Authors: Aria Cole
Copyright 2016 by Aria Cole
Cover: PopKitty Reviews
Editing: Joy Editing
With out of control curls, a smattering of freckles, and glasses hiding her dark eyes, Chrissy Masterson has always been the ugly duckling. She never thought she was pretty enough to garner the attention of her crush, Trent McAvoy. With countless nights spent dreaming of just one kiss from the tall, enticing quarterback, she's devastated when he leaves abruptly, their chance at love vanishing as quickly as the crowd after a football game.
Six years after leaving, Trent returns to his hometown hoping to find the girl that once stole his heart way back when, her wavy dark hair and gorgeous smile haunting him for all the years since they've been apart. He catches a glimpse of his curvy beauty one afternoon in the midst of her dance routine and is stunned to find that she's even more gorgeous than he remembered--she's blossomed into a devastating beauty in his absence. From the moment their eyes lock, he's smitten all over again. He'll do anything to get Chrissy in his arms and under his body, making up for all the lost time between them and taking chances he didn't have the courage to take last time.
Swan is an 11,000 word fairytale short story. It's all about syrupy sweet second chances at first love, and stolen kisses in the moonlight with a swoonworthy virgin hero and the woman he never could quite forget.
I shoved my ballet shoes in the small backpack and beelined for the door, late for my allotted time slot at the dance studio. I’d been up all night, and my eyes ached and head hurt. I’d finally had to switch off my phone to stop the incoming calls from Chad, my asshole ex.
We’d broken up six weeks ago after a year of on and off squabbling, and I hadn’t heard from him since. Until I’d left my job teaching first graders at the local elementary one night and spied him at the bar, hands and lips all over another girl. I’d never been more relieved that I’d made the decision not to sleep with him. Now that I had distance, I could see that I’d been searching for something he could never provide—mainly unconditional love and precious devotion. Chad had always disregarded my feelings, even pressuring me to sleep with him because “a twenty-two year-old virgin is a joke.” That comment had sent me over the edge. Giving him the most intimate part of myself didn’t feel right, something had always been missing. My heart hurt now for the the girl that had ached to find love and searched in all the wrong places. But it was so lonely watching your friends marry and have sweet, little babies, feeling like you were never good enough to deserve that, secretly pining for the only boy that had ever made you feel special even though he’d left almost six years ago.
So when I’d seen Chad locking lips with a stranger, I’d already hardened my heart to his callous treatment of me. But I’d averted my eyes a moment too late, his blurry gaze announcing he was probably more than a few drams of whiskey in. I’d hurried on, but within ten minutes, my phone had blown up with calls and text messages from him.
I'm sorry you saw that. I miss you. She means nothing.
I’d rolled my eyes as each one came in, ignored them, and after three hours of it, I’d finally shut my phone and hidden it in my nightstand.
No sleazy ex-boyfriends for me.
Or ever again.
I was done with men who made me feel as though I didn’t matter. Time and again I had chosen poorly, maybe because I didn’t think anyone of worth would find me worthwhile. But I knew now that being ugly didn't mean they could treat me like trash. I was tired of always finishing last. I wanted someone who wanted me and only me. I wanted what my parents had.
I pulled a thick sweater over my leotard, sprinted out the front door, and darted around the corner and down the main street of my small Midwestern town. Population 2,159 according to the decaying sign at the town line. I shivered, thinking I should have worn more than just my leggings and leotard for the short walk to the studio. The Minnesota spring breeze was nipping at my cheeks and adding an extra spur to my step. I had just one hour a week of private time at the dance studio, and I was already late. This time was so precious because I was alone, just me and the music.
I’d taken up dancing just in the last year, finding it helped calm my nerves and provided a little exercise, something that didn’t hurt considering I was about forty pounds overweight, with heavy breasts that accentuated my nipped-in waist and wide hips. I didn’t have a ballet dancer’s body, not by a long shot, and it’d taken everything in me to work up the courage to take that first class, offered at a discount for school faculty.
But I’d sucked in a deep breath, searched all night for a leotard that came in a size twelve and didn’t make me feel like sausage crammed in a black casing, and shown up on the first clade of class. The rest was history.
Chad had thought it funny when I first started, mocking my classes and skipping the performance at the end of the year. I didn’t care. I wasn’t dancing for him. In truth, I liked keeping this one thing just for me, all to myself. My escape.
I rounded the last corner and ducked into the dance studio. I grinned as soon as I stepped through the doors, the wide room opening up to me. Honey-blond floors gleamed, welcoming my feet to stay a while. I dropped the bag on my shoulder and began to get ready.
Within minutes, I was stretched and limber and pulling out the disc of songs I’d brought to dance to. I started with a smooth melody to shake out my muscles, then it bled into an up-tempo beat. I felt my muscles pulling and stretching, no longer burning as they did in the early classes. I loved the freedom that dance gave me. My body became liquid as I moved, creating brush strokes along the floor. I could have looked like a beached whale for all I knew—floundering and completely a mess—but in my head in those moments, I was the famous ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn, floating gracefully in my own world.
The melody turned softer and faded into a familiar chord that haunted me each time I heard it.
piped over the sound system, and I instantly went into a high leg spin, followed by a pirouette, before my hands stretched outward, my head thrown back as I danced. I was lost to the music, completely under its spell.
My eyes only opened as the chords finally came to an end. I was facing the window that looked out onto Main Street, normally empty of any foot traffic but now occupied by the most handsome man I had ever seen. Not many handsome men stayed in this town, and the ones who did burned out quickly, their good looks lost behind years of labor and hard living.
I stumbled then, my eyes flashing closed as I caught myself. An embarrassed smile flashed across my cheeks. I saw the stranger’s eyes rise for a moment in concern before just a twitch of a grin pulled at his lips.
I blinked, struggling to recognize him through the cloudy glass and passgae of time, the resounding silence echoing in the room as the music ended, breaking me from my thoughts and signaling my time was over. The stranger waved before his grin grew wider when, without thinking, I raised my own hand in a lame attempt at a hello before feeling instantly self-conscious. My god, he’d seen me dancing, swirling and twirling my curvy assets all over this dance floor.
I felt silly that my hand was still up, until he did the unthinkable. He winked.
My heart nearly fell to the floor.
I watched his retreating form, unable to turn away from the broad shoulders, narrow waist, and his fine, sculpted behind. The way his jeans hung on his ass actually had me salivating. My god, what would I do for just one night with a man like that?
I pulled my hair out of its bun as I walked home, feeling oddly discouraged and utterly exhausted. I walked by the small pub at the corner of my street and Main, smelled the decadent scent of fries, and wandered in.
The old door’s worn hinges squeaked as I stepped in. I’d been coming here for years, ever since I was a little girl. I sat at one corner of the shiny bar and smiled brightly at Hank, the owner and bartender.
“Hey, Chrissy.” He smiled. “What can I get ya?”
I ordered a plate of fries and a craft beer, my indulgence for the night, though not the healthiest post-workout snack.
I pulled out my phone as I waited for my food, sipping on my beer and catching up on Chad’s latest tweets. Then I logged into Facebook to find an update on his relationship status.
Chad Wallace is in a relationship with Katrina Moore.
Katrina Moore? I scrunched my nose. Her over-plump pink lips and fake boobs nearly made me gag.
She was a picture-perfect Barbie, yet the last text I had from Chad was from just this morning. What an asshole.
I set down my phone, about to consider changing my number, when a steaming plate of fried potatoes was placed in front of me.
“Where did the ranch go?” I asked sweetly.
“Got it here.” Hank pulled a small cup from under the counter. “Been coming here since you were six years old, Chrissy. I got your ranch.” He chuckled and set it down.
“Thank you.” I dipped a long spicy French fry into the white dressing and brought it to my mouth.
“Anyone ever tell you ranch and French fries is reserved for kids?” someone whispered at my ear.
I spun and found the dead-sexy stranger from outside the dance studio standing right beside me. That rakish grin and sparkling ocean eyes waiting on my reply.
I sat stunned, unable to form a single thought.
“Sorry to catch you off guard.” He helped himself to the barstool next to me.
“No, that’s okay.” What could I say to him? And why was he talking to me?
“I saw you dancing earlier,” he commented, his eyes holding mine and twinkling with some intensity that felt as if it was creeping up my skin and plucking every sensitive nerve I had. “It was beautiful. Really graceful. I’ve never seen anyone dance like that.”
I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat before I parted my lips to answer.
“Trent! It’s good to see you. I was wondering when you’d stop by.” Hank sauntered around the corner and slapped my stranger on the back.
They engaged in conversation as my brain searched back over the years. “Trent?” I said without thinking, shock resonating through me. Both sets of eyes turned as if shocked that I’d finally found my voice. “Trent McAvoy?” I couldn’t offer anything more, my eyes searching the rugged contours of his face, the dark slash of eyebrows, and those eyes. How had I not recognized those eyes instantly? They were the most gorgeous blue I had ever seen, a dark blue so vivid that a girl could get swallowed up in their depths. It’d been six years, his stature broadening, his jaw more chiseled with an alluring five o’clock shadow. He looked much different, but as mesmerizing as ever.
“I was wondering when you’d remember me, Chrissy.” When he said my name, it felt like a caress against my skin, scattering tingles all around my body.
“You actually recognize me?” I asked. How had he even recognized me?
“Well, it took me a minute, but it’s hard to forget such a beautiful girl.”
His words rang in my ear.
Beautiful. Hard to forget
. I felt the flush of warmth on my body as his words lingered in the air.
“I’ve got to get back to slingin’ drinks, but don’t hide out.” Hank clasped Trent’s arm. “Glad you’re back in town, son. This place could use a new coach. Vandenberg’s been losing it for a while if you ask me.” The old man winked at both of us then walked away.
Wait, a new coach? “You’re back? I mean… you’ve moved back?” I was so out of the water with him.
“I went to UMSP, got my degree in sports medicine, but when Momma told me the high school was looking for a new coach, I thought it was the perfect chance to get back here.” A friendly smile swept his lips before he snagged one of the fries off my plate and shoved it in his mouth. “Hey, Hank! Can I get a beer?”
He was making himself at home right next to me.
This was not where I’d expected this night to go.
Two hours later, Trent and I were both more than a few sheets to the wind. Hank had kept pouring the beers, and we’d even caught half of the Twins game before my eyes started to droop.