Return of the Untamed Billionaire

By: Carol Marinelli

CHAPTER ONE

EVERY TIME SHE danced it was for him.

It was the closing night in London of the spectacular ballet Firebird.

The last time she had been here, Anya had gone from being one of the princesses and an understudy to dancing the leading role.

Now, due to popular demand, the stunning ballet was back.

It was Tatania, Anya’s stage persona, the gathering audience had come to see.

The theatre was packed and Anya had been told that there was a duchess in the audience tonight; yet Anya would dance only for him.

For Roman Zverev.

Her first and only love.

Apart from ballet.

The hours of practice and absolute self-control, the rigorous preparations and the endless reach for perfection Anya did for herself.

Yet, when she danced, it was always for him.

Now she had her own dressing-room. Like most performers, Anya was swathed in superstition and her dressing table was prepared like an altar. It was filled with tiny trinkets she had gathered over the years and specific make-up and brushes that were all neatly arranged.

She had warmed up. Her feet were bandaged and her pointe shoes had been broken in—there were other pairs ready if needed. She had already scraped her straight brown hair into a tight high bun and whitened her face. Carefully, and with great precision, she applied the black and gold make-up that enhanced her pale green eyes.

Everything was done to order.

Now, as she was given the half-hour call, she took a drink of coconut water and slowly ate half a banana. The other half of the banana she carefully wrapped and would eat during the interval, along with a small chocolate treat.

Anya loved chocolate.

It reminded her of Roman.

After she had eaten, Anya dabbed her mouth and then she put on her headpiece of red and gold feathers. She carefully secured it, checking it over and over. Happy that it was firmly in place, she painted her lips crimson and then called for the costume manager.

She slipped off her silk robe and stepped into her costume. The tight-fitting bodice was a deep red with orange and gold appliqué and the ten-layered tutu was adorned with silk feathers.

Anya raised her arms as the concealed zipper was closed. The costume fitted perfectly and showed the long slender lines of her arms and legs.

Out in the real world, her tiny frame drew stares and whispers because Anya was so very thin, and yet that tiny body was a powerhouse of lean muscle and she was incredibly fit.

Oh, every single day, she worked for it. Hours of training and rehearsal and rigorous self-control meant that her body could perform feats most others could only dream of. Yet, despite her command on the stage, right now she shivered with nerves as the ten-minute call came and the costume manager did a final check.

Now she was Tatania, her stage persona.

‘Merde!’ the costume manager said—the dance equivalent of ‘Break a leg’—and Tatania nodded but did not respond because her teeth were chattering too much.

She wrapped a heavy silk shawl, one that she had bought for her mother, around her bare arms and shoulders.

Her mother, Katya, had been a single mum and a cook in a Russian orphanage. She had died recently but had lived to see her daughter reach these heights and for that Anya was grateful. Katya had had a vision for her daughter long before Anya had.

As a young girl, Anya could remember practising her dance steps in the kitchen of the detsky dom where Katya had worked. As Anya had grown older, rather than going home to their tiny cold, empty house, she would go to the orphanage and practise her steps with an ache of hunger in her stomach for the stew her mother cooked.

Sometimes she would sneak a taste but, if caught, her mother would give her a slap.

‘Do you want to get big, like me?’ Katya would say.

Of course they had clashed, though never more so than during her teenage years.

‘No boys,’ Katya had said, when she had caught Anya staring at Roman. ‘Especially not one like Roman Zverev. He is trouble.’

‘No,’ Anya had said. ‘He just misses his twin.’

‘The twin he beat up, the twin he scarred.’

‘No,’ Anya had attempted, ‘that was just because Daniil refused to be adopted without his twin and it was the only way Roman could get him to leave.’

‘Don’t answer back,’ Katya had said and had pulled down the roller blind and sent Anya to the back of the kitchen. That night, once home, Katya had spoken more harshly to her daughter. ‘There can be no boys. To succeed with your ballet you can have only one focus.’