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THE DANCE OFF

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Dancing lessons… Architect Ryder Fitzgerald can't think of anything worse!  But when he spots smoking-hot Nadia Kent, who'll be teaching him his steps for his sister's wedding, he decides this might not be so torturous after all…

Nadia is staying well clear of Ryder, however jaw-droppingly hot he is—she let a guy get in the way of her ambition once, but never again. (No matter how well he swivels his hips!) 

But as electricity crackles in the studio, restricting their chemistry to the dance floor becomes a challenge.  Only question is, who's going to make the first move?

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REVIEWS

 

"Blake entertains with clever dialogue, a well-paced story and lyrical descriptions as she immerses readers in a dancer’s world."

...Romantic Times Book Reviews, 4 stars

 

 

"Ally Blake's books are like snuggling under a doona on a chilly day: warm and soothing and just plain fun.  Thoroughly enjoyed this one."

...Nicola Marsh, USA Today Bestselling author

 

 

"...loving everything about these characters and their story..."

 ...Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado (with Mills & Boon Boy)

 

 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

 

 

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

 

 

THE CAR

 

 

 

 

 

THE APPARATUS

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHAIR

 

 

 

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PINTEREST

 

For more images that helped inspire this story, check out The Dance Off Pinterest inspiration board here

 

 

 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

 

 

 

THE WORKING TITLE

 

"DIRTY DANCERS"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT

  

Ryder tugged at his cufflinks as he sauntered up the front steps.  It was a muggy night, oppressive in a way Melbourne rarely saw, and he was more than ready to be rid of his suit.

It had been a long day before it.  And the very last thing he wanted to do right now was cha-cha with some grand dame in pancake make-up, a tight bun and breathing heavily of the bottle of Crème de Menthe hidden in the record player.  But his sister was getting antsy.  And he’d spent enough years keeping the antsy at bay to know revisiting the high school waltz in preparation for her upcoming wedding would be less complicated than dealing with one of his sister's frantic phone calls.

“One lesson,” he said. “Prove I know my right from my left, can count to four, and that’s it.”  He wrenched open a heavy red door and went inside.

A Do Not Enter sign hung askew from the front of an old-fashioned lift with lattice casing.  His eyes followed the cables to their origins, but all he saw were shadows, dust, and webs so old they drifted lazily by way of a draft coming from somewhere it structurally ought not to.

Less impressed by the second, Ryder trudged up the steep narrow staircase that wound its way around the lift shaft, the space lit by a string of lamps with green-tinged glass so pocked and dust-riddled the weak glare made his eyes water.

And the heat only grew, thickened, pressing into him as he made his way up three floors – the ground floor apparently untenanted, the second floor wallpapered with ragged posters advertising student plays from years past.  As it tended to do, the hottest air collected at the top where a faint light shone through the gap at the bottom of the door, and a small sign mirroring the one downstairs announced that the big black door with the gaudy gold hinges led unto The Amelia Brandt Dance Academy.

Ryder turned the wooden knob, its mechanism soft with age.  Stifling heat washed against his face as he stepped inside.  He loosened his tie, popped the top button of his dress shirt, and made a mental note to throttle Sam the very next moment he saw her.

The place appeared uninhabited but for the scent of something rustic and foreign, and the incongruously funky beat of some familiar R&B song complete with breathy sighs and French lyrics.

His eyes roved over the space – habitually calculating floor space, ceiling height, concrete cubic metres, brick palettes, glazier costs.  The tall wall of arched windows looking out over the street appeared to be original and mostly in working order – he only just stopped himself from heading that way to check his car was still in situ.  From above industrial-sized fans swung still.  A string of old glass chandeliers poured pools of golden light into the arcs of silvery moonlight streaming across a scuffed wooden floor.

Speckled mirrors lined the near wall, and to his right, in front of the ceiling-to-floor curtains that made his nose itch, reclined a sad-looking row of old school lockers with half the doors hanging open, a piano, a half dozen hula hoops in a haphazard pile on the floor, a row of bookshelves filled with records and sheet music in piles so haphazard and high they seemed in imminent danger of toppling, and lastly a pink velvet lounge - the kind a woman would drape herself over in order to be painted by some lucky artist.

Ryder took another step, his weight bringing forth a groan from the creaky old floor.

The music shut off a moment before a feminine voice called from behind the curtains.  "Mr Fitzgerald?"

He turned to the voice as his earlier dance teacher prediction shimmered to dust.  In her place, Scheherazade strolled his way.

Long shaggy dark hair, even darker eyes rimmed in lashings of kohl, skin so pale it seemed to soak in the moonlight.  A brown tank top knotted at her waist, showing off a glimpse of taut tummy.  An ankle-length skirt made of a million earthen colours swayed hypnotically as she walked.  Feet as bare as the day she was born.

Ryder straightened, squared his shoulders, and said, “I take it you’re the woman whose job it is to turn me into Patrick Swayze.”

She blinked, a smile tugging briefly at one corner of her lush mouth before disappearing as if it had never been.  “Nadia Kent,” she said, holding out a hand.

He took it.  Finding it soft, warm, unexpectedly strong.  And so strikingly pale he could make out veins beneath the surface.  Warmth hummed through him, like an electrical current, from the point where their skin touched and then she slid from his grip and the sensation was gone as if it had never been.

"You're early," she said, her voice rich with accusation, and, if he wasn’t wrong, shot with a faint American accent.

"A good thing I would have thought considering the late hour."  He caught the spicy scent again, stronger this time, as she swayed past.

“And whose idea was that?”

Touché.

Light as a bird, she perched on the edge of the long pink chair, her dark hair tumbling over her shoulders in dishevelled waves, her exotic skirt settling about her in a slow sway.  And Ryder wondered how a woman who looked like she’d been born right out of the earth had ended up in a gloomy corner of the world such as this.

With a flick of the wrist, she hiked her skirt to her knee revealing smooth calves wrapped in lean muscle she slid a pair of beige shoes with small heels from under the couch and buckled herself in.  And without looking up she said, "You look hot.”

“Why, thank-you.”  His instinctive response echoed through the big room.  The only evidence she’d even heard him was the brief pause of her fingers at the last buckle before she slid her hands up her calves to swish the skirt back to the floor.

Was he flirting?  Of course he was.  Till that moment he’d never imagined the day he might wish he’d come back as a pair of shoes.  But the woman was...something else.   She was riveting.  And then there was that dull boom that had begun echoing inside of him the moment he’d laid eyes on her.

While she didn’t even spare him a glance as she pressed herself to standing, poked a small remote into the waist of her skirt and, shoes clacking on the floor, walked his way.   "If I were you I’d lose the jacket, Mr Fitzgerald.  It gets hot in here, hotter still once we get moving, and I don’t fancy having to catch you if you faint.”

He baulked at the thought, and for a split second thought he saw a flare of triumph in her eyes, before it was swallowed by the eyes so dark he struggled to make out their centres.

Calling her bluff, he slid his jacket from his shoulders, and finding nowhere better lay it neatly over the back of the velvet chair.  Moth holes.  Great.  He tugged his loosened tie from his neck and tossed it the same way.  Then rid himself of his cufflinks, and rolled his shirt-sleeves to his elbows.  Moves more fit for a bedroom than a dance hall.  Her gaze was so direct as she watched him losing layers it only added to the impression, and he felt himself break out in a sweat.

Then with no apparent regret, she looked away, leaving him to breathe out long and slow.  Then she pulled her hair off her face and into a low ponytail, lifted her chin, knocked her heels and Scheherazade was no more.  In her place stood Dance Teacher.

Which is when Ryder remembered why he was there, and really began to sweat.

“Can we make this quick?" he said, calling up of the reams of architectural plans curled up in the shelves by his bespoke drafting table at home.   More awaiting his attention inside the state of the art computer programs back in his offices in the city.  Projects of his and projects headed up by his team.  Not that he had his father’s trouble settling on one thing, he simply liked to work.  And he’d rather pull an all nighter than spend the next hour entertaining this extravagance.

Nadia Kent’s hands slid to her lean hips, the fingers at the top of her skirt dragging the fabric a mite lower.   The faint American twang added a lilt to her voice as she said, "You have somewhere else to be at ten o’clock on a Tuesday night, Mr Fitzgerald?”

“There are other things I could be doing, yes.”

“So it’s not that you’re simply too chicken to take dance lessons.”

His eyes narrowed, yet his smile grew.  “What can I say, I’m a wanted man.”

“I’ll take your word for it.  Now," she said, clapping her hands together in such a way that the sound echoed around the space and thundered back at them.  "Where are your tights?"

"Excuse me?"

"Your dancing tights.  Sam told you, I hope.  If we are going to get any kind of indication of your aptitude you need to have the freedom of movement that tights allow.”

He knew she was kidding.  Okay, so he was ninety percent sure.  But that didn’t stop hairs on his arms from standing on end.  “Miss Kent, do I look like the kind of man who would have come within ten kilometres of this place if tights were required?”

He’d given her the invitation after all, yet when those sultry dark eyes gave him a slow once over, pausing on the top button of his crisp white shirt, the high shine of his belt buckle, the precise crease of his suit pants his gut clenched right down low.  Then her answer came by way of a smile that slid slowly onto a mouth that was wide, pink, soft, and as sensuous as the rest of her and the clench curled into a tight fist.

His voice hit low as he said, “If this is how you play with clients who are early, Miss Kent, I’d like to see how you treat those who are late.”

“No,” she said, “you wouldn’t.”

 

Like it?  Buy it!

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