While on holiday in Toronto, Evie Whitmore planned to sightsee and meet other asexuals, not audition for a dance competition. Now she’s representing Toronto’s newest queer dance studio, despite never having danced before. Not only does she have to spend hours learning her routine, she has to do it with one of the grumpiest men she’s ever met. Tyler turns out to be more than a dedicated dancer, though—he might be the kind of man who can sweep her off her feet, literally and figuratively.
Tyler Davis has spent the last year recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. So he doesn’t need to be pushed into a rushed routine for a dumb competition. Ticking major representation boxes for being trans and biracial isn’t why he went into dance. But Evie turns out to be a dream student. In fact, she helps him remember just how good partnering can be, in all senses of the word. Teaching her the routine, however, raises ghosts for him, ones he’s not sure he can handle.
Plans change, and people change with them. Learning a few steps is one thing; learning to trust again is another entirely.
This was potentially the most stupid thing Evie had ever done.
She looked at the status board above the baggage carousel and sighed. Delayed. Of course. She was overcaffeinated, underslept, in a city very far from home, and somewhat uncertain about her accommodation arrangements, so of course the airline was sending her luggage the long route to the carousel. One m ore thing between her and a bed.
She stretched her arms out to ease the stiffness from the flight and caught a whiff of ten hours’ sweat and three mugs of airline tea. Delightful. So she could add a shower to the list of things between her and rest. Evie closed her eyes. I must be mad. How did I end up here?
A whim. That was how she had ended up in a Canadian airport at nine o’clock in the morning instead of looking for work at home in rain-ridden Blighty. A whim suggested by Sarah, sure, but Evie had made the decision to indulge it.
Thing was, she’d forgotten she didn’t do whims. When she did, she planned. She liked plans. She’d had a great plan, actually. One that had started out wonderfully about two months ago: an acceptance into the master’s course she wanted at the University of Toronto. Superb. The logical next steps had been quitting her job in a few months’ time, allowing for the notice period and the couple of weeks necessary to pack her things, cancel her lease, and say good-bye to her friends, family, and country. Then she’d start her degree in Canada, arrange a few internships, perhaps do the touristy stuff, and see what the new qualification would bring. That had been The Plan.
But then The Plan had gone to shit. Her company had gone into receivership and kicked everyone to the curb. Evie had found herself facing four months of summer in York waiting for the settlement payout because she couldn’t formally move to Toronto while her student visa was still processing. Her parents had called her every other day asking for updates. Her brother, Richard, had teased her about being an unemployed bum. Her options, she’d been told, were hanging around at home living off her savings, travelling for a while (on those savings), or working a scummy retail job to build up her savings.
Or moving back in with her mother and stepfather for the summer and not touching her savings. Not even an option.
So here she was. Only for two weeks, because of visa issues, but at least she was out of York and away from her family’s questions and fuss. Two whole weeks of getting away from life. Two whole weeks to see if Toronto was all she hoped it would be.
Evie scowled at the empty carousel. Sarah would be waiting for a while. If she was waiting.
It felt weird calling her Sarah. They were Tumblr friends, and Evie knew her better as her username, gaybeard-the-great, or simply Gaybeard. Despite having emailed each other for a few years now, it was dawning on Evie that while she knew Sarah’s favourite food, and the actors she’d bang if she was at all interested in doing so, and her personal journey to queerdom, Evie didn’t know that much real-life stuff about Sarah. She did something vague for a law firm, lived with Bailey, her long-term queerplatonic artist partner, was originally from some “asshole hick town in the asshole hick wild,” liked bad movies, and her last name was Delaney.
Sarah had also been super supportive; she’d gushed her sympathies about the job and suggested Evie come over early for Pride, because Toronto did Pride amazingly well and they could finally meet in person and Evie could totally stay with Sarah, who’d introduce her to the city. Yes, all very well and good, but now that Evie was thinking about it, agreeing to stay with someone from the internet whom she didn’t know that much about was pretty dumb.
Oh God, this was a mistake.
Evie felt light-headed. She sank down on her heels and hugged her backpack tightly. Working scummy retail for a summer suddenly looked quite sensible, despite the teasing she’d have received from Rich. Save a bit more money before she moved to Canada properly, keep herself busy, do the adult and responsible thing. She was twenty-six for Christ’s sake. Why hadn’t she done that? What was she doing? How was this a good idea? What the hell had she been thinking? How was she sitting on an airport floor in bloody Toronto at the age of twenty-six without a job or a plan or her luggage or a definite place to stay?
She needed a cup of fucking tea.
The carousel alarm sounded. The belt started moving. Bags emerged.
Right. She could do this. New plan: she was going to collect her suitcase, walk out, and see what happened. If Sarah was there, great. If not, she had the address of a hostel written in her diary. There. Things would be fine. Just fine. She would deal. Because that was what adults did. They dealt. They didn’t sit on the floor and bemoan a lack of tea.
She collected her suitcase and turned towards the exit, hoping that . . . that . . . well, that whatever happened, there would at least be a café selling tea in Arrivals.
Coming out of Arrivals, she discovered there was no café. There was, however, someone standing in an oddly wide gap in the crowd with a massive, glittery purple and black sign screaming WELCOME QUEEN EVAZILLA over a stencil of Godzilla. Queen-evazilla was Evie’s Tumblr name. The dark-haired woman holding it bounced up and down at the sight of her, waving furiously. Aha. That would be Sarah. The dapper person standing a few feet away from Sarah—a stuffed Godzilla toy in hand and a stoically blank expression on their face—had to be Bailey.
No one had ever met her at an airport like this. Not with glitter.
A small thrill ran through her. Sarah and Bailey were real. Evie waved and headed towards them.
“Oh my God,” Sarah shrieked as Evie reached them. “I can’t believe you’re here!”
“Hey, Gaybeard.” Evie extended her hand, only to find herself engulfed in a massive hug. Sarah was tall, her long arms crushing Evie to her. “Pleasure to meet you,” Evie choked into Sarah’s shoulder.
“You too! Oh wow, it’s so great to finally see you in person!” Sarah released her and turned to Bailey. “This is Bailey.”
Sarah had described Bailey Girelli as “sweet and wonderful and a good dresser.” Obvious bias aside, Evie had dutifully followed Bailey on Tumblr but hadn’t ever emailed or seen pictures of them, so she wasn’t sure what to expect. They’d certainly delivered on the outfit score: a dandy pinstripe suit; shiny brogues; half-shaved, gel-slicked do of violet curls visible under the brim of a derby hat; and purple eyeliner. Evie felt like a grubby mess next to them.
Bailey raised one hand. “Hey.”
“Hello.” They held out the toy, and Evie took it, smiling at the asexual flag badge on Godzilla’s chest. “Thank you.”
“I saw it in a shop and I had to get it for you.” Sarah waved the glittery sign. “Bailey did the sign.”
“Yeah,” Bailey said. They ducked their head so their face was hidden by their hat brim; whether out of shyness or embarrassment wasn’t clear to Evie. “It was fun.”
“I love the sign. Very, uh, distinctive.” It was certainly growing on her.
“Listen to that accent!” Sarah’s eyes were wide. “You sound so polite. ‘I love the sign,’” she mimicked. “‘Very distinctive.’ Oh my God. You sound like the Queen.”
Evie had to laugh. She lived in York now but had been born and raised in Devon. Her accent was an unholy mongrel of two very different English counties with the odd London twist tossed in. “I assure you, I sound nothing like the Queen.”
“I can’t wait for you to meet everyone.” Sarah took Evie’s suitcase in hand, and they turned towards the exit. “They’re going to love you. This is going to be the best Pride ever. I’ve talked to some of the other Tumblr aces and we’re doing a meet-up next week and you’re totally, like, the British representative. Plus I can’t wait to take you around your new city. Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re gonna live here.” She skipped, giddy as a little girl. “We have so much planned for you. Wow, I am so excited you’re here!”
Evie could well believe it.
“You look so fresh! Did you sleep on the plane?”
“That’s a shame. Oh hey, we can take you to Timmies!”
Sarah looked at her, aghast. “You don’t know Tim Hortons?”
“They sell coffee,” Bailey supplied.
“And doughnuts,” Sarah added.
“And Timbits,” Bailey said excitedly.
“They’re the doughnut holes.” Sarah said it as if that explained something.
Evie’s head was spinning already, and it was only nine—she checked—thirty. “Coffee would be wonderful.” She wondered if this Tim place also served tea and if that was an acceptable alternative to coffee in Canada. They stepped out of the terminal into the tepid morning air, and Evie took a deep breath. Toronto tasted damp and urban and new.
“This is your first time in Canada, right?” Sarah asked as they walked to the slab of a car park towering next to the terminal building.
“Yes.” Evie scanned the area. Apart from the currency denomination and the word choice, everything around the terminal looked fairly . . . familiar, actually. Airports were the same everywhere.
Sarah paid for the parking, took the slip, and walked out into the darkness of the concrete slab, chattering the entire way. In the middle of promises to visit Niagara Falls and eat poutine, “Hungry Eyes” chimed thinly from Sarah’s purse, and she reached in with one hand. She cut the call and glanced at Bailey. “Tyler.”
“I’ll call him back later. So, Evie, you vegetarian or vegan?”
“Neither, but flexible.”
Sarah laughed at that for some reason. “You’re in good company.” They reached a two-door hatchback that had seen better days, perhaps back in the early nineties. Sarah put her suitcase in the boot of the car while Bailey opened the car door and pushed the seat forward.
“Now,” Sarah said, rounding the car and pointing at what Evie assumed was the backseat under a pile of jumpers and discarded chocolate wrappers, “sit your tush down and we’ll get this show on the road.”
Evie squeezed in and gingerly sat in a clearish space. Things rustled. Something squeaked. Sarah and Bailey settled into the car and turned on the radio. The melodious notes of Tom Waits drifted through the car as Sarah screeched into reverse.
Evie made more space among the jumpers as they left the car park, and tried to relax. So far so good. When Sarah took a corner sharply, Evie excavated the seatbelt, hugged Godzilla tight, and allowed herself to feel optimistic. It was, at the very least, an improvement on uncertain.
To celebrate the release of Finding Your Feet, one lucky winner will receive $15 in Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 21, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
About the Author & Links:
Cass Lennox is a permanent expat who has lived in more countries than she cares to admit to and suffers from a chronic case of wanderlust as a result. She started writing stories at the tender age of eleven, but would be the first to say that the early years are best left forgotten and unread. A great believer in happy endings, she arrived at queer romance via fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, and manga, and she can’t believe it took her that long. Her specialties are diverse characters, gooey happy ever afters, and brownies. She’s currently sequestered in a valley in southeast England.