Hazel Hughes is a featured author in the December issue of Uncaged Book Reviews. To read the Uncaged interview, please see the issue. The book Dance With Me is one of December’s Top Reads.
Dance With Me
Reporter Sherry Wilson-Wong knows she’s crossed the line. But playing Alexi Davydenko’s drinking game—a shot and a kiss for every answer—is the only way to loosen the bad boy’s lips. She gets her story, he gets his fun. But his answers only lead to more questions. And Alexi wants more than fun.
Digging into the ballet company’s shadowy secrets, Sherry learns that the beauty on stage masks some ugly dealings. The more truths she exposes, the more lies she’s forced to tell herself—investigating a company with ties to the Russian mob isn’t dangerous, and licking every inch of Alexi’s naked body while hunting down evidence of his guilt isn’t a conflict of interest. With each touch and each kiss, she’s falling deeper in love with the very man who could destroy her.
“Oh, God. What have I done?” Sherry spoke to her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were puffy slits, and her hair was a black tangle. At least she was still wearing her shirt and panties, though her jeans lay in an untidy puddle on the floor, next to her boots and jacket. Her messenger bag, and with it, her phone, were AWOL.
Better to focus on what she hadn’t done. She hadn’t had sex with the subject of her story. That was good. What were a few kisses, after all? In some cultures kisses were just a greeting. A memory flashed through her mind of Alexi’s lips pressing into hers, parting them, as he breathed into her. A shiver traveled down her spine to her core. Okay, maybe not kisses like those, but still.
Escape first, deal with the consequences later, she thought, throwing off the duvet. She had just slid her legs over the side of the bed when the swinging wooden door in the wall opened, and there he was. Alexi. He was wearing low-slung black cotton trousers, his torso tattoos on full display. His hair was a haystack, too, but somehow it just looked better on him. He held a steaming mug out towards her and gave her a smile different from any he had given her yet. Knowing.
Damn, she thought. So much for escape. She took the mug with a crooked smile of her own.
“Well, thank God. I was afraid I went home with the bartender.”
He laughed. “Well. You two were getting along much better by the end of the evening.” He took a sip.
Sherry followed suit. “God,” she said, grimacing. “That’s not coffee.” She examined the liquid in her mug with suspicion.
“Tea.” He sat down beside her, so close that their legs were touching. She could feel the warmth of his skin through the thin cotton of his trousers. “It’s what we drink in the Ukraine. Not with milk like this.” He lifted his mug. “This, I learned in London.” She could feel his eyes on her. “You don’t like it.”
Taking another sip, Sherry tried not to wince. “No. It’s not bad. I was just expecting coffee.”
He shook his head. “Maybe I have not been in America long enough for this taste. For me, it is like burnt petrol. But if you want, there is a Starbucks. I can call someone to bring it.”
Sherry put her mug on the floor and picked up her jeans. “No, that’s okay. I’ll pick one up on my way in to the office.” She slipped her legs into her jeans and stood up to button them, avoiding Alexi’s gaze. “I’m sure you have rehearsal or something, and I’ve got to get this piece in before deadline. I mean, that’s assuming I can put a story together out of what I got. If I can find my phone. Have you seen my bag anywhere?” She stuffed her feet into her boots, not bothering with socks. She was babbling, she knew.
“Wait.” He put his mug down and stood in front of her, tilting her face up with one hand. “Yes, I must rehearse, and yes, you must write. But there is no need to run away like a scared little girl from the wolf.” He bent to kiss her.
Sherry wanted that kiss more than she wanted her Venti skim latte, and with her throbbing head, that was a lot. But she put her hand on his bare chest, stopping him.
He looked at her, confusion dawning in his eyes, followed quickly by hurt. He stepped back. “Oh. I see. You have your story now.” His voice was cold.
“It’s not like that,” she said. Was this just a case of bruised ego, or was he genuinely hurt? She flashed back to what the bartender said about the type of girls Alexi normally brought to the bar. Party girls, he said.
“So what is it like?” He turned away from her, looking out the window.
She reached out a hand to put it on his shoulder, the one with the tattoo of Tolstoy’s face on it, but thought better of it. “Look, Alexi. I’ve already crossed more ethical boundaries than I’m comfortable with.”
“To get your story.” His voice was flat, his arms crossed over his chest.
“Hey, it’s my job to get the story. I came ready to interview you like I interview all my subjects. The vodka, the kisses, that was your game.”
He turned suddenly, his green gaze pinning her. She couldn’t look away. “You didn’t want to play?”
“No. I mean, yes. I did…” she started.
He moved closer to her, his hand cupping her jaw. “I know you did. I think you still want to,” he whispered, his breath warm on her cheek. His lips touched hers, softly at first, questioning. When she parted her lips in response, he opened them wider, reaching for her tongue with his. Liquid. Melting. From her mouth all the way down to her softest, most private parts.
He pulled back slightly. “Do you want to play, Sherry?”
She was having a hard time regulating her breath. He was so close. She put her hands on his chest, but not to hold him back. She ran her hands over his chest, nipples hard under her palm, then down over the ridges of his abs. She hooked her fingers into his waistband pulling him toward her in response to his question. She wanted to play any game he had in mind as long as it involved what was under his pants, ethics be damned.
“Yes,” she said, looking up at him.
Uncaged Review: Sherry is an investigative reporter, but never gets assigned the meaty jobs. When the arts columnist breaks her leg and can’t do the interview, Sherry’s boss sends her to collect the interview from a famous bad boy ballet dancer. Alexi, a Ukraine ballet dancer is hired by the American Ballet Company, hoping to bring in enough money to keep the company afloat. But Sherry doesn’t want a fluffy article – and to get Alexi to open up, she heads with him to a local pub that Alexi frequents, downing vodka shots right along with him.
This book brings in characters you really can like, and it never slows down. The romance is quick, but substantial. The suspenseful elements really kick in at about the halfway mark. Sherry knows there is more to the story of Alexi’s boss, Sergei. Digging up the truth to where the money from the ballet company is really going, puts her life and her career in danger.
The suspense is handled well, and even though some of it’s predictable, it’s a fun ride to get there. The author does a great job with building likable characters, the romance is fun and sexy, and the story pulls you in and you find yourself enjoying the dance. Reviewed by Cyrene