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By Melani Blazer
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Melani Blazer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe media were already lining up behind his SUV when Zander got out of the vehicle in the hotel parking lot. He should talk to them, toss out promo for the camp and the brand new "Dream Come True" foundation he would be donating his time to. But he knew they didn't want to hear that. No, they were more interested in the rumors about his car chief, if his sponsor had signed on again for next year and if the recent lull in his "public" private life had anything to do with his lackluster performance on the track. He'd burned that article. And the one suggesting he was gay. Okay, that one had actually made him laugh. All these years his sexual preference had never been questioned and he went one weekend at the track without a female presence and suddenly he had jumped the fence.
Pasting on a practiced and very fake smile, he waved at the hated flashbulbs and ducked into the lobby. Could it be worse if he were a movie star? All he wanted to do was drive, dammit. That's where he worked best, all strapped in to a seven hundred plus horsepower drive machine and let loose with forty of the world's best drivers. Let someone else handle all this media shit. He was tired of defending his personal life-most of it focusing on his love life. Pretty funny considering he didn't even have one. He'd tried a relationship, with more than disastrous results. Never again. Never.
He shot his hand through his hair and thanked his lucky stars the elevator was empty.
Room four-twenty. He paused with his fist poised just beneath the number. He was early, but was taking no chances. He'd asked her on a whim. Wasn't something he'd planned until the words were out of his mouth. She was the polar opposite of what the media seemed to like to pair him with. Plenty attractive in a wholesome way, clearly intelligent and hey, she spent her vacation volunteering for kids. He dared the media to say something bad about that.
When he knocked and she answered the door completely ready, he smiled. Perfect. He knew she'd be there, and had guessed she'd be dressed professionally. Boring.
"You look ... nice," he said, noting the harsh black pantsuit she wore at least outlined her very shapely figure. With a little wardrobe help, she'd look stunning on his arm. That should sell some papers.
She winced and smoothed her hands over her hips. "You're early."
"You're ready. Besides, I've got a stop to make first." He gave her his best half-grin and waited.
Molly's shoulders rose and fell, then she closed the door on him. His smile erupted and he let out a chuckle. Damn, this was going to be fun.
"I'd really prefer to drive," she informed him as she emerged from the room a moment later and ducked under his arm. She headed straight for the elevator without slowing down. "I wish I'd known how to reach you earlier and I would have told you that."
He lifted an eyebrow. Was she afraid of him? Why else did she dart away like he might harm her? "I don't think so, Miss Molly. Can you imagine how the media would have a field day with that?"
"You asked me to come to give a report on the kids, not make you look good in print," she reminded him.
He eyed her up and down, enjoying the flash of fire in her. Much better than the gold diggers who seemed to be hot on his heels at every venue he visited.
"Let's compromise here." Zander leaned in as they boarded the elevator. She wore a sinful scent, one that filled his mind with images of black lace, creamy skin and sex. Damn, she smelled delicious. She stood facing straight ahead on the other side of the small space. Moving closer, intentionally too close for her to remain comfortable, he spoke barely above a whisper. "I'll feed you if you pretend you enjoy my company. You'll get to sing praises to the board, they'll continue to think the camp is a brilliant idea, all will be great."
She crossed her arms over her chest, but he could see her chest rising and falling unevenly. So she wasn't unaffected!
"And you'll get the benefit of having a single woman on your arm."
"Thank God you're single. I'd hate to have to beat up a jealous husband."
She snorted, then frowned at him, causing her smooth forehead to wrinkle. "You're incorrigible."
"But you'll do it?"
He didn't worry that she didn't answer. Meant she was thinking about it.
"You drove, eh?" she commented when he led her up to the dark SUV.
"I am a driver." Did she really need reminding? And no way was he going to have someone cart him around. He dealt with enough of that at the track. Hell, they didn't even let him drive his own golf cart to and from his trailer.
"Yeah, I know that," she replied, pursing those perfectly painted lips in a show of impatience. She even ignored his hand as he offered to help her climb up into his truck. Okay, her rebellion was starting to get old. She could at least be polite.
He got in his side. "Are you really angry with me about this whole thing?" He doubted it-she had been ready to go.
"I'm here aren't I?" she slung back, then shook her head and turned sideways as he buckled his seat belt and lowered the tilt wheel. "But then, you probably think I came because you're famous."
"No," she retorted, leaning back in the seat and crossing her arms over her chest. She couldn't possibly realize the scowl brought color to her cheeks and the way she pushed against her chest made her enticing cleavage a little more visible. "Though you could have warned me about the camera crew you'd brought along." She waved out the window at the sporadic pops of the bright flashes.
"They're annoying as hell and there'll be plenty more at the dinner. But back to you-I'm a bit surprised you came without more of a fight. You're just jumping in a vehicle with a stranger and-"
"Oh please. Zander, you know damn well you had the advantage of your fame-yes, I know who you are and what you do, but I'm not interested in a relationship, sex, or your damn money."
"Who said anything about sex?" He didn't hide his smile. Any minute now, there'd be smoke rising from her ears.
"Just drive, dammit. Drive."
"I can do that," he said. But that conversation was far from over. Far from over. He was dying to ask why she'd come, since she'd adamantly denied all the logical reasons. He'd pissed her off. Damn, she was cute when she pouted.
She kept her eyes averted. That was just fine with him. It gave him the chance to really study her features. She had a great profile, strong, yet feminine all at once. She was too pale-the girl clearly needed to get out in the sun more, but somehow the contrast with her near black hair and dark blue eyes made her-not pretty, no, she was past pretty. She wasn't necessarily glamorous either-he'd seen too many of those mask wearing females whose appearance was shallow. Molly had a glow about her, making her almost untouchable. Well, no, that wasn't quite what he was thinking, either.
Shit. He hit the brakes and swerved to miss the car in front of him whose driver had decided to turn without a signal. "Bastard," he muttered. Glancing over at Molly, he growled at the amused lift of her eyebrows and the corner of her mouth.
"Where are you going in such a hurry?" she asked. "It's not 'til seven, right?"
He tightened his grip on the steering wheel and refused to look over at her. She was damn distracting and the last thing he wanted was the humiliation of a car accident. Those were bad enough on track, where they were usually acceptable. "I need to do a bit of shopping."
Zander had made a few inquiries at the front desk of the hotel, learning the location of the best women's dress store in town, then made a call. When he parked in front of the upscale boutique, Molly didn't say a word. Neither did she budge from her arms-over-chest, eyes-straight-ahead pose.
"You getting out, or do you trust me enough to do this on my own?" he teased.
"Sweetheart, you look nice and all, but that's not nearly what I had in mind for you to be wearing tonight." Damn, she was gonna go ballistic, he just knew it. And his groin tightened in anticipation. So maybe he did have a death wish. He loved controversy, courted it constantly. But never had pissing off a cameraman been as much fun as this.
Excerpted from Trophy Girl by Melani Blazer Copyright © 2006 by Melani Blazer. Excerpted by permission.
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