Dream Spinner


By Kristen Ashley

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In this steamy and emotional contemporary romance from a New York Times bestselling author, two damaged souls must overcome the pain of their pasts to have the love they've always dreamed of.

Hattie Yates has finally met the man of her dreams. Yet years of abuse from her demanding father have left her petrified of disappointment. She’s already failed to reach her goal of becoming a professional ballerina—she can’t handle the terrible consequences of another dream becoming a nightmare. But when a stalker sets their sights on Hattie, there’s only one man she dares to hope can help . . . 

Axl Pantera knows Hattie is the only woman for him. Yet despite the attraction burning between them, Hattie refuses to let him in. The former soldier is determined to woo her into letting down her walls. And when danger comes calling, he’s up against more than her wary and bruised heart. Axl will do anything to prove to Hattie that they’re meant to be, but first, he’ll need to keep her safe. 


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Right at Him


It happened on the opening night of the Revue.

I knew it when I finished my dance.

And I looked for him.

They were there, all the guys (and Evie) to cheer us on.

To support us.

But when my dance was done, I didn't look to my friend Evie.

I didn't look to Lottie's man (and my friend) Mo.

I didn't look to Evie's guy (and also my friend) Mag.

I further didn't look to Ryn's fella (and yes, my friend too) Boone.

Or Auggie, who should be Pepper's, but he was not.

I looked right at him.

Right at him.

At Axl.

And he was looking at me.

Of course, I'd just been dancing.

But it was more.

Because I'd picked that song.

And it became even more when my eyes went right to his.

I saw how his face changed when I did this, and I didn't know him all that well, but I still read it.

I knew exactly what it meant, the way he was looking at me, and the fact, after I'd finished dancing to that song, I'd looked right at him.

And what it meant was…

I was in trouble.

Chapter One

Ivan the Terrible


It went well."

"Tens of thousands of dollars on teachers, leotards, pointe shoes, payin' for gas to drive you to class, recitals, competitions, and you're sittin' here tryin' to convince me all that was worth it seein' as you got the big promotion from being a stripper to being a burlesque dancer."

"It's not burlesque exactly. They're calling it a Revue."

"It's a fuckin' titty bar."

I sat opposite my father and decided it was a good time to start keeping my mouth shut.

Dad did not make that same decision.

"You can try to dress it up however you want, Hattie, but you're a glorified whore," he went on. "Though, just sayin', a whore's more honest. Least she doesn't take a man's cash while she's givin' him nothin' but a tease."

I wish I could say Dad was in a rare mood tonight.

But he wasn't.

It was just that it was more foul than normal.

A lot more.

"I think maybe I should go now," I said quietly.

Dad shook his head. "You never could hack listening to reason. Or honesty. Or truth. I can see you're too fat to be in New York or London, Paris or Moscow, but for fuck's sake, not even the Colorado Ballet?" Again with the head shaking. "Instead, you're onstage at Smithie's strip club."

Yes, whenever he got into calling me fat, it was time to go.

I got up and started clearing his dinner dishes.

"I can do that," he snapped.

He couldn't.

He could barely walk.

Mismanaged diabetes.

The mismanaged part being, when I was fed up with his abuse, I'd quit coming to give him his insulin, take his blood sugar, make sure he ate, and doctor his booze by watering it down so his drinking didn't put his body out of whack.

None of which he did for himself.

Three trips to the hospital, and the subsequent medical bills, which meant selling his old house (something I saw to), downsizing (something I also saw to), and putting up with his complaints he had about having to move (something I listened to, though the move part, I saw to), meant I kept coming back.

Mom didn't get it.

She'd washed her hands of him years ago. Even before she did it legally with the divorce.

But I simply could not do nothing and let my father die.

And I knew this would happen if I did not manage his health and his life.

I took his dishes to the kitchen, rinsed them, put them in the dishwasher, tidied and headed back to the living room to remove the TV tray from in front of Dad.

Then I was going to get my purse and go.

"Hattie, it's just—" he started in a much less ugly tone as I was folding up the tray.

"Don't," I whispered.

All these years, he thought he could dig in and dig in and dig in because…whatever.

He didn't like his job?

He didn't like his marriage?

He didn't like his health?

He didn't like his life?

So he took that out on his daughter?

And then he has a think about what he'd said, or what he'd done, and realizes he'd been a jerk, so he decides he can say he's sorry and that will wipe away all that came before, like it didn't happen.

It didn't wipe it away.

It never got wiped away.

A person was born clean.

But I believed they died with the stains their parents gave them.

Even if they lived to be a hundred and two.

I mean, seriously?

He'd called me a whore.

"I just wanted more for you, sweetheart," he said gently.

I looked him right in the eye.

"I started with a tour jeté down the center stage. It was massive. I was the first solo to go out. Ian wanted their attention. And I got it. He wanted to make a statement right off the bat this was a change for Smithie's. And I made that for him, and for Smithie, flying through the air in a titty bar."

"I wish I'd seen it," he lied.

"Well, I don't," I retorted. "Because you would have found something wrong with it. And you would have shared that with me. And I don't need that. Because I thought I was magnificent, and I probably was not, but at least it's nice to think I was, even if only for a little while."

On that, I moved to my bag while Dad called, "Hattie."

I said not a word.

I walked right out the door.

It was torture—stupid—but after that conversation, I did what I shouldn't do.

When I got in my car, I cued up Anya Marina's "Shut Up" on my iPhone, Bluetoothed it to the car stereo and listened to it on my way home.


Doing this playing the dance I'd choreographed to it in my head.

And thinking about the look on Axl's face after I was done.

That first dance I danced for the first solo at Smithie's on opening night five nights ago when Smithie's Club became Smithie's Revue.

The dance was slow, avant-garde, my movements staccato.

So when I'd do my double fouettés, arabesque turns, and the final grand jeté that was reminiscent of Kitri, it came as a shock to the system for the viewer.

And by that time, I fancied, they didn't care I was dancing in a red turtleneck bodysuit that had the thighs cut up nearly to my underarms.

Even for the patrons of a strip club, it was about the dance.

Days before that, when Dorian had cornered me, saying he wanted to see all the girls' routines so he could set the lineup, I'd performed it for him, just him and me.

And when I was done, he sat side stage at his uncle's strip joint that he was reforming into something else, and he did this immobile.

"You didn't like it," I'd said, thinking the avant-garde part would be too weird for the gentleman's club crowd and I should go back to my first thought, pulling something together for "Dancing Queen."

"You're first," Ian had declared. "You're also last. If they see you first, they'll stay and drink until the lights go down on you."

My heart had thumped hard at these words.

"So you liked it?" I asked hesitantly.

Ian stood to his impressive height and stated, "Hattie, you took something beautiful and made it cool. Sexy…and cool." He nodded decisively. "You're first, baby, and you're last. Every night."

I loved that Dorian clearly enjoyed what I did.

But I worried that this would make Lottie, the current headliner (and my friend…well, she used to be), mad at me, but since I was avoiding all the girls, and had been doing it for so long (weeks!) I had it down to the art, I didn't know if she was.

Which was another reason why I was torturing myself with that song, that dance—a song I picked to a dance I put together to say things to Axl Pantera I wished I could in real life say because I knew he was going to be there.

And I was thinking all this, listening to that song, because if I thought about what I should be doing right then in order to get where I should be going that night, I'd break down, blubber like a child and probably get into an accident.

So yeah.

There it all was laid out, messy and unfun.

My life.

I had an abusive father that I, as a twenty-six-year-old woman, kept going back to and enduring his abuse.

I had Axl, a handsome man who'd asked me out, I'd turned him down, he started seeing someone else, but in the interim he saw me have a mini-breakdown, so then he tried to befriend me, which was worse than him just moving on to some other chick.

And I had a pack of friends I was avoiding because they all wanted me to go for that handsome man, even though now he had another woman, and he just wanted to be my friend. A pack of friends it had long since stopped being semi-kinda-rude (but understandable, considering how embarrassing the event was that started it) to constantly blow off and avoid them and now it was just ugly.

And that night was Lottie's pre-bachelorette-boards-at-Elvira's party, and Lottie, Ryn, Evie, Pepper and Elvira had all texted me to tell me they wanted me to come. And I didn't even know Elvira. I just knew she worked with the guys (that being Axl's guys, or more to the point, Hawk's guys (since Hawk was their boss): Mag, Boone, Auggie and Mo).

I'd heard Elvira's charcuterie boards were everything.

But no.


Not me.

I wasn't there, enjoying life and being with my friends.

Instead, I did what I had to do to make certain my father lived another night. I tortured myself with a cool song that was a stark plea to take a chance with your heart. And I was going to go home, and I didn't know, binge I Am a Killer or something on Netflix, while all my friends were beginning celebrations to herald in one of the happiest times in life.

What was the matter with me?

I should go to the studio.

I should get some work done.

But that wasn't helping like it used to.

Because if I didn't have the guts to tell my father to take care of his own damned self…

And if I didn't have the courage to say yes to a handsome guy when he asked me out, further not having the backbone to accept him as a friend when he gave up on me…

Last, if I didn't even have it in me to lay it on my friends, or if not, just tell them to back off, I was dealing with my own issues, and instead, it felt like I was losing them, and it was me who was making that happen…

Then I wouldn't (and didn't) have the ability to boss up and do something with what I was creating in the studio.

So that was me all around.

Hattie Yates.

Failed dancer.

Failed daughter.

Failed friend.

Failed artist.

But really freaking good loner.

I parked at the back of the house where my and three other apartments were and let myself in the back door, thinking at least I had this.

My pad.

A weird, funky space, part of a big, old home broken in chunks. But the landlords wanted to make it cool, so they did, with up and down steps, insets in the walls to put knickknacks, interesting lighting, creamy white walls and beautifully refinished floors.

Mine was on the first level.

Living room and kitchen up front, a step up to the kitchen from the living room. A wall that was open, seeing as it was made up of open-backed shelves. Shelves in which there was a doorway with three steps down to delineate my bedroom area. That back area had a walk-in closet and biggish bath, which, no other word for it, was divine. And the only other room, what I was in now, a side area at the back that had a washer, dryer and some storage.

As décor, I'd gone with white and cream in furniture with dove-gray curtains. Some navy-and-cream throw rugs. Black-and-white art or photos in white frames.

I added to this only shocks of color here and there. In some pictures, one with a frame that was geranium pink.

Turquoise. Sky blue. Lime green. More pink.

And my prize possession, a loud beanbag in primary colors that was covered in a print of flowers that I used as a beanbag as well as an ottoman.

My funky little me space. Small. Light. Bright. Interesting.

All things that were not me.

With ease born of practice in that small, dark room lit only slightly by the waning sunlight of a Denver summer night, light that was coming through the single narrow window, I went up the three steps that should lead me to my living room/kitchen.

And stopped dead when I got there.

Illuminated by the big wicker-globe-covered hanging fixtures, sitting back in my comfy, creamy armchair with his feet on my flowery beanbag, was Brett "Cisco" Rappaport.

The man who, a few months back, had kidnapped Evie, Ryn, Pepper and me—my friends, but also fellow dancers (except now Evie had quit and gone full time as an engineering student and computer tech).

Then he went on to kidnap Ryn again some weeks later.

He'd since been cleared of the crime he'd been framed for committing by two dirty cops who had killed another cop.

But still, not a good guy.

In my living room.

"I'm irate with you," he announced.


Did I run?

I mean, he didn't have any henchmen with guns trained on me this time.

So that was good.

But he didn't even say "Hi" before he told me he was irate with me.

And he was nefarious, what with having henchmen and kidnapping women and all. I didn't know what he did to make a living, but I didn't think it was running an animal shelter.

"Um…" I started when he said no more and also didn't move. "Why are you irate with me?"

"Because I saw that first dance. And the second one. Also the last. And Axl Pantera saw that first dance. And the second one. Also the last. I also saw the man nearly come out of his skin, beating back the need to charge you on the dance floor, carry you to his Jeep, take you to his house, and tie you down until you swore you'd never leave him, and here I am." He extended an arm out to indicate my place while I fought to catch my breath after what he said. "Alone in your house with you, after you visited that waste of a space you call a dad. And where is Pantera?"

He leaned toward me.

I didn't move.

"Not here."

"Uh…he has a girlfriend," I shared, deciding to get into that and not the information he knew I'd just come from my father's, which freaked me out.

"He's seein' a woman. There's a big difference."

"I'm not sure after all this time she'd define it as that."

"All this time…what? A few weeks?"

"More like a few months."

He shook his head. "You women have way too many scruples."



I took a chance and stepped another step into the room because I was less afraid of doing that than taking one the other way.

"Can I ask…I mean, no offense, truly, but it's a little weird…so can I ask why you're here talking to me about this?"

"Because you're my girl and I gotta whip you women into shape."



"I'm your girl?" I whispered.

His brows shot up. "Didn't Ryn tell you?"


"Yeah, you're avoiding your friends. What is up with that?"


Now, how did he know that?

"How much do you know about me?" I queried.

And, yup.

Still whispering.

"I look after what's mine."

"I'm not really yours."

"Well, see, this is how it goes."

He stopped talking, took his feet from my beanbag and stood.

I went completely still.

He crossed his arms on his chest.

And call me crazy (which on my next thought, I apparently was), but in my opinion, he was kind of cute.

In a bizarre, bad-guy kind of way.

And if indications were correct under that finely tailored suit, he had a great body.

Not to mention, he was tall.

"I kidnapped you," he reminded me.

"Yes, I remember," I told him.

"And I still assert that was Evie's brother's sitch. I mean, he was the one who swung you girls out there. I was just reacting to his bullshit."

I could argue that.

I didn't.

"But regardless," he shrugged, "I did what I did which really swung you girls out there so it's up to me to look after you."

This did not track.

Even a little bit.

"Uh…" was all I could get out to refute his statement.

Cisco didn't need me to speak.

He had more to say.

"And there's four of you, only one of me. Which means I need some assistance. Now Evan has that Mag guy. And my girl Ryn got her Boone. But still, the last two of you need to get the lead out. I work hard. I got some cake. But I can't be payin' guys to keep an eye on you girls forever. You need men in your beds."

It sounded strangled when I asked, "Am I in danger?"

"Is the sky blue? Is the earth round?" he asked questions I did not want to hear after I asked if I was in danger. "You're a woman. It's a crapshoot you just walkin' to your car out back. Hell, just bein' in this sweet, hip pad by yourself. If Pantera was here, some guy broke in to do you harm, he'd shoot him in the face."

Considering Axl was a commando as a profession, this was probably not far off the mark.

"For sure he'd scrape off that waste-of-space dad of yours," he continued.

My back went straight at that.

"You're talking about my father," I told him.

"Girl, Evie told me he was abusive. She said straight-out you had violence in your life when she was talkin' about your dad. And Ryn told me you checked out on all of them because he got in your head and you couldn't even dance all on your own and enjoy it without self-abusin' when you thought you'd fucked up. I mean, when that's the case, why do you go make dinner for this asshole every night?"

Boy, Evie and Ryn had talked a lot to this guy.

And that was the embarrassing thing that happened that made me retreat from my friends. I'd been dancing. I'd been loving it. I'd messed up. And I'd lost it…on myself.

This was embarrassing because Ryn had seen that, and I figured she'd told Pepper, Lottie and Evie about it.

Not to mention (and this wasn't embarrassing, it was mortifying), Axl had seen it too.

"He's my dad."

"Yeah, and Ivan the Terrible was a dad, and look how that turned out for his kid."

Now I was more confused.

Ivan the Terrible?

"What?" I asked.

"The dude beat the shit out of his daughter-in-law because he didn't like what she was wearin'. His son tried to intervene. Ol' pops cracked him on the head, killing him. And the woman was pregnant, so she miscarried. That's quite an afternoon for Ivan."

Okay, I had to take a sec because…

How had something that had started strange, gotten so much more strange?

"My dad isn't Ivan the Terrible," I pointed out.

"Only 'cause he's not a tsar. If he had carte blanche, where would you be?"

This was a chilling question.

"We'll let that go…for now," he allowed. "We'll let Pantera go for now too. You had dinner?"

"I was actually going to fast tonight," I told him, and not because it seemed he might ask me to dinner, but because I was going to fast that night.

His head ticked sharply. "Why?"

"Why?" I parroted, since he was looking right at me.

"Your fuckin' dad," he bit out, his tone suddenly alarming.

Right, this had to stop.

"Mr. uh…"

"Brett," he spat. "And tell me, you see the women at Smithie's?"


"Women go there. A lot. And not just since Ian switched shit up. Also not only lesbians gettin' their groove on. All kinds of women go there to party and to watch."

I nodded. "It's a thing. Women have embraced strip clubs."

And this was true, though I didn't get it. Maybe female camaraderie. Maybe they thought it was edgy and cool. Whatever it was, we had nearly as many bachelorette parties as we did bachelor ones.

"So what do you think it says, they see a woman with a healthy body flyin' through the air five feet off the ground, the back of her head nearly touching the heel of her foot?"

I again went still.

He answered his own question.

"It says they can stop eating that bullshit people been feeding them. They can be in shape and do magnificent things and they don't gotta be ninety pounds to do them. So, I'll repeat, you had dinner?"

"No," I answered.

He nodded. "We're goin' out."


"Hattie, listen to me," he cut me off, his tone again different. This time gentle, coaxing. "You don't get this, you never had experience with this, and I'm seeing it's my place to show you the way. All men are not created equal. There are men who give a shit. Ryn tells me you're set for Pantera. I can't go there. And just sayin', that ass, those curls," he tipped his head to me, "you're cute. Normally, I'd be all over that. But Ryn says it's gotta be Pantera. So this is not that. We're lettin' that go. We're lettin' your dad go. You're lettin' the fast go. And I'm gonna take you to dinner and you're gonna be around a man who doesn't treat you like shit. Start you gettin' used to that. We'll go from there. Yeah?"

I didn't know what it was.

I didn't know why I did it.

But I didn't hesitate to say, "Yeah."

He smiled at me, and that decided it.

He was definitely cute.

I walked his way and he escorted me out of my own place like it was his.

The henchman was out there, folding out of the sleek Lincoln town car at the curb in order to open the back door for us.

We got in, and after Brett settled next to me, he declared, "I feel like a steak. Do you feel like a steak?"

"Who doesn't feel like eating a steak?" I asked.

"Atta girl," he muttered.

His driver glided from the curb.

And call me crazy (and I'd be the first person to do that), but when we did, I thought for the first time in a long time that things were looking up.

"At dinner, we'll talk about you wastin' your time in that studio. And we'll talk you into spendin' time that you don't waste in that studio. Got a coupla folks I know who own galleries. Your shit is good. Time to stop fuckin' around with that and let the world know you got talent."

My lungs seized.

Brett called out to the driver. "Call ahead. We're not waiting for a table."

Okay, maybe I was wrong about things looking up.


  • "A sexy, high-octane thriller."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Series fans will be pleased to return to this high-octane world and check in with familiar faces."—Publishers Weekly on Dream Chaser
  • "Excellent . . . Those who like a dash of sweetness in their suspense will be delighted."—Publishers Weekly on Dream Maker
  • "I don't know how Kristen Ashley does it; I just read the damn books and happily get lost in her world."—Frolic on the Dream Man series
  • "Kristen Ashley's books are addicting!"—Jill Shalvis, New York Times bestselling author
  • "[Kristen] Ashley captivates."—Publishers Weekly
  • "When you pick up an Ashley book, you know you're in for plenty of gut-punching emotion, elaborate family drama and sizzling sex."—RT Book Reviews
  • "Kristen Ashley books should come with a warning that says, 'You may become addicted to KA books.'"—Night Owl Reviews
  • "Any hopeless romantic would devour everything Kristen Ashley has to offer!"—Fresh Fiction

On Sale
May 25, 2021
Page Count
480 pages

Kristen Ashley

About the Author

Kristen Ashley is the New York Times bestselling author of over sixty romance novels including the Rock Chick, Colorado Mountain, Dream Man, Chaos, Unfinished Heroes, The ’Burg, Magdalene, Fantasyland, The Three, Ghost and Reincarnation and Honey series along with several standalone novels. She’s a hybrid author, publishing titles both independently and traditionally, her books have been translated in thirteen languages and she’s sold nearly three million books.

Kristen’s novel, Law Man, won the RT Book ReviewsReviewer’s Choice Award for best Romantic Suspense, her independently published title Hold On was nominated for RT Book Reviews best Independent Contemporary Romance and her traditionally published title Breathe was nominated for best Contemporary Romance. Kristen’s titles Motorcycle Man, The Will, and Ride Steady (which won the Reader’s Choice award fromRomance Reviews) all made the final rounds for Goodreads Choice Awards in the Romance category.

Kristen, born in Gary and raised in Brownsburg, Indiana, was a fourth generation graduate of Purdue University. Since, she has lived in Denver, the West Country of England, and she now resides in Phoenix. She worked as a charity executive for eighteen years prior to beginning her independent publishing career. She now writes full-time.

Although romance is her genre, the prevailing themes running through all of Kristen’s novels are friendship, family and a strong sisterhood. To this end, and as a way to thank her readers for their support, Kristen has created the Rock Chick Nation, a series of programs that are designed to give back to her readers and promote a strong female community.

The mission of the Rock Chick Nation is to live your best life, be true to your true self, recognize your beauty, and last but definitely not least, take your sister’s back whether they’re at your side as friends and family or if they’re thousands of miles away and you don’t even know who they are. The programs of the RC Nation include Rock Chick Rendezvous, weekends Kristen organizes full of parties and get-togethers to bring the sisterhood together, Rock Chick Recharges, evenings Kristen arranges for women who have been nominated to receive a special night, and Rock Chick Rewards, an ongoing program that raises funds for nonprofit women’s organizations Kristen’s readers nominate. Kristen’s Rock Chick Rewards have donated over $125,000 to charity and this number continues to rise.

You can read more about Kristen, her titles and the Rock Chick Nation at KristenAshley.net.

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