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A/N: This chapter makes reference to a character mentioned briefly in CHAPTER TEN.


It had been a pleasant Christmas. I brought Jeffrey home to meet my family, and later we went on a romantic ski trip to the Swiss Alps. He got on with my family and was an easy travel companion. Everything was perfect, but I longed to get back in the studio.

Jeffrey could sense this restlessness in me and remarked on how "far away" I seemed. I tried to be attentive. I listened to stories of him as teenager struggling to come out, I took him to his favorite restaurants, to the theater, I even indulged his need to go clubbing from time to time. He read the arts section aloud to me in bed every morning over coffee and we'd have a laugh about the bad reviews we agreed with and seethed about the ones we didn't.

I should have loved those cozy mornings in, but they were strained. I felt like I was watching myself play the part of the dutiful boyfriend. I did and said all the right things but for all the wrong reasons.

I went back to work the second week of January. On the icy steps of the Royal Opera House I breathed a sigh of relief. I was home.

I stripped off my jacket in the studio and heard loud banging on the other side of the door.

When I peeked out the studio window, I saw that pieces of the gauzy dreamlike set had been disassembled and were being carried out of the auditorium on the backs of the stage crew. The men grunted with annoyance under the heavy panels and Liam trailed behind them.

I opened the door and stuck my head out. "What's wrong with the set?"

He frowned, pressing his clipboard to his chest. "Nothing."

"Then why the hell are you having it disassembled?"

"I'm not. Harry is."

I stepped into the corridor and checked my watch. "We've been back from holiday for less than an hour and he's already barking orders?"

Liam leaned against the wall. It looked like he was about to collapse. "Harry didn't take a holiday. Apparently, he doesn't believe in them. I had to give up my own holiday to stay here and make sure he didn't burn the place down."

Just then Maurice swept up to us, carrying his small poodle Bijou under his arm. "That monster refuses to accept my choreography!" Maurice exclaimed. His dog yipped, bewildered by her owner's distress. I knew things had to be bad if he was bringing his dog in as reinforcement. He only brought in Bijou when he was feeling particularly harassed.

I put my hands on my hips resolutely. "I thought you let him change his solo?"

"I did!" Maurice screeched. "Now he wants to change Gigi's solo and the pas de quatre in Act Two!"

"It never ends," Liam moaned, rubbing his temples. "You give him an inch and he takes a mile."

It was chaos. Corps dancers poured out of Studio A, watching and whispering, while Gigi and Eleanor stormed down the corridor, half in costume from their fitting.

"Liam, why don't you just explain to him what's in his contract," I said, exasperated.

Liam raked his fingers through his short beard. "He refuses to come to the studio or even speak to me until his demands are met."

"He's holding the whole production hostage until he gets his way!" Gigi screamed like her hair was on fire. "This is my first time performing the lead in Swan Lake! It's the most important performance of my life! He's going to ruin this for me and all of us!"

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