Levi Warner is an established older man—wealthy, powerful, and above all, respectable. Then Levi meets Daisy, an uninhibited twenty-four-year-old dance instructor and artist, not exactly the kind of woman Levi is accustomed to.
But the young free spirit brings out something in him that he only experienced in fantasies. When their scorching affair turns into something unexpectedly deeper, Levi finds himself torn between preserving his reputation and exploring a wilder and much more satisfying kind of life…
Sway previously appeared in the anthology Cherished
Includes an excerpt of the Brown Family novel, Drawn Together.
Praise for Lauren Dane:
“No one does it better than Lauren Dane.”—Sylvia Day, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Bared to You
“Erotic…An emotionally rich story.”—Fresh Fiction
“Sexy, pulse-pounding adventure.”—Jaci Burton, New York Times bestselling author
As a stay-at-home mom, Lauren Dane had lots of conversations in a singsong voice but no real outlet for adult thoughts and words. Armed with a secondhand laptop, she decided to “give that writing thing a serious go.”
Nearly a decade and several dozen books later, including the Brown Family novels and the Delicious series, she’s well aware of her good fortune and is loving every moment of it, even when she has to edit and put Barbie’s dresses back on over and over again.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Levi found the studio easily enough. His brother hadn’t lied. It wasn’t far from his office, which was attached to his house on Bainbridge Island. He’d moved to the island five years ago, months after Kelsey had died.
The building smelled like every community center he’d ever been inside. He’d been in more than his fair share as he and his older brother had set up a mentoring program through the local school systems and they gave presentations at least once a month. Each door had a sign on it, but he didn’t see anything about wedding basics, so he wandered into one of the classrooms to ask someone.
And then paused to watch as a couple dominated the center of the room. A ridiculously beautiful dark-haired woman was spinning, propelled by a long, lanky man as the rest of the people clapped along to the swing music.
It wasn’t the male that interested him, though Levi was sure the man was talented. It was the nearly effortless timing of the woman as she went around the man, her legs and feet in perfect time with the music.
So quick and intricate, these moves.
Even he burst out with an exclamation when the man flipped her over his arm and she kicked her legs even as she was upside down.
A flash of some thigh as she hopped when she got to her feet and then she went in again as her partner actually flipped her up and over his shoulder.
They continued on for a few minutes more until they both took a bow and the male, apparently an instructor, began speaking to the people in the room again.
Perhaps he should take this class instead of the wedding dancing class his brother Mal’s fiancée wanted him to take. Levi was only doing this for his brother. He could dance just fine. But it was a way of mollifying Gwen so they could keep her attention off the dancing up the aisle idea she kept pushing, and Levi would sooner die before he did that. He loved his baby brother, but that wasn’t going to happen. Ever.
A bit more wandering and he finally found the room he thought was right.
The instructor turned to him and smiled. “Oh! An extra. Hold on one moment.”
She rushed to the doorway before Levi could stop her.
“Daisy! Can you help? I’ve got one extra tonight.”
He’d been about to interrupt to tell the instructor he wasn’t interested in this class but was looking for another one. Until the aforementioned Daisy entered the room.
Long, dark hair had been captured into a high ponytail and it swayed as she walked. Big brown eyes. Not overly tall. Probably five and a half feet at most. Pretty, full lips glistened red. Her body, curvy and mouthwatering, was draped in a dress he could only describe as vintage. A full skirt and a tight bodice. Tattoos, though he couldn’t see all of the half sleeve due to her dress.
It was the jitterbug woman he’d watched a little while before. She had a gorgeous smile as she looked from the instructor to Levi. But he kept going back to her eyes. After a perusal of the impressively high and full breasts of course; he wasn’t a saint. She had beautiful eyes, but it was the intelligence in them that made him look twice and then again.
Suddenly it wasn’t so bad that he needed a dance class. Not if she’d be his partner for a time or two. That way he could say he went to the blasted class and have an excuse to get his hands on her.
She took him in and smiled, holding her hand out. Bangle bracelets jingled and clicked with her movement. “I’m Daisy Huerta. Nice to meet you.”
The instructor clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “Welcome everyone to introduction to dance. We’ll cover several different styles of dance and rhythm over the next few weeks. Partner up and let’s get started.”
This was definitely not the class he’d signed up for. They’d discover this, he assumed, when they checked to see who’d paid.
Daisy stepped close, took his hand and he naturally pulled her close, his other hand at her waist.
“Leading already? All right then.” When she quirked a smile, a dimple showed at the right corner of that full, lush mouth. “I love it when my partner is tall. Fits better.”
There was a lot of talking and people laughing self-consciously, but he didn’t hear any of it. With his hand at her waist, there was nothing to do but slide into the dance as the music came on.
Rosemary Clooney took a deep breath and began to sing the opening of “Sway.” And she bent to his will and began to move, sensuously, slowly, gracefully. Giving over to him easily as he led. That simple act of submission wasn’t sexual. Not really. But it shattered all the reasons he’d been lining up to leave after that one dance. And tore at the walls he’d built around himself a long time ago.
His hand on her waist seemed to burn through the material of her dress as they moved.
He led every moment. Sure of himself. Propelling her just exactly where he wanted her to go. She relaxed and fell into the music. While others in the class worked slower, going step by step, Levi danced like he knew what he was about.
It was increasingly clear Levi wasn’t a beginner of any type. It wasn’t that she didn’t like his hands on her, but he didn’t need the class and it was only right she tell him. But she could wait until after the class. Just to be fair.
Until then she’d enjoy the hypnotic pleasure of being led by this man. She’d danced many times with many people, and it had never felt this forbidden and sexually charged. A shiver moved through her system, hardening her nipples, heating her skin. Totally inappropriate to get all het up over this one silly moment, but there it was so why not enjoy it?
“I saw you dancing. In the other room, I mean. How long have you been teaching dance classes?” His murmur nearly made her jump, she was so lost in the way he’d made her feel.
She licked her lips and didn’t miss the way his pupils seemed to swallow the color in his eyes. Green, a pale green. Unusual. Especially with dark hair. His was nearly black, with salt and pepper throughout. It suited him. As did the scruff.
Really, he was a walking, talking dream of a man, and he smelled as good as he looked.
She managed to find her words again. “I fill in when they need me. My neighbor teaches Lindy Hop and swing dancing here. I help there most often.”
“Is that what you were doing?”
“Depends on when you came in.”
“At the end. Right before I found this room.”
“Ah. We were jitterbugging at the end. A little bit of this and that. We did a fast Lindy Hop at the start of class.”
“I’m sorry I missed it. You’re quite good.”
Charmed, she winked. “Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m pretty fabulous at it.”
He grinned and the mischief showed in his eyes. Boy oh boy this man would be so much trouble for a woman. But it would be a good kind of trouble, she’d bet.
“You should show me.”
“You want me to teach you how to Lindy Hop? By the way, you don’t need this dance class.” Damn, she’d planned to wait.
He laughed and all logical thought seemed to burst apart. He had a great laugh. Deep and sexy.
“Let me guess.” She paused as they moved into a simple waltz, which he handled just as well. “You’re getting married and your fiancée wants you to take classes. No, that can’t be it.”
One of his eyebrows rose. “Why not?”
“She’d be here with you. They always come. You know, to take the class together.” And frankly, it’d be foolhardy to let anyone get near this one. And she also bet that if he had a woman, she came a lot in the other way as well.
And suddenly a rather vivid, totally filthy image of him over her, his perfect hair sex-messy, sweat gleaming, muscles working from the way he fucked her flashed through her head and she got very warm.
“It’s my baby brother. He’s getting married and she, his fiancée, wants all the men in the wedding party to take a class.”
“You clearly know your way around a dance floor. At least for all the basics you’d need at a wedding. Shall I write you a note?”
His grin made all sorts of things tingle. “I’m not sure she’d accept it. But it would be amusing to present it to her. I like the way you think. My other brothers and cousins have all folded. I was the last holdout.”
She bet Levi here didn’t do anything he didn’t want to. Dominant, this guy. Mmmm.
“The wedding dance class is down the hall. I think they gave it a snazzy name, but it’s wedding dancing for dummies really.”
“Do you teach that one?”
“No. They have a different kind of instructor in there.” They told her specifically that they wanted more elegant-looking women doing the class. Fuck them. Elegant.
“Would you show me? How to Lindy Hop, I mean.”
“Yes. But I think you’re a more sensual dancer. Tango. Maybe rumba or cha-cha.”
His mouth was beautiful when it canted up into a knowing smile. A cocky, arrogant smile and it shot straight to all her pinkest of parts. Just a few minutes with this man and it was totally clear he was exceptional. And out of her league. And a client of the studio. And probably too old for her, though she didn’t care about that stuff really.
He pulled her a little closer but kept dancing. “I don’t actually want you to, I just wanted to know if you would.”
He kept catching her off guard. She liked it.
“Is that so? Why is that?”
He shrugged as they came to a halt while the instructor began to speak again.
“Do you like telling people what to do? Just to see how they react?”
He stopped, examining her carefully. His attention so very intense it was nearly physical. She tried not to gulp under such scrutiny but it was hard not to. She felt very much like Little Red Riding Hood having bumped into the Big Bad Wolf.
“I prefer it when their reaction is obedience.”
A flush roared through her, hot and wild. A million things she wanted to say flitted through her brain but none of them seemed right. She was usually good at this stuff, the silly back and forth between herself and the students. But he was something altogether different.
He studied her a long time until he finally spoke again. “I’m going to go.”
Her heart sank even as she struggled to keep her face relaxed.
“I don’t need this class. But I showed up and I can honestly say so. Thank you for amusing me.”
He stepped back and bowed as they took the first brief break. “I enjoyed meeting you, Levi.” She waved to Tansi and left, heading back down the hall.
How strange her day had been. Flirted with by a rather intense older man who totally made her hot-for-teacher fantasies go wild. Not a bad way to leave work.
She stood with her hands at her waist and looked the installation over. “I don’t like the light. Switch it out for a different bulb.”
This was her biggest piece yet. Hell, the biggest sale yet. Not a lot of money as things went, but enough to know she was making a living, even a small one, from her work. And that was important.
A mixed-media piece. Watercolor and paper. In three distinct parts, like a winged altar. It was going to hang in the large, open atrium of Cal Whaley’s small office building.
Speaking of Cal, he wandered out, looking handsome and studious in his natty three-piece suit holding a sheaf of papers. He clearly hadn’t been expecting her though, because when he looked up from the papers in his hands he started and then smiled when he saw her.
“Daisy!” He kissed her cheek. “What brings you . . . Oh, today is installation day.” He noted the work. “I love this so much. Really brings some color and life into this space.”
It did. With vivid blues and greens. Evocative of the water they were surrounded by, of the forest too. It had come to her on a hike they’d all taken nearly two years before. In the spring when everything had been clear and sharp. They’d been standing on an overlook, taking in Puget Sound and she’d been so glad to have had her camera to capture it. She’d spent another six months tinkering with the idea as she’d finished another project.
And the whole time Cal had been her biggest supporter, telling her he wanted her to do it already so he could buy it.
“It’s not hard to look that great in this space.” The windows soared to the third-floor landing, flooding the room with light, the art reflecting Eagle Harbor out in the distance.
“Now you need to finish the glass piece so I can buy it for that alcove over there.”
She laughed, flattered and delighted.
“I’ve got to run. I have a client meeting in about twenty minutes. We need to have lunch soon.” He bent and kissed her cheek.
“We do. Also, thank you, Calvin Whaley. For buying this piece.”
He cocked his head. “I love it. I loved it before you had finished it. I laid claim to this over a year ago.” He grinned. “So thank you.”
It was those little moments that got her through the times when it seemed she’d never make it.
Turning back to the task at hand, she scrambled up the ladder with the level and the lightbulb she thought would work better.
• • •
Levi had loved this building for a few years. It was close to the ferry, but not too close. The view was incredible. He’d considered renting office space here before deciding to have a home office built. But one of the investigators he often worked with had space here they let him use when he had need of a conference room.
And now, three hours later he was hungry and sick to death of his clients, but they’d hammered out a deal both sides could live with and he could be done with this project.
“Will we see you at the luncheon next month?” Jessy Calhoun asked as she tucked a file folder into her bag.
He’d paused at the front doors to say good-bye to everyone.
He sat on the board of several charities, including Created Families, which raised money and awareness for adoption and foster care. Jessy Calhoun, the woman who asked, also sat on the board. She and her husband Elton had adopted four kids and now that they were all in college, they were foster parents.
“I’ll be there.” He looked at the art going up in the lobby. “We should auction off something like this.” The light caught it perfectly, creating a nearly seamless feedback between the water and the wall.
“I can find out who the artist is if you like.” Jessy buttoned her coat.
“I can do it. I’ll get back with you about it. See if we can’t get him to donate something.” Levi was remarkably good at getting people to donate things for auctions.
“All right then.” She waved and was gone and he turned back, heading toward the spot where the people were installing the art.
And then one of the workers turned around and he realized it was Daisy. He hadn’t forgotten her name. Hadn’t forgotten the way she’d submitted to him as they’d danced. The warm, solid weight of her in his arms as they’d moved.
Today she wore a red bandanna in her hair, Rosie the Riveter style. With a jumpsuit to match and bright pink sneakers. She wore chunky black glasses and a tool belt.
She sent him a bland smile until she recognized him and it brightened. He felt it straight to his toes.
“Well, hello there, Levi. What brings you here today?”
“I had a meeting here in the building. I wanted to ask—”
He turned to catch sight of opposing counsel standing on the stairs leading to the conference room.
He took Daisy’s hands and squeezed. “I’m sorry. I have to deal with this.”
He liked the disappointment on her face. “All right then. See you around.” She stepped back and he had to force himself to move away from her and back up to work.
By the time he finished and came out, the art was up and she was gone. Damn.
The work was beautiful. Unexpected as he looked closer and saw the layers, the delicate paper against the bolder brushstrokes of the watercolors.
There was a small plaque that read: #14. Ramona.
He’d have to contact the owner of the building, Cal Whaley, to get the information. Too bad. He was hoping to get the info from the lovely Ms. Huerta instead. It was most likely a sign. If he believed in such things.
• • •
Daisy wasn’t surprised to find Mary on her doorstep when she opened after the knock.
“I bring food.” Mary Whaley, her closest friend, held up a cotton tote bag, the kind she always used to bring all manner of delicious treats to her friends’ homes.
“Lucky me.” She opened up and stood to the side to allow Mary to pass. Daisy followed her into the small kitchen. Once Mary put her things down Daisy gave her a hug.
“You busy?” Mary looked around as she put her jacket on the back of the chair.
“I am now that my friend has come and brought me dinner.”
Mary’s smile was fast as her eyes lit. “I’m trying a few new things. I need your opinion.”
“Score.” Daisy brought out plates and silverware. “These wedding-type gizmos or for the supper club?”
“I may have a catering gig.”
“Yeah? Do tell!”
Daisy knew Mary had been trying to build her catering business for the last two years. The food truck biz was complicated. It was impossible to park the truck anywhere but private property in Seattle. She’d managed to work out some arrangements with property owners around town but Daisy knew what her friend really wanted was a full-time gig with far more certainty than the truck.
And, as Mary cooked better than anyone else Daisy had ever met, she wanted it for her too.
“Try the soup first. I’m going to get your broiler working to finish these other things.”
“Is this a stand-up event?” She peered into the container of soup. The smoky scent of curry hit first.
“It is. But the soup will be in shot glasses. Easy to use.”
She managed to find shot glasses. “I’m going to say up front a shot of that soup won’t be enough.”
Mary slid a tray of something into the oven.
Daisy drank the soup and it was better than she figured it would be. And that was already really good.
“This is criminally good. Can you use larger containers?”
“They have larger shot glasses that hold a triple shot. Or maybe an espresso cup. Hm. Going to think on it. I want it to get your senses ready for what’s next.”
Daisy toed off her shoes near the back door. “You gonna tell me the specifics of the gig or am I going to have to beat it out of you?”
“A friend of Adrian’s needs a caterer for an industry thing.”
Adrian was Adrian Brown, their best friend Gillian’s fiancé, who also happened to be a huge deal rock star.
“It could be, yes.” Mary thrust a plate of something at Daisy, who quickly gobbled one up and groaned. “You like?”
“Honestly, I don’t know why you always look so nervous. You’re an amazing cook, silly. Now, tell me what this is.”
“Figs with honey and cheese on homemade toasts. I worry they’ll get soggy though.”
Mary was an amazing cook. Clever, intuitive, she made art in her kitchen every single day and sometimes the only person who didn’t get that was Mary herself.
Daisy arched a brow and put a hand on her hip as she looked toward her friend. “You’d have to imagine they’d sit around for very long. Which they won’t. I’d push these things so hard. I’m assuming you’ll need me to help staff this gig?”
“Would you?” Mary asked hopefully.
Daisy snorted. “Where else would I be? The money is good. The work is good but not overly hard. I get to sneak samples. That’s all sorts of win/win. Plus I get to see you with everyone excited about your food like they should be. Just say when and it’s on my schedule.”
“Now Gillian just needs to choose a date for the wedding.” Mary’s corkscrew curls were currently being restrained by barrettes and some ponytail holders, but one had already won free at her temple.
“Don’t you think that’s what they’re going to tell us all at Delicious next week?”
Delicious was the name of the supper club Mary had started many years before. At first, and mainly for the last several years, it had been for Mary’s friends. They’d gather once a week, usually on Fridays, but recently it had shifted to Sundays to accommodate everyone’s schedule.
More than just a woman who loved to cook who made dinner for her friends, Mary had turned Delicious into a hot secret everyone knew. And everyone wanted in. So much so that people paid a yearly fee for supplies and they’d be invited at random to a certain number of dinners or afternoon events.
Their friends, the core of Delicious, were always on the guest list. But for everyone else, it was an event to get their number called to attend a dinner.
“Yeah, probably. She’s not one for coy, our Gillian. But this guy is good for her. He’s been on her to set a date for the last two months. I can’t imagine she’s going to be able to hold out much longer. Especially now that the renovations on their new house are in full swing.”
“Been a long time for her. I’m happy. Gillian deserves her happily ever after. And it’ll be a great job for you too.” She tipped her glass of cider in Mary’s direction.
“He might want some big wedding with a crack catering staff instead of his new wife’s friends.”
Daisy snorted. “Yes, I’m sure. After one look at Adrian and his family you can totally tell they care about the thread count of the napkins and your china pattern.”
A joke of course, as Adrian and his sister, also a rock star, had multiple tats and his brother ran a tattoo shop. Their friends were a wild assortment of awesome jobs, hair colors and wild backgrounds. Above all they were down-to-earth. They fit with Gillian’s friends perfectly.
“I just want her to be happy.”
“Of course you do. Jules will make the cake and you will make the food. That’s Delicious.”
It had been Daisy who gave the name Delicious not only to the weekly gatherings but also to her group of friends, the sexiest, funniest, most awesome women she knew. Women who were always there for each other. Whether it was to kick someone’s ass to make them straighten up, or to defend and protect. They were part of her family. They were delicious in every way and it pleased her that it had stuck.
Daisy waved a hand at all the food. “This is awesome. More cumin in the meatballs maybe?”
“I was thinking the same thing. Maybe the sauce needs a tweak instead? What do you think of the cheese straws? Those I just made up a batch for because I know your grandma loves them and she promised me some jam if I made her some.”
Daisy laughed. “She’s greedy for your treats.” She bit into one of the lighter-than-air straws. “So good. Oh what’d you add?”
“I used a new kind of cheese. It had black peppercorns in it. I’m going to premiere them at dinner. How was your day?”
“I finished a new piece. Want to see?”
Mary jumped up eagerly. “I can’t believe you need to ask.”
Other than her grandmother, Mary was always the first person she showed her new work to. Daisy knew she’d tell the truth.
They went through the small house to the studio out back. Daisy and her grandmother shared the space, a garage converted to a workspace for her grandmother and then when the time came, they added a kiln and space for Daisy’s mixed media work as she’d begun to truly explore art professionally.
Suddenly nervous, she stopped Mary at the door. “Okay so this is something a little new for me.”
Mary took her hands. “Hush you. Let me see it.”
Daisy pushed the doors open and pointed. Mary took a few steps and halted, sucking in a breath as she took it in. “Wow. This is . . . wow.”
Crimson and vivid green mosaic created the outline of a woman’s body. Paper and pen and ink gave her more detail. Her arms arched above her head, wrists bound.
Mary turned. “Yes. Really good wow. Daze, this is crazy good. Hot. Gorgeous. I love it.”
She grinned and hugged Mary tight. “Thank you. I don’t know. It’s not my usual thing but it . . . it just came out of me.”
“When the others see this, there will be a fight to see who gets to buy it. I’d try to snag it now but then everyone would whine.” Mary winked.
“I really do need to have more buyers than you guys. Not that I don’t appreciate it and all.”
Mary laughed. “Girl, you think we pity-buy your art? One of these days the stuff we snagged at a bargain will be worth enough to get our kids through college. We’re smart. And lucky to have such a talented friend.”
Pride warmed Daisy. She was lucky in her friends. “You’re fabulous. I’m going to enter it for art walk.”
“Oh! Such a great idea. If they turn you down, they’re idiots.”
Art walk had started as an informal thing some local artists had started five years before and now it was a regular event. Each quarter they had a themed one with specially chosen pieces on display in front windows all over town. Daisy had been dreaming about her work being in one of those windows ever since.