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Breathless In Love (The Maverick Billionaires #1)(8)

By:Bella Andre & Jennifer Skully



Jeremy banged on her door. He did everything exuberantly, which she usually loved. Tonight, however, the loud pounding was reverberating a little too loudly through her brain. “Harper, he’ll be here soon. Aren’t you ready yet?”

She was showered, her hair washed, and her makeup done. She just had to decide on her outfit—hopefully before the next century rolled around. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

Jeremy had talked nonstop about Will since yesterday. His cars, his garage, his tools, how nice he was. And secretly, she had to admit she’d been just as thrilled about how attentive Will had been to her. She didn’t scold herself for that, though. After all, what normal woman wouldn’t be affected by his attention?

Speeding beside him in the car, with the wind whipping her hair all around, had made her feel wild. And free. More free than she’d been in a very long time. For so long she’d been so careful, but Will had aimed right at the heart of all her secret desires, and in the end she’d been helpless to turn down dinner with him.

Just one night to pretend that she was a normal woman, with a normal life.

Surely, taking her eye off the ball for one short dinner couldn’t hurt anything, could it?

Jeremy banged on the door again. “Are you ready?”

She closed her eyes and stuck her hand in the closet, grabbing a hanger. Whatever it was, that’s what she’d wear. It turned out to be a flowing, brightly printed skirt that hit her at midcalf. Maybe just a little too sweet, so she paired it with a form-fitting cream-colored sweater and a pair of heels.

At long last, she picked up her purse from the dresser and opened her bedroom door. “Yes, I’m ready now.”

“Wow, you look really pretty!” Jeremy said, which told her she must have chosen well, since he rarely commented on her outfits. Then again, she rarely ever dressed up, since it was always just the two of them.

“Thank you,” she said, but he was already running off to get a snack from the kitchen.

They lived in a three-bedroom, two-bath house, plenty for her and Jeremy. Rather than waste the formal dining space, she’d converted it to her home office. They never used her mother’s untouched living room, though, preferring the den. Their family room was open to the kitchen, with a bar and stools in between that they could use for meals. More often than not, they ate in front of the TV, mostly because she had trouble keeping the bar clean of the junk mail and completed homework assignments that accumulated there.

The TV was tuned to one of Jeremy’s favorite car channels. A coloring book lay on the coffee table, surrounded by a huge box of crayons, from which he’d removed almost every one. He’d been working on an orange rooster. Coloring was an exercise assigned by his teacher, Miss Richards, to help his dexterity, though he often had trouble staying within the lines.

Harper eyed the two baskets of laundry plopped at one end of the sofa. She’d have to get to those sooner or later. Glancing at her watch, she decided there wasn’t time now to do the hated task.

The doorbell chimed, and she actually jumped. Okay, maybe she was a little nervous. After all, it had been over a year since she’d gone out with a man. And Will Franconi wasn’t just any man, was he?

“It’s Will!” Jeremy raced to the front door.

Harper grabbed her jacket off a chair, then scooped a few things off the hall table and into the drawer as she passed. When Jeremy opened the door, Will immediately took her breath away. His white button-down shirt was open at the collar, revealing a dusting of hair climbing up from his chest, and he should have been a jeans model, they looked so great on him.

Jeremy was dancing around him on the front stoop. “She took forever to get ready, Will. I had to keep pounding on the door.”

Harper closed her eyes briefly in mortification.

“That’s a woman’s prerogative,” Will said with a smile she saw once she braved opening her eyes again.

“Well, I’m ready now,” she said brightly.

“Not just ready, Harper,” Will said in that low voice that sent tingles coursing through her, head to toe. “Gorgeous.”

He held out his hand and she let his warm fingers close around hers, palms resting together. It felt good. Too good. But she simply couldn’t make herself pull away. Not when it felt like there hadn’t been nearly enough good things in her life...and certainly nothing this good.

“I’ll have her back home safe and sound, Jeremy, don’t you worry.”

“I wasn’t worried,” Jeremy said with all seriousness. “She gets to stay out as long as she wants because she’s an adult.”

“Trish will be here in half an hour,” Harper reminded Jeremy.

She didn’t mind his being alone for half an hour, but certainly not a whole evening. Number one, Jeremy didn’t like the dark. And two, though she’d trained him to use 911, she wasn’t confident about his reaction time. Harper always had Trish, their neighbor’s college-age daughter, come in for a few hours if she was going to be late.

“I know, Harper.” Her brother gave an exaggerated wave as Will led her down the front path.

She’d expected a muscle car like the Challenger. Even an expensive Ferrari or a Porsche. But he held open the door of a BMW for her. Nothing flashy or showy, though it was elegant and luxurious. He helped her with a hand to her elbow, and she felt his heat through her jacket. She couldn’t remember ever being this aware of a man—the true-blue color of his eyes and the thickness of his black hair, wondering how soft it would be against her fingers.

As he closed her door and walked around to the driver’s side, she firmly reminded herself that she needed to maintain dignity and control tonight.

Because something told her that Will Franconi not only had plenty of practice in sweeping a girl off her feet and making her feel completely breathless, but for some reason she couldn’t understand, he was planning on putting those skills to use tonight.

With her.





CHAPTER SIX


Beside her, Will filled the car with his overwhelmingly male presence. When he was near, it felt to Harper as though everything and everyone else was eclipsed. Case in point: Despite her intention to be happy with her life the way it was—just her and Jeremy—she was heading out on a date with a man she barely knew and still wasn’t at all sure she could trust.

As Will headed up Sand Hill Road, out to the freeway, he said, “I hope you like Italian. I know a great place in Woodside, not far from here.”

“It sounds lovely.” Though her job was talking and bringing people together, she felt horribly tongue-tied. What was so different about Will that simply sitting next to him made her heat up all over and her brain go blank?

“Why recruiting?” he asked into the silence after he’d merged into the freeway traffic.

Glad that at least one of them was able to think straight enough to start a conversation, she said, “I’ve always liked connecting people and helping them find a career that’s just the right fit. Plus, it’s a fairly flexible job, so I can work from home or arrange meetings around Jeremy as I need to.”

They exited at Woodside and headed west. The roads were winding and two-lane here. The town was small and quaint, surrounded by horse farms and large estates. They passed a small vineyard with bright green leaves and grape clusters just starting to appear.

“I know you’re not looking for anyone to give you credit, but you’ve obviously done an amazing job taking care of your brother.” He glanced at her, and she was surprised to see admiration in his expression. “Especially when you’re so young. And with all his special needs, not many people could handle that.”

But she didn’t feel particularly young. She’d grown up fast after Jeremy’s accident. “He’s got school and a job at the local grocery store. So he keeps pretty busy without me, actually.” And she felt guilty letting Will think she’d taken miraculous care of Jeremy on her own. “The truth is that I couldn’t have managed without the trust.”

“Trust?”

She’d already told him too much in his garage. But he was obviously quite good at realizing when there was more—and at getting her to share it. “The father of the teenager who hit Jeremy set up a fund.”

Will was silent a long moment before saying, “I wanted to ask you before, did the kid go to prison?”

“No one saw anything. And my parents had to take the money because they couldn’t pay for everything that Jeremy needed.” Though she knew it might sound defensive, she couldn’t stop herself from adding, “My parents did what they had to do.”

Will took his hand off the stick shift and placed it over hers for a moment. One that was too brief before he had to change gears again, but long enough for her to be seared by his heat—and touched by his obvious compassion.

“Of course your parents did what anyone would have done in their position.”

It meant a lot to her that he didn’t seem to be judging either her or her parents for using the trust to take care of Jeremy. Still, she felt as though she’d told him pretty much everything about herself at this point. Now she wanted to know his story. Because even if this was just one night away from real life, she couldn’t help but want to know where he’d come from and how he’d gotten here.

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