By: Alana Albertson
To her millions of fans, ballroom champion Selena Marcil seems to have the perfect life: a great dance partner, a hit reality show, and celebrity perks. But underneath the glamorous ball gowns, Selena longs to find someone to share her life with when the stage lights dim.
Selena’s childhood sweetheart, Bret Lord, hung up his dance shoes after winning two national titles with her as a teenager, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He never saw his former fiancée again, except on television and on the cover of men’s magazines. Ten years and three deployments later, Bret gets an offer to audition for Selena’s dance show. When the Marine Corps gives him temporary leave to appear on the series, Bret can’t refuse the quick cash that will enable him to provide financially for the widow of his buddy, even if it does mean coming face to face with his past.
When Bret shows up at her national championship, Selena is shocked. For years she searched for him to no avail. After spending time with Bret, Selena realizes despite their past romance, they have no future. He has no desire to live under a spotlight and she has no desire to leave it. Can Selena and Bret recognize when Love Waltzes In?
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Top Ten Things About Love Waltzes In
I 1. Istarted writing it in 2005.
22. It was originally a chick lit story with 6 first person POVs.
33. Benny Brooks is based on my old dance coach.
44. Xavier and Robyn’s home is based on my parents’ home.
55. The book won and finaled in 7 RWA contests.
66. My first professional dance partner was a former Marine.
77. I used to drive Cheryl Burke to dance lessons in Redwood City, California.
88. The voice actor for the audio version has the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard.
99. A producer is interested in making it a Broadway musical!
110. Bret’s last name, Lord, was the last name of my friend’s fiancé. He was killed in Iraq.
Staff Sergeant Bret Lord sat on the dirty floor of his tent, going through the day’s mail: the latest Men’s Fitness magazine from his sister, a care package from his mom. He ripped open the package—socks, lip balm, sunflower seeds, and a thin letter that contained an old magazine clipping.
I miss you very much. Benny asked me to send you this article. I really wish you would consider his offer. Please stay safe.
He swallowed hard. A neon sticky pressed on the wrinkled page had a note scrawled on it from his former master dance coach.
We’ll make it worth your time.
Thumbing the edge of the article, Bret stared at the sixteen-year-old boy in the picture and could barely recognize himself. His shoulder length, wavy blond hair was slicked back, not shorn in a “high and tight” like his current haircut. No signs of the tattoos or muscles that currently defined his body. Golden skin stained from a bottle, not the harsh sun of Iraq. His arms were wrapped around a gorgeous, curvy young girl with long jet-black hair. The jade Latin gown she wore matched the color of her almond-shaped eyes.
Bret tossed the article aside and removed his nine-mil pistol from his holster to clean it.
Lance Corporal Hernandez walked by Bret and snatched the article off his cot. After staring at it, Hernandez’s face brightened.
“Hey, Staff Sergeant, this you?”
“No, it’s my clone who’s also named Bret Lord.” Bret slid the rail back on his weapon and began disassembling it.
“Staff Sergeant, you know Selena Marcil? Did you hit that?”
“Shut up, Hernandez, or the one getting hit will be you—with the butt stock of my rifle.” Bret grabbed the paper out of Hernandez’s hands, and smacked him on the side of the head. The kid didn’t flinch.
“Staff Sergeant Twinkle Toes. Hey—can you hook me up with Selena? I’ll be her boy toy. I love her. Man, she’s smoking. Has the nicest ass. Not like all those skinny, Russian chicks on that show.” He nodded to himself with an eyebrow dancing. “Selena’s on my list. She’s Latina, too. We’d be perfect together. What was she doing with a gringo like you?”
“Hernandez, you’re way out of line.” Bret reassembled his pistol.
“My bad, Staff Sergeant.”
Bret grabbed the article, his pack, and his rifle. It was impossible to get some privacy in the tent. His only option was to sit outside in a sandstorm but even that sounded like a welcome retreat from his immature men. He walked about five hundred feet, then plopped down in the hot sand.
The red sky hung above him, thick from smoke from the nearby town. Bret struggled to catch a glimpse of the distant mountains. Sand seemed to pelt down from the heavens, blinding him and settling into every crevice in his body. He closed his eyes against the sting of the sand, and turned his thoughts to Selena. Was she the diva the tabloids made her out to be? Even after ten years, he could almost smell her buttery-coconut scent. A welcome change from the overflowing shitters, toxic diesel, and stench of his fellow Marines who hadn’t bathed in three weeks.
The deep popping sound of shots from a nearby AK-47 roused his ears but Bret didn’t move.
As a marksmanship instructor, he could distinguish the sound of any weapon system. These shots weren’t the lighter, faster rounds of his men’s M16s. Looking past the palm trees that peppered the dismal scene of dilapidated shacks, he tried to get a location on the origin of the gunfire. Probably just some insurgents outside of base. The rules of engagement were clear—he couldn’t stop them from killing each other even if he wanted to. And he definitely wasn’t going to endanger the lives of his men.
The sandstorm let up, and he reached into his pack to grab dinner. Spaghetti with Meat and Sauce was his favorite Meal Ready to Eat, even if it did taste like chalk. He hoped it came with cinnamon apples for dessert. He opened the box and laid out his day’s bounty: cherry-blueberry cobbler, potato sticks, wheat snack bread, plain cheese spread, lemon-lime beverage powder, and accessory pack “A” – coffee, creamer, sugar, salt, Tabasco, a moist towelette, toilet paper, chewing gum, and matches. Bret opened the cooking bag, placed the spaghetti pouch in it, filled it with water, and then leaned it against a rock to cook.
He stared at the picture of himself and Selena winning the U.S. National Youth Amateur Latin Ballroom Championship. Selena was the star of the hit series Dancing under the Stars. His childhood sweetheart was now plastered on the cover of magazines, billboards, and advertisements. The details of his life back then had faded away from his memory. Being at war made everything a blur.
Bret took a swig of water from his camelbak and downed two anti-malaria pills: one blue, one pink. The Marine Corps assured the troops that it was safe but Bret couldn’t help but wonder if the pills caused his daily headaches. Then again, maybe the migraines were just from the hundred-degree heat.
Staff Sergeant Ray Wilson emerged from the tent, and sat beside him. Even though Bret had wanted to be alone, he was happy to have his friend’s company.
“Slim Jim?” Ray offered. As Bret ripped the plastic off the snack, Ray nodded at the magazine article lying in the sand. “What’s that all about?”
Bret grunted. “A month ago, my mom told me that the judge on Dancing asked her if I would consider doing the show. He just sent me a note.”
“For real?” Ray took a bite of his own Slim Jim. “You’d have to be stupid to give up this paradise of sand and gunfire for the mansions of Hollywood. Your mother does realize you’re a Marine right? You can’t just leave the Corps and go on reality television.”
“That’s what I told her. But she has this crazy idea that the Marine Corps would let me do it for one season—like a recruiting tool. I doubt that, but I could use my vacation leave. Remember that kid on American Pop Star?”
“Yeah. Didn’t he gain like thirty pounds and fail his PFT? Can you still dance, Patrick Swayze?”
“Good enough to teach some teen mom from MTV how to cha-cha. I’d be the laughing stock of the Corps.”
“Maybe not. I mean you are the only Devil Dawg who happens to be a ballroom champion. You could be that all-American hero. The pretty face that recruits a load more boys to come join the rest of us here, and get shot at.”
“If you think it sounds so great, I’ll tell her you’ll do it.” Bret hated the public’s obsession with the “celebrities” on these shows. Young kids who became millionaires for making a sex tape or wasting their days doing nothing but going to the gym, tanning and partying. Meanwhile, Bret and his buddies were out here in hell, dodging bullets.
Bret checked his spaghetti. He dug into the warm, gooey meal.
Ray shrugged. “The only dance I know is the ‘Harlem Shake,’ and something tells me I’d be more of a target for that than I am for being a Marine in Iraq.”
Bret had no desire to ever dance again. Once he’d joined the Corps, he had found his calling. “Nah, I’d rather stay here with my men. I wouldn’t even consider it—if it weren’t for Pierce.”
Ray blinked hard. “What does the show have to do with Pierce?”
“I promised him that I’d take care of his family if anything happened to him. If I did the show, I could earn enough money to buy them a house.”
“Dawg, you would do that for them? That would be crazy.”
“He’d have done it for me.” Bret knew that Pierce would’ve done anything for him. Pierce had already proved that.
They sat there in silence.
Ray nodded toward Bret. “Pierce was a good dude. You should do it.”
Bret’s hands became sticky with sweat. “I couldn’t. I’d make a fool out of myself.”
“Man, it wouldn’t be that bad.” Ray stretched out. “And you can go check out your ex-fiancée—she is Maxim’s Sexiest Girl Alive. Even if she is with that pretty-boy dancer.”
“Dima? That guy’s a jerk. He was one of our coaches. But I would never get back together with Selena.” Though she was sexier than ever, Bret had no desire to go there, despite the fact that he could still remember every inch of her body. A relationship between them could never work out. She was too focused on her career—always had been. He loved the Marines and wouldn’t allow himself to get tempted by the fame and money of Hollywood. But he still felt protective over her after all she had been through as a child and he hated seeing her all sexed up for the cameras. The thought of a bunch of Marines jerking off to pictures of his first love made him sick.
Ray rolled his eyes. “Well you never know. Maybe she’s changed.” Ray broke out a bag of Skittles. “I’ll go with you. Can you request Beyoncé as your partner?”
Bret laughed. “Not sure if Jay Z would like that. Or your wife.” Ray had one of the good ones. Ray’s wife was any Marine’s dream. Beautiful and faithful, Nia raised their four children while Ray was away. She was the head of the Key Wives’ Club, kept her body tight, and still had time to send Ray the best care packages, hence his endless supply of Slim Jims.
Bret had tried to have that family life once, but it didn’t work out. After that experience, Bret had vowed never to get close to anyone again, at least until he left the Corps. He needed to focus on guiding his men—not be distracted wondering if another man kept his girl’s bed warm while Bret fought a war thousands of miles away.
Ray stood up. “Nia’d be cool with it. She loves the show, man. Do it. Big shot reality star will need security. I got your back.”
If Bret did it, he’d want to have Ray by his side to handle the entertainment world. But it wouldn’t be to get back with Selena. Bret had no desire to live in the spotlight, and from what he could see, she had no desire to leave it. He stuffed the article back into his pocket containing his “If I should die” letter.
The roar of the rounds boomed through the sky. His cammies were soaked in sweat and felt heavy on his chest. He couldn’t see anything, but the rumbling of the helicopters overhead told him this was no training exercise.
Ray and Bret didn’t say a word; they knew what was about to go down. A fire built in Bret’s chest and adrenaline took over. Moments like this made all the sacrifices of war worth it—knowing that his life meant something and that he was responsible for not only protecting his men, but also ensuring the safety of Americans back home. Bret tossed the rest of the food into his pack and gathered his weapon. They raced into the tent.
Bret screamed at his men. “Grab your weapons and take cover!”
Alana Albertson is the former President of both Romance Writers of Americas’s Young Adult and Chick Lit chapters and the founder of Academe Advantage, a college admissions & test preparation company. Alana Albertson holds a Masters of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. A recovering professional ballroom dancer, Alana currently writes contemporary romance and young adult fiction. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, two young sons, and four dogs. When she’s not spending her time needlepointing, dancing, or saving dogs from high kill shelters through Pugs N Roses, the rescue she founded, she can be found watching episodes of House Hunters, Homeland, or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.
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