Considering Kate Page 1

Chapter One

It was going to be perfect. She was going to see to it. Every step, every stage, every detail would be done precisely as she wanted, as she envisioned, until her dream became her reality. Settling for less than what was exactly right was a waste of time, after all. And Kate Kimball was not a woman to waste anything.

At twenty-five, she had seen and experienced more than a great many people did in a lifetime. When other young girls had been giggling over boys or worrying about fashion, she'd been traveling to Paris or Bonne, wearing glamorous costumes and doing extraordinary things.

She had danced for queens, and dined with princes.

She had sipped champagne at the White House, and wept with triumph and fatigue at the Bolshoi. She would always be grateful to her parents, to the big, sprawling family who'd given her the opportunities to do so. Everything she had she owed to them.

Now it was time to start earning it herself.

Dance had been her dream for as long as she could remember. Her obsession, her brother Brandon would have said. And not, Kate acknowledged, inaccurately. There was nothing wrong with an obsession—as long as it was theright obsession and you worked for it.

God knew she'd worked for the dance.

Twenty years of practice, of study, of joy and pain. Of sweat and toe shoes. Of sacrifices, she thought. Hers, and her parents. She understood how difficult it had been for them to let her, the baby of the family, go toNew York to study when she'd been only seventeen. But they'd never offered her anything but support and encouragement.

Of course, they'd known that though she was leaving the pretty little town inWest Virginia for the big city, she'd be surrounded—watched over—by family. Just as she knew they had loved and trusted—believed in her enough—to let her go in any case.

She'd practiced and worked, and had danced, as much for them as for herself. And when she'd joined the Company and had appeared on stage the first time, they'd been there. When she'd earned a spot as principal dancer, they'd been there.

She'd danced professionally for six years, had known the spotlight, and the thrillof feeling the music inside her body. She'd traveled all over the world, had become Giselle, Aurora, Juliet, dozens of characters both tragic and triumphant. She had prized every moment of it. No one was more surprised than Kate herself when she'd decided to step out of that spotlight and walk off that stage. There was only one way to explain it. She'd wanted to come home. She wanted a life, a real one. As much as she loved the dance, she'd begun to realize it had nearly absorbed and devoured every other aspect of her. Classes, rehearsals, performances, travel, media. The dancer's career was far more than slipping on toe shoes and gliding into the spotlight—or it certainly had been for Kate. So she wanted a life, and she wanted home. And, she'd discovered, she wanted to give something back for all the joy she'd reaped. She could accomplish all of that with her school. They would come, she told herself. They would come because her name was Kimball, and that meant something solid in the area. They would come because her name wasKate Kimball, and that meant something in the world of dance.

Before long, she promised herself, they would come because the school itself meant something. Time for a new dream, she reminded herself as she turned around the huge, echoing room. The Kimball School of Dance was her new obsession. She intended it to be just as fulfilling, just as intricate, and just as perfect as her old one.

And it would, no doubt, entail as much work, effort, skill and determination to bring to life. With her hands fisted on her hips, she studied the grime-gray walls that had once been white. They'd be white again. A clean surface for displaying framed posters of the greats. Nuryev, Fontayne, Baryshnikov, Davidov, Bannion.

And the two long side walls would be mirrored behind theirbarres. This professional vanity was as necessary as breathing. A dancer must see each tiny movement, each arch, each flex, even as the body felt it, to perfect the positioning.

It was really more window than mirror, Kate thought. Where the dancer looked through the glass to see the dance.

The old ceiling would be repaired or replaced—whatever was necessary. The furnace… she rubbed her chilly arms. Definitely replaced. The floors sanded and sealed until they were a smooth and perfect surface. Then there was the lighting, the plumbing, probably some electrical business to see to. Well, her grandfather had been a carpenter before he'd retired—or semiretired, she thought with affection. She wasn't totally ignorant of what went on in a rehab situation. And she'd study more, ask questions, until she understood the process and could direct the contractor she hired appropriately. Imagining what would be, she closed her eyes, dipped into a deep plié. Her body, long and wand-slim, simply flowed into the movement until her crotch rested on her heels, rose up again, lowered again. She'd bundled her hair up, impatient to get out and take another look at what would soon be hers. With her movements, pins loosened and a few locks of glossy black curls spilled out. Freed, they would fall to her waist—a wildly romantic look that suited her image on stage.

Smiling, a bit dreamy, her face took on a quiet glow. She had her mother's dusky skin and high, slashing cheekbones, her father's smoky eyes and stubborn chin.

It made an arresting combination, again a romantic one. The gypsy, the mermaid, the faerie queen. There had been men who'd looked at her, taken in the delicacy of her form, and had assumed a romanticism and fragility—and never anticipated the steel.

It was, always, a mistake.

"One of these days you're going to get stuck like that, then you'll have to hop around like a frog." Kate sprang up, eyes popping open. "Brandon!" With a full-throated war whoop, she leaped across the room and into his arms.

"What are you doing here? When did you get in? I thought you were playing Winter ball inPuerto Rico . How long are you staying?"

He was barely two years her senior—an accident of birth he'd used to torment her when they'd been children, unlike her half sister, Frederica, who was older than both of them and had never lorded it over them. Despite it, he was the love of her life.

"Which question do you want me to answer first?" Laughing, he held her away from him, taking a quick study of her out of tawny and amused eyes. "Still scrawny."

"And you're still full of it. Hi." She kissed him smackingly on the lips. "Mom and Dad didn't say you were coming home."

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