She hated his silence. From her chair on the sidelines, she watched Amy and Pasha whirl around the room. "Stop." Alyssa paused the music. "That hand change wasn't right." She demonstrated with her hand in the air how Pasha's hand needed to rotate.
His gaze was focused on her hand, and he nodded, turning back to Amy. Didn't speak a word. He hadn't said more than a few words to her in almost a week. He arrived at their sessions at the last minute and left before her and Amy—always. With her crutches, she couldn't chase after him. Wasn't sure she wanted to anymore. Before her accident, they'd been getting along so well she'd started to wonder if their relationship had to end with the wedding. Did he have feelings for her?
She didn't have to wonder anymore.
Every day, her anger built, at him, at her stupid ankle, even at Amy for agreeing to help and being so professional. She'd double-checked with Alyssa before agreeing to help Pasha, and that small act had softened Alyssa's resentment. Even still, she wanted to explode in rage—mostly at him. She'd fallen on stage, and her perfect little bubble with Pasha had popped. What had been the pinprick? She didn't know, couldn't figure it out.
He'd gone silent in the hospital, and the silence had increased, lengthened, stretched to an unbearable tension. Had the hospital been the problem? Had it reminded him of Zoya? He'd never told her how Zoya had died. Or had he realized she'd no longer be useful to him, and he'd decided to end things without actually telling her they were ending things? She didn't know what the cause had been, but the result was the same. Complete indifference, no matter the situation.
His lack of communication hurt more than if he'd simply told her he was done with her. Grown tired. Needed some variety. Whatever excuse men had used to dump her or cheat on her in the past would have been enough. Instead, she'd gotten nothing. Distance. Silence. A strong desire to strangle him.
She'd sat in the hospital, alone, thinking about her bills, about not being able to do Sarah Telling's tour, about Ricky's offer to come back, about how much she wanted Pasha to say or do something to make her life feel solid again, like it had before she'd answered her sister's call, before she'd fallen on stage, before he'd gone stony silent on her.
On top of that, she'd watched Mia scramble to re-jig the stage show with two less dancers. Jazz was out and so was Alyssa, but instead of hiring new people, Mia had re-arranged some of the dance numbers to compensate.
Mia had assured her several times that as far as she was concerned, Alyssa was being paid until the end of the tour, and if she couldn't tour with Sarah Telling because of her injury, they'd come to another arrangement. Nonetheless, the worry came. Another arrangement didn't guarantee she'd be able to pay her bills. Every day she prayed she'd wake up and her ankle would be better as if by magic.
"How was that?" Amy asked as the section of music they were working on came to a close.
"See if you can get it faster." She'd been so caught up in her own thoughts, she hadn't been paying enough attention to what they'd been doing. Watching Pasha touch Amy, run his hands along her like he'd done to Alyssa hundreds of times made her queasy. Each time she reset the music, she had to steel herself, to act like they were people she hardly knew.
Her phone beeped beside her, and she struggled to her feet, wedging her crutches under her arms.
"Physio?" Amy asked her as she gathered her towel and water bottle.
"Yeah." Alyssa dropped her phone in the backpack she'd started carrying instead of a purse. At least then, her hands were free.
"Did you want to stay for a while?" Amy was focused on Pasha as she swigged her water. "I've been watching the next set of steps, and I think I can get us to a passable spot for Alyssa to fine tune tomorrow."
Pasha glanced in Alyssa's direction, but his gaze was shuttered, unreadable. She'd give anything to know what he was thinking. Did he even care that he'd hurt her? Was still hurting her? His indifference was like a thousand tiny pinpricks every time he looked at her and the affection she'd come to expect was absent. They'd become strangers, worse than strangers, almost overnight.
"Yes," he said with a nod. "Thank you. That would be helpful."
Was it possible to want someone so badly you hated them? She clicked across the floor on her crutches, and she mentally geared up to juggle everything to grab the handle when the door opened. Pasha pressed his broad shoulder into the door, propping it open for her to pass through. She didn't meet his gaze but mumbled a thank you before passing through. As she brushed past, she caught a whiff of sweat and cologne. It had been a week since she'd been close enough to smell him, and the familiarity, all the memories attached to his scent almost sent her to her knees. She hated him, but she still wanted him. And that made her hate him just a little more.
~ * ~
Emika, the physiotherapist, took Alyssa through the exercises to strengthen and loosen her ankle. While Alyssa sat with a heating pad at the end of their session, Maria came in to get her shoulder checked before the show. Alyssa hadn't been one to use Emika's services before her injury, but every day it seemed one of the dancers appeared for a heating pad or an ice bath or just to have a chat about some part of them that was tender or sore.
"How are you doing?" Maria asked as she settled her own heating pad on her shoulder.
"Progress is slow but consistent. I hate being laid up."
"How long are you on the crutches?"
Alyssa glanced at Emika. "I get a brace today, right? No more crutches?"
"That's right," Emika agreed. "You'll keep the crutches in case your ankle gets tender, but you should be able to bear weight with a brace in small stretches. Still elevate whenever possible."
"Celebration time," Maria said with a grin. "We're going out tonight after the show. You should come. We can sit you in a corner with your foot on a table." She moved the heat and rotated her shoulder, grimacing. "You've been holed up with your ankle for what? A week? Before that we hardly saw you with all those extra dance sessions."
On every other tour, Alyssa had been one of the more social dancers. She'd never said no to a night out, to an opportunity to try something new, to a few drinks with friends. Maybe she needed to get back to that version of herself. Sitting around feeling sorry for herself wasn't helping her ankle heal, and her misery didn't seem to be drawing Pasha to her. Not that she wanted him back at this point.
Any man who could ghost her so completely while still seeing her almost every day wasn't a man for her. She'd thought he was one of the good ones. Turned out, he was the worst of them all. No matter what she did, she couldn't seem to catch and keep a good man, so maybe she needed to give in to her fate. She'd never had any trouble finding the bad boys before and keeping them entertained for a short time was easy.
"I think I will," Alyssa said with a smile. "Share a ride?"
Maria extended her hand for a first bump. "Yes, girl. It'll be nice to have you back in the game."
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Guarding HeartsGeneral Fiction
**Little Falls Series #3 -- can be read as a standalone but will probably be more enjoyable if you've read Mending Hearts first** Pasha Lebedev is honored when Mia Malone, world-famous pop star, asks him to fill in as her father figure at her weddin...