Caroline had faced many challenges in her life. She’d tackled some serious life-and-death trials. She’d persevered. She’d emerged if not victorious, then at least still standing.
So why was she trembling in fear at this relatively minor task laid before her? It’s ridiculous. It made no sense whatsoever.
“Are you ready?” Jackson asked.
No! her inner self screamed.
“Sure,” she said, lifting her chin.
The music started. He emerged from behind the stage onto the empty dance floor at the Last Chance Hall. It is my last chance, Caroline thought. My last chance to bolt for the door.
As a native Texan, it had been her biggest secret, her greatest shame. She didn’t know how to two-step. She’d never learned. She’d listened to pop music in high school and college. Robert introduced her to classical music, but he didn’t like to dance. So, she’d never learned. That, apparently, was about to change.
Keen-eyed Jackson had noticed that she always made excuses not to dance at the Last Chance and called her on it. When she finally fessed up to her lack of skill, he’d declared himself her teacher.
She wanted to learn. She did. So why was she so embarrassed about this? “I just don’t want to hear any whining when you are nursing your bruised and battered toes.”
“Hey, why do you think I wore my steel-toe boots?”
Her eyes went wide as she glanced down at his feet. He laughed. He wore his usual everyday Ropers.
“While you’ll looking down there, I’m going to show you my footwork so you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about when I say it. Watch now, darlin’. Basic two-step. It’s very simple. I’ll start with my left leg first—guys always start with their left—and I’ll take a half step, one, and two. Half step, one, two. It’s quick quick, slow, slow. Quick quick, slow, slow. That’s it. Okay?”
He grinned, grabbed her hand, brought it to his mouth, and kissed it. “You learn to two-step, you’ll be dancing all night long, every time you visit the Last Chance. Now, put your hand on the fella’s arm here just below his shoulder.” He placed it where he wanted it. “Kind of cup it around. Like that. Perfect. The guy places his hand on your shoulder blade like this. Now, see how far apart we’re standing?”
She looked down, concentrating hard. How far was that? A foot? Ten inches?
“That’s about right unless it’s you and me. If it’s you and me”—he yanked her tight against him and murmured against her ear—“we’ll dance like this. But that’s only you and me.”
Again, he laughed. “Relax, honey. You have this. I am an excellent teacher. Now, the guy always starts with his left leg first. Lady starts with her right leg first. Remember it was a half step first, then a one, two. Quick quick slow, slow. Let’s wait for the music. . . coming up . . .ready? Here we go. Quick quick, slow, slow. Quick quick, slow, slow.”
She was terrible. Stiff and awkward. She froze up the same way she did like when she needed to do math in public. She got the choreography of the dance step down, but it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t dance. It was more Frankenstein stumbling out of the castle. She despaired ever feeling comfortable to go public at the Last Chance. “I can’t do this!”
“Sure you can.”
But then, Jackson fixed the problem. He distracted her by doing something she’d never heard him do before.
Jackson McBride sang. To her.
Caroline lost herself in the rhythm and the rhyme and the timbre, in the sheer masculine beauty of his voice. She followed him effortlessly, in the half turns, and even in the full turns, and the dance steps became imprinted in her memory. In fact, she knew she’d remember this moment, this dance, for the rest of her life.
Because when the lesson finally ended, when he smiled down into her smiling face and kissed her sweetly on the lips, he said, “See? Ain’t no step for a stepper. Or, I guess I should say, a two-stepper.”
“I did it.”
“Yes, you did. You always do. You have no quit in you, Caroline Carruthers. I love that about you.” He cupped her cheek, gazed tenderly down into her eyes, and declared, “I love you. I’m in love with you.”
“Oh, Jackson. Me too. I mean I love you too. I love you.”
His eyes smiled at her. “Because I taught you to two-step?”
“Of course not. Do you think I’m easy?” She wrapped her hands around his neck and pulled his face down to hers. “You seduced me with song. Sing to me some more, why don’t you? Next I want to learn how to waltz.”
That Saturday night, Jackson McBride took the stage at the Last Chance Hall for the first time and debuted a new song, a ballad, titled “See That Girl.”
The audience went wild.
© 2019 by Emily March, St. Martin’s Paperbacks
A brand new arc set in Texas that features a family-linked trilogy set within the Eternity Springs world.
Sometimes it takes a new beginning…
Caroline Carruthers married young to a much-older man. Now that he’s gone, she’s lost…until she dares to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline’s new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off.
…to reach a happily-ever-after
Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he’s been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in love—he even has the old song lyrics to prove it—but the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who’s moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption’s healing magic is true…and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all?
Romance Contemporary [St. Martin’s Paperbacks, On Sale: June 25, 2019, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250314918 / eISBN: 9781250314925]
About Emily March
Like thousands of other Texans, author Emily March grew up fleeing the summertime heat at home for the beautiful Colorado Rockies. The daughter of Colorado natives, Emily spent her summers at the rustic, 1930’s era family cabin in the mountains west of Denver, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and availing herself of the facilities (an outhouse) only when she could no longer avoid it.
As an adult with a family of her own, Emily continued the tradition of spending summers in the Rockies, and she insists that her sons were not permanently damaged when she made them wear matching Oshkosh red-and-white-striped overalls with coordinating caps to ride the narrow-gauge train from Durango to Silverton at ages 6 and 3, respectively. Emily still visits the mountains every chance she gets, and she’s happy to announce that the family cabin now sports indoor plumbing.
Writing as Geralyn Dawson, Emily is the USA Today bestselling author of over twenty novels. She is a three-time finalist for the prestigious Romance Writers’ of America’s RITA award and a recipient of their Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year award. She received Romantic Times magazine’s Career Achievement award and its Reviewer’s Choice award. In 2009, the American Library Association named her romantic suspense novel, ALWAYS LOOK TWICE, as one of the top ten romances of the year.
A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeno relish has made her a tailgating legend.