Excerpt from Book 1 of the Destiny of Dance Series, Burlesque Bad
BURLESQUE BAD, BOOK 1 of the DESTINY OF DANCE series, COMING soon!
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the Destiny of Dance series
The Ladies of The Velvet Room
They’re talented. They’re beautiful. They’re sexy as hell. But it’s not easy to stumble upon true love with all the wrong men falling at theie feet. In the spotlight at The Velvet Room, each one will live out her passion for dance—and her desire for lasting love…
Burlesque Bad - Sioban
Ever since she was a wee lass, Sioban Riordan has wanted to dance in her mother’s footsteps. But when they left the streets of Dublin for the bright lights of Hollywood, Ava Riordan’s dreams withered, and so did Sioban’s. Without Ava’s dark, beautiful looks, and sporting a temper to match her fiery mane, Sioban didn’t think she’d ever break out of the seedy strip club life that had claimed her mother. Until she was forced to flee that life and run straight to her best friend Vonda’s doorstep—and right into the chance for real success. Inside Vonda’s new club The Velvet Room, Sioban also finds herself facing off with no-nonsense security expert Danny Sheridan. He’s all brawn. She’s all sass. And they may have both met their match!
Burlesque Baby - Chyenne
Chyenne and her mother Dove Arrowheart were on their way to New York City, where Chyenne could finally pursue her dream to become a dancer in peace, away from her drunkard of a father, away from stagnancy of the reservation. But they ran out of money, and when a lingerie shop owner discovered them sleeping in their car, she gave Chyenne a job in her shop—right next door to The Velvet Room. Chy convinces her mother, and club owner Vonda Douglas, to give her a chance. It’s a start, after all. But at just twenty, she’ll be the youngest dancer on Von’s team. Not only can bartender Johnny Cutlass not keep his eyes off of her, but he’s determined to protect this baby from the lecherous male clientele. But Johnny also has to face the fact that he wants her for himself when Chy’s heart overflows with more than gratitude.
Burlesque Dreams - Solange
Perky French pixie and stunning aerialist Solange Vibert has been dreaming of Cirque du Sloeil since she took her first gymnastics class. But when the company dashes her dreams with their initial rejection, Solange exiles herself to teach an aerial silks fitness class at a local gym. She never suspects that one of her students, a performer at The Velvet Room, could be her ticket out of the gym, and back into a truly wonderful opportunity to showcase her talent. Neither could she have imagined stage manager Lex Monroe, who not only knows how to light her just right for her audition, but is ready to show her what else she should be dreaming about.
Burlesque Nights - Sahara
They only know this songbird by a single name, Sahara. She can hold a soul captive with her voice, from the sweet dulcet tones of Ella Fitzgerald to the smoky sensuality of Shirley Horn. And with the beauty of a Kenyan princess, she could have the world at her fingertips. But Sahara keeps her real Kenyan name and its meaning hidden in the shadows. Along with her deepest desires. At The Velvet Room, Sahara can come out at night, as far as she dares, the torch songs that she sings the only window inter her soul. But no one expects a state senator to spend the evening at the club, and when is strong, silent driver locks eyes with Sahara, he can see everything she’s been trying to hide—and needs desperately to let out.
Burlesque Beauty - Vonda
John Douglas always told his daughter that she could do anything she wanted, be anything she wanted to. With a singularity of purpose that he taught her. Vonda headed to L.A. to open a modern burlesque club. But then she ran out of money and had to take work at Club 29, a seedy strip club in Hollywood. And when Johnny died, she returned to Chicago to handle his affairs, and saw the opportunity to finally have the club she’d dreamed of in the rundown bar he left her. Barry “Bear” Rockford, head of the security company that Johnny had contracted is on hand to renew that contract with Vonda. He has no doubt that Bear can handle all of her security needs. But he’s also a very strong, sexy reminder that besides performing her duties as club owner, choreographer, producer, lead dancer, and big sister to all her girls as they’ve found love, it may be time to take care of her own heart. When sabotage not only forces Vonda to consider closing The Velvet Room, but becomes a threat to her life, Bear is determined to keep her out of harm’s way, and she her the love she’s been denying herself for so long.
Excerpt from Burlesque Bad, Book 1 of the Destiny of Dance series:
Sioban stared at Captain Johnny’s, now closed down, through her vintage cat-eye sunglasses. The pink bubble she’d blown of her tired gum popped like a bebe gun in the frigid January air. Chicago winters were nothing to be trifled with, she knew. Her mum would be scolding her right now for not having the sense to put on some decent winter clothes. But Sioban was who she was—and Irish girl raised in Los Angeles: part wildcat, part glamour girl, and all sass.
A gust of wind tore under her short plum-colored coat and equally short denim skirt to smack her bottom in rebuke, probably as her mum would have done, even though Sioban was a grown woman of twenty-nine.
The wind continued its assault, flying down her bare legs. Her black ankle boots were a poor defense against it. There hadn’t been time to buy tights. Lord, there’d barely been time to pack her single bag and get herself on the plane before the hell that was on her heels caught up to her.
Sioban gasped as the wind whipped the thick curtain of her hair aside and sliced the back of her neck. Her breath caught as the sensation of Frank Santino’s hand gripping that exact spot returned to haunt her, and she froze on the spot.
“Hurry up, silly! Why’d you stop in the middle of the street?”
The voice reached her, but it sounded small. Then Sioban remembered—she’d been walking next to her best friend Vonda, and then following her across the street to the bar that had belonged to Von’s father. Following Von to the bar that she was transforming into. Sioban was following Von to a new future for both of them.
Disoriented, Sioban looked down expecting to see the sidewalk. But she had indeed walked halfway into the street and stopped there, caught up in her thoughts. She looked up at Von and felt a wry grin spread across her own face. Von had grown up in Chicago, and hadn’t let her years in Los Angeles dull her common sense. She was covered head to toe in fleece lined suede boots, jeans, at least a sweater and a tee shirt under her down jacket, and a wool hat from under which her fat blonde curls spilled down her back.
“Come on, you crazy girl!” Vonda called to her again with a wide smile. God bless Vonda Douglas, Sioban thought. Without her, she’d have had no place to run to two days ago.
But an instant later, Vonda’s expression changed to panic, and she was waving her arms wildly at Sioban.
The roar of an engine filled the air and Sioban turned to see that a large black pickup truck had rounded the corner and was heading straight for her.
Fear immobilized Sioban for almost an instant too long. But the sound of a horn finally motivated her to bolt forward. As she did, she glimpsed the two men inside the pickup truck. The man in the passenger seat looked anxious, as if he were afraid that his friend behind the wheel might have actually wanted to hit her. As for the driver, his deep scowl conveyed that he wishes he had. But his glittering eyes weren’t lost on her. She felt a chill—or was it a thrill?—as she ran onto the sidewalk. Von clutched Sioban’s forearms and pulled her in closer.
“That was close!” Von huffed out a long breath.
“Yeah, well Dale Earnhardt, Jr. there could have slowed down a tad. Jerk!”
“And you were standing in the middle of the street, so what does that make you, then?” said Von as she dug into her purse for the keys to the bar.
Out of the corner of her eye, Sioban saw the truck screech to a halt in front of the loading zone at the lingerie store two doors down from the bar. Sioban startled when the driver jumped out. He slammed the door and powered toward them. And boy was he big. He had to be well over six feet tall. His hair was jet black and hung just past his collar. And his eyes…now that she could see more clearly, they were the sharpest cobalt blue she’d ever seen. And they were boring into her as he came barreling toward them.
Meanwhile, the man in the passenger seat had jumped out as well.
Von nearly had the outer security gate open and was working on the first of the three door locks when she heard the man’s voice and looked up. Then she saw the terrifyingly big man just as he stalked up to them.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” Sioban said, and squared her shoulders. She didn’t have anything to defend herself this time, but he’d have to go through both her and Von by the time all was said and done, plus there were witnesses. Hell, it looked like the other man might even defend them if it came to that. He wasn’t as tall, or nearly as bulky, but maybe he could hold the beast down long enough for Sioban to get in a few good licks.
“Are you crazy?” the beast bellowed. “I could have killed you!”
“We’re very sorry, we—” Von sputtered in apology.
“No shit, Sherlock! This isn’t the Indianapolis Speedway, in case you haven’t noticed.” With hands on her hips, Sioban stepped up so close to the hulking man that she could practically feel his heart beating, surprising as it was that he actually had one. Her nose twitched as she got a whiff of his aftershave. She tried to ignore how sexy he was, or had the potential to be if he wasn’t such an ass, as she tilted her chin up to look him in the eye.
“Back off, Danny,” the other man warned. Sioban allowed herself to look away from the beast for an instant, hoping that he wouldn’t use the opportunity to snap her neck. She saw that the second stranger’s eyes were deep brown and much kinder than the beast’s. He looked like he had a few years on his friend, because his sable brown hair, which was cut in a military style, was graying at the temples.
Sioban also noticed that Von was staring at him. Snap out of it sister, these two aren’t here to ask us out to dinner.
“Danny, this nice woman was unlocking the bar, in case you didn’t notice. Which means we’re here to see her. So take it down a notch. Make that about ten notches.”
Von just looked confused, but Sioban narrowed her eyes and glared up at the beast again. How ya like me now? she thought.
A low growl rumbled from his chest, and he raked his hand through his gorgeous mane of hair. Sioban mentally kicked herself for wanting to reach up and do the same thing. “Sorry,” he muttered in Von’s general direction.
“Good boy.” Oops. Sioban didn’t know what made her say that. She couldn’t help herself. There was something about the man that made her want to kiss him and smack him at the same time. Since smacking him was out, and kissing him was definitely out, she had provoked him instead.
“Sioban!” Von swatted her arm. The beast grimaced down at her again like he wanted to bend her over his knee and spank her. And damn if she wasn’t turned on by that thought.
“Okay, let’s just press the pause button here.” Von was going into command mode. Sioban couldn’t wait to see how the beast handled 5’ 5” of pure authority. Von wasn’t tall, but when she got serious, you’d better listen. Von never ceased to amaze Sioban with the way she’d basically run Jimmy’s club for him without him even realizing it.
“One: we shouldn’t have been standing in the street like that—should we, Sioban?”
Sioban sighed in exasperation.
“No, we shouldn’t have.” She wasn’t about to admit in front of the beast that it was actually her fault that they’d stopped in the middle of the road. She was rewarded by a snort from the beast.
“Two,” Von continued, “you said you’re here to see me? Want to explain?”
“Yes, absolutely.” The beast’s handler injected the voice of reason once more. “Look, can we start over?” Sioban made note of the fact that the man and Von were looking at each other as if she and the beast were invisible. Huh.
“Of course we can. I’m Vonda Douglas.” Von held out her hand and he took it warmly.
“I figured. I’m Barry Rockford. Folks call me Bear. I did the security for your father.” He pointed at the door, where a Rockford Security sticker was stuck to the glass. “I’m very sorry for your loss, Ms. Douglas.”
“And this,” he said as he clapped his hand on the beast’s shoulder, “ is my associate Danny Sheridan. He seems to be lacking in manners today, but generally speaking, he’s a good guy.”
Jesus. Black Irish. Sioban should have known, with a temper like that. Danny the Beast held out his hand to Von, and ignored Sioban altogether.
“Sorry, ma’am. I let my temper get the best of me.”
“Well, we all have our bad days. No harm, no foul.”
This was ridiculous. Sioban thought she just might puke if all these achy-fakey pleasantries went on much longer.
“Look, can we take this little party inside? It’s freezing out here.”
“Excellent idea.” Von turned to finish unlocking the door. “I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”
“Thank you. We appreciate it,” said Bear.
Von made quick work of the locks and stepped inside, followed by Bear. It wasn’t lost on Sioban how he placed a hand on the small of Von’s back as they went in. Before she could step in behind him, the beast leaned down by her ear.
“It might not be a bad idea to ditch the elf boots and the rain coat for some real winter clothes.”
Sioban fisted her hands at her sides. God, she wanted to slug him, even if she would break her hand in the process. He strode in front of her then and didn’t even bother to hold the door open for her in his wake.
She stood there with her mouth open. The nerve of that guy! Not only was he a class A jerk, but he had the gall to comment on her wardrobe when all he wore was a leather biker jacket. That stopped just above the pockets of his jeans. Which were perfectly filled out by his killer ass.
She snapped her mouth shut at that thought, along with a silent rebuke to herself. What was wrong with her? The guy was clearly an asshole. So why did he have to be so sexy? Get a grip, Riordan. And get a grip she would. Danny the Beast might outweigh her by a hundred pounds or so, but when it came to acerbic wit, the Neanderthal was no match for her.
Danny stewed as he took a bar stool, while Vonda started up the coffee pot behind the far end of the bar. He narrowed his eyes as he looked over at his boss, who seemed to be checking out the Douglas woman’s backside quite intently. What was that about? Never mind Bear, what was wrong with him? He knew Bear was right to scold him for over-reacting. And hell, he hadn’t meant to just walk in front of the redhead, nor had he meant to let the door close in her face. Asshole. But there was something about that woman. He wanted to throttle her one second, and throw his jacket around her the next. It pissed him that her coat was practically up to her ass, so the whole world could see those beautiful legs of hers. And she was Irish, God help him. He wanted to plunge his hands into that curtain of fiery red hair, and…what the fuck? Snap out of it Sheridan! Jesus, a woman like that would probably stab him in his sleep. But he couldn’t stop himself from wondering why she hadn’t come inside yet, which was followed closely by feeling irked with himself for caring about how cold she was out there. He didn’t have to wonder for long. In the next instant, she burst into the bar. She strode forward, and, ignoring him completely, she slammed her purse down on the bar top and jerked the silly sunglasses off of her face.
“Von, is there a tea bag to be had in the joint? You know I don’t drink that sewage.”
Danny ground his teeth together. She was a rude little cuss of a woman. Why had he even bothered concerning himself with her wellbeing?
“Sure, hon.” The Douglas woman grinned at her; she seemed to take her friend’s temper in stride. “I got some tea as soon as I knew you were coming.”
Danny kept still, afraid that if he said anything, it would be rude. Then she might slap him. Then he might have to kiss her.
In a flash, Vonda had placed a tea bag into a clean mug, filled it from the hot water tap on the coffee maker, and put it on the bar in front of Sioban before she placed Danny’s and Bear’s coffees in front of them. She climbed onto a stool that had made its way behind the bar, and took a sip of her own coffee as she looked at Bear with anticipation.
Sioban dangled the tea bag up and down twice and took a loud sip of the scalding liquid. “Och, we have to get some proper tea, this stuff’s rubbish.”
Vonda just snickered and sipped her coffee. Danny, however, couldn’t contain his irritation with the wench.
“Do you put that accent on just for insults?”
Sioban set her mug down carefully, although Danny could tell she wanted to slam it down, or throw the hot liquid into his face, one or the other. Then she flashed her green eyes at him, and he thought he might fall off of his stool. If she could have fired bullets out of them, he’d be a dead man. Shit.
“You know, for a Yank, you certainly have retained all the arrogance of your Black Irish ancestors. As for my accent, it’s more pronounced when I’m provoked.” She nearly spat the last word at him. Bear and Vonda looked at them like their unruly children.
“Settle down, you two,” Vonda scolded, but she was looking at Sioban when she said it.
“Danny, may I remind you again that we’re here to conduct business, and that means that we need to conduct ourselves in a professional manner?”
Danny met Bear’s flashing eyes, and knew that he’d come close to angering his boss, who was also his friend, for real. But before he could apologize, Sioban spoke up.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just have a look around the place while you all conduct your business.”
Sioban picked up her mug again and walked to the other side of the room. Danny watched her intently as she sat at a table near the window, and turned her chair to look out. He could see her shoulders slump, and since her back wasn’t completely turned on him, he thought he could see her face fall. God, he hoped she wasn’t crying, or he’d never forgive himself. As irksome as she was, Danny actually respected her for not taking his bullshit. When he’d yanked on the ponytails of girls in school as a kid, he realized later that he’d liked them, but hadn’t known how to go about letting them know. He’d met Sioban not even half an hour ago, and that was hardly enough time to have any definite feelings about her one way or the other. All he knew was that she’d gotten under his skin the instant he saw her standing in the middle of the street. He hadn’t had a woman under his skin in a long time, and even then, none of them had been like her, making him want to shout at her and hold her all at the same time.
There was just enough space now between her and the others as she sat apart from them, just enough quiet, for the nightmare of what happened in L.A. to rush back in. The previous two days had been filled primarily with rest (she’d slept like the dead once she got to Von’s), food, and catching up with Von, even though they’d only been apart for a couple of months
But even the knowledge that Chicago was her new home now didn’t change the fact that Sioban had to tell Von the whole story of what had happened, and soon. She had to face it. For the first time since she got on the plane, Sioban allowed herself to retrace the entirety of the problem at hand.
A movement in her peripheral vision brought Sioban back to the present, back to herself. It was subtle. She knew the three others were talking among themselves, but she heard the scrape of a bar stool and felt Danny shift his attention to her, an instant before she turned her head to look at him.
Sioban didn’t want to believe the hint of kindness she saw in Danny’s eyes. She couldn’t afford to believe it. Not now, when this terrible thing loomed over her head. As tempting as it might be to let a man like Danny into her life, to let him help her and maybe even be there for her, the memory of what happened to Ava when she let a man in—too many men—crippled Sioban’s faith. Never would there be trusting any man for Sioban. She arched her eyebrows at Danny in a challenging look.
The minx, thought Danny. What on earth gave him the notion that there was any vulnerability under that crackly exterior, much less that she might actually need him for anything, he didn’t know. But he was here to do a job for Bear and for the Douglas woman, who didn’t seem to have the same reptiles for skin that Irish did. Beyond that, he didn’t have time to keep that little tempest inside her teapot. If she wanted to square off with him, he had a singular thought about her at this moment: Bring it, baby.