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From Rockabye Murder
Petunia wants to marry Dave?
“Oh,” I said, momentarily confused. “How long have
you been dating?”
She glanced down at the floor and bit her lip. “A year. I know that
doesn’t sound like very long, but I’m about to turn thirty, and I really
want kids, and . . . I let my last boyfriend string me along for five years
before I accepted that he was never going to commit.”
“I don’t need him to propose right away.” She looked up and met
my gaze. “Although I’d be thrilled if he did. I love him. I’m in love with
him.” A giddy smile flashed across her face. “I just need to know that
he’s eventually going to commit, you know? That history isn’t going
to repeat itself.”
“Have you talked to Dave about your feelings?” I asked.
“I think so. Maybe I should have said it more directly—”
“Petunia, darling,” said an older gentleman from the doorway.
“How are you?”
Older or not, his British accent and neatly pressed suit no doubt
made most women swoon. I glanced down at my jeans. Yup. Definitely
“That’s Leo,” said Petunia, smoothing her floral skirt. “He’s the
dance instructor for your lesson.” She shifted from foot to foot and
whispered, “I’m sorry. I feel like I shouldn’t have asked you. You won’t
tell Dave, will you? I don’t want him to feel pressured into something
he isn’t ready for.”
I promised I wouldn’t breathe a word, and a moment later, Jim
“I’ll leave you to it,” called Petunia, fleeing the room.
I glanced at the clock. Five p.m. Time to dance. I took Jim’s hand.
Leo studied us, his eyes landing for an extra beat on my visible
baby bump. “Have you danced before?” he asked, each word crisp.
“Mostly musical theater stuff,” I gave him my best jazz hands, and
he looked suitably unimpressed.
He turned to Jim.
Jim grimaced. “A little, I mean, you know we waltzed for our
“Very well. Let’s start with a simple rock step. Like this.” He
demonstrated for Jim. “Step with your left for two counts, step with
your right for two counts, step back for one count—no, with your left
foot—step forward for one count. One, two, three, four, five, six—no,
other foot. Smaller steps, now. There we go.”
After a half dozen tries, Jim managed a passable rock step. His
rhythm was shaky, but the steps were in the right order. I cheered
Leo smirked at my antics. “Now, for the women’s part—”
“I know how to rock step,” I said, demonstrating.
Leo’s bushy eyebrows drew together, but he smiled. “A natural!
Very well. Why don’t you try it together? We’ll start in open position
. . . hands like this.”
Jim and I clasped fingers in front of us, facing each other directly,
and Leo began to count, “One, two . . .”
I tuned him out. Step, step, rock step . . .
As Jim and I stepped toward each other, my eyes widened in alarm.
I lost my balance, tipping forward and falling straight at Jim. My right
foot shot backward and my arms flailed as I tried to steady myself. Jim
caught me in his strong arms just as I let out a shriek. He righted me
back on my feet, and I stammered, “What happened?”
Leo pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I do know how to rock step!” I hurried to explain. Tipping over
would have been mortifying to begin with, but tipping over right after
I’d assured him I knew what I was doing? My cheeks felt red hot. “It’s
just . . . it felt different. I’m pregnant with twins, and the extra weight
threw me off. I just have to account for that.”
And my abs are weak! Goodness, how did they get so weak?
“Of course you do, hon,” Jim said, resting a comforting hand on my
“Mmm-hmm.” Leo pursed his lips. “Perhaps we should start from
the beginning for you as well.”
I stiffened my back. “Let’s run it again. I won’t fall this time.”
“Right-o, then. One, two, three, four, five, six . . .”
Step, step, rock step. Victory! True to my word, I put all of my focus
on my balance and didn’t fall. The rock step was a bit clunky—not my
finest work—but I tilted my chin at Leo in triumph.
Leo’s face remained fastidiously neutral.
Jim and I rock-stepped several more times, and then Leo said,
“Now, let’s turn the single steps into triple steps. Like this. Let’s do the
women’s part first.” He showed me how to triple step, and I didn’t
bother to tell him I already knew how.
“Ready?” he asked in that pristine British accent.
I nodded mutely.
He clapped his hands. “Go on, then. Rock step, tri-ple step, tri-ple
I kept my balance on the rock step, but as I finished the second
triple step, I felt a flash of horror. I was tipping forward . . . nothing to
be done . . . Leo’s quietly horrified face flashed before my eyes just as
Jim caught me again.
“Ahem,” said Leo, “so, we’ll want to work on your center of
I was sure I was blushing furiously, but I just said, “Let’s run it
again. I think I know where I went wrong.”
This time I focused on nothing but my balance, making sure to
lean back just a little on the transition to the second triple step. It
wasn’t my best dance move of all time, but at least I didn’t humiliate
Leo clicked his tongue. “That’ll do. Jim, why don’t you try? For
your part, you’re mirroring Kate’s movement, so you’ll want to step
back with your left foot . . .”
Jim stepped back with his right foot.
“Left foot,” said Leo, enunciating each word.
Jim stepped back with his left foot, and Leo broke down the triple
step movement by movement.
Jim gave it his most valiant effort but got tangled in his own feet.
“Alright, here’s where you went wrong,” said Leo.
Jim gave it another try and stumbled when he tried to triple-step
forward on the wrong foot. Three attempts in a row.
Leo sighed and massaged his temples. “Alright, why don’t we try it
Finally, Jim got the steps in the right order. I high-fived him, but
Leo muttered under his breath, “And yet no rhythm or musicality in
Jim laughed, totally unruffled, but annoyance flared in my chest.
Jim was working hard! There was no need for Leo to be sarcastic. He
knew Jim was a beginner.
“Run it again,” said Leo.
Jim took a triple step backward when he was supposed to rock-step.
He threw his hands out wide. “I am the worst,” he called. “I’m
sorry. I did that wrong.”
“Well, the customer is always right,” muttered Leo.
Maybe there was a mystery here at the dance studio—the mystery
of why Leo was such a pill.
I snapped, “Now look here—”
Angry shouts from the lobby cut me off. No, not just angry—enraged.
Jim and I glanced at each other in confusion, and then Jim darted
for the door. I followed, my heart hammering. We burst into the lobby
to see a short, balding man letting loose a string of epithets. Petunia
stood behind the desk staring him down.
“Dammit, woman, let me talk to the owners!” he screamed, a vein
bulging in his forehead.
Petunia didn’t say a word in response.
I sensed movement behind me, and then two men ran past us.
Dave and . . . no, Jack and Eddie.
Eddie planted himself in front of Balding Man, his arms crossed,
and Jack stood alongside the desk.
Balding Man fell into glowering silence.
“Get out of here, Monte,” hissed Petunia. “You know they’re not
“Oh yeah?” Monte demanded. “I don’t think you speak for them,
I bristled and stepped forward, about to give this idiot a piece of
my mind, but Eddie said calmly, “You’ll walk out that door in the next
three seconds, or I’ll call the police and have you arrested for tres‐
At the mention of the police, some of Monte’s bluster faded. He
took a step back.
“You’ll sell,” he spat. “You’ll see. Just you wait. You’re gonna be so
miserable you’ll want to pay me to take this crap hole off your hands.”
“Now what’s that supposed to mean?” Petunia put her hands on
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”I couldn’t stop reading!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Fast-paced and fun. I love these mysteires!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Diana Orgain is my new favorite author!”
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