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She dreamed sometimes of being able to run.

She'd thought it would be dance. She'd loved dance almost beyond reason – breathed it, ate it, slept it, lived it. She'd worked at it with a fierce determination and commitment that far surpassed anything else she'd ever tried, eclipsed those passing, transitory fancies like the sun in all its fiery glory eclipses the poor, pale moon, a lesser reflection.

She'd worked and sweated and danced until her feet bled, and she'd become good. Excellent, even. One of the best ballerinas in the company – some said the planet, when they were trying to flatter her. Gabriel had said so.

Gabriel. He'd swept her off her feet – and clipped her wings. It might be acceptable to have a dancer for a girlfriend, but not for a wife. She'd been besotted enough that she hadn't recognized the gilded bars for what they were: a cage.

And so she dreamed about running. It didn't take a genius to figure out the symbolism.

She'd fantasized, sometimes, about taking her children and leaving. It would cause a scandal, but she was sick to death of worrying about appearances. She'd leave that to Gabriel.

That is, she fantasized about it until today.

She was sitting on the sofa in the living room, watching her four-year-old daughter as she danced. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart pounded as if she had just run a mile – but she couldn't move. She was frozen, paralyzed, by the sight before her.

Regan knew she had been good, in her heyday. But it had never come naturally to her. She'd been good because she'd sweated blood to get that way.

She'd been good. But River – River was great.

She wasn't working, wasn't making an effort. She was simply twirling, jumping, spinning for the sheer joy of it. She was playing, and Regan felt tears well up in her eyes at the beauty of her game. Her daughter was a genius, a natural artist.

Her daughter. Not her.

Why should this gift be given to a child, to someone who couldn't possibly appreciate it, someone who was already blessed in so many ways, when she...she had been just good enough to know just how good River was now – and she was only four years old! She was bound to improve with training, time, and practice.

If a dancing wife was unacceptable, just how much more of an embarrassment would a dancing daughter be? A few lessons were expected of all young ladies, but to pursue it as a serious art...? Or, god forbid, a career? No. Gabriel would never allow it. She'd seen it already, seen how he’d stifled Simon's natural gifts and started to channel them into a more socially acceptable outlet. That was what had prompted her daydreams of escape in the first place.

If she stayed, Gabriel and the social pressure of this elite, supposedly easy life would kill River's gifts – and would probably crush her spirit in the process. Regan may not have been the best mother in the world, but she knew what her duty was. Her dreams of escape should not stay dreams. To save her daughter, she had to leave.

She should get up now, start to plan. She should give to River what she herself had been denied.

She was so tired of putting others first. Where was her gift, her reward – her dance?

She should get up now.

She didn't move.


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