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Breathless In Love (The Maverick Billionaires #1)(3)

By:Bella Andre & Jennifer Skully

But then she remembered the way he’d looked at her and Jeremy, with a longing that she didn’t quite understand, but felt all the same, right in the center of her chest where her heart was beating just a little too fast from nothing more than the look in his eyes.

Plus, she hadn’t expected him to be so nice. He didn’t laugh at Jeremy. In fact, Will hadn’t looked at her brother as if there was anything wrong with him at all.

And now he wanted to take Jeremy for a ride in one of his super fast cars.

Knowing they were both staring at her, waiting for her answer, she finally said, “Where would you take him if I said it was okay?”

“Just down the runway. I’ll check with the control tower to make sure there won’t be any planes coming in. You can watch us the whole time.”

“Please, Harper,” Jeremy pleaded, not at all afraid of going fast even though speed had taken so much away from him.

Will didn’t know their story, even though Harper sometimes felt like everyone else did, as though it was the only thing that defined her and Jeremy. Eleven years ago, her brother had been hit by a car driven by a rich teenager who was driving way too fast. The teenager’s father had not only bought him out of a prison sentence, he’d also forced her parents to accept a payoff in lieu of the litigation that they’d been told would have dragged on for years otherwise.

Harper had never blamed her parents for their decision to take the money. Jeremy had suffered irreparable brain damage and now he was an eighteen-year-old who had never progressed mentally past the age of seven. She understood why economics won out over justice sometimes. Her brother’s road to recovery hadn’t been cheap, but thankfully, as long as she was careful with her investments and earned enough with her salary as a recruiter, there was still money left to support his current needs, like the special school he attended.

When her parents had died six years ago, Harper had made it her mission to carry on their legacy and protect Jeremy. But in many ways, on the day of the car crash she hadn’t only lost her little brother, she’d also lost her parents to financial worry and emotional turmoil, years before they’d passed away in a private plane crash.

Speed had taken so much from her and her brother, but Jeremy was a good kid. He always had been, and she couldn’t help giving in to him when he wanted something badly. Surely one ride here today had to be a safe way for Jeremy to experience that speed he so longed for...and if she had any longing left inside of her for just that same thing, she shoved it down.

It was up to her to be the responsible one, after all.

“All right, Will.” She wanted to keep on thinking of Will as Mr. Franconi, but somehow he made that impossible with those smiles of his and his charming insistence that she call him by his first name. “But not too fast.”

Will’s expression was solemn as he crossed his heart. “I promise. No faster than my mechanic would allow.”

“How fast is that?”

He smiled again. “Nothing that would hurt the pristine engine.”

She had no idea what that meant, but she was helpless against the combined power of his smiles and promises. “All right, fine. But I’ll be watching.”

“I’m thinking the Cobra for our first ride.” He turned to Jeremy. “Sound okay to you?”

“Yay!” Jeremy crowed.

Harper suspected Will had chosen the Cobra because it was the one he’d personally labored over, the one that held the most meaning for him.

“Let me call the tower so they’re ready for us.”

Once again, Will keyed a code into a pad next to an office door. The lights inside turned on automatically, illuminating a desk and bookshelves crammed with manuals, the names of the cars written along their spines. There were trophies and framed photos, mostly of the cars, with only a few including Will. He punched a couple of numbers on the phone, spoke quietly into it, then turned back to them with that killer smile while he waited for the person on the other end to respond to his request to clear the runways. Harper’s heart beat faster despite herself.

“All clear.” He put the phone down, then grabbed a key off a board on the wall, tossed it up, and caught it in his fist. “Let’s go.”

Jeremy followed him like a smitten puppy and worry swept through her stomach again. Will Franconi had a hangar full of ridiculously expensive cars, a personal mechanic, and one call to the control tower allowed him to take over the runways.

So why was he wasting so much time with them?

Harper knew she was sometimes a little too careful with her brother. It was just that if anything happened to him, she’d never, ever forgive herself. But here in the hangar with all the amazing cars, Jeremy was so happy and excited that she couldn’t bear squashing him down.

Will opened the Cobra’s door. “Hold onto the roll bar back here to get in.” He demonstrated with a pat on the curved bar behind the passenger seat. “Don’t use the windshield.”

The car had no top, just the roll bars behind each of the two seats. The interior was brushed metal, with no carpeting, and the seats were a simple leather bucket. After Jeremy was in, Will leaned over the passenger door to secure the buckle, which was much thicker than a normal seatbelt.

Clapping Jeremy on the shoulder, Will said, “There you go, buddy,” then rounded the hood. He climbed into the driver’s seat after a jaunty salute to Harper.

The engine roared to life, and Will pulled onto the tarmac with Jeremy vibrating with eagerness and sheer joy in the seat beside him. It was a small airport for light planes, not big commercial airliners. Two runways ran down the center with a long row of hangars on either side. Some had business signage over them—carrier services, flight insurance, maintenance, and one for a local flying club. It hadn’t occurred to her that a person could actually rent a hangar to store anything other than a plane, not until Jeremy had received Will’s return letter.

She watched the classy race car cruise down the closest runway. True to his word, Will kept his speed down. He turned at the end and headed back on the opposite runway, picking up the pace as they came around to pass her. Jeremy waggled a thumbs-up over the windshield. His lips moved a mile a minute, talking Will’s ear off.

Harper smiled, feeling much better about everything...at least, until she realized the car was going faster. And faster. When they made the next turn, she heard tires squeal.

Her stomach jumped and she rolled her bottom lip between her teeth, biting down hard, as if the pain would distract her.

Ever since her parents had passed away at the end of her senior year of college, Jeremy had been her responsibility. He was the only family she had left. He had difficulty learning new skills, and while he loved the computer, he needed a lot of help. In the morning, he went to a special school, and he bagged at the local grocery store on weekday afternoons. She hadn’t gotten Jeremy the job because they needed the money, but because her brother needed to feel useful. It was good for his self-esteem. She did everything she could for him.

Yet she’d just let him get in a car with a madman.

Some guardian she turned out to be, she thought as Will and Jeremy roared along the runways as if they were on a racetrack. Her heart hammered as the whoosh of their passing blew her hair across her face.

She hated speed after what had happened to both Jeremy and her parents. Or at least, she should have hated speed. Yet her heart, a traitor to everything she knew to be right, secretly ached to be in the car with them, to taste the rush of air as it raced right through her...and to feel the same rapture that was now shining on Jeremy’s face.

The Cobra made two more laps before Will slowed and eased to a stop beside her.

“Careful getting out,” he said to Jeremy. “The pipe down on the side is hot and I don’t want you to burn yourself.”

Before she could rush around the car to make sure Jeremy didn’t touch the big black exhaust pipe, he was already pushing himself out, using the roll bar, not the windshield, just as Will had told him.

She crossed her arms over her chest and gave Will a narrow-eyed gaze as he also climbed out of the car. “How fast were you going?”

He answered her with the solemn, sincere look he’d used on her earlier when he’d promised not to go too fast. “Fifty on the straightaway.”

“No way.”

“I swear.” He crossed his heart, just like before.

“Well, then, fifty is too fast out there.” It probably wasn’t, but she had to argue, because Jeremy was her responsibility. Or maybe it was because Will was so darned gorgeous and persuasive that she felt as though she had to fight the urge to automatically give in to him.

Jeremy bounded around the car. “Wasn’t that cool, Harper?”

He’d had to learn to talk again after the accident, and even now, all these years later, his speech was careful, almost strained sometimes, as if he was searching for the right words. But he’d clearly been feeling great today—almost like the eighteen-year-old he should have been. And she could see that he’d just had so much fun. His elation was bursting out of him like an excited puppy who’d just been let out of his crate.