Chapter 1

My iPhone stared at me from my purse.  6:03 pm.

I am officially late for dinner with George da Silva and the restaurant is about fifteen minutes away. It’s freezing outside. Winters in Kingston rarely get above zero and wind is always merciless. Walking somewhere, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes is an undertaking if you’re not dressed for the occasion. And I was dressed to impress, so despite the fact that my bank account was seriously hurting at the moment, I resolved to taking a taxi.

The door to the dance studio hadn’t slammed yet, which was a sure sign that my boss, Jenna was still here.  I would also bet that she was waiting for me. I really was not in the mood to talk to her. I also look ridiculous. Jesse stuffed me into elephant pants, black thick wool fabric with high waste and a white blouse did not exactly give off the impression I was going on a date.  I may have overdone it on the outfit for a conspicuous occasion; as everyone knows I spend more than half my time in yoga pants. It was too late for this now.

I crept down the stairs hoping that I could sneak past her. The problem was that once Jenna decides you will talk to her, she does not take ‘no’ for an answer. I peeked around the corner. She was wearing a mustard green mohair turtleneck and a brick red wool skirt. Her hair was blonde, layered haircut out of style at least a couple of decades, flipping through a Christmas edition of House and Home. She had clearly taken a stance. I was going to be really late.

I sneaked back around the wall, walked quietly back upstairs, got the phone out of my purse and called the number from the business card.

“Hello, how can I help you?”  A woman said on the phone.

“Hi, my name is Marla Godfrey.  I am supposed to meet Mr. da Silva–,”

“One moment please.”  And click, click, click, beep… beep.

“Yeah?”

“Hi, my name is Marla Godfrey and I am supposed to meet Mr. da Silva five minutes ago, but something held me behind and I am just wondering if you could let him know that I will be at least another twenty minutes—“  I whisper-talked into the phone.

“Ya sure know how to make a man wait!”

It’s him.

“Uhm… I am sorry—“

“Don’t be!  Iss not a bad thing.  Hurry up, love!”  And he hung up.

The entire contents of my stomach turned inside out. What the hell am I doing? What is it possibly that George da Silva wants from me?

George da Silva was a famous Brazilian singer, a mega star and about a week and a half ago, I got a phone call from his publicist, I forget her name. She said that George da Silva would be in Kingston today and that he wanted to meet me and have dinner with me to discuss a business deal. I was suspicious and I still am. He refused to say anything over the phone. With Jenna refusing my offer of partnership, financially, I was running out of options. And George da Silva had money. That was almost guaranteed!

He also had a bad rap. Being a famous singer, his promiscuity is somewhat of public knowledge. It’s possible it was exaggerated, but my friends on Google tell me word on the street is that he’ll pretty much sleep with anything that has a pulse and that he is pretty good at it. The last part was probably the part that was exaggerated. So what could he possibly want with me other than… Was I walking into an indecent proposal?

Banish the thought. I can’t believe that I even thought about it.

Despite my currently atrocious financial situation, I called the Modern Taxi (cause they are the good company that does not employ ex-convicts) and strolled down the stairs, not even trying to sneak past Jenna.

“Going somewhere?”  Jenna looked at me from head to toe and then rolled her eyes away from me.

“Yes, in fact”, I decided to be a little naughty.  I regretted it immediately when I saw Jenna was holding a letter in her hands.  It was still sealed, so it must have been addressed to me.  That can only mean one thing.

Decision time has arrived.

Jenna threw the letter on the counter in my direction.

“Here, yet another invitation for you to refuse.”  And she tried to pretend that she did not care if I was going back, but the way she could not resist to look at me led me to believe that she is wondering whether I would change my mind and pretend to care I was even invited.

The trouble was, her own stupidity seem to have had gotten better of her, cause she forgot that I had to compete this year or lose my status as a Member of The Faculty.  The Dance Association is going to stop inviting me to invitational meets and I will have to re qualify, which in this day and age is far more work than just simply participating.  I had to go.

There it was. Midnight blue ink on a linen paper, embossed seal, fountain pen signature, official, binding and a symbol of the biggest decision I will have to make.

“A date?” Jenna asked with an averse look at me over her half-eye readers.

“Just a dinner.” I said.

“Looks like someone important?”

She wasn’t even looking at me. The main thing is not to react.

“It does not really matter.”  I tried to make it clear I did not want to talk, or open the letter in front of her.  I glanced out the glass doors and saw a Modern taxi pull up in front.  The letter enticed me to take it, and put it casually in my pocket.

“Have a nice weekend, Jenna.”

And walked out.

That was relatively painless, but I will pay for it with a pile of paperwork she will earmark for me for Monday.

“Casa Domenico, please.” I said to the cabbie when I walked in.  The letter in my pocket jabbed me in the side and I took it out of the pocket.  Might as well open it.  I know exactly what it says.  Unlike Jenna, I did not screw up the math.  I have to compete this year or I will lose my membership.  Basically, if I don’t compete, I give up the career of a dancer.

I opened the letter.

Dear Ms. Godfrey,

It is with great pleasure that I write to you, as you are cordially invited to 27th Annual Danca de Amar Invitational Dancesport Competition on November 18th, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Our records indicate that you have not competed in the last four meets. Please note that should you decide not to compete in 2012, you will forfeit your status as a Member of the Faculty.

I certainly hope that we can expect to see you this year in Brazil. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. My contact information is below.

I am very much looking forward to your reply.

Yours truly,

Edward Williams, ESQ

International Competition Coordinator

Invitational Branch

I flipped through the papers to the judge panel and quickly scrolled to my category.

Latin Ballroom:

Marisa Sotto – Brazil

Oleg Solovyov – Russian Federation

Alan Bergman – Sweden

If Alan found a way to participate, it would seem I had no other choice.

I was dating Alan Bergman until four years ago. He was my dance partner and my high school sweet heart. He was my hope for the future and four years ago, it all eroded piece by piece before my eyes like a sand castle in the rain.

I met Alan when I was in grade twelve. His father was a professor at the university in Uppsala in Sweden and they relocated to Kingston for a couple of years so he could do some work with some professors at Queen’s University. And given that our high school was on Queen’s campus, Alan joined our school.

One day, in German class, I was struggling with a gender assignment and I spoke my problem out loud.

“Die!” I heard from behind me in a whisper.

“Really?” I turned around. “Newspaper is female?”

“Yes,” he smiled “all nouns that end in –ung are Die.”

“Thanks, good to know.” I turned to my paper and after completing it leaned back and said. “That was easy, they’re all female.”

“No, they’re not!” Alan smiled. “It’s Das Madchen.”

I looked at him, shocked.

It girl? Germans say it girl?” He just shrugged his shoulders looked at me.

Until that moment, I hadn’t noticed Alan had a captivating smile, milky white skin and blue eyes  that offered peace and serenity to their beholder. His pristine blond straight hair framed his expression and I felt something move inside me. It wasn’t until later that I realized what that was. At that moment, he had my attention and not too much later, my heart.

I walked into the restaurant not a moment too soon.

“It’s freezing outside.” I muttered more to myself and before I even had a chance to get my frozen hands out of the pocket, the hostess greeted me.

“Hi, how are you?” She beamed at me. “Do you have a reservation?”

Angelic blonde with deep blue eyes, perfect, glossy, pink, plump lips and a million dollar smile. Completely opposite of me. Dark brown hair, red face, half-frozen, half-numb, runny mascara, drooling and snotty.

“Yes, I… uhm… Marla. Marla Godfrey.” I said. My face was frozen and it was hard to talk. “I’m here to meet–”

“George Da Silva?” Her eyes bulged and lit up as she nearly sang his name. “Oh my God, he got here about fifteen minutes ago and he’s even hotter in person.” she lowered her voice a little. “Look what I’ve got!”

From under the hostess podium, she drew out a black and white, airbrushed photo of George wearing leather jacket and jeans, leaning against a brick wall. His hair was chin length and toussled. His head was tilted back slightly. His mouth was open a little and his eyes were mystified by the greyscale, blackened by the photo. On the right hand side, there was a note written in a black marker. To sexy Ally. Stay beautiful, baby!

There was a little heart drawn before the illegible squiggle, which I can only guess said George. No last name.

“He’s so hot!” She said as she hung up my coat in the closet and took a menu in her arms.

Hot, perhaps. But boy, didn’t he know it. I wasn’t going to argue. No need to rain on her parade.

“This way, please.” She led me up the stairs to the left of the entrance to the restaurant. I followed her until she stopped.

“Oh my God, you’re so lucky. I’ve been, like, a huge fan for ages. What’s he like?” She paused for a second, embraced the menu close to her heart, closed her eyes and sighed. “He seems really nice.” She led me up the rest of the stairs towards a lit room.

Nice isn’t the first word I would use when describing George.  “I don’t really… know him that well.” I managed to spit out before George came into view. He was sitting at one end of a table by the fireplace. His hair was in a pony tail except for a strand which fell down the right side of his face and stuck against his olive skin, he was wearing a thin wool sweater that clung to his body. It was tasteful. He pressed a button on his Blackberry and placed it next to him.

Across the table from him was another place setting. Just one other. I knew this was going to be a dinner, but I was expecting something a bit less intimate than a dinner with just George in a dimly lit, private dining room.

I looked to the left. There seems to be a private living room as well. How long does he plan on for this to go on?  I saw a bottle of Champagne on the table and for a split second I thought of running. But instead I looked at George and stayed rooted in the same spot.

My worst fear came back to me. Why am I really here?

The hostess put the menu at my place setting and flashed George her perfect teeth.

“Thanks, Ally!” He said, curled the ends of his lips and winked at her.

“You’re welcome.” She giggled for a second before waltzing out the door and closing it behind her.

Our waiter emerged from behind the wall and in the next few moments, I realized we have a private bar and a waiter who is dedicated to the two of us.

I looked at George. Ally was right. He was hotter in person. And for some reason, that made me even angrier.

It felt a bit like I had won some contest. Oh perhaps a spot on a reality TV show. I really wanted to snort and roll my eyes, but decided against it. Even if he’s a dick, you don’t have to be. This could be business, Marla. Play nice!

“I love Canada.” George said and spread his arms wide, his grin ear to ear. “Though iss a bit chilly.”

His accent was deep New York meets South America.

“Hi.” I lunged forward to greet him. “I am so sorry I’m late. I was caught up at work longer than I thought.”

I extended my hand to shake his.

“I don’ shake no hands with ladies.” He grabbed it, got up, pulled me in and kissed my jaw line between my right cheek and my ear. I was not sure if it was his hot lips against my cold skin or just him, but my hair stood on ends. He lingered for just a second, but it was long enough for me to smell him. His cologne had mixed with his own scents and the heat of his skin was emitting this woodsy odor.

I was sure I flushed. I turned away from him, my nose hit his shoulder and I jerked back. After I stopped fumbling with my purse, trying to cover up this awkward moment and hoping to God that he says nothing about it, I sat down.

This is his game. I kept telling myself. He is revolting.

“So,” I began, spreading the napkin on my lap and leaning slightly forward. “What did you want to talk about?” I smiled and froze, waiting for him to answer.

He leaned back in his chair and took a leisurely sip of wine looking at me the whole time over the rim of the glass. My smile started to hurt.

“Wanna drink?”

I exhaled. Perhaps I need to relax just a bit.

“Sure.” I said. “A glass of wine would be lovely.”

For a second, though, I thought I was in a porn scene. It was a bit better acted, but all other elements were there. Hollow conversation, with everyone knowing how it’s gonna end. The lights were very dimly lit. There was a candle flickering on the table between us,

I guess, in the end, that is what drove me to agree to this outlandish idea and come and have dinner with George da Silva. What could he possibly need from me except on how to get into my pants. Not that I have some unrealistic view of myself, but according to Google, he’s not very picky. Though not being picky also meant that he usually went for the easiest catch. Perhaps he’s expanding his repertoire into the international hinterlands. Perhaps he has a dancing fetish. What would that even look like.

“I’m hea all weekend.” George said. “Wanna get to know each othah.”

Here we go.

He leaned forward on the table. “I godda deal fo’ ya, but I wanna know if we can work, ya know.”

“What deal?” I certainly did not want this to continue all weekend. My weekends are too precious. Besides, he can’t just show up into town and expect to take over my life.

“I’m gonna emcee in Rio. I need a dancer in my video, second single. My publicist said it’d be good if I gad involved, ya know. So I made a deal. And I gadda pick one of ya fine ladies for it.”

It was hard to take him seriously, the way he talked. But I knew he was.

I took a deep breath and shifted in my seat trying to regain focus to the conversation at hand.

“What’s the video about?” I asked.

“Can’t tell you much until we have an agreement. But, …Bossa Nova. Shot in Rio in Novembah. The week befo’ the competition. Choreographed and partly filmed in New Yawk. Anothah week. Contract signing. Soon. Cupla days. Toronto. All expenses paid. Royalties, five pehcent. Hund’ed grand, up front. All rights reserved for five yea’s.”

Wow. I wasn’t quite sure what some of that meant, exactly. I didn’t… What? A hundred grand? Up what front? Like, now?

“Uhm… er…” I couldn’t speak. “What would I… be doing… in this video?”

“Dancing.” He said.

“Right.” That’s what I do. Dance. No porn. That’s good.

I took another deep breath and tried to get over the shock. Or at least pretended to. A hundred grand was almost three times what I earn now in a year and it was for what… one… two weeks worth of work.

“And… choreographing it for us and maybe backups.” George added.

“Us?”

“Yeah. Me and you.”

I took a sip of water. It cleared my throat a bit, but it did nothing for my racing mind.

“Well,” I began, having no idea where I was going with this, “I obviously need to know the scope of the dance and way more about it before I can make my decision and I can certainly forward videos of my performances, but I–”

“It don’ work like that. I saw your performances, I know ya can dance.” He interrupted me. “I gadda know if ya can dance with me.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. It was ludicrous. I could dance with anyone as long as they could dance. “Do you want me to teach you, is that it?”

“Sorta. I’ve had to dance a bit in my life, and I grew up with samba.”

“Well, that depends on how traditional you want to make the dance. It could either be your greatest asset or your worst nightmare.”

He just smiled, but didn’t say a word. Neither of us did, until the silence became too much for my own comfort. So, I decided that I would just be straight up.

“Why me?” I asked, not knowing what the answer was going to be or whether or not I even wanted to know. “It just seems a bit odd, don’t you think?”

“You resistant. Whass the big deal? Cheer up, lady! You’ve been discovered!”

“It’s just… a bit hard to process. I am sorry.” I had to act cool, despite my state of enormous panic inside.

“Okay, okay! I saw the girl from Toronto and she doesn’t have the look, ya know what I’m sayin’. And you’ll do! I don’t need to waste any more time on this.”

“But why come to Kingston, this dinner, the weekend…” I started rambling.

“Kingston is ’cause it was easier, dinner is because I only do business face-to-face, and the weekend is so I can get to know ya and convince ya to go to Rio.”

“Why would you think I needed convincing to go to Rio?” I asked with great trepidation. How much does he know and how far in the Association is he actually involved. His being Brazilian did not help his case of innocence either.

“Did you get the letter?”

I just nodded.

“And there aren’t any prablems with ya goin’?” He asked. Genuinely, I hope. Does he know about Alan, or am I just paranoid and it was not necessarily the point of view he operated from. Still, it was better to steer clear of that subject. At least for now. I haven’t even said yes!

“Well, there are some logistical issues. I have not competed in four years–”

“I wondered about that.” He interrupted me. “Why?”

The question came at me as a stab.

“Partner.” I said a little bit too quickly. It was neither time, nor place for me to discuss Alan. He can’t know. “I did not have a partner. I have a job and you know… life happens.” I was quite aloof in my answer.

It took no time to go from a smarmy, obnoxious sex symbol to brass tacks, and I was afraid he knew more than he let on. So I decided to cushion the truth. He’s seen my performances, he knows Alan was my partner. Even if he was dumb as dirt, someone would have put two and two together for him. Here’s to hoping that he has at least someone intelligent on his team. It certainly can’t be him.

“You’ll have to compete if you want to get involved with me.”

The choice of words was not lost on me and I wondered if he is actually this slick.

“No, I have to compete, because I will lose my Membership, if I don’t.” I said dead pan. This cannot be about him. Of course he would have the audacity to think that I will gravel and say how I have no choice now that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has appeared.

But who was I kidding. It was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

As if he read my mind, George got up and walked over to the little lounge area and took the bottle out of the chiller. I noticed that the waiter jumped to assist, but George waved him off.

“That’s pretty presumptuous.” I said and pointed to the nearly opened bottle of Champagne.

“I learned a long time ago that you gotta ask for what you want. And what I want, is for you to consider my offer. So, what’ll be? Do we got a deal? We spend the weekend togethah and see, okay?”

And that meant having to finally deal with Alan. I know that I was always hoping I would work with him again. Probably largely why I never stopped dancing. I always knew if he wanted to find me, he’d know where to look. It brought me some comfort. And now, that it has realized, whether he wanted to or not, I’d see him again. Time to admit that secretly, I hoped that day would never come.

And George was all wrong. The scandals, the ridicule, the attitude… He is just so… urgh. It is really frustrating. He’s nearly repulsive, but he’s got under my skin. And I am about to commit going publicly and internationally on screen with George da Silva. And deal with Alan and that mess. I must be losing it.

I was shaken completely, but this was definitely worth exploring. Despite my not being too keen on spending the whole weekend with him, it was for… hundred grand. A hundred grand! This was certainly a better option than a five grand one night stand I was envisioning.

“We’re just dancing?” I had to check. It was rude and prejudicial, but there’s no way that he thought his reputation would never come up. So, I thought, it may as well come up immediately. Before I agree to this.

He squinted his eyes and for a second I thought he looked disappointed, but it quickly crystallized and I could tell he was expecting it.

“Yeah. Just dancing.” He said.

I took a deep breath and looked him in the eyes. They bored into mine, and yet he was so stoic that I knew his reaction would have been the same no matter what I said.

“Okay.” I said.

“See? Looks like I’m just in time!” He popped the bottle of Champagne and filled the glasses on the table.

He beckoned me with his head to come and join him in the lounge. I got up, walked over and took a Champaigne glass he was offering. He touched my hand when he passed it to me and I felt a rush of blood through my whole body. It felt like I was playing with bad boys from the wrong side of the tracks. Jenna’s gonna kill me.

I sat down a reasonable distance away from him and I raised the glass towards him, but didn’t wait for him to clink it. I took the sip while he watched me for a moment before he returned the gesture and smirked. I hated it.

“To Rio!” He raised his glass.

“So, George, do you always get what you want?” I said after taking a sip.

“Yes. But don’ think I don’ gotta fight for it, ya know.” He said almost proudly.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

He somehow managed to pay the bill without it ever being brought to us. I swear he was sending the waiter Morse code signals with his Blackberry when I wasn’t looking.

He also insisted on driving me home. I let him. It’ll be funny. I live on the other side of the parking lot. When his stretch limo parks out front, the hood of the car will hit my building. Literally.

When I came back from the bathroom I saw George’s back by the door. He was holding Ally’s hand close to his face and she was staring at him wide-eyed, mesmerized, her mouth agape. He was saying something to her, but I couldn’t hear. He finished talking, Ally giggled as he kissed her hand. I rolled my eyes this time. This guy was workin’ it. Workin’ it hard!

Ally turned and saw me. George followed. I smiled.

“Hi.” Awkward.

George winked at Ally again. “See ya!”

She remained standing there completely star-struck. We walked out and I felt like a third wheel. I thought I would end his misery and this dinner with me and let him return to the Aryan princess and her perfect teeth and I can go home and do laundry. I felt a small pang in my stomach. Not looking good for laundry.

“Look, George, I live really close. Thank you for dinner and all, but I can really walk home, if you want to…” My voice faltered. I couldn’t say it out loud. For some reason, it felt wrong. “You know… ” I added and jerked my head back towards the restaurant door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

George laughed. A hint of triumph in his laughter.

“I don’ ditch my dates.” He said and opened the door for me. A date? This was no date! I have no romantic interest in this guy. This is business only. Either that, or this whole thing makes me a one expensive hooker. I didn’t protest.

George introduced me to his driver, Cam, what I quickly came to learn was short for Camilo. A really nice guy who, even though he spoke Portuguese as well, had no qualms about shaking my hand.

George and Cam exchanged a few illegible words and Cam opened the door for me. When we settled into the limo, I gave Cam directions and in about fourty-five seconds, we were pulled up

in front of my apartment building.

“Right here, on the right!” I called from the back.

George’s right arm was draped over the seat behind me, the piercing stare now totally deliberate, not even making an effort to hide it. The problem was, it was far too late for me to say anything about it.

I was staring ahead at the two pristine clean champagne glasses feeling exposed, pondering what to do next, what to say, longing for the moment I can lock the door of my apartment behind me and not have to worry about George. At least not until tomorrow.

He snapped his fingers and it startled me. “Yo!” I looked at him and he smirked. He did that a lot.

My throat started to close. I knew I had to get out of there and behind that proverbial locked door as soon as I could. “What time…” I began, but my voice gave up on me. I cleared it.

“What time would you like to… uhm… get together, I mean, tomorrow?”

George closed the partition and leaned a bit forward, that right arm from behind me now pressing lightly against my shoulder. I clutched the purse in my lap with both hands and brought my knees closer to me. His eyes rested in my lap for a moment. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to kiss him or punch him, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t move.

“D’you want me to wait? You can go upstai’s, do whatevah and come back. We can, ya know, celebrate!” He gestured towards the champagne.

I slowly leaned back, away from him. He should probably start thinking about how to catch that hostess before she gets off shift cause I had no plans on continuing this evening, champagne or whatevah.

“George,” I started. “thank you, but I should go home. I am tired. I’m sorry.” That was a lie. I was not sorry at all. I wanted to get out of here as soon as possible. But, as a Canadian, I had to throw in a ‘sorry’ for a good measure. Make an authentic experience, given that he’s such a fan. “Thank you. For dinner.”

He leaned back. If he was disappointed, it didn’t show. He continued to smile, “Hey, ain’t no big thang.”

“Look.” I needed to talk very nicely to my hundred grand. “Maybe we can go have a tour of town tomorrow. It used to be a capital of Canada, you know.” He backed off, so I felt myself relax a bit. “It’s got interesting buildings and… quite a lot of history.”

“I like history.” He nodded his head. “A tuah! I like that.” said George.

“Good. Let’s say nine-thirty?”

I had my hand on the handle to open the door and get out. George leaned forward again and I swear for a mere second I thought that the universe is going to split and in one version he was going to do grab me and lay me down on the limo seat. I must have blinked, but he pressed the button on the door, instead.

“Have a nice night, Mahla.”

I snapped out of it. “Uhm… you too, George.”

By that time, Cam had come around and opened the door for me. I got out of the car and the cold air certainly brought the temperature down a notch. “Good night. Was nice to meet ya.”

He said to me and I smiled and nodded in return.

As I turned towards my building’s entrance, the window opened and George peeked out. “I’ll bring cawffee. How do ya take you’s?”

“No deal. I don’t know you well enough to interact with you decaffeinated.” He smiled.

“See you tomorrow.”

The limo lingered in front of the apartment for a few moments before driving off down Ontario Street.

I turned around and saw Ally, the hostess from the restaurant.

“Hi, I’m… uhm… I’m really sorry, but I kinda followed the limo and when I saw that you live in my building, I was like… Oh my God. I feel like a total idiot right now and I can’t believe I just followed you home, but I mean, I just have to–”

“Ally?” I stopped her ranting. “Would you like to come up and have a drink with me?”

The last place George was gonna look for her. My apartment! Did I just think that? Of course I did. Ally’s so hot, I want to do her. Really? No, not really.

“Really?” She asked.

“No, not– I mean, yes. Come on up?”

“Oh, cool. I, uhm, have a bottle of wine, from the restaurant.”

Perfect. George was gonna ruin my weekend. I was gonna ruin his night.

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