The second book in Alexis Daria's Dance Off series finds one playboy charmer falling for his new roommate.
Natasha Díaz is having a day. She’s trying to prove she can make it as a professional dancer, but she’s overworked, out of cash, and her roommate has just moved out. When she comes home to find a hole in her ceiling and her bedroom flooded, she’s desperate enough to crash with the one guy she can’t quit. She accepts his offer with one condition: no sleeping together while she’s living with him.
Dimitri Kovalenko has never lived with a woman before. But when Tasha’s in need of a place to stay, he suggests she move in without a second thought. He accepts her condition, hoping she won’t stick to it. They’re good together, both in the ballroom and the bedroom. Since their first dance, she’s never been far from his thoughts. Sure, she’s a pro and he’s one of her show’s judges, but they’re not currently filming, so no one needs to know.
Living in close quarters shows Dimitri a side of Natasha he’s never seen before, and he likes it. A lot. Too bad she’s doing everything in her power to keep him at arm’s length. When an injury forces Natasha to take it easy or risk her ability to dance, it’s his chance to show her that the rules have changed, and she can trust him with her heart.
About the Author
Alexis Daria serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. Her writing has appeared in Woman’s Day for Latinas and on DIY MFA and Swoon Says. She is the author of Dance with Me.
Read an Excerpt
A nap. That was all Natasha Díaz wanted. She had fantasized about it the whole drive home, in the brand-new blue Prius that had used her entire paycheck from playing a high school mean girl in a few episodes of Drama School. Not her finest work, but hey, the pay was okay.
When her last client canceled their private yoga session, Natasha headed straight home for a late afternoon nap. She'd taught six fitness classes that day on very little sleep — her own fault, for once again succumbing to temptation. Was a nap too much to ask?
Apparently so, because her entire mother-effing bathroom ceiling was gone.
Well, not gone. Just not where it was supposed to be. Instead of being where a ceiling belonged, it was all over her bathroom and half the bedroom — including her closet.
Cue the screaming of every Spanish curse word she knew, which was a lot of them.
This was what she got for wanting the master bedroom. When she and her best friend Gina had moved in nearly five years earlier, Natasha insisted she was cool paying more for the bigger room and private bath. Now, plaster, water, and a fine layer of white dust were everywhere, making it difficult to breathe. She covered her mouth and nose with one hand, creating a makeshift mask. Water still cascaded in from somewhere above.
And her closet? The door had been left ajar in her rush to leave last night. She opened it fully and bit back a sigh. The water from the leak upstairs had managed to seep inside, along with no small amount of plaster dust. It had gotten into her clothing. Her shoes. Her luggage. And everything else jammed into the top shelf she couldn't reach without standing on a stepladder. It was a godawful mess.
Swallowing back tears, she pulled out her phone and put in a call to her building's management company. No one picked up, of course, but she left a message explaining the situation in as calm a voice as she could manage, even as the water still flowed. Then she sent a text to the building's super, hoping he was around.
Since a hollow whooshing sound still came from the pipes upstairs, Natasha grabbed a broom and banged on the bedroom ceiling, hoping it wouldn't fall in as well. Nothing happened. She jogged upstairs to knock on her neighbor's door. Again, no reply. The fucking nerve of them, ruining her apartment and wardrobe, and not even having the decency to be home so she could bitch them out.
No use dwelling on it. They had to come back sometime.
Trudging back to her own apartment, she got to work emptying the closet. Wet things in one pile on the floor, and dry things on the bed. Each ruined item she tossed aside brought a pang of loss.
Her clothes. Her beautiful, beautiful clothes.
Snap out of it. Okay, so this was bad, but not horrible. The apartment had a second bedroom, vacant now that Gina had moved out, and a second bathroom. She could still stay here while repairs were made. Or maybe the management company would finally reply to the emails she had sent asking if there was a one-bedroom available in the same building for her to move into.
A small part of her regretted turning down Gina's offer to pay rent until the end of the lease, but it was high time she stopped leaning on Gina for support. She was twenty-seven years old, old enough to stop relying on her best friend and stand on her own two feet. She didn't want a new roommate — didn't want to have to learn to deal with another person's quirks — and she had enough summer gigs to cover the full rent on her own until the fifteenth season of The Dance Off started filming in the fall. She'd make it.
Being a pro dancer on a hit reality TV celebrity dance competition paid well, although money still seemed to slip through her fingers as easily as it had when she'd been a teenager working as a waitress in the Bronx.
Exhausted as she was, Natasha separated out the clothing to be tossed in the washer and what would have to be dry cleaned. Laundry was the absolute last thing she wanted to do, but when there was a hole in your bathroom ceiling, plans changed. She'd just retrieved the detergent from under the kitchen sink when someone knocked on her door.
Opening it revealed Manny, the building's super. "Hola, Manny," she said, switching to Spanish for their conversation. And even though she was on the verge of hysteria, she asked in a polite tone, "¿Cómo están sus niños?"
It was their dynamic — when their paths crossed, they chatted in Spanish and she asked about his kids, and he came to her assistance more quickly than he did for some of the other tenants.
As he told her about his son's latest achievement at computer camp, she ushered him into her bedroom and gestured at the water still pouring in. "I came home a few minutes ago and found it like this."
Manny stood with his hands on his hips, staring at the ceiling, then sighed and removed a giant key ring from his belt. "I'll go up and turn off the water."
Natasha continued to move things out of the bedroom while she waited. There was no way she was going to be able to sleep in her room for the foreseeable future.
It was a while before Manny returned. Natasha looked up in surprise when he finally re-entered the apartment. "What took so long?" she asked.
Manny jingled the key ring on the end of his finger. "Lo siento, señorita," he began. "It looks like a pipe burst. I had to shut off the water in the entire building."
Natasha groaned. "For how long? I need to do laundry."
He shrugged. "I have to call a plumber. I don't know how long it will take."
Natasha sucked in a deep breath. It wouldn't do any good to take out her frustration on the super. "Okay, well, I'll just move my things into the second bedroom for now. I can stay there until this is fixed, unless there's another apartment in the building that's open. I don't need a two-bedroom anymore, so I'd be happy to move into a one-bedroom until my lease ends." If she got a new apartment out of this whole ordeal, maybe it would be worth it.
Manny cringed. "Señorita, I don't think either of those options will work."
Natasha went still, and tried to ignore the prickling sensation on the back of her neck. Whatever Manny was about to say, this was going to get worse. "¿Por qué?"
"The problem is there's a bug infestation in the apartment upstairs. And ... some of the other apartments in the building."
The prickles spread down her back. "How many other apartments?"
"A lot of them."
Fighting panic, Natasha squeezed her eyes shut and pinched the bridge of her nose. "What kind of bug — no, you know what, don't tell me. I don't want to know."
Bugs. Carajo. Just the thought made her skin crawl.
Manny's eyebrows tilted downward in sympathy. "The management company wanted to keep it quiet. I wasn't allowed to let everyone know."
That's why the jerks hadn't replied to her emails. "I get it. Okay, so, what does this mean? How long will it take to fix all this — the bugs, and the ceiling?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Hopefully not too long. You'll be able to leave your furniture in the apartment while the exterminator and contractors work, though you should wrap it in plastic first. And you're welcome to move back in when it's all done, but it means we have to hold on to your deposit and you have to pay rent."
Of course. The prickles intensified, and her eyes burned. "I see. Gracias, Manny."
"I'm sorry I couldn't be more help," he said. "I'll be upstairs cleaning if you need me. It looks like the guy who lives there moved out without notice."
After Manny left, a cloud of despair descended.
She was going to have to move out. Immediately. Chest tight, she eyed the piles of clothing, wondering how fast bugs could move.
If only Gina were here. Gina would know what to do. She'd take care of everything, and their lives wouldn't even skip a beat. All of this would be a minor nuisance, flattened by the force of Gina's efficiency.
Natasha gave herself a shake before she could pick up and dial her best friend. No, she could do this. She could be an adult, and handle the obstacles that arose.
Closing her eyes, Natasha thought, What would Gina do?
Research. Gina always started by informing herself of the topic at hand. When they'd learned ballroom dance styles, Gina had made them color-coded study guides and playlists.
Natasha pulled out her phone and started a search, grimacing at the photos of bugs. A bit of digging revealed a ray of hope: if she washed and dried on hot, she could salvage most of the clothing. The more delicate items had to get to the dry cleaner immediately, which would cost a fortune, but it was worth it to save her wardrobe.
There. Adulting wasn't so hard.
Except she still didn't have a place to live. And she had a whole apartment to pack up.
And she was exhausted
Stupid Dimitri and his late-night texts. Stupid her for not ignoring him.
Shit. Enough wallowing. She had to get to work.
An hour later, Manny stopped by to tell her the water in the building was back on. Natasha grabbed the first two piles of clothes and hustled to the laundry room on her floor.
While the washer ran, she vacuumed and dusted everything else in the house. According to the list she'd found online, she was going to have to wrap all the furniture in plastic, and either put it into storage or move it into Gina's old bedroom.
What a fucking chore. Her eyes and throat burned from exhaustion and plaster dust. She took a break to swap out her contacts for the red- framed glasses she wore at night.
Her phone rang while she was loading the dryer. Dimitri's handsome face flashed on the screen, cropped from a selfie they'd taken one night swimming naked in his pool. She answered out of habit, then bit back a curse. Sangana. She didn't have time to talk to him, to be tempted by him. Holding the phone to her ear with her shoulder, she grabbed a handful of socks that had fallen to the floor.
"What is it, Dimitri?" Frazzled, she snapped the words out, then winced. She'd never spoken to him that way, but she was inches from a meltdown and too tired to care.
"Tasha?" His deep voice tickled her ear. "Is everything okay?"
"Okay?" She let out a hysterical giggle, which seemed to shatter her common sense. Everything came tumbling out, even though he was the last person she should confide in. "No, nothing is okay. My bathroom ceiling fell in, there's a leak in my bedroom, and my building is infested with bugs. I have nowhere to live, and I'm running on three hours of sleep because I spent all night with you. So, no, I'm not okay. And I don't have time for whatever kinky thing you have planned, so just ... ask someone else."
And then she hung up on him, something else she had never done before. Before she could call him back to apologize, she slapped the phone down on top of the dryer and kept shoving wet clothing inside. It was better this way. She was trying to keep her distance from him — and doing a terrible job of it, if last night was any indication — so maybe this would push him away and give her some breathing room. Their interactions didn't extend to hysterical babbling into the phone about real-life things, things that had nothing to do with dancing or fun or sex.
No, their interactions were strictly the carnal sort. Dimitri was a judge on The Dance Off, a TV show that paired celebrities with professional dancers for a ballroom dance competition, and she was one of the pro dancers. They weren't friends, just coworkers who sometimes banged. It was ridiculous to want to spill to him about the whole situation, and even more ridiculous to worry her snippy words would push him away. This was what she wanted. Distance. Space.
Right. And she was a fucking liar. She wanted him with her every breath, but all he would ever do was break her heart, and that was fragile enough as it was. That was exactly why she needed to stay away from him. Finishing up with the dryer, she headed back to her apartment.
Halfway through vacuuming the living room rug — again — and cursing California's propensity toward wall-to-wall carpet, the tears burst through the flimsy emotional dam she'd constructed.
Good thing she'd taken out her lenses.
The vacuum filled the room with its obnoxious roar, and all the stress and exhaustion crashed down on her. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and she shoved her fingers under her glasses to swipe at her eyes. This sucked. Everything sucked. And she had no idea what to do.
The no-strings on-and-off shit she had going with Dimitri put her through the wringer. No sleep plus a day of teaching had left her physically drained. And now, faced with the prospect of being broke and homeless, she was done. So done. She'd been in tough spots before, had made hard decisions she hoped to never make again. Life had shown her early on that you could only rely on yourself, but the past few years had seemed like smooth sailing. She'd paid down her debts with her last payout from The Dance Off, and when her white Honda had up and died, she'd had the money from her recent acting gig to buy a new one.
And then Gina found true love and moved out.
She was happy for Gina. Truly. Cynical as she was, Natasha still believed in true love, and Gina of all people deserved happiness. Gina Morales and her celebrity partner Stone Nielson had fallen in love while paired together on the previous season of The Dance Off. Their win had opened more doors for them, and they'd left Los Angeles, vowing to navigate the waves of show business together.
Natasha hated herself for feeling jealous, but she and Gina had been friends since they were fourteen. They'd done everything together — high school, starting a dance career, moving to LA — mostly thanks to Gina's limitless ambition and organizational skills. Now she was gone.
Still, Natasha had handled it. All of it. She had skills and a bit of fame on her side, so she'd secured a slew of side gigs to keep her financial situation steady. Some cameo spots, modeling gigs, and a lot of dance and fitness classes that would get money in her pocket quickly. Once the next season started, she'd be in the clear again.
Except for this. A hole in the damn ceiling. A leak in her closet. And bugs. Bugs! There was only one kind that struck terror into the hearts of building superintendents, and it wasn't roaches.
A shiver ran down her spine. She had to get the hell out of here. But where could she go? Gina was her ride-or-die, and she'd send money if Natasha asked, but that was exactly why she didn't want to ask. She could call Lori Kim or Kevin Ray, her friends and coworkers on The Dance Off, but Lori's roommates were awful, and Kevin was weird about having people in his house.
A heavy knock sounded from the front door, audible over the roar of the vacuum and her sobs.
Sucking in a deep breath, she shut off the vacuum and wiped her eyes. She didn't care if Manny saw her crying — she had a good reason, and he knew it — so she yelled, "Entra."
The apartment door opened. It wasn't Manny.
Natasha stumbled backward over the vacuum cord when Dimitri Kovalenko strode into the room.
Before they'd met, she'd known his face from movies and magazines. In person, he stunned the senses. Dark hair and heavy brows, eyes the color of milk chocolate that focused on her with laser intensity, and always at least a few days of stubble darkening his cheeks and upping his masculinity even more. As if his commanding posture and broad shoulders weren't already intimidating in a way that made her want to rub her body against his like a cat.
And she ... god, she probably looked a mess. Sweaty, frizzy hair, glasses. No. No, he couldn't see her like this. What the hell was he even doing here?
Dimitri froze, his gaze tracking over her tear-streaked cheeks, and his usually stern expression tipped toward concern. "Tasha? What's going on?"
His voice, normally loud and forceful, was softer than she'd ever heard it. He advanced on her, and she trembled, both wanting his touch and fearing it. Don't be nice to me, she wanted to beg. I'm too raw already. I can't take it.
His hands clasped her shoulders, warm and solid, and the comforting green scent of his cologne surrounded her. She swallowed hard, wishing she could lean on him, just for a moment, just to know what it felt like to have someone there to catch her if she fell.
Excerpted from "Dance with Me"
Copyright © 2017 Alexis Daria.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alexis Daria’s Dance with Me is the final book in her Dance Off series. I just adored the original storyline of the first one, and this installment adds another emotional layer. The combination of dance and romance is a guaranteed winner. Natasha is having a bad week, and it ends up with her shacking up with her occasional hookup, Dimitri. But Natasha can’t deal with the no-strings attached arrangement anymore so sex is off the table. But Dimitri has other plans and when these two come together, it’s a delightful tango. I loved the mix of cultures here. Dimitri has a Russian background and Natasha is Puerto Rican. I think this one was much more relatable for me, personally. Natasha doesn’t expect love. In fact, she doesn’t think she deserves it, and Dimitri’s take-care personality has her running scared. That’s before a new rule with her dance show comes into play, the mess of her living situation, and her finances being in shambles. Dimitri stole my heart! This guy is awfully good at sticking his foot in his mouth, but when he gets it right? Let’s just say Natasha (and the reader) are completely swept off their feet. My only issue was that they seemed to dance around the same conversations time and time again. It made for slow reading in portions. But that’s really a minor thing when considering all the vulnerability and heat that’s on the page. Alexis Daria is a force to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
This second entry in the Dance Off series is a sexy and fun romance between Natasha, a dancer on the reality show The Dance Off who is having a run of bad luck, and Dmitri, a judge on the show. They've had a few one night stands over the past few years but never anything serious, and nothing that stopped them from seeing other people. But when Natasha has an apartment emergency, it's Dimitri who comes to her rescue with a place to live and their close quarters results in something even more intimate than a night in bed together - a chance to reveal some of the aspects of their lives that have shaped them. In a way, that's even more scary because being able to trust and rely on someone is at the heart of what they'll need to pursue a real relationship - if they have the courage to do so. As this story takes place during the off season of the reality show, there's more of the other aspects that take place behind the scenes. The friendships, the contract negotiations, the training to maintain physical peak form, and for Natasha, a lot of stress related to her own success or failure on the show and what might happen if her live-in relationship with Dimitri is discovered. I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and their motivations, and how Dimitri's playboy image is a front for a man who secretly longs to be a compassionate and encouraging partner to one woman - Natasha. He makes mistakes along the way, as does Natasha, but eventually they find the right formula to make their relationship a success. Their ethnic heritages, Dimitri as a Ukrainian national who came to America when he was a boy and Natasha as a woman proud of her Puerto Rican background, also play an important role in the story. It's a fun romance with plenty of sexy scenes, characters that show real growth and a really lovely happy ending. I hope there will be more stories to come in this series!
“Who are you if you’re not a dancer?” I enjoyed the second entry in the Dance Off series even more than the first! I loved that they were already friends with sometimes benefits when the story started, and things are accelerated by a mishap that ends up with Natasha moving in (temporarily) with Dimitri. Only, neither is content with the state of their relationship, but they’re certain the other doesn’t return their feelings. Both Natasha and Dimitri are strong, driven characters, and it was so much fun as they learned to lean on and support each other. I loved the mixtures of their Puerto Rican and Ukranian heritages. I found Dimitri frustrating, but in a good way. Dimitri’s main goal in life is to take care of those he loves, and he was constantly baffled by Natasha’s insistence on standing on her own two feet. He was constantly putting his foot in his mouth around Natasha! I found this very endearing, as finding a balance between mothering and smothering is something I struggle with, personally. Watching him gradually come to an understanding of how to best support her, and her acceptance of it, was sweetly adorable. I loved the growth of their relationship, the descriptions of them dancing together, and, holy crap, the sex was hot! At heart, though, this is a story about dealing with failure. Natasha is convinced that if she can’t support herself - by herself - as a dancer, she’s a failure. She attributes most of her success to following in Gina’s wake, and is convinced that now that she’s on her own, she’ll fail. Dimitri has been both a colossal success and a failure, and the fear of failing again has led him to postpone following his dreams. It’s also kept him from sharing his feelings with Natasha for fear of rejection. With some interference from Dimitri’s family and F***ing Donna, though, Dimitri and Natasha are forced to face their fears of failure. In minor spoilers, I was glad to see F***ing Donna get her comeuppance. But - what the heck was up with Kevin? I’m hoping a third book is planned for him! Overall, tons of fun, and I’m looking forward to more books from Ms. Daria! I received an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.
4.5 Stars! Dance with Me by Alexis Daria, tells the story of what goes on behind the scenes of a very popular dance competition TV show. This book follows professional dancer and choreographer Natasha Diaz during the off season. Natasha and Dimitri Kovalenko, a judge on the show, have been seeing each other secretly for a few years. They both find have strong feelings for each other, but due to their own vulnerabilities and the show's fraternizing rules, their relationship never progresses from the booty call stage. Natasha's life is thrown into a tailspin when her best friend moves out, her bedroom ceiling collapses, and she sprains her ankle. She needs help and against her better judgement, she asks Dimitri for assistance. Dimitri is more than overjoyed that Natasha will be staying with him, and he plans to show her how much he loves her while she recuperates. Natasha does not believe she deserves to be loved, which makes Dimitri's job that much harder. Natasha and Dimitri are a hot couple, both in and out of the bedroom. Their completely opposite upbringing adds an underlying intensity to the story. Ms. Daria does an excellent job of describing the sparks that ignite when they dance together, as well as the awe from those that observe Natasha's unique choreography. Dimitri is a wonderful character and his artistic talents and kindness create the perfect partner for Natasha. This is a well-written love story with an engaging plot and well-defined characters. I found Natasha and Dimitri to be sensitive and genuine, and I loved the way Ms. Moore developed them both as individuals and as a couple. Their time together was replete with warmth and lustful desire. The secondary characters round out the story quite nicely. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.