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The CEO(8)

By:Victoria Purman

I don’t like the way you do a lot of things. Like break women’s hearts.

‘Not particularly.’

‘Did I scare you?’ Callum shifted in his seat and turned to face her, one wrist resting on the leather steering wheel. His light brown hair was pushed back from his forehead and because it was still damp he looked like he’d just stepped out of the shower. His dark blue eyes teased her and that growth on his jaw sent tingles to her fingers. She wasn’t sure at that moment if she wanted to slap him or caress his jaw.

Ava took a steadying breath. ‘Yes. And that was exactly your intention, right?’ She understood what was going on: this was his payback for all her bitchy behaviour over the years. He’d managed to get her alone in his car and now he was going to exact his revenge for all her snarls and all the rolled eyes she’d shot in his direction since they’d been acquainted.

He looked at her, bemused. ‘Now why the hell would I want to do that?’

‘I saw the look on your face as you were doing the Grand Prix down your street. All that weaving in and out. How do I know you weren’t trying to throw me from the car? Or make me throw up?’

‘What? And further ruin my leather seats?’

Ava swiped her still damp hair back from her face and stared down at her fingernails instead of meeting his eye. A rush of embarrassment overcame her. No matter how hard she cleaned them, they always bore traces of her work. A thin line of brown dirt stubbornly worked its way into the quick, like a dirty half-moon, and stained her cuticles. She tried lemon juice to clean up, and every gritty cleaner there was on the market, but she had gardener’s hands.

A worker’s hands.

She glanced out the window to her left. The dirty four-wheel drive didn’t look right in this pristine garage. It looked like a work car, like something she would drive as she hauled supplies and tools and plants from one job to another. ‘What’s with the other vehicle?’

He leaned forward and looked past her. ‘I inherited it from Chris. It’s not exactly baby friendly and he wanted to get rid of it. I took it off his hands. It’s come in quite handy lately.’

‘Is that what you drive when you don’t want to be recognised? When you’re trying to be incognito on the mean streets of Sydney?’

He chuckled. ‘No-one expects someone like me to be driving something like that. It means the paparazzi leave me alone.’

Ava lifted her chin. ‘I know which one I’d prefer.’ All his wealth and privilege didn’t impress her at all. And she felt obliged to remind him of that as often as possible.

Callum exhaled loudly and it fogged a patch on the car window. ‘Look. You’ve made it perfectly fucking obvious that you’ve got a problem with me, Ava.’

‘You think?’ she muttered.

‘You know what I thought? I thought we might … oh, forget it. How about you just fake it, huh? How about you just pretend we’ve never met before? Total strangers.’

‘Total strangers,’ she echoed. ‘What a bloody good idea.’ Ava grabbed her handbag from the space she’d tucked it by her feet and opened her door swiftly, twisting her legs and planting them on the ground, moving fast to stand. She opened the back door and swept her hand in to retrieve his jacket from the floor. It was luxurious to touch: even the lining seemed to be silk.

Then there was another door slamming and footsteps. Callum was next to her, lifting his jacket from her hand. ‘I’ve got this,’ he said.

‘I’m sorry about your suit. I’ll take it to the dry cleaners.’ She tugged a sleeve but he refused to let go.

‘The hell you will.’

She tugged again. ‘I’m the one who sat my wet butt on it. Who knows what that’s done to the silk lining. I’m guessing it’s silk. Does silk shrink? Probably. Anyway. I ruined it and I’ll pay for it.’

Callum glanced down at her ass. ‘Your butt didn’t do that much damage. It was wet before. It’s only a damn suit, Ava. I’ve got dozens hanging upstairs.’

Of course he did. Probably identical ones hanging on gold-plated hangers, perfectly spaced in a walk-in robe that was bigger than her whole house. She let it go.

Callum nodded towards a set of stairs at the front of the garage, muttered gruffly, ‘Follow me,’ and then turned and walked off.

Ava watched him stride off in front of her, all long-limbed and surly, and when he took the steps three at a time she simply stared. The things that did to his butt should be studied in an anatomy class at university, she thought. When the view disappeared, she checked her watch, wondering how long it would be before the others arrived. Please God make it soon.