Before we get into this week's chapter, here’s a chance to kick off 2021 with a lot of free reads!
The Winter Wonderland Story Giveaway features over 180 authors offering all new and free m/m romance stories. You’ll find selections from some of your favorite authors, as well as some that will be new-to-you. With such a wide variety—from contemporary to historical to paranormal and more—you’re bound to add many books to your TBR. The Giveaway runs from January 1-10, so you’ve got time to download them all.
While you’re checking out all the awesome stories, make sure to look for mine, The Hockey Player’s Snow Day. It’s a bit of fun between a hockey player (of course) and a romance author.
This week, as we cross the halfway point in the story, rehearsal takes a turn for the worse.
Sleep was difficult. The kiss replayed several times. My subconscious took it much further, with Ty and me going at it right there in the studio. I woke up painfully aroused and had to take care of that in the shower so I’d have some hope of not staying that way all day.
At rehearsal, the morning played out like always. I was stretching when Ty came in. He appeared to be in his usual pleasant mood as he said his good mornings. He broke tradition, though, when he came over and plopped himself down next to me to stretch.
“Morning, Jeremy,” he said, with a smile that washed over me like a warm spring rain.
“Hey,” I said. “How’re you feeling?”
“Sore. Figure I better stretch like you do. Then maybe I won’t wince with every move.”
I smiled, knowing exactly what that felt like. “It helps. So does ibuprofen.”
“Oh yeah, I know. I’ve had a few over the past couple of days.”
Darci, Madi, and Ricky approached, and there was no doubt they were headed for Ty.
“Geez,” Ty said, quietly. “They look like they’re on a mission.”
“Ty, can we join you?” Madi asked, kneeling down, which Ricky and Darci did as well.
“The lead producers are coming with someone they’re hoping will become an investor,” Madi said. “How’re you feeling about the finale?” She looked directly at Ty. If he felt the least bit intimidated about it, he didn’t let on.
“Yesterday was good,” he said. “It’d be great to run the duet with Leah a few times to make sure it’s right before they get here.”
“We can do that.” Darci stood up, ready to go. “I’ll take them next door.”
“Do it,” Madi said. “They’ll be here in about an hour. We’ll say it’s still a work in progress, but get it as good as you can.”
“What do you think?” Ty turned to me. “Am I ready?”
“Absolutely.” I believed it too. Darci could do any needed fixes, and it would be great.
“Thanks, Jeremy.” Ty squeezed my shoulder as he stood up.
That touch. Just as I thought I’d gotten that out of my system, feelings from last night rushed through me. I hadn’t felt tingles like this in a long time. Should I be excited by these feelings, or working hard to push them down?
No matter which question I asked, my answer was yes.
While the leads were out, the rest of us worked on scenes they weren’t in. I shelved my internal dialogue and focused on the work. By the time the producers arrived, Ty and Leah were back, and we had a break while Madi and Ricky talked with the money folks.
“How’d it go?” I asked Ty as I drank down some water and nibbled on a protein bar.
“Good. It felt right for the first time.”
I could’ve lost myself in his eyes. They sparkled with so much light and energy. His confidence was back and it was a great look for him.
“Places, please, for the act one finale,” called Allie.
“Now we really get to find out.” Ty grabbed Leah’s hand and headed to their marks.
The producers sat along the mirrored wall. It was odd seeing so many people since usually it was only Ricky, Madi, and maybe one or two others at most.
I’d performed for producers in the past because of workshops I’d been part of, so I wasn’t particularly nervous. It was just another audience. I always trusted that the director wouldn’t show something that wasn’t ready.
The pianist played the opening chords of the song and we were off. Unlike yesterday’s rehearsal, I couldn’t pay attention too much to what Ty was doing. I caught some glimpses, and it looked good. As we hit the last thirty seconds, I went into what would’ve been the wings, had we been on an actual stage. Nate, Marco, and I hit our places for our leaps. Nate went, followed by Marco, and then me.
“Argrgh!” No. No. No. My right foot slipped as I landed. I crashed hard to the floor and my right knee went into my stomach, pushing the air out of me.
Nate was next to me in an instant.
“Stop,” Madi said just as the music was hitting its final chords.
The ensemble encircled me as Nate called for someone to bring ice. It scared me to move. I needed to get my leg out from under me but didn’t want to risk more damage.
“Excuse me.” It was Ty. “Let me through.”
Ty broke his way through the circle of people, with Madi right behind him.
“Jeremy.” He dropped to the floor. “You okay?”
“I don’t know.” I sounded like I was on the verge of a freak-out, which I was, but I didn’t want to do that here. Not in front of Ty, or the producers.
I tried to gently move so I could unfold my leg, but I couldn’t get the leverage.
“Here.” Ty put an arm under my shoulders as well as a hand just under my butt and lifted me just enough. Once Nate saw I was moving, he helped straighten my leg out. My leg didn’t hurt, but my foot throbbed.
Allie arrived with ice and Nate slipped my shoe off. He draped the chilled bag across the top so it touched my ankle on both sides.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please bear with us for a few minutes while we see if we can restart.” Madi turned back to address the producers, seeing that everything was under control for the moment.
“What do you think?” Ty asked quietly so Madi could continue with the producers. “Bad?”
“It fucking throbs,” I said, whispering while cringing at my language. I didn’t swear often, but I didn’t do hurt well. “What’d I slip on?”
“Sweat, or water, it looks like,” Nate said.
“We should get you to the hospital and have you checked out.” Darci knelt next to Ty.
“I’m so sorry.” I switched from being in pain into upset for the disruption.
My mind created some worst-case scenarios that would have me out of the show before it even started.
“It’ll be okay,” Darci said. “We’ve got time.” She knew exactly where my mind went.
“You can use my car.” Ty took control of the situation. “Can you get my phone?” He looked to Nate, who was still across from us. “It’s in the front pocket of my backpack.”
Nate nodded and leapt to action.
“I can just take a cab,” I said. “You guys have to get back to work.”
I could hear Madi stalling with the producers, hoping we’d be able to show more before they had to go.
“Nonsense. I’ve got a car that just waits around for me to go somewhere. Let’s put it to good use.”
Nate passed Ty the phone and he typed. “Okay,” he said after a short delay, “he’ll be in front by the time we get down there.” He looked at me and his calm gaze put me at ease. “You ready?” I moved to get up, but he put a hand—a warm, gentle hand—on my shoulder. “Nope. You don’t move.”
He scooped me off the floor so fast I couldn’t protest. Settling into his hold, I rested my head against his chest.
“Someone grab his stuff,” Ty said, without stopping, as we went into the hall.
At the elevator he leaned forward, and I pushed the down button.
“You really know how to take charge,” I said. He was so close I couldn’t look him in the eye. All I could see from my position was his chin and cheek.
“I hope you’re okay.” Concern filled his voice.
What was that? It wasn’t his fault this happened.
“Me too,” I said softly.
He felt so good—warm, safe, strong. Nothing we’d done in rehearsal compared to the feeling of being held like this. The man was solid. He wasn’t even shaking as he supported me.
“He can go to New York-Presbyterian.” Darci jumped into the elevator with us, holding my bag. “Ricky’s calling ahead and Dr. Woodard will meet him. He takes care of all the dancers on Ricky’s shows.”
Thank God my insurance was up to date. All the time in Wicked was about to pay off. I hadn’t been to the hospital in years. No one spoke as we rode down and exited the building. A black town car waited at the curb, and the driver opened the back door as Ty approached.
“Take him to New York-Presbyterian. Please stay there, and when he’s done take him wherever he needs to go.”
Ty set me inside the car. It was chivalrous and, despite everything, I was totally swept away by the gesture.
“Yes, sir,” the driver said. “What about you?”
Ty waved his hand in the air as if he didn’t matter. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll let you know when I’m done here, and if you’re still with him, I’ll make other arrangements.”
“Ty, this isn’t necessary,” I said.
“You need the help, let me give it.” He put a gentle finger against my lips to quiet me.
I could’ve been offended, but it was sweet. I shuddered in response—a shudder that had nothing to do with pain.
“Text me so we can keep up with how you’re doing,” Darci said as Ty shut the door.
Next Friday: Ty helps Jeremy recover... and the couple gets closer.
Fun fact: I love this scene because it shows, once again, how down-to-earth Ty is. He could have had a lot of reactions to the injury, but he dives right in to help. I went with this type of injury because it harkens back to A Chorus Line. In the show, Paul, one of the youngest dancers trying to make it through the audition, hurts his knee during one of the combinations and has to exit. That causes a lot of reflection among the remaining dancers—and leads to one of the show’s iconic numbers “What I Did For Love.” Jeremy reflects as well since there’s always the danger an injury could knock him out of the show and his career.
Thank you for spending part of your first weekend of 2021 with me. I hope this year brings you, and frankly all of us, much better times.