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Beautiful distraction, p.2
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       Beautiful Distraction, p.2

           J. C. Reed
 

  “So you say.” His lips twitch. “Let’s face it. You were distracted by that phone glued to your ear, chatting as if I had all the time in the world.” He steps forward. “Has no one ever told you that talking on a phone while driving can cost lives?”

  I want to remark that I wasn’t driving while I was on the phone, but I refrain from it, because he’s right. “This is hardly a highway.”

  “It’s still called dangerous driving,” the guy says.

  For a few seconds, all I can do is stare at him. My pulse quickens and my breathing sounds just a little louder than it should. Knots begin to form in my abdomen as I stare at his perfect teeth and his perfect lips.

  God dammit.

  He screams sex on legs.

  The kind of guy you take home to let him fuck your brains out, and then you discard the next day because there’s no way in hell a guy like him settles for anything less than a harem.

  He also screams incurable, arrogant bastard.

  Everything he’s said so far tells me he’s a big-ass jerk.

  I don’t know why the thought that his dick’s probably had more mileage than a porn star’s pops into my head. But it does, and it reminds me that I’m very angry.

  Fuming mad.

  He hit my car…I remember. I can’t afford any repairs. On top of that, I shouldn’t be thinking about sex, especially not with Mr. Arrogant who’s more concerned with his stupid car than with the damage he’s caused to mine.

  “It’s just a scratch,” I point out. “Nothing a good paint job won’t solve.”

  “Look.” He sighs. His hot, sexy breath hits my face as he turns to me. “I get it. You don’t have the money to pay for the damage. You probably don’t even have insurance, and I wouldn’t wait for a check anyway, but damn, I just had it flown in from Italy. Don’t you have eyes, woman?”

  I gape at his audacity.

  He’s the one driving like a moron, and he’s still trying to blame me for his shortcomings?

  And what kind of accent is that?

  A slight drawl, rather subdued, as though he’s trying to hide it.

  No one’s ever made me hot and bothered by just talking to me, and it’s not even dirty talk.

  I can’t help closing my eyes for a moment, enjoying the onset of sexual tension. When I open them barely a second later, I find him staring at me, his tongue tracing his lower lip.

  And is that the slightest hint of a smile I glimpse on his lips?

  It can’t be because that would imply he’s—

  Laughing at me.

  I cringe.

  “Jerk,” I mutter.

  “Really? Do you know who I am?” he asks, completely oblivious to my growing annoyance with him.

  My brows shoot up. “Should I? I don’t think so…unless you’ve done something worth remembering, like saving the world or—”

  I gesture with my hand, trying hard to think of something that could prove my point. Truth is, I most certainly wouldn’t forget him if I knew who he was because he’s anything but forgettable.

  His grin turns into laughter. I stare at him, confused.

  I just insulted his expensive ass.

  Why the fuck is he laughing?

  “Trust me, if I did something, you wouldn’t be asking. You’d definitely be feeling it for days to come.” His green gaze shimmers, challenging me. “I might be a jerk, but I’m the kind of jerk who always lets the woman come first. And not just once.”

  My eyes widen. “What?”

  Sensing my confusion, he continues, “Either way, I’m okay with settling this incident privately.”

  “How do you propose we do it?”

  “I know a few ways.” His lips crack open into a smile.

  My jaw drops. Is he hitting on me? Can’t be because—

  “What?” I croak, my voice suddenly hoarse and my body on fire. My nipples strain against the thin fabric of my top, and most certainly not because of the cool NYC air.

  Oh, the traitors!

  Mr. Sex On Legs licks his lips slowly and deliberately, his gaze seemingly glued to my heaving chest. He doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he’s eye-fucking my breasts. Hell, in his dirty mind, I’m probably eagle-spread on his bed with him on top of me.

  “I’m sorry. I don’t follow.” I shake my head, trying to make sense of his words. “What are you talking about?”

  “You can repay the damage by going out with me tonight,” he says. “After which we can head over to my place.”

  I blink once, twice. My mouth parts ever so slightly. My labored breath barely makes it past my suddenly parched lips.

  Fuck, that’s hot!

  Oh, I want that.

  I haven’t been with anyone in more than a year. It’s been so long I wouldn’t be surprised to find cobwebs down there.

  If I were into one-night stands, he’d be perfect. Hot, arrogant, the kind who wouldn’t even think about asking for your number, let alone call you after you’d done the dirty deed.

  But there’s no way in hell I’d hook up with someone who’s so obvious and obnoxious about it. Somewhere in the background, I can hear my phone ringing, reminding me that time is of the essence.

  “Is that your boyfriend calling?” He grins. “You seem to be ignoring him.”

  “That’s none of your business.”

  “No boyfriend, then.” His arrogance is monumental. You can probably see it from outer space. And it irritates the hell out of me. “So, what do you say? In case you didn’t get it, I asked—”

  “I heard you loud and clear, and the answer’s no.”

  “No?” His brows shoot up in surprise.

  “No.”

  “You sure?” He peels his gaze off my breasts, albeit unwillingly, and finally settles on my face.

  I cross my arms over my chest and regard him coolly. “Has your flavor of the day stood you up and now you’re in desperate need of a replacement hookup? I’m no replacement fuck, ever. There’s definitely not going to be any coming. And I’m not a hooker. I’m not offering up my body to pay for the damage to your car.”

  “I figured that much. At least let me buy you a drink, and we’ll take it from there.” His gaze sweeps over me again in that deliberate, tantalizing way. “You owe me.”

  In spite of his harmless words, I can feel what he’s thinking.

  “Owe you?” I laugh. “Why are you like this? You don’t even know me.”

  “In my line of work, I don’t have time to waste, especially not when I like what I see.” He peers behind him. I follow his line of sight to the long queue in front of the club.

  What is it that he does?

  Is he a pimp?

  A drug lord?

  I’m fascinated and curious as hell.

  I almost take the bait and ask, but bite my tongue to stop myself before I do.

  “Sorry, I think I’ll pass. You’re not my type.” I take a step back to put some distance between us. A pang of disappointment flashes across his face, but he seems to get the message.

  “I’m everybody’s type,” he says. “You just have to realize it.”

  I have no doubt about that, but I keep my stony expression in place, proud that I’ve just rejected the hottest guy I’ve ever seen. Later, in the loneliness and privacy of my four walls, I’ll probably feel differently.

  His flirty expression seems to change before my eyes.

  Yeah, he definitely got the memo.

  His gaze travels the length of my Ford, assessing it with what I assume are knowing eyes. Without waiting for my reply, he pulls his wallet out of his back pocket and begins writing a check that he goes on to squeeze into my hand. I peer at the sum he’s just agreed to pay, and my mouth goes dry.

  Holy cow.

  That’s a lot of money.

  My Ford’s not worth that much.

  “This should cover your repairs, though my advice is to buy a new car.”

  My gaze jumps from the stark white piece of paper to his smug expression
and then back to the check. I thought I was angry before, but it was nothing compared to what I’m feeling now.

  The lump sum he’s offering is enough to cover the cost of a new car.

  My heart pumps so hard, it might just be about to burst out of my chest…and not in a good way.

  I’m humiliated…and furious.

  Not because his gesture implies that the accident was all his fault and he’s basically in my debt. I’m furious because the smugness in his expression tells me he’s convinced of the exact opposite.

  He feels sorry for me, and his generous check is basically a handout.

  A pity check.

  The audacity!

  Is that the reason why he hit on me in the first place? Because he thought I might be poor and impressed by his flashy car and clothes, and consequently eager to spread my legs for him just because he’s privileged?

  “What do you think? Is this enough?” he prompts impatiently.

  Ignoring his questions, I smile sweetly and step closer.

  The plan is to look straight into his eyes and tell him where he can shove his check. But instead, I find myself having to tilt my head back to look all the way up into a pair of sinfully green eyes the color of deep, dark forests and haunted meadows. Somehow, my frosty stance doesn’t look as confident and significant as I had planned it to be.

  In fact, his height intimidates me and I almost choke on my words.

  “Keep it. I don’t want your money,” I push out through gritted teeth. “And there’s no way I’d ever sleep with you. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. Got it?”

  With shaky fingers, I throw his check at him, careful not to touch him in any way.

  His brows rise. Slowly, his smile dies on his lips.

  “I’m not demanding that you—”

  I’m no longer listening as I turn my back to him and jump into my car, then slam the door shut.

  I avoid looking at him as I start the engine, but I can feel his gaze on me, and it’s burning my skin. My insides are on fire, even though my anger seems to have evaporated into the balmy night.

  Without looking back, I speed past him. I don’t live in his world, so I know I’ll never see him again. But that doesn’t make his eyes easily forgotten, nor does the knowledge dull the delicious throb between my legs.

  The fact still remains: he was a jerk.

  Some arrogant bastard I’ll never see again.

  I’d rather eat his check before I accept a handout from a stranger with the sick fantasy of settling it in private—in his bed.

  CHAPTER ONE

  Three months later

  A bitch of a hurricane is brewing up. It’s been all over the news for the past few days. I was too wrapped up in my research for my new article to watch TV or read the headlines, but Mandy has no excuse for dragging me along on this road trip through Montana with dark clouds gathering above our heads.

  Okay, maybe she has a reason…in the form of two tickets to see Mile High—the hottest indie band in the world. Too bad the concert’s taking place in Montana, which is probably the reason why it isn’t sold out. I mean, would you drive across half the country to see a pretentious bunch of delusional idiots dry humping the air and lip synching the life out of some auto tune while believing they’re the incarnation of Mozart?

  Yeah, me neither.

  But Mandy’s a fan.

  Apparently, the fact that they’re wearing black carnival masks (and not much else) and no one knows their real identities makes them even hotter—or so Mandy says. She doesn’t just have the band’s entire repertoire, which I swear consists of all of five songs that seem to run on replay across all stations nationwide (you can’t escape them anywhere); she’s actually not even ashamed to admit she’s into them.

  Talk about turning into a groupie and reliving her teens.

  Imagine my dismay when my car license registration won two concert tickets in a big radio swoop. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but out of all the great prizes (think a new iPhone and a makeover with a celebrity hairstylist), I had the misfortune to win the tickets when I’m probably the only female in the world who wouldn’t know who they were if it weren’t for Mandy’s eclectic taste in music.

  The moment I won the tickets, someone must have also bashed me over the head because I was stupid enough to tell Mandy about the win and reveal that I was considering selling them on eBay. Mandy almost blew a gasket and basically dragged me into the car to head for Madison Creek.

  The fight was lost before it even began.

  Which is why I’m here—God knows where—with the enthusiasm of a turtle at the outlook of putting my poor ears through the torture that’s about to befall Montana.

  Poor Montana, too.

  Forget the band.

  Fortunately, the tickets come with a ‘one-week all expenses paid hotel stay for two.’ That’s the only upside of my prize, at least in my opinion, and the main reason I agreed to keep it.

  I desperately need the one-week vacation before the boring work routine engulfs me once again.

  I’ve no idea where we are, only that we’re hours away from New York City, when I unplug Mandy’s iPhone in favor of some local radio station’s playlist of Sheryl Crow and David McGray songs. We’re halfway through the second song when the news comes through.

  “Storm Janet is picking up speed as she makes her way across western Montana. Residents are advised to stay indoors as severe, rare storm force winds with heavy rain are expected across some parts of…” Mandy switches off the radio.

  Suddenly the gray clouds gain an ominous new meaning and my throat chokes up.

  “A hurricane? Are you fucking kidding me?” I yell at Mandy, who’s speeding along an unpaved country road, past green pastures and untouched nature.

  “Relax. It’s just a bit of wind, Ava,” Mandy says. “Besides, we’re almost there. Relax and enjoy the scenery.”

  Relax?

  I cringe and bite my tongue hard so I won’t say something I may come to regret later. Mandy isn’t exactly irresponsible; she’s just easygoing, to put it mildly.

  Maybe even a bit reckless, which is what I usually adore about her.

  When I met her in kindergarten, we found our friendship based on opposites:

  I loved to collect coins and shells; she amassed clothes for her impressive doll collection.

  I collected novels; she collected the phone numbers of hot guys.

  Today, I’m a journalist; she’s an environmentalist lawyer working for a non-profit organization and needs to work as a club hostess on the side to make ends meet.

  I’m a worrier; she reminds me of the positive things in life.

  While I have a list for everything, including the contents of my wardrobe, she would get bored halfway through writing a list and always ridicules me for being overly conscientious, which she lovingly calls obsessive-compulsive.

  “You should have told me we’d be facing bad weather. We could have waited until tomorrow. We didn’t have to depart today.” I shoot her a venomous look, even though she can’t see me because her eyes are fixed on the road, one hand on the steering wheel, the other resting on her thigh.

  “And risk missing a day in a free five-star hotel? Maybe.” She shrugs. “But the thing is, if I had told you just how bad the weather might be, you wouldn’t have trudged along to see Mile High. We’ve wanted this for ages.”

  As in, she’s wanted this for ages and sort of insisted that I come along.

  I set my jaw and let her continue her little monologue.

  A heavy gust of wind rocks the car. I wiggle in my seat nervously. “Are you sure the hurricane’s not heading our way?”

  “Relax,” Mandy repeats. I swear she’s turning into a walking mantra. “Hurricanes can only form over water. Montana is far too inland to be hit by one. “

  “Why were storm force winds mentioned then? What is this if not a hurricane?”

  Mandy casts me a short side-glance. “A little storm or hurricane wo
n’t stop us from having the adventure of a lifetime. For all we know, it might not even hit Montana. They said so on TV. We both know the weather newscast tends to be a little overdramatic.”

  There, she just said the word.

  Oh, my frigging God.

  The wind howls louder, the trees whip back and forth in a wild frenzy, and the car trembles with the force coming sideways. Mandy tries not to show it, but I can see the whites on her knuckles as she holds on tightly to the wheel, forcing the car to stay on course.

  I try to calm my thumping heart, but it’s hard. Hurricanes are unpredictable. Mandy might even be right about the last part, but I don’t want to be outside, in the middle of frigging nowhere, to find out. I sigh and slump into the passenger seat, keeping my eyes focused on the road ahead, praying we’ll reach our destination soon—a hotel near Madison Creek.

  The tickets couldn’t have come at a more fortunate time. Mandy had been a fan for ages. She had also been talking about looking forward to a last adventure together. With my career as a journalist really taking off, Mandy figured we might as well see more of the world before we end up stuck behind a desk in an air-conditioned office in stuffy New York City. Not that I don’t like NYC; I’ve lived there my whole life and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. But lately, it’s been oppressing…filled with people and memories I want to push into the proverbial filing cabinet deep inside my brain.

  That was the only reason why I agreed to trudge along.

  “This kind of wind rarely lasts more than an hour,” Mandy says, resuming the conversation.

  “I hope so,” I mutter and close my eyes, slumping deeper into my seat. “So, where are we exactly?” I ask for the umpteenth time.

  “It’s a road trip, Ava. The beauty of it is that you don’t know where you are,” she says dryly, leaving the rest open to interpretation.

  I watch her in thought.

  Her lips are pressed together, and her grip on the steering wheel has tightened.

  “Basically, you have no idea where we are,” I say matter-of-factly.

  She shrugs. “You’re wrong.”

  “I’m so not wrong.”

 
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