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Breathless In Love (The Maverick Billionaires #1)(2)

By:Bella Andre & Jennifer Skully



“I store six cars here,” Will told them both. He had eight more classics in Portola Valley, plus his personal vehicles.

Jeremy opened his notebook, flipping through, then held up a picture pasted to a page. “James Bond. Aston Martin DB5. I love James Bond.”

“Sorry, buddy, I don’t have that one here.” Will kept that car at home because the Aston Martin was great on the rural roads of Portola Valley, like driving through the French countryside of a Bond movie.

The boy’s features drooped. But not for long. “That’s okay, Will. I love the Challenger, too.”

Smiling at Jeremy’s eagerness, Will opened a metal box on the hangar wall and punched in the security code. When the red light flashed to green, he tapped another button for the roll-up door. Inside, two rows of overhead lights popped on one after another, stretching to the back of the hangar, spotlighting each classic car in turn.

“Wow.” Jeremy’s voice went soft with awe.

Harper merely smiled her appreciation, though not with Jeremy’s delight. She was clearly the indulgent older sister, here to make her brother happy, and Will liked that about her. Liked it as much as he liked looking at her.

Jeremy tiptoed between the two rows of cars arranged at an angle, each ready to be driven out of the hangar at a moment’s notice. Rolling tool chests lined the metal walls, along with a couple of floor jacks for lifting the cars. Will had a full-time mechanic, Leland, who kept the engines tuned and clean, and the bodies spotless. Leland worked both here at the airport and out at Will’s Portola Valley property.

“1965 AC Cobra,” Jeremy recited as if he’d memorized a list. “Wow.” His gaze was bright in the lights shining down on him as he held his notebook close to his chest, his mouth open slightly.

First on the left, the Cobra was cream in color. Will had thought about topping the paint job with a blue racing stripe, but Leland had rolled his eyes heavenward as if commiserating with the paint gods, then asked if Will wanted to be like everyone else. Of course, Will had never been like anyone else, and Leland had an excellent eye. The cream finish was like glass.

“It’s a very nice car,” Harper said in that polite voice that totally revved Will’s engine. “And it looks brand new.”

“It’s a kit car,” Will explained. “I had all the parts shipped here, and assembled it from the frame up. It’s a replica of a ’65 Cobra.” The project had taken a year. He could have done it faster, but he’d enjoyed the work and hadn’t wanted to rush. There was pleasure not merely in the end result, but in watching something grow.

“You built this yourself?” She looked surprised to hear it. She ran a finger along the finish, as if finally perceiving the beauty that Will saw.

“Cars are my thing.”

Very few people knew Will’s story—that he’d been barely eight years old when his father had taught him how to hotwire his first stolen car, with illegal drag racing coming a handful of years later. It wasn’t until Will had turned eighteen that he’d vowed to turn his life around. Now, though he still spent his free time playing with cars, he always did it on the right side of the law.

“What’s that one?” She pointed to the model opposite.

“1965 Mercedes 300 SL Roadster,” Jeremy said before Will could supply the answer.

“He’s been studying you. Your classic car collection, I mean.”

Maybe she was afraid he’d think her brother was coming across like a stalker, but it was the farthest thing from Will’s mind. On the contrary, he was flattered. Jeremy seemed so open, so hopeful, so happy. All the things Will had never been in his youth. He couldn’t actually say he felt those emotions now either, despite how far he’d come from the derelict Chicago neighborhood of his childhood.

He also liked watching the bond between the two of them, the way Harper looked at Jeremy, the light but warm touches, her affection easy to read on her face. The bonds of blood could be meaningless—or worse, they could utterly destroy you if you let them—but Harper clearly loved her brother with everything she had.

Will had the same kind of connection with the Mavericks. That’s what the five of them—Daniel, Sebastian, Evan, Matt, and Will—called themselves. The Maverick Group. Back in Chicago, they’d been five kids brought together by misfortune and neglect. Their bond had been forged in need, not by blood. Most people believed blood relations automatically deserved devotion, but he knew better. Devotion had to be earned, and family and blood didn’t go hand in hand, not in his experience. Susan and Bob Spencer—Daniel’s parents, who had taken them all in—were exceptions, just as Harper Newman and her brother were.

“Is that a kit car, too?” she asked, gesturing toward the Mercedes.

“No. It’s the real thing.”

Jeremy moved down the line, Harper following, her arms crossed. Her high-heeled shoes tapped on the concrete with every step, her hair shifting across her shoulders, the light from above catching the changing hues of blond.

“Oh man, a 1956 Jaguar XKSS.” Jeremy turned to smile brilliantly at Will. “BRG.”

“Right.” Will cocked a thumb at Harper. “Maybe you’d better tell your sister what that means.” He winked conspiratorially, while hoping Jeremy knew the answer. It wasn’t his intention to embarrass the boy.

Sure enough, he knew. “British racing green.” Jeremy’s voice echoed, overly loud in the hangar, from his excitement. With that, he sprinted down the center aisle, pointing as he went. “1968 Lamborghini Miura.” The gold tones of the car gleamed under the lights. “1954 Austin Healey 100S.” And finally to the last one. “1965 Stingray Coupe.”

Harper beamed. “He got them all right.” She was clearly proud, and Will experienced an ache under his ribcage that he hadn’t felt since his mother died when he was six.

They made him want in. In on their bond. In on the pride and adoration in Harper’s gaze.

Watching Harper and her brother together made him need things he hadn’t craved in thirty years. His father had bullied those cravings out of him.

Harper’s gaze was still on her brother, the light of some special emotion shining in her eyes, when he asked them both, “You want a ride?”





CHAPTER TWO


Harper froze. She’d known it was coming, but she’d expected the question about getting into one of Mr. Franconi’s cars from Jeremy. Not from the billionaire!

She had her excuses lined up. Mr. Franconi couldn’t possibly have time. He didn’t even know them and couldn’t be expected to let just anyone ride in one of his cars. She’d imagined the powerful businessman would readily agree with everything she said, likely because he’d be angling to get out of there and back to making more billions as soon as possible.

But now that he’d made the unexpected offer, though Jeremy was already jumping up and down shouting his glee, she couldn’t possibly take him up on it.

“Thank you for the lovely offer, Mr. Franconi, but Jeremy and I have already taken enough of your time.”

“Like I said, I’ve got all afternoon.” He smiled at her again. “And it’s Will.”

Sweet Lord, that man had a smile on him. It was cocky, sexy, and somehow sincere, all at the same time. He had to be aware of the effect it had on the female gender. She guessed he used it knowingly, undermining resistance, so that he could get whatever he wanted.

But why would he be using it on her?

“I don’t think—”

“Come on, Harper.” Jeremy gave her his best hangdog expression. “We want to go out in the fast car!”

“Yeah, come on, Harper.” Amusement laced the billionaire’s voice as he echoed her brother. Will’s gaze was deep, startlingly blue, like the Mediterranean ocean of his heritage. “We really do want to go out in the fast car.”

His hair was as dark as the devil, his features more handsome than a man with his wealth deserved. She’d half expected to be met today by a flock of Franconi Imports publicity reps. After all, she’d figured the slick, filthy-rich business owner giving his time to a young man like Jeremy would be a publicist’s goldmine.

Yet Will had come alone and was dressed casually in jeans and a dark T-shirt—one that emphasized his muscled biceps, but was as far from a five-thousand-dollar suit as anything could be.

Just as Jeremy had researched Will’s cars, Harper had researched the man himself. There was a great deal of information online about how he’d built his business, but very few details about his personal life or past.

None of her research had helped her understand why someone as wealthy and powerful as Will Franconi would even bother to answer Jeremy’s letter. The invitation to meet at his hangar had floored her. After all, he was a luxury importer—and she wasn’t even sure what that meant, exactly. How could a man make billions off luxury? And all his cars she’d seen profiled on the Hot Cars show Jeremy had made her watch smelled of money. Will was a collector of things, so she’d assumed he probably collected people, too…until he got tired of them.

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