Never Tied Down (The Never Duet #2)(4)

By: Anie Michaels

“Just a few days, then I’ll be out of your hair,” I said with a polite smile.

“You know that’s not why I’m asking,” he replied, his voice tinged with just a little regret, which in turn made me feel like an ass. Porter had never made me feel like I was unwanted or a burden, and treated me with respect and kindness while I stayed with him and Ella.

“I’m sorry, that was rude. I just can’t imagine you enjoy having me around all the time.”

He was silent for a moment, but then said, “Your being here makes Ella happy and that, in turn, makes me happy. Listen,” he said, running a hand through his hair, “it’s not like you’re couch surfing because you were irresponsible and lost your job. You’re here because you need to be surrounded by people who care about you. And we do. There’s no pressure for you to leave until you feel like you’re ready.”

“Well, thank you. I appreciate that. But still, I’ll be gone soon.”

“And you’re welcome back at any point,” he said, without hesitation. He smiled the pitying smile I had gotten used to, then continued through the house, heading to his office to get the plans he’d forgotten, I assumed. I took the opportunity to head back upstairs to my room to get my purse and shoes, more than ready to leave the house for the day.

I’d been working nonstop for a few weeks, lucky enough to find jobs that lined up perfectly, leaving little time between them. I was trying to keep myself occupied, to distract myself. When I was idle, my mind wandered and my heart hurt.

That week I was working on an odd job, but it was beautiful, nonetheless. The Oregon Ballet Company was shooting their winter promo and I got to watch ballerinas dance around all day. Obviously, the ballet company had their own costumes made especially for their show, so I didn’t have to figure any of that out, but I was hired to make sure the continuity was good and that everything looked great. Jobs like these could get tricky because the actual costume designer for the company was there, looking over her precious costumes, and sometimes could cause drama.

It wasn’t unusual for a production company to hire a costume manager on top of a costume designer; there were things I took into consideration that she probably wouldn’t. Like how the production crew’s lights were harsher against the costumes than her house lighting, so we had the house add some blue to try to tamp that down. I also noticed, halfway through the shoot, the prima ballerina’s headpiece was switched with another dancer’s, which during the actual ballet wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but in a thirty-second commercial, someone would notice.

“How often do you think those guys have to defend themselves against ignorant assholes?”

I turned to see Logan standing directly to my right, looking at the dancers on the stage as they performed the same minute-long routine for the millionth time.

“What do you mean?” Logan was a grip and local, like me. I saw him a few times a year if I was working in Portland. He was a nice guy. I figured he was a few years older than me, but he’d always been friendly.

“I mean, they’re male ballerinas. I would assume, every once in a while, some assholes would give them a hard time.”

I shrugged. “They look pretty built, what with all the lifting of the women,” I said, gesturing as, sure enough, one of the men lifted a girl over his head. “Plus,” I said, turning to face Logan, “I don’t think the kind of ignorant assholes who would torment male ballerinas actually come to the ballet.”

“You’re probably right. I guess I just remember all the shit the male cheerleaders went through when I went to high school.”

I cringed. “High school was the worst.”

“Agreed. Although,” he said, as his eyes turned to me, becoming softer as a smile spread across his face, “I can’t imagine you had much of a hard time.”

My hackles immediately went up, noting the flirtatious tone of his voice. I turned my face away from him, not wanting him to see my panic. “I did all right. I mainly flew under everyone’s radar.”

“You probably had boys knocking on your door every weekend.”

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