“I need to be with you, Jake. Ever since our weekend skiing trip, I…” Suzanne stepped closer and rested her hand on his thick biceps. Her heart raced as she touched his warm skin. She took a deep breath to calm her jangled nerves, but only inhaled spice-scented cologne.
“You need me?” his deep voice rumbled. “But I thought--”
“Cut!” The house lights went up in the small community theater. “Miss Carmichael, your character is hopelessly in love with this man. The least you could do is make eye contact.”
Suzanne bowed her head as the drama teacher approached the stage.
“If I recall correctly, you’re supposed to kiss.”
She glanced at her acting partner, Mike Kendrick. He was grinning from ear to ear, and he rolled his blue eyes as the teacher stepped onstage.
“Miss Carmichael, I’m not expecting you to actually fall in love with him. You see, class, acting should feel natural. If you don’t believe it, really feel the emotions, the audience won’t…”
Suzanne drowned out the drama instructor’s words as she slunk back to her seat. Why had she listened to Linda? Her sister had convinced her that taking an acting class would be a good way to get over her recent breakup and meet new people. And she was right. In just a few weeks she had boosted her self-confidence, but now she had a different problem. She was falling for her acting partner—for real.
Mike sat down next to her. “Don’t worry, I think we’re pretty good together. We have chemistry.” He winked.
She smiled and studied his profile. He was tall, blond, and well built. How had she gotten so lucky? They were paired up for a romantic love scene after only three classes, and they would be partners for the next six weeks. Sometimes when he held her hand or gazed into her eyes on stage, she thought he might have romantic feelings for her. But that was the goal of acting… right? Were his emotions sincere or just part of the script?
The teacher cleared his throat. “We’ll take a ten-minute break. Then Suzanne and Mike will pick up where we left off.”
Suzanne stood up. A tingle ran through her body as Mike touched her shoulder. “Come with me,” he said. “Let’s have a chat.”
Suzanne leaned against the wall next to the vending machine. Mike unwrapped a roll of mints and handed her one.
“I want you to be honest with me,” he said. “Are you okay with this? If the thought of kissing me makes you uncomfortable, I can ask for a different partner.”
“Oh no, it’s not that! I’m fine with kissing you. I wouldn’t mind that at all,” she answered in a rush, then giggled when she realized how that sounded. What woman wouldn’t want to kiss him? He was handsome, sweet natured, and had a good sense of humor.
Mike chuckled and arched an eyebrow. “I’m glad to hear that. I’m happy we’re paired up. I think we work well together.”
“Me too,” she admitted. “There’s no one else I’d rather be partnered with. The scene is fine, it’s just…” She glanced into his blue eyes and decided to try a little ad-libbing. After all, she didn’t have much to lose. If things turned into a disaster with Mike, she could drop the class.
“Jake and Betty are supposed to be madly in love.” She swallowed hard. “How can we convey that when we barely know each other?”
Her pulse quickened as Mike tenderly took her hand in his. “Suzanne, do you think it was an accident that we ended up together?” He grinned, showing off his dimples. “When I saw how the teacher was assigning partners, I switched my seat with the guy next to me. I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to get to know you.”
“Really?” The more Mike talked to her like this, the more she found herself mesmerized by his soft-spoken charm. “Then you…”
“I’m not acting—here or on stage.” He gave her hand a light squeeze. “Maybe we could continue this conversation later—if you’d let me buy you dinner.”
Her heart soared. “I’d like that.”
“Good, because we’ve got to get back to class.”
They walked back into the auditorium and took their places on stage.
“Take it from the middle of the scene,” the drama teacher said.
Suzanne recited her lines and moved closer to Mike. This time, she felt a spark of electricity sizzle between them.
Without hesitating, Mike drew her into his arms. She relaxed and let herself be swept away. Deep down, she knew that this was the start of something magical.
“Fate brought us together, and I never want to let you go,” Mike said, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. “I mean it, Suzanne, for real,” he whispered as he bent close to kiss her.
About the Author: Kelli Wilkins’ short & sweet romances have appeared in The Sun, New Love Stories, Romance Rag, True Love, and ChickLitReview. She has also published several romance novellas with Amber Quill Press. To learn more about Kelli and to catch up on all her writings, visit her website: www.KelliWilkins.com