Authors: Katie Porter
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Erotica
To DC & NA & AR
Don’t let me leave.
“She’s a star, you know.”
Daniel Baker looked up from the portfolio of accounting reports he’d been in the middle of presenting to Declan Shaw. Declan took all business appointments in his spare, elegant apartment rooms above his pride and joy, Club Devant. Chelsea had never seen a nightclub as innovative and professionally respected as Devant, even as its dancers entertained patrons each night with a spicy mix of burlesque and Broadway.
One wall of Declan’s apartment was wired floor to ceiling with nearly two dozen flat-screen TVs. The club’s signs,
You are being watched
, were no joke. Declan kept a very, very close eye on what went on in every corner of Club Devant.
At the moment, he was staring at the largest screen at the array’s center. Daniel stared too. He’d never been able to look away from Naya when she danced.
“I’ve been telling her that for years.” He smiled tightly. “I’ve also been telling you that if she ever set foot in your club, you might as well send all the other girls home.”
Declan watched with an astute eye as Naya Ortiz practiced a jazz-funk number. “This isn’t her forte, is it?”
“Contemporary and Latin.”
“Not sure it matters. She’s got this one down cold.”
Daniel stood from the desk covered with depressing proof that Club Devant, no matter how popular, was hemorrhaging money. For the life of him, he couldn’t understand what Declan was doing wrong. “She’s a natural. Picks up just about anything. The chorus at
was rubbing the shine off her. About time she spread her wings.”
“What kept her there so long?” Declan leaned back on his sofa, arms stretched along the back. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her.
Daniel watched his fiancée of three years as she clicked off another trio of intricate steps. Her feet moved like lightning—an echo of the Latin dance she’d been exposed to from a toddler onward, raised in a modest Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn. It hadn’t taken her parents long to realize she was pure potential. Dance classes had followed, as well as a private arts high school.
No matter her training, she never lost her smile and playful sensuality. That combination of skill, humor and breathless sex appeal shielded a core-deep layer of vulnerability. Daniel had been caught by surprise within moments of their first meeting.
He loved her.
“She’s talented.” He turned to Declan when Naya had finished her rehearsal on the club’s main floor. “And yes, she can be a star. It’s a matter of her learning that. She’s been in one chorus or another for as long as I’ve known her. That she’s here at all has taken months of persuasion.”
“You did good.” Declan stood. With the flick of a button on a deceptively simple remote control, all of the screens went black. “If she can survive Remy and his choreography, she’s hired. That’s a big if.”
Through his undergrad years, and as he’d earned his MBA, Daniel had parlayed his brother Louis’s brilliant tech invention into a multimillion dollar company. Daniel continued to use a sizeable portion of his income to combine his first love—the arts—with the satisfaction he’d found in helping Louis make the most of his talents. Daniel had believed in his brother when no one else had, just as he believed in Declan and Club Devant. He enjoyed focusing his resources and dedication on those who made the world a more beautiful place.
Naya was such a person, but so was Declan, who dreamed of a club that combined class with sexy innovation.
Daniel appraised the man who, across almost ten years of association in the arts community, had become a close friend.
“I told you, she already has the job. Be stubborn if you want. Just leaves me the opportunity to say I told you so.” He nodded toward the spreadsheets and one particularly unsettling notice of late payment to the alcohol distributor. “But back to business, yeah?”
specialty,” Declan said, slapping him on the back. “I’m sure things are fine.”
They must make an odd-looking pair, with Daniel in his Dolce & Gabbana wool suit and Declan in a pair of leather pants and a sheer red short-sleeved henley. Daniel had always liked the contrast. He could walk among the most eccentric, gifted artists in the world, mostly because, like Declan Shaw, few knew a damn thing about managing their brands, their finances, their fiscal futures. They needed him, but they never seemed to realize how much he needed them—their vitality and pure creative energy.
Daniel’s life would be a gray, pathetic little thing without their color, which was why he worked so hard on risky ventures his business colleagues could never understand.
“Declan, this is serious.”
Maybe his tone of voice broke through Declan’s studied disinterest. The skin around his ice-blue eyes tightened, and his mouth compressed. Although forty, only five years Daniel’s senior, the Irishman sported close-cropped hair almost entirely silver. It made him appear debonair rather than old. That didn’t mean age had brought wisdom. He had been a brilliant dancer and remained a respected choreographer with a keen eye for talent. But if Club Devant lasted out the year, Daniel would be surprised.
If it failed…
No. He wouldn’t let that happen. Although Daniel didn’t have a creative bone in his body, he knew what he liked. Knew what moved him. He did his best to apply plain ol’ business acumen to promoting the world’s treasures. Keeping them safe.
Club Devant was such a treasure.
“Let me look over the papers,” Declan said quietly. “We’ll figure out… Bugger. We’ll figure it out.”
Daniel sighed. It was the best he could do for now, just like convincing Naya to audition for a place at Devant was the best he could do with her. Her deeper desire, to lead a dance company of her own one day—Daniel hadn’t brought that up in over a year.
he repeated to himself, despite the constant kick of frustration
He’d never known anyone so tenacious and gutsy who also harbored a streak of self-doubt as wide as Times Square.
“Besides.” After stepping into the hall, Declan locked the apartment door behind him. “If you want to take on a hard case, try Remy. I’m nothing compared to our resident train wreck.”
“How do you mean?”
“Let’s just say that when I took him on as the club’s choreographer, he didn’t have an address to fill in on his W-2s. He had a black eye, and the strap of his duffel was patched with duct tape. For two months, he took his pay in cash.”
“Why chance offering him a contract?”
“Somewhere between Louisiana and my doorstep, he graduated from a performing arts high school. A scholarship student like Naya. A year later, what I know about him boils down to how he moves and who he fucks.” Declan grinned. “Believe me, we’ll be cheating ourselves out of something incredible if we miss your girl dancing with him.”
Daniel gave himself a mental shake. “Sure.”
A hallway separated his private quarters from a line of three rehearsal rooms, all of which were in use. A blare of Latin music from one made Declan smile. “You could always blame Lizzie and Dima for driving me to ruin.”
Glad to be rid of his momentary muddle, Daniel laughed. “They bring in three times what you pay them, and you know it. Hiring a pair of ballroom world champs was the best decision you’ve made in years.”
“And they’re fun to watch.”
“Unless you mean on stage, I’ll have to take your word for it. You’re like a perverted leprechaun.”
Declan flashed a smile over his shoulder as they descended to the club’s public face: the main floor. “Pervert I’ll stand for. Leprechaun, though? Come now, Daniel. You can do better than that.”
Maybe he could’ve, but not when he caught sight of the performance stage. Black, sleek flooring was bordered by red velvet curtains and the glare of gold, red and blue lights. What looked like a fashion runway bisected clusters of tables. All were empty except for a few female dancers either waiting their turn to audition or hoping their performances were enough to land a spot on the club’s regular roster.
They could all pack up and go home.
Because Naya, his angel, really was a star. He hadn’t been exaggerating. When she finally believed that, she’d set the sky on fire.
Unlike the other dancers who wore skimpy tap pants and all manner of flashy sports tops, Naya never fell back on her wardrobe—or even her astonishing body—to earn her place. She took too much pride in her professionalism. That meant a pair of black Lycra leggings and a form-fitting T-shirt.
She saved skin for performances, for Daniel and for the Dominas they hired to satisfy Naya’s need for the release caused by intense pain. She was a masochist. He was no sadist. Yet their relationship was as loving and as trusting as any on the planet. How else could they have learned ways to gratify her extreme desires, rather than fret about how Daniel couldn’t satisfy them?
He stopped cold.
Having already shown off her audition solo, Naya stood waiting for the music. She stared down the man opposite her on stage—and lowered her eyes.
The man was Remy Lomand.
Naya’s gesture of submission was one Daniel had only seen within the safe confines of their bedroom, when she offered her back and ass for a skilled woman to abuse.
Daniel managed to find a seat at one of the rear tables close to the bar. His fingertips had gone numb. His body was on full alert, although he couldn’t have pinpointed the source had the stakes been his next breath.
Naya’s eyes snapped up. All submission gone, she silently clashed with the choreographer.
“We should sit up front,” Declan said with a puzzled frown. “My table? Best view?”
The music started. Daniel waved him off. Forget Declan’s VIP seats and his wall of flat screens. This was the real thing, and Daniel was entranced.
His angel was dancing with the devil himself—a Cajun devil who moved with the grace of a predator. The routine he’d choreographed for the paired half of the audition was almost kitschy. It offered no apology for being rude and raunchy. It was purely, beautifully filthy.
Lungs hot, blood pumping, Daniel loosened his tie before placing his palms flat on the red-lacquered table. He’d seen Naya sweet, fiery, cheeky, even sultry. He’d never seen her so outrageously sexy. At least not while she danced.
Remy caught her wrists and thrust their arms straight overhead. They were close enough to share a kiss. But Remy didn’t kiss. Daniel jumped in his seat when the man
. After catching Naya’s lower lip between his teeth, Remy fashioned a satisfied smile.
“Well, well.” Declan still stood next to where Daniel struggled for air. “That wasn’t part of the choreography.”
Was that a good thing? A bad thing?
Can’t tell. Doesn’t matter.
Their onstage fight continued. Naya slid free of Remy’s possessive hold. With hips still clad in plain black Lycra, her supermodel strut pounded out a
bam, bam, bam
beat. Her body said come and get it. Far be it for a predator to refuse. Remy wiped his brow as if to rid his skin of sweat. Paired with a sly expression, he pantomimed what Daniel already knew: it’s hot in here.
Remy was strong and lithe. Built for dance. Ragged jeans barely clung to his hips. Only when he lifted his arms, or when Naya clutched at his black tank top, did he offer glimpses of toned v-lines that angled below the loose denim waistband. His near-black hair was smashed into some cross between bedhead and a mohawk he’d let grow too long between haircuts. A good half foot taller than Naya, he was even more commanding when he moved.
With sharp intent, he caught up with her on the left edge of the stage. All power and blunt seduction, he pressed his groin to her ass. She bent low from the waist, swished her dark hair and grinned when he grabbed a hunk in his fist. He tugged upright.
A smack on her ass. A bite on her neck.
They fed off one another. Naya twisted out of Remy’s arms and executed two perfect pirouettes before dropping to her knees. He stood over her and grabbed her shoulders. He pulled. She rose. They melted together until their lips tempted fate one more time.
Kiss her. Bite her. Smack her again.
Daniel’s neck flared hot as if scorched by a blowtorch.
Naya slapped Remy’s cheek. They shared a salacious grin. Then
—two counts later, they jumped into a pattern of steps that straddled the line between hip-hop and salsa. They matched every pulse, every nuance. The perfect synchronization dared the audience to decide which parts of the performance had been improv and which had been planned for maximum effect.
Still didn’t matter.
Daniel couldn’t tear his gaze away. He’d watched Naya dance since before they were a couple, almost four years previous. This marked the first time he was frustrated that he couldn’t watch both partners equally. He’d never wanted to devote as much attention to the male dancer.
What the fuck am I watching?
Daniel let the performance wash over him. Hips and hands and music and sex and wanting them to take it further. The pair wound up on the floor, with Naya stretched long and lean beneath where Remy straddled her waist. Daniel had never been possessive of how she moved when she danced, even with other men. She was his angel, and he loved knowing such a rapturous woman belonged to him.