Markus arrived at the club just as the beginners class ended. The woman at the door, probably in her late forties, collected his money with a smile.
“Welcome! It’s nice to see another new face. I can tell you’re going to be popular.”
He nodded at her, and then he wandered into the room, placing his keys, sweat towel, and bottle of water on a table in the corner. Turning, he froze as he saw the woman he hadn’t been able to get off his mind dancing with a blond man as the class watched.
“And this is how you’ll be dancing in a few weeks,” the man said to the attentive class.
He stared as Mr. Blondie spun Kylie before leading into some basic cha-cha moves and ending with him leading her out into a fan.
Enraptured watching the couple, he didn’t notice an older woman sit beside him until she spoke. “They look fantastic together, don’t they?”
He turned, the spell of watching them now broken.
The woman continued. “James has been doing this since he could walk, but Kylie? She started later, about twelve. They’re lovely people. She helps him with his weekend classes. They’re the busiest, you know.”
He stared at the woman, at least in her late sixties, with snow-white hair and ice-blue eyes. “Are they a couple?”
The woman cackled and patted his arm. “James wishes.” She chuckled. “I think he’s been waiting for her to get over her parents’ deaths. They died just over two years ago on the night of her eighteenth birthday. They were her only family. Well, besides a sister, who isn’t very nice.”
Marcus let out his breath with a whoosh. He refocused his attention to the dance floor and watched the couple with new eyes, noting everything about his competition while the woman continued to gossip.
“They’re best friends even though there’s quite an age gap. Ten years I think.”
He tuned out the woman while he studied Kylie. At twenty, she was younger than he’d thought. He’d just celebrated his thirty-third birthday.
The class broke up with people chatting and thanking Kylie and James. The older lady tapped his arm.
“You’re in for a treat, you know. You’re twenty minutes early. They always go over the hour at every lesson, so he starts the lessons with a half hour leeway. But a lot hang around watching them practice.” The lady smiled as she looked at Kylie and the blond. “Tonight I think they’re practicing for a fundraiser show they’re doing. It should be great.”
He nodded while his eyes followed the object of his affections. Once everyone was off the dance floor, Kylie changed into higher shoes, and samba music filled the air. He watched, enthralled as James and Kylie turned into the sexiest couple he’d ever seen. At one point, she made a wrong move in what he knew was called a hug. He watched as her face transformed, and she almost sparkled, laughing at her mistake.
“Stunning.” He stared transfixed at the beauty before him. He knew watching her that he wasn’t going to give up until she gave him a chance.
The woman chuckled. “Yes indeed. When she laughs, she transforms.”
He watched the rest of the session in silence, unsure for the first time in his life of just how to proceed.
Kylie loved her best friend. He always made a bad day a hundred times better. Today, though, there had been something odd about him. By the way he looked at her and kept touching more than usual, something was up.
They’d begun preparing to begin the intermediate class when she looked around the room to see they had some new people in the intermediate class too. She scanned the room and froze at the sight of the man she saw in the corner talking to Mrs. Dickstein. Kylie’s stomach churned at the thought of what was being said, as Mrs. Dickstein was the biggest gossip in the world. And she was talking to Kylie’s dream man. Kylie grabbed James’ hand and whispered, “He’s here.”
James came over and stood blocking her view. “Who’s here?”
“The guy I was talking about this morning. The guy I’ve been stalking. Of course, he’s the hottest man in the universe.” She looked into his forest-green eyes. “You know? The guy I ran from this morning. The one I imagined a connection with. He’s over in the corner talking to the biggest gossip in the universe, Mrs. Dickstein. Couldn’t she at least wait one night to tell everyone our life stories?”
James spun so fast she didn’t even think she’d finished the last words.
God! Embarrassment filled her as James and Markus stared each other down. What the hell is going on? Markus stood and walked over to her as though he were stalking prey. Kylie whacked James on the back. “That was stupid! Now he’s coming over here.”
James shrugged, and she watched him eye Markus.
Markus smiled, and she couldn’t contain a sigh. He held out a hand, introducing himself to James. The shake seemed to go on for a while before she cleared her throat. “Hello, Markus. It’s a small world.”
He reached for her hand, but she avoided the connection.
“Yes, a lovely surprise. I found your pamphlet when I got home from my run this morning.”
Yep. That was just her luck. Now she had to put up with an hour-long lesson with Mr. Hunk in it and try to stay professional.
“I was worried when you ran off this morning. Is everything okay?”
She pasted a smile on her face and nodded. “Um, yeah. I forgot I had something to do at home. Sorry for being rude.”
He grinned. “How about you make it up to me tomorrow by letting me join your morning walk?”
Kylie glanced at James, hoping for some help, but his face was a mask of granite as he gave stony eyes to Markus. One part of her begged her to take up his offer. The other part, the more sensible part, kept telling her that she barely knew this guy, that he was way out of her league and not to expect anything.
The begging side won.
“Okay. I’ll meet you at your usual start time.” Kylie felt the heat rise in her cheeks as it slowly dawned on her what she had said. She cursed herself, and Markus’ grin turned into a huge smile, dimples and all. Her heart thudded in her chest at the sight of his perfect smile.
* * * *
The longest hour of her life had passed. Kylie sat in James’ car, and he brooded the whole way home. As she pulled into her driveway, she couldn’t take his sulking anymore. “What’s up?”
“What’s so good about Greek boy?”
“I don’t understand. Are you talking about Markus?” She knew he was, but she wanted to hear him say it.
She heard him gritting his teeth as he snarled, “I don’t understand why every female was sighing and fighting to dance with him. What’s he got that’s so hot?”
Closing her eyes, the image of Markus she’d saved in her brain popped up. Amazing blue eyes flashed as Markus smiled, and the dimples that peeked out were enough to catch any woman’s attention. Then when her eyes slid down his toned, muscular body… She fanned herself, and James snarled and opened his door. The car rocked as he slammed his door and stalked around to hers.
She got out of the car and watched as he used his key to her house. When they reached the living room, she grabbed his arm. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have spaced. Look, he doesn’t have that much more than you. It’s just … he has a flawless face. You know, a model-actor type face and that accent… Then he has a body th—” She stopped as his face turned red and his fist clenched at his side.
“That’s the type of guy you’re after? An actor or a model?”
Kylie knew she wasn’t one for attention. She hated being in the spotlight. Even when she sold some paintings or the gallery had a showing, she refused to turn up. She didn’t think she could ever be with someone like that.
“Ha. You know me, James. I hate the spotlight. I can’t think of anything worse.” She pulled him to her and hugged him. “I feel sorry for those people.” She looked into his eyes, hoping he understood. “Don’t worry. He’s new meat. That’s all. You know you’re hot stuff. Women always fall at your feet. Besides, you never date just one woman at a time.” She kissed his cheek. “Don’t worry. He won’t take all the women.” She hoped he would take only one—her.
After James left, Kylie fed Buddha, and then she went to bed, where she could let her dreams of her hunky man, Markus, run wild.