Bullet Chapter 3

So because we weren’t bored enough by the LAST chapter, LKH decides to treat us to an entire chapter of other people dancing. Yeah. I have shocking news for LKH:

  1. Your last attempt at including dance in your books was one of the worst pieces of crap you’ve written yet.
  2. Reading about watching OTHER characters dancing is as much fun as reading about watching someone else’s football game, someone else’s track meet, someone else’s yoga class… am I being clear here?
  3. IS BORING, BORING, BORING.

sigh

So the kids start dancing, and for some reason they decide to debut the two-year-olds. Yay. At least this gives the audience a chance to run for their lives.

 
Five little girls in pink tights with sparkly itty-bitty tutus walked onstage holding hands in a line. The audience did a group “Awww.” They were almost illegally cute.

… ILLEGALLY? Just what is Anita implying here? Is this book all about sexualizing toddlers?!

So the little girls don’t really dance so much as pose, and Anita lectures us about two-year-olds as if she actually has experience with them.

 
Were the toddlers good? No. But at that age it’s not about being a prodigy, it’s about showing up and being too cute for words.

Thank you for enlightening me! I expected them to prance around en pointe in tight formation, but your wisdom has enlightened me!

 
I wasn’t much for babies, older was definitely better,

What, “older” like SIXTEEN? I see why she thinks that’s better. Anita only likes kids when they’re old enough to bonk.

I heard Monica tell J.J., “Usually they have to combine the two- and three-year-olds, but they had enough this year to have two classes.” Interesting, but my hearing it meant Monica was talking too loud. She had a certain desire to be noticed.

BOOOOOOOO! She’s such an egotistical self-centered bitch, talking OUT LOUD in a room filled with noise! BOOOOOOO!

So then Matthew’s little troupe comes out, and I guarantee that this is the only part of the series where you’ll see ONE male surrounded by several females. So they dance, and the creepiness comes back in.

 
I leaned into Micah and whispered, “Is it stupid to say he’s good?”

Yes. He’s three.

 
Jean-Claude leaned into us and whispered, “Non, ma petite, he has a certain flair, does Matthew.”

“I shall leave an open space for him at my strip club.”

 
When they were offstage Asher leaned over all of us to speak to Monica. “He is good, your boy.”
She beamed at him, and she had every right to be proud.

Yeah, it REALLY looks like she’s avoiding him because he turned her down, doesn’t it? Oh wait, it fucking doesn’t. It just makes Anita look like a bitter bitch.

So everyone congratulates Monica and tells her how awesome her kid is, which is Anita’s cue to try to turn the conversation back to her and her boytoys. I mean, God forbid anyone pay attention to THE KIDS at this.

 
“I hope that Jason and Nathaniel got to see it; I’ve been watching them work with him.”

“They’ve already taught him how to waggle his butt at the audience, AND spin around a pole.”
“They WHAT?”
“Tchah, Monica, you’re such a PRUDE. And a slut. But also a prude.”

But then Monica annoys Anita again by DARING to refer to Jason and Nathaniel as Matthew’s “uncles.” I mean, how DARE she.

 
I didn’t like the whole Uncle Nathaniel and Uncle Jason thing, and I had put a stop to Aunt Anita.

Yeah, no mention of how Nathaniel and Jason feel about the “uncle” thing. For all we know, they like it. Just that the almighty Anita doesn’t like it, so BOW DOWN BEFORE HER AND GROVEL, BITCH!

 
We’d been seeing a lot of Matthew lately.

He’d already seen six of our orgies!

So then more and more kids come out and dance, and Anita starts whining about how long it’s taking.

 
I had been warned that the dance school didn’t allow anyone to grab their kids and leave until every last student had had their chance onstage.

Yes, they will take your kids hostage at gunpoint and only release them when the whole show is over. See those two-year-olds crying and crapping in their diapers? They have to stick around for three more hours! It’s the rules! Anyone attempting to leave will be gunned down and left to die in a pool of their own blood!

In between acts I leaned over J.J. to Monica and asked, “How long is the show?”
“Last year it was four hours,” she said.

BULL. SHIT. This entire recital is ridiculous in every way.

  1. There is NO WAY they’d have the same dance show for the high-schoolers as for the TODDLERS. It just does not happen that way.
  2. Also, there is no fucking way they would force small children to just hang around doing nothing for four hours. There would be RIOTS. There would be screaming, crying, pooping, fighting, hair-pulling and tantrums.
  3. And unless all the dance teachers are hardcore masochists, they would WANT the parents to take their kids once the dance was over.
  4. Because NEWS FLASH: toddlers and small children don’t just stand there quietly until you want them to do something.
  5. So why is this totally pointless scene in the book at all, especially when it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with anything else in the book? Because LKH went to see her daughter at a dance recital, where she scandalized everyone by not wearing pastels and pearls.

So everyone goggles with horror at the idea of spending four hours doing this, which is JC and Asher’s cue to be oily-charming. Well, that whole scene was utterly pointless.

 
Jason Schuyler was listed as accompanying senior student Alicia Snyder.

… because all those overprotective nervous parents would TOTALLY hire a professional stripper to dance onstage with their darling kids. Especially a guy who is also openly a werewolf in a society that is 100% bigoted. It just makes SO MUCH SENSE.

Seriously, does St. Louis have no ACTUAL dancers who do not get naked and don’t turn into a wolf?

He’d said that the men were really just mobile props so the senior girls could have a wider choice of dances for their last hurrah before going off to college. “We’re just there to make the girls look good, and tote and fetch them.”
When I’d asked, “Then why do it?” he’d looked at me as if I’d said something silly. Jason had been in dance and theater all the way into college; apparently it was just some sort of dance thing that I wasn’t going to understand, but it made sense to him and to the other men that he’d talked into doing it. It had been Jean-Claude and Jason’s idea to make the exotic dancers at Guilty Pleasures, and the less exotic dancers at Danse Macabre, two of Jean-Claude’s clubs, learn to really dance. Jason and Nathaniel had been working with them and the teachers at the school all summer. It was the most men that the senior girls had ever had access to for partners, and most of them had taken our men up on the offer.
The ballerina with Jason was actually shorter than he was, and since he was only an inch taller than me, she was tiny in her black proverbial ballerina outfit with white tights and a flash of sparkle in her bound hair. He’d tied his own longish blond hair back in a tight, smooth ponytail so that it gave the illusion of being short. He wore an outfit that matched hers and I realized I’d never seen Jason in black before. They both looked elegant. Jason was usually smiling, joking, and one of my best friends. He was a lover as well. He was cute and even handsome, but I’d never realized that he could be elegant and beautiful. The music began and I saw instantly why she’d wanted him to partner her. I knew Jason moved well, even danced well, and I’d seen some of the practices, but I hadn’t seen much of him with the girl. I’d never seen him move like this in dance.
He had the grace both of his years of dance training and of being a werewolf. All the wereanimals moved well, as if it came with the disease in their veins. He didn’t have a lot to do but hold her en pointe and help her twirl and do some lifts, and finally lift her completely over his head one-handed and carry her rainbowed body across the stage to bring her in a heart-stopping drop to be caught an inch above the floor with her body still graceful and taut in his arms.
The last move made the entire audience gasp. There was a moment of dead silence and then thunderous applause. J.J. leaned over and said, “That moment of silence is worth more than the applause afterward. It means you’ve nailed it.” She was clapping as she spoke, and when the audience actually rose to their feet we joined them.
The girl curtseyed and was given a bouquet of roses by one of the earlier students still in costume. They kissed cheeks and then the ballerina took two of the long-stemmed roses out of her bouquet and handed
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them to Jason. He came forward, took the roses, kissed her hand, and then she insisted on bringing him forward so they bowed together. I didn’t need anyone to explain to me that Alicia was showing that she knew she could not have wowed the audience without Jason’s help.
He was beaming, eyes glowing, even as his chest still rose and fell from the effort of lifting and throwing her, and making it all look pretty and effortless.
J.J. said, “I don’t envy who goes next.”
I agreed and was glad it was a senior girl by herself. I didn’t want to see one of our own guys compete with what we’d just seen. It seemed like a damned hard act to follow.
The senior girl was good, but she wasn’t as good, and I sympathized that here at her last performance she had to know she wasn’t going to nail it. I think that would feel bad.
But the next senior girl had Nathaniel Graison listed as her partner, and I actually found myself leaning forward on my seat. It was no longer about just the performance but how Nathaniel would feel after seeing Jason onstage. They were best friends and not competitive in that typical guy way, but still, Nathaniel was my other live-in sweetie and I was a little worried. Nathaniel, unlike Jason, had never been in dance class other than with Jason taking him. He’d been on the streets before age ten, and it had gone downhill from there. Nathaniel had been a prostitute, porn star, still was an exotic dancer, so he’d performed before, but not like this.
Micah’s hand was tense in mine, and we exchanged a glance. Micah said out loud, “He’ll be fine.” But simply by his saying that, I knew he was worried, too. I realized it was more than just being in love with Nathaniel; because of his horrendous childhood we felt almost parentally anxious. It sounded stupid, but he’d never had a chance to be one of the little toddlers in their costumes seeing the parents smile. He’d missed so much as a child, and in a way this was him trying to experience some of what he’d missed. He hadn’t expressed any stage fright about tonight. It was all just my nerves and Micah’s apparently.
Nathaniel entered the stage hand in hand with his ballerina. The girl wore a filmy white gown around her white leotard so that it had the look of white and silver rags, elegant rags, and moved around her as though it were breathing. He wore white tights but his shirt was of rougher material and loose around his upper body, even open at the neck. His shoulders looked amazingly broad, and the rest of him looked even better in the white tights, but that might have just been me. His ankle-length auburn hair was up in a bun at the nape of his neck. The ballerina’s blond hair was cut short and flattened around her face like lace. From this far out in the audience his lavender eyes looked blue.
The music began and though it was ballet it was a very different kind. Jason and his ballerina had been about physical movement in space; they’d been flashy and technically great, but now we saw the difference. This ballerina and Nathaniel told a story. I didn’t know the music and didn’t need to, because they told the story with their bodies, their faces, and their hands. It was graceful and beautiful and they acted. It wasn’t just dance, it was theatre.
It was a tale of lovers lost and found, and of some great tragedy. Nathaniel held her, but it was soft holding, as if their bodies melted into each other, and their gaze made the audience watch their hands as they rose above their heads so that those entwining arms, hands, fingers, seemed terribly important.
I’d known Nathaniel could dance, but as I hadn’t known Jason could be elegant, I hadn’t realized Nathaniel could do this. It was both amazing and wonderful, and made me feel the loss of what he might have been in his life if things had been different. Of course, he was only twenty-two. It wasn’t like it was
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too late for him to change jobs. But it felt odd thinking that, as if Nathaniel not working at Guilty Pleasures would change things, as if the man I was watching swoon and dance onstage would be someone else if he did this every night.
He lay down on the stage and his hair began to unroll from the bun, but it was too sudden a change and I realized as she collapsed on top of him that the hair was part of the show, the emotion. His hair spilled out around them across the pale wood stage and something about the lights hitting it, or the color of gel used, turned all that auburn hair to red so it was as if they both lay in a pool of thick blood. She made one last futile gesture with her pale arms, and again something about the lighting put her in a pale, white glow so she looked almost translucent. It was a neat trick with the lights, her glowing and ethereal while Nathaniel lay in the richer reds so it was all death and violence and transcendence and beautiful.
There was another of those breathless silences as the lights faded so we wouldn’t see them leave the stage. And then the audience was on its feet again, and it was wonderful.
“Oh my God,” I said, as I stood there and clapped along with everyone else. Micah beside me was shaking his head. I wondered if he’d been thinking the same things that I’d been thinking.
Jean-Claude beside me said, “Our kitten has become a cat.”
I leaned around Micah to J.J. “Tell me if I’m just in love with him, or was that amazing.”
She nodded. “That was really good. With more time and work it could be amazing.”
Another bouquet of roses was brought out for the ballerina. She tore her bouquet in half and handed it to Nathaniel, and made him bow with her.
Monica leaned around J.J. and said, low, but not so low that J.J. wouldn’t hear, “And to think you get to take that home and play with it.”
I must have turned pretty abruptly, and what I was about to say wasn’t friendly, but Micah grabbed my arm and blocked my view of her. The look on his face was enough. It made me count to ten. But while I counted J.J. said, “You’re going to take that from her?”
I looked at Micah. He said, “No, but easy.”
I nodded. Jean-Claude leaned in to it all and said, “Is something wrong?”
I leaned over everyone. “Nathaniel is not anit , okay.”
She made a little push-away gesture, but there was something in her face that let me know she’d baited me. The only question was, why?
Vivian on the other side of her had been utterly quiet through all of it. She was standing and applauding, but she wasn’t looking at us. It was almost like she wasn’t really here.
I reached past Monica and touched Vivian’s arm. She startled and turned wide eyes to me. She was a wereleopard—you didn’t sneak up on them—but I’d genuinely startled her. What was she thinking about so hard?
Asher said something to Jean-Claude. I caught enough of it to know it was French and that was all, but
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whatever he said, Jean-Claude looked less happy than I did about Monica. I watched Asher’s face as he looked at the other man, and I knew that look. It was the same look he’d had when he tried to kiss Micah tonight. What the hell was wrong with Asher tonight? He could be pushy and a pain in the ass, but he usually had a reason that I could figure out. Tonight I was lost.
The next senior girl was Stephen’s ballerina. I wondered how they’d top or even come close to what Nathaniel and his had done. But lucky for everyone concerned, it was a jazzy tap dance to some older Broadway musical number. The girl and Stephen were both in fedoras, white dress shirts with rolled-up sleeves, loose collars, unbuttoned vests, and belted dress slacks. Both of them had hair past their shoulders; his was curly and blond, hers was curly and brown. His suit pieces were black and hers were thin navy pinstripes.
The number was funny, with sliding pratfalls across the stage. They slid from one corner of the stage to the other, passing each other by inches. It was athletic, fun, and so different from the other two numbers that it worked.
They ended with her jumping into Stephen’s arms and him carrying her offstage. The applause was immediate this time with laughter mixed in; we’d needed something light after the sadness of the last number.
“Very Gene Kelly,” Micah said. I said, “I didn’t even know Stephen could tap-dance.” Vivian said, “He learned for the show.” “Wow,” I said, “that’s quick.”
Vivian smiled and a look of quiet pride crossed her face, the most positive emotion I’d seen on her face all night. Stephen and the senior girl were taking their bows, and he had a handful of roses from her bouquet. Vivian beamed up at him and you didn’t have to know a thing about them to see that she loved him.
The stage cleared, the music changed, and this was the one that had made Jason nervous. He and the last senior were about to dance a number that he’d choreographed for them. He did a lot of the choreography at Guilty Pleasures, but he’d said, “It’s not the same, Anita. Customers don’t really care if we dance, not really, they want to see skin. This is different.” I’d never seen him nervous like that about performing in public before. It had been both endearing and a little nervous-making.
I CAUGHT J.J. smiling and running her finger over his name where it was written in the program. It was a wistful smile, as if she were thinking of things that might have been.
She and Jason were both only twenty-three, but that smile was sad like doors had been closed, choices made, and no turning back. Or maybe I was being overly romantic. Nah, not me, not romantic. Every man in my life would say that wasn’t my gig.
The ballerina entered to a dim stage at a run. She was dressed in a silky white nightgown, and her face, her body, everything telegraphed fear. But like in any good horror movie the scary thing is never behind you if that’s where you’re looking.
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Jason jumped from the ceiling. I knew he had to have been on the catwalk, but it looked like he simply jumped from the sky and landed on feet and hands in front of her. Her scream as she turned and saw him cut through the sudden silence of the audience. There was still no music, as he stood, slowly, dressed in only close-fitting tights so that the muscles in his upper body writhed and molded as he came to his feet. His hair was loose, a fall of yellow around his shoulders, half hiding his face. He stood there muscled, beautiful, feral, and as she radiated fear, he gave off waves of predator.
The girl turned and ran. Jason was a blur of movement and was just suddenly in front of her. She gave another scream, but it was almost drowned by the gasp from the audience.
Music came up slowly, as she began to run around the stage and he was always there, always ahead of her. I knew he was a werewolf. I knew he could move faster than any human, but I’d never seen him do it, not Jason.
He always seemed more human than most, but on that stage, in this moment, he stopped pretending. He was a muscled blur, hair flying around him as he moved.
The girl fell to the middle of the stage at last. Her thin chest was rising and falling so hard I could see it. She held an arm out as if to ward him off, as he stalked around her.
I heard J.J.’s breath go out in a long shudder. I looked away from the stage to her for a moment. Her face was intent and raw with some emotion that I couldn’t define.
Micah touched my hand and I looked back to find that Jason and the girl were dancing. It was as if he’d watched a cat play with a mouse and choreographed it, except that this cat was thinking more sex than food.
The girl played the virgin victim, slender arms rising and falling, hiding her face, her body leaning away, only to find his arm, his chest, his body there to catch and hold her, and then as the music grew she melded into his body and they danced. They danced, they moved, and he showed what his body was capable of and she held her own. There weren’t many human dancers that could have kept up, and fewer still who were seniors in high school. I didn’t have to know more about dance than I did to realize I was seeing something special, someone special. Hell, two someones. It was almost hard for me to watch and think,That’s Jason, that’s our Jason .
The music changed, subtly at first, and then it was Jason who was pulling away, the girl who was reaching out to him. I thought it was a seduction finished until I realized that Jason was running now and the girl was just suddenly there. It wasn’t superhuman speed that put her always in front of him, but him looking back, him reluctant. They turned the seducer into the victim and gradually it was Jason who projected fear, and the girl who began to stalk him.
The music built and built as they danced around each other on the stage, and then he fell. It was one of those graceful falls where he caught himself, his hair trailing down so his face was completely hidden, and his strong muscled arm reached outward as if to ward off a blow, as she crept closer.
Her hand closed on his, and it was as if the world narrowed down to their fingers interlacing. He collapsed onto the stage, his arm at a harsh angle as she held his hand and turned to look out at the audience. Her face was clear and clean, eyes defiant, so straight, so tall, so in control with him crouched at her feet. She jerked on his arm as if pulling it behind his back, and he was on his knees, spine bowed as if in pain. She let go of his hand abruptly so that he half fell, and then she began to walk offstage. Two
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spotlights held on them as she moved away, the lights growing dimmer as she moved proud and brave. Jason collapsed in the light and began to weep, great, silent racking sobs that made his whole body rise and fall with it as her breath had at the beginning of the dance.
The lights were almost gray, almost out, as she stopped at the very edge of the stage to look back, and he came to his knees, one leg outstretched, one arm reaching out to her, the other arm across his face as if to hide his tears. There was a moment where they froze like that and the music stopped. The girl turned and left the stage, and Jason fell into a heap in the middle of it, and the light left.
The silence this time was longer, and I swear I heard several people inhale as if they’d been holding their breaths. Jason and the girl came to the center of the stage and took each other’s hands still in silence, and it was only as they moved toward the front of the stage that the audience reacted. The crowd rose in a thunderous mass, calling “Bravo,” and just screaming as if they were at a rock concert instead of a dance recital.
We clapped until our hands were sore. Micah hugged J.J. and I realized she was crying. I hugged her, too. Jean-Claude’s arm went around my shoulders and I turned to find a kiss waiting for me. He spoke above the dying rumble of the crowd. “They are all growing up, our young men.”
I could only nod. I’d known Jason and Nathaniel since they were nineteen, and the boys I’d met were not the men I’d seen tonight. I wasn’t sure ifgrowing up was the right term, maybe more growing into themselves.
Asher was already sitting down. I looked at him and saw the shine of pinkish tears on his face. I moved past Jean-Claude to lean over him. He wiped at the tears as if he didn’t want me to see, but he took the kiss I offered, though his heart wasn’t in it. I asked, “Are you all right?”
“I didn’t know our little wolf could be that beautiful,” he said.
“Me either,” I said. But looking into his face I wasn’t sure I meant the same thing he had meant. It was one of those moments when the same words can mean so many things. I knew I was missing something, but I was so puzzled I couldn’t even figure out what questions to ask to get past Asher’s mood. Something was up, something serious and emotional, and I didn’t know what that something was.
The audience started moving toward the stage. The parents of the smallest dancers apparently could get their children directly from the stage. Monica came back to us with Matthew in her arms.
J.J. had found Jason and was being introduced to his dance partner. The girl was obviously excited to meet J.J., who had done what the girl dreamed of doing. J.J. was a professional dancer in one of the top dance companies in the United States and maybe the world. Most dancers would never make that cut.
Micah and I moved forward hand in hand to find Nathaniel. Vivian was just suddenly behind us as if nervous to be in the crowd by herself. I offered her my other hand and she took it with a grateful little smile. Vivian was usually pretty nervous, but I hadn’t realized she didn’t like crowds. Had she never liked crowds, or was it new? She was one of our wereleopards. I should know these things.
Wicked was suddenly with us. “You shouldn’t make us split the security, Anita.” I glanced back but was too short to see Truth with Jean-Claude and Asher. “Sorry,” I said. Micah held a hand up and I knew he’d seen Nathaniel, or Stephen. Wicked helped us get through the
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crowd and there they were. Stephen came off the stage to hug and kiss Vivian. He was as downright happy as I’d ever seen him. Then Nathaniel was there and it was my turn to be hugged. He lifted me off my feet and spun me. It made me laugh out loud. He was just so full of himself, and he should have been.
He kissed me while he was still holding me above him, so that I slid down his body still locked in the kiss, held in his arms. He got me to my feet, breathless from his attentions.
Micah clapped him on the shoulder and was suddenly getting a full-body hug. There was a moment when Micah hesitated and then he just went with it. You saw hugs like it on every sports field in the world, but when the hug broke Nathaniel kissed him, and that you didn’t see so much in sports. In private, they had kissed, but never in public. There was a moment when Nathaniel looked startled, and I think he was going to apologize, but Micah shook his head and put a hand on the back of the other man’s neck and leaned in and kissed him back, softly and thoroughly. Micah pulled back smiling and Nathaniel looked a little dazed, and then that smile came back, the one he’d leapt off the stage with, so happy that it just beamed off him.
I put my arms around them both and held them. Something behind me made me turn. I found Jean-Claude and Asher standing with Truth beside them. Jean-Claude’s face was beautiful and unreadable, the face he used when he was hiding what he was thinking, but Asher’s face made up for it. Anger, no, rage. Something had made Asher absolutely furious.
I went back to hugging my men and enjoying this moment, but I knew now the moment would pass and I’d have to deal with that look on Asher’s face. Some moments are perfect, and then someone comes along and fucks it up. Ain’t it always the way.

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