Ballerina Dad

by Amy Aislin

Attending his daughter’s holiday dance recital should be easy for pro hockey player Patrick Barnes. Showing up in a tutu, however, wasn’t exactly part of the plan. And yet the holidays get even more interesting when he bumps into Lee, the man he let get away in high school.

Ballet instructor Lee can’t believe who just walked into his studio. He also can’t believe how quickly the flare of attraction between he and Patrick resurfaces, despite the decade that’s gone by since they last spoke.

In high school, they let opportunities get away. Now, almost twenty years later, is it possible they’ll have a chance to pursue the spark that has come back to life after just one conversation?

Holidays are a time for giving, and neither Patrick nor Lee are about to take this particular gift for granted.

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Excerpt:

“Are we there yet?”

“Not yet, baby girl.”

Patrick glanced at his four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Jordan, in the rearview mirror. Strapped into her booster seat, she clutched her well-loved stuffed bunny. Mr. Mutsy had been drooled on, vomited on, spat up on, and when Jordan was two, drawn on with a purple Sharpie. It was tattered and faintly smelly, yet she still refused to go anywhere without it.

She sang a song under her breath that sounded vaguely like “bee-boop-bee-bee-bah-boop-bo!” Her lyrics needed work, but he had to give the kid credit: she could lay down a sick beat.

“Daddy, now are we there yet?”

We’re about thirty seconds away from the last time you asked. In Jordan’s defense, she was excited because it was Parents’ Day at her ballet class.

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“Five more minutes,” he said, exiting the highway. The wipers worked against the windshield, swishing away the wet snow falling from the slate-grey sky. Nine days until Christmas and it still wasn’t cold enough to snow properly in this bustling suburb of Toronto.

Parents’ Day was actually Moms’ Day at the ballet studio, but his ex-wife, Jordan’s mom, had been called away on a last-minute business trip, leaving Patrick as the sole parent to Jordan for the weekend. Jordan had been so excited to have him come to her ballet studio for the first time that he couldn’t say no, even though he was dead sure that he was about to have his non-ballet-dancing ass handed to him by a bunch of tiny four- and five-year-old girls in shiny pink tutus.

It was just his bad luck that his team skate today was optional.

They were a few blocks away from the studio when Jordan said, “Daddy, Ash said we can record and take pictures. Did you remember to bring the video camera?”

Ash was Ashley, Jordan’s ballet instructor. “I have it, honey.”

Said video camera sat ominously on the passenger seat next to him. Maybe the batteries were dead. Or the room would be too dark and the recording wouldn’t come out clearly. He could always “accidentally” drop it in a puddle.

“Good, ’cause I want Mommy to see our dance when she gets home. You’re gonna be one of the only boys, Daddy. Are you nervous?”

Nervous? He was a pro hockey player. A veteran pro hockey player. He didn’t get nervous. What he was was oh-my-God-if-word-of-this-gets-out-to-my-teammates-I’ll-never-live-it-down anxious. His nickname would go from Pattycakes to Pirouetting Patrick or Ballerina Barnes.

“No, I’m not nervous,” he replied, pulling into the studio’s parking lot. Jordan had unhooked herself from her booster seat and was out the door almost before he turned off the engine. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Patrick opened his door and stuck his head out to find Jordan already a row over, Mr. Mutsy tucked into her purple backpack, and a small gift bag clutched in her right hand—Ashley’s Christmas present. “Where do you think you’re going in such a hurry?”

Jordan huffed impatiently and dragged her booted feet as she made her way back to him. She was adorable in her white tights and purple winter jacket. The hem of her pink tutu peeked out from beneath her jacket. Her brown curls were piled atop her head in a sloppy, lopsided bun she’d insisted on doing herself. The mix of rain and snow had slowed, yet occasional drops still landed on her head and shoulders.

“Wait for me, please.” Getting out of this car may have been the last thing he wanted to do, but his kid was the most important thing in the world to him. She was the only one he’d brave this day for.

“Come on, Daddy.” Exasperated, Jordan grabbed his hand and pulled. “We’re gonna be late.” Actually, they were about ten minutes early. “We still have to put the sparkly glitter makeup on.” We? That puddle was looking more and more likely.

“I’m coming. I’m coming.” Patrick exited the car and pocketed his keys. As he straightened, the fluffy, bright-pink and purple tutu around his waist snagged against the seat belt.

“Daddy!” Jordan fixed the tutu so that the giant fuchsia bow was once again centred in front.

“Am I presentable now?”

“Yup.” Jordan nodded in satisfaction, grabbed his hand again, and started for the studio’s front doors. “Let’s go.”

They were halfway across the parking lot when Jordan gasped and stopped short, almost causing him to run her over.

“Daddy, the camera! You forgot it. We have to show Mommy and all your hockey friends our dance.”

Forget the puddle. It was going into the lake.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Kenna on Joyfully Jay wrote:

Patrick Barnes, a professional hockey player, finds himself at his four-year-old daughter’s Christmas ballet recital. It’s mother/daughter dance day (now, Parents’ Day thanks to him). He’s wearing a tutu, even though none of the moms are, and covered in glitter…all for the love of the little girl.

Patrick’s daughter, Jordan, absolutely loves Ash, her ballet teacher. She’s even brought him a gift for the holidays. As Patrick is sitting there, waiting for the show to start, he sets eyes on Ash. It turns out “Ash” is a man he knew in high school. Only he knew him as “Lee” (short for Ashley). They’d always exchanged longing looks, but they were never single at the same time. Now, as adults, the pull toward one another is very powerful, even though Ash/Lee thinks Patrick is married.

When the recital is over, Patrick and Lee talk, and Patrick tells Lee he’s most definitely not married, and he’d love to see him tonight. Their first date is, shall we say…ahem…successful, and even though it’s fast, they know they’re made for each other. Patrick and Lee finally get to see their Christmas wish come true.

I. Loved. This! It was a short, terribly sweet, and to the point story about two men who’d been able to come together after 17 years. It made my heart happy and put me right into the Christmas spirit.

Because it’s not a long story, there wasn’t really a lot of chance for character development, but it’s written well enough that I felt like I knew Patrick and Lee as soon as they appeared. Their chemistry is off the charts from the moment they see each other again, and wow, are they sexy! The one sex scene in the story was incredibly hot, and they fit together perfectly.

The book takes place within a ten-day period, and that’s plenty of time. We go from seeing each other, to an amazing first date, to Lee’s first hockey game, to Christmas eight days later. Just enough to give a taste. In fact, I would more than happily read a longer book focusing on them should the author choose to write one. (Hint. Hint.)

There are a few background characters here, including Patrick’s ex wife Lydia and his parents. The only one to play a major role in the story is Jordan, Patrick’s daughter. She was outright adorable! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there’s a fine line with children in books. They can sometimes be too precious, or too precocious. Jordan was just right with her excitement and love for “Ash,” and the drive to and arrival at the dance studio was charming and hilarious, exactly like a four year old.

The ending was sweet and perfect. It tied up neatly, and I was completely satisfied with it. The whole story was satisfying, and it’s exactly what you need if you’re looking for a something to keep you company as you enjoy a cup of eggnog next to the tree. I definitely recommend this one.


About the Author

I started writing on a rainy day in fourth grade when my class was forced to stay inside for recess. Tales of adventures with my classmates quickly morphed into tales of adventures with the characters in my head. Based in the suburbs of Toronto, I'm a marketer at a large environmental non-profit in Toronto by day, and a writer by night. Book enthusiast, animal lover and (very) amateur photographer, my interests are many and varied, including travelling, astronomy, ecology, and baking.