“Come on, I promise you’ll love it. It’ll be just like dancing!” He took my hand and walked me inside.
“Slipping on ice while wearing blades on our feet sounds nothing like dancing.” I stopped him at the counter.
He stepped aside and sat me down at a bench by the wall. “Listen, Ria, if you don’t like it after a while, say an hour, we’ll go.”
“I have to survive a whole hour of this?”
“Yep!” He grinned at me. “Gotta take a chance sometimes. Just wait here, and I’ll be back in a second, okay?”
I held up my hand. “One hour, Daniel.”
He nodded and winked. “Your wish is my command, Ria.”
“Very funny. And stop calling me that!” I crossed my arms as he laughed and walked to the counter.
While Daniel paid for our skates, I peered over the wall to watch. Children clung to their parents, stumbling near the wall while others lapped them. Teenagers skated in quick circles, weaving their way around people and laughing at each others’ wipe outs. Some parents and older folks took to the sidelines, enjoying the show.
Daniel sank beside me and held up my skates. “If they don’t feel like they fit right, I’ll get a different size.”
I untied one and slipped my foot in. “No, these should work.” I began tying the laces after tightening them.
Daniel stopped me. “Hang on. You don’t what ‘em too tight or you could twist an ankle. Too loose and you’ll slide around too much inside the skate.” He loosened the laces and pulled them through extra holes near the mouth of the skate. “This’ll help give you more support. Do the same thing with that one while I finish this one.”
I nodded and took the other skate, threading the laces through the holes while Daniel tied the first one off. I tried moving my foot only to find the skate a snug fit. He finished off the other one and took to his own while I waited.
“Are you ready? We’ll try them out here before we hit the ice, so we can make adjustments if we need to.” Daniel stood and tested his own, shifting his weight back and forth.
I tried to stand and held my arms out to keep my balance. Daniel offered his hand, and I took it, seizing the wall with my other hand.
“Okay, Ria, just try taking a few steps to get a feel for the skates.”
I clutched his hand as I stepped, letting go of the wall. My weight rocked with each movement, and I swayed with every step. Daniel moved beside me then let go and walked ahead.
“Try making it to me without holding onto anything.” He stretched his arms out toward me.
I huffed and made my way toward him, resisting the reflex to support my weight on the wall. My legs adjusted to the movements of the skates, and I made strides toward him.
“That’s it, there you go.”
I gripped his hands and sighed. “Now what?”
He grinned and turned toward the opening in the barrier. “Now comes the fun part.”
My eyes widened. “Already? But what if I fall?”
He shook his head and stepped onto the cold glass. “Trust me, I won’t let you fall. Just take my hand and follow my lead.”
He chuckled. “I promise. No wipeouts.” He extended his arm and took my hand in his. “We’ll take it slow. One step at a time.”
“Right.” I took a deep breath and stepped forward.
Daniel linked his arm with my mine and pushed us forward. He started by the barrier so I could get used to gliding on the ice then took us closer to the middle of the rink. Without warning, he swung in front of me and took my other hand.
“We’re gonna try it this way. You’ll be my eyes, so don’t let me knock anyone over.”
He shook his head. “No buts, Ria. I’ve only got an hour to get you to love this, remember?”
I opened my mouth to protest, but he’d already started skating backwards. I glided faster to keep close to him and kept an eye out for other skaters. Most people saw us coming and shifted aside. One young man wove his way around everyone at a dizzying speed. He came close to us and made a cut between, snatching me out of Daniel’s grasp.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“You’ll never learn with Danny boy teaching you. Let me take over.” He locked his arm around my waist and clutched me close.
I struggled, pushing at his shoulders. “Let go of me.”
Daniel appeared beside us and reached for my arm. “Come on, Evan. Just let her skate and go back to speeding around people.”
“Fine, if you’d rather learn with a tool like him.” He pushed me into Daniel’s arms and glided away.
“Who was that?”
“Evan Richards. A former friend of mine.” He shifted to be back on my side and wrapped his arm around my waist.
“Former? What happened?” I took his hand and continued skating.
“He got too aggressive. Everything became a competition.”
I gazed down the rink and found his silhouette still dashing around as others tried to stay out of his way. “I noticed. He said-”
“I don’t care what he said. I just wanna know one thing. Did he hurt you?” He stopped and stared at me.
“No, of course not. He caught me by surprise, that’s all.” I urged him forward and shifted so he skated in front of me. “Come on, you only have a little time left to make me enjoy this.” I smiled when his features softened.
Daniel drew me in close and sped up. “How are you feeling? Ready to take a risk?”
“Do I have a choice?”
He laughed. “Not really, as long as you’re not too tired.”
I shook my head. “I’m fine.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, Daniel swung me out and turned my body, guiding it to spin. I gasped and reached for him when the turn stopped. He caught me in his arms, pulling me back.
“How was that for dancing?”
“Not funny. At least give me a warning next time.”
“Aww, Ria, you’re no fun.”
“I thought I said-”
An alarm sounded and colored lights flashed. People rushed for the wall, trying to exit as a voice echoed in the building.
“You all know what this means. Time for our amateur performance of the night. Three lucky individuals will be selected…”
As the announcement continued, Daniel linked my arm and headed for the nearest exit. Spotlights chased remaining skaters around who tried to make an escape. A spotlight strayed and caught Evan within its beam.
“Come on, almost there.” Daniel rushed to the opening in the barrier as I clung to him.
The other beam danced for a second longer before glaring at us.
“It looks like we have our three skaters for the evening. Come on out to the center of the rink, and listen for the song you’ll be skating to.”
Daniel turned to me. “We don’t have to do this. We can leave if you want to.”
My eyes caught sight of Evan already in the middle. “No, it’s okay. Wouldn’t want him to have all the fun, right?” I nodded towards him.
“Are you sure? I mean, I’ve done this before, but you’re just starting.”
“I’m sure, now come on.”
Daniel sighed and took me towards the center of the rink. “Alright, but if you need to stop-”
“I’ll be fine. You promise me there’d be no wipeouts, remember?”
He smiled. “Right, no wipeouts.” We slid next to Evan as songs skipped over the intercom.
“Ready to lose in front of all these people, Danny boy?”
“Relax, Evan. It’s just a random performance.”
Before Evan could respond, the songs stopped skipping and the announcer’s voice flooded the building.
“Alright, it looks like we landed on a perfect choice for the three skaters this evening. You’ll be skating to Dance with the Devil. You have two minutes to prepare. Good luck with your performance.”
My head whipped toward Daniel. “What’s wrong? What’s Dance with the Devil?”
“It’s a song where the devil tries to lure a girl away from her love.” Evan hovered near us. “Guess we know who I’ll be, huh Danny boy?” He came to a stop in front of me. “Looks like I have to try and win you over.”
Daniel swept me behind him and turned away from Evan. “He’s right. Basically, we have to compete to win your heart through the way we dance with you.”
“You’ll be going home with the devil tonight, sweetheart.” Evan skated away from us as time to prepare ran out.
I shuddered, and Daniel faced his body toward me. “Listen, I won’t let you fall. Just take my hand, and follow my lead, okay? Trust me, the devil won’t win.”
A quivering breath escaped and I gripped his hand as another alarm signaled the end of prep time.
“I trust you.”
“I’ll explain the song as we go, just know you start with me.”
“Alright skaters, get ready to start in three, two, one…”
Guitar sounded over the speakers and Daniel started skating. He wrapped his arm around my waist, pulling me in close as he took my hand in his.
“Okay, we’ll do it just like ballroom dancing.”
“Right. Except with strangers watching and Evan waiting.” I rested my free hand on his shoulder as he helped me through intricate patterns on the ice.
“He’s gonna take you away from me soon for his round of dancing, then you’ll come back to me. Spin.”
He shifted me away from him, guiding me in a slow turn. I stumbled, but he righted me before I could fall, drawing me back into his arms.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t-”
“Don’t worry. You’re doing great, Ria. No one would ever guess you’re new at this.”
Daniel nodded and turned to see Evan coming. I tightened my grip on him.
“I won’t let you fall, I promise.” He led me away from him.
Before I could respond, Evan grabbed my arm and pulled me into his clutch. He tightened his arm around my waist as I placed my hand on his shoulder.
“I saw that slip. Make sure you don’t screw this up for me.”
I kept my head bowed as Evan pulled me along. He skated in complex patterns as well, rushing through motions before I could track them.
“You’re going too fast, I-”
He swung me out for a spin before I could finish, turning me and ending with a dip to cover another stumble. I turned my head toward Daniel, skating in patterned laps while he waited for his turn. Evan yanked me up and tightened his arm around my waist once more.
“I thought I said don’t screw up.” He clutched my free hand in his.
I cringed. “You didn’t warn me.” I tried to pull back to get him to loosen his grip, but he didn’t budge. “You’re hurting me.”
He released me without a word as Daniel caught up to us. He embraced me as the song continued over the speakers.
“We’re almost done. After this, I have to let you go so you can pick between us.” He shifted back to the original position and caught sight on my wince. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing Evan was-”
“Did he hurt you?” He guided my chin up. “Ria?”
“He was just holding me too tight, don’t worry.”
Evan skated near us before Daniel could say anything else.
“I have to let you go. Are you ready?”
“I hope so.”
Daniel smiled and led me away from him, releasing me in the center of the rink. I watched the two skate in quick laps and a wave of nausea rushed over me. My legs buckled and gave out under me. The crowd gasped, and I closed my eyes. Before I hit the ice, a pair of arms caught me.
“I’ve got you.”
The crowd cheered, and I opened my eyes to see Daniel as he wrapped his arms around me. He pulled me into an embrace as the song ended and cheers erupted and echoed throughout the building.
“I told you I wouldn’t let you fall.” His lips touched my forehead. “You made it, Ria.”
I rested my head on his shoulder as the crowd chanted.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time I’ve seen anything like this. The audience actually wants an encore of the performance tonight.”
Daniel stiffened and tightened his grip on me. “No way, let’s go.”
Evan stopped us before we could make an exit. “What’s wrong, afraid of another round?”
“Ria’s exhausted. We have to go.”
“No, Daniel. We’ll finish this.”
His eyes widened as he stared at me. “Are you serious?”
“Yes. I was a little dizzy, but I’m okay.” I squeezed his hand. “I promise.”
Evan motioned for the song to start over, skating to the side. Daniel held me close as it played over and skated in slow circles to start.
“We don’t have to do this. We can go.”
“The devil won’t win.” I smiled and wrapped my arms around him this time. “We just have to end this.”
“Okay, if you’re sure. Spin.” He led me out and away as he guided me through another turn.
“I am. I just have to make it through Evan’s round then I’ll be back with you.”
He nodded and led me out once more so Evan could take his turn. He locked his arms around me in a cage as glided through complicated patterns. I didn’t dare protest and prepared myself for his spin. He turned me out, and let me twirl a few times before yanking me back in again.
“You didn’t make a fool of me this time. Here’s your reward.”
“What are you-”
Before I could finish, Evan crushed his lips to mine. The crowd gasped as the kiss sucked the air from my lungs. I squeezed my eyes shut and pushed against him, but his grip didn’t relent. His hand held the back of my neck and tightened when he ended the kiss. He smirked and led me through more motions as Daniel stood near the wall. Evan finished out the song without releasing me, keeping his hand at my neck.
When the song ended, he let go, and I turned toward Daniel who made his way to the nearest exit.
I rushed to catch up and the crowd watched in a stunned silence. “Wait!”
Daniel froze before the opening in the barrier and turned to me. I grabbed his arm and leaned in.
“Daniel, I’m so sorry. He forced me. He wouldn’t let go.”
He nodded as the crowd cheered at the twisted turn of events. The announcer came over the intercom once more.
“I am truly shocked at the twist in this performance. Now, it looks like angel and devil are tied. There’s only one way to settle the score, ladies and gentlemen. What do you say?”
I froze. “Not a third round. He can’t make us-”
“We’ll do it!” Daniel took my arm and skated out to the middle of the rink.
“Listen to me. I saw what Evan pulled. After he kissed you, I had to make it look like it was part of the act. We’ll end this together okay?”
“Are you sure? What if he tries the same stunt again?”
“Ria, I need you to trust me. I won’t let you fall.” He guided my chin up to look into my eyes. “I promise.”
The same song started for the third time, and Daniel set off. He wrapped his arm right around me, resting his hand between my shoulder blades as he held my hand with his free one. I draped my arm around his shoulders and rested my head over his heart. We skated in slower patterns, then he lifted me up without warned and spun as he held me. I smiled down at him as I took his shoulders. He finished his round by letting me down into a dip before Evan seized me out of his arms.
I tensed and pushed against his chest. “You won’t win this time.”
His eyes flashed and he grinned. “One kiss and they’ll think I did.”
He dipped his head down to seal my fate, but I twisted, escaping his grip to spin on my own. Evan growled and gripped my arms, yanking me into the cage of his grip once more.
“Maybe I just won’t let you go this time either.”
I clutched my wrists together around his back, looking over his shoulder so he couldn’t try to steal another kiss. Daniel dashed toward us and reached for me. Evan tightened his grasp and lifted me off the ice enough to take control and skate away. The song drew nearer to the end, and I struggled in his arms. Daniel cut in a sharp turn, catching Evan’s leg and throwing him off. He caught me as Evan had to let go to right his balance. He swept me into his arms, and I held onto him. He dipped his head and touched his lips to mine as the song ended, turning us as cheers roared in the building. He skated toward the exit, carrying me in his embrace.
He smiled. “Looks like the angel won after all.”