What was Stella doing right now?
For the hundredth time this week, Bobby asked himself that question. And the answer was still the same.
He didn't know. But he wished he did.
Maybe he should have tried harder to get her number after that wild night at the club. Yeah, he should have. But Bobby Bolton didn't chase women. He enjoyed their companyusually for the evening, occasionally for a weekendand that was that. He didn't do long-term, didn't do "relationships." Everyone had a good time and parted as friends. That was the way he'd always interacted with the opposite sex.
Until that night two months ago when he'd met Stella.
The last night he'd felt as if he had the world in the palm of his hand.
FreeFall, the TV network that had bought his reality show, The Bolton Biker Boys, had hosted a behind-the-velvet-rope party to celebrate the upcoming season. It was the sort of event Bobby lived forglamorous people in a glamorous setting.
But even as he'd been doing some serious schmoozing, the woman sitting at the corner of the bar caught his eye. She'd had a sense of style that marked her as differentinstead of too tight or too short, she'd had on a long-sleeved dress covered in leather straps and buckles that was completely backless. The outfit demanded attention, but the woman wearing it had been alone, her gaze trained on the crowd.
He hadn't known who she was when he'd bought her a drink. She'd told Bobby she was a fashion designer, but she hadn't mentioned her last name. She'd enchanted him with her outrageous sense of style, soft British accent and distance from the rest of the crowd. She'd been a woman apartexcept for him. They'd talked as if they were the oldest of friends, every joke an inside one only they found funny. He'd been unable to resist her.
Which must have been how they'd wound up in the back of a limo with a bottle of champagne and a couple of condoms.
It was only afterward, when he'd asked for her number, that she'd dropped the bomb. She was actually Stella Caine, only daughter of David Caineowner of FreeFall TV, distributor for Bobby's reality show, majority investor in Bobby's new resort and one of the most notoriously conservative men in the world.
He'd felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under his feet. How could he not have known who she was? How could he have done something so stupid? What would happen when she told her father?
David Caine would ruin him, that's what, and everything he'd worked for would be gone.
Even after revealing her identity, she hadn't given Bobby her number. Just a kiss on the cheek and an "It's better this way," leaving Bobby to wonder, Better for who?
And that had been the last he'd heard from her. He hadn't been called on the carpet by David Caine for corrupting his daughter. He hadn't received any calls or texts from Stella. He had nothing to remember her by, except a picture.
And the memories.
Just then one of the production assistants, Vicky, said, "We got the shot," shaking him out of his thoughts. "Anything else?"
Right. Bobby wasn't in New York. He was filming his show for FreeFall TV in South Dakota. And Stella Caine had made it clear that she didn't want anything from him beyond their one-night stand. He needed to stop thinking about her and focus on the job at hand.
And what a job it was.
"I think that's it for today," Bobby told Vicky as he looked around the narrow trailer that was his office and, most days, his home.
It was four on Friday afternoon in the middle of November, the setting sun already cloaking everything in winter gray. The construction workers had packed up for the day. Vicky and her film crew, Villainy Productions, had stayed later to get a couple shots of Bobby sitting at his desk, looking overwhelmed.
He had not done a lot of acting today.
What the hell was his problem? This was everything he'd ever wanted. His reality show had debuted on FreeFall with impressive numbers. The production contract he'd signed with FreeFall had underwritten half the financing he needed to begin building Crazy Horse Resort, which was being filmed for the show.
Ten miles outside of Sturgis, South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Resort was going to be the upscale destination for weekend bikersthe doctors, stockbrokers and lawyers who made money hand over fist during the week and liked to cut loose in motorcycle leathers on the weekend. It'd be a five-star destination resort, complete with spa, shopping, three restaurants, a nightclub and a Crazy Horse boutique and garage so guests could upgrade their ride or buy a new one. It was the perfect synergy of business form and function and would turn Crazy Horse into a total lifestyle brand.
The reality show, featuring not only the construction of the resort but his family and their business, was also feeding a huge sales boom for his brother Billy's custom-made choppers. Crazy Horse Choppers was now an international brand with a loyal following among both celebrities and hard-core bikers, and Bobby was still the marketing director.
He had worked for years to get to this point. He was rich, famous and powerful. All of his dreams had come true. By all objective standards, he was a success.
So why the hell did he feel so
Hours after everyone else had gone home, he sat at his desk, which was wedged against one wall of the construction trailer. The sales numbers for Crazy Horse were up on his computer screen, but he wasn't looking at them. Maybe I'm just tired, he thought, trying to get his eyes to focus. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been home.
Instead of sleeping on his California king bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, he'd been spending nights on the trailer's couch. Instead of cooking in his condo's gourmet kitchen, the one with marble countertops, he'd been using a hot plate, coffeepot and microwave. And instead of enjoying his Whirlpool-jet tub, he'd been making do with the trailer's closet-size bathroom. His days had become a blur of coffee, construction, cameras. Hell, he hadn't even made a business trip since he'd been to New Yorktwo months ago.
Suck it up.
As his older brothers, Ben and Billy, constantly reminded him, he'd brought this on himself. They weren't about to step in and offer a helping hand. His brothers thought his ideas were ridiculous and expected him to fail, so Bobby would do whatever it took to prove them wrong.
Including living in a construction trailer and reviewing sales figures on a perfectly good Friday night.
Soon he would have his penthouse apartment on the top floor of the resort. He'd have a private elevator, expansive views of the Black Hills andmost importanthe wouldn't be living in anyone's shadow. Not his father, Bruce, and his hopelessly out-of-touch way of running things. Not Billy and his insistence on building the bikes he wanted, not the bikes customers wanted. And not Ben and his slavish devotion to the bottom line.
He knew his brothers thought he was a screwup, but he'd show them. Nobody was going to mess up this deal.
For the first time in his life, Bobby would have something that was his and his alone. His own personal kingdom. He'd have complete controlhiring the chefs he liked, the designers he wanted. It was a big dream, but dreaming big was what he did best.
A car door slamming shut snapped him back to the present.
They'd had a few problems with copper thieves. Copper wasn't cheap and its resale value had recently gone through the roof. He had hired a security guard, but it took Larry about twenty minutes to drive around the entire site.
Then he heard it. Whistling. A jaunty tune, by the sound of it.
Not just thieves, but confident thieves. Bobby slid open the bottom drawer of his desk and grabbed his Glock. He'd gotten the gun a while back. He'd heard tales of contractors taking huge losses when their raw materials walked off. Insurance usually covered itbut then insurance rates went up. He refused to pay for the same materials twice.
They'd learn soon enough that no one stole from the Boltons.
He'd no sooner gotten the lock off the gun than someone knocked on the door. He jumped. Copper thieves didn't knock.
"Coming," Bobby said for lack of a better plan.
He shoved the gun into the back of his waistband. This could be Cass, the receptionist at Crazy Horse Choppers. She checked on him from time to time. Maybe she was stopping by to nag him about something.
Bobby opened the door. The light spilled out into the night, illuminating a
leprechaun? He blinked, but the image stayed the same. Short guy wearing a green vest over a plaid shirt underneath an overcoat, reddish hair sticking out from under one of those caps old men wore.
"Ah, there ye are," the leprechaun said in a distinctly Irish voice, giving Bobby a cocky grin. "Yer a tough feller to track down, laddie."
"Excuse me?" Bobby peered around the little man and saw a black sedan, the kind with windows tinted so dark they weren't legal in most states.
Suddenly, Bobby realized he'd seen that cara Jaguararound all week long, coasting past the construction site at odd times, the sleekness of the vehicle sticking out like a sore thumb.
He reached around his back, trying to be inconspicuous, trying to get a handle on the Glock.
The next thing he knew, he was looking down the barrel of a snub-nosed pistol. "Don't think that's the best idea, lad." The leprechaun held out his other hand. "Nice and slow."
"Who are you?" If Bobby was going to hand over his gun, the leprechaun owed him a name.
"The name's Mickey." Once he had Bobby's Glock in hand, he added, "That's a good lad. She said you were smart. I do hate to prove 'er wrong."
"What? She who?"
That got him another cocky grin. "Anyone else in here?" Mickey leaned in.
"No." Even though Bobby knew he should be keeping his eye on this Mickey, Bobby found himself staring at the black sedan, thinking she?
"Keep yer cool and we'll all be just fine." Mickey winked at him. "Sit tight and remember" he brandished the pistol in Bobby's face again "try anything funny and I'll 'ave to break my promise to 'er."
"What promise was that?"
"Not to hurt yeat least, until she said so."
At this cryptic statement, Mickey pocketed both guns and turned back to the sedan. Still whistling, he opened the back door and held out a hand to the passenger.
A long feminine leg exited the vehicle, followed by a second equally impressive leg. Bobby's pulse began to pound. Maybe he wasn't about to be robbed. Maybe he was about to get lucky. Why else would legs like that be here at a time like this?
A gloved hand settled in Mickey's and a woman cloaked in black stood up. Even at a distance, Bobby could see the blunt black bangs and the severe bob that was three inches longer on one side than on the other. Bobby's pulse went from pounding to a dead standstill in the space between heartbeats.
Only one woman in the world looked like that. Stella Caine.
Bobby rubbed his eyes, but the vision stayed the same. Stella.
How was this possible?
She stood for a moment, her eyes taking in the construction site. Mickey offered her his elbow, and arm in arm, they walked up to the trailer.
Enchanting was all he could think as her hips swayed toward him. A long black fur coat almost swallowed her whole, except for the flash of leg that cut through the night with every other step. When she hit the circle of light that spilled out of his trailer, she looked up at him.
Her eyes, the palest of green, flashed at him. For all her edgy style, her eyes were something completely differentsoft. Vulnerable, even.
A gust of wind blew between them like a warning. Bobby sensed immediately that, beyond the armed leprechaun, he was in danger. What had been cool and reserved in Stella the last time they'd met was nothing but arctic cold today. If she was happy to see him, she wasn't letting on.
"Stella." For a moment, he had no idea what else to say, which was something in and of itself. He always knew what to say, when to say it. It was his giftthe ability to read people and know exactly what they needed to hear. That gift had gotten him this far in life.
Apparently, it was going to fail him now. He didn't want to say anything. He wanted to pull her into his arms and tell her he wasn't going to let her out of his sight again.
But he knew that would probably get him shot. So the best he could come up with was, "Come in." He stepped to the side as she brushed past him, the scent of lavender surrounding him.
Mickey didn't follow her in. Instead, he leaned against the railing, oblivious to the winter temperature. "Keep yer cool," he told Bobby with a small salute. "I'd hate to 'ave to bust in, all un-gentleman-like."
What, did he think Bobby would do something to Stella? They'd already
well, they'd already spent time in each other's company. He wasn't the kind of man who'd hurt a woman. Bolton men took care of women.
For him, that usually meant that he made sure a woman was just as satisfied with their encounter as he was. He took care of her sexual needs, and she took care of his. Everyone went home happy.
But this? This wasn't the same thing. Not even close.
With a final confused look at Mickey, Bobby shut the door and turned his attention back to the woman looking around his construction trailer with obvious disdain. Again, he knew he should say the right thingNew York was a hell of a long way from Sturgis, South Dakota, no matter how one went about it. But again, his mouth failed him.
"Can I.take your coat?"
Stella turned her back to him, but he saw her loosening the belt on her coat. He stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders.
The fur slipped off her and into his hands, revealing a sheer maroon lace that covered her arms and back but left nothing to the imagination. He stared at it for a moment before the pattern clicked into placeskulls. The lace formed tiny skulls. It was entirely ladylike and entirely out therevery Stella.
Below that, she'd sewn a leather corset. This continued down into a floor-length knit skirt that, from the back, seemed puritanical. Then she stepped free of him and he saw that the front of the skirt was divided by two long slits that went all the way up to her thighs.
Bobby's pulse began to pound again. Only Stella Caine could pull off something that left her completely covered while still revealing so damn much. What was she doing here? And why did he still want her so badly?