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LUKA (The Rhythm Series, Book 2)

Jane Harvey-Berrick


  Slave to the Rhythm (Rhythm series #1)

  Luka (Rhythm series #2)

  The Traveling Man (Traveling Series #1)

  The Traveling Woman (Traveling Series #2)

  Roustabout (Traveling Series #3)

  The Traveling Series Boxed Set

  The Education of Sebastian (Education Series #1)

  The Education of Caroline (Education Series #2)

  The Education of Sebastian and The Education of Caroline (Education Series combined edition)

  Semper Fi (Education Series #3)

  Standalone Titles

  The New Samurai


  Dangerous to Know and Love

  Playing in the Rain

  The Dark Detective

  At Your Beck & Call

  Summer of Seventeen



  One Careful Owner (coming next)


  Copyright © 2016 Jane Harvey-Berrick

  ISBN 9780992924683

  Harvey Berrick Publishing

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you do, you are STEALING.

  I only distribute Luka through Amazon and Create Space. If you have received this book from anywhere else, it is a pirate copy, it is illegal, and you’ve really spoiled my day.

  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  All rights reserved.

  Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

  Editing by Kirsten Olsen and Trina Miciotta

  Cover design by Hang Le /

  Cover photograph by istock

  Formatted by Christine Borgford /

  Table of Contents


  Other Titles by Jane Harvey-Berrick



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23



  More Red Curtain Novels


  To Edwin and Eugene, years of friendship and a lifetime of love.

  I’M NOT A good man.

  I’m not a bad man.

  But I made some bad mistakes, made the wrong choices. Who hasn’t? But the consequences are tearing us apart.

  I love two people.

  I love them differently.

  The world tells me I have to choose. Why?

  Why do I have to choose?

  Love hurts. Love flays you raw and leaves your skin hanging from your body in bloody strips. It brands and burns you. Ultimately, love is the worst thing that can happen to a human being.

  In my opinion.

  I loved two people.

  I loved them differently.

  One was a man.

  One was a woman.

  And I never wanted to hurt anyone, least of all the two people who mean more to me than anyone else in the world.

  Love isn’t supposed to be that hard.

  It started with a note.

  There was no reason on earth for me to think that this short message would change my life. Or fuck it up. Depending on your point of view.

  But it did.

  Twenty-four hours earlier . . .

  IT WAS OUR final performance.

  We gathered together holding hands, trying to make a rough circle in the cramped backstage area of the London theater.

  Ash looked at each one of us, his eyes shimmering with pride and unshed tears.

  “It’s been an honor and a privilege working with you. You have brought Slave to life. We’ve made people think, and we’ve made them feel. Thank you.”

  He glanced down at his wife, Laney, who was watching him, her eyes full of warmth and love.

  Seeing them together was a lesson in possibilities: Ash so strong, so athletic, an amazing dancer; Laney strong in different ways, a steel flower trapped in her wheelchair.

  “This is our last night together for now. But then we’ll be preparing for a new tour next year.”

  He paused, his eyes sweeping across Yveta’s face. We all knew that the months away from the show would give her time to recover from the plastic surgery that she needed. The operation would smooth out the jagged scar running down the side of her face, a vicious reminder of being tortured by the Russian mafia.

  I’d seen Ash’s scars, too. We all had.

  He could have re-cast her role and carried on touring, but he would never do that.

  I squeezed Yveta’s hand. She inclined her head to acknowledge me, but wouldn’t meet my eyes.

  Ash smiled, his gaze touching each one of us.

  “You are moja družina—my family.”

  He took a deep breath.

  “And now . . . we dance like the world is watching.”

  Sarah gripped my other hand tightly, peeking up at me before she glared at Ash.

  “Bloody hell, Ash! If you’ve made my mascara run, I’m so kicking your arse!”

  Her complaint broke the emotion-fueled moment, and we all laughed.

  “Two minutes to curtain,” called out the stage manager.

  We all hustled to take our places for the first number, and Ash walked with Laney as she wheeled herself to a spot where she could watch from the wings.

  I felt a shiver of anticipation skitter across my skin.

  “God, I’ll never get enough of this,” whispered Sarah. “I hate it and I love it.”

  I knew exactly what she meant. The nerves never really stopped, but the second I stepped on stage, adrenaline and muscle memory took over. My body would respond before my brain felt the fear, the heightened awareness of dancing in front of a thousand strangers.

  I could hear the audience, hear their breaths, feel their excitement, feel the heat rolling forward from the press of bodies.

  And then the houselights sank and the theater dropped into darkness, the electricity of expectancy lighting a fuse.

  Down in the orchestra pit, the band waited, the small lights attached to their music stands throwing their faces into deep shadow. Al, the conductor, tapped his baton, and there was a collective breath as they prepared to play, fingers hovering above keys and strings, the drummer poised, tension in his arms.

  Then the music blasted out in an explosion of sound and light, and I was on stage, alive, powerful, doing what I was born to do.

  I became the role, I lived the dance, blood pounding through my veins, my muscles coiled and released as I lunged and leapt, my arms sweeping through the space around me, filling it with spira
ls of strength and emotion.

  Nothing could beat this feeling, this intensity, this desire to drink from the well of life.

  And it was magnificent.

  For a split second, I caught Ash’s eye, and we shared something that only another dancer can understand—a connection, an emotion so fleeting, I could have dreamed it.

  I feel it too, brother.

  Two hours later, we stood bathed in sweat under the bright stage lights, smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes, soaking up applause as the crowd rose to their feet, cheers and whistles soaring above the roar. My chest heaved from the exertion, but also from the deep emotion that dancing always brought to me, and I knew that everyone on this stage felt the exact same way.

  Sarah stood next to me, tears running down her face, happy tears; tears of achievement and joy; tears of satisfaction and sorrow that it was all over. The end of a performance was a birth—the memories of the audience would live on—and a death, too, as another show ended. So tonight, we were celebrating and grieving.

  “I’m going to miss this so fucking much,” she sobbed, staring up at me, then out at the cheering crowd. “God, I’m going to miss you, Luka, you bloody great hunk of sexy Slovenian.”

  “I’ll miss you too, buča,” I said sincerely, leaning down to kiss her cheek, tasting the salt of her tears.

  All the dancers linked hands, raising our arms in the air as we took our final bow. Ash stepped forward, looking down at the band in the pit and applauding them, too. Then he clasped his hands together and pressed them to his heart, before waving to the audience and leaving the stage.

  Yveta, Gary and Oliver stepped forward with me and Sarah to take our bows as co-leads, then we too left the stage.

  And it was all over.

  The applause drained away as the curtain fell for the last time and the house lights came up.

  Then it was the slow descent to normalcy as we peeled away the roles we’d played, along with our costumes, wigs and makeup. And in my case, the weird yellow contact lenses that gave me a wolf-like appearance.

  I wouldn’t miss wearing those every night.

  Stagehands started to break down the set, ready for shipping back to the U.S.

  We iced our aching muscles and took our turns to shower in the cramped backstage bathrooms, packing away makeup, spare clothes and dance shoes, hairnets that go under wigs, hairspray that goes on the bottom of shoes when the stage feels slippery. And there was Wendy, our costume manager scooping up our stage clothes to be washed and dry-cleaned, tutting over torn seams and missing sequins, sweat stains and broken zips. You could get special undergarments that absorbed sweat, but it didn’t really work for dancers who showed a lot of flesh most of the time. I was the exception, wearing a three-piece suit for this show, made from a lightweight material that moved with my body. It made me sweat like a bastard.

  But tonight, instead of the usual post-performance yoga pants and hoodies, we were all dressing for the wrap party.

  Sarah was threatening to do a Fame / Zombie Apocalypse mash-up, until Gary told her that no one would be able to tell the difference from her usual clothes.

  Ash and Laney had rented the top floor of a nearby club and arranged for food and drinks for all of us. And dancing, of course.

  All the guys in the band were coming, and the backstage crew, as soon as they’d finished packing our props and scenery. We hung out quite often, except for the short runs. The musicians and dancers could go back to the hotel after each show, but if we were only there for one day, the crew had to break down the scenery and drive to the new location overnight, ready to set up the next morning. That was brutal, but thankfully we didn’t do many of those, although there had been a few of them. They got more down time when we spent several days or weeks in one city. It helped when the local crew was efficient, as well. The guys in London had been amazing, and we’d invited them to our wrap party.

  Sarah leaned against the door of the men’s changing room, ignoring the fact that we were all half-naked. Or completely naked in my case.

  Not that nudity was a problem. It’s just part of the industry. We have to change in front of everyone all the time, especially in smaller theaters. You get desensitized pretty quickly. Dancers often forget nudity isn’t a usual state for other people, and if you’ve got friends who come to meet you after class or backstage, everyone’s stripping and they don’t know where to look. It’s pretty funny. The girls are in G-strings and the guys are walking around in dance belts—or less.

  They’re not sexy, but dance belts keep your equipment safe without giving the audience an anatomy lesson. Seriously. They have less material than a jockstrap, but everything still gets tucked up so your dick and balls don’t get bruised or crushed between your thighs—and dance belts also hide any of those pesky spontaneous erections.

  Right now, post-shower, Sarah was looking appreciatively at my bare butt.

  “God, Sarah, you’re such a skeevy perv,” Gary complained. “And anyway my butt is way better than Luka’s. I could crush walnuts with these buns of steel.”

  “What? Those saggy bun flaps? I don’t think so, luv. I’ve seen elephants with better skin tone. But dream on.”

  “You can talk! Look at those skinny tits—like two fried eggs on a plate. I’ve seen bigger boobs on Mr. Universe.”

  I smiled to myself, listening to them bickering like an old married couple. They’d be perfect together if Gary wasn’t gay.

  “He’s never going to sleep with you,” said Gary waspishly, jerking his head in my direction, “any more than he’s going to sleep with me.”

  “That would be an interesting threesome,” Oliver added as he removed his makeup.

  The small space had gone quiet and I glanced up, seeing Sarah and Gary staring at each other challengingly.

  “Pity he doesn’t sleep with people he works with,” Oliver added, an amused smile on his face as I caught his gaze in the mirror.

  He winked at me, knowing full well that he was winding things up between Sarah and Gary.

  “Hilary Clinton has more sex appeal,” Gary announced, glaring at Sarah and tossing a powder puff at her.

  “Witchy old queen,” she shot back.

  I checked the changing room once more, noticing an old t-shirt that had nearly gotten left behind, and stuffed it in my gym bag with my spare pair of Latin shoes.

  This had been the largest theater we’d played in all tour, with nearly 1200 seats. There was no other rush in the world that compared to listening to the applause of all those people. Not even sex.

  Although Ash disagreed. I asked him about that once, but he said I wouldn’t understand.

  “It’s love that makes the difference, brother.”

  I knew he’d say something like that and maybe he was right. But I’d been in love before and it sucked.

  Love hurt. Love flayed you raw and left your skin hanging from your body in bloody strips. It left you branded and burned. Ultimately, love was the worst thing that could happen to a human being. In my opinion.

  “Let’s leave Liberace crying over his sequins,” Sarah sniffed. “I’m ready to party. “Oliver, we’ll see you there.”

  “Not if he sees you first,” Gary sing-songed.

  “I was hoping he’d ditch you,” Sarah shot back.

  “You’re just jealous that I’ve seen Luka’s family jewels and you haven’t!”

  “Fuck off, you evil elf,” Sarah muttered. “And for your information, I have seen it—them—often.”

  “Only because you keep hanging around when he’s changing. He’s never going to plow your lady garden with his hot hoe.”

  “I’m standing right here!” I objected. “And neither of you are getting plowed.”

  Gary laughed loudly. “Told you! The man has had more pussy than a horny tom cat—ugh.”

  Sarah grabbed my bicep and linked her arm through mine as we headed out the artists’ entrance at the back of the theater.

  “What are you going
to do all summer without me?” she asked, leaning her head on my shoulder. “Are you sure you don’t want to change your mind and come to Oz? We’d have fun.”

  “Nah. I toured Australia the year before Slave. I’d like to spend some time in London. And anyway, I’d be a third wheel with you and James.”

  She rolled her eyes.

  “I’ve told you a gazillion times. He’s an ex and we are so not getting back together. He’s a nice guy, but that’s all.”

  “So why are you flying 10,000 miles to see him?”

  “I’m not. Well, not exactly. He says the lifestyle is amazing and that he could help get me a job. I just want to go and check things out. Visit the beach, catch a little sun. Just relax, you know?”

  “Sure, I’ll be doing that in London, without the beach.”

  “Huh, good luck with the sun!”

  “You’re the one flying into winter.”

  “It’s an Australian winter, which is way warmer than an English summer.”

  “Do you ever lose an argument, buča?”

  “Silly boy!”

  “Thought not,” I muttered under my breath.

  “By the way, what’s a booch-ka?”

  I laughed.

  “Is it something bad?”


  “Lu-ka!! Tell me what it means.”

  I grinned and pulled my arm free to sling it around her shoulders, drawing her in for a hug.

  “It means you’re cute when you’re mad.”

  “Tease,” she pouted.

  The Soho club had a line outside the door, but we walked right to the front, showing our invitations to the bouncer. There were some hot women in the line—serious talent. I know because I checked them out—and thought I might go down to the main part of the club later.

  Sarah tugged on my arm and gave me an irritated look. I smiled back.

  The guys from the band were already in the bar, and Sarah sashayed over to flirt with one of sax players, grinning at me over her shoulder. If they were going to hook up, tonight was the night.

  There must have been another entrance to the private room, because Laney was already sitting at a table with Ash. No way could she have gotten her wheelchair up the stairs. She waved at me, and I blew her a kiss. Ash raised his eyebrows challengingly, but I just winked at him.