“This is stupid.”
Jacklyn dragged her feet and prayed her best friend wouldn’t notice.
Jodi shook her head. “You’re acting ridiculous. You need to have fun and meet men. Salsa class combines both.”
Jackie groaned. “I hate dancing, I’ve got two left feet. You’re making me miss an episode of Survivor.”
“You need a man more than the remote.”
“You’re forgetting my shortage theory. Women outnumber men by 2 to 1. One single guy has communities of women fighting for his attention. Do you believe the 1 percent left can be registered for Salsa?”
Jodi opened the door. “Yep.”
Couples scattered across the glossy floor. Jackie glanced around the room and spotted—
Thank you, God.
He was beautiful. Dark glossy hair, black, brooding eyes, and a lithe body made for dancing.
Her best friend grinned. “Told you.”
This time, Jackie didn’t drag her feet as she made her way toward the James Dean look-a-like.
“Welcome to Salsa 101. I’m Pete Connors.”
She studied the man in front of the room. A strange longing bubbled up from the pit of her tummy as she gazed at him, and she wondered why he seemed familiar. Then the moment passed and he was just her instructor – a nice looking man with friendly brown eyes and wheat colored hair. The laugh lines carved around his mouth told her he enjoyed life. He moved with a masculine grace, practically floating across the floor.
“I’m going to pair you up and go through a few basic moves.” The erotic beat of the Salsa roared through the room.
Jackie moved her feet to copy the rhythm being demonstrated, but she occasionally bumped shoulders with James Dean. To her delight, he actually smiled and spoke. “I guess we can be partners. I’m Frederico.”
She smiled back. “Jackie. But I have to warn you, I have two left feet.”
“That’s okay.” They practiced, bumping occasionally into each other and laughing. She was about to ask a few personal questions when Pete interrupted her moment. “Time to switch, guys.”
Her mouth fell open. “Switch?”
He winked. “Partners. Everyone take a step to the right and continue.”
Frederico took the fated step into the arms of a giggling teenager. When Jackie looked to her right, there was an empty space. Embarrassed, she tried to casually move toward the corner. Strong hands suddenly grasped her waist and spun her around in one easy move.
She looked up at her instructor. “I don’t have a partner.”
Those chestnut eyes gleamed with amusement but his tone was serious. “Then I’ll show you the ropes, and you can impress your friends at parties.”
She laughed. His hands were firm as they clasped her fingers and guided her through the movements. After a few moments, Pete stopped.
“I’m sorry,” she said quickly.
He studied her face for a moment and again she felt the hard tug of excitement.
“You’re not having fun,” he said.
Horror coursed through her at the accusation. “Of course I am!”
His lip twitched. “You’re concentrating too hard on following the steps. You’re trying to learn it like a school project, but dance is different. You have to let go and trust your body. You need to risk looking silly.”
His words stung at first. Then the meaning sunk in and she realized he was right. “I don’t like to look silly,” she offered.
“Nobody does. But the payoff is pleasure. Fun. Isn’t that worth it?”
He pulled her into a firm dance frame, and began to lead. This time, Jackie allowed his subtle motions to guide her, allowed her feet to enjoy the pounding beat of the music, allowed her hips to swing a little bit freer. Something broke deep inside, and she let herself go, laughing a bit as she danced to the Salsa and forgot about everyone else in the room.
Too soon, he had released her. Their gazes locked.
Pete smiled. “Much better.” He cleared his throat. “Last time, switch back.”
In a flash, she was back in Frederico’s arms, and he seemed glad to see her again. “What made you sign up for dance lessons?” she asked.
“I want to dance well at the wedding.”
“Oh, that’s nice. A relative or friend?”
She stumbled. “Your wedding?”
“Yes, I want to surprise my fiancée. Do you think she’ll like it?”
Jackie only felt relief. “Yes, I think she will love your surprise.”
The music ended. Pete stopped in front of them but seemed distant. “Great job, guys. You make a nice couple.”
Jackie caught the flash of some emotion in Pete’s brown eyes. She opened her mouth to thank him but he had already moved away.
Jodi walked over. “Well?”
“He’s getting married.”
“Damn. Maybe we can check out the karate studio.”
Jackie stared at Pete. “Maybe not. Wait here.”
She squared her shoulders and marched over. Pete looked up from his briefcase. “Hey, what’s up?”
The words got stuck in her throat. “I loved your class. Can I come again next week?”
“Sure. I’m glad you liked it.”
“Everyone seemed to have fun.”
“Yes, but I usually have a shortage problem.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “Shortage?”
He leaned one hip against the wall. “Yeah, this class holds mostly females. Most of the time I end up putting two girls together as partners. It’s the same in all of my classes, from dance to sports.” He smiled wryly. “Seems almost like a male population shortage, doesn’t it?”
Jackie knew with a blinding flash she had found who she was looking for in Salsa 101.
“I agree. Maybe you’d like to get a cup of coffee sometime?”
Pete took a step closer. “I’d like that. I teach Tango tomorrow. Maybe you’d like to meet afterwards.”
“Can I come to class first?”
“Do you have a partner?”
Jackie smiled. “I do now.”
He smiled back. At the corner of her eye, she saw Jodi flash a thumbs up signal.
Missing Survivor had been so worth it.
About the Author: Jennifer Probst dreamed of becoming a romance writer since she was young. She takes inspiration from her husband and two young boys, and makes her home in upstate New York. She is the author of the contemporary novel, Heart of Steel, and the erotic novella, "Masquerade" in Secrets Volume 11. She has a masters degree in English Literature from Mercy College. http://www.jenniferprobst.com