defense. “You’re a man, I get it. But the ballet shows on Broadway are one of the most talked about shows in New York. You study too much and lock yourself in your apartment all the time. I know you don’t like the party scene, but ballet ought to be up your alley. You should try getting out and at least having some of the milder fun experiences of New York.”

“I don’t know. I mean, I’ve never really been to a Broadway show.”

“That is all the more reason to go. You don’t want to go back to Montana without having seen one of the most well-known attractions in New York at least once.”

“All right, all right. I am feeling very attacked now. I will buy myself a ticket. When is the next show?”

“Tomorrow night. I wanted to go, but I have a last-minute commitment that I have to keep. You should go and enjoy the show for me. Don’t worry—it’s a quiet event.”

“Fine. Sounds good.” Fletcher wasn’t sure if he was excited about it. He had no idea what to think of ballet and sitting and watching it for hours on end sounded pretty boring. Maybe he would bring a light and a book just in case he got bored. The rest of the day at the clinic was pretty slow.

Fletcher had decided to work there because he wanted the extra experience before he went back home to Montana and got a job at the hospital. Working under Dr. Fenton was an honor. Back in his hometown, things were pretty quiet and he might not use his skills as much as here in the city.

So far, he had seen a range of different cases. He had gotten the opportunity to put his knowledge that he had learned in books to practical use, and he loved seeing those technical ideas come to life, but he was ready to get back home and pursue what had inspired him to go on this journey in the first place.

—*—

Fletcher tucked the single ticket into his pocket. He thought about inviting someone to attend the show with him, but then decided against it because he really didn’t know of anyone who might enjoy a Broadway ballet show. He was really hoping that buying the ticket wasn’t a mistake—it had been rather pricey.

Fletcher figured he would see the next day. At least he wouldn’t be sitting in his apartment alone on Friday night. That seemed to be what everyone was so against. He took the steps up to the apartment where he had lived for the last six years of his life. He enjoyed certain aspects of living in New York; he loved learning, and the friends he had made in university while studying physiotherapy. He enjoyed going to the clinic every day and helping people grow and improve themselves.

There were also things that he missed about home. He missed his mother’s home cooking. She made a lasagna that was incomparable to anything else. She paired it with fresh dinner rolls and a side salad. He loved that his mom made it for him every year for his birthday.

He missed riding the horses on his parents’ ranch and the sunsets on the open pastures. The sounds of the cows in the morning when they needed to be milked and the sight of the cattle that he and his father and brother herded from pasture to pasture were things that made him long to be on the farm.

His parents owned a rather large cattle ranch in Bainville, Montana. They had a few milk cows, but mostly, they provided meat from their cows to businesses and stores in town. The local butcher shop bought the cattle directly from the farm and processed it in town. He had grown up working on that farm with his dad and his grandfather and even though he had chosen a different profession, he was never going to tire of the experiences that had helped shape him.

A chilly breeze tickled the nape of his neck as he stepped into the kitchen. He must have forgotten to close the window when he left that morning. Fletcher kept his sweater on and found the offending window. He pulled it closed and turned the lock on it.

He thought of the scolding his mother would give him if she knew about him leaving the window to his apartment open all day—he was practically inviting a robber to come and clean the place out.

Picking up the phone, he dialed home. It had been a while since he had called his mom.

She picked up on the fourth ring.

“Hello?”

“Mom? It’s Fletcher.” Fletcher crossed into the tiny space he called a living room and sat down on his recliner. He had had two recliners, but he was in the process of selling everything he owned here in New York. He wouldn’t be taking much back to Montana in a few weeks.

“Fletcher! Thank goodness you called. I was just thinking about calling you. When are you coming home? Your room is all ready. It has been for days. I can’t wait to have you back here where you belong again. It’s been so long.”

“Thanks, Mom. You know that I am still not able to come home for another two and a half weeks. You shouldn’t be stressing out so much for me. I could literally sleep on the couch and be fine.”

“Nonsense. You are not sleeping on the couch in your own home. Besides, it wasn’t that much work. It’s just that you have been gone for so long. Everyone is so excited that you are finally coming back. Things aren’t the same without you around here.”

“Thanks, Mom. I miss you guys, too.” Fletcher really did miss being at home. He even dreamed about being on the ranch again. “How are Dad and Chris? Are they managing all right with the ranch?”

“Yes. They’ve hired a couple more hands. Your dad didn’t want to. You know how stubborn he is. It was necessary though, you know? We just aren’t as young as we used to be, and Chris and two hired men can’t handle everything by themselves. The more the ranch grows, the more people we need to take care of it.”

“That’s good that you guys hired a few people. You shouldn’t try to handle it all on your own. When I get there, maybe I can help out with some things, though I am hoping to get a job at the hospital. I’m not sure how much time I will have. Maybe a bit more than I do here.”

“We are so proud of you, whatever you decide to do. And if you can’t help around the ranch, don’t worry about it. We all know that you are probably going to be busy with your job. You need to do what you studied for. We are just going to be happy you’ll be back. I can’t wait to have you home and to hug you every single evening.”

“Every night mom? That might be a little excessive.” Fletcher chuckled. Both he and his brother Chris loved to go on and on about how terrible their mother’s show of affection was, but they secretly loved it.

“Keep up your complaining, and I will be giving you two hugs a day.” His mother’s voice was stern, but there was laughter in it too. “If you need help with anything, Fletcher, you let us know. Keep us updated. You know how dangerous traveling can be.

Don’t forget to take your toothbrush. If your bus goes overnight, you can still brush your teeth in the bathroom on the bus. Just take a bottle of water with you so you don’t have to buy one. Just find an old water bottle and fill it up with water from your apartment.”

“Mom!” Fletcher couldn’t help but laugh out loud now. His mother had been giving him advice about traveling ever since he had told them that he was planning on coming.

“I know, I know. You’re an adult and know how to travel, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know a tip or two.”

“I’ll give you that. Sounds like ten or eleven.” Fletcher leaned his head back on the couch and closed his eyes. He tried to imagine that he was back in his mother’s kitchen, smelling a pan of banana muffins in the oven.

“Well, I will let you get some rest now. You sound tired. Don’t forget to call again soon. When I don’t hear from you in a while, I worry about you.”

“Thanks, Mom. I’ll keep you guys in the loop. Love you and we’ll talk again soon.”

“Love you too, son.” He wondered if she was crying. Her voice broke a little at the end. He hung up the phone before they started talking again and their call was extended. His mother always got emotional at the smallest things, especially when they were talking about things like not having seen each other for a long time.

He sighed and pushed the phone away. Soon, he would be back home, and his family would be together again. The next couple of weeks couldn’t go by fast enough. He wondered how his brother Chris was doing with everything. One of the things that made leaving the hardest, was not having his best friend around all the time.

Lots of people thought it was surprising for him and Chris to be best friends as well as brothers; Fletcher found it both convenient and a blessing. He grinned. When he got back, he and Chris were going to have to do some things for old times sake. They still had to settle whose horse was faster and who could muck a stall better.

Chapter Three

“There, how does that feel?” Daisy, one of Lauren’s best friends in New York asked.

“Pretty good. I’m surprised it fits.” Lauren hadn’t had time to be fitted for her own dress for the dance, so she was given one from one of the dancers who had stepped down a few weeks ago. To her surprise, with a few adjustments, it fit her nicely.

“I am so happy you are here.” Daisy spun her around and pulled her into a tight hug. Lauren had been practicing with the Broadway ballet dance team for the last two months in preparation for their opening show tonight. She had gotten to know Daisy first and then Naila.

The two of them had become the best friends Lauren had in years. They were kind and supportive and never told her that she practiced too much or needed to take it easy. Lauren really appreciated that about them.

“Thank you. Do you think I can do this?” Lauren asked. Daisy and Naila had been on Broadway for two years. Lauren had no problem admitting that the two of them were three times as talented as her with their eyes closed. She felt mesmerized when she watched them move across the stage.

“Of course, you can! That’s why so many dancers are so jealous of you and have been terrible to you since you came. They see what a beautiful dancer you are and they feel threatened.” Daisy adjusted something that Lauren couldn’t see on her shoulder. “You are going to do amazing. Let’s go find Naila.”

As if she had heard her name called, Naila stepped into the dressing room. “Look at the two of you! You look gorgeous,” she gushed. Then Naila’s expression turned serious. “I need to tell you something, Lauren. I hope it isn’t going to ruin the show for you. I can tell you after if you’d like.” Lauren’s stomach dropped—if Naila had bad news that might ruin the show for her, it was probably something grave.

“What is it? Just tell me now and get it over with. Are they taking me off of the show?”

“What? No, of course not. You are an amazing dancer, and the directors would be crazy to remove you. This has to do with Mason.”

“What about him?” Lauren’s stomach twisted. Even though she hated to know that there was bad news about Mason, she was glad that it didn’t have anything to do with the dance.

“You’re not going to be happy.” Naila looked like she regretted bringing the topic up.

“Tell me, I’ll be fine.” Lauren tried to push the hurt down that was already bubbling up. She did care about Mason, maybe not the way that she was expected to, but she did care.

Naila pulled up a chair from one of the nearby dressing stations. “Last night, I saw him out. He was in one of the restaurants by the square.”

“He told me he was going out. I refused to go with him because I was trying to practice for today. I couldn’t just start the biggest dance of my career without practicing.” Lauren shrugged. Maybe the news wasn’t as bad as she anticipated.

“He wasn’t alone.” Naila winced. “He was with Raven.”

“What?” Lauren nearly leaped from her chair. Raven had been her enemy since the moment she had come to her first audition to dance on Broadway. “Are you sure he was with Raven?”

“I’m positive. You know I wouldn’t lie to you about this. They looked pretty cozy at a table for two. I was going to go up to him and demand to know what was going on, but I figured I would let you do that part. I don’t know why he would go out with someone like Raven when you are his girlfriend. You are ten times better. You know that, right?”

Laruen felt tears pricking the back of her eyes. Mason’s betrayal stung. She never thought he would do such a thing to her. When he said he was going to find a friend to go out with, she didn’t think it would be Raven, the woman who had made her feel like she was inadequate since she had come to Broadway.

“I’m sorry.” Daisy’s voice was soft. “You don’t deserve that. You should give him your two cents. Don’t let him get away with this easily.” Daisy shook her head, her blond curls falling around her shoulders. Her petite nose was scrunched up in a look of disgust.

“I’m going to talk to him. Maybe she just stopped by, and it was something innocent.” Lauren wanted to believe that it was something innocent. She wanted Mason to tell her that these accusations were ludicrous and that there was no truth to them, but she had a feeling that they were true.

She stood and left her two friends in the dressing room and hurried out to the hallway. She needed to find Mason before the show and put this to rest. She wasn’t about to leave it for later. She wouldn’t be able to focus during the show and would probably mess up terribly if she tried.

People crushed around her in the hallway. Everyone was preparing for the show, everyone from dancers to backup dancers, stage helpers, and other staff. No one in the audience probably imagined how many people it truly took to put on a successful Broadway show. Lauren was surprised herself when she found out.

For some reason, she had expected that only the dancers were involved in the show. She was wrong. There were a lot of things that went on backstage, too—sound people and lights people and technical people were milling around backstage setting up last-minute equipment.

She rounded the last corner of the hallway and nearly ran into Mason. He was already wearing his costume, and his hair was styled perfectly as usual.

“Mason, we need to talk.” Lauren faltered for a second. How did she move forward from this?

“What about?” Mason crossed his arms with a nonchalant air about him.

“Last night. You said you were going out with one of your friends, but you were actually out with another woman. Naila saw you and Raven at a restaurant together.” Repeating what she had heard was a lot harder than hearing it. She still could hardly believe it. As soon as she saw Mason’s face morph into discomfort, she knew that everything Naila had said was true. Thank God for her friends who always seemed to have her back.

“So? I was just out for a bit of fun, and you couldn’t be bothered to join us.”

“Are you kidding me? You said that you were going out with one of your friends, not with Raven. That is cheating!” The perfect images Lauren always imagined of having a relationship started to fizzle and fade away. If anyone would have suggested to a younger version of herself that she would have a boyfriend who would cheat on her, she would have denied it vehemently. Lauren stepped aside as two dancers passed them sending them strange looks as they went.

“It’s not cheating, Lauren. Just calm down, okay? I’ve known Raven for a while. None of my friends could go, so I asked her if she wanted to go and grab a bite to eat and we met at the diner. It’s no big deal and you are overreacting. It was just a shared dinner, not a date.”

“I am not overreacting. You didn’t go to some fast food place—not that it would have made it any better—you went to a place that is for dates. Not to mention, you weren’t the one who told me about it; I had to hear it from my friend. How would you feel if I did the same with one of the other guy dancers?”

Lauren placed her hands on her hips. She knew how Mason would react. He would throw a jealous fit and tell her that he never expected her to stab him in the back. He overreacted when she simply talked to one of the other men on the dance team.

“That doesn’t compare to what I did. You refused to go with me, remember? I wouldn’t turn down a night on the town with you. You were the one who refused to go with me. If you had agreed to grant me a couple of hours of your precious time, it would have been you out there with me instead of Raven, so it’s your fault anyway.”

“That is not fair!” Lauren’s voice rose a notch. Frustration boiled up inside of her. How did Mason manage to turn everything against her and make it her fault? “I wanted to go out with you, but I was practicing for the biggest performance of my career. I can’t believe you would use something like that as an excuse.” Lauren wanted to yell at him. She would have been yelling if they weren’t surrounded by her new coworkers.

She hated that he managed to be so cool and collected while he blamed what he did on her. She swallowed down what she could of her anger. “One minute you are pushing me and telling me that I need to do better with my dance, and the next you are telling me to skip my practicing.

You can’t have it both ways. I practice so much because I care about my career and everything I’ve worked for. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without working so hard. You just want to go out and have fun and forget about the responsibility.”

Mason’s eyes narrowed. “You aren’t here because of how hard you’ve worked. You are here because of me. Do you really think you would have gotten a part on that stage if I hadn’t pulled some strings? I knew that you could blow off a practice time or two because if you mess up in the dance, it doesn’t matter when you have a boyfriend with connections.”

Lauren felt like she was going to be sick. The tears were gathering in her eyes. She didn’t want to cry in front of Mason. She took a step forward.

“You know what? We are done. If you can’t honor the relationship we have, then I want nothing to do with you.” Lauren brushed past him before he could say anything in response. She felt a weight lift off her shoulders, but at the same time, her heart felt heavy. She glanced down at her watch. She had half an hour before the show started. Instead of heading back toward the dressing rooms where she had some things to finish, she wandered down the hall.

She reached a small doorway that led into another hall. This hallway had a door into the theater viewing area, but there was no one in it. Most people used the other entrances. She accepted the rare moment of solitude and leaned her shoulder against the wall, buried her face in her hands, and let her tears fall. Her shoulders shook and her breath came in ragged gasps as the emotions and stresses of the past few weeks overwhelmed her.

Of course, a huge part of it was Mason and what he had done and now the fact that they were through. Another part of it came from long days of practice with shorter nights of sleep and the constant pressure from her mother and everyone else in her life to be perfect.

She had to get back to the dressing room and finish getting ready for the show—not to mention that now she had to fix her makeup as well. She could already tell that all of the work that Daisy and Naila had done on her face earlier that evening was ruined. She needed to be presentable for the show and make everyone see that she belonged there.

She was a good dancer and not just someone her boyfriend had pulled strings for. Her mother had worked hard to make sure that she could say that with pride. Just because Mason had introduced her to the Broadway scene didn’t mean he could take credit for all of the hours of hard work, sweat, and tears that she had put into it. She had earned her spot fair and square. She knew she needed to get back, and yet she hesitated.

It was harder to pull herself together than it was to let loose. Maybe no one would miss her if she stayed a few more minutes.


“Dancing to her Heart’s Rhythm” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

When she badly hurts her ankle on her premiere as a ballet dancer, everything Lauren Soto has worked for turns to ashes. With her entire life crumbling, her only ray of hope is Fletcher, the man who lifts her up from the ruins of that dreadful night. Αs she finds solace in his presence, the choice between her career and her deep feelings for him, tears her apart. Can she give up everything she built with such tremendous sacrifice? Would all her accomplishments matter without him by her side?

Never before has she felt so close, yet so far from happiness…

Fletcher Grant has a successful life, but he resents living in the cold city and longs to return to his roots. On his last day in New York, fate has a special surprise for him when he watches Lauren’s mesmerizing performance. What he doesn’t anticipate is how the thread of his life becomes irrevocably intertwined with hers, making the possibility of losing her unbearable. Can Fletcher prove to her that he is what she needs to feel complete?

The key to his bliss lies in her hands…

Lauren and Fletcher care for each other profoundly, but sometimes even love isn’t enough. In the face of dilemmas they never expected, they will have to fight for their happiness like never before. Can they put their hearts back together again or will their lives suddenly drift apart?

“Dancing to her Heart’s Rhythm” is a contemporary western romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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