And a Time To Dance
Paperback: 208 pages
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
"It's an achingly beautiful story set in the splendor of the Colorado Mountains. Who could ask for more?"
- Lambda Literary Review.
by Chris Paynter
Corey Banner is happy in a six-year relationship with her partner Judy, and sees only a bright future ahead for them. But Corey’s life is turned upside down when a car accident tragically claims Judy’s life. Two years later, still broken and reeling from her painful loss, Corey moves from her home in Lansing, Michigan, to Grand Lake, Colorado. There, she hopes to begin healing.
Erin Flannery and her Aunt Tess are co-owners of Grand Lake’s Rainbow Lodge. Erin questions Tess’s immediate hiring of Corey as the lodge’s new head of maintenance—but then it takes a lot for a woman to earn Erin’s trust. Afraid to put her heart on the line after her partner’s betrayal five years before, Erin is not ready for any long-term commitment and covers her pain with meaningless one-night stands.
Although Corey and Erin start out on shaky ground, as the summer months go by their friendship slowly grows into something more. Will Corey take a leap of faith and allow love to enter her heart again? And will Erin stop running long enough to trust a woman who seems almost too good to be true?
Against the backdrop of the magnificent Rocky Mountains, Corey and Erin must decide: will they let fear rule their lives—or will they simply let go and dance another dance with love.
Chapter 11 is where Erin asks Corey to go two-stepping with her at a dude ranch. Will the night lead to something more than dancing?
Chapter 11 Excerpt
They parked in the lot at the dude ranch and followed couples strolling hand in hand to the corrals in the back. Overhead lights draped over a stage set up to the rear. To their right, several long tables overflowed with buckets of iced beer and bottled water for those not inclined to drink alcohol.
"The gray-haired guy with the goatee and banjo is Bill Cooper," Erin said, nodding toward the stage where four men warmed up their instruments. "He owns the ranch."
"Hey, Erin. Where's Tess tonight?" An older woman with graying, auburn hair approached them.
"She's staying at the lodge and taking care of guests. Our part-time desk clerk called in sick tonight." Erin motioned toward Corey. "This is Corey Banner, our new head of maintenance. Corey, this is Midge Cooper, Bill's wife."
Midge stuck out her hand. "Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Cooper."
Midge laughed. "Erin, where'd you find this one? Nobody has this kind of manners around here. Corey, we're on a first-name basis, all right?" Midge scrutinized them, as if trying to figure out if this was more than an employer showing her employee western hospitality.
Erin tugged Corey by the arm toward the beer table before Midge commenced with her game of twenty questions.
"If I remember right, you like Coors." Erin reached in a bucket and lifted out an ice-cold bottle dripping with water. She handed it to Corey and grabbed one for herself.
The band played the open notes of a fast country tune, and couples took to the dirt dance floor.
Erin challenged her. "Ready?"
Corey grimaced and held up her bottle. "Can I at least down this to get some courage?"
"Then no backing out, ya hear?"
"Oh, I hear all right." Corey sipped her beer as she watched the dancers.
Erin watched, too, tapping her toe to the beat. By the time the song ended, Corey had finished her beer.
"Nervous?" Erin asked, with a smile.
Corey opened her mouth to answer when something behind Erin caught her attention.
"Erin, how are you?"
Erin turned to see Lee ambling over. She was wearing a short jeans skirt with a denim shirt tied at the bottom over a white ribbed top. Her full breasts filled out the top, showing plenty of cleavage. She wore her cowboy hat low, cloaking her face in shadow.
Lee raised her chin at Corey. "What was your name again?"
"Corey," she answered with an even voice.
The two women stared at each other like gunslingers about to draw their six-shooters in the middle of town.
"Corey and I were about to dance. She's never two-stepped before."
"Why don't you and I show her how it's done, Erin?"
Erin was about to protest, but Corey silenced any refusal. "I'll wait, Erin. Go ahead."
Lee didn't need any more incentive. She grabbed Erin by the hand and pulled her toward the center of the dance area.
"You know, you were kind of rude," Erin said as the music started.
"She's a big girl. Besides, she needs to let two pros show her the moves."
Erin didn't say anything as she concentrated on following Lee's lead. She had to give Lee this much. She was good. Erin got lost in the music, not paying much attention to who she was dancing with. She searched for Corey who had drifted into the shadows. She seemed to be following their every move. Erin couldn't tell if she was concentrating on getting the steps down or if it was something else.
The song ended, and the band quickly started on the next.
"How about another go?" Lee asked.
"No, I promised Corey I'd show her how to two-step." Erin pulled out of her embrace and walked toward Corey. "Got your courage up yet?"
Corey set her beer on a nearby table. "One and a half beers gave me enough gumption."
Erin held out her left hand and Corey took it. She placed her other hand loosely on Corey's shoulder.
"Since I'll be leading, put your left hand on my arm here. You'll be able to feel which direction I'm headed when I squeeze your other hand."
"Okay." Corey lifted her head and gave a small sniff. "I smell lilacs."
"Uh... that's my perfume."
"Good. I mean it smells good."
"Thanks. Did you catch on any to the dancing?" Erin asked in a rush.
"First of all, don't let the experienced dancers scare you." She nodded toward couples doing fast spins around the dance floor. "I'll teach you the basics. Watch my feet at first. I'll lead. It's two quick steps forward. That's two quick steps back for you." She moved forward. "And then two slow steps. The beat is quick-quick-slow-slow, quick-quick-slow-slow."
Corey's brow furrowed, and the tip of her tongue stuck out of the side of her mouth.
God, she's adorable, Erin thought as they moved haltingly with the other dancers. Corey uttered an occasional "damn it" when her steps faltered.
"Now, don't look at our feet," Erin said.
"Are you crazy? If not, I'll fall on my ass."
"No you won't. Trust me. Raise your head and focus on me."
Corey met her eyes as another fast song drifted through the night air. The face lined in concentration had slipped away, and a much more heated expression had replaced it. This time, Erin stumbled. She quickly righted her steps.
They moved now with a smoother gait, almost as if they'd been dancing together for years. The music ended, and they stopped as the band led into a slow song. A lot of the couples left the dance floor. Erin still held Corey's right hand in her left with her other hand on Corey's shoulder.
Without thinking, she drew Corey closer and dropped her hand around Corey's waist. They swayed gently to the mournful country ballad. Eventually, Erin rested her cheek against Corey's. Corey trembled at the move. Erin wanted the song to last forever but had to settle for a few minutes of bliss in Corey's arms.
She reluctantly withdrew from the embrace when the song ended. "That was... nice."
"It was," Corey whispered. She shook her head slightly as if to regain her composure. "Do you mind if I sit the next one out? Lee's coming this way. I think she'll want to dance with you again."
Erin was about to say she didn't want to dance with another woman, but Corey had already drifted from under the overhead lights and into the darkness.
"She seemed to catch on fast." Lee reached out to take Erin's hand, but Erin turned away.
"I'm going to check on her."