Dance of Seduction,
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Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
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Dance of Seduction
Copyright © 2008 by Elle Kennedy
Edited by Laurie Rauch
Cover by Scott Carpenter
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Samhain Publishing, Ltd. electronic publication: March 2008
Dance of Seduction
To my critique partners for being so darn supportive, and to my editor for letting me know how she feels about wandering body parts…
Find her and bring her home.
Luke Russell repeated the words in his head, over and over again, as he glanced around the dim-lit club. Well, club was an exaggeration. The Dancehall was nothing more than a bar with a stage in the corner. But hey, if calling it a club made the owner feel better, more power to him.
Luke looked down at the longneck he’d been nursing, and then up at the redheaded waitress. “No, thanks. I’m good. When is the show going to start?”
The woman shrugged and her ample breasts, barely contained by her low-cut belly top, bobbed in front of his face. “A few minutes. The dancers are just warming up.”
He stared at the drawn velvet curtains shielding the small stage area. Was Ellie behind those curtains?
He wanted to ask the waitress what kind of show this was. A part of him prayed it was a ballet. God, how he prayed. But that seemed far-fetched, considering the atmosphere. Most of the patrons littering the bar’s tables were male, though he did spot a few females. Everyone wore shorts, T-shirts, sandals—hardly the kind of attire one associated with tutus and classical music. Yet, despite the casual environment, Luke continued to maintain some degree of hope that at any second the curtain would open to reveal dancers in elegant leotards and the bar would fill with the tasteful sound of Tchaikovsky.
Glancing back at the waitress, he tried to hold on to that hope. “By any chance, does the show feature ballet dancers?”
Her blue eyes grew wary. “Ballet? Honey, I think you’re in the wrong place.”
“Excuse me,” she said before flouncing off in the direction of the heavy-set man who’d just signaled her.
He watched her go, all hope deflating in his chest. Well, how bad could it really be? He directed his gaze to the stage area, deciding the place looked fairly tame. A piano sat in the corner of the room, the man on the bench smoking a cigar, looking bored. Everyone else in the bar was engaged in idle chatter and the occasional burst of laugher rang out.
He sipped his beer, suddenly wishing he were back in San Francisco. The temperature down here in San Valdez was grueling, far hotter than he’d expected, and his black T-shirt seemed to attract the heat, even indoors. But hell, it beat the expensive suits he’d been forced to wear just a couple months ago. Not to mention those stuffy tuxedos. Guarding a senator didn’t provide one with the luxury of jeans, and he knew he should be grateful for the reprieve.
Unfortunately, comfortable attire didn’t exactly make his current situation any less annoying. Sometimes he wished he’d never heard of the word loyalty. Those who knew him said his loyal nature was his best quality, and it did come in handy in his line of work. This time, however, he wondered if he should’ve put his foot down and told Josh Dawson to find someone else for the job.
Bottom line: Josh wanted his sister to come home. And since he didn’t trust anyone else to do it, he’d asked his best friend to make it happen. Easier said than done, of course. Luke had no clue why Ellie Dawson had decided to run off to this obscure one-horse town but he was fairly certain she wouldn’t leave without a fight. There would be no white flag with Ellie, no calm surrender, no complacent obedience.
She was going to give him hell—fire and brimstone included.
“Ladies and gentlemen…”
Luke lifted his head as a male voice blared over the loudspeaker and the lights in the bar dimmed. A spotlight focused on the stage as the voice continued. “Get ready to go wild!”
“You all know ’em. You all love ’em. Give a big hand for…the Dancehall Dolls!”
Before Luke could register that odd introduction, the curtains parted to reveal the most shocking sight he’d ever encountered.
Dear Lord, Ellie, what are you doing?
A sexy jazz tune filled the bar as the half-dozen figures on the stage began to move. The dancers were not wearing the tutus and ballet slippers Luke had hoped to see. Not wearing much at all, in fact. He saw lace and mesh, some sequins, and a lot of skin. Too much skin.
Danger! his head shouted. His traitorous eyes, however, refused to unglue from the sight in front of him.
The dancers moved in sync, everything choreographed, from their high kicks to the way they spun around and wiggled their hips. One by one, each girl made her way to the front of the stage for a sultry solo.
It wasn’t until the third dancer came up that Luke nearly choked on his beer.
He could’ve picked her out of a line-up, having known her for more than half his life, yet the sexy temptress up on that stage looked nothing like the girl he’d watched grow up.
She wore a tight black corset, a strap of black mesh that constituted a skirt, and a pair of stilettos that made her appear far taller than her five feet, four inches. Long brown hair cascaded down her shoulders in waves, and her blue eyes looked huge with all that smoky eyeliner surrounding them.
Luke’s mouth went bone-dry. Oh, man, Josh was going to kill him. Josh was going to kill her. How had a ballerina ended up performing a mind-blowing jazz dance in a tiny town on the Mexican border?
And why did her breasts look so damn good? They couldn’t be that big. He remembered them being small, perky. Had to be the corset. And those stilettos did amazing things to her legs.
She whirled around, and the sight of her firm, round behind shaking on that stage made his groin tighten.
This couldn’t be Ellie Dawson. His P.I. friend had obviously made a mistake.
It had to be a mistake.
He watched the rest of the show, which lasted too long for his frantic brain and aroused body. It couldn’t be her. Ellie simply wasn’t this…sexy.
On the stage, the dancers took a few bows as the music came to an end. The second the overhead lights flickered on and the curtains closed, Luke shot to his feet.
He needed to look at that dark-haired vixen with his own two eyes and make sure she wasn’t the woman he was searching for.
Make sure she wasn’t his best friend’s kid sister.
“Great moves,” Vivian Kendrick said, approaching Ellie’s vanity area.
Ellie saw her boss’s reflection in the mirror and smiled. “Thanks, Viv. I improvised there in the end.”
“Well, whatever you did worked. I had about six customers come up to me and ask who Doll number three is.”
Ellie reached for a cotton ball and be
“One is actually waiting outside the door. Said he wants to come in and get an autograph,” Vivian added.
She wrinkled her nose. An autograph? She’d been dancing here in Vivian’s club for nearly two months now, and this was the first time someone had wanted an autograph. “Who is it?” she asked.
Vivian shrugged. “Just a customer. But he’s cute. Real cute. Should I send him in?”
She tossed the cotton ball in the wastebasket and reached for another one. “Sure, no harm in that, I guess. Just stay close by.”
“I always do.”
Vivian left the dressing room, and Ellie continued to wipe the makeup from her face. God, she hated makeup. Hated these skimpy little outfits too. It was funny how, in ballet, she wore just as little clothing, yet something about her tutus and leotards seemed elegant. Sophisticated.
She glanced down at the corset and tiny skirt. Nope, not sophisticated. More like trashy.
The dressing room had emptied out, and as usual, she was the last one there. All the other dancers didn’t bother scrubbing off their layers of makeup. Most of the girls wore that stuff on a daily basis, not just for the shows. She liked having the room to herself, though. It reminded her of all the times she’d gotten ready alone for her ballet recitals.
As she got rid of the last of her eye shadow, she heard the sound of the door opening. Right, her fan. Stifling a sigh, she swiveled the chair and turned to face her admirer.
“Oh, damn it to hell. It is you.”
Luke Russell strode into the dressing room, slamming the door behind him.
All Ellie could do was gape. What was he doing here? And how had he found her? She hadn’t thought anyone would think to track her down in San Valdez. Heck, if it weren’t for Vivian, Ellie wouldn’t even know about the place herself. North of Tijuana and right on the Pacific coastline, the beach town was so remote it wasn’t even listed on most maps. And, she’d thought, the last place anyone would think to look for her.
But Luke had found her.
Because of Josh.
Of course. There was no other reason why Luke Russell would be here. Her older brother must have enlisted the help of his best friend to find her.
The thought sent a jolt of anger to her gut. Why couldn’t Josh respect her wishes? Before she’d left San Francisco, she’d made it clear she needed time and space. And what had he done? Not even two months had passed and he’d gone out and sent his henchman to track her down.
“What are you doing here?” she said, though she was fairly certain of the answer. She tried to keep her tone calm, even, but inside she was fuming over her brother’s insensitivity.
“I think the question is what are you doing here?” His voice was rough.
Oh, no, she’d completely forgotten about his voice. His entirely sexy voice. She’d also forgotten how good-looking he was.
Luke took a step toward her chair, his smoky gray eyes flickering with anger and disbelief. His dark brown hair was a little longer, falling onto his forehead in a way it hadn’t the last time she’d seen him. When had that been?
Bitterness tugged at her throat. Right, two years ago. At her and Scott’s engagement party. He’d been in the middle of an assignment, but he’d made a brief appearance. Stopped by before any of the guests arrived, wished her and Scottie well, and then disappeared. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since, which meant he really had no right storming into her life like this and making demands.
“Are you going to answer the question?” he demanded, standing in front of her with his hands on his lean hips.
“Are you going to answer mine?” she shot back.
Luke’s body stiffened in a sexy way that made his wide chest contract against the snug black T-shirt he wore. He was still as broad and powerful as ever, a fact that didn’t escape her. She’d fantasized about that hard body many times during her teenage years.
“Why are you dressed up like that? Why the hell are you in this damn town? Why are you strutting around half-naked on the stage of a second-rate club?” His questions fired out like bullets from a rifle.
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She’d also forgotten how commanding—and demanding—this man could be. “I’m not answering anything until you tell me why you’re here.”
His eyes darkened. “I’m here to take you home.”
Rising from the chair, she walked to the other side of the room, where she grabbed her robe from one of the hooks on the wall. She wouldn’t talk to him while wearing this skimpy outfit. She wouldn’t give him the upper hand.
She slipped on the robe and tightened the sash, then turned to glance at Luke. He looked furious.
“This isn’t the time to be stubborn, Elenore. Get dressed. We’re going back to San Francisco.”
“No, we’re not, Lucas.”
She didn’t appreciate him talking to her like an insolent child. He’d always treated her like a kid, since the day she’d met him. And sure, she was only twenty-four, six years younger than Luke, but that didn’t give him the right to order her around.
“Seriously, Ellie, you won’t win. I’m not leaving this goddamned town until you pack up your things and come home with me.”
“Then I guess you’ll be staying around for a long time, won’t you?” She used the sweetest voice she could muster.
He let out a growl and she almost grinned at the sheer exasperation in his eyes. Riling him up had always been one of her favorite pastimes. She’d had such a crush on him when she was younger, and since he’d never paid a single morsel of attention to her, the only way she’d gotten him to notice her was by irritating him. As the years passed, she hadn’t been able to kick the habit of getting under Luke’s skin. Making him crazy. Not so much for the power trip it provided but for the satisfaction she got knowing she affected him.
“So,” she continued, strolling back to the vanity and reaching for a hairbrush, “you can tell my brother he’s wasted everyone’s time by sending you here.”
Luke didn’t answer.
“What, you think I don’t know Joshua is behind this?” She ran the brush through her long hair and arched a taunting brow in Luke’s direction.
“He’s just worried about you,” Luke finally said, his husky voice quiet.
Her hand faltered for a moment, nearly dropping the hairbrush, but she tried to regain her composure. She knew Josh was worried about her, had been ever since the car accident that had put a screeching halt to her ballet career. And after Scott had broken off their engagement, Josh’s worry only increased.
Rather than being supportive and patient, however, he’d kept pushing her to get over it. Like she ever could. Josh didn’t know the whole story, but the parts he did should’ve made him realize she wasn’t ready to forget. In one split-second her entire world had crashed down around her, and her brother wanted her to pretend it never happened?
She’d grown so tired of Josh’s pressure, so tired of waking up every morning knowing the grim reality of her future. So she’d left. Packed up her bags and moved to a place where no one knew her, where no one had any expectations of her, where there were no reminders of what she’d lost.
She should’ve known her peaceful existence would be disturbed.
“He doesn’t need to worry about me.” She set down the hairbrush and reached for an elastic band, then tied her hair up in a loose ponytail.
“Really?” Luke raised one dark brow. “After what I just saw, I’d say Josh has plenty to worry about. How could you put yourself on display like that?”
Her lips tightened. “I was just dancing.”
“Dancing? You call shaking your ass dancing? You call flashing your tits in the faces of drunken men dancing?”
Fury began pumping through her blood. “Excuse
The furious sparks in Luke’s eyes matched the ones sizzling in her body. He took a step closer, and she gasped as he tore open her robe and exposed her flimsy costume.
“Look at what you’re wearing,” he said, his voice low, menacing.
She swallowed as his gaze roamed over her body, as those gray eyes focused on her chest and the cleavage spilling over the corset. Then his gaze lowered to her legs and she swallowed harder. Everywhere he looked, she burned. Hot flames licked at her skin, and her knees began to wobble.
Get it together!
Right. She wouldn’t give him the upper hand. She wouldn’t let a silly old crush make her back down.
“You can’t tell me you don’t like what I’m wearing.” Her tone challenging, she arched her back, knowing very well her chest jutted out as she did so.
He glanced at her breasts, and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he gulped. “I hate what you’re wearing,” he muttered.
She moved her barely-clad body inches from his. “You’re saying you don’t like seeing a woman in a skimpy outfit?” She twisted her mouth in a smirk. “From what Josh told me, you like your women with as little clothing as possible. So what’s the problem?”
Luke’s mouth set in a tight line. “The problem is my best friend’s kid sister is dancing practically naked in front of strangers.”
Of course. That was all she’d ever be to him, wasn’t it?
She took a step back and closed her robe. “I’m old enough to make my own decisions. And if I choose to dance practically naked in front of strangers, I damn well can.” She scowled. “You can take that message back to my brother.”
“I already told you, I’m not leaving without you.”
“And I already told you, I’m not going anywhere.”
Their eyes locked, and she refused to back down. She knew Luke was a stubborn man—annoyingly so—but she was just as stubborn. And she wasn’t going to allow him to force her into anything.