Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Spotlight: Closed Set by Julia Harlow...

Cassandra Carlson is working on her five-year plan. A professional dancer, she moved to Los Angeles to work at her best friend's Hollywood dance studio. She decides she can put up with the glitterati for the time being until she saves enough to open her own studio back home in Cincinnati. When soon-to-be A-list British actor, Christopher Edwards, comes to her for dance lessons for his new film, the attraction is instantaneous and intense. Both are young, available and strikingly beautiful, but while she finds Hollywood garish and superficial, he's on the brink of realizing his life's ambition with no inclination for a serious relationship. Or so he thinks. Just when their white-hot desire can no longer be denied, a jealous actress targets Cassandra in an insidious scheme, and a powerful studio head poses a formidable threat to them both. Cassandra puts herself in jeopardy in order to protect Christopher, but will she lose him in the process?

Sunlight streams through the louvers of the plantation shutters in my bedroom. Forgot to close them. No wonder, with my brain solely focused on breathing the same air as Cassandra Carlson. Hell, I could barely get to sleep imagining her undressing in my guest bedroom, stretched out on the bed wearing nothing but one of my t-shirts. So near. Yet, so far. Fuck. I lay quiet for a few moments, straining to hear any sound of her moving around. Maybe she’s still asleep. Christ, what I’d give to peek into the guest room. We’ll have a leisurely breakfast and then I’ll drive her to her apartment, taking the long way. Then we’ll plan out her security for this evening. Being under my roof is best for everyone concerned, naturally.
The guest room door is ajar so I nonchalantly stroll into the kitchen after pulling on jeans and a t-shirt. No sign of Cassandra, but there’s a note propped against the large white bowl of oranges on the marble countertop. Leaning against the cabinetry, my eyes follow her flawless penmanship:
Brinley picked me up early. I’ll stay with her tonight.
Thanks for looking after me, and for your hospitality.
Good... no... great. I’ve got more pressing matters to tend to other than that frustrating woman. Grabbing my cell to check voicemail and messages and get back to serious business, I wonder why it feels like something precious has just been snatched away from me.
The next morning I finish early with my dialect coach – he thinks I’m sounding more like the American I’m playing in this film every day. Another balmy, blazing bright day in L.A. Sometimes I actually miss the perpetual drizzle of London. Slipping on my aviators, I put my foot down on the accelerator and head to Dance Academy, chomping at the bit to see Cassandra again and ignoring my better judgment to not get
involved with her any further.
The strains of a melodic classical piece embrace me when I stride

out of the changing room. Cassandra and a tall, brawny man are dancing. I cross my arms and lean against the doorway watching. Their movements are perfectly synchronized as they cover the entire floor with their graceful pas de deux in perfect time to the music. He lifts her high above him, effortlessly it seems, and her black skirt flutters above those sexy, pink-clad thighs. He lifts her again, only this time when he lowers her, she is flush against his body. Her body is tightly pressed against his as she slowly slides past his chest, his abdomen, all the way down until she lightly lands on the worn hardwood. Fuck! I want to do that with her. I want her voluptuous body sliding down mine like that, feeling every supple inch of her against me. They must know each other well to be so in sync. Who the hell is he? And why is he so fucking tall and muscular? After the last note of the piano fades to silence, they stand quietly talking, his eyes laser-beamed on her. He leans down and kisses her cheek. Okay, now he’s being a presumptuous ass. Just then Cassandra turns and sees me.
“Hi, Christopher, have you been waiting long?” Did something flicker in those green eyes? Is she pleased to see me?
“No, just a few minutes.” Long enough to see that gorilla kissing you, his hairy hands all over your sweet body.
“This is Philippe. Philippe, this is Christopher Edwards.” We shake hands as he sizes me up, the prick.
“A bientot, ma petite cherie. And thanks. I really appreciate this,” he says in a thick French accent, winking down at her. He wraps his thick arms around her and pulls her in for a squeeze. Now he’s really pissing me off. Stretching a navy towel around his thick neck he marches out of the studio on overly muscled legs.
“Was that your boyfriend?” I bite out, trying not to sound too rankled, tightening my arms across my chest.
“No, Philippe’s a colleague. He’s trying out for a part and needed to practice before the audition tomorrow. Just helping him out.”
“We’re just friends, really.”
Dead silence on my end of the conversation.
“Let’s start with some slow dancing after warming up. I’ll just change

out of these pointe shoes and be with you in a moment. Do you want to get started on the floor exercises?”
“Don’t you need to be here to ensure that I don’t injure myself?” I can’t help sounding pissy.
“You won’t be so sarcastic if you re-injure yourself or strain a tendon. Go ahead and get started.”
“I’ll wait.”
“Suit yourself, Christopher.”
What’s with the jealousy? Why does seeing her dancing intimately

with another man bother me so much? She dances with men all the time in her job, and they probably all want to fuck her, even the gay ones, but I can’t shake off this proprietary feeling about her.
“Okay, let’s get warmed up.” She glides back in the studio, radiant in a rose-colored leotard. Her beautiful dark hair and pale skin glow in the sunlight from the clerestory windows.
Deciding not to dwell on the subject of Philippe, I ask as we stretch out on the mats, “Why don’t you dance professionally?”
“I’m not good enough, for starters, and don’t have the perfect dancer’s body.”
“You dance wonderfully, and your body couldn’t possibly be more perfect.” What is she talking about?
The beginning of a smile appears on those lips and a rosy hue colors her cheeks. We lean forward on straightened arms from our knees, arch our backs and touch our pointed toes to our heads. Couldn’t have done this in a million years without her patient training. “I just hide my flaws.”
“Where?” Not much can be hidden in body-clinging leotard and tights.
When she changes the music, the soulful voices of a man and woman belt out a rendition of “Don’t Make Me Over.” A really good song.
“Is this your music?”
“Yes, one of my slow dance mixes. Here.” She takes my right hand and places it on her supple waist and holds my left hand in hers. She lightly places her other hand on my shoulder. My whole body immediately comes alive, tingling all over from the sensations of her warm touch and proximity.
“We’ll start with a basic waltz. You’ve done this before, in, what was it called, The War of the Roses?
“I think so.”
“It’s easy.” She begins moving around to the music.
“Relax, Christopher. The muscles in your shoulder are hard knots

and your jaw is clenched. And, please, don’t look at your feet.” She
moves closer to me, her enticing body slightly moving against mine. This is seriously turning me on. I want to kiss that perfect pink mouth. Her face is so close, and she smells like fresh flowers. Would she mind if I buried my nose in the soft curve of her neck? Christ. I have to think of something else, quick, or I’ll be heading to the showers any minute. My cock’s already painfully hard and thick.
“Cassandra, would you have dinner with me tonight?” “Christopher, you seem really nice but... ”
“Oh, here it comes, but... you already have a boyfriend, you’re engaged, I’m not your type.”

“I wasn’t going to say any of those things.”
“What, then?”
“Well, you’re Christopher Edwards, mega-star. You can have any

woman you want. I’m a dance instructor. You’re so far out of my league it’s ludicrous even to consider.” She stares down at her feet, a blush spreading over those dimpled cheeks.
“Well, that statement is ludicrous. I’m a guy asking a beautiful girl out to dinner. That’s all.”
Etta James is crooning “At Last”. How apropos. This playlist is amazing. We’re moving around the room now and she’s twirling under my arm. This is nice... really nice.
“I’ll think about it,” she softly murmurs.

Julia Harlow

I love romantic fiction. Any kind of romantic fiction, whether it be historical, contemporary, fantasy, erotic - you name it. What's not to love about a swoon-worthy hero and a spunky heroine plagued by all sorts of conflicts keeping them apart, until it all works out and they live happily ever after? For the most part.

My first book, Closed Set, was published in June 2014. I am currently working on my second book. It definitely has a very swoon-worthy hero and an unforgettable heroine. Stay tuned for more info!

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