Here’s a bonus scene that takes place three years before the events of Dance with Me! In this scene, Dimitri and Natasha meet for the very first time.
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Shit. I’m all turned around, and I forgot which room my producer—Donna, her name is—told me to go to.
The Dance Off’s rehearsal studio doesn’t look much different from the other ones I’ve been to in Los Angeles, but it’s slightly bigger, more labyrinthine. Lots of long hallways, all decorated with framed, poster-sized color photos of couples from previous seasons.
Someday, my picture will hang on these walls. I haven’t met my celebrity partner yet, and I’m savoring the days until I do. Once we start training, it’ll be a whirlwind of work and stress. I’ve seen this show before. I know how it goes. But I’m more excited than anything else. Since I was already on Everybody Dance Now, The Dance Off has bumped me up to a pro, even though this is my first season. Usually I’d have to do time in the troupe and gain some audience recognition, but being on another TV show already accomplished that for me. Viewers loved seeing Gina and I together on TV. It’s super weird to be here without her now.
Room B is just up ahead. Is that where Donna said I should go? Maybe I’ll just pop my head in and see. If it’s the wrong room, I’ll apologize and duck back out.
I grasp the knob and ease the door open. Stepping inside, I spot a lone figure off to my right. He’s tall—or tall for a dancer, like me. Dark fabric stretches across his broad shoulders that stand out against the stark white walls of the rehearsal room. It’s like the shape of him is burned into my retinas. If I closed my eyes, I’d see the afterimage of him behind my lids.
He turns when he hears me, and I recognize him immediately.
Shit shit shit. I know exactly who he is.
Dimitri Kovalenko, one of the judges, a dancer who catapulted to stardom thanks to a silly dance movie almost 15 years ago.
He’s so fucking hot I can’t stand it.
Before I can open my mouth to apologize or babble or even breathe—because he’s totally stolen my breath—he advances in long, quick strides. Without a word, he takes my hand and pulls me toward him.
I let him. I’ve had a crush on this man since I was a teenager, and I’ve been aware of his career for years. Every dancer trying to make it in Hollywood has followed his career.
And now I’m here with him. Alone in a rehearsal room. His hand grips mine firmly as he pulls me against his chest. His eyes are dark, lost in thought. His forbidding brow drawn down, making him look severe. I can smell his cologne, something sharp, tangy-sweet, but not overpowering. It wraps around me, drawing me in. It reminds me of the expensive scents advertised in the thick fashion magazines my mother sometimes brought home from the salon, once the stack in the waiting area got too tall.
I don’t question what we’re doing. It’s all too clear.
He guides me with commanding touches. Not just his hands, but everywhere our bodies connect. Fingers, feet, hip, shoulder—I move with him, surrendering completely to his lead. He spins me out, tugs me back. Catches me on his hip and my hair, still loose, flips over my head and covers his shoulder and neck.
There’s no music, only the sounds of our breathing, our sneakers on the shiny floor, of fabric shifting over our skin and against each other.
My heart pounds but my breathing stays even. My body knows what to do.
It lets him lead.
Every time he pulls me close, fire races along my nerves. My chest feels tight, my skin sensitive. It hungers for his touch, perfectly attuned to him, waiting for the next hint of direction. We sway together, leading into a low lift, then salsa across the floor. We’re moving so fast, in such unison, I feel like I’m flying. My feet barely touch the floor.
But I won’t fall. He won’t let me. He’s in complete control.
Seconds tick past, but I have no idea how long we’ve been dancing. The dark intensity in his eyes fills my vision, and I lose track of all else.
I almost forget this was the wrong room.
Finally, he flings me into an ending pose. My hands brace against his chest. Our eyes are locked. He has hold of my hip and my shoulder.
We’re both breathing hard. It wasn’t a particularly long or taxing dance, but the heat between us…he feels it, too.
His gaze drops to my lips, parted to catch my breath. They’re dry. I lick them.
His eyes snap back up to mine.
“What’s your name?” His voice is deep, like a growl, and grumble. He has a reputation for being the cranky judge.
“Natasha.” Points for not stuttering.
His grin is quick, his teeth flashing against the trim, dark beard. He repeats it, giving the syllables a roll, an accent. “Natasha.”
The back of my neck prickles. I wish he’d say it again. It’s delicious in his mouth.
“You know who I am?” he asks, still grinning.
Oh, of all the obnoxious… “Yes.”
“Good.” He leans in close, presses his hot forehead to mine. We’ve both broken a sweat. Our lips are just a whisper apart when he says, “Come over tonight.”
His voice is low. Even though we’re alone, the words are just for me. My mouth longs for him to close the gap.
I swallow, and say again, “Yes.”
He nods, releases me, and steps back. “Go. You’re probably expected somewhere.”
I am. I take a few steps toward the door and grab my bag where I dropped it. I don’t even remember doing it. Once he took my hand, I was his.
“Wait.” He strides forward and takes the bag away from me. Digging his hand inside, he pulls out my phone and holds it up for me to unlock it. Once I do, he programs his number and address.
“Nine,” he says when he drops it back into the bag.
Nine is late. I’m expected at the studio early the next morning. But I don’t say anything. I don’t care. This will be worth any price.
He catches my chin his hand and brushes his thumb over my lips. “See you.”
My breath trembles out. My skin is hot. “See you.”
I dash from the room.
The second I’m in the hall, I remember where I’m supposed to be. Not Room B. Room E. And now I’m late.
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