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Knees gone weak, Phoebe Moore drank in the sight of two bronzed arms angling down over a well-packed T-shirt and large masculine hands raising its black interlock hem. Unaware of his company, the man dragged the shirt up over his head. At the same time Phoebe's throat thickened and her mouth went bone-dry. After a criminally toned abdomen and broad chest were revealed, he bunched the shirt into a ball and set about towelling all that premium meat and muscle.
Phoebe released a quivering sigh.
No wonder Brodricks Prestige Cars' slogan was "The Thrill of Your Life".
Dynamic, charming, all gloriously packaged in the body of a sex god, the man in questionthe delectable Pace Daviswas Brodricks' lead technical adviser and resident chief mechanic. That chest, those jeans… The vision standing before her was enough to reduce Phoebe to a creamy puddle. But the best partas well as the worstwas his sultry air of mystery. The three times she and Pace had met he'd seemed interested in details of her life, but had been curiously elusive about his own.
She could guess why.
At the far end of the otherwise deserted Sydney workshop, Pace swiped the shirt down one trunk of an arm and up the other. As he gave his delectably dewy chest another chamois, sensing a presence, he glanced over and gifted her a smilea particularly sensual lopsided grin. Air eased from Phoebe's lungs as, moving to join her, Pace ruffled his inky-black hair into a tousled style.
That was how he'd look in the mornings, she decided, hugging her clip-folder close. Slightly dishevelled and completely desirable.
When the heat racing through her veins pooled and contracted low in her belly, Phoebe hauled herself back and drew up tall. Time to remember how late she'd stayed up the previous night making that listher dare-to-be-bold, nothing-left-out wish list. The first point was underlined in red:
Reclaim my sexuality Find Mr Right Now!
In one sense, dreamy Pace Davis was the perfect candidate. The friction that zapped between them would explode like two sticks of lit dynamite if they ever transferred their physical attraction to the bedroom. But taking that plunge with Pace would never happen, and for three very good reasons.
Phoebe tried to remember those reasons now, as Pace's electric blue gaze combed her shoulders, her hips, while that mouthwatering bare chest rolled to a stop a mere foot away. His eyes locked on hers, and his square jaw shifted before that rich, deep voice rumbled out.
"Well, well, if it isn't Miss Phoebe Moore." His brows swooped together. "But wait there's something different about you."
Phoebe's face flushed hot. Different? Was it the spot on her chin?
"It's there in your eyes," he went on, and that wicked smile curved his mouth again. "It's finally happened. You've had a change of heart and want me to take you home."
Perhaps it was that honey-over-gravel voice, the smouldering intensity in his eyes, or the basic shocking truth in that line that almost undid her. Actually, it was all threebut no way would she tell Pace Davis that.
The first and biggest reason she wasn't going there with Pace was due to the fact they knew each other through work. After a failed office affair, Phoebe was acutely aware of the pitfalls that could follow mixing business with pleasure. Pace Davis, on the other hand, suffered no such reservation. On the first night they'd met, at a sponsorship cocktail party, he'd been dressed in a tuxedo and with seduction on his mind. He'd let her know with his eyes and subtle gestures that he wanted her. More to the point, he intended to have her. It was simply a matter of time.
Or so he thought.
Finding her strength, Phoebe lifted her chin. "No change of heart, Pace." She managed a casual shrug. "I don't think you're what I need right now."
Tipping close, his warm breath stirred her hair. "Wouldn't it be fun to find out for sure?"
When he rocked back, sexual awareness tugged her along like the drag from the Starship Enterprise. But Phoebe dug in her heels and reminded herself of the second reason she refused to cross that line with this near irresistible man.
Aside from Brodricks Prestige Cars having corporate connections with Goldmar Studios, the production house she worked for, Pace was a player the kind of instinctively seductive male who didn't need to brag about his exploits but made no excuses for pursuing and then enjoying what he caught. The night they'd met he'd been lapping up the company of a gaggle of admiring women. She'd bet the only reason he'd lost interest in the others and set his sights on her was because she hadn't batted her lashes and immediately fallen at his feet. The second time they'd met, at a similar function, it had been the same story. Lots of women hanging off his every word. Pace in his element. That was evidence enough for her.
Certainly if she followed her list and found "Mr Right Now" she would be embarking on an intimate relationship with someone who may or may not be The One, but taking control of your fate was a far cry from agreeing to become another notch on some playboy's bedpost. The latter scenario cut way too close to the mistake her mother had made, and had ultimately paid dearly for.
Her young daughter, too.
On the other hand Pace was certainly amusing, and a bit of harmless teasing never hurt anyone.
"I guess it would be fun to find out," she admitted, and when his blue eyes flashed added sweetly, "You'll be the first to know if I change my mind."
No smile this time. Rather, he stepped into her personal space and, when her neck tipped back, angled his head achingly close to hers. The heat of his body burrowed into her skin, making her tingle and feel entirely, dangerously out of her depth.
"Know what I love about you, Phoebe?" he growled in a low, entrancing voice that sent her heart and mind racing. "Your ability to avoid the unavoidable."
Flames licked up her limbs, across her breasts, over and between her legs. Pace's potency this minute was so close, so lethal, she could barely get enough air. Another few secondsanother inch or twoand his mouth would drop over hers. Time to get back on track, before the scrap of sanity she still possessed snapped and she surrendered completely.
Siphoning in a quiet breath, she slid one foot back enough to put adequate distance between them and shortcircuit the sizzling connection.
"The desk manager said I'd find you out here." She was thankful her voice wasn't thick. "I've come to collect my car."
A measure of light flickered back up in his darkened eyes before he relented and slowly drew away. With a languid stride, he headed for a row of lockers. Game over for the moment.
"Ah, yes," he said, stuffing the black T-shirt into a locker. "Your new 6 Series coupé. A contemporary beauty, with a world of simmering power just begging to be released."
She grinned at his subtext as he flicked her a devilish look and retrieved a fresh white replacement. After he'd slipped the shirt over his head and covered his CinemaScope chest, she sussed out the shop. So where was the BMW? She checked her watch. The sponsorship agreement said five p.m.
"I have the right date, don't I?"
"Don't worry," he told her. "We're not reneging on our agreement. Along with the advertising dollars we spend with your network, the president of the company is eager to provide a Brodricks prestige vehicle for the star of Goldmar Productions' latest ratings winner for personal use for one year." But then he cocked his head and gave his ear a tug. "Unfortunately we learned late this afternoon we won't have the car until Monday."
Phoebe's heart fell.
Perfect. Because of this deal she'd gone ahead and advertised her own early model car. It had gone to its new owners this morning. If she didn't have the sponsorship vehicle, she was without wheels. No problem normally, but this weekend it mattered.
She took her thumbnail from her mouth. "What time Monday?"
A half-serious line creased his brow. "Were you planning on taking an extended test drive this weekend?"
Something like that. "I need to get to my hometown tomorrow. It's a speck on the map." And a six-hour round trip from Sydney.
Her Aunt Meg was due back from her most recent overseas jaunt, and the home Phoebe had shared with her, from the time of her mother's death until her big move to Sydney eight years ago, needed a small but crucial repair job.
Her aunt breezed through something like co-ordinating a two-month trek across Asia, yet suffered blatant uninterest in organising inconsequential domestic affairslike avoiding frostbite when the temperature plummeted below zero. The town's only worthwhile handyman was teed up to fit a replacement part in the house boiler tomorrow. The evening weather was already chilly. If she didn't see to it before the real cold set in, no one would.
Pace had made himself comfortable, propped up against a nearby Alfa Romeo's door, arms and ankles crossed. "No problem," he said. "I'll organise a loaner."
"Really?" Phoebe sparked up. "Could I pick it up tomorrow, some time after noon?"
He winked. "Leave it with me."
Problem solved and business concluded, she thanked the Brodricks representative for his time, then promptly turned for the wide garage door, which led to the offices and main exit.
"Hey, hold up a minute."
At his callmellow and embracing, like an offshore breeze on a summer's dayPhoebe rotated back.
"Need a lift home?" he said, pushing off the car door. "Don't like your chances of finding a cab this time of day."
Butterflies were released in her stomach at the thought of sharing a ridejust the two of them, sitting close, completely alone. The idea made her insides contract with longing and her breathing come a little quicker, but she shook off the notion and sent a cool smile.
"Thanks. I'll be fine."
A crooked grin stole across his face as those big shoulders rolled toward her. "Maybe we could stop for a coffee on the way. I'd offer a sample from the workshop percolator, but I'd rather you left here alive."
He arched a brow at a suspect glass pot, which might have been brewing since last Christmas.
When a small laugh escaped, Phoebe quickly bit her lip. "I honestly don't think"
"How about you leave the thinking to me?" In full seductive mode again, he strolled closer. "And I think you can't be in that big of a rush." A sultry look burned in his eyes. "Or do you have a special night planned?"
"Only with my Lhasa Apso."
"Lucky dog." His mischievous grin might have been envious. "But I'm sure the pooch won't mind if you're a few minutes late."
On a scale of difficulty, it was on a par with applying double-sided cleavage tape, but Phoebe managed to crimp her mouth into a flippant thanks-but-no-thanks smile and spin on her heel.
With a parting, "I'll be in tomorrow to collect the car," she headed out through the door.
She was right to deflect Pace's advances. Although, truth be told, experiencing the full extent of his blistering brand of passion could almost be worth getting burned particularly considering her last lukewarm experience with a man.
Instant attraction had bitten deep the day she'd met her boss, a year ago. Steve Trundy was tall and blond, with muscles that gleamed like polished steel after one of his regular workouts. She didn't know a woman at Goldmar's who didn't want to date him. When he'd asked her out, Phoebe had melted and murmured yes.
Their first all-out attempt at passion had been after hours, in an unmanned studio control room. Embarrassingly less than successful. Phoebe had blamed the malfunction on her worry over someone walking in and catching them out, so when Steve had suggested a romantic weekend away she'd leapt at the chance. But the niggling she'd experienced in the control room that night had surfaced again.
She'd been baffled. Steve was intelligent, attractive, built. The lack of stimulation had to be her fault, not his. Surely next time would be different?
Willing to let the emotion and enthusiasm grow, she'd persevered, showing him what she liked in the bedroom and trying her best to please him too. But little had improved and there had come a point where she'd begun to avoid situations that might lead to intimacy. She'd thought she was in love with him, but how could that be when she shied away almost every time he touched her?
After nine months two weeks and three days, she'd broken down and, cheeks flaming, admitted that something vital was missing. The connectionthe hunger that should be there simply wasn't. She'd felt so bad. She'd begged Steve not to blame himself.
He hadn't. In fact he'd puffed up his chest and lost no time insisting that, if she wanted to know, he didn't much enjoy sleeping with her either. She was so tense and staid, he said. Boring was another word he'd used. He was sorry too that she was sexually dysfunctional. When her back had gone up and she'd defended herself he'd less than kindly pointed out that a raging inferno drowning in jet fuel couldn't spark her match.
She could have shaken off the insult, which was obviously the result of a dented ego, if only she didn't have to see Steve and his jilted face five days a week at the studios. When they were in the same room, his "frigid" accusation played over in her mind and icicles would form, freezing solid in her veins. But there was nothing wrong with her. They simply weren't sexually compatible. It happened.
Still, as more time went by and Phoebe looked back on her romantic past, she began to wonder if Steve might to some degree be right. She'd had intimate relationships before, but not many, and she'd never enjoyed the volcanic, lose-your-mind, cry-out-his-name kind of lovemaking that she knew must exist.
Sitting alone in her apartment last night, she'd decided she'd spent long enough torturing herself over it. It was time to act! Her doubts needed to be washed awayand not with a few trickles but a downpour. With no truly memorable sexual experiences to speak of, at twenty-six she needed to know that she was capable of being consumed by the mindless fever that went hand-in-hand with heart-pounding, out-of-this-world, give-me-more sex. She'd read about that kind of explosive euphoriahad even dreamed of it a few times. Other women found it.
Why not her?
But brazen bad boy Pace wasn't the answer, as tempting as succumbing might be. Not only was that man a lesson in heartbreak waiting to happen, what if the unthinkable happened? What if she was wrong and Steve was right and she wasn't capable of feeling the earth move, or seeing a thousand stars go off in her head? Tanking with Steve had been uncomfortable. But she'd coped.
Pace was another matter.