Out of Hiding
After graduating from high school early, twenty-year-old Philippe Bergeron spent the past several years lost among the stars while fishing off the New England coast. A shoulder injury ends his dream of living reclusively on the water, and he finds himself lost among the bright lights of New York City. His older brother, Henri, has asked Philippe to chaperone his seventeen-year-old niece, Sophie, on her tours of the city’s legendary dance programs.
Sophie meets with professional dancer and choreographer, Dario Pereira, to prepare a routine for her college auditions. Dario’s cool perfection and immaculate style contrast with Philippe’s awkward scruffiness, but it wakes desires Philippe thought he’d left behind. When the attraction is surprisingly returned, Dario’s confidence won’t let Philippe remain invisible. Unsure but curious, Philippe relaxes his rule of isolation, and as the summer progresses, his relationship with Dario leads him to a surprising discovery of his submissive sexual tendencies and a greater sense of self-awareness.
Tragedy threatens to destroy the connections Philippe has made and forces him to retreat into the shadows of his past, far from the radiance of Dario’s love. Ultimately, he must decide if it is time to stop hiding and set himself free.
To add the book to your Goodreads account:
“I am becoming a huge fan of this author. She is really talented and her characters always seem to worm their way into my heart. She can take some serious issues and deal with them properly and she always leaves me with a happy feeling in the end.
Out of Hiding is amazing! The characters Philippe and Dario were an awesome couple and they seemed perfect together. I think, personally, the timing really works for this couple. They have their issues to face, but they don’t really stop the couple from falling in love. I also love the family aspect, the dance aspect (which was different for me, but I did like it).
There are a couple of times in this I could really feel Philippe’s emotions. He goes through a lot in the book and he makes it out the other side, stronger. I am so glad the author actually dealt with his issues instead of giving a fake HEA. Dario had every right to know about Philippe’s past.
For fans of something maybe a bit different or those who enjoy dance, this will work for you. If you want a really lovely romance that develops nicely, or an MC with issues, then I suggest you give this a go.” from Trisha Harrington
“I guess you could say I was a Mia Kerick virgin up until now. There was something about her writing, and about Philippe in particular, that just reached out and grabbed me in the most astonishingly visceral manner. I almost felt as if I’d been punched in the gut, and for someone who reads as much as I do, it was a very pleasurable change of pace…” from Christy Duke
” …this is a very sweet love story, with characters who are very different, but bring out the best in each other. Phillipe will steal your heart. Granted, I’m a sucker for a bearded man, but his beard only hides the vulnerable, sweet, sensitive man inside. Sometimes you want to smack him around a little bit and tell him to grow up, but mostly he’s kind and loving and takes good care of Dario, who has spent most of his life on his own and is finally finding out what it means to be part of a family…” from Amy from Joyfully Jay Reviews
“…This is a touching tale of finding and accepting oneself, and how the concept of ‘family’ has become much more varied and inclusive in our complicated world…” from M.C.
THE STAIRWAY in the old building had been hot, but the dance studio was nice and cool.
Too bad Dario Pereira wasn’t.
When we got there, he was already inside the studio, fiddling around with his iPod, his back to the doorway. He didn’t turn to greet us, although I was 99 percent certain he’d heard us come in.
“You’re late.” Even from behind, I couldn’t miss the way Dario’s head turned dramatically to the side as he raised his arm to take an overly long look at his shiny wristwatch. Come to think of it, outside on the sidewalk a couple of minutes ago, Sophie had inspected her own watch in exactly the same way, as she’d been stressing out about being late for her lesson with the crowned prince of dance. There was a round white clock with big black numbers mounted to the wall right in front of his nose, but he preferred to make the statement through his grandiose action. Call me perceptive, but I got his meaning easily, despite the fact that all I could see of him was his back side: short jet black hair cropped close to his skin at his neck and maybe some kind of swooping tuft-thing on the top, skin-tight black leggings on a fantastic butt (I’m shy, not blind), and a tight white T-shirt filled to the brim with compact dancer’s muscles. Not bad at all.
I looked over at Sophie; her cheeks now glowed brightly enough that you could hang them on the bow of a fishing boat at night and be confident you’d be seen by the other watercraft in the area. She didn’t explain herself any further. Just the apology.
“I am certain it will not happen again.” He waited a couple of seconds to let his meaning sink into our brains, which it did, quite effectively, and then he turned around. And holy crap! Dario Pereira’s front side was even more impressive than his back side.
IN HER defense, Sophie had an excellent reason for being late, and it had “Uncle Phil” written all over it.
The walk from Steps on Broadway, where Sophie had taken her ballet class, to Ripley Grier Studios on 72nd Street, where she would have her first private lesson, was short. But it was really hot outside, fry an egg on the sidewalk kind of hot, and what had us sweating even more than the heat was the humidity. So after forcing Sophie to go into a deli to buy herself a couple of drinks, I’d stopped again to pull my longish brown hair into a low ponytail to keep me cool on the rest of the trip. But after walking just one more block, that low ponytail had been stuck to my neck like spaghetti to a wall, so I’d stopped again to tie it up into a messy bun. And it had felt so good when the air finally moved against my neck, I’d probably taken a minute or two to savor the feeling before getting moving again.
I’d surely been a sight: a heavily bearded dude sweating his butt off, a tiny sloppy bun perched precariously on the very top of his head, wearing a baggy dark-green Treehugger T-shirt complete with armpit stains and patchwork hemp cargo shorts that needed to be washed because I’d been wearing them for the past two days. And to complete the look, I wore beat up L.L.Bean hiking boots that still smelled of fish with the thick, knee-high wool socks that Henri had given me for Christmas last year poking up from underneath. And I couldn’t neglect to mention my mandatory black JanSport backpack that was pretty much always strapped on my back. I carried that thing everywhere like a security blanket, even when it was empty; it had seen me through a lot. In any case, I don’t think there’s a label for my bedraggled kind of style, and remembering that, right there on the dark city street, a huge wave of self-consciousness had washed over me. I’d suddenly been overwhelmed by the inner knowledge that I didn’t fit in this brightly lit, sophisticated city.
But when I’d stopped one more time to yank my red bandana out of my leg pocket, and I’d raised up my head to wipe off my sweaty face and neck, I’d sneaked a sideways glance at all the city-dwellers and tourists swarming past me. Nobody had been looking at me suspiciously, as if they were wondering, “What is that no-good hippy up to?” like they often did in the upscale, suburban North Shore of Massachusetts where I’d been raised. In fact, nobody had been looking at me at all, period, except for Sophie, who’d been busy glaring from me to her wristwatch and then back to me again, because she hadn’t wanted to be late for her first private lesson with Dario Pereira.
It had taken me another long minute to fully digest that fact. In this oversized, chaotic city, nobody gave even a single crap, not to be crude, about Philippe Bergeron—not about the quantity of hair that was growing out of his face and head, what he was wearing, what he was up to, or where he was going. To them, Philippe Bergeron’s scruffy face was just another one in the crowd. These people all had places to go, and my hairy mug, clearly, hadn’t been one of the faces they were dashing off, in such a purposeful rush, to see.
And I’d felt small… like an inconsequential part of the scenery. Not like a target… and not in any way obvious. Just another dude on the street, lost in the crowd. I liked that feeling a lot.
“Uh, hello, Uncle Phil! Time to get your rear in gear.” I remembered how she’d rolled her eyes with impatience.
“I’m coming, I’m coming, Sophie…. Give the old man a chance to mop up.” I’d stuck my damp bandana into my back pocket, hooked my thumbs into my JanSport pack’s straps, and we’d gotten back on our way.
SO AS I was saying, Dario Pereira’s front side was nothing short of amazing. His eyes were about as dark as the night sky over the Atlantic, and they lifted up slightly at the corners, but I didn’t think he was Asian. Come to think of it, his eyes were hard to describe in words other than “suitable to write poems about,” and even though I’m not one to write poems, I’m also not one to exaggerate. Beneath those captivating eyes, he had the most even facial features I think I’d ever seen, apart from the faces on the painted Native American dolls in Sophie’s multicultural doll collection. All of these perfect features were set in creamy, coffee-colored skin. I’m not lying when I say that his skin was smooth enough to make even an introvert like me want to reach out and touch it.
And then he smiled. Holy crap times two! Briefly flashing these two perfect rows of chalk-white teeth, he moved directly over to Sophie, who looked like she was hoping to evaporate into thin air.
“But no harm done, dear. I simply want you to get your money’s worth out of our lesson time. I do not come cheap.” He looked at me squarely for the first time, and I had to wonder if he was sending me some sort of a subliminal message. After all, Henri told me that Dario had already been paid in full for this summer’s services with Sophie, so cheap or not cheap—it made no real difference to me.
“Um, Sophie was at ballet class. We seriously busted our behinds to get over here as fast as we could, but, see, I made her stop and buy some drinks, because of the heat, and I didn’t want her to keel over from the….” I allowed my voice to trail off, as it didn’t really matter. We wouldn’t be late again.
I felt the scourge of Dario’s eyes as he scrutinized my perspiring body, my baggy clothing… my entire person. My shoulders lifted practically to my ears, like I was trying to crawl into myself, and I started shifting my weight from one foot to the other. Cool as a cucumber, that’s me.
“Yes, I’m sure.” And just like that, he looked away from me—I’d been dismissed. He never even changed that haughty expression, which didn’t so much anger me as make me feel that I was nothing but a piece of you-know-what in Dario’s perfect eyes. Come to think of it, other than that brief smile, he hadn’t made any facial expressions at all since we’d arrived at the studio. “Sophie, please go to the mirror and neaten your bun a bit. Loose wisps of hair in your face will only distract us both. And then please remove your outdoor clothing. I want you to be wearing just a leotard—I prefer black—and tights. Pink or black only. Transition tights from now on, please, as I will need to see your feet.”
At this point, we were both gawking at him out of a combination of awe at his beauty, fear at his intensity, and shame for daring to make him wait five minutes for us. Sophie recovered from her shock before I did and scrambled over to the mirror, where she was frantically pushing pins into her hair.
Again, Dario turned to me, and this time I could put a label on the expression he wore, or, at least, I thought I could. (In all honesty, though, sometimes I have a tendency toward paranoia.) I was almost certain that his face betrayed disgust, but just a tiny trace of it. Dario seemed to possess the self-control of Mahatma Gandhi, and if he wanted to refrain from appearing disgusted, all he had to do was look bored.
“We do not wear outdoor shoes in the studio, sir. Please remove your… um, boots… and place them by the doorway.”
I looked at him sideways, unaccustomed to being handled quite so efficiently. I mean, I was a tall guy, and bearded… and kind of gruff. I’d actually grown the beard to make people back off. (And to cover the boyishness, that I was pretty sure still lingered so plainly beneath it—but nobody else needed to know that.) Before I even had a chance to scowl, though, Dario had removed his attention from me completely, and for the next hour and a half, he put Sophie through what amounted to physical torture. They called it “floor barre.”
Sophie never got up off the floor once.
I sat cross-legged in the corner, my itchy wool socks rubbing against the Marley floor, watching and listening to the entire lesson. And even though I was intimidated by his abrasiveness, I admitted that Dario was nothing if not mesmerizing, in both his beauty and his gracefulness. As they worked, both of their brows were furrowed and their lips tightened into matching straight lines. They were so deep in concentration on this passion that made them whole, and I experienced a momentary panic that I would never find something to occupy my head and my heart that way. And I was certain I wouldn’t ever fit in any place the way Dario and Sophie fit inside this dance studio. I shook my shaggy head a few times to banish the thought.
For a few moments, I allowed my mind to wander. The two dancers working so diligently in front of me had no real need of my opinion, my lacking sense of humor, or even my presence, but still, here I was, so I found myself revisiting the day of our arrival in the big city.
ONE MORE time, how did I end up here? I’d asked myself yet again as I’d stood there, my feet basically glued to the sidewalk. The teenage girl who’d hovered in my shadow apparently shared my bewilderment, because she’d squeezed my hand and said, “Well, we’re here, Uncle Phil.” Sophie only played the “Uncle Phil” card when she was feeling, in some way, out of sorts. She had then looked up at me with a “now what?” expression that I could totally relate to.
“Looks like we made it, Soph.” Realizing too late that my words sounded like a cheesy song from the 1980s, I’d turned my attention toward the cab driver. He’d already dropped our bags on the street and was gawking at me expectantly as I stood there in a bit of a daze, holding hands with my niece. And he just so happened to be wearing that same “now what?” expression I’d just seen on Sophie’s face, which had served to rouse me from my stupor. “Oh… oh, yeah… you must want money.”
The driver, well, he hadn’t smiled or nodded or anything. He’d just kept on staring at me, all stone-faced, until I’d reached into my back pocket and pulled out my wallet. I’d paid the guy, tipped him well with my big brother’s money, and then I’d stopped short and thought about it. (Decisiveness, I’m afraid, has never been one of my defining qualities.)
“What the he….” I allowed my voice to trail off because I always tried very hard not to curse. Then I opened my wallet again and threw the dude another ten. Henri could afford it.
In a nutshell, that’s just about exactly how the two of us ended up here, in New York City, for the better part of the summer.
By my much older stepbrother Henri Bergeron’s direct command, which he liked to call a “request.”
“YOU CAN hold that up there longer; I saw you do it before. Just use the muscle in the back of your thigh.”
Seeing as Dario was still standing over Sophie, cracking his figurative whip so she’d perform her very best, there was no reason I couldn’t continue to daydream. So I let my consciousness travel back to, if not better days, easier-for-me-to-handle ones. And inside of a mere minute, I was drifting on the Atlantic. The ocean was never far from my mind. Way out there on the water, past those last lonely glimpses of land—the ones that jut up out of the ocean like a serpent’s bumpy back—had been the only place I’d even come close to fitting in. I’d especially liked it out there at night, and I could remember just how it felt. With my feet planted on the boat’s spotless deck (I’d swabbed it with my own two hands) and wobbling around like it was my first time on a skateboard, I’d savored the freedom that had come from being hidden by a black blanket of night. I couldn’t see my hand, even when I’d held it a couple of inches in front of my nose, because it’d just been so blindingly dark out there.
Unless, of course, it had been one of those starry nights, the ones when the sky was scattered with millions upon millions of tiny dots of light. Those had been the nights when I’d felt really small… insignificant, even. Not that feeling small had ever been a problem for me because honestly it had always been the opposite. Feeling as minute as one single star in an infinite night sky had helped me feel lost, the thing I’d always wanted most.
Being lost…. I smiled as I delighted in the sound of those two sweet words. Being lost, completely buried in the chaos of life, had long been my truest goal. Because when I was “lost” out there on the ocean, I’d fit in. And I’d fit in because I’d almost disappeared.
“ONE MORE time, Sophie. I know you are tired, but I want you to show me that you have the strength in you to do the exercise just one more time….” My niece had turned an alarming shade of red, and was panting.
And seeing her panic, my mind was dragged away again, back to my initial panic at first encountering my temporary home, New York City. I wasn’t going to say that I didn’t feel small in these new surroundings because, God knew, I did. In fact, every time I looked up and saw a cluster of tall, gray skyscrapers, towering over like they meant to crush me, or felt the rude nudge of an insistent crowd pushing in against me on all sides, those nasty honks and a buzz of languages I didn’t know from Adam filling up my ears, I didn’t feel small in the way I wanted. I felt small like a sparkling silver minnow splashing around aimlessly in the dark murky ocean—targeted and obvious. But here in New York City, or Midtown Manhattan, if you liked to be exact, I couldn’t afford to blend into the background. Because right here, right now, I had to be the responsible one: Mr. In-Charge.
“YOU MAY wonder why I’m having you do such an intense floor barre tonight, when you are here to learn a dance solo, Sophie. But before we can start working on a solo in a new style, I want to see where you are in Mia Kerick 8
terms of ballet technique, strength, and flexibility. And if we need to correct any of the basics, this is the best place for us to start. We have the entire summer to get you fully prepared for your college audition solo.”
Sophie had said pretty close to nothing for the entire ninety minutes we were in that studio, but that fact didn’t seem to faze Dario. He chattered on and on about how she needed to keep her back straight, and her hips square, and, please, not to force her turnout, whatever that was. He pushed his flat palms against her back, pressed his thumbs on her hip bones, and knelt right down on the floor to move her feet into the exact position he wanted them. By the end of the lesson, Sophie was beet red, panting, sweating, and, from what I could see, frustrated. But Dario didn’t seem to have a clue as to her physical exhaustion or her potential emotional breakdown.
At the lesson’s end, he stepped away from her, went to the corner where he had left his iPod, backpack, and water bottle, and then, after taking a few quick sips of water, he pulled jeans on over his black leggings and slid his pretty bare feet into Italian loafers.
“I will see you, Sophie, on Thursday, at five sharp.” There was no “atta girl, Soph!” No “nice job, kid!” Dario Pereira just turned on his stylish heel and strutted right out of the room, calling, “Be sure to turn out the lights and close the door before you leave. This isn’t a barn.” He made this snorting sound and then was gone.
With great effort, Sophie dragged herself up off the floor, turned to look at me, and then burst into tears. And since I had no idea what to do with one hundred and ten pounds of crying female, I stepped forward, hugged her kind of impulsively, and said the only thing I could think of.
“Don’t you think it’s time for an ice cream cone?”
Between sobs, she managed to choke out, “F-fat f-free f-frozen y-yogurt….”
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