It’s no secret that I love Heidi Cullinan! Carry the Ocean wowed me and Dance With Me was a revelation. Last week she released Enjoy the Dance, book 2 in her gorgeous Dance With Me series, and it’s Heidi at her very best! Sweet, introspective, sexy as hell, and character rich.
Here’s an excerpt to get you just as excited as I am for this book! And don’t say I didn’t warn you…
There was a sparkle to Tomás’s voice he’d never heard before. Like Duon, dance was where Tomás’s passion lay.
It wasn’t Spenser’s. In fact, he frankly hated to dance. He’d been keenly aware every time he went clubbing that some people had natural rhythm and some people did not. He was one of the latter.
Sometimes he wondered if his failure at dance was the reason he never dated. Hookups only wanted a bed, but dates always seemed to involve a dance floor, which meant whatever charm Spenser had managed up until that part of the evening evaporated in five minutes of awkward gesticulations. So now he only hooked up, never dated, and never danced, full stop. Not even at weddings.
But he had made a bargain with Duon, and though initially he’d planned to weasel out, he decided as a parent now his job was to stick to his word. He could hide under his covers and work through his mortification once he was alone at home.
The bell rang to announce the end of noon recess, and Spenser stopped thinking about dance lessons and how much he didn’t want them. Not until the bell rang again, signaling the end of the day, letting him know it was time to pay the piper.
He half-hoped Duon had forgotten, but he had no such luck. Grinning wide enough to split his face, eyes dancing with anticipation, Duon leaped into the car when Spenser approached the high school. “You ready for your lesson, teach?”
Spenser gave a defeatist salute, and Duon laughed. He then peppered Spenser with questions—did he know this move or that one, and he was incredulous when every question received a “no, I don’t” as the answer. Thankfully, it wasn’t far from Duon’s school to the studio, so Spenser didn’t have to endure this for long. Unfortunately, this also meant it was that much less time until Spenser walked into the boy’s locker room, clutching his duffel and wondering what in the hell he’d gotten himself into.
Tomás was in there already, wearing a tight T-shirt and a pair of shorts barely covering his ass and showcasing his…everything. He was a little taller than Spenser and significantly more muscular, though not like Laurie’s husband. His muscles were lean but well-defined.
They were also highly distracting.
Tomás hugged Duon and wished him congratulations on his new official home, and then he smiled at Spenser, an eager grin making the sparkle in his eyes that much brighter. “You ready for your dancing lesson?”
“Hell yes, he is,” Duon answered for him, tossing his arm around Spenser’s shoulders.
Spenser disentangled himself gently from his charge. “I’m fairly sure I’m about to make a fool of myself, but I made Duon a promise, and I intend to keep it.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll go easy on you.” Tomás winked, and Spenser blushed.
He tried to hide in the back, but both Duon and Tomás insisted he be up front. Duon wanted this because he was in the front, Tomás because he pointed out he could see his instruction from there. There were twelve other students, all of them teenagers, most of them male, exactly one of them white—Spenser. Until Laurie came out of his office to lean on the doorway and watch, Spenser was the only one melanin-challenged in the whole studio.
And yes, he understood dancing ability wasn’t correlated to race—the owner of the studio being exhibit A—but he couldn’t help feeling like everyone else present had come with not only a crib sheet but the teacher’s edition to the lesson Tomás was giving. They didn’t laugh at him when he screwed up every single step, but that was almost worse. And the more badly he performed, the more nervous he became, until he left the floor, red-faced, making a great show of drinking from the fountain on the side of the room until he could get his mortification under control.
This was worse than his failed dates in college. This was a goddamned nightmare.
He wanted to call it quits, but when he saw Duon watching him, smiling and motioning impatiently for him to come back to the dance, he knew he couldn’t. Spenser was almost wooden now as he endured the lesson, no longer trying to keep up, only doing his best to get to the end of this class so he could never, ever offer to do something so awful again.
But when it was over, Tomás and Duon ganged up on him, telling him what a good job he’d done. Spenser couldn’t handle it any longer. “Are you insane? I was awful.”
Tomás held up his hands. “Whoa, whoa. You weren’t awful. And you had a pretty big disadvantage, because we’ve been working on this routine for months now.”
Spenser wasn’t having any of this. His face was red, with exertion, with embarrassment, and with decades-old shame. “I’ve never been able to dance. And it turns out when you don’t try for ten years, you get worse.”
Duon and Tomás exchanged a look. Then Duon scuttled toward the locker room. When Spenser attempted to follow, Tomás caught him gently by the elbow and led him to the floor. “Oh no. You, Mr. Harris, are getting another dancing lesson.”
Spenser broke free of the grip and backed away. “No, thank you.”
Tomás did a fancy step and blocked him. When Spenser went the other direction, Tomás blocked him again. And again. When Spenser sighed in frustration, Tomás winked at him. “See? You’re a natural. You’re dancing right now.”
It had been a long day, the next day would be longer if the amendment passed, and Spenser didn’t need this. “I don’t care if I can dance or not. I want to go home.”
“I can’t let you go, not when you’re this frustrated. I’d be a terrible teacher if I allowed you to leave.”
Oh, this was a low blow, because of course he was right. Spenser went for blunt. “I’m tired.”
But Tomás wasn’t having it. “Fifteen minutes. Give me fifteen minutes.”
“Take an hour.” This came from Laurie, who stood at the door to the studio with Duon, who now wore loose sweats and a winter jacket. “I owe a young man some ice cream, and the next class got cancelled because Susan’s sick.” He waved at Spenser. “Knock ’em dead, tiger.”
And just like that, Spenser had landed himself in the middle of an hour-long private lesson.
Dance With Me by Heidi Cullinan:
Dance with your heart, and love will follow.
Kindergarten teacher Spenser Harris has carved a quiet, stable future out of his tumultuous past, but his world turns upside down the night a homeless teen appears on his doorstep—a boy whose story mirrors the one Spenser has worked so hard to overcome. The decision to shelter Duon is easy. What’s tricky is juggling the network of caregivers in Duon’s life, especially Tomás Jimenez.
Tomás wouldn’t have hesitated to take Duon in, but his plate is already full working three jobs to support his family. Though Spenser’s carefully constructed walls are clearly designed to keep the world at bay, Tomás pushes past Spenser’s defenses, determined to ensure the man is worthy of his charge. As the two of them grow closer, Tomás dares to dream of a life beyond his responsibilities, and Spenser begins to believe he might finally find a home of his own after all.
But Spenser and Tomás’s world is poised to crash around their ears. Duon’s grandmother isn’t sure she wants him to be raised by a gay man and challenges Spenser’s custody. Tomás’s undocumented parents could be deported at any time, and all the while the state of Minnesota votes on a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the US Supreme Court debates whether or not Spenser and Tomás get a happily ever after. All they can do is hold tight to their love, hope for a better future…and remind each other to enjoy the dance.