Friday, 11 February 2011

Author Spotlight week -Excerpt from Firesong

After Tommy finished his routine, amid waves of laughter, the music resumed and couples moved out onto the floor to try a few waltzes and slow dances. Dani sighed. It would be nice to dance, she admitted, but she didn't know how. She had hated square dancing in elementary school gym class, because back then boys were icky. Ever since then, she had been too busy. Besides, why need to know how to dance when she never went anywhere, never did anything, never dated?

Tom came over and claimed his wife, promising her she was safe, because how could anyone, even the inexperienced, mess up a slow waltz? Stephanie laughed and let him lead her away, in her stocking feet. Xander came over to claim Hannah -- saying they had to practice for their own wedding, if she would ever set a date. To which she retorted that he hadn't put a ring on her finger yet, and he still had two months to go on their agreement. Dani didn't think she wanted to know what agreement they were talking about, but it was nice to know Xander and Hannah were thinking marriage. Two people who looked as in love as they did had to eventually get married, didn't they? Jeannette and Claire took BJ out with them and made a trio, spinning slowly around in a corner, out of everyone's way. The little boy laughed, black curly head tilted back, mouth wide in a bright grin that made everyone else in the room smile too.

BJ put an aching hunger inside Dani's heart, sometimes. Jeannette had been widowed just after she found out she was pregnant. The thought of having a little boy like BJ made Dani wish she could have it all -- and vow never to have children, because the life of a musician meant too much time away from home. Thinking about Jeannette's estrangement from her vicious in-laws had long ago prompted Dani to vow she would never marry unless the man was an orphan.

Or he had really great relatives. Like Kurt did.
Stop that! she scolded herself.

"So this is where you've been hiding," Kurt said from behind her.

Dani glanced up at him, then around the table. Her face burned when she realized how stupid that was -- she was alone.
"Don't give me that innocent look. You've been hiding from me all day, haven't you? Don't you know it's tradition for the bride's cousin to dance with the maid of honor?" He held out his hand. Dani shrank back in her chair, making it creak.

"I can't dance -- I never learned how -- I'm clumsy."

"I've seen you on stage, Dani. You're not clumsy," he said, his voice thickening with a warmth that made her face hotter.
Dani was very glad there was no one else there to hear that particular note in his voice, or see her reaction. For several seconds, she could only stare into his warm, deep eyes. She had to clutch at the seat of her chair to fight a momentary sensation of falling. Falling into his eyes?

That idea created an oddly compelling, yet ridiculous image in her mind. Smiling, she shook her head.

"Come on." Kurt grinned, breaking the spell he had cast over her. "I mean, you've never fallen off, right? Let me teach you. Just one song." He moved closer, his hand only inches from her face, and Dani knew he wasn't going to leave until she relented or she gave him a good reason why she wouldn't dance with him.

"How would it look--"

"I already talked to Pastor Glenn. Special dispensation. Once a year deal." He gestured across the room to the table where Pastor Glenn and Rita sat chatting with Stephanie's parents. Dani glanced their way unwillingly. Pastor Glenn looked over at them at that precise moment. He waved to her -- and winked.
"We'll go outside, okay? We can still hear the music with the windows open, but nobody'll see you."

"It's raining." She smiled as she said it, somehow knowing Kurt wouldn't let something like rain stop him.

"I happen to know there's one humongous porch out there, with plenty of room and no witnesses. Now, are you coming or do I throw you over my shoulder and carry you outside, kicking and screaming?"

"Cave man," Dani muttered. She leaped to her feet -- then snatched up her discarded slippers when Kurt reached for her hand. He muttered under his breath, but the scowl he wore as he herded her toward the door couldn't hide the sparkle in his eyes.
The chairs on the porch were all pushed up against the wall and stacked, leaving plenty of room on the redwood-stained boards. Dani sighed and looked around and considered for several seconds the damage to her bridesmaid dress if she made a dash through the raindrops to the front door, around the other side of the building. She grinned and shook her head, and knew Kurt wouldn't give up that easily.

Besides, she really did want to know what it would be like to dance with someone, period. The fact that it was Kurt Green didn't have anything to do with it. She hoped.

"When I stomp all over your feet, don't say I didn't warn you," she said, when he took hold of both her hands and backed her into the cleared center of the porch.

In response, the rain drummed harder on the roof. They could barely hear the music coming through the open windows in the reception hall.

"I've seen you on stage, Dani. You can dance just fine." That note of rough warmth returned to his voice.

"You've seen -- you've really watched me?" The dropping sensation in her stomach was pleasant, yet terrifying.

Kurt just smiled a little wider and nodded. He adjusted his hands, holding hers so their fingers were interlaced. She flinched a little when an electric sensation ran up her spine at the innocent yet intimate touch.

They danced that way, slowly turning around the porch floor, with six inches of empty air between their bodies. Dani found it hard to find some place to focus her eyes. Kurt's chin and lips were on the level with her eyes and looking at that soft, satisfied, slightly smirking smile made her sway between laughter and discomfort. She knew his lips would be warm and soft -- but there was no way she would ever let him kiss her.

Would Kurt want to?
No. We haven't even gone on a date yet.
Not that she had ever let him take her out.
This is a test, right, Lord?

Dani focused her gaze on Kurt's shoulder, just the right height to rest her head. But when would she ever get a chance?
Stop it! she scolded herself. She flinched back a little, and Kurt let her move away without letting go of her hands. That made it easier to look into his eyes. The laughter had faded, though he still smiled. That warmth, that glow she had seen during her walk down the aisle, filled his gaze now, and Dani felt her knees starting to get wobbly.

The funny thing was, she liked it.

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