Home > Best Foot Forward (Best Men Inc. Book 2)

Best Foot Forward (Best Men Inc. Book 2)
Author: Zoe Dawn

Chapter One

 

 

We have lift-off.

 

 

Tom, day 0

 

 

This had to be the place: Redwood Studios. A gleaming sign hung from the building with an image of fluid lines. I suppose they were two people dancing, if neither had any bones in their back.

I was a few minutes early, but I hated standing there looking like a perv so I hurried inside.

The young guy behind the reception desk put down his phone and casually upnodded at me. I tried to feel cool as I returned the gesture, but I was clearly a fish out of water at this cool little dance studio with its sleek white walls and gleaming wood floors.

“Who are you here for?” he asked.

“Rusty Best,” I said, my stomach flip-flopping. “At three. I’m a little early.”

“Oh, yeah. Head on through. Rusty’s in studio six. If you need to change, men’s rooms are over there.” He pointed, then picked up his phone again.

No helpful advice on when I should change shoes, whether this place had air conditioning that worked better inside the studios, or anything else remotely useful. I thanked him anyway.

This was ludicrous. Tom Wright, learning to dance? I was hopelessly clumsy and out of place, and here I was about to meet some dance instructor. No doubt a perky young thing who didn’t understand how a forty-year-old man’s spine worked.

Forty and a bit, I reminded myself. Soon I was going to have to round it to the next multiple of five. What on Earth was I doing here, passing studios full of six-year-olds who could outshine me?

I wanted to turn tail and run. I could awkwardly sway on the spot, right? Nobody really needed to know how to dance.

But I wasn’t doing it for myself—I was here for my daughter’s sake.

Instead of fleeing, I walked quietly along the hallway, following the signs to studio six. No need to change: I’d worn loose slacks and a button-down shirt, to give me more room to move than my suit.

Beth’s wedding was in a week’s time, and I’d be damned if I was going to let her down. Everyone expected me to be someone I wasn’t. Not yet, anyway.

Confident? Suave? One foot each of the left and right variety? I’d settle for adequate right now. I didn’t want my only daughter to be embarrassed at my lack of style, so here I was. Showing up to learn the two-step like the straightest gay man ever.

I could identify studio six by the obnoxious laughter of the groomsmen, who were currently learning their own routine. The noise spilled into the hallway, disturbing everyone in nearby studios.

Bunch of spoiled boys, I thought and made a face. I’d had the misfortune of meeting most of them last night. They were just as awful as my new son-in-law. He was the biggest man-child of them all. He had a bank account like a trust fund kid, but the attitude of a new-money spoiled brat who dressed like a frat boy and swore like a sailor.

No guy was good enough for my Beth, of course. But this guy especially wasn’t. Still, I’d have her back no matter what choice she made. I’d just never been able to persuade her to see past petty little Jason Walker and his charming façade.

I ground my jaw. I’d find an opportunity this week to get him alone and scare him straight. I knew damned well what he thought of me.

Gay, divorced, and single—the perfect object of derision. He’d never said anything out loud, but I could tell from the way his whole family talked to me on the two occasions I’d met his parents. Awful people, both of them.

My Beth thought she could change him, but she forgot the most important lesson of my life: men didn’t change.

I slipped into the studio and went unnoticed in the fresh wave of raucous laughter.

Almost unnoticed.

I froze when I caught one man’s eye on me. He was the only unfamiliar one. He couldn’t be more different from the rest of the guys with their generic haircuts and faces.

This was Rusty, without a doubt. He wore clingy red shorts and a black crop top with a metallic pink foil heart emblazoned on it. It exposed a slender midriff full of more abs than I’d ever dreamed of. His short red hair was swept to the side. His full lips and long lashes made my chest flutter with appreciation.

That was all, right? Just appreciation.

Rusty nodded in greeting and gestured toward the three chairs against the wall. The studio had a wooden floor and brick walls, and the lights overhead cast a warm glow across the room. Along one wall stretched a mirror and ballet barre. Heaven forbid I should ever use that. The mirror would probably shatter to avoid watching me.

Feeling like I was back in school, I gulped and returned the nod. Then I took a seat on the hard wooden chair as Rusty returned his attention to the group. Cool air blew from the vent in the ceiling across my skin, a blessed relief on a hot July day.

I watched Rusty, because how could I resist? He was so clearly the most self-assured man in the room, despite the groomsmen snickering at each other. I rolled my eyes, quickly realizing what was going on. They sucked at this, so they were trying to pretend they didn’t want to do better.

Maybe there was some hope that I wouldn’t get thrown out of the studio ten minutes into this lesson. Rusty was maintaining admirable patience with them all.

He was strong yet willowy, with a body any man would dream of having—or holding close. The body ripple he showed them was nothing like their attempts to imitate it. He moved like a swirl of smoke through the dimly-lit air of an old bar downtown years ago.

It brought back a surge of memories and heat at the same moment. If only I were ten years younger, I thought.

“That’s it for now. Practice that and when you come back on Wednesday, you’ll do better.”

“I doubt it.” One of them scoffed as he headed for the door. “I thought this would be easier.”

“You’re not professionals,” Rusty countered, tucking his thumbs under his crossed arms, in the holes of his crop top. “And you have a week to learn this. Nobody will be expecting perfection. Just try your best, for Beth’s sake. As long as you have fun, nobody will mind if you screw up.”

My smile grew at my daughter’s name. Rusty was right. This was all an elaborate production for the Walkers to show off their wealth. As long as Beth was happy, that was what mattered. A bit of nice food, wine, and dancing would be enough for us—not just me, but also Chrissy and Kenneth, my ex-wife and her new husband.

All the over-the-top shit? The rehearsal dinner, live band, mile-long dinner menu? That was Jason and his parents trying to prove that money made up for lack of class.

“Hello,” Rusty greeted me with a smile. “I’m Rusty. You must be Tom!”

Even though he’d just dealt with the most exhausting group of man-boys I’d met, he seemed perky. Maybe he was happy to work with me and have a break from them.

“I am.” I reached out to shake hands, but he bypassed it.

Instead, he wrapped one arm loosely around my shoulders and kissed my cheek. “So pleased to meet the father of the bride!”

I tingled instantly, torn between freezing on the spot and kissing him back. But the moment had already passed and he grabbed me by the hand to tow me in front of the mirrors.

Like he’d poured squirming butterflies of guilty pleasure into my chest, my cheeks went red.

Don’t flirt with Rusty right here, I told myself. It’ll only give the pricks more ammo against me. I don’t want them to spoil my little girl’s wedding.

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