Ballet had a smell. Especially here in the rehearsal halls. Resin, chalk, and the sweat of healthy animals. He shifted on the uncomfortable plastic chair some press agent had set up for the interviews. The room was big and empty with just this table and a chair set at one end. Shit, why was he so nervous?
He'd only been waiting a couple of minutes, but his hands were shaking. He didn't get it. He'd interviewed heads of state, movie stars, and a few revolutionaries, with zero nerves. This guy made him twitchy. Of course, he'd just seen him dance. This may have been a dress rehearsal, but since the press was there, the cast had given their all. Especially Medveyev. Mac remembered his folks talking about the great Nijinsky, who appeared to levitate himself out the window at the end of the Spectre of the Rose. The legend said he didn't seem to move a muscle in preparation for the jump. Nijinsky had a serious contender. Medveyev didn't dance--he flew.
The ballet had been restaged. Instead of a lyrical rose enchanting a debutante as in the original, Medveyev was now a biker bad boy creeping into the bedroom of a rich girl. Fokine's choreography had been modernized. Even the familiar von Weber music got a bit of an atonal twist.
The dancer had leaped on the stage, stalking the sleeping girl like some kind of feline predator, his famous mane of golden hair flowing over his shoulders. Christ, Mac's hands felt damp just thinking of it. And when the moment had come for Medveyev's grand exit, escaping the girl's outraged father in this version, he flew into the air and through the window. Fucking eagle. Audiences would shit. Especially the women. The Russian was fire, burning so bright, you couldn't look away, even though you knew it would turn you to ashes. Jesus, he'd better not put that in the review.
Mac started and looked up. He hadn't heard a sound. Medveyev stood inside the rehearsal room door. Maybe he'd conjured the guy.
Controlled. That was the first thought Mac had. His hair was wound tightly in a queue at his nape, showing off his face. And that face was architectural perfection. High cheekbones under large, slightly slanted eyes. Maybe a little Tartar in there someplace a few generations back. The beauty suggested exotic and wild, but Mac saw none of it.
The only emotion? Wariness. Probably hated reporters. He still wore the form-fitting blue jean-looking tights he'd performed in, but he'd layered a silk shirt over the smooth, taut chest. Funny. He wasn't tall. Maybe five feet ten. Mac would tower over him. On the stage, he looked like a god. Of course, he was doing a pretty good god imitation right now. Like Adonis.
Mac stood. "Good afternoon, cavalier. I'm MacKenzie...uh, Mac MacAllister from the Daily Window."
The dancer gave a small smile. Good, the "cavalier" reference gained Mac a couple points. Proved he wasn't a rube.
"Mac...Kenzie, I don't believe we have met before. Mr. Hirschfield is...?" He waved an elegant hand in question.
"Sick. Sorry. I'm filling in."
"I see." Medveyev hadn't moved from beside the door. Mac wondered if he'd just leave. He stood like a statue in the familiar toes-out position. It reminded Mac of his parents. Dancers' hips were trained so that their feet naturally fell into that stance.
Shoot. Mac didn't want him to leave. "I'm sorry Hirschfield isn't here, but I'll give this story top priority, I promise."
The golden head tilted down as Medveyev looked Mac over. Crap. Maybe his hoodie and jeans were a bit out of character for the New York Ballet Theatre. Probably should've shaved closer, but this was him. Tough shit. Still--
"I assume this is not your regular, how do you say...beat, Mac...Kenzie?" His accent was mostly British, mostly posh, with a little rough Russian and Cockney creeping through.
"Yeah. I'm a hard-news reporter usually."
"And Ms. Chan sent you here because...?" Again with the hand wave.
"I grew up around ballet. My parents are dancers."
That got his attention. "MacAllister, did you say?"
"Yes, my father is Devin MacAllister. My mom's..."
"Shauna Rendell." He gave his first real smile. All those sculpted planes softened, and dimples appeared, making Mac realize that the dancer was very young, probably no more than twenty-four or -five. Amazing what he'd accomplished in his short life. "I know your parents, of course." Somebody must have pushed the Go switch, because Medveyev crossed the space and took the chair opposite where Mac had been sitting. "Sit, sit." The hands waved as if the dancer had been trying to get him to sit for hours.
Mac sat. Crisis averted.
"How are your parents? I haven't seen them since my last trip to Dallas."
"They're well. Hate Dallas, love teaching, so they stay."
"Ah yes, Texas, cowboys, and yee-haa. But still proud of their ballet. Your parents have elevated the company there. They are splendid professionals."
Mac smiled. His parents were going to freak when he told them about this conversation. "They'll be honored with your compliment. They're big fans."
Hand wave. Shy glance. "Ah. As you say. Now, what may I tell you about our little ballet, Mac...Kenzie?"
Man, the guy was just beautiful. Hard not to notice. "Just Mac. I wondered how the audiences in New York received the restaging of such a time-honored classic."
Medveyev had been looking at his hands but glanced up. His eyes were actually turquoise blue, like the stones in a Native American necklace. "I'm sure you've seen some of the reviews."
"The adventurous and avant-garde receive it with open arms. The purists?" He shrugged. "Shit their bloody pants."
Mac's laugh exploded. "Crap. I will just bet." He felt warm hearing the dancer's musical laugh. "Man, I gotta tell you, you are one bad-ass dancer."
The head cocked. "And bad-ass is...good ass, yes?" He glanced over his shoulder, looking at his own round, hard-muscled buttocks on the chair.
Okay, that was coy, but Mac was game. "Yeah, very good ass." Turquoise eyes met his, and Mac quickly turned to his notes. "So I've got some questions..."
For the next few minutes he was a good little boy and asked all the appropriate questions about the ballet. The challenge of the new choreography, how Medveyev trained for the famous flying exit through the window, what he was dancing next--all the usual stuff. But some of Debbie's personal mojo kept pushing at him.
"So, cavalier, do you have a wife or a girlfriend?"
He got the unwavering stare. "I'm sure it cannot have escaped your notice that I am homosexual."
Man, the way he said that word was a sexual experience all by itself. "I wouldn't assume."
The dancer sat back in his chair. "I appreciate that."
"So, do you have a partner?"
"Not at the present time." One pale eyebrow rose. "Do you plan to put that information in your review?"
Mac paused. Why had he asked the question? "Actually, I was thinking maybe the Window could do a more personal story on you--I mean, if you're open to such an idea." Yeah, actually that would be cool. Woo would love to have the gorgeous superstar featured on the site. "I mean, I'll still do the review. It'll be posted tonight, but maybe the other story could come later. I could e-mail you some questions, talk on the phone, you know." Jesus, that could be a good story.
"Many people have written about me, but I do not relish coming off as a pop star, or a bloody porn star for that matter."
Mac warmed to his own subject. "No, see, I'm no dancer, but I know the craft, you know? I can write it from that perspective. Of course, I'd want to tell your personal story too, as a dancer. But not anything you don't want to reveal. I'm no tabloid reporter."
The gaze never wavered, then Medveyev smiled. Dimples appeared again, startling in those sculpted cheeks. "I have a better idea. Why don't you take me to dinner tonight and get as personal as you wish?"
WTF, the man was flirting with him full-on! Did the guy think he was gay? He should just leave, but offending Medveyev would not only hurt the Window's chances of future stories, his parents would never speak to him again. "Look, I--"
"I am only teasing, Mac...Kenzie."
Mac shook his head. "Okay, well..."
The dimpled grin was wicked. "I, of course, will pay for dinner."
Mac laughed, defeated. He had to face it; the guy was unbelievably talented and gorgeous. Mac should be flattered. No, actually he was flattered. He grinned back. "No, Woo Ming Chan will pay for dinner. Where shall I pick you up?"
"What do you have for me, Walter?" Horst Von Berg leaned back in the well-cushioned office chair and faced the rumpled informant standing in front of his desk.
The man looked defensive. "Not much, Mr. Von Berg. Nothing definitive."
"I do not pay you for definitive, Walter. I pay you for rumors, tall tales, possibilities, and suppositions. Now, what do you have for me?"
"Well, there is one thing..."
He sat forward. "Yes, go on."
"I've heard a rumor that there's some online news reporter in LA who is looking into Terrebone for a story. But I haven't heard any confirmation."
"Looking into him how?"
"Well, I hear he thinks Terrebone stole a statue--the one from you, y'know?"
"Yes, I very much do know. And this reporter believes this to be true?"
"That's what I hear, but no confir--"
"Yes, yes, no confirmation, I know." The man was an idiot. "Send me the details by e-mail, Walter."
He flicked his fingers, and the man left his office with a quiet click of the door.
An ally in the news business? How remarkable.
Mac was stuffed. He leaned back in his chair. He should have worn his cargoes. These black pants were just too tight, although Debbie called them sexy. His host had donned a pair of jeans so form-fitting, it was a wonder food could enter his stomach at all. He'd topped it with a beautiful white silk shirt and a deep burgundy leather jacket. The amazing golden mane lay loose over his shoulders. When they'd walked in, Mac had heard people gasp as they passed their tables. Talk about your masterpiece. Somehow, he made Mac think of the statue, the Golden Dancer. The one he was sure Terrebone had stolen.
Mac had to force himself not to stare at Trelain. So like Paavo. Actually, the Russian was more beautiful, and his impact was visceral. Still, Mac felt comfortable...in an off-balance kind of way. The guy was charming and easy to talk to. Mac had gotten some good information while they'd munched their sole almondine. "Man, that was good. More than I'd usually expect from a hotel restaurant."
Trelain sipped at his red wine. "I've had good luck here. The food is consistently excellent. They're also very nice to me." Trelain leaned down; the silken curtain of hair fell forward and caused him to flip it off his shoulder. He massaged his calf absentmindedly, clearly still thinking about the kindness of the staff.
"Does it hurt?"
The clear eyes focused. "Excuse me?"
Mac pointed to the calf. "Your leg. You were rubbing it."
The dancer sat back. "Oh, yes. Dancers always hurt somewhere. If not, you're doing it wrong."
Mac laughed. "Why does that sound like a T-shirt slogan? 'Dancers Do It Wrong.'"
Medveyev gave him a sly, sideways glance. "I have seldom been accused of such."
Mac couldn't resist. "I'll bet."
This time Mac got a big smile, but the hand made its way back to the offending calf.
"I think that calf is really bothering you."
Trelain sighed. "Actually, yes. I injured it in rehearsal two days ago. It felt fine this morning, but the rigors of the performance have irritated it. It's nothing."
"Hey, have you ever used that great Chinese analgesic? It's this blue liquid. I keep it with me all the time because I run, and I'm always straining something."
"No, I've never seen it. I have some medication they gave me in my room."
Mac grabbed his backpack from the back of the chair. After some digging around, he produced the little blue bottle. Small triumph, with all the stuff he kept in there. "Here, try this."
Trelain looked around the largely full dining room. While the two of them had been seated in a quiet booth in the back, clearly many of the diners were there to say they had been in the same room with the rock-star-popular dancer. Mac saw that anything the man did was going to be noticed. Some headline would show up tomorrow: DANCER NURSES INJURY IN RESTAURANT. Mac shrugged. "Probably not such a good idea, huh?"
Medveyev nodded. "I think not. Perhaps I could ask the concierge to find me some. What is it called?"
Mac stared at the bottle covered in Chinese characters. It was his last one, and he didn't get to Chinatown all that often. "Look, why don't you just take it?"
Trelain seemed to sense his hesitation. "I couldn't take your secret remedy, Mac-Kenzie. But why don't you bring it up to my room? I can use the magic potion, and you can ask me any other questions you may have."
The dancer's expression was as neutral as a mannequin. No flirtation or double-entendre. Mac wanted to snort. Yeah, right. He felt oddly torn between a desire to go upstairs with Medveyev and an equally strong urge to just run. What did he always do when something both intrigued him and scared him? Live grenades in Afghanistan, gorgeous blond men in skintight blue jeans? "Sure, lead the way."