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By Leaps and Bounds

 

ROMANCE

SUSPENSE

IMAGINATION

 

 

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By Leaps and Bounds

by Jacqueline Diamond

She used to be a ballerina…

An accident cut short Kerry Guthrie’s career. Now she’s teaching young dancers and hoping for a comeback… Then the father of a student arouses a new spark.

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Prologue

The sleet started before they were even out of New York State.

"This is awful." Kerry peered forward between the windshield wipers, which were straining to scrape away the mess. "Maybe we'd better wait."

Beside her in the car, George didn't answer.

She turned to look at him. His famous profile seemed carved out of stone, his eyes focused entirely on the road as if he hadn't heard her. Which wasn't unusual.

"George?" she said.

"We can't wait." So he had heard her, after all. She wished he would acknowledge her more quickly; sometimes, with him, she felt almost invisible. "I start rehearsals on Monday, and you refuse to tell your parents about our engagement over the phone."

"I'm sorry," she murmured. "It just seemed like they ought to hear this in person."

Couldn't he ease up a little? His perfectionism about his work was part of what had made George so successful, but wasn't he carrying things a bit too far?

On the other hand, maybe she had been foolish, Kerry reflected, insisting they set off for Boston late at night. But she had only three days until her next performance with the New American Ballet, and his job as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic gave him even less time off, not to mention that he would be flying to Europe next month to make his first recording with a German orchestra.

Besides, she wanted to share the thrill of tonight's triumph with her parents. Maybe when they learned that she was finally a star, finally someone they could be proud of, she would at last break through the polite, distracted fondness with which they usually treated her.

Kerry looked back out the window, hoping that somehow the storm would have lessened. Fat chance. November was a tricky month, and tonight it had decided to play one of its worst practical jokes on them.

Leaning her head against the seat, she wished she didn't feel so let down. Yes, tonight had been important to her career, but right now she and George were embarking on a new life together. Shouldn't she feel more excited? And shouldn't he act as if he cared more about meeting her parents?

It had seemed like an incredible stroke of luck, meeting George Carlisle at a party four months ago and finding that he was attracted to her. Kerry had never considered herself particularly beautiful. She generally kept her honey-blond hair pulled severely back and only put makeup around her light blue eyes when she was going onstage.

George had wined and dined her around New York, showing her off to his friends, toasting her at the finest restaurants. Kerry could never quite believe her luck. He was handsome and a genius, even if he was sometimes moody.

It wouldn't be easy, of course, blending their two careers, but George didn't seem to mind spending time apart. In fact, he obviously liked his privacy.

Kerry sighed. This wasn't the kind of marriage she'd dreamed about as a child, but surely things would change after they were married; they'd talk more about personal things, share their fears and hopes, begin to plan for the day when they could have their own family....

She huddled beneath her coat. In spite of the blast from the BMW's heater, the cold was seeping inside her. To fight it, she tried to revive the way she'd felt earlier in those last, wonderful moments onstage, the feeling of melting into ecstasy, the sense of completion.

In all her years of ballet training, Kerry had never before experienced anything like it—the unfamiliar lightness, the exhilarating flow. She had become part of the air, part of the wind, part of the night. She had been transformed into someone other than Kerry Guthrie, someone free of anxieties and insecurities and the need to please. Someone who defied gravity.

It had startled her, the applause thundering toward her at the end. She'd forgotten, for a few minutes, that she was a dancer in front of an audience, and she might have stood there in a daze if her partner, Alfonso Carrera, hadn't led her forward to take her bows.

Then afterward, as they retreated backstage, he'd told her quietly that it was obvious this company had a new star ballerina.

Alfonso had said that—Alfonso, a veteran of ten years with the company and Kerry's former teacher; she valued his opinion more than almost anyone's.

"I can hardly see where I'm going." George's cross words broke into her reverie. "This is crazy."

"I'd really like—I mean, my parents would..." Kerry's voice trailed off. She hated disagreeing with George.

"Your parents will understand. Do you think they want us to end up in a snow bank?"

He was probably right. Her parents were terribly rational about everything. Which was part of why Kerry wanted so much to share this high point of her life with them.

Her engagement to George and her professional triumph, both in one night. Surely that would finally impress Everett and Elaine Guthrie, would make up for the fact that Kerry could never follow in their brilliant musical footsteps—her father's as concertmaster of the Boston Symphony, her mother's as first cellist. On the other hand, George had a good point. If only he could be a little more sympathetic about it.

Kerry swallowed the bitter disappointment. "I guess you're right."

"I'll get off at the next exit." George began to edge the car to the right.

"We could go next weekend—no—well, maybe in two weeks," Kerry said. "Just overnight."

He shook his head. "I'm tired of waiting. I want to make an announcement. All my friends are asking questions." After a moment, he added, "Besides, after your success tonight, think how much press coverage we'll get."

"Really? I mean—I guess so." It hadn't even occurred to Kerry that the press would be interested in their engagement. She wasn't sure she liked the idea. Certainly she expected coverage of the premiere of a new ballet. Her personal life was something else.

She supposed it all sounded like the kind of story the public loved: a ballerina becomes the rising star of her company and simultaneously swears undying love to a brilliant young conductor.

Only, was it undying love?

Startled, Kerry turned to look at George. He was so elegant and assured, so cosmopolitan. It would be an incredible privilege to share his life. Then why did he seem more concerned with getting publicity than with meeting her family?

The uncertainty that rose up in Kerry scared her. More than anything, she wanted to make this engagement official so there would be no turning back. No more doubts.

Everything would be all right. They just needed more time together, more closeness. After they were married...

"There," George said. "Isn't that the exit sign, just up ahead?"

She would never know where the truck came from. One minute she was absorbed in quiet thoughts, and the next minute a huge hulk was skidding toward them sideways. It felt unreal, like something out of a movie. Even the terrible jolt and the rending cry of metal didn't register as something that was happening to her.

Kerry felt herself flopping sideways against her seatbelt and then everything turned upside down and crossways. She heard someone screaming and realized it must be her.

The last thing that registered was the intense, crushing pressure against her hips and the searing pain in her legs.

 

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