Prosper is thrilled to be plucked from the corps de ballet to dance the lead role in The Firebird. But Jackson, the guest choreographer, is as sexy as he is demanding. Prosper soon finds herself flustered by his closeness and his unforgiving gaze. She gets caught up in kinky fantasies that make it difficult for her to concentrate on his steps. She imagines him as her Dominant, turning her over his knee for flubs in rehearsal. Just as sensual tension at work builds to an impossible level, a surprise encounter outside the studio results in Prosper's fantasies being realized. Jackson takes his protegee home and ties her to his bed. Soon Prosper is receiving the discipline and domination she craves -- and much, much more.
The pair maintain a secret off-stage relationship -- scorchingly intimate encounters several evenings a week. But Prosper feels the burden of carrying the Firebird ballet on her back, and Jackson knows that his time in New York will draw to an end all too soon. Will Prosper crack under the pressure of pleasing her lover and bringing his vision to life, or will Jackson find a way to help his Firebird take flight?
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, BDSM theme and elements.
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Loose Id, LLC
June 14, 2010
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Excerpt from Firebird by Annabel Joseph
Jackson could see the orange hair in his peripheral vision the moment she arrived for rehearsals. "Come in," he said. "Close the door." He shut the curtain to the window beside him with a snap of his wrist but left the other curtain open. "I've been waiting. Class ran over?"
"No." She dropped her dance bag and crossed to the barre. "Some people wanted to know what I was doing here with you."
He realized his hands were clenched at his sides. Settle down. He'd been waiting too long to begin work with her. He was antsy. He watched her stretch for a moment, then looked away as his groin begin to tighten. Her lines, they destroyed him.
"So what did you tell them?" he asked to distract himself. "All your curious friends. Did you tell them you were dancing the Firebird?"
"You said conditionally, so I haven't said anything yet." She finished stretching and turned to him, standing still. Waiting. Even the way she stood was alluring. He needed to get her moving, get her on her toes instead of this excruciating stall.
"Come on. Center."
She moved to the center of the room. It was called the small rehearsal room, but it wasn't small, only not as large as the larger rehearsal hall where the company took class and where entire ballets were rehearsed in front of the mirror. This room was only mirrored on one side. He turned her toward it.
"So you know the basic story of Firebird?"
"Yes, pretty much. The prince finds her in a garden, dances with her --"
Prosper fell silent.
"He captures her and refuses to release her unless she agrees to return when he asks."
"Yes." She nodded. "A very practical monarch."
"Yes, practical, but also selfish. And driven to subdue a creature both weaker and more powerful than himself."
He watched as a blush crept across the back of her neck. My God, she was so close he could smell her, fresh soap and faint perfume.
"But you're not dancing the prince," he said, collecting himself. "And really, his story doesn't concern you. After you tell him the secret of how to defeat Kostchei and rescue his princess, you fly away, and he's left with his safe, proper wife."
"But I think he remembers the Firebird his whole life. Do you know why?"
She turned her head, the blush spreading across her cheeks. "Why?"
"Because she was the only creature of her kind he'd ever seen in his life."
She drew in a soft breath. He was going to lick her in a moment, all the way from her nape up to her staid ballerina bun. Focus. Show her what to do, instead of staring at her neck and imagining a collar there.
"Can you do this with your arms?"
He showed her some of the birdlike movements he'd been thinking about. She did what he showed her, better and more gracefully than him. He took her through a few more steps, broadly at first, then precisely. "Are you still being a bird?" he reminded her from time to time. But she was, and it was a thrill for him to stand near her and watch her move through space, bring his steps to life. He tried not to touch her too much, although he ached to. A few nudges, a few pats to isolate body parts to show how they should move. That was all he would allow himself. This was business. He had a ballet to create. He wasn't here spending time with her to get his rocks off. Concentrate, idiot.
"I'm still thinking," he said when they finally paused. "I'm just trying to see the best way to tell the story through the movements."
She nodded, standing at rest but still ready to move as soon as he guided her in some way. God, those eyes -- they were so green. He wanted to ask where on earth she'd gotten those eyes, but instead he said, "They'll hate you, you know."
Her face tensed. She bit her lip, but she didn't ask who. She knew.
Everyone would hate her for what he was doing. The principals would hate her for taking a role above her station. Her fellow corps dancers would ostracize her now that she'd been elevated from their ranks. And he would make her life hell for the next three months or so, mounting his new vision of an old classic on her slender back and quick feet.
"I don't have a lot of friends here anyway."
"Why is that?"
She shrugged. "I'm not good at the game. Kissing up. Politics. I try to let my work speak for itself. I try to be as perfect as possible and let things fall where they may."
He studied her. He believed her. There was something about her, a focused intensity that compelled him. "Okay, good. Perfect is good. The part is yours. I'm going to announce it and do the rest of the casting. I'll have Blake dance Prince Ivan. He seems best suited. Have you danced with him before?"
She shook her head with an incredulous expression. Blake was the leading principal male. He supposed it was like telling the invisible girl in school she was going on a date with the prom king.
"Okay," he said, clapping his hands. "Back to center again."
* * * * *
"Oh my God!" Glenna and Katie squealed over the daily recap of her rehearsal with Jackson while they applied makeup for the evening's performance.
"How the hell do you dance with him breathing down your neck like that?" Katie asked.
Prosper rolled her eyes. "He doesn't breathe down my neck."
"We saw him," said Glenna. "He definitely does. And he was staring at your ass."
"For ages," Katie agreed. "Totally staring."
"He was not." It had only been a few days, but it was already starting to get old. Aside from Glenna and Katie, the other dancers snubbed her, and she had a feeling Glenna and Katie only talked to her to hear more about Jackson Spencer.
She understood the attraction, unfortunately. It was a constant battle to act natural around him, to not let her eyes linger on his bulging arms or his thick thighs or the glimpse of flat, defined stomach whenever he stretched his arms over his head. Of course his gruff personality threw frigid water on any hot fantasies she had, and she had plenty of them, an entire repertoire following on the heels of the sleeve-roll-and-spank dream.
Glenna was about to launch into another barrage of questions about Jackson when Kristen and the other principals arrived in the room. Kristen planted herself at a mirror on the other side of Glenna and began rattling through her makeup case. Glenna turned her back on Kristen, a wonderful show of solidarity. But it offered Prosper little protection from Kristen's wrath. The prima glanced over at Prosper with a haughty look as she lined her lips, then smacked them together.
Glenna gasped, but Prosper shook her head. "Ignore her," she said to Glenna. Prosper fussed over invisible flaws in her foundation, trying to follow her own advice, but Kristen seemed determined to be heard.
"Look. She thinks she's a star already. Too bad he'll probably recast in a week, once he realizes she can't do it."
"Don't be a cat," Blake said to Kristen, his usual dance partner. "Leave her alone."
Kristen applied her false eyelashes and copious eye shadow. She was dancing the lead in The Nutcracker and had most certainly assumed the Firebird part was hers. "You know, I didn't work my way up to principal to have the best parts stolen by a bitchy little upstart from the corps."
Her friend Elsa, another principal, giggled. "You're mean."
"I don't know what he sees in her," Kristen sniffed, appealing to Blake. "And you're the one who'll have to drag her around the stage trying to make her look good. No way she can pull this off on her own. I mean, the Firebird! That's a really challenging role!"
Blake slanted a skeptical look at Prosper through dark eyes, flipping back his black wavy hair. He was the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. Chiseled features, olive skin. Being one of very few straight male dancers, he got a lot of attention, from the principal ballerinas down to the groupies in the corps. At one time, like all the other girls, she'd had a crush on him. She saw in the mirror what he thought of her and quickly dropped her gaze. He turned his back on her, focusing on Kristen.
"You get all the best roles, Kris. Let her have this one. You got the Tsarina --"
"I don't want the fucking Tsarina! The Tsarina doesn't even dance on pointe! Next thing he'll be casting us principals as fucking dancing princesses."
"Well, they do need twelve," Blake said, baiting her.
Elsa made a hissing sound and rolled her eyes.
"Don't listen to them," said Glenna under her breath. "Jealous bitches. That's all they are. Jealous and rude."
"I know." Prosper tried not to care, but there was an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach that wouldn't go away.
* * * * *
When she arrived for rehearsals the following day, Blake was stretching by the barre. She stopped inside the door, remembering how he'd looked at her in the dressing room the night before.
"Do you even know him?"
She jumped. She hadn't heard Jackson come up behind her.
"No, I don't know him. Not really."
"Blake." Jackson beckoned him over. In her ear he said, "Lift your head up. Keep it up."
She tore her gaze from the floor as Jackson did the introductions.
"Blake, Prosper. Prosper, Blake."
Blake smiled at Prosper and shook her hand as if the evening before had never taken place. She forced her own smile in reaction. Jackson ushered them to the center of the floor.
"Prosper and I have already been rehearsing. I'd just like to try out a few sequences I've been thinking about to see if they work."
"Sure," said Blake. Jackson directed them through some partnering without music, just marking steps. He stood back and watched as they got a feel for one another.
"Shorter than you're used to, yeah?" he asked when Blake almost strangled her reaching for her neck instead of her waist.
Blake chuckled. "I'll get it."
"Here," Jackson said. "Like this."
Jackson took Prosper's hand and stood behind her, taking Blake's place. He was even taller than Blake, Prosper realized. It was a trick of proportion. His thicker body made it seem as if he should be shorter. They did the same sequence, but Blake's tentative partnering was gone, replaced by hands that propelled her.
All her daydreams about being partnered by him were forgotten. The reality was a hundred times better. Jackson turned her, steadied her as she reached back, took her hand as she went into an arabesque on pointe. She extended the lines, his fingers alone holding her perfectly balanced. His hands didn't waver, didn't move an inch as she threw him her body weight, her momentum. Their eyes met for one intense moment.
"You see?" he said to Blake. He released her, and she felt loose and heavy again.
Blake took over. His fingers and hands felt lackluster after Jackson's unyielding grip.
"No," said Jackson as they began the steps. "You're supposed to be trapping her. Hold her. Grasp her. You can't let her get away. Prince Ivan traps the Firebird against her will. And you --" He pointed to Prosper. "I need to see fear in your eyes. This sequence is going to be very dark and sexual. Attraction, capture, desire."
Prosper flushed hot at his words, but Blake shook his head.
"Desire? Attraction? But she's a bird."
"She's not just a bird. It's not that simple. She's a wild, exotic, mysterious creature you're drawn to. Forget that she's a bird -- think of her as an impulse. A fantasy. Plenty of years to settle down with your prim Tsarina. You have this one chance in the dark garden with the Firebird. It has to be good enough to convince her to return later and save your life. Yes?"
Prosper stood with her hands behind her back, staring off. Wild, exotic? Mysterious? She had been miscast. She read it in Blake's eyes as they swept over her, in the derisive tilt of his lip.
"Again," Jackson snapped.