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Authors: Alli Sinclair

Luna Tango

Luna Tango

ALLI SINCLAIR

www.harlequinbooks.com.au

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alli Sinclair is Australian born but considers herself a citizen of the world. She spent her early adult years travelling the globe, intent on becoming an Indiana Jones in heels. She scaled mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafted the Ganges, rode a camel in the Sahara, and swam with sharks and eagle rays in Belize.

Argentina and Peru became her home for a while and it was there her love of dance bloomed. When she wasn't working as a mountain guide or tour leader, Alli could be found dancing the tango, salsa, merengue, and samba.

All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Alli's stories combine her passion for exotic destinations, the quirks of human nature, and the belief that everyone can dance, even if it's to their own beat. She is a sucker for family sagas, romances, and mysteries.

Alli now lives in Australia with her partner and two children (and chickens). New travel adventures are never far from her mind and Alli has every intention of her and the family achieving every one of them (a lottery win would help).

As well as writing fiction, Alli blogs about storytelling, culture, dance, and travel at
www.allisinclair.com

For Pa
—
a true gentleman, adored and loved by many. I'll forever miss your cheeky smile and twinkle in your eye
.

CONTENTS

About the Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Acknowledgements

CHAPTER
1

Dani McKenna stood on the stone steps of
Escuela de Danza Vida
, the Vida Dance School, still unsure which was the lesser of two evils: ditching her first assignment and killing her career as a features writer, or diving into the world of tango and dredging up torturous memories. Glancing at the grey sky, Dani willed a beam of light and a choir of angels to sing and deliver an answer in a silver box with a blue bow. She got nothing other than a pigeon flying past and pooping next to her new red heels.

‘Fine,' she huffed, and yanked open the heavy wooden door, keen to be rid of the diesel fumes spilling from buses, the headache-inducing horns, and suffocating midday heat. After two days in Buenos Aires she'd yet to discover why this city was known as the Paris of the Americas.

Dani took tentative steps into the expansive foyer, where pristine marble covered the floor and a wrought-iron balustrade snaked up the wide staircase. Cool air soothed her hot skin and she relaxed her shoulders, happy to be free from the craziness outside, including wayward pigeons.

She balanced on her gorgeous, but incredibly uncomfortable, heels as she adjusted her turquoise silk shirt and tucked her newly highlighted blonde curls behind her ears. She'd much prefer faded jeans, ballet flats and a retro T-shirt but this assignment required her to dress like a professional, despite feeling like a phony. Dani squeezed her eyelids tight, remembering how much money she'd just spent on a new wardrobe. But if all went to plan, her new garb would convince the world, and herself, that she was more than capable of doing this job—she hoped.

A gust of wind rattled the door leading to the street. She could still chicken out. After all, if her colleagues at the magazine were right, her mission was doomed anyway. But she chose to ignore their warnings, even though her interview subject, Carlos Escudero, hated the media with more passion than he'd ever danced the tango. His refusal to talk about the motorbike accident that destroyed his dancing career and ruined the relationship with his dance partner only motivated journalists to dig deeper. They were determined to unearth the story that lay beneath the well-rehearsed statements from the estranged couple. So far, the journalists' efforts had smashed into a wall of anger and silence.

Pushing out a long sigh, she adjusted the shoulder strap of her handbag. As much as she wanted to be the one to finally discover what happened on that fateful day, Dani wasn't so naïve she thought she could succeed where so many seasoned journalists had failed. Besides, his personal life wasn't why she was here. Her job was to get Carlos Escudero on board with her history of tango articles and nothing else.

She lowered her head and shook it. Seriously? She'd taken to lying to herself now?

The tango history stories were important—her career depended on them—and uncovering the mystery behind the motorbike accident appealed, but they were nothing compared to the opportunity to learn about Carlos Escudero's mentor, Iris Kennedy. He'd been privy to a side of Iris the rest of the world hadn't seen, a side Dani desperately needed to discover. If she could get some understanding about the passion that drove Iris to abandon her husband and five-year-old daughter in favour of becoming a tango diva on the world stage, then Dani might finally exorcise the demons that had chased her since childhood. She had no intention of finding and meeting the elusive Iris as, even after two decades, the pain remained raw. Through Carlos, however, Dani might finally comprehend her mother's actions.

She narrowed her eyes at the ancient lift cage. No matter how many times she chastised herself, Dani just couldn't enter one of these boxes without being slammed by the memory of the last fiery argument her parents had. No child wants to witness such venom, especially from her own flesh and blood. She planted her foot on the marble steps, even though her mind tried to convince her that dashing out the door, sight unseen, was the best option. Perhaps it would be better if she knew nothing about Iris, as the truth had the potential to rip Dani's heart out. As much as she tried to deny it, the stars had aligned and Dani's arrival in Argentina offered the perfect chance to build her career and heal old wounds—or make them deeper.

‘Ah, to hell with it.'

She powered up the stairs and arrived on the eighth floor. Panting, she wiped the back of her hand across her wet brow then on her navy linen pants. She placed her hand on the ornate brass knob but froze when the slow whine of the bandoneón slipped through the gaps around the doors. The accordion-like instrument had thousands, possibly millions, of fans all over the world, but for Dani, the music of the bandoneón was akin to fingernails scraping across a blackboard.

She grimaced then turned and scooted to the edge of the staircase.

The thick wooden door swung open.

‘¡
Para
!' a voice barked. ‘Stop!'

She spun around and came face to face with Carlos Escudero.

God, he's more beautiful in the flesh
.

‘Beautiful' wasn't a word she normally used to describe men, but he qualified. His dark eyes hinted at the untold stories she so desperately wanted to discover and she bit her lip in an effort to contain the thousands of questions that threatened to break free.

‘¿
Sí
?' He spat out the word as he leant slightly to the left and rested his hand casually on a wooden cane.

‘You are Carlos Escudero?' She gave him her friendliest smile, hoping he didn't notice the slight waver in her voice.

‘I am he, what is your business?' His frown deepened yet didn't diminish his attractiveness.

‘I believe you worked on the UNESCO application to get the tango listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.' That was a mouthful.

‘
Sí
.'

‘My name's Dani McKenna. I'm here as a guest of Tourism Argentina and I'm writing articles—'

‘I cannot help.'

‘But you don't know what I want to ask.'

‘I am done with the journalists. They are nothing but parasites.'

Bubbles of indignation rose in her belly. What cheek he had. ‘Just so you know, I'm not—'

‘No.' He turned and limped back through the doorway, disappearing from view.

Dani stared at the entrance to his studio, her feet itching to hightail it out of there.

‘Come!' Carlos's voice echoed in the hall and down the stairwell.

Who did he think he was? If it had been anyone other than him, she'd have bolted and found someone else to interview. But no one else had the tango experience and knowledge he possessed, so she had to stay and suffer his rudeness. And no one else knew Iris like he did.

Taking a deep breath, she strode across the landing, into the studio and halted. Bright daylight streamed through arched windows on the southern side of the room and the scarred floorboards told of passionate stories that had unfurled across them. Tango music played through tinny speakers as a young couple floated across the floor and memories of her mother and father in happier days rose to the surface. Hot tears pricked her eyes.

Carlos stood in the corner with crossed arms, not acknowledging her presence. The track finished and the couple split apart, wiped themselves with towels and took long gulps from drink bottles.

Carlos angled a finger at her. ‘Your turn.'

‘What? Oh no.' She shook her head and backed away. The tears that had threatened to spill quickly disappeared. ‘I have two left feet and—'

‘Nonsense! You want to write about tango? You must dance it.' He pointed to the young man, who stared at her with wide eyes.

‘The heart,' Carlos said.

‘What?'

‘The heart. This.' He thumped his closed fist over his chest. ‘Dancers must have their hearts facing each other.' He motioned for her to stand chest to chest with his student. ‘Jorge will assist.'

Was this some sadistic torture he lumped on every journalist who dared cross his path? She shuffled into position, annoyed with this grumpy Argentine's arrogance. Though for as long as she stood on his dance floor, she had a chance of getting what she wanted.

‘It does not matter what the feet are doing,' he said. ‘It is unimportant. You are not two dancers—you are one heart.' His flowery words were a stark contrast to his gruff demeanour.

‘But I don't know how—'

‘¡
Basta
! You will learn. Allow the music to flow into your soul. Let the melody, not the rhythm, dictate your dancing. This is what makes the tango unique. You dance now.'

Carlos limped over to the stereo, punched a button, faced the hesitant couple and raised his eyebrows. Dani let go of Jorge, shoved her hands on her hips and raised her eyebrows back at Carlos.

‘You choose not to dance?'

She pursed her lips.

‘Okay. Goodbye.' He gave a dismissive wave and turned to the stereo.

The obscenities wanted to burst out but she willed them to remain within. ‘Fine. I'll do it. Just don't expect Ginger Rogers.'

The music started and the melancholic notes floated through the studio, goose bumps sprouting all over her body.

Jorge offered a gentle smile. ‘Do not worry, I will help you.'

‘I hope you can work magic,' she said.

He held out his hand and Dani took it, their fingers entwining in a clammy mess. As much as she wanted to escape this humiliation, Jorge's eyes reassured her.

‘Dance!' Carlos yelled.

Dani flinched then squared her shoulders. Jorge placed a hand on her waist and with a small movement, guided her in the direction he chose. The haunting combination of violins, piano and bandoneón filled the room, washing over her, although the whining bandoneón made Dani grind her teeth. She closed her eyes, and concentrated on the soulful notes of the other instruments and the singer's passionate voice. She felt Jorge move slightly to the left and Dani followed, placing her foot with care. As much as she wanted to hate the tango she—

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