DANCE WITH ME
by Hazel Hughes
When ambitious reporter Sherry Wilson-Wong agrees to dancer Alexi Davydenko’s naughty drinking game, she’s only thinking about getting her story. But Alexi has a hidden agenda and secret ties to the Russian Mob. Though Sherry has never let anything stand in her way, this time getting the scoop might mean losing her heart. Or her life.
Sherry half wanted to say the hell with it. It wasn’t her beat. What did she care? She could ask the PR agent’s questions, turn out a story no more memorable than the stale donuts they sold at Penn station, then go back to doing what she did best. But she smelled a story. Alexi’s rapid departure from the Royal Ballet. The American Ballet Company’s near bankruptcy. They were connected, somehow. Besides, something about the man sitting across from her, his long legs stretched out like an invitation, that cocky smirk on his face … she couldn’t let him win.
“I’ll tell you what, Alexi,” she said, leaning forward and giving him the same smile that had made Glenn do everything shy of leaving his wife to have her. “I’ll ask you these BS questions that you can answer in your sleep. But for every one of these questions, you let me ask you one of my own.”
He returned her smile and leaned in toward her, elbows on the table. “That sounds like it might take more than half an hour.”
His face was inches from hers, but she didn’t move. That would be like admitting defeat. “It might,” she said. “But we have this whole bottle to get through.”
“Well, Sherry,” he said, his accent making her name sound enticingly exotic, “Right now, I am the only one going through this bottle. So I will tell you what. I will answer your questions. But for every question I answer, you drink. And not this little drink.” He pursed his lips, mimicking her delicate sip. “Like this.” He tilted his head and knocked back the shot, draining his glass.
“Done.” She met his challenging smile with one of her own.
“But not only this.” He leaned in closer still, his gaze playing over her face. Eyes. Lips. His voice was low, teasing. “For every question I answer, a kiss.”
“A kiss?” She laughed. He had to be joking. His smile dropped, and his eyes searched hers. He wasn’t.
“Yes,” he said. “Like this.” He closed the gap between them in an instant. His lips brushed hers just for a second, feather-light, leaving an electric trail. He leaned back slowly and looked at her with that measuring stare again.
Sherry brought her fingertips to her mouth. Her heart was pounding so hard she could almost hear it. Blood and heat rushed to her cheeks. She knew she should say no. This game of his was beyond unprofessional. But Sherry wanted this story. What was more, she wanted another kiss.
She pushed her glass toward him, willing her lips not to tremble as she gave him her best cool girl smile. “Fill ‘er up.”
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SOME WORDS FROM HAZEL…
You Are What You Drink
We human beings like to make judgements, don’t we?
Forget judging a book by its cover, though research shows we overwhelmingly do that, both with actual books and with people. We categorize people based on what kind of car they drive, where they shop, whether they have a dog or a cat or a goldfish.
We even make assumptions about people based on their favorite drink.
If I tell you my favorite drink is a Bacardi Breezer, you can picture what kind of woman I am, can’t you?
I probably have a clothes in every color of My Little Pony. I’m under 25, or wish I was. I like my jeans tight and neckline low. My default expression is a smile and I laugh often and loudly, especially at dirty jokes.
Or what if I say that my drink is single malt whiskey, neat.
I read voraciously, but only nonfiction. I’m probably single and like it that way. I look great in a pencil-skirt but the only time you’ll catch me wearing one is to somebody’s funeral. I don’t do weddings.
As a writer, those assumptions are fun to play with.
Take Alexi, the Ukrainian hero of my soon-to-be released romantic suspense, Dance with Me. Sure, he drinks vodka. So far, so expected. But his beverage of choice is a cup of builders’ - strong black tea with sugar and a splash of milk – a taste he acquired during his eight years dancing for the Royal Ballet in London.
Or Sherry, the Singaporean-American heroine. Though she grew up in sophisticated Manhattan, she’s not into trendy. Rhubarb martini? No, thanks. She’ll take a Bud in the bottle. And this newspaper reporter runs on Starbucks, unable to start her day without a Venti Latte.
You know nothing more than where they come from, what they do and what they drink. But you already know what kind of people they are, don’t you?
And me? These days I’m all about Earl Grey tea and Bombay Sapphire Gin. (Not together!) One is a soothing lift in the early afternoon and the other a liquid shoulder rub at the end of a long day.
Both are a little bit quirky. Strongly perfumed with a hint of bitterness. And maybe just a touch old fashioned. Kind of like me.
Chilly London Fog
1 C. strong brewed Earl Grey tea
½ C. cold milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Sweetener of choice (to taste)
Combine all ingredients and serve in a tall glass over ice.
1 oz. Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass with one or two cubes of ice and an orange twist.
Hazel Hughes is a contemporary erotic romance writer and urban nomad. Born in London, Hazel has lived all over the globe, from the wilds of Northern Ontario and the cornfields of Iowa to the concrete jungles of Seoul and Abu Dhabi. Currently, she is living in New York, writing from wherever there is strong coffee and funky beats. When she’s not laying down steamy scenes on the page, you can find her whipping up hot and spicy concoctions in the kitchen or dancing to the beat of her own drummer.
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