Cover & Excerpt Reveal
by Alexia Adams, Galen Rose, Samantha Molina,
Carolann Camillo, Nicole Flockton, Iris Leach,
Olivia Logan, Nancy Loyan & Stephanie Cage
9 Glamorous, Globe-trotting Contemporary Romances
Life in the fast lane has never looked so good. Bright lights and big city action make a perfect backdrop for love in these thrilling novels full of glamour, intrigue, and sophistication. From New York to Paris, London to Los Angeles, these nine cosmopolitan tales of romance will challenge and inspire your most worldly fantasies.
Genre: Contemporary RomancePurchase links: This title is no longer available. Check the author contacts below to see if the individual titles are available
Content/Theme(s): Sensual, Intrigue, Travel Destinations
Release Date: September 22, 2014
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Excerpts & More
Singapore Fling by Alexia Adams
A CEO-in-training is tempted by her a handsome hotshot marketing director as they tour the company’s Asian offices. But will eight countries in three weeks lead to whirlwind romance or lasting love?
Singapore Fling Excerpt:
“Sorry I’m late,” Lalita said as she rushed into the boardroom. She took her seat at the opposite end of the table to Jeremy and ran a shaking hand over her hair. Raising her eyes, she met Jeremy’s concerned stare and did her best to paste a reassuring smile on her face. Conversation buzzed around her as she stared out the window. When Lalita noticed a prolonged silence, she pulled herself back to the present. Twenty pairs of eyes stared at her.
“Lalita? I asked if you wanted to make any final comments before we wrap up?” Jeremy repeated.
“Oh…ah…just to thank everyone for their cooperation and hard work in making Evans International a success. In my discussions with the CEO last week, he indicated that we are on track for a record-breaking year and that Asia is leading the corporation in both new products and new partners. Thanks to you!” Lalita concluded with a round of applause and hoped her smile reached her eyes.
Taking her words as dismissal, the men and women gathered around the board table stood, some bowing, some waving to her in farewell. The room cleared and Jeremy perched one butt cheek on the table in front of her. His long, muscular leg blocked her escape.
“Tired?” He searched her face.
“A little, after three nights with meetings running to after ten, then up at dawn to catch the regular European and American conference calls. Thankfully, tomorrow is a slow day, no meetings or calls and we fly to Manila at four in the afternoon.”
“Is there any chance you’ll actually rest tomorrow?”
“Oh, there’s always a chance,” Lalita replied, trying to laugh off Jeremy’s concern. She pushed back her chair and stood to put some distance between them. The heat radiating off his body caused her blood to simmer. His spicy aftershave lured her to lean in closer and see if he tasted as fabulous as he smelled.
Jeremy reached out and grabbed her arm, preventing her from leaving.
“Seriously, Lalita, I’m concerned. You’ve been late for two meetings and left in the middle of three others. You’re distracted and anxious. Is there something happening at head office?”
“No, nothing, everything is fine. And you’re doing a very good job. I expected some resistance to your new ideas, but you present them in such a way that everyone is straight on-board.”
“Nice try, but you can’t deflect my concern. We’re talking about you, not me.”
“I apologize if I’ve been a bit preoccupied. I’ll try to behave in a more professional manner.”
“I don’t care if you lead the next round of managers on a naked conga line through the offices. What’s upsetting you? Surely we’ve spent enough time together that you know you can trust me.”
“Can I? Trust you? You’re the Director of Marketing. Spin is your game.”
“Spin is my job. I’m your…friend, Lalita. Anything you share stays between us. Please, I want to help.”
Lalita stared into his blue eyes for a long time, trying to decide if he was genuine. Jeremy was always on show, his charm entrancing everyone he met. But deep down, she did feel she could trust him. In the two weeks they’d spent together, he had shown real concern for her.
“It’s nothing, just a minor personal problem. It will be resolved in a few days. I’ll try not to let it disturb the rest of your presentations.”
“A personal problem? Are you okay? You’re not ill, are you?”
“I’m fine. Everything is fine. I plan to sleep in tomorrow, shall we meet for lunch?” Lalita scrambled to redirect the conversation. Jeremy stared at her as if he could see into her soul.
“You are the most frustrating woman I have ever met. What will it take to get through that thick, ultra-professional skin of yours?” Jeremy pulled her toward him. Off balance, Lalita put her hands on his chest. Looking up to see what he was about she had just a millisecond before his lips descended and took hers in a rough, passionate kiss.
With a mind of their own, her hands crept around Jeremy’s neck and buried themselves in his hair. The kiss became gentler, teasing, tempting. Jeremy plundered her mouth with his tongue, seeking out the inner essence, her secrets. He wasn’t asking for surrender, he challenged and taunted until Lalita kissed him with every ounce of her strength and passion.
Her self-control sputtered once before spiraling to its demise. Jeremy pulled back a fraction, his breathing as ragged as hers. Sipping at her lips, he then trailed small kisses across her cheek to her ear. He nibbled at her earlobe, his breath hot against her skin.
“That answers one question, at least,” he murmured.
Lalita’s overheated brain tried to make sense of the words. “What question?” she managed at last. Her voice seemed drugged even to her own ears.
“The question of whether or not I had built up our previous kisses in my mind. Whether the passion of five years ago was something I’d over imagined. Or whether it’s true—that one touch from you and my blood turns into molten lava, consuming all rational thought in its path.”
“And the answer is?” Lalita was half afraid of the reply.
“That my memory hadn’t remembered half of the heat. Kissing you is the single most mind-blowing experience of my life and as addictive as the most potent drug known to man. I’m going to kiss you again, Lalita, just to make sure.”
“Jeremy…” Lalita began, but ended on a moan as his lips retraced their way along her cheek and claimed her mouth once again.
A million points of light shattered behind Lalita’s closed eyelids and it took a full thirty seconds before she could make sense of the knocking she heard.
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A Place to Rest My Heart by Galen Rose
This poignant story of family, romance, and discovering where you truly belong will enchant everyone who’s ever left their heart in San Francisco.
A Place to Rest My Heart Excerpt:
Good grief, this was ridiculous. I was not going to hang around and wait for the “children” to play nice, so I started walking home. There were no cabs to be seen but I was pretty sure I’d find a bus stop before long. The streets became less business and residential and more run-down as I walked along. Before too long, I realized I was lost and turned around to backtrack to the theatre. Two dark shapes moved from the shadows down the street and started toward me. I didn’t wait to find out if they were friend or foe; I did an about face, ran up the street a couple of blocks, then quickly ducked down an alleyway.
I stepped back into the shadows and waited to catch my breath and see if they had managed to follow me. Probably not one of the smartest things I could have done. I soon realized this, when a grimy hand covered my mouth from behind and a strong arm slid across my throat. Fear shot through me as I was pulled backward, deeper down the alley. All the self- defense training I had done raced through my head. Unfortunately, it was all at once and combined with the fear, I couldn’t get my muscles to do squat. A fat lot of good all those bruises and cracked ribs did when I had been training.
The arm across my throat moved to my waist and I heard the audible click of a knife being flicked open.
“Scream and I will cut you.”
My attacker had the voice of a rat and the stench of a garbage can. Funny what runs through your head when the sharp point of a knife sticks into your ribcage. I nodded my head to indicate I wouldn’t scream. My muscles were already lax and I was shaking like a leaf. No need to fake it, I was scared. He moved in front of me removing his hand from my mouth and shoving me hard, back against a wall. His hand moved to my throat and he waved a knife in front of me.
“Let’s see what you got for me? Give me your money, sweetheart and I promise not to hurt you.” His voice moved along my spine like a cheese grater.
I knew he was lying. I was finally able to get my brain to get over this scared crap and get in gear. I nodded and slowly unzipped my jacket to reach inside.
“Easy now, girl. No tricks.”
The knife hovered near my face, as he moved closer to me. I shook my head as his hand tightened on my throat. My heart was going a mile a minute and so was my breathing. It was now, or never.
My attacker heard a noise behind him and turned his head away for one second. I brought my knee up into his balls, raised my arm up to block the descending knife arm and with my other hand grabbed his hand at my throat and twisted it. His knees gave out but he didn’t fall to the ground as he grunted in pain and doubled over some. It figures. I get an attacker that has balls of steel. I had his left wrist in a lock but the knife arm was coming around again. As I used his own arm to turn him away, he kicked out with his foot at my knee.
I quickly let go of him, dodging the kick. Moving away from the wall, he came at me again, swinging the knife at my face. I let it go by and kicked him in the gut. This had some effect as he doubled over. Finally, I thought; but I was wrong. He was only faking it. He rose up quickly and backhanded me, ass over teakettle, into a trash can. Somehow I still managed to get back up before he got too close. Tasting blood in my mouth, I smiled at him, now I was pissed. The man and I squared off, a little more leery about the other’s abilities.
“Come on, asshole. I ain’t got all night to wait for you.”
I hoped that if I goaded him enough he would do something stupid. But he just smiled, licked his lips, and shifted the knife to his other hand.
Over the man’s shoulder, Mike and Sean came into the alley. Sean started to run forward but Mike stopped him.
“Hey, Laney, you done yet?” Mike casually asked. Thankfully this was the diversion I needed for “asshole” to turn away to see who was talking. I grabbed the metal lid off a trashcan and hit him in the knife arm and then in the head. Finally, he dropped like a rock, as did I.
I fell to my knees and started trying to breathe normally again. Sean ran over and hauled me up, his hands moving firmly over my arms and then up to my face. “You okay?” His hands were gentle as his thumb wiped blood from my lip. All I could do was nod. I’m not sure what had me more speechless, the look of fear in his eyes or the whole past ten minutes. Mike kicked the guy on the ground for good measure and took out his cell phone and called the cops. Sean handed me over to Mike.
“I am going to run back to the theater and get my car.” Sean gently touched my face again. “You’ll be okay.” I wanted to tell him of course I’d be okay, as he ran off, but my brain had not reengaged yet.
“Nice job,” Mike said. “I think you might need some more practice. But not bad.” I muttered “thanks,” and leaned back against the wall, my knees still shaking.
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Kirby by Samantha Anne
The competitive nature of New York’s publishing scene forces Rachel Sirianni to adopt an alter ego—but can she keep her hot boyfriend from discovering the duplicity?
The next day arrived entirely too fast. Training lasted until well past midnight, leaving Rachel to function on less than six hours of rest. It’s only six months, she reminded herself, and you’ll be junior editor in no time.
She stood in line at the coffee shop beneath the building that housed Equinox Publishing, her eyes burning from lack of sleep. Certain that a frappe would make the world right again, she waited patiently to place her order. Her patience was rewarded with quick service, and she held her iced coffee drink lovingly as she scooped it up from the counter. Sleepily, she suppressed a yawn and turned to head upstairs where, undoubtedly, another stack of wasted manuscripts awaited her attention. Rachel hadn’t taken five steps, when her toe caught on the edge of one of the rugs. It sent her falling forward; her frappe went flying ahead of her.
Before the exclamation had completely escaped her lips, she felt a pair of hands grab onto her. The floor rushed up toward her face, then away again as she was yanked into a standing position. Disoriented, she grabbed onto the mystery arms for dear life. A familiar voice boomed above her.
“Good God, how do you make it to work?"
Rachel’s breath caught in her throat and she realized she was caged in a pair of strong massive arms. Her eyes trailed upward, past a strong chest and a sprinkling of hair. Her gaze extended further and she finally saw his face. Those eyes, the smile that dripped with swagger.
His arms locked around her waist, he looked down and smiled. “Really, gorgeous – we have got to stop meeting like this."
Rachel’s breath left her body in a low steady stream. His lopsided grin was covered in a few days growth, and his hair fell forward in unruly black waves over the sides of his face as he towered over her.
Wow, she breathed inwardly, and it occurred to her that the heat of his body would unglue her if she stayed in his arms any longer. Forcing herself to stand, she pulled away from him. She found herself shaking the cobwebs out of her head as she looked at him...again.
“Do you just go to random coffee shops and wait for women to fall into your arms?”
Joe let out a throaty chuckle, deep and masculine. Rachel's body ignited with tiny little sparks, and she fought to hold them down. "Not usually, but if you’re the one that keeps falling, I may have to look into a career change.”
And there was that lopsided grin again. Rachel wanted to groan just looking at him. She figured him to be six feet five, less than 300 pounds. Every single inch of Hottie McCoffeehouse was solid, and her eyes widened as he began to take his blazer off.
“What...what are you doing?"
“Huh,” he replied, oblivious to the fact that she was mentally undressing him, “Oh, you got my blazer with your frappe. I’m just going to get it off..."
Rachel could’ve sworn the heavens had just opened up. Beneath the dark blazer he wore a white V-neck that fit him like a second skin, probably because of his size. With every movement of his well-muscled torso, the shirt threatened to tear at the seams.
Rachel averted her gaze, refusing to absorb any more of the raw sexual energy that seemed to ooze out of him.
“I’m so sorry about that,” Rachel stammered, keeping her head down, “It’s a...it's a nice blazer."
Hottie McCoffeehouse grinned, finally appearing to tune into the way he was affecting Rachel.
“It’s all right,” he replied, placing a hand under her chin and looking her in the eye.
“Listen, that’s twice in less than a month that you’ve ended up in my arms. Don’t you think we should at least have dinner now?"
Rachel’s eyes widened as his touch burned her skin. It was insanely electric; could he feel it too? She stepped backward and away from him, blushing uncontrollably.
“Yeah,” Rachel spoke, slowly, “That’s probably not the best idea...but thank you for the offer, Mister...?"
“Joe,” he smirked, allowing her to pull away, “Just call me Joe. And I’ll tell you what, if this happens again --"
“If what happens again?” Rachel asked, “If I fall?”
Joe chuckled. “If you trip again, and I’m there to catch you, then you have to have dinner with me. Agreed?"
Rachel closed her eyes with a grin, opening them again to meet his gaze. "Fair enough, Joe."
“I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you again,” he closed the gap between them.
Rachel tried to remain composed as he towered over her. "I'm sure you do, Joe."
Joe smiled, seemingly amused by her refusal to react to his advances. He stared at her for a moment, his eyes darkening as a mischievous grin appeared on his face. The tiniest of growls escaped his parted lips, and Rachel's breath caught in her throat. She nearly hit the floor. Without another word, he turned and walked away.
His pants looked fit to burst as his massive legs flexed with each stride. Every woman in the shop watched him leave, jaws dropped, and Rachel couldn’t help but fan herself after he was gone. She had no idea where on this planet Joe came from, but she couldn’t help but think that he was right – this would not be the last time she saw him.
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The Very Thought of You by Carolann Camillo
When real estate developer Nick Mancini tries to buy out the tenants in his San Francisco apartment building, sparks fly with stubborn Molly Hewitt.
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Masquerade by Nicole Flockton
A medical romance set down under in Perth provides just the right emergency to reunite Sophie and Alex after their steamy one-night stand.
Excitement sizzled along her veins — she was finally going to get to taste Alex, feel his lips on hers. He turned her and she stood loosely in his embrace. Placing her hands on his hard chest, his heartbeat thrummed beneath her fingers in time with the blood coursing through her veins.
She looked up at him. If she were paper, she would have spontaneously combusted from the fire sparking within the dark depths of his eyes. Her breath hitched as she ran her hands up to his shoulders needing something solid to grip. He felt so good under her touch and she started caressing the strength beneath the warm fabric.
Sophie found herself pulled closer, his arms tightening around her. His breath floated over her skin, like snowflakes drifting down at the start of a storm. With his arousal brushing against her belly, heat pooled between her legs. All around her the noise of her fellow partygoers rose, but they remained hidden and untouched by it all. She was in a world that revolved solely around Alex.
The sound of the crowd counting down penetrated that world. “Ten, nine, eight, seven …”
Apprehension warred with excitement. Her stomach muscles clenched and her breath came in short, sharp gasps.
“Five, four… ”
The anticipation of experiencing a first kiss built. The moment when their lips would touch for the first time.
“Three, two, one. Happy New Year!”
Time stood still as Alex’s hands reached out and framed her face. With slow, precise movements, he reached around to the back of her mask, his fingers brushing her sensitive earlobes. He pulled at the ribbon holding her mask in place. The ties slipped apart like a knife cutting through butter. Her mask fell forward. She made no effort to catch it, letting it fall to the floor.
Alex leaned in close, his lips mere millimeters from hers. “Happy New Year, Sophie.”
Before she had time to respond or remove his mask, he closed the distance and locked his lips onto hers. This was what she’d been waiting for from the moment they’d met. The touch of lips on lips. It was everything she’d wanted and more. Electricity jolted through her. His lips were firm and soft as they cajoled hers to respond. She didn’t need any encouragement. She wanted this and what this first touch would bring them.
Rising up on tiptoe, she wound her arms around his neck. Tracing the shape of his skull, hooking her fingers under his mask before slipping it over his head, letting it fall silently to the ground. His hair was soft and springy under her touch. She opened up beneath his onslaught to allow him access into her moist depths. His touch and taste were heaven. She never wanted the kiss to end. It was everything a first kiss should be and more.
She moaned when he pulled away from her, laying his forehead against hers. She pulled back, tilting her head up, getting her first good look at Alex. He took her breath away. It was amazing how a little mask could hide so much. Her imagination hadn’t done him justice. He was more handsome and striking than she had thought. Reaching out, it was her turn to trace his features. Cupping his cheek, his light five o’clock shadow bristling under her hand, she continued her exploration of the man who’d captivated her all evening. His nose had a tiny bump, signaling it had been broken at some stage. His strong, square jaw defined the personality he had shown her tonight. But she knew there was a softness to him too. Sophie finally ran her finger along his full, plump lower lip, gasping when he took it in his mouth, sucking gently on it. Sensations sizzled through her, all converging at the one point between her legs. She shivered at the thought of what would come later on.
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Looking for Prince Charming by Iris Leach
Glory agrees to pose as her boss’s girlfriend while he campaigns for Lord Mayor of Melbourne—which might not be the best idea since she’s already in love with him!
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Urgent: One Nanny Required by Olivia Logan
Rania George is offered a sweet gig babysitting a boy she adores. Only catch? She has to fly to Hollywood—a place she loathes—and spend three weeks with his devastatingly handsome and arrogant father.
Urgent: One Nanny Required Excerpt:
“I said—do you have any children?” The repeated question was spoken a lot slower and carefully enunciated this time, as if she herself were a child. The question, unbeknown to him, brought to the surface her secret, long held dream of having a child of her own. To raise her child to be loved and wanted, as she was never brought up. Never to be used as an accessory, then discarded when the party was over.
Rania shook her head sadly, partly to dispel the image and partly to answer his question, murmuring softly, “No. No, I don’t.”
She had a sneaky feeling the barriers she had long ago constructed were becoming more transparent with each passing minute of this conversation. His sharp gaze never seemed to miss a trick as he watched her smooth down her apron for the umpteenth time that evening.
“Why do you ask? Am I that much of a natural with children?” She smiled breezily.
Clearly, he was in no mood for jokes as her light-hearted comment fell on deaf ears and he continued to watch her through lowered lashes.
“You are with Theo. He rarely lets me even look at his prized comics, let alone ever sharing them with his nanny or a total stranger.” He paused, as if another thought had entered his handsome head. “What is your experience with children then?”
Where was he going with this? Rania knew she hadn’t had much experience with interviews, especially since taking over the shop from Belle, but this was strangely beginning to feel like one. As tempted as she was to tell him to mind his own business, she felt strangely compelled to carry on with the bizarre conversation. “Baby-sitting jobs here and there. Not a lot of those since running the shop. I’m a volunteer reader at the library during children’s hour on the weekend. Why?”
She could feel his eyes travel over her face, as if trying to pin something down. He nodded and she felt like he had already come to a decision though she had no idea what and how the hell it involved her.
“What about a boyfriend?”
Talk about coming out of left field! Turning swiftly, Rania busied herself rearranging the already pristine shelves. Her face flamed at the reminder that the last time she had a boyfriend or even gave herself time for one, Belle was still alive and that had been five years ago. The ‘ignorance-is-bliss’ tack was clearly what this situation called for.
“Boyfriend? Yes I’ve had those. So…?”
His impatient exhale was a sure sign her response had worked. Perhaps now he would back off and let her be. “Yes, I’m sure you did. What I would like to know is if you have one now?”
That did it. How dare he come into her shop and start questioning her about the state of her non-existent love life. If this had been an interview she would have sued…for something.
“I’m not sure that is any of your business Mr.Trenton!”
“Just answer the damn question!” The sharp comment exhaled on a frustrated sigh had her turning around and facing him. This was too much.
“As I said, I don’t see how that is any of your business. To be honest, I’m beginning to wonder what’s with all the questions. What do you want, exactly?”
She knew as soon as the words left her lips that she was going to regret the answer. She could see his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, his eyes steady as he looked at her.
“Miss George, I would like to hire you to be my son’s full-time nanny.”
He had to be joking.
However, judging from the serious look on his face, Rania didn’t think that was the case. “You can’t be serious. I mean, you hardly even know me and besides I can’t. Unless it’s escaped your attention; I have a shop to run and it’s very busy.”
He arched one eyebrow at her while looking around the shop. Rania knew what he saw; the paint peeling, the scratched flooring and the worn counter. Minor details she hoped to fix when business picked up again, as it surely would.
“If you insist.” He sighed, as if placating a child. “What I am suggesting will work out for both of us. Theo has his half term coming up in a week’s time and I am flying out to the States for a big production commercial. He obviously likes you and I have a feeling he won’t run away from you.”
“And this works out for me how?”
“I will pay you double what you earn here which should be enough to cover any repair expenses your shop may or may not need,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets and fixing her with his glacial gaze.
What was it about this man that rendered her speechless; something she was sure she had never encountered before tonight. “I can’t just up and leave. What about getting someone to cover my shop?”
“Do you have someone to cover? A trusted friend, maybe, or reliable weekend help you could ask?”
Yes, she did; damn it. Chewing on her lower lip, she nodded, annoyed to see a wide grin begin to spread on his too-handsome face.
“You’ve got a week till the half term. Here’s my card, in case you have any further questions,” he said, digging in his back pocket and producing an immaculate ivory card with black embossed letters on the front.
“C’mon, Theo. Ready to go?” he asked as the reason for this whole situation bounded through the door toward a navy Jaguar outside.
“Bye, Belle. See you later!”
Lifting a hand to wave him off, she didn’t see a point in correcting him. After all, she wasn’t going to take the offer…was she?
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Special Angel by Nancy Loyan
A diva with no record of her past, classical singer Angelique must search the globe to find her true identity, and sexy investigative reporter Brian Andrews is hot on her heels.
Special Angel Excerpt:
On stage, Angelique commanded the theater like a queen on a throne holding court, the audience her subjects. She stood alone, the only glow in the spotlight. The beam’s radiance shone down illuminating her translucent complexion, delicate features, and platinum hair that flowed over her shoulders and down to her waist. Like the gown of an ancient goddess, the loose folds draped from her willowy body forming a puddle at her feet. She stood still, inhumanly still. Her only movement was her arms that reached upward, the long dolman sleeves of her gown spread out like wings ready for flight. Only her eyes added color as their icy-blue energy gazed hypnotically out into the mesmerized audience.
Angelique looked out into the darkness beyond the stage and into the front rows where admirers gazed up at her in adoration and awe. Ever since she began performing, the reverence audiences had shown overwhelmed her. She knew that her voice had power, more than she had in her life. Sometimes she longed to be out in one of the rows of plush seats or up in the balcony instead of alone upon the stage. Sometimes she wished to be normal. Sometimes.
The only sound in the theater was the sound of her voice, a solo voice without accompaniment. Hers was a voice so melodic, so pure, and so complete that it was never to have thought to exist. No human being had ever had the full range, even control, and the style that she possessed.
As she sang she peered out once more into the ocean of people. A man seated in the front row captured her attention. His dark ruggedly handsome looks could turn many a head but there was a certain something that made her take notice. He possessed the confidence of a man comfortable in his own skin. Self-assurance was evident in the way he sat, eased back into his seat, a foot resting on a knee, and in the casual attire he wore. In a sea of black tuxedos, he wore tan khaki and didn’t seem to care. Yet, tears were drizzling from his eyes as he watched her sing. A strong man with a heart, she thought. His dark chocolate eyes melted into hers and she almost missed a note. As she continued to sing, she pretended that he was the only person in the theater and she sang to him. The romantic verse of the song made her wonder if she would ever fall in love, and if she would fall in love with someone like him.
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Perfect Partners by Stephanie Cage
London’s latest hit dance competition television show throws two former lovers into each other’s arms—but can they stay in step?
Perfect Partners Excerpt:
Redmond straightened and held out a hand to her. “Shall we dance?”
No apology, no pleasantries. Just straight to work. Well, what had she expected?
Roses and a red carpet? The most romantic thing he’d ever bought her was a fish and
chip supper. Though, come to think of it, eating fish and chips under the stars with himon the promenade outside the Winter Gardens at Bournemouth had been one of those perfectly peaceful moments that had sometimes come back to her with a stab of regret as she’d squabbled with Brandon across a restaurant table someplace in Kensington. Well, you couldn’t have everything, could you? She needed a dance partner, and she wasn’t going to get better than Redmond Carrington, Junior British Open and twice Ten-Dance Champion.
What was he doing here? Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, traffic queued nose-to-tail up to the traffic lights at the end of the road. A driver honked repeatedly as the Shepherds Bush bus pulled out from the bus stop into his path. On the common, one hardy dogwalker watched his black Labrador chase a crisp packet across the thin, muddy grass. And Redmond had left a comfortable job in Florida for this and the promise of a medal and five minutes of fame? It didn’t stack up.
But she couldn’t think about it forever. He was standing over her, waiting with infinite confidence and patience for her to join him on the dance floor.
Lisa never turned down an opportunity to dance.
She stood up, dropped her fleece onto the bench, and took his hand, willing herself not to notice the way his strong fingers encircled hers, making her feel safe and protected.
Whatever his body told her, it was a lie, she told herself. He’d never been anything but trouble, and he never would be. Their partnership was a convenience, nothing more. But his hand on her back, where her low-cut dress gave way to bare flesh, still felt warm and firm and right. And when he shifted his hold, her body still responded, sending soft shivers down her spine.
He pressed the play button on the CD player as he passed, and after a moment’s pause the music began. Even though they were dancing a rapid jive, skipping and spinning and dipping, she still had time to notice how his eyes were fixed on her with almost frightening intensity. That was something she’d forgotten about him. The way he did everything as if his life, or maybe more than that—the fate of the world—depended on it.
It was as if time stretched when they were dancing. In between heartbeats he could move his feet in perfect unison with hers, adjust his routine to avoid other couples on the floor and fit around her occasional slips, and still favour her with a long, lazy smile whenever she followed a particularly tricky move.
Finally, just as Lisa was becoming breathless the track began to slow down. Redmond’s effervescent energy softened to an easy swing, and as the music drifted to a halt, he swung her into a slow, languorous drop.
Lisa had never liked drops. She never quite trusted the men who threw her from one hand to the other like a juggling ball or swung her like a limp rag. Spinning, she had always felt in control, but when she was caught and lowered rapidly until her hair brushed the floor, it made her nervous. She did it anyway, of course, because she was a professional, and she never complained. But every time she was lowered to the floor, her knees felt weak and her head whirled with images of the hard tiles flying up to meet her: the crack of bone, the metallic smell of blood, the pain.
Of course, she’d known Redmond would do it sooner or later. Men always did. They liked to show they were in control. Difficult moves are a boast—more to the other men on the dance floor than to the woman in their arms. I can make her do anything I want, they say.
And he could. He always had been able to. She stopped thinking as he drew her closer, spun her around, twisting his arms under and over hers. She didn’t need to think, because her body followed his effortlessly, as it always had. When he pulled her into his arms and leaned her gently towards the floor, she felt like a child being laid down to sleep. It was like coming home.
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