By Amy Jarecki
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Date of Publication: 12/3/13
Number of pages: 338
Word Count: 88,640
Cover Artist: Kim Jacobs
Sheltered, raised in rural Utah, Zoe Marshall has never heard of the Mayan Prophecy of the Golden Goddess—but she’s about to.
At the moment she’s thrilled to have landed her dream job dancing on a cruise ship where she meets Belizean Gabriel AhKin. The sizzling bartender stirs her passion.
When the ship docks in Belize, Zoe disappears—spirited into the bowels of a Mayan cult led by a reclusive fanatic. When the madman sees her, he divines Zoe is the Golden Goddess. She is “the one” to fulfill the prophecy. Now Gabriel’s driving obsession is to save the woman who’s captured his heart.
Chapter OneLas Vegas. Present day.Hopping in her VW Bug and sneaking off to Vegas had taken her greatest act of courage ever. Zoe hadn’t told a soul about the audition. She couldn’t risk it.Palms sweating, fingers trembling, Zoe focused on her breathing. A few deep inhales and her mind would clear enough to remember the dance combination. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her core, blocking out the mob of sweaty dancers that surrounded her. She inhaled. Her shoulders relaxed as the calming effect of oxygen shot through her fingertips.“Group Four,” the stage manager’s voice roared.Now? Her eyes flew open with a push from behind.“Come on, blondie. We’re up.”Zoe stumbled forward and scrambled for a place in front, where they’d see her. Her entire body trembled when she assumed the starting position—knees bent together, fists on hips. Oh God, please don’t let me fall on my face. Focus. Smile.“A one-two-three-four…” cried Jayden, the dance master. Besides looking like a style model out of GQ Magazine, he’d marked the steps of the combination twice, expecting everyone to pick it up and perform with expert finesse. Luckily, Zoe got to watch three groups before, giving her a chance to memorize it.With a smile plastered in place, her legs took over—step-kick, step-kick, shimmy, shimmy, bump and turn, ball-change, time-step and pirouette—all in double time to the earsplitting roar of speakers blaring rumba drums.Each time she completed the combination, Zoe’s confidence grew. Her smile went from a plastered grimace to a fun-laughing grin. She focused on the judges, winking, working it, and putting everything she had plus a bit extra into her effort. She wanted this job more than anything. It meant freedom.Holding her pose after the last pirouette, Zoe twitched as a bead of sweat trickled between her breasts and pooled against her black leotard. With deep breaths, she glanced at Jayden. He winked. Trying to hold back a giggle, she snorted. Jeez, good one, Zoe.The tension on the stage radiated between the dancers as if anticipating the final decision in a Miss America pageant. Frozen in place, they waited for a decision as Jayden sauntered over to the judges who sat on the old red seats in the center of the theater. Their fingers flew across iPads while looking down their noses.Zoe’s heart pounded against her chest as she watched them. What were they writing? Would she make the cut? Had she driven three hours to Las Vegas for only a two-minute audition? Her stomach squeezed. Please pick me. Please, please, please. I’ll never get to Broadway if I can’t get out of Cedar City.Jayden glanced up. “Number two-fifty-three stay. The rest of you are excused.”Forgetting her number, Zoe looked down and gaped. Leapin’ lords, it’s me. Thank you, God!A heavy hand grasped her shoulder. “Okay, beautiful, you can wait in the theater seats out front. We’ll call you for the second round.” The stage manager pointed toward the stairs and hollered for group five.Floating, Zoe sat with four other dancers selected from the previous groups. She grinned at them excitedly. Seven groups of ten ran through the audition, and after the first cut, nine hopeful dancers sat in the theater seats—only nine of seventy.Jayden sauntered over to the judging panel and a pretty, ebony-skinned girl stood. “I’m Sunny. Everyone back up on the stage.”The auditioners eagerly clamored up the stairs. Zoe tried to push forward with the others, but a sharp elbow to the gut knocked her back. Instinctively her arm swung forward, the heel of her hand grazed the shoulder of her assailant. Zoe glared at the girl, but ended up last on the stage. She had to take a spot in the back. Her spirits dove. No one gets picked if they’re in the back.Sunny took center stage, facing the group. “Next we’re going to form a chorus line.” She marched up to Zoe, grabbed her arm and pulled her to center stage. “You’re the tallest. I want the rest of the class either side of two-fifty-three according to height.” Sunny stood back while the other dancers fell in place. “Lock arms over your neighbor’s shoulders, right arm over, left under.”Zoe looked to her right. A cute girl with brown hair and pink highlighted bangs frowned and draped her arm across Zoe’s shoulder.Not bad. Nice legs. She’s got the job for sure. Zoe forced a smile. “Hi.”Pink Bangs returned a curt nod.“Now, when I give the cue, I want everyone to kick at the same height. This is supposed to look like the Rockettes—a-one-two-three-four…”With the first kick, Zoe’s leg soared higher than the dancers on either side, but she adjusted her height with the next kick, and the next. After what seemed like an eon of kicking, Zoe’s lungs strained for air while she fought against the weight of her tiring partners hanging on her arms.“Keep it up.” Sunny clapped her hands, demanding more.Zoe gritted her teeth through her smile. Her legs inched up. Pink Bangs glanced over and threw her legs higher. Zoe noticed the stretch, and added effort. Pink Bangs matched it. Zoe kicked, sucking in air as her lungs screamed for her to stop.Zoe could no longer hear Sunny clapping. Pink Bangs kept kicking. A wave of new energy flowed through to Zoe’s toes and her thigh hit her chest with the height of her kick. She glanced to her left—Oh.—she and Pink Bangs were the only ones still kicking.
Before college, I was a showgirl. I toured—singing and dancing my way around the world in a review called Follies on Broadway. Several years later, I dreamed up the plot for VIRTUE after I took a cruise to Belize...
How cool would it be to write a romantic suspense about a dancer who falls in love with a hot Belizean man and ends up in more trouble than Indiana Jones?