Luna

Tango
ALLI SINCLAIR

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29/04/14 5:32 PM

First Published 2014
First Australian Paperback Edition 2014
ISBN 978 174356864 4
LUNA TANGO
© 2014 by Alli Sinclair
Australian Copyright 2014
New Zealand Copyright 2014
Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilisation of this work in whole or in part
in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented,
including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval
system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be
lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior consent of the publisher in
any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar
condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published by Harlequin Mira
An imprint of Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd.
Level 4, 132 Arthur Street
NORTH SYDNEY NSW 2060
AUSTRALIA
®and TM are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its corporate affiliates. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in Australia, New Zealand and in other countries.
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press

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

2

Alli Sinclair

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 fiveyear-old daughter in favour of becoming a tango diva on the world

L u n a Ta n g o

3

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.

4

Alli Sinclair

‘¿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, dis­
appearing 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.

L u n a Ta n g o

5

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. ‘Dan­
cers 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.’

6

Alli Sinclair

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—
‘¡Mierda!’
Her eyes flew open at Jorge’s expletive. ‘I’m sorry!’
Carlos banged his cane on the floorboards. ‘Keep going!’
Jorge let go, rubbed his foot then held her again, determination
renewed. They moved to the right and this time Dani kept her
eyes open. She took a hesitant step, pulled back, leant forwards and
smashed her head into something solid.
‘Argh!’ Jorge rubbed his forehead.
‘Oh god, I’m sorry!’ She turned to Carlos. ‘I can’t do this. He’s
going to end up in hospital before the end of the song. Listen, I’m
not here for a lesson. All I want is to ask a few questions—’
A smile raced across Carlos’s lips and his eyes sparkled. A belly
laugh followed.
‘What?’
‘I never thought I would see the day,’ Carlos spoke between bursts of
laughter, ‘when there would be evidence of a person with two left feet.’
‘You are hilarious. I tried to tell you I couldn’t dance but you
wouldn’t listen.’

L u n a Ta n g o

7

‘My listening skills are very good but I chose not to believe you,
yes? I find you amusing. Tell me your name.’
‘Dani McKenna.’ Like I said before, if you’d paid attention.
‘Dani is short for Daniela, sí?’ He stroked his chin with his
thumb and forefinger.
She nodded.
‘Daniela is a perfectly good name. This is what you were born
with, this is what I will call you.’
She wanted to argue but had no desire to explain why she detested
her full name. Sorrow wrapped around Dani as the last words her
mother said echoed in her heart. I’ll love you forever, Daniela.
‘Have you learned the martial arts?’ Carlos asked, saving her
from jumping into the all too familiar well of grief.
‘No. What does that have to do with tango?’
‘In martial arts you must be completely focused on the other
person at all times. You have to adapt and pay attention to what the
opponent is doing. A slip of focus means defeat and inevitable pain.
It is the same for tango.’
‘But you said tango is a meeting of two hearts. What’s this opponent business?’
‘Tango, like love, is complicated. Tell me, Daniela McKenna,
why should I talk with you?’
‘I work for The Edge magazine and Tourism Argentina has sponsored me to write about the evolution of the tango lifestyle over the
past hundred years.’
‘Not interested.’
‘Why not?’
‘I am not interested.’
‘That’s it?’ Panic grew within at the possibility that her chance
for career success and personal healing had just started a slithery
descent into the Valley of Failure.
‘I will tell you this—the foreign journalists think tango is about
sex, sex, sex.’ He pounded his fist against the wall and Dani flinched
inside, unnerved by his aggression. Or was it passion? ‘It is not
about the sex. It is about a meeting of the souls. It has nothing to do

8

Alli Sinclair

with the physical and everything to do with the spiritual but none
of you people understand.’
‘I’m not like other journalists.’ Of course she wasn’t. Other journalists wouldn’t endure this humiliation. Perhaps he was testing her
resolve. ‘I want to immerse myself in the tango culture and appreciate
why people the world over are enchanted by this dance and music.
My articles will depict what it’s truly like to live and breathe and love
tango.’ Then I might finally understand why my mother did what she did.
‘No.’
‘Are you always this difficult or is it only when you speak to journalists?’ she asked and he gave a half shrug. Surely misunderstanding the meaning of tango is not enough to hate journalists with
such fervour. ‘If you had no intention of helping me then why did
you make me dance?’
His lips twisted into a smirk and Dani grabbed her bag and
marched to the exit.
‘I’ll be back,’ she said over her shoulder.
‘I’ll be locking the doors.’
* * *
Dani sat in her hotel room and stared at the laptop, willing her
inbox to ping with incoming mail. She’d sent a message to Adam
only minutes ago and even though she didn’t expect an instant
reply, she wanted one.
She leant against the pillows and studied the flocked red flowers pressed onto the pale gold wallpaper. Somehow, the retro room
comforted her.
The bell sounded on her laptop and her heart tripped and banged
against her chest when she read his name in bold. The bastard still
had an impact on her life.
She clicked on the email and sucked air between her teeth.
Dani,
I hope you’re feeling better since the last time we spoke. I don’t
know how many times I can tell you I’m sorry. I wish there was a

L u n a Ta n g o

9

way I could help you see why this is right for everyone and I hope
one day you’ll understand my actions.
How are the stories? No doubt Tourism Argentina is treating
you like a queen. Use your fluency in Spanish to woo the locals,
get the scoop and write me some killer feature articles. I like your
idea of digging deeper with Escudero. As we discussed, though, he’s
going to be a hard sell and I’m not sure you have the chops for it.
Though I wouldn’t mind you proving me wrong.
This is your only chance at that break into features you’ve been
nagging me for. We both know making coffee is not one of your
strong points. Take advantage of your time there and make sure
it’s the best damn writing you’ve ever done. Make Escudero talk.
You’re a smart girl. Figure it out.
Cheers,
Adam
She stared at his sign-off—cheers. Her jaw tightened and tears
burned her eyes. Cheers? Cheers! Where did he get off saying
cheers? Cheers you say to mates. Cheers you say to work colleagues.
Cheers you say to … Oh. Well, technically she was his employee
and nothing else now. Life had gotten complicated way too quickly,
although she should thank her lucky stars for her timely escape.
Dani ran her fingers over the bare skin that once proudly displayed an engagement ring. Throwing it at Adam’s head had given
her little satisfaction and she still couldn’t get used to seeing her
naked finger.
Even though she’d witnessed her parents’ relationship fall apart
and her own attempts at love had been pretty pathetic, she’d given
in to Adam’s charms and allowed him to enter her life with an
estranged wife and son in tow. A tinge of guilt raced through her
for being part of the reason Adam hadn’t reconciled with his wife
earlier. After all, she knew what it was like for a parent to take off
and leave a kid wondering what they’d done wrong. She didn’t even
begrudge him when he returned to his family, but it was the way he
did it that hurt most. Really, who visits their ex to tell them they’re

10

Alli Sinclair

getting married and—whoops!—accidentally sleeps with said ex
then decides the relationship is back on?
The only reason Adam let her branch into features was because
he felt guilty for dumping her and going back to his wife. He probably thought that once Dani had established herself, she’d leave
the magazine anyway. That would be easier than him inventing a
reason to fire her.
Clicking onto her bank account, Dani checked the balance then
read Adam’s email again. Reaching out to her ex had been a mistake.
She logged off and slammed the laptop lid shut. Carlos Escudero
didn’t know it yet, but he’d just met his match.

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