Two Lives in Waltz Time
Click on image to enlarge.
by Vivien Dean
Description: Fred and Ginger never had it this rough. Maddy Cardinale loves her art restoration job at a prestigious New York museum. She wouldn't even mind working the night shift if it wasn't for her annoying colleague, Cash Vinci. Charismatic, confident to a fault, sexy as hell?Cash seems bound and determined to get under her skin. Cash's specialty is ancient weaponry--knives, swords, clubs--but when it comes to sharp, nothing comes close to Maddy's icy wit. If only she'd learn to lighten up, she'd see that appearances are deceiving. Just thinking about touching that amazing skin of hers makes him break into a sweat. An unusual painting's arrival provides a welcome distraction--until a fleeting touch unleashes a magic that flings them out of their workshop and into the 1940s nightclub portrayed on the canvas. They're dressed to kill, and so are the mobsters and molls who surround them. Worse, they learn all too quickly that the club sells more than drinks. Trapped in a deadly dance, they race to unravel the spell that traps them in a world where the only safe place is Cash's bed. On that fragile foundation, they forge a trust that just might grow into something lasting. If their dance isn't cut short? Warning: Contains dashing men in tuxes, glamorous women in ballgowns, and more magic than you can shake a stick at.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: July 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [458 KB]
Reading time: 297-416 min.
"Did I miss a memo about dress for the gym day?"
The amused baritone from the doorway made her jump, and Maddy jerked away from where she'd been examining the painting. "What?"
Chuckling, Cash dropped his umbrella by the door, and his backpack on the nearest stool. He was dressed as he always was, long legs encased in well-worn blue jeans, broad shoulders clearly outlined by a plain, dark T-shirt. There wasn't a speck of rain to be seen on him, not even in his short, dark hair. It had that slight bed-head look he always favored--probably because an unfortunate girl told him it was attractive years and years ago--and his light green eyes danced with some unknown amusement. His smile was wide, his dimples deep as his gaze swept over her. "You still haven't bought a brolly, have you?"
Maddy pursed her lips together. He did this on purpose, used terminology to heighten his British accent. While she was immune to it, the other female employees in the museum loved the way he spoke. She spent a lot of her time trying to convince them that he wasn't the sexiest thing to hit New York since Hugh Jackman performed on Broadway.
"You're late," she said, her voice like ice.
"Noticed that, huh?" He sauntered around the table to lean against the edge at her side. "Miss me when I'm not around?"
"In your dreams, Cash."
"And here I thought Ava would never tell. At least tell me she didn't mention the part with you in the black leather cossie." His gaze swept over her again, this time lingering on the T-shirt's wording across her chest. "On second thought, I think I might like this better. Just tell me this isn't your notion of pillow talk. That would be sad, even for you."
With a cry of disgusted alarm, Maddy stormed away from the workbench, her hands over her ears. The sound of Cash's laughter still managed to filter through, but the image of the pair of them wrapped up in some BDSM fantasy was already burned on her brain.
He'd done this from the start. The first time he'd flirted with her, she'd actually been flattered. At least, until she saw him turn around and do the same with Ava. And an intern from Shipping. And the female security guard who'd been on duty when they'd left the following morning. Her embarrassment at believing him genuine had tainted everything he'd said and done since. She only wished he hadn't made it his personal mission to push her buttons every opportunity he got.
"Lighten up," she heard him say. When she risked a glance back, his clear gaze rested on her. "We've got the whole night ahead of us. If you're going to turn into an uptight bitch this early, we're never going to make it."
She glared at him as she retreated to the project she'd left the previous night. "That only works if you don't talk to me."
"Actually, it works just as well if you learn how to take a joke."
She bit the inside of her cheek to keep back the retort. They could go on like this all night if she didn't put a stop to it right now.
The room fell silent while Maddy turned her attention to the tiny fresco she'd spent the last three days cleaning. Though the small panel had been her joy when it had first arrived at the museum, the colors now seemed flat and lifeless, devoid of the same type of light that filled Cash's painting. Empty faces stared back at her, and she had to fight not to push the thing away and return to staring at the Fred and Ginger extravaganza.
Cash's question was enough of an excuse to look up from her work. "A present from one of your secret admirers," she said when she saw him appraising the painting. At his frown, she clarified, "It came in today's mail for you. No return address."
Taking a step away from the table, Cash scanned the nearby area until he saw the discarded brown wrapping paper, then bent to pick it up. Laying it out on the table, he smoothed down the edges while his green eyes flickered across its surface, ascertaining the veracity of Maddy's claim for himself.
"You opened this?" he asked.
The guarded tone of his voice set her on edge. No good humor left. Shit. He was going to be pissy about this one all night.
"Actually, Ava--" The way his eyes shot up to bore into her made her halt in mid-fib, and Maddy's cheeks heated under the intensity. Somehow, he always saw through her when she tried to lie to him. "--told me about it," she finished lamely. "It looked like a painting, and I thought it might've been mislabeled, since you don't do those. I don't suppose it rings any bells for you."
Cash shook his head, his gaze shifting back to the painting. "No clang-clang for this trolley," he muttered.
Maddy rose from her stool and ventured back around the workbench to stand at Cash's elbow. "I can tell you it's not old. And not done by any artist I'm familiar with. That doesn't mean it isn't beautiful, though. Like a snapshot out of an old movie, where everyone dresses to the nines and nobody has a care in the world except to dance."
Though she meant every word, it was said hoping to distract him. Something about the painting was making Cash jittery, and the last thing she wanted was for him to be more unpredictable than usual. His next few words, though, confused her even further.
"Appearances can be deceiving, Maddy." It was barely above a whisper, his attention rapt on the figures before him. As she watched, his hand reached out to touch the gilt frame, a single fingertip etching the curls and swoops before drifting closer to the painting itself.
"What're you doing?" Her hand shot forward, grabbing him by the wrist to pull him away. "You never touch the canvas without a glove on. You idiot, you know that."
But she couldn't move him. His muscles were locked rigid beneath her grip. And, for whatever reason, her fingers wouldn't uncurl from him, either.
"I...know..." Cash said through gritted teeth.
Her gaze flew to his face. Beads of sweat were popping on his brow, and the veins in his neck stood out from some unseen strain. He was struggling with something, but it wasn't until she looked down at his hand on the painting that she understood exactly what it was.
His fingertip rested against the hem of one of the women's dresses. The rich indigo of the oil was leeching into Cash's skin, bleeding a path up his index finger, past the first knuckle, into the second. Within moments, other hues raced to join it, suffusing his flesh in a riot of color that would have been pretty under any other circumstances. Now it was merely panic-worthy.
Especially when Maddy found herself unable to tear away as the oils started to soak into her hand as well.
"Hold on," Cash said. His breathing was growing heavier, speech more difficult. "I think things are about to go to he--"
His last word was lost in a deafening white flash.