Gillian Rutherford was married to her work, but when her employer went bankrupt, she landed at her parents' house to regroup for a while. 'A while' turns into several months and Gilly's self-esteem takes the brunt of the prolonged unemployment, until Nana Rutherford declares enough is enough. True, Gilly needs to get out of the house, but really, Nana? Ballroom dancing classes? There's something about the idea that seems to Gillian a little ridiculous. That is until she meets instructor Dominik Svoboda. Graceful, handsome, and an expert on the dance floor, he just might be the man to sweep Gilly off her feet...literally, but only if she can allow herself to follow his lead.
“Buenas noches à todos ustedes. My name is Isabella and I'd like to welcome everyone to the April Moonlight Milonga,” she said.
The crowd clapped and cheered.
“Now usually I ask for a volunteer from the crowd for the demonstration portion of the evening, but tonight, I understand we have a Dancesport Pro with us. Dominik, honey, where are you?” She shaded her eyes and looked around.
Niko's eyes popped open wide and he looked as if he wanted to crawl under the table. But he didn't. Gilly watched as he put on a mask of composure and stood, waving to the woman on stage.
“There you are. Ladies and gentleman, this is Dominik Svoboda, US Open Professional Champion, 1989. Maybe we can convince him to join me on the dance floor?”
Again, the crowd erupted in applause.
Niko looked at Gilly who gave him a thumbs up gesture. In fact, she was eager to see what Niko was capable of on the dance floor. Watching him work with students was a bit like watching an Olympic sprinter walk hand-in-hand with a toddler. The power and grace were there, but mostly held at bay.
“If you're sure you don't mind,” he said.
“Really. I'm fine.”
He smoothed his suit jacket and straightened his tie. Trotting to the center of the dance floor, he met up with Isabella and extended his right hand at about shoulder height. After securing a headphone microphone, she took his hand and thanked him for helping her.
Without accompaniment, they demonstrated the basic Tango and Argentine Tango steps. They also showed a few rocking breaks, lunges and other ways for the men to mix things up, the Tango in any form being a dance driven by male aggression.
The lesson concluded, she signaled for the band to play. The drummer tapped out a driving beat, the violinist and pianist came in with several sharp bursts of chords. Excitement moved Gillian to the edge of her seat though she had no idea what to expect.
Dominik swept the woman into his arms. She rested her forehead against his cheek and his face hardened in a way Gillian had never seen. He looked fierce, angry...rapacious.
The dancers stood still, their ribcages rising and falling in time with the music. Once the intro repeated itself, Dominik stepped back and the woman stepped toward him. They began to circle each other in time with the music, their expressions that of hungry sharks. The hunt gave way to a flurry of complex footwork. Niko glided across the dance floor, his feet never seeming to alight for very long.
The story between the two unfolded further. Isabella clearly in pursuit of Niko's affections which he cruelly withheld. The more coquettish her movements became, the more he pushed her away. She swiveled her hips against him and he grabbed her arms, spun her around and cast her to the floor. But just as she appeared broken and cast off, he dropped down to her, one knee bent, his other leg stretched out behind him. He drew her into a passionate embrace. His expression turned to one of desire, enchantment. Bending her backward over his knee, he slid his hand from her ankle, inch by inch up to her hip.
Niko pulled her up, scooped her into his arms. She clung to him as he spun her around and set her onto her feet. The dancers worked their way around the floor, again displaying expert kicks and flicks. They twirled, lunged, and rocked against each other, but now the fight for supremacy had been won. Niko appeared to control not only Isabella's dance movements, but her entire body. He owned her and she longed for nothing more than to be owned by him. Wild violin riffs underscored this emotion.
The song crashed to a triumphant close and Niko tossed Isabella backward over his left arm and dipped her low. The two came to rest with his lips a mere inch from hers.
Once the lights rose, Niko and Isabella laughed and hugged. The crowd jumped to their feet and applauded them. Gillian had never felt so aroused but terrified at the same time. There was no way she could keep up with this man on the dance floor. No way in hell.
Niko and Isabella took their bows, hugged and then Niko made his way back to Gilly. He took a handkerchief from his breast pocket and patted at his brow.
“Are you all right?” he asked, still working to catch his breath.
“I—I--” Gillian shook her head. “I can't do this. Can we call it a night, please?”
“What's wrong? It's not about Isabella is it? We're just old friends. We used to train together, that's all.”
“No, that's not it. I just...I can't dance like that.”
“Oh, Gilly.” He took a drink of wine. “No one expects anyone here to dance like that. This is for fun. Please, let's stay.”
She chewed at her lip and studied the tablecloth. “I don't know.”
Gently, he tilted her chin up so she had to look at him. “I promise, I'll go slow and we'll have fun. Do remember what I said in class. What's the leader's number one job?”
Gilly gave a sheepish grin. “To present his lady, to support her.”
“Exactly. So you've got to trust that I would never let you look foolish. Do you trust me?”
She sighed. “Yes.”
“Then let's go.” He offered his arm and nodded toward the doors opening at the back of the club.
She took his arm and turned to face the crowd of people exiting. “What's going on?”
They walked outside into a large courtyard where a DJ had already begun spinning records. Gillian recognized the song, “Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)” by The Gotan Project. She'd heard it in some movie, sometime ago.
Niko picked a spot where they had room to move and drew her into a proper Tango hold, which was much closer than she was used to dancing with him. Their torsos pressed together, his arm wrapped around her very much like an embrace. His breath brushed past her cheek and she was very much aware of his body heat.
“Just relax,” he whispered. “Just dance.”