Ever since their first encounter, Chris had kept tabs on Erik’s career. When he learned the virtuoso had written and choreographed a ballet—one featuring same-sex romance, an unusual achievement for a large-scale production—and was looking for dancers, he knew he had to at least audition or he’d regret it forever. After years of participating in old-fashioned roles, he now dreamed of taking part in a gay pas de deux. He’d saved for months, working as a coffee barista in Seattle, before buying his one-way ticket to London to chase an unlikely fairytale.
Now, he stood only a few feet away from the legend himself. Many years had passed, and now that Chris was an adult, he could see Erik wasn’t just pretty anymore; he was wiser, self-possessed, emitting an aura of stoic coolness. The smile came less easily to Erik’s lips; there was a little more distance in his eyes. Though he was charming, Chris could tell he had a thing or two on his mind.
The temperature in the room seemed to rise as Chris fanned himself and turned back to the bar. Grace had set down her drink and joined the growing mob around Erik.
“Oh my God,” Chris muttered. “He’s stunning.”
Kevin shrugged. “I heard he’s a huge asshole. His nickname is Prima Donna Boy.”
Chris instantly crossed his arms with disproval, as if he knew Erik like a friend. “I don’t think he’s an asshole. He was really nice when I met him, even though I was just some random person.”
“If you’re so wowed, why don’t you go talk to him?”
Chris stared at him in pure horror. “No way. No.” He thought about it for a second, then firmly shook his head. “No!” he repeated loudly. Perhaps the force of his tone could push away temptation.
“Why not? What’s the big deal?”
“I’d make a fool out of myself, do something clumsy, as always.”
“Dude. Chris. You’ve got to be more confident if you want to be a big-league dancer.”
He was right, but it wasn’t that simple. His flaws—and how much he hated to let Erik see them—consumed his thoughts. Sweat still dewed his skin from the walk over. He also wore glasses and hadn’t bothered cleaning the lenses in his rush. Not to mention his underdressed appearance.
Looking down at the cuff of his shirt, he noticed some loose threads. No way would he test fate by hitting on the prince. Instead, he pulled at the threads, watching Erik from a distance. His heart deflated minute by minute as his idol’s eyes never seemed to land on him. Erik passed by, and Chris caught a whiff of his clean cologne. A greeting rose to the tip of his tongue, just a thought, but by the time the word rose in his throat, Erik was gone.
Erik made his way to the back of the bar, where a mic stood ready. As he spoke, his accent was still noticeable, though his English was more polished, and his voice was the same as Chris remembered—effortlessly smooth.
“Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen. I know many of you have travelled from across the globe to try out for Swan Song. My name is Erik Magnusson, and I am the creator and debut choreographer. Over here is the director, Johan Goldman.” Erik gestured to his side and a bespectacled, middle-aged man with a generous forehead bowed before the speech continued.
“Inspired by the ballet Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and The Dying Swan by Mikhail Fokine, we wanted to create a modern take on old ballet stories, featuring a progressive storyline. The lead will be Odetto, played by myself—a phantom who is in love with Ledo. Ledo is the secondary lead, the dying prince who must choose which phantom to follow into the afterlife. There are thirty roles to fill for this production, and we look forward to seeing you audition tomorrow at the Royal Ballet Studio. Bonne chance.”
He bowed and everyone broke into applause. Chris was mid-sip and hurriedly moved to set his drink down to join the clapping.
Except it didn’t land on the bar table.
Chris gasped as the glass plummeted to the floor, shattering against the wood.
Kevin nearly broke into laughter but, assuming the role of amazing friend, attempted clapping louder to cover up the crash. Instead, even more eyes locked onto them.
Including Erik’s. He’d finally noticed Chris’s existence, but not for the reason Chris had hoped. Chris’s whole body burned as Erik immediately looked away.
As the bartender began cleaning up the mess, Chris hovered around the crime scene, mortified. “I’m so sorry. So sorry.”
Kevin looped his large arm around his shoulders. “Hey, is it just me, or is Prima Donna Boy looking right at you?” he teased.
“Shut up!” Chris hissed, his face growing hotter.
He spent the rest of the evening maintaining a low profile, speaking only with Kevin and using his friend’s height as a shield against curious eyes. As soon as the obligatory hour of party-presence was spent, he bolted—intent on using the rest of the night to furiously plan how to not embarrass himself a second time.