New Adult / Contemporary Romance
Date Published: June 10, 2015

Rory’s once promising ballet career was destroyed by family tragedy and illness. She turned her life around and became a lawyer. Now at the start of her legal career, she lacks passion in her work and self-confidence in her abilities. But when she meets gorgeous, mysterious Russian ballroom dancer, Sasha, at a firm holiday party, her passions for life and dance are immediately re-kindled.

Since being torn from his Siberian family as a child, Sasha’s life ambition has been to be world ballroom champion, a path he was destined for until his former partner pulled the plug on their partnership. She went on to win the world title, leaving him, without a partner equal in ability, forever in second place. The instant he lays eyes on Rory, he recognizes the depth of her passion and talent, and falls hard for her in more ways than one.

But she also reminds him of great pain from his past. He must not only overcome his own demons but convince her to leave her demanding law career, and all that she has worked for in her adult life, to train with him full-time in order for their partnership – both on and off the dance floor – to work.  

This is part one in a continuing three-book series.

Tonya Plank, Fever: A Ballroom Romance, Book One, excerpt

Chapter 1

I first saw him at The Beverly Hilton. Witnessed him, is more like it. It was an early November holiday party thrown by my boyfriend’s entertainment law firm. I was secretly hoping I’d see some of the celebrities the firm represented. But no such luck. The room was filled only with boring lawyers. And, admittedly, I was one of them. I didn’t work at James’s firm, though. I’d just graduated from Hastings Law School in San Francisco and James wanted me to move down to L.A. with him. He was infatuated with L.A.
Tuxedoed waiters had just brought us bowls of chocolate mousse. I nearly inhaled mine, hoping they’d soon open the dance floor. I’d been pretty bored for much of the evening, to be honest. James and Mitchell, the partner seated with us, talked of contract clauses and made veiled references to actors they couldn’t name to outsiders. Gossip isn’t really that fun when you don’t know whom it’s about, is it? I tried to make small talk with Mitchell’s wife, Cheryl, but we had so little in common. She spent her days getting beauty treatments, tanning, and lunching at places I was embarrassed to say I’d never heard of and well knew I couldn’t afford on my small-firm starting salary.       
I’d just swallowed my last spoonful of mousse, eyes focused on my empty bowl, when the chandeliers dimmed. Oh good, something was about to happen.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a lush male voice said over a microphone, “we have a special surprise for you tonight.” Whispers filled the room. “Before we open the dance floor, the current national ballroom champions would like to perform for you. First in the U.S. and second in the whole world, please welcome…!”
I couldn’t make out the names, partly because they were foreign-sounding and partly because James’s deep voice continued to vibrate next to me. The man loved to talk. 
The room went dark for a few seconds. A low, pulsing drumbeat sounded from afar. James’s relentless baritone was really aggravating me. I smacked him on the arm. He jumped and I could see, even in the dark, his confusion.
“Sorry, Rory,” he said with an embarrassed laugh and a shrug.
I felt bad, and gently put my fingers to my lips, without turning toward him.
The beat—from a conga drum—grew louder and closer. The spotlight shone down on a figure at the far corner of the floor. He wore form-fitting black clothing, his back toward us. He moved his hips to the pulse of the drums, which was getting heavier and faster. He walked backward, toward the center of the floor, taking these tiny steps, placing one foot behind the other, rocking several times back and forth and circling his pelvis around.
James said something in my direction, perhaps to me. But I was too mesmerized to pay attention to him. I nodded, figuring that would be answer enough for whatever he wanted.
The faster the beat went, the faster the dancer moved his hips and pelvis, and the more quickly he got to the center of the room, taking those small steps. He soon stepped and shook with such speed, his body was a blur. He looked like an upright snake. I’d never seen anyone move like that before. Then I noticed a woman doing the same, coming from the other corner. She had long, platinum hair, tied back into a long French braid. She had large eyes, lashes that practically reached her forehead, full lips, and high cheekbones. Her dress was hot fuchsia, and seemed to be made almost entirely of mesh, save for two patches of fabric covering her nipples, and a bikini bottom. Wow, she had guts. That looked like a costume malfunction waiting to happen. And yet she was dancing with the same confidence as he, snaking toward him at the speed of light. Soon, they turned to each other and took long steps to meet in the middle of the floor, hips gyrating even more.
He was the most intriguingly beautiful man I’d ever seen. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, had jet black hair, slicked back, slightly longish and ending about an inch below the nape of his neck, large dark blue eyes, a well-defined nose, sharp cheekbones and a strong jaw. His spandex shirt had a wide, plunging V-neck, revealing very well-defined pecs. His skin was a glowing light bronze. He reached out and grabbed her, whisking her around, and, bending his knees, seated her on his lap. Now their hips rolled in unison. Instinctively, I sat up in my seat and straightened my back, elongating my spine and holding my arms out into the most elegant port de bras I could do, sure no one was watching me. When I did so I realized how restrictive my suit was. I’d danced ballet all throughout my childhood and teen years and once had dreams of becoming a pro. But wow, this looked so much more fun. Not to mention sexy. I squirmed in my seat. 
As I fixed on those dark, soulful eyes, it seemed like he peered right back at me, into me, his piercing gaze sending an electric current up my spine. But I knew very well he couldn’t see me. I’d known, very briefly, what it was like to be on a stage with lights shining down on you and how you’re unable to see anything in the audience. I knew this was what gave a dancer charisma, or that nearly impossible-to-attain thing called presence, that allowed the dancer to connect with the audience in a way that made it seem like he or she was dancing just for you. But in a nanosecond his intense expression lightened into a smile, revealing dimples that made him ooze with boyish charm.
He suddenly straightened and gave his partner a swift little bop to her butt with his pelvis. This was apparently her cue to move, as she took off in a long-stepped, fast-footed snaky walk away from him. He followed behind her, his hip and pelvic movements so much fuller and sexier than hers. I felt like I was going to fall out of my chair, watching him walk like that. He caught up with her and grabbed her from behind. He then beautifully shadowed her with his body by wrapping one arm around her waist and, with the other, grasping her hand and holding it high above her head. Together they bent over at the waist, brushing their arms over and out, then lifted themselves up and arched back—way back—then down again, the whole time moving their hips and feet in these tiny circles, around and around.  
The drums stopped and the music changed to Spanish guitars playing slower, dramatic, gypsy-sounding music that soon sped up and began to take on a more playful bullfighter flair. My dancer slowly raised a large, red cape off the floor and held it high above his head. He arched his back and lifted his chest, making the shirt fall open even farther, revealing more of those bronzed pecs, along with major eight-pack abs. I could also spot the outlines of some kind of tattoo, which looked like it snaked all the way around his back, wrapping slightly around each shoulder.
Using only the strength of his right arm, he whirled that cape high above his head in a full figure-eight motion. It was like a flash of fire in the black sky. The material looked heavy and I thought he must be damn strong to be able to move it so fully and precisely like that with only one arm.  
As the music slowed, so did his arm. The cape came down and he tossed it aside.
“Olé!” shouted one of the guitarists. The music sped up, and the dancer took a deep breath, lifted his chest, eyed his partner, and, with a vigorous snap of his fingers, went dashing toward her. When he met her, he whisked her into the air, her legs flying up and around him, before lowering her into a deep, dramatic dip. He was gentle, yet strong and precise. So trustworthy. After releasing her, he backed away, then ran back to her and did a huge turning jump high in the air, landing in a deep lunge, hand on his knee, chest up and out, a smug smile on his face. What an enormous, brilliant tour jeté! My favorite male athletic feat from ballet. What a truly endearing bravura show-off this guy was! 
Just then, the music changed into a soft, slow violin piece. Very romantic, and actually quite ballet-like. I loved it. I wanted so badly to stand up and dance with him, my legs ached. He slowly bent down and held out his hand. She took it and he lifted her, not to her feet but all the way up to his waist, as she spread her legs into a forward split. He made her look weightless, like she was walking on air. 
As soon as he set her down, she stood on one leg, lifting the other high in back of her, while he lunged onto one knee like he was proposing. I could do that arabesque penchée; I loved those in ballet. One thing I’d always had in class was hyper-flexibility. My years of dance training—my life before college and law school—flooded my thoughts. The dream I’d had to give up after Daddy died and I got sick. I felt my face get hot. The dancer rose to his feet and spun his partner around him, whipping her into multiple turns. Another step I could do in my sleep, and fast, very fast. I’d learned how to hold my head back and stabilize my equilibrium so I could spin faster, without spotting, like an ice skater. I found myself bouncing in my seat, I wanted so badly to get up and dance with him.

Tonya Plank, Excerpt from Fever: A Ballroom Romance, Book Two

The corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly again. “We are going to have to do this the hard way, no?”
I took a step back. I had no idea what he meant. “No?” I said more as a question than answer.
“I’ll be back,” he said and left the room.
Hmmm. I wondered what he was doing as I heard him climb the winding staircase and tap around upstairs. I looked at myself in the mirror and self-consciously began a rumba basic.
 Within seconds he flew down the stairs, holding what appeared to be a large white silk sash. It was quite elegant.
I stopped and turned to him. “That’s pretty. What are you going—” I began.
But in a flash, he was behind me. I could see in the mirror that he was pulling the scarf sash thing lengthways and folding it over a few times.
“I’m so glad you think so,” he said as he raised it over my head and began placing it over my eyes. 
“What? What are you doing? You can’t do that,” I yelled, pushing it out of the way and turning around to face him.
“Rory, please. Please just try this.”
“I need you to understand that I need my eyesight,” I said, panicked. “This floor, this room. I don’t know it that well. What if I go flying out the—” I pointed to the huge patio door. 
“Roryyyy,” he moaned, rolling his eyes. “Do you really think I would let anything happen to you?”
I folded my arms in front of me. “I think you would try to prevent something bad from happening. But, but, but, you may not be able to control everything if we get…out of control,” I stuttered, trying to come up with something. I just didn’t want to be blindfolded.
“Exactly how fast do you think we’re going to be moving?” He smiled wickedly, moving toward me ever so slowly.
I took a step back. “Well if we’re doing samba or paso—”
“We will do only rumba with you blindfolded. Okay?”
“Well, what’s on the other side of that, anyway? A cliff? We never go out there.”
His smile grew more wicked and he stepped closer. “We haven’t been out yet because it’s always been night when you are here and we are practicing. There will be plenty of time for you to see the backyard—and the hot tub—later.” He stroked the length of the sash. “It’s really very soft. There is nothing to be scared of, Rory.” Now the mischievous smile was replaced by a completely innocent-looking grin. 
I kept my arms crossed in front of me. “I don’t like this,” I said.
“Rory, this is just for a few minutes. Just until I show you that your sense of sight shouldn’t always control. That you also have other senses, like a sense of touch. Please just trust me.” He raised his brows and held the scarf toward me like it was an offering. His innocent grin produced those boyish dimples that made him completely irresistible. “Have I let you down before?” he asked.
I remembered the lifts and the trust holds. No. He hadn’t. “Fine,” I said, uncrossing my arms. “But if I get too weirded out, it’s coming off immediately. And don’t tie it too tight.”
His grin widened as he walked behind me, still stroking the material. “Yes, my dear,” he said playfully.
It was silky and perfumed and actually felt cool and comforting against my skin. He was very gentle and he wrapped it around and tied the back. It still freaked me out when he released me and I was standing in the middle of the room with no support. 
“That might be too tight. I might get a migraine,” I protested. 
He chuckled. “It is very loose, Rory. See.” He placed a finger between the knot and the back of my head and wiggled it around a bit. 
“No, I can’t see. That’s the problem.”
His chuckle turned into a laugh. “But you felt it, right?”
I didn’t answer. Right now I just wanted to be stubborn and pout.
“I know you did.” He patted my hair down in back as he removed his finger from under the blindfold. Then he walked away, leaving me standing alone.
“Sasha?” I called out. I would have felt more comfortable in my own place. I knew where things were. His dance floor was so blasted huge. It made me anxious when he wasn’t touching me. 
“I’m just finding the music.”
“The Look of Love” came back on, and I could feel the heat of his body moving toward me. I held my hands out, ready to feel him. His fingertips touched mine. He positioned me in our closed handhold, placing the fingers of my left hand around his right bicep and clasping my right hand with his left. Our basic handhold, the feel of which I was now, with no sense of sight, hyper-aware.
“Okay, we will try again.”
“Just go slowly. And don’t expect me to get everything right.” I was perturbed. If he thought he was going to be at all hard on me like this he was really going to get an earful.
He didn’t say anything. Instead he just began moving. He shifted his weight to his left, my right, without taking a step, then shifted back to the other side. He was doing a basic cucharacha. I did as he did. Then his hand on my back began pressing under my shoulder blade. I felt his body turn to the right and his left arm raise my right one. His hand under my left shoulder blade pushed me into a slight diagonal. Okay, he wanted me to do an alemana, underarm turn. I brought my left elbow close to my body so I wouldn’t smack him in the chest with it on my way past his body.
“If you get elbowed or stepped on it’s your fault,” I warned.
“A chance I will take.” I could hear the sly grin in his voice. “But you’d better not do it on purpose.”
“But how would you know if I did it on purpose or not?”
“I’d know,” he said, squeezing the palm of my raised hand. “Believe me. And then I might do something far, far more harsh.” He elongated the end of his sentence. I could still hear the grin.
All of a sudden, he released my hand and with both arms whipped me around by the waist. What the—?
“Eeek,” I screamed. I stood on one leg, holding the other up with a slight turnout, in an attitude position in back—simply because it was the position that came most naturally to me from ballet. I put my weight as close as possible to the toe of the shoe I stood on so I’d continue turning without stopping abruptly, and so I’d maintain my balance. I held my center in and straightened my back as much as possible and just let him spin me for a few seconds. He kept spinning me around by the waist with his hands. It was a ballet move and I soon realized he knew I could do it. Finally, he stopped me abruptly by grabbing my waist, and brought me toward him, holding me in his arms close to him, both arms around my back.
“Okay, I seriously feel like I’m going to throw up all over you,” I said, not exaggerating all that much. I was dizzy from the spinning. Normally, I’d either spot—which I couldn’t do with the blindfold on—or, if I’d known the spin was coming, I would have held my head back to try to stabilize my equilibrium.   
Surprisingly, he said nothing. Instead I felt his breath on me as he sighed deeply. His lips were very close to mine. My heart began to race as I wondered for a second if he was going to kiss me.

After working for many years as a criminal appeals attorney in New York, Tonya Plank now lives and writes in Southern California. A former amateur ballroom dancer, she wrote the dance blog, Swan Lake Samba Girl. Her first novel, Swallow, won several awards, including gold medals in the Independent Publisher and the Living Now Book Awards, and was a finalist in ForeWord’s Book of the Year and the National Indie Excellence Awards.

When not writing, she enjoys taking road trips with her rescue dog, Sofia, devouring Mexican food and Cadillac margaritas, sweating to dance-based workouts, cuddling up with her cats and a good book, and seeing dance performances of any kind. Her favorite places in the world are Lincoln Center in New York City, the Pacific Coast Highway from Laguna Beach to San Francisco, and the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

To connect with her, please find her at where she tries to blog regularly.

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