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Music in my head, dance in my body, the rhythm of my heart.
How far can you fall in just one month? How quickly can the human spirit be broken? Where does evil hide in plain sight?
Ash wants to dance. Needs it. To leave behind a life of expectation and duty, to set his soul free.
But life is never that simple. Every step is a journey on a new road.
For every action, there is a reaction.
Every choice has a consequence.
And when you meet the wrong person, all bets are off.
Laney tolerates her limitations, pushing quietly at boundaries. But when Ash crashes into her world through rage and violence, it sets off a chain reaction that neither of them expected.
♫♪ ♫♪ ♫♪ ♫ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♫ ♪♫♪
Heat and noise.
The deep bass reverberated through the floor, through the table and chairs, the empty bottles on the table trembling as the music pulsed.
The dry, desert air was humid inside the sealed room, a room that never saw daylight.
The casino was alive 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Men and women with the bloodshot eyes of those who had been at the slot machines for too many hours were replaced with the young and young at heart who wanted to dance the night away, the sweat stains and smudged makeup hidden in the pockets of darkness among the strobing lights.
My friends were on the dance floor, lost in the music, rolling their hips, stroking the air above their heads with languid arms, grinding against each other to the determined, demanding music. I could see the eyes following their movements, the loose jaws, the wet lips.
A part of me envied them—the part that always envied people who could be so free, and if I’d loved them less, envy might have turned to resentment.
The reunion had been planned for eight months, and even though the timing had turned out to be a cosmic joke, I refused to miss out. Despite everything, it was good to see them. Old friends who had seen me at my best and worst.
I stared longingly at the bar, wishing that a Mimosa would materialize in front of me. But none of the scantily dressed waitresses even noticed me sitting by myself.
I was used to being alone. I worked from home and rarely saw the people I called colleagues, and that suited me just fine. But it’s one thing to choose to be by yourself; it’s completely different to be alone in a crowd.
I glanced back to the heaving dance floor, smiling as a cowboy with a large Stetson and no rhythm limbered up behind Vanessa, trying to attract her attention with his awkward but well-meaning gyrations.
My eyes skated away with embarrassment at his lumbering gait, and that’s when my gaze was drawn to another man. And this one caught and held my attention as surely as I caught and held my breath.
He was dressed in black, a snug shirt tucked into dress pants, an easy elegance that made him seem like a thoroughbred among carthorses.
His movements were sinuous with suggestive grace, one fluid action flowing into the next. His hips thrust and rolled, his long legs flexed and straightened, his arms moving rhythmically, fingers extended. He held himself erect, his chin dipping only slightly so his eyes could fix on his much shorter dance partner. Even from this distance I could see that he was focused, like a wild animal stalking his prey. His eyes were feline, too, slanting up slightly at the corners, emphasizing his sharp cheekbones.
His spiky dark hair was gelled at the front, but almost military at the back, showing off his long elegant neck and the broad muscles that writhed beneath his short-sleeved shirt, the shadow of a tattoo peeping out.
He was tall, and the black clothes he wore emphasized his slim silhouette. It was hard to tell his age, his unsmiling face clean shaven and intense, he could have been anything from twenty to thirty.
For a moment, he disappeared into the swirling mass, and I leaned forward to catch another glimpse.
The crowd parted and the illusive dancer reappeared. I saw his partner for the first time: a short, doughy woman with perspiration dripping down her face and too-tight dress.
They didn’t fit, the man and the woman. I sat back in my chair, watching, intrigued.
I suppose I’d spent a lot of time, on the sidelines. Life had made me an observer. So I’d made a study of male beauty in all its forms: the jock, the joker, the emo, the player, the hot and dangerous. I was a connoisseur, you might say, but only from a distance. Perhaps that made me a voyeur.
But this man—he was in a class of his own. I was mesmerized watching the strong, graceful lines he created, the perfect symmetry of his perfect body, his subtle strength and obvious talents. He was beautiful. And that made me sad.
His intense, serious gaze was utterly focused on his partner, and envy bubbled up inside me. I tried to push it away, but I couldn’t drag my eyes from the dancer. He rotated his hips, his body fluent and effortless, always in motion. The thought crossed my mind that if he fucked the way he danced, his partner was in for a night she’d never forget.
But then the woman’s steps faltered, and she edged her way from the dance floor, sucking in lungfuls of air, her fingers sinking into broad hips as she rested her hands.
The man followed, asking a question, and the woman shook her head, half laughing as she nervously backed away from him. When she retreated, he pressed closer, wrapping his long fingers around her wrist, his eyes narrowed.
I leaned forward again, then glanced around, wondering if anyone else had noticed the drama unfolding in front of me.
They seemed to be arguing, and the woman’s sweaty face was red and worried. But then the man held up his hands in surrender, releasing his prey.
I relaxed back into my chair, feeling almost as much relief as the short woman who was retreating in the direction of the bathroom.
The man stood, watching the woman leave, and I was surprised to see frustration on his face. Not disappointment, not annoyance. He wasn’t offended, his ego wasn’t dented. If anything, he seemed angry with himself.
It was odd. Nothing in their behavior hinted that they were close. It looked like a hookup, but why had he chosen someone who was so far below his own league?
It occurred to me that perhaps he was one of those men you read about in Vegas, a gigolo in all but name. It hurt my heart a little to think that such a beautiful man might use his perfect body in such a way. I didn’t want to be disappointed when everything else about him was just so … perfect.
The man ran his hands over his hair as he searched around the room, his eyes ticking off the women he saw, some internal checklist that remained hidden to all but him.
But then his eyes flickered to me, probably because I was still watching him, and a wide smile stretched his full lips. The smile, so totally unblemished from a distance, didn’t reach his eyes, and when he approached me, I was immediately on guard.
“Hi, I’m Ash. Are you by yourself?”
It was hard to be sure over the pounding music, but it sounded as if he had an accent. Something Eastern European, perhaps Russian? Polish?
I gave him a polite but closed smile, a cool smile that hid all warmth, a smile for slow servers and rude cab drivers. A smile for men I didn’t trust.
“No. I’m here with my friends.”
The man looked around him, then shrugged theatrically. “I don’t see them. Would you like to dance?”
And he held out his hand, obviously assuming that I would say yes.
“No, I’m not dancing.”
He frowned, his hand still suspended between us. “But you like to dance?”
I stopped laughing and stared, my gaze sinking into his, puzzled, annoyed.
“What makes you think I like to dance?”
He shrugged again and his hand fell to his side.
“You’re in a nightclub, and you’re not drinking. So you must be here to dance. Please, dance with me.”
He held out his hand again, but I shook my head impatiently. “Then go find someone who will dance with you.”
His eyes widened with surprise, and then he grinned as he leaned on the table, his perfect face inches from mine. “Maybe I want to dance with you.”
“Then you’ll be waiting a long time.”
He cocked his head to one side and I noticed a small beauty spot, shaped like a teardrop beneath his left eye—a perfect imperfection. Up close I could see that he was younger than I’d thought, younger than me perhaps, maybe early twenties. My eyes dropped to his lips and then to his throat. I could see a thin silver chain around his neck.
“I’m a good dancer,” he said, looking almost wounded at my continued refusal.
He wasn’t lying, but my anger, smoldering beneath the surface, ignited.
“I’m not dancing!”
“But everyone comes here to dance,” he insisted, his intense dark eyes so focused, it was unnerving.
“Not me,” I insisted.
He was making me anxious now and I glanced around for my friends.
“You’ll have a good time.”
“I don’t doubt it,” I snapped, losing patience. “Your last friend seemed to enjoy herself immensely.”
A dull red flooded his cheeks and he looked away.
His reaction surprised me. I’d hurt his feelings, but I wasn’t sure why.
“Maybe I’d like to dance with a pretty girl for a change,” he said softly, glancing up at me from beneath long dark lashes.
His intense stare and pleading eyes were hard to resist. Oh, he was good. Calling me ‘pretty’, pretending to be upset that I wouldn’t dance with him. But then I felt a little guilty, too. You can’t fake flushed cheeks. I would have guessed that it was simply the exertion from dancing, but when I met his gaze, his expression was almost desperate.
“You are missing out.”
My mouth tightened and the gates to my sympathy slammed shut.
“Laney, is this guy bothering you?”
I breathed a sigh of relief as Vanessa and Jo strode toward me, their lips pursed, eyes flashing dangerously.
Ash looked nervous, his glance flicking between my friends and the bouncers by the exit. He started backing away, his hands held out from his sides.
“I just asked her to dance, that’s all. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
Jo threw him a disbelieving look and stood with her hands on her hips.
“Do you want to go back to your room now?” Vanessa asked.
Suddenly feeling emotional and overwhelmed, I nodded silently as Jo continued to glare.
Vanessa walked behind my chair and handed me the pashmina that had been hanging on the back. Then she unlocked the brakes on my wheelchair and pushed me away from the table.
Ash’s mouth dropped open.
“Still think I’m pretty?” I asked, as my eyes filled with tears.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to write. Perhaps it was growing up in a village well known for its mystery and folklore, which sparked my imagination as a child.
I enjoy writing in several different genres, and I've just published my first romcom, 'Dazzled'.
All my books have a little me in them, and I'm inspired by the personal stories of those around me. It's often from a simple discussion overheard in the train ('Exposure'), in a café, or in the street, where ideas for characters or scenes come to me.
I fell in love with both Sam ('The New Samurai') and the eponymous Sebastian in 'The Education of Sebastian' and the sequel 'The Education of Caroline', and missed them desperately once I'd finished their stories. I love writing dialogue and always try to include touches of humour in the most poignant stories.
Whether you like adult romance novels, new or young adult writing, thrillers, or fantasy, I hope you'll enjoy the journey through my stories.