Authors: Ravenna Tate
Copyright© 2015 Ravenna Tate
Cover Artist: Jay
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of this book may be used or
reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All
names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For all my
readers who continue to support this series. Thank you!
A SLOW-BURNING DANCE
The Weathermen, 5
Copyright © 2015
the year 2112, weather researchers around the globe made history with a
computer program nicknamed The Madeline Project. The program used a complicated
series of electrical pulses to induce changes in clouds. The intention was to
prevent or lessen catastrophic weather events such as major floods, tornadoes,
and hurricanes. The first real-time test, in 2116, proved moderately
successful, and the researchers continued to tweak the program, hoping for
complete weather modification one day.
something went terribly wrong in 2117, when a group of hackers gained access to
The Madeline Project and tried unsuccessfully to take it down it with a virus
they called Tommy Twister. The program took on a life of its own, and instead
of lessening the effects of weather events, it increased them to catastrophic
proportions. By 2118, over eighty-five percent of the Earth above ground had
been rendered uninhabitable due to the effects of near-constant and powerful
storms. And to date, no one has been able to stop The Madeline Project, or find
the hackers responsible for this devastation.
in the year 2125, Earth’s population lives underground in sprawling cities,
built during the nuclear war scare of 2072. Communication between cities and
across continents is only possible via the Internet. And the only people who go
above ground routinely are an international group of weather researchers and
storm chasers dubbed Storm Troopers. Their mission is to collect data during
the barrage of catastrophic weather events, in the hopes this data will assist
researchers in taking down The Madeline Project.
financial backing for these cities, the network of interconnected computers,
and the Storm Troopers is provided by a group of friends who met in college,
and who each built multi-million dollar communications and IT companies before
The Madeline Project went awry. They’re a powerful, wealthy, ruthless group of
men who take what they want, when they want it. They call themselves the
far as Sela Chavez was concerned, she could have gone her entire life without
speaking to Damien Rivera again, and she wouldn’t have given it a second
thought. She placed a hand over her eyes to shade them from the fake sun while
she stared at his imposing figure, standing about five hundred feet away,
pointing and gesturing toward the construction foreman overseeing the
remodeling of the strip mall where her dance studio,
Canción de la Danza
would soon open.
knew, of course, that his company, Rivera Construction, was providing the
financial backing as a favor to Tomás Rodriguez, the developer of the mall and
Damien’s friend. Rivera Construction didn’t finance small projects like strip
malls under normal circumstances. Heaven forbid Damien Rivera take on something
that wouldn’t net him millions in profits.
she hadn’t known was that the man himself would show up here and try to run the
show. He had thousands of employees. Surely there were a few who could keep an
eye on things for him. Why couldn’t he stay in the building that housed his
gestured widely. “Tomás wants this entire area for parking. The stores need to
frame it in a horseshoe. There is too much dead space here. We can fit more
parking slots.” His voice was even sexier than she’d remembered, but that
didn’t mean he’d changed. His back was to her, but as he and the foreman
shifted to the left slightly, Sela caught sight of Damien’s profile.
hadn’t seen him in six years, but he still looked the same. Tall, muscular, and
too arrogant for her taste. Her brother, Santino, worked for Damien in his IT
department, and had recently told her that Damien wasn’t so much arrogant as
confident. Sela, in turn, had told Santino that the fine line between
confidence and arrogance was too thin to be measured.
appeared to be done berating the foreman, who sprinted off toward the
construction trailer, and Sela realized if he glanced to his left a fraction
further, he’d spot her. She turned in the direction of what would soon be her
dance studio, hoping he wouldn’t notice, and thought she’d gotten away with it
until footsteps behind her grew loud.
on a minute,” he called, his voice angry. “Who are you? This is a construction
area. You shouldn’t be here.”
She turned to face him, wishing
she’d known before signing the papers that he’d be this closely involved. Why
hadn’t Santino warned her? She’d have leased space for the studio across town.
Or on another planet.
stared at her with his mouth open. His full-lipped mouth that looked good
enough to eat.
Stop that! That’s exactly
how he wants you to react.
Seriously, the man hadn’t aged a bit in six
years, and was just as fucking gorgeous as she remembered. Perhaps he now had
of gray in his black
hair, at the temples, but that only made him more distinguished.
dark eyes flashed with recognition. “Sela … Santino said you were opening a
. Her brother had worked for this
man for six years. No doubt Damien knew way more about her than she’d be
comfortable with, but she couldn’t stop her brother from gossiping. He was
worse than most of her friends.
I am.” She placed the hardhat she carried on her head. “I’ll be careful. I’ve
been inside buildings under construction before.”
started to turn around, but he caught her arm, and Sela fought the urge to
shake off his grip. Not because she was angry that he’d touched her, but
because the jolt of electricity running up her arm either meant she’d just been
electrocuted, or her traitorous body had responded once again to this man.
made that mistake six years ago, and it had taken her months to get over the reality
that thirty-four year old men like Damien weren’t interested in nineteen year old
. She never wanted to feel that
foolish in front of this man again.
on. Let’s talk. It’s been … what? A couple of years? More?”
It’s been six years.” Why had she said that? She didn’t want him thinking she’d
been sitting around daydreaming about him.
nodded slowly, those dark, hooded eyes roving lazily over her skirt and tank
top. Arrogant man. He wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that he was checking
her out, but the lust on his face threw her determination to keep him at a
distance off balance. It was a far cry from the dismissive look he’d once given
right. It has been that long. The last time I saw you was after we all moved
underground and your brother came to work for me. You were barely out of high
school, but now look at you.” He squeezed her arm and gave her body another
slow assessment. “All grown up and too stunning for your own good.”
resisted the urge to roll her eyes even while her heart fluttered at his words.
He certainly hadn’t called her stunning, or anything else, on that day. He’d barely
acknowledged her existence. Had she really changed that much, or was he merely
older and getting desperate now?
face of the last woman splashed all over the tabloids with his hadn’t looked
much older than she was now at twenty-five. If the rag mags were right, that
particular relationship had lasted all of three weeks. She’d stopped keeping
track of his escapades a while ago, and Santino hadn’t mentioned any of them
lately, but that was no reason to think he’d changed.
you.” She didn’t know what else to say. This wasn’t how she’d expected things
to go if she ever had the chance to speak with Damien Rivera again. She had
never planned on being one of his conquests, but right now she longed to
discover if those lips tasted as good as they looked.
corners of his mouth turned up as he gave her a curious look. “I’ll walk with
you to look at the space. There are some details I need your input on.” She
raised her brows, and he chuckled. “That surprises you?”
pulled her arm out of his grasp because the urge to move closer to him was too
damn strong now. “Yes, it does. You’re the construction expert, not me.”
your studio. I want you to be happy with it, and I’m sure Tomás would
appreciate your tenancy for a long time.”
narrowed her eyes. This conversation was already longer than the only other one
they’d had. Why the sudden interest in her? What had Santino been telling him?
“All right. Let’s walk.”
waved her ahead of him, which did nothing for her confidence level. She’d worn
hard-soled boots, knowing she’d be walking in a construction zone, but the
skirt was short and she was suddenly too conscious of her ass moving underneath
it. Sela swore she could feel Damien’s eyes on it.
walls are going to be mirrors, right?”
his voice always sounded that seductive?
but there is space behind them. That’s why I came here today.” She stopped
before one of the frames. Each wall would contain floor to ceiling mirrors that
spanned the length of the framing. She pointed toward the four-foot wide space
behind it. “I’ve now been told I can’t have this space behind the walls on
three sides, but I need it.”
a fire hazard.”
sighed. “That’s what Tomás told me, but he also said if I have a door to the
back it will pass inspection.” She walked to the back wall and pointed. “We
have a door.”
shook his head. “I see that, but it still won’t pass inspection. The span is
too long for the other two walls. I spoke with Bart Tabor, the building
inspector, earlier this morning about your unit and several others. We have to
find a way to either put an opening that leads back into the studio within the
mirrors on the two side walls, or you’ll need to decrease the length of each of
those walls by six feet.”
put her hands on her hips. “Have you ever been inside a dance studio?”
grinned, and her damn pussy grew wet. She averted her gaze. This man was
going to lure her into becoming
another hash mark on his bedpost, beautiful dark eyes or not. “I admit I have
dancers need to see their bodies from all angles. It’s part of how they learn
to move and become aware of their presence. I already have windows along the
top in the back. They will be a distraction, but I was told I had to have
was for aesthetic reasons. We wanted the building to look as good from the back
as it will from the front.” His gaze traveled over her tank top again, and the
desire in his eyes sent a shiver down her spine. She hadn’t missed the double
took a few steps closer, and she inhaled the scent of very expensive, subtle
cologne. “We want these buildings to blend in with the rest of the town.
Sultry, hot, simmering. That’s why I’m personally involved in such a small
project. When people from the other cities come here to visit, I want them to
think they’ve stepped into a town where balmy ocean breezes fill the air. I
want them to smell the spices and fresh fruit. I want them to think they’re
back on the surface, in Puerto Vallarta, or
over the age of ten would likely remember the smells and sounds of living on
the surface. They’d remember the scent and the feel of rain, the wind in their
hair, and the sound of real birds. She swallowed hard against the sudden lump
in her throat as Damien’s words conjured up memories she’d been trying for
nearly seven years to bury.
handsome face registered confusion, and then concern. He took another step
closer to her, and she stood still, mesmerized by his eyes. They really were
beautiful, but she imagined he knew that. “Are you all right? Have I said
something to upset you?”
shook her head and forced a smile to her face. “No, of course not. The
description of what you’re trying to do here makes sense, but I need the space
behind the mirrors for lockers, storage, and office space. I don’t want to take
any space away from the flooring. If I do, I can’t hold classes large enough to
make any money.”
glanced around, spotted the blueprints on a makeshift table, and strolled
toward them. She followed, admiring his ass in tight jeans. The fact that he’d
checked out her ass earlier gave her the right to look at his, as far as Sela
rolled them out, muttering softly under his breath as he traced his finger
along the walls. Then he flipped the pages until he came to one for another
unit. “What about a corner unit instead? That way you can put in doors on two
outside walls. It’s larger, so you could eliminate some space behind the adjoining
wall without losing total floor space.”
glanced over his shoulder. “That one is already leased. All the corner units
are.” Tomás had told her that a new Internet phone carrier was launching its
business, and had paid a premium for the coveted corner suite Damien now
smiled and shook his head. “This one isn’t leased anymore. They pulled out less
than an hour ago when they realized people would be parking all around the
frowned. “What difference should that make?”
had envisioned a park-like setting for their customers to gaze out at while
they browsed for new phones.”
chuckled. “All right. I’m not sure how to react to that. I appreciate the offer
to take over the suite, but I can’t afford the rent.”
you can. I’ll speak with Tomás. We’ll charge you the same rent.”
narrowed her eyes again. “Why would you do that?”
you’re Santino’s sister, and because this suite will better serve your needs.”
was he being so nice to her? While she was thrilled he now saw her as a woman
instead of a kid right out of school, she didn’t want to be just one more in a
long line of them. She knew his reputation. The entire city knew it. “You’re in
business to make money. What do you get out of doing
such a generous favor?”
reached out and brushed a hand along her arm before she could react. “I’m glad
you asked. I happen to have an extra pair of tickets to the Music Pavilion
gaped at him with her mouth open for several seconds before speaking. “Are you
seriously telling me you have tickets to see
? They’ve been sold out for six months.”
was the hottest Cuban
music band ever to hit any of the underground cities, and Sela worshipped them.
grin sent her desire spiraling out of control, and she struggled to keep a lock
on her emotions. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. Box seats, overlooking the
ground floor, with a lovely vista of the fake outdoors on each side.”
Music Pavilion was an outdoor arena with lawn seating, and limited seating
under a large, shell-shaped awning. The box seats were crazy expensive and
almost impossible to come by, since only people who made as much cash as Damien
did could afford them, and they rarely let them go. They overlooked the first
dozen or so rows of floor seating under the awning, but also afforded patrons a
view of the outdoors on both sides. Sela had never been in one, but Santino
had, and had told her the acoustics were amazing.