Authors: Alicia Street,Roy Street
|Dance 'N' Luv |
|Alicia Street Roy Street|
After a bitter divorce, Amanda Kushinski, a former Broadway dancer from Manhattan, moves to a peaceful village on Long Island’s rural North Fork to open up a vintage clothing shop. She wants solitude and anonymity, but instead she finds herself involved with an elusive ghost, a troubled teenage girl, and a sexy local fisherman who makes her believe in second chances.
Russ McNeil has very bad taste in clothes. A sixth generation son in a family of fishermen that worked the Bay and the Sound, he has no illusions about what life has to offer him, including in the romance department. But he’s in for a little surprise.
SNOW DANCE is a short story of approximately 13,000 words. While complete in itself, it is also a prequel to the novels in the Dance ‘n’ Luv series.
A Dance ‘n’ Luv Series Short Story
Copyright © 2011 Alicia Street
All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Alicia Street with the exception of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover Art by
Amanda stood waiting her turn at the register in Billings’s Paint and Hardware. What little patience she had was eroding by the minute. The wire handles of four heavy cans of Sunflower Yellow paint cut into her palms. She’d worn two sweaters under her pea-coat and leggings under her already snug jeans, which meant she now had rivulets of perspiration tickling her skin.
Worst of all, the guy holding up the works in front of her was the one who’d been checking her out earlier. He even offered to help her choose which color paint to buy. As if this middle-aged bumpkin in a hideous orange parka and army green trousers that looked like his dog had chewed them would know anything about color and design.
She kept her distance, but could hear him yapping away with the cashier, a young dude, probably still in high school. Their folksy chat went on and on. Something about snow plows. And ball joints? Kinky? Doubtful. Boring was more like it.
Time to clear her throat. Audibly.
Mr. Orange Parka turned to her, tucking the paper bag holding his purchase into his pocket. “Oh, I’m sorry. Didn’t realize you were waiting.” He reached toward her paint cans. “Those are too heavy for a lady.”
“I’m just fine, thanks.” Amanda sidestepped him and heaved the cans onto the counter. Nearly putting her back out of line. Did they have a chiropractor around here?
“See that, Parker? This is one strong woman.” He extended his hand. “Russ McNeil.”
She sighed, took his hand and mumbled, “Amanda Kushinski.”
Men. At forty-five she’d had more than her fill. They turned up in all sizes and shapes, each with their own come-on. Each one with the same goal in mind: the bedroom.
After a long, exciting career as a Broadway dancer that included a leading role in
A Chorus Line
and a remake of
Kiss Me, Kate
, where she got to sing “I Hate Men” — how prophetic that little ditty turned out to be— she’d seen it all. Producers, directors, businessmen and movie stars. Not to mention her illustrious, womanizing ex-husband. Amanda had moved to North Cove because it was one of several small farming and fishing towns out here on Long Island’s eastern tip. It seemed like a place free from all the hype. A good place to find solitude and maybe even some sort of peace.
At least this Russ was the rustic type. Pun intended. But when it came to women, obviously even the cozy, down-home guys turned phony.
He pointed a thumb at the cashier. “This handsome buck is Parker Richardson.”
Parker was, in fact, quite handsome, but he seemed to be brooding or troubled over something. The teen gave her a silent nod, which Amanda barely had a chance to return before he trotted away to the back of the store.
“Parker’s got a lot on his plate right now,” Russ said, watching him, concern in his gaze. He faced Amanda. “You’re the one who’s opening a store that sells old clothes.”
clothing,” she said. “There’s a difference. But then I don’t know much about snow plows.”
She assumed her snarky tone would put him off, but when Parker brought back a cardboard box and set the cans in it, Russ offered to carry it out to her car.
“That’s very kind of you, but I can manage.” With her narrow frame, Amanda would have rather hauled the cans by the handles than muscle this hulky box, but she didn’t have the heart to refuse Parker’s considerate gesture. “Nice to meet you both.”
Russ hurried to the door and held it open for her. “Sure you won’t let me take that for you?”
Amanda wanted to growl, but she replied in a happy singsong. “No need.”
“Watch your step,” Russ said. “Everything’s freezing up out there.”
He followed her into the gray January dusk, but headed to the opposite side of the parking lot. Thankfully.
A few yards from her black Toyota SUV, congratulating herself on getting rid of him, Amanda stepped in a patch of ice. Her feet went flying. She let go of the box, her hands reaching back automatically to break her fall as she dropped to her butt.
The sound of her paint cans hitting the asphalt brought Russ sauntering over. Amanda tried to get on her feet before he reached her, but all she could manage was an embarrassing crab walk with her high-heeled boots and her raw, ice-burned palms slipping and sliding.
Gripping Amanda under her arms, Russ hoisted her onto her feet. He stayed behind her a moment. Despite her woolen pea-coat she noticed the strength of his enormous hands as he steadied her. Her blue silk scarf had fallen open, and his breath, warm and moist, made the bare skin on her neck prickle.
She moved away and brushed the snow off her coat. “Thanks much.”
He gathered all the paint cans, his thick fingers curled around the wire handles, and said, “I’ll take these. You get the box.”
She grumbled, “I’m still quite capable of carrying—”
“I know that. But there’s something you don’t know about me.”
“I’m as stubborn as you.” Russ stopped beside the rear of the car and grinned over his shoulder at her.
Amanda noticed he had a sexy mouth. And not a bad face either. Nothing compared to the young cashier’s camera-ready looks, but a strong jaw, dark eyebrows beneath shaggy, brown bangs and gray-green eyes that clearly said,
Nobody tells me what to do
But Amanda reminded herself she wasn’t interested. Not in Russ McNeil. Not in any man.
She popped open the hatch. Russ grabbed the box, and as she watched him neatly arrange the cans inside it she had the strangest sense that he was somehow arranging her life.
Half her butt on the driver’s seat, one foot still outside the door, she said, “Thanks again, Russ.”
He strolled toward her. “Your store’s on the corner of Hanson and Oaks?”
“That’s right.” She pulled in her foot and sank back into the driver’s seat.
Russ stood there holding her door open. “If you’re looking to hire some good, honest help, I know a certain young lady who could use a part-time job. Her family’s having a hard time right now. She’s the kid sister of the boy you just met working at the register. Her name’s Casey Richardson.”
“Sure. Send her around. Bye, Russ. And thanks again.” Amanda started the engine, figuring he’d back away so she could close the door. But he didn’t.
When she looked at him, Russ gave her a surprisingly boyish grin and said, “How about I buy you a cup of coffee?”
Amanda chewed her lip. How would she get out of this one after his gallant rescue maneuver? “Now’s not a good time. Maybe once I get things settled.”
“It’s not like I’m asking you to marry me…yet.”
“What?” She stared at him, wide-eyed.
“Just kidding.” He closed the door saying, “I’ll send Casey to see you about that job.”
“Please do.” She waved, backed her car up and drove out into the street.
Amanda lived in a cottage not far from the Peconic Bay, but right now she drove to her store-to-be, which sat just on the outskirts of downtown North Cove. The town consisted of a couple streets and a few random shops. Her own shop had once been a stately, hundred-year-old farmhouse that someone had gutted and turned into a commercial space.
On her way there Amanda wished she’d left the porch light on so she wouldn’t end up slipping on the ice again. But as she pulled into the driveway she saw the lights inside her shop blazing bright. The good part was the light coming through the windows would help her see the walkway. The bad part was that she clearly remembered turning off all the shop’s fluorescents and even the lamp in the office.
She trudged up the walk with her armload of paint, set the box down and tried the back door. Still locked. A little nervous about the possibility of someone having broken in, she jogged around to the front. Also locked. She opened the door and peeked in, eyes and ears on alert.
Her inner wimp longed for that macho Mr. McNeil to show up and protect her. He sure looked like he could hold his own in a tussle. But Amanda reminded herself she’d moved out here to get away from men. They always let you down and this guy would be no different.
She stiffened her jaw and told herself to put on her big girl panties. Inching her way across the floor, she ignored her usual obsession about letting in the cold air and left the door ajar as an escape route. Just in case some prowler was lurking behind a clothing rack or ready to spring from the tiny office on her left.
After bravely dipping her head inside the office doorway, scouting the six racks of dresses and coats and checking the storeroom, it was obvious she was alone. Returning to the business at hand, Amanda toted her supply of paint into the shop and placed it against the wall in the far corner.
Amanda let out a gasp and pivoted toward the jarring noise.
How to scare the hell out of a woman
But it was only the front door. Pulled shut by the wind.
Fifteen-year-old Casey Richardson sat next to the bed, balancing a notebook and geometry text on one knee and a third grade geography book on the other. Jenna, her eight-year-old sister sat curled on the floor to her right, waiting for Casey’s opinion on her homework questions.
To her left, the man who’d been the foundation of their family slept for now. But the ticking of his oxygen tank, his protruding cheekbones and sallow skin left no doubt in Casey’s mind — and her shattered heart — that he would soon be gone.
She couldn’t concentrate on the homework. It seemed so unimportant now. Worries flooded her mind. And fear. And anger at the woman sleeping off her latest drunken bender in the next room.
Thanks again, Mom
Casey had read lots of blogs and posts on the sites telling cancer patients and their families how to cope. But they seemed stupid to her right now. All she could think about was how she and Parker would get the money to heat the house this winter, how to buy Jenna the new boots she needed, what to cook for dinner tomorrow. And of course making sure her dad was comfortable.
Parker shuffled into the room. He stood by the bed a moment and then turned to Casey. “Okay. My shift.”
“But you haven’t eaten. I made chili. It’s on the stove.”
Parker took the books from her lap. “I want my two sisters to keep me company while I eat.”
Casey shook her head. “I can’t let him wake up to an empty room.”
He tugged her arm. “We’ll make noise in the kitchen so Dad knows we’re here. And Jenna can be our runner for checking up missions. Right, baby sis?”
Jenna sprang up and gave an eager demonstration of her speed by sprinting to the kitchen and back.
Parker used a gentle, but firm, grip to nudge Casey out of the room. “You’ve been here too many hours. Besides, I’ve got news of a job offer for you. Something you might like. Get you out of the house. Make a few bucks. But remember to tell her you can only work after school hours.”
She couldn’t possibly miss his implication. No matter how many bills they had or how much school Parker missed, he was always on her case for skipping class or falling behind in her homework. Casey was about to challenge him by asking when she’d have time to take care of their father if she spent her days in school and her evenings at a job. But she didn’t want to hear his answer. She knew her big brother was trying to make sure she had plenty to keep her occupied once Dad passed away.