They were my whole world—four boys who morphed from best friends to lovers. They were my biggest fans, and my quiet strength.
Until they left me.What I once gave freely became my weakness. Judged, shamed, alone, and with no one to count on, I found I’d do anything to survive. I never bared my soul, but my body was my ticket to success.
Burlesque might not have been the type of dance I dreamed of, but it rocketed me to the top. My body was mine to own. If people wanted to see me, they had to pay for a ticket.
But all my carefully laid plans and rebuilt dreams crash when the spotlight lands on the boys who used to be mine.
Josh, Brant, Wes, and Landry are back, standing at the edge of the stage and holding the pieces of my heart.
They want forgiveness. A second chance.
But when I handed them my heart once, they shattered it. And I might not survive giving it to them again.
In this book Ripley takes us from high school to the present as the unconventional relationship between Betsy aka Betty and the four boys she loved navigate through the sometimes devastating curves life throws at them.
The first curve was when Josh, Brant, Wes, and Landry ghosted after graduation. They really thought they were doing the right thing, but never gave an explanation, they just vanished.
A successful Burlesque dancer with her own show, crew and employees she gets blind-sided at a USO show at Coronado, seeing two of them in the audience has her realizing she hasn’t stopped loving them but she just can’t let them in again.
However they weren’t going to give up and all four of them show up in Vegas. Where Betty finally agrees to meet with them.
This is a favorite scene.
Lucky for me, trees lined the viewing area, and I stood in their shade. It was noisy, with the traffic behind me and the water spraying in front of me. Gripping the stone rail, I leaned forward and stared into the water.
Where were they?
“Betsy.” Landry spoke, and the rest of the world melted away.
My breath caught in my throat, and I turned to face him.
He wasn’t alone. They were all there, just like they’d said they’d be.
“You look so different,” I said. I knew they did, I’d already seen them, but when they were all together like this, it was hard to remember them as they were.
Back when they were mine.
Their faces were harder, their gazes warier and less open.
Landry wore a V-neck t-shirt, a long-sleeve plaid button-down thrown over it. The sleeves were pushed up, revealing strong muscular forearms. I knew his arms were tattooed, but with the V-neck, I could make out writing below his collarbones and across his chest.
Josh had pulled his hair back into a ponytail, but it was a little too short and strands fell from the elastic. He tucked them behind his ears, watching me nervously. I wondered what his dad thought about his hair, it was a little hippy for Mr. Derry.
Westin. Westin had changed the most and the least. He wasn’t wearing a jacket, but had on a black tank top. On anyone else, it’d look like he was trying too hard, but on Westin, it was natural. He was covered from his shoulders all the way to his fingernails in tattoos. I studied him. They were all over his chest and neck as well. Was any of his body free of ink?
And Brant. His hazel-eyed gaze met mine, and he gave me a small smile. His beard covered so much of his face, like he was trying to hide. He was broader and more muscled than I’d ever seen him. He wore a tan shirt and jeans, and his biceps strained the material of the sleeves.
“Hi.” Yep. That was what came out of my mouth.
Each of them closed in around me, and suddenly I was a gazelle surrounded by lions. I glanced over at Al. He wasn’t too far, but he’d also stepped closer, a frown on his face. I shook my head slightly before turning back toward the boys.
Brant followed my gaze. His smile was gone. “Bodyguard?” His tone turned accusing, and I opened my mouth to defend myself then closed it.
I didn’t owe them an explanation. I was only here for theirs. “Yes. Al is my security.”
“We’d never hurt you.” Landry ran his hands over his hair and linked them behind his neck.
“I know,” I replied and sighed. “He’s not here because of you.”
Understanding passed over their faces, along with something else, an edge that made me think they were used to surveying their surroundings as well.
“Thanks for coming,” Westin said. He stepped closer, sidling next to me to lean against the railing. “I didn’t think you would.”
“Your arguments were very convincing.”
He smiled. Josh seemed to be studying our exchange, and his eyes widened when he caught Westin’s expression.
“Do you want to go somewhere?” Landry asked. “A diner or something?”
It did seem weird to have this conversation right out in the open, but going somewhere, sitting down across from them, was a level of intimacy I wasn’t ready for.
“No,” I said and then added, “thanks.”
The boys exchanged glances, and Landry sighed. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll start.” His words came out in a rush. “Everything that happened was my fault. It was my idea.”
“It was your idea.” I repeated what he’d said. “It was your idea to leave?”
“That’s not true,” Brant said. “We all agreed it was for the best.”
It was just like it used to be. They stood up for each other, clarified and elaborated for one another.
How nice for them. Things hadn’t changed between them as much as I thought they had. I stayed silent. If they were going to offer excuses for one another and soothe each other’s feelings, they didn’t need me.
Brant side-eyed me and then shook his head. “Fuck. I’m not excusing him, Betsy. I just mean that we’re all to blame. Landry might have told us the problem, but we all agreed to the solution.”
Their solution was to leave me all alone in the world.
And still I stayed silent.
“My dad— he had more power over me than I realized,” Landry said. “You know he owned half the town, and had connections throughout the state. When he found out about us— all of us— he gave me an ultimatum.”
Sounded like Landry’s dad.
“What ultimatum?” I asked when the quiet went on too long.
“Raise the rent on Brant’s parents so they had to give up their cafe. Push Josh’s dad off the farm. Make a call to Wes and Josh’s coaches.” Landry spoke like he was reciting a grocery list, but I was shocked dumb.
My gaze bounced from one boy to the next. They held my gaze, but none of them spoke. Hurt made it hard to breathe. Hard to speak.
I’d been seventeen and I had absolutely no one in the world left who cared about me.
Landry’s dad threatened to take away everyone the boys loved— nobody would have understood their situation better than I would have.
And yet they didn’t tell me.
Tears burned the back of my eyes, and I had to shut them tight. Why? Why hadn’t they told me? Trusted me?
I imagined a world where we left each other on good terms. If we’d done that, when I really needed them, maybe they could have helped. Or at the very least responded.
Ripley Proserpina. Boys and Burlesque (Kindle Locations 2591-2637).
Their explanation hurt and confused her even as she delivered bombshells of her own.
This is really only the beginning as things in her world start changing yet again, this time with the men in the background instead of the forefront.
Very emotional, with suspense, drama, intrigue and some sizzling heat.
5 Contented Purrs for Ripley!
Ripley Proserpina spends her days huddled near a fire in the frozen northern wilds of Vermont. She lives with her family, two magnificent cats, and one dog who aspires to cat-hood. She is the author of the Reverse Harem series, The Searchers, Midnight’s Crown, and the young adult/fantasy duet, Wishes and Curses.