Claire Ross has never been good enough. Not for the girls in the elite group of dancers in her class and certainly not for the approval of her ballet teacher, Mr. Robins. She definitely doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror. Simply put, she doesn’t love herself, so how could she possibly love someone else?
After twelve years of friendship, Sebastian Reyes’ adoring gaze holds more. They soon find themselves unable to control their feelings for one another.
When tragedy strikes, Claire finds herself in a very unlikely and unfavorable position. Regardless of the weight of the emotion, she must make difficult decisions that impact the rest of her life.
Will Claire see that her true love has been right in front of her? Happily ever after isn’t just for fairy tales. To get hers, all she has to do is trust, open her heart and fall.
“I gotta go. I’m sure my mom is waiting on me.”
“I need you to put your shoes back on and come with me for a minute.”
I shake my head. “I can’t, Sebastian.”
His eyes are pleading with me. I’ve known him almost my entire life, and I’m not sure why it’s so important, but he’s serious. “She’ll be mad if she sees people leaving and I’m not out there.”
“Tell her you got held up…in trouble with Robins.”
I laugh. “Sad thing is she would probably believe that.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before I changed?” I roll my eyes and plop down on a bench.
He paces in front of me, rubbing his hands together. “Stupid Audrina wanted to practice something.”
“Of course she did.”
“C’mon, Claire.” He rolls his hands together like he’s doing some disco dance or something.
“Your jig isn’t helping. Chill.” I take a couple of deep breaths. The truth of the matter is that he’s had me breaking all kinds of rules, living on the edge today. My nerves started out as these perfectly polished and sparkly little crystals. And then in a matter of hours, he’s managed to add some air and heat then spin them into cotton candy. Sticky, messy, bundles of the same crystals waiting for him to slowly devour at his leisure. “You’re making me nervous.”
“You think I’m making you nervous?”
I glance up through my lashes. “Yeah.”
I tuck my bows under the ribbons and stand up. “Okay. All finished. Now what did you want with me?”
We walk back into the studio through one of the back doors. Robins is at the front desk chatting with some of the company moms about tomorrow. Nutcracker tryouts. I can’t believe I forgot.
Sebastian turns and faces me. We’re in the same spot as we were earlier before Audrina so rudely interrupted us the second time.
I cover my mouth. “I forgot about tomorrow being Nutcracker tryouts. Robins didn’t even mention it in class.”
“Well, of course you didn’t.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing.” It means you’re making me a total mess, Sebastian. But of course, you’re completely level-headed. Mom said this would happen. And I’m about to get in trouble. Busted. Probably grounded. Boy trouble. Let the fun begin. “What did you want?”
“I want you to pirouette then fall backward and let me catch you.”
“Absurd. And I don’t have time for this.” I shake my head. “Sebastian, I don’t know what you’re trying to prove. It’s sweet, but I’m never going to be your partner.”
He balls his fists and clenches his eyes closed. I’ve seen him pissed at Robins. They get into it all the time. “Just do it, Claire.”
“Fine.” I huff. I do a passé relevé, push my feet into the floor, and pull my ribs in as my body starts to turn. Finally, when the momentum starts going, unaware of where Sebastian is, I have to totally trust him, and I let my body fall backward. “Ahh.” My scream is muffled as my body is flipped and my face lands against his mouth. The kiss is quick.
“Shh. I’ve got you. Thank you for sparing my balls.”
I sigh in his arms and start to giggle.
He grins and puts his finger over my lips. “I don’t want Robins to kick us out. Before Audrina interrupted us, I was trying to show you something.” He puts his hands back on my hips. “Hand in mine.” I put my hand in his, and he rests his other one on my hip. “Promenade into an arabesque en pointe and watch yourself in the mirror.”
Doing as I’m told, I try to forget that my mother is probably ready to scold me or rip me a new one in the car. Never mind the disturbing thought she may have to even come in to get me. What would she say if she saw me in Sebastian’s arms after our conversation last night? She knows I’m not his partner. She knows I’m not even doing partners work. Would she be happy for me? Or would she know I was just doing this because I liked him? Focus, Claire. Now’s not the time to be distracted. Focus.
“Do you see yourself, Claire? Do you see what I see in the mirror?” he asks.
I shake my head. “I don’t know.”
“I see grace. I see beauty. I see so much potential. Lift your head up.”
When he tells me to do something, I don’t even think twice. My head automatically lifts. Is that how this partner thing works? It just comes naturally like that? And do bodies move so easily with each other? Don’t people step on each other’s toes or fall over each other’s feet? “Is that all you see?”
“I see an incredible dancer. And I wanted you to see her before you audition tomorrow. I wanted you to hear me in your ear, and I wanted you to see us in your head. More than anything, Claire, I want you to believe in yourself.” And when I least expect it, his hand shifts to below my thigh right under my knee and tilts me downward into a fish dive. I improvise as to how I think I’m supposed to be positioned because I’ve watched enough of them, studied enough. It’s a pretty horrible form, but we don’t fall, so I guess that counts for something.
Even though I know I’m not going to get a partner role or any big part, the fact he would do this for me, that he’d go through this to try to show me what he sees in me, means so much. “Thank you, Sebastian. This is so special to me.” But I’m going to be in so much trouble with my mom I may not even get to try out for Nutcracker.
“You still don’t see what I see in the mirror, do you?”
I glance away. “It took years to lose myself.” I shrug. “It’s going to take more than a day and a dance to find me.”
“You just let me jab my tongue down your fuckin’ throat. Now answer the question.”
“You can’t answer it or you can’t trust me?”
Maybe both. I wish he’d let me fix my shirt. “It’s complicated.”
“No, it’s not.”
He’s stubborn too. A match made in heaven. Great. “I trust you or I wouldn’t be here.”
“Progress. Good. I trust you or you wouldn’t be here, either. I want to do more than just play your music, Claire. I’ve wanted to do more than that from the moment I saw you, and I’ve never wanted that with any girl at that school before. So, do I wanna play with the ice? Fuck yeah. You have no idea the things I wanna do to you and your pretty little dancer body.” He smirks. “Am I allowed to say that? Use pretty in other contexts where you’re concerned? Or is the word pretty a hard limit in its entirety?” My arms cross over my chest because never have I felt so exposed, so vulnerable, yet so sexy and wanted. “Quit tryin’ to cover yourself up, dammit. You’re beautiful. Don’t you believe that?”
I shake my head. “Pretty in other contexts is fine, just not pretty girl.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
It was my hope to avoid it. “What question?” He’s already figured out I’m a terrible liar, so I’m sure this won’t go over very well.
He cocks his head and takes a step closer, which I didn’t know was possible. “I don’t really get off on whips and chains, riding crops, that kind of stuff. I’m not into hardcore BDSM. I just dabble from time to time when the mood or the need hits me.” I’m pretty sure my eyes are about to detach from my head. What. The. Hell. Have. I. Gotten. Myself. Into? “But I do love to spank. Don’t play games.”
When I was five years old I wanted to be a ballerina, so my mom signed me up for dance. Over the next ten years, I explored all three styles: tap, jazz, and ballet. Tap ended up being my favorite, and I studied it for ten years, ballet for four, and jazz for one.
The years I took ballet, I was told to grow my bangs out, to wear my hair in a bun because that’s what ballerinas do. When I ate my snacks from the convenience store because that’s what my single mom bought me after school on her way to drop me off at the studio, I was ridiculed and told if I lost just a few pounds, I’d be the perfect size for a ballerina. I was in elementary school. Looking back at those pictures, I wasn’t fat. Not even close. After my entire class was promoted to pointe and I wasn’t, I quit ballet.
While this story is fiction, there is a lot of me in Claire, but it only takes a few minutes to read the trending headlines to see that this happens to a widespread audience every day. I think there is a lot of every girl in Claire.
Do you like every part of yourself when you look in the mirror? Or did someone, society, make you feel if you lost just a little bit more weight or changed a small part of who you were, you’d be better in their eyes? And then after so long you found you didn’t like the person you saw through your own eyes, didn’t even recognize her?
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so.
When I started this book, that’s not the message I’d hoped to spread or share, but that’s what it ended up being. Like all of my other books, Claire’s story was cathartic for me because it helped me release a part of my past I didn’t realize I’d been hanging onto so tightly. As much as I loved dance, those years in the studio damaged me. But on the contrary, each day in the studio, each mean girl, each hurtful comment, they took an oyster and produced a pearl. A one-of-a-kind, oddly shaped, uniquely colored, and beautiful pearl.
Every day since writing Heartfall I’ve tried so hard to look in the mirror and find something I like about myself or to ignore something I’d ordinarily criticize, and I challenge you to do the same.
We’re all beautiful and strong women. This is Claire’s story on finding her beauty and strength. Along the way, she’s blessed to find incredible love too. I hope you enjoy it.
AMIE'S 5 STAR REVIEW
What a great story - Heartfall - how about Heartbreaking , Heartwarming , Heartfelt , Heartshattering LOL it was so much more than it seemed to be and I enjoyed every minute of it and did a bit of crying - in the dance studio parking lot - how fitting right !!
Claire's story not only tackles bullying but so many other real life issues - without spoiling I can't say too much. Not only does she fight her way to achieve her goals and dreams but she fights guilt , heartache and sacrifices so much. We meet Claire as a high school dancer that suffers the cruel words of her fellow dancers and teacher , lack of money due to having a single hard working mom and poor self esteem due to so many things. It is hard to read Claire and not feel for her and wish for her to come out with an HEA. Her one friend - Sebastian - finally after 12 years takes her under his wing and they fall in love and enjoy the world of dance through their own eyes. This of course doesn't stop Claire's issues but it does help make them seem smaller and give her some confidence. Sebastian and his family love Claire and it is great for her to have them. Of course there comes a devastating chain of events that blew me away. It was heartbreaking to follow and then when we see Claire 3 years later it is shocking to see what she has given up to get where she is. This is where we meet Liam. His story is a bit of a mystery at first. Not a college student , he works security at the college yet for the first time he has become intrigued by one of the students. Liam and Claire have a connection yet they both are guarded - things progress quickly yet the pain Claire is holding back may prevent her from finding a new happiness. Can Liam break through her walls ?? Then a shocking connection comes into play that I kind of expected yet it still blew me away. I won't even comment on that little extra POV we got at the end - I read that 3 times trying to make sure I was understanding it all correctly !! WOW way to pull a story together and build a beautiful ending off of what was a heartbreaking start. Also the way the title comes into play is brilliant !! I love that - nothing better than reading along and saying "OMG this is why the title is what it is !!"
J.B. McGee was born and raised in Aiken, South Carolina. She is the mother of two beautiful children and a stay at home mom/entrepreneur. She finished her Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of South Carolina-Aiken in 2006. During her time studying children's literature, a professor had encouraged her to become a writer.
In 2011, it was discovered that both of her children, she, and her husband have Mitochondrial Disease, a disease that has no cure or treatments. Being a writer allows J.B. to remain close to her family, work on raising awareness for this disease, and to lose herself in the stories that she creates for her readers.
J.B. McGee and her family now reside in Buford, Georgia. She is an Amazon Top 100 bestselling author of her debut series, the 'THIS' Series.