A tattooed dancer and a by-the-book detective dance with death in the ego-fueled halls of ballet.
Bad boy of ballet Valentin ‘Val’ Aalto stands poised on the verge of huge success—except for one big obstacle. Influential lead dancer Harry Hardesty hates Val and cheats him out of the lead in Romeo and Juliet.
When Hardesty winds up dead, Val looks like a prime suspect—and gets thrown under the detailed and methodical inspection of the handsome NY detective with the stick up his butt, Andrew Preston. At first, Preston believes Hardesty may be the victim of the chilling Dancer Killer who’s struck three victims, but evidence stacks up against Val.
Still, Andrew can’t seem to keep his hands off his suspect and when the Dancer Killer starts stalking Val, Andrew is forced to choose between his dedication to a job he loves and his growing passion for his beautiful dancer. Together Val and Andrew discover that chaos can be beautiful, one should choose desserts wisely, and love can even trump death in the rehearsal halls of ballet.
About the Author
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 32. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Paranormal Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog near the sea in California where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice and new experiences, Tara says that on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Tara Lain 2016. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
He watched the two young men laugh and dance their way down the street toward his hiding place. Donald—pretty and blond, which disguised his black heart—walked with the splayed, out-turned feet of his warped, ungrateful profession.
“Oh, baby, you’re so damned pretty,” the clumsy, jockish-looking one moaned.
Donald danced backward, bowing as he skipped. “Thank you, kind sir.”
“Can’t you come home with me, please?”
Donald giggled. “You know I can’t. They check the beds at midnight. Someday, when I get out of the corps, I’ll have more freedom. Meanwhile, be patient. We’ll fuck next week when I get a day off.”
“Jesus, what do you expect me to do until then?”
“We all know why Mother Nature made good right hands, darling.” He stuck out his lip. “Or you can go find someone else with a lovely ass to ream.”
“Jesus, after that ass, how can I go back to ordinary?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it?” He laughed melodiously. “Okay, give me a kiss and let me walk the rest of the way alone. No use attracting suspicion.”
The big one wrapped his arms around Donald and kissed him while rutting disgustingly against his hips.
Can’t watch. He turned away from the sight. But as soon as the sound of footsteps replaced the moans and whimpers, he opened his eyes and slid through the shadows of the alley, rubbing his hands against the contents of his pockets.
The big one waved and took off jogging down the street.
Perfect, you idiot. If you’d stayed just another minute, you could have saved Donald.
“Dear God, when did you start recruiting the corps from Disney’s damned dancing hippos? Do you expect me to lift her?” Harry the bastard stared right into the tiny ballerina’s face. “How did you ever get a featured position in this ballet?” He stalked to the window in high drama and gazed out, flicking his fingers toward the dancer as if someone else should take out the trash.
Don’t open your mouth, idiot. Don’t speak. Yeah, right. Val looked up. “Maybe you should spend more time in the weight room, Harry. She can’t weigh a hundred pounds.”
The other girls giggled behind their hands as Valentin Aalto draped his tattooed arms between his knees and squeezed his ballet slipper. Wish it was Hardesty’s neck. He slid the slipper onto his foot.
Hardesty turned slowly, his eyebrows threatening to join his hair in an attempt to cover his budding bald spot. “Her weight is awkward. Perhaps you’d like to lift her, Aalto?”
He’s baiting you. Don’t rise to it. Val sprang to his feet then walked to the little dancer, smiled, reached an arm into her crotch and lifted her skyward, so high she actually gasped.
The girls tittered. One sighed.
Hardesty applauded delicately.
Assholes like him give being gay a bad name. Hell, being human a bad name.
Hardesty sneered. “Just perfect—if you’re trying to get a box from the top shelf.”
“You know me, Harry. Ever practical.” He placed the girl back on the wooden floor of the practice room.
“Yes, I do know you, you pretender.”
Val took a step toward Harry with clenched fists.
“Enough!” Marshall Atwood, the dance master, clapped his hands sharply. “We’ll take a two-hour lunch while we attempt to sort out Harold’s problems with the corps. Be back here at two.” He stared fixedly at Val. “With attitude adjusted.”
Val cocked a half smile. He liked Marshall. Harry? Not so much.
He grabbed his bag and walked through the door of the rehearsal studio. In the hall, dancers gathered against the walls in clutches and the mood felt tense. The girl dancer stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Thank you.”
He flashed her a grin. “Better not let Hardesty see you talking to me. Seriously. It won’t be good for you.”
She shook her blonde head. “I don’t see much good coming out of this whole thing.” Her eyes glassed. “I was so excited about that solo.”
“There are other ballets. He’s not in all of them.”
She glanced up through her lashes. “I heard a rumor about a Romeo and Juliet being staged.”
“I heard that too.” He smiled.
“I heard they might have to cover a boatload of tattoos on Romeo.” She smiled and glanced at the inked animals on his biceps, crawling onto his shoulders. “I think you’ll be incredible in the role.”
“Thanks. Maybe you’d better tell me your name in case I need to recommend any solo artists in the future.”
“Wow.” She blushed. “Uh, I mean I’m Audrey Farr.” She stuck out her hand. “Happy to meet you.”
He glanced at the frowns on the dancers’ faces. “What’s going on?”
Audrey followed his gaze. “One of the boy dancers from the corps, Donnie, didn’t come back last night.”
“Too much partying?”
“Probably, but rumors are heated. Apparently, a couple dancers from smaller companies have been reported missing and one was found dead.”
“I read about that.”
“Everyone’s worried for Donnie.”
Val frowned. “I hope he’s okay.”
“Yeah.” She visibly shuddered.
He pulled his sweats from his bag, slid them on over his tights and traded the ballet slippers for flip-flops.
“Uh, are you going to grab lunch?” There was a hopeful invitation waiting to happen.
“No. I’m headed down to Broadway for a quick dance class.”
“You’re a glutton.” She cast a quick eye toward the rehearsal room door. “But we aren’t supposed to study with other teachers, are we?”
He shrugged. “I like different styles. I think they improve my dancing.” He chuckled. “Not everyone agrees.”
“Hell, you’ve got such perfect feet and turnout, nothing could mess you up.”
“Thanks, but you have good form too.”
“Don’t let him get you down. He’s an asshole to all of us.” He patted her slim arm. “Gotta go.”
“This is the third one.” Though Detective Andrew Preston, NYPD, didn’t say that to anyone in particular, Jun, the coroner, who knelt beside him, nodded.
“Yes, all killed similarly. Blunt force followed by asphyxiation, which in two of the three cases has been cause of death. Then he sprinkles them with rose petals.”
Andrew wrinkled his nose against the foul smells in the alley, now punctuated by the odor of blood. He stared at the pale, white skin of the young man lying on the sidewalk, face down, his fair hair spread out like a flag. The flowers decorated his slim back and formed a halo around his head. “Seems to be his ritual.”
Ilke Jorgensen, Andrew’s partner, sighed beside him. “Crap. My first serial killer.”
“Son of Sam notwithstanding, there aren’t many of them. They just get a lot of publicity.” He glanced at Ilke. “Be prepared for a firestorm once the press gets hold of it.” He stared back at the body of Donald Fornazy, rose and tugged off his gloves, then wiped his hands with a handkerchief. “Jun, if you don’t mind, let’s keep the flower petal thing quiet.”
“Thanks.” He flipped open his notebook. “I’ll take a few notes.”
Ilke glanced at him as he pulled his pen from his pocket and sighed again.
Andrew glanced at her with a raised brow and she grinned. “I’ll just go over to that drug store and get a Coke from the vending machine while you take your few notes.” She looked at her watch. “Shall we say…fifteen minutes?”
Jun laughed as Ilke walked away, but squelched it when Andrew gave him a look. Andrew frowned. They appreciated his attention to detail when it helped solve cases, just not when it interfered with their schedules. But details solved crimes and saved lives.
Andrew knelt beside the body again, ignoring the metallic smell. He stared at the young man, who no doubt had lit up the world with his joy and artistry. We’ll make sense of this, Donald. We’ll find this maniac, take him off the streets, understand why he did this to you and others. We won’t let him hurt anyone else. He began his notations.
After bleeding off some general pissed-offed-ness in the high-energy Broadway-style routine, Val leaped on the train to get back to NYBT, sweating lightly. A cute guy stared at him as the subway jostled its way uptown.
“You that dancer?”
Val smiled. “I’m a dancer.”
“Yeah. Some friends took me to see you dance for my birthday.” He grinned and leaned toward Val a little.
“You like ballet?”
“Nah. Never saw it before. It’s okay, but shit, man, you sure look bitchin’ in those tights.”
Val snorted. “Thanks, I guess.”
“I like your tats.”
Val pulled up the sleeve on his sweatshirt and showed off his forearm. He liked tattoo admirers. “You have any?”
“Yeah. But I’d have to get to know you better to show them off. You interested?” The guy had dimples for miles in otherwise lean cheeks. A tribal tattoo on his wrist stood out against deep caramel skin.
Val gave him a glance and a shrug. “Best offer I’ve had today.”
“I’ll bet you get a lot of offers.” The guy stepped closer.
“Some.” Cute guy. Could use a fuck. “What did you have in mind? I’m on my way back to work.”
The guy showed off his white teeth—the better to eat you with. “Back to dancing, you mean?”
“Yes. That’s my work. My stop’s coming up.”
“Give me your number.”
Stranger. Maybe not. “Nothing to write with. Tell me where you’ll be later. If I can get away, I might meet you. But if you get a better offer, feel free to bail.”
“I’ll be at Cherry’s Bar in SoHo. And I can’t imagine a better offer than you.” He stuck out his hand. “My name’s JoLee, by the way.”
Val shook. Arm strong, nice. “Val.”
The train shuddered to a stop and Val moved to the door. That warm hand grasped his arm. “Hope I see you later, Val. Nine o’clock?”
Val shivered. Was it from desire? “Maybe.”
He bounded off the train, ran up the steep stairs and down the sidewalk to the large, glass entrance to NYBT. He pulled open the doors and ran up the inside stairs two at a time toward the rehearsal halls.
As he got closer to Joseph Morgenstern’s office, Val stopped. Man, must be my day for hunks. Walking out of the door of the director’s inner sanctum was a tall, auburn-haired guy in a perfectly tailored suit that definitely made Val’s cock do a samba. Gor-gee-ous! Beside the man, a tough-looking blonde woman in ill-fitting jeans and a sweatshirt with some kind of excuse for a sports coat thrown over it managed to look totally out of place in the hallowed halls of NYBT. Talk about the odd couple. She couldn’t be his wife? Could she?
Joseph walked next to the tall guy and on the woman’s other side stood Arnold Shinsky, the chairman of the board of NYBT. Definitely a power duo. The strangers must be important. Joseph waved at Val and motioned for him to wait.
Val stepped back and leaned against the wall. He might be late for rehearsal, but when Joseph said stop, he stopped. Not only did the director hold Val’s future in his hands, he was a fan, and Val needed all the supporters he could get.
Shinsky was frowning so deeply he had craters in his bulldog face. He shook his head. What he said was partly muffled but, “Shocking and appalling,” definitely came up.
What’s going on?
A hand grasped his arm and he turned into the smiling face of Willie Shinsky, Arnold’s son. The boy beamed at Val. “Hi.”
“Hi, Willie. How you doing?”
Fortunately, Willie had gotten a lot of looks from his mother, so his medium-height body wasn’t as stocky as his dad’s and his bold features came out handsome rather than froglike.
“Good.” He smiled so big it must have hurt. “Thanks for asking.”
“Great. I’m checking out colleges to see where I want to go.”
“Seen anything you like?”
He glanced toward his father. “Dad wants me to go to Harvard or Yale, but I’m thinking I might stay in the city. You know, be close to everything I, uh, like.” He flashed his brown eyes at Val.
“You studying business?”
“Yes. Or at least that’s what my dad wants.”
“What do you want?”
He shrugged. “I don’t quite know yet, so I’m going along with the program, ya know?”
Val glanced at the still-heated discussion going on across the wide hall from them. “Things are intense over there. Joseph asked me to wait, but it seems like they’re pretty involved.”
Willie lowered his voice. “It’s about the murder.”
“Murder? What the fuck?”
“Yeah, that boy from the corps. Donnie.”
“Jesus, I was hoping it was a mistake.”
“Nope. They found his body this morning in an alley.”
“Did you know him?” Willie frowned. “Was he like a boyfriend of yours?”
“What? Oh no, I didn’t even know his name. One of the girls told me about it when we broke for lunch.”
Willie nodded. “Yeah, poor guy. I imagine the police will be questioning everyone about him.”
“Are those the police?”
Shinsky shook hands with the tall man, nodded at the woman, who he didn’t seem to want to touch, and pointed toward the rehearsal areas. The three walked off together and Joseph waggled fingers at Val.
“Thanks for telling me, Willie.”
“Any time, Val. I’m so excited about Romeo.”
“Hey, thanks. Me too. Assuming it all happens, of course.”
He clasped Val’s arm tightly. “Oh, it will. How could anyone resist making you Romeo?”
“Thanks. Gotta go.” He turned and trotted toward Joseph. A quick glance showed Willie watching his every move.
He came up beside Joseph who waved at Willie. “My, that boy is your biggest fan.”
“Never underestimate the power of a teenage crush.”
“So what’s up? I think they’re starting rehearsal soon.”
Joseph shook his head. “I’m not sure they’ve finished their conversation. Come in and sit for a second, Val.”
He walked into the large, plush office and sat in one of the upholstered guest chairs. “Willie told me about the murder.”
“Yes, truly horrifying. I’m going to institute some safety measures for our dancers. Traveling in groups, not being on the streets alone at night.”
Val leaned forward. “That’s always good advice in the city, but is there something about this killing?”
Joseph’s eyebrows drew together. “Apparently there have been other dancers killed. Not from NYBT, but still. I don’t want to take any chances. This goes for you too, Val. You’re still so young, you haven’t gotten over adolescent invincibility syndrome. I want you to be careful.”
He grinned. “Yes, sir, I will.”
“I know. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about? If I’m too late to rehearsal, we won’t have to worry about a killer on the streets, Marshall will murder me.”
Joseph smiled distractedly, but the furrow between his eyebrows meant trouble and trouble only had one fucking spelling around here. H-A-R-R-Y.
“Okay, lay the shit on me.”
Joseph sighed. “Harry will leave the company if you dance Romeo.”
“Like fuck he will. Who else would take him?”
“Sadly, a lot of places.”
Val leaped from the chair and stalked across the Persian rug. “Because of the fucking bank book that goes with his arabesques?”
“Partly. The sad truth is, he’s a respectable dancer and he comes with huge financial support. Few companies can afford to pass that up.”
“And that means I’ll dance—” He waved a hand.
“Shit, he even gets to kill me. Fuck!”
“This won’t last forever, Val. You’re barely twenty-one and you’ll have your moment to shine. You know I wanted to stage this ballet for you. Harry’s too old for the role and you’d be perfect. I was even considering letting your tattoos show.” He smiled tightly. “I’m almost as disappointed as you are because you’d have brought in new blood to our audience.” He wiped a hand across his face. “Damnation.”
Joseph never swore, but everyone made an exception for Harry Hardesty.
Val slapped the wall. It hurt good. “So I guess I’d better do some serious thinking about my future because obviously I’m going nowhere with Harry Hardon sitting in my path.” Red flashed in his vision and he took a breath trying to clear it. Not good to display his temper all over the director of the New York Ballet Theater.
“Don’t do anything rash. There aren’t many companies in the world that have the prestige of NYBT, and those that do already have established principal dancers. You’re not well enough known yet to qualify as a guest principal at other companies. You’ve got to bide your time. I promise, it will pay off in the end.”
“Yeah, well, you know how I feel about patience.” He turned, stalked into the hall and slammed the door behind him. It echoed through the high-ceilinged halls. Maybe Joseph didn’t deserve his crap, but he sure looked a lot like a lily-livered pansy right now.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Death Dancer (Dangerous Dancers #2) by Tara Lain A serial killer is loose in New York. Dancers are being killed. Detective Andrew Preston and his partner, Ilke Jorgensen are on the chase. Andrew happens to be gay and falls in love with one of the suspects/possible victims, ballet star Valentin (Val) Aalto, a 21 y/o Finnish beauty. As things progress, Val becomes one of the primary suspects and Andrew, aided by Mac Macallister -- Trelain Medveyev's lover (a very famous ballet dancer) -- they must fight to keep Val alive. The book is told from a weird point of view -- too hard to tell whether it's a universal point of view, vs. a poorly executed third person point of view. This makes reading difficult. I had trouble deciding who "he" referred to, needing to re-read the same words again to make sense of it all. The dialogue seldom point to who's doing the talking, again making it hard to read the book. The plot is OK, but the ending is predictable, there are no twists or turns. The book reads like a bad soap opera with interesting sex scenes. The characters are two dimensional and need some help. They do not stand out of the page and, at times, they are caricatures, cliches. Would not recommend the book.
I really liked both characters, though I feel like some of the get-to-know-you moments might’ve happened off screen. There were a ton of secondary characters, particularly from the ballet studio, and they were occasionally a little difficult to follow, but it helped provide possibilities from almost every angle, both regarding the mystery and future books in the series. Speaking of the mystery, usually I’m all about the romance, but it was actually the mystery in this book that kept me riveted. Some of the answers were predictable, but some not so much. It’s not until the final few chapters that everything is revealed, and that was so great. Death Dancer is a wonderful romantic mystery that introduces new characters and includes the lovable faces from the first book. Pick this one up for an awesome read!
Val Aalto is a successful dancer on the verge of playing a lead role. However, lead dancer Harry Hardesty blocks him from getting the part. Then Harry is found dead, and Val looks like a prime suspect. Detective Andrew Preston, who is investigating a serial killer who has killed three dancers recently, is assigned to investigate the case. Andrew and Val are attracted to each other, and they are fighting their attraction while they try to solve the murders and keep Val from becoming another victim of the serial killer. This was a fast-paced, entertaining book.