Authors: Alana Albertson
Love Waltzes In
Dancing under the Stars: Book 1
Bolero Books, LLC
Copyright © 2013 by Alana Albertson.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.
Bolero Books, LLC
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design Inc: gobookcoverdesign.com
Book Layout ©2013 BookDesignTemplates.com
Love Waltzes In/ Alana Albertson
. -- 1st ed.
This book is dedicated to my late father, Joseph Chulick Jr.
I miss your brilliance, kindness, compassion, and laugh every day.
Table of Contents
Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.
Swiveling her feet, she teased him with fleeting glimpses of her thighs. His confidence rose and he grabbed her, challenging her at her own game. She caressed his chest and lowered her hands to his hips, tracing his abs with her nails. He threw her into a split. Then, he brought her to his lips. She pulled away from him and he forced her back, straddling her leg around his waist. The game had only begun.
Staff Sergeant Bret Lord sat on the dirty floor of his tent, going through the day’s mail: the latest
magazine from his sister, a care package from his mom. He ripped open the package—socks, lip balm, sunflower seeds, and a thin letter that contained an old magazine clipping.
I miss you very much. Benny asked me to send you this article. I really wish you would consider his offer. Please stay safe.
He swallowed hard. A neon sticky pressed on the wrinkled page had a note scrawled on it from his former master dance coach.
We’ll make it worth your time.
Thumbing the edge of the article, Bret stared at the sixteen-year-old boy in the picture and could barely recognize himself. His shoulder length, wavy blond hair was slicked back, not shorn in a “high and tight” like his current haircut. No signs of the tattoos or muscles that currently defined his body. Golden skin stained from a bottle, not the harsh sun of Iraq. His arms were wrapped around a gorgeous, curvy young girl with long jet-black hair. The jade Latin gown she wore matched the color of her almond-shaped eyes.
Bret tossed the article aside and removed his nine-mil pistol from his holster to clean it.
Lance Corporal Hernandez walked by Bret and snatched the a
rticle off his cot. After staring at it, Hernandez’s face brightened.
“Hey, Staff Sergeant, this you?”
“No, it’s my clone who’s also named Bret Lord.” Bret slid the rail back on his weapon and began disassembling it.
“Staff Sergeant, you know Selena
Marcil? Did you hit that?”
“Shut up, Hernandez, or the one getting hit will be you—with the butt stock of my rifle.” Bret grabbed the paper out of Herna
ndez’s hands, and smacked him on the side of the head. The kid didn’t flinch.
“Staff Sergeant Twinkle Toes. Hey—can you hook me up with Selena? I’ll be her boy toy. I love her. Man, she’s smoking. Has the nicest ass. Not like all those skinny, Russian chicks on that show.” He nodded to himself with an eyebrow dancing. “Selena’s on my list. She’s Latina, too. We’d be perfect together. What was she doing with a
“Hernandez, you’re way out of line.” Bret reassembled his pi
“My bad, Staff Sergeant.”
Bret grabbed the article, his pack, and his rifle. It was impossible to get some privacy in the tent. His only option was to sit outside in a sandstorm but even that sounded like a welcome retreat from his immature men. He walked about five hundred feet, then plopped down in the hot sand.
The red sky hung above him, thick from smoke from the nea
rby town. Bret struggled to catch a glimpse of the distant mountains. Sand seemed to pelt down from the heavens, blinding him and settling into every crevice in his body. He closed his eyes against the sting of the sand, and turned his thoughts to Selena. Was she the diva the tabloids made her out to be? Even after ten years, he could almost smell her buttery-coconut scent. A welcome change from the overflowing shitters, toxic diesel, and stench of his fellow Marines who hadn’t bathed in three weeks.
The deep popping sound of shots from a nearby AK-47 roused his ears but Bret didn’t move.
As a marksmanship instructor, he could distinguish the sound of any weapon system. These shots weren’t the lighter, faster rounds of his men’s M16s. Looking past the palm trees that peppered the dismal scene of dilapidated shacks, he tried to get a location on the origin of the gunfire. Probably just some insurgents outside of base. The rules of engagement were clear—he couldn’t stop them from killing each other even if he wanted to. And he definitely wasn’t going to endanger the lives of his men.
The sandstorm let up, and he reached into his pack to grab di
Spaghetti with Meat and Sauce
was his favorite
Meal Ready to Eat
, even if it did taste like chalk. He hoped it came with cinnamon apples for dessert. He opened the box and laid out his day’s bounty: cherry-blueberry cobbler, potato sticks, wheat snack bread, plain cheese spread, lemon-lime beverage powder, and accessory pack “A” – coffee, creamer, sugar, salt, Tabasco, a moist towelette, toilet paper, chewing gum, and matches. Bret opened the cooking bag, placed the spaghetti pouch in it, filled it with water, and then leaned it against a rock to cook.
He stared at the picture of himself and Selena winning the U.S. National Youth Amateur Latin Ballroom Championship. Selena was the star of the hit series
Dancing under the Stars
. His childhood sweetheart was now plastered on the cover of magazines, billboards, and advertisements. The details of his life back then had faded away from his memory. Being at war made everything a blur.
Bret took a swig of water from his
camelbak and downed two anti-malaria pills: one blue, one pink. The Marine Corps assured the troops that it was safe but Bret couldn’t help but wonder if the pills caused his daily headaches. Then again, maybe the migraines were just from the hundred-degree heat.
Staff Sergeant Ray Wilson emerged from the tent, and sat b
eside him. Even though Bret had wanted to be alone, he was happy to have his friend’s company.
“Slim Jim?” Ray offered. As Bret ripped the plastic off the snack, Ray nodded at the magazine article lying in the sand. “What’s that all about?”
Bret grunted. “A month ago, my mom told me that the judge on
asked her if I would consider doing the show. He just sent me a note.”
“For real?” Ray took a bite of his own Slim Jim. “You’d have to be stupid to give up this paradise of sand and gunfire for the mansions of Hollywood. Your mother does realize you’re a Marine right? You can’t just leave the Corps and go on reality television.”
“That’s what I told her. But she has this crazy idea that the Marine Corps would let me do it for one season—like a recruiting tool. I doubt that, but I could use my vacation leave. Remember that kid on
American Pop Star
“Yeah. Didn’t he gain like thirty pounds and fail his PFT? Can you still dance, Patrick Swayze?”
“Good enough to teach some teen mom from MTV how to cha-cha. I’d be the laughing stock of the Corps.”
“Maybe not. I mean you
the only Devil Dawg who happens to be a ballroom champion. You could be that all-American hero. The pretty face that recruits a load more boys to come join the rest of us here, and get shot at.”
“If you think it sounds so great, I’ll tell her you’ll do it.” Bret hated the public’s obsession with the “celebrities” on these shows. Young kids who became millionaires for making a sex tape or wasting their days doing nothing but going to the gym, tanning and partying. Meanwhile, Bret and his buddies were out here in hell, dodging bullets.
Bret checked his spaghetti. He dug into the warm, gooey meal.
“The only dance I know is the ‘Harlem Shake,’ and something tells me I’d be more of a target for that than I am for being a Marine in Iraq.”
Bret had no desire to ever dance again. Once he’d joined the Corps, he had found his calling. “Nah, I’d rather stay here with my men. I wouldn’t even consider it—if it weren’t for Pierce.”
Ray blinked hard. “What does the show have to do with Pierce?”
“I promised him that I’d take care of his family if anything happened to them. If I did the show, I could earn enough money to buy them a house.”
“Dawg, you would do that for them? That would be crazy.”
“He’d have done it for me.” Bret knew that Pierce would’ve done anything for him. Pierce had already proved that.
They sat there in silence.
Ray nodded toward Bret. “Pierce was a good dude. You should do it.”
Bret’s hands became sticky with sweat. “I couldn’t. I’d make a fool out of myself.”
“Man, it wouldn’t be that bad.” Ray stretched out. “And you can go check out your ex-fiancée—she is
Sexiest Girl Alive. Even if she is with that pretty-boy dancer.”
Dima? That guy’s a jerk. He was one of our coaches. But I would never get back together with Selena.” Though she was sexier than ever, Bret had no desire to go there, despite the fact that he could still remember every inch of her body. A relationship between them could never work out. She was too focused on her career—always had been. He loved the Marines and wouldn’t allow himself to get tempted by the fame and money of Hollywood. But he still felt protective over her after all she had been through as a child and he hated seeing her all sexed up for the cameras. The thought of a bunch of Marines jerking off to pictures of his first love made him sick.
Ray rolled his eyes. “Well you never know. Maybe she’s changed.” Ray broke out a bag of Skittles. “I’ll go with you. Can you request Beyoncé as your partner?”
Bret laughed. “Not sure if Jay Z would like that. Or your wife.” Ray had one of the good ones. Ray’s wife was any Marine’s dream. Beautiful and faithful, Nia raised their four children while Ray was away. She was the head of the Key Wives’ Club, kept her body tight, and still had time to send Ray the best care packages, hence his endless supply of Slim Jims.
Bret had tried to have that family life once, but it didn’t work out. After that experience, Bret had vowed never to get close to anyone again, at least until he left the Corps. He needed to focus on guiding his men—not be distracted wondering if another man kept his girl’s bed warm while Bret fought a war thousands of miles away.
Ray stood up. “Nia’d be cool with it. She loves the show, man. Do it. Big shot reality star will need security. I got your back.”
If Bret did it, he’d want to have Ray by his side to handle the entertainment world. But it wouldn’t be to get back with Selena. Bret had no desire to live in the spotlight, and from what he could
see, she had no desire to leave it. He stuffed the article back into his pocket containing his “If I should die” letter.
The roar of the rounds boomed through the sky. His
cammies were soaked in sweat and felt heavy on his chest. He couldn’t see anything, but the rumbling of the helicopters overhead told him this was no training exercise.
Ray and Bret didn’t say a word; they knew what was about to go down. A fire built in Bret’s chest and adrenaline took over. Moments like this made all the sacrifices of war worth it—knowing that his life meant something and that he was responsible for not only protecting his men, but also ensuring the safety of Americans back home. Bret tossed the rest of the food into his pack and gathered his weapon. They raced into the tent.
Bret screamed at his men. “Grab your weapons and take cover!”