Will Franconi gunned the engine of his classic 1970 Dodge Challenger and the rush of speed exploded through his veins.
He had built a billion-dollar luxury goods business by respecting his customers, his suppliers, his business partners, and his employees. After he’d learned the hard way as a kid how lies and cruelty could ruin a life, he’d worked like hell to turn his own around. Today, though his meeting was with a kid instead of a power player, he was just as intent on getting there on time.
And if that meant pushing the powerful car even faster, all the better.
Jeremy Newman’s letter to Will had been scrawled on spiral notebook paper that looked like it had been ripped out of an elementary school binder. Having watched Will’s clip on the TV show Hot Cars, Jeremy had written that he loved cars, had seen every movie and TV show ever made about cars, and begged to see Will’s collection.
The boy’s longing had touched something in Will that he couldn’t define. And only a total jerk would say no.
Powering into the turn off the freeway, his tires spat gravel while the back end held firm as he blew through the open gates of the municipal airport on the San Francisco Peninsula. The speed sent another rush through him—a rush that he’d always needed, lately more than ever.
Down the row of hangars, the two specks ahead coalesced into a woman and a young man, taller than she was and younger, too—a teen. The boy was bouncing on his feet with nervous energy.
Will had been expecting an eight-year-old. Could this teenager be Jeremy? Will took his foot off the gas and tapped the brakes, slowing as individual features came into focus. The two had similar bone structure, but where the teenager had brown hair, the woman was blond, and not out of a bottle, either.
Rolling to a stop beside them, Will focused on her, the bump in his pulse having nothing to do with his earlier burst of speed. It was all about her—the lush lips, the blond hair cascading in waves over her shoulders, and the business suit that failed to disguise her sweet curves. She wasn’t dressed Saturday casual the way Will was, but all straitlaced and buttoned up. The hair gave her away, though, flowing free and sexy in the breeze blowing off the bay.
“Mr. Franconi, Mr. Franconi!” The teen began waving his arms, practically jumping out of his sneakers. In one hand, he gripped an orange spiral notebook, shaking it wildly. It could very well have contained the torn-out page Will had in his jeans pocket.
So this was Jeremy Newman. He had to be seventeen or eighteen, even though the printing in the letter had been, at best, at a third grade level, and the tone was the same, one of an exuberant child on a mission.
Will climbed out of the restored white Challenger. The car was the reason he’d almost been late. He’d been up in San Francisco that morning checking over a shipment of caviar. An exclusive from Russia, he’d paid a fortune for it and had done the inspection himself. Driving the Challenger to this meeting had been a last-minute decision, and the Bay Area traffic had been bumper-to-bumper on the detour back to his home in Portola Valley to pick up the car. Spring was here, and everyone seemed to be out for a drive on the first clear, sunny Saturday in weeks.
Fortunately, the excitement on the boy’s face as he raced around the car was worth the extra trouble.
“Wowowowow.” Jeremy spoke so fast it was almost one word.
“Jeremy, calm down,” the woman said, but she was smiling at the boy as she did so. Her voice was as smooth as the award-winning Japanese single malt whiskey Will imported.
If Jeremy had been younger, she could have been his mother—the same nose, the same blue eyes. But at somewhere in her late twenties, she was far too young to be the mother of an eighteen-year-old.
“I’m Will,” he said as he left Jeremy to his raptures over the car for a few moments and turned to focus his attention on her. “Will Franconi.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Franconi.”
She shook his hand and he was struck not only by the strength of her handshake, but also by how soft her skin was. So soft that he didn’t want to let go, especially when he caught the flicker of awareness—and heat—that sparked in her eyes when they touched.
“I’m Harper Newman.” She carefully drew her hand away from his. “My brother Jeremy is obviously too excited for a proper introduction.” She smiled fondly again at her brother, who was kneeling to study the rim on the right rear tire, lovingly running one finger over it. “I really appreciate your taking the time to show us your car collection. With your busy schedule, we don’t want to keep you too long.”
“First of all, call me Will. And second, it’s my pleasure.” He hadn’t expected to meet a gorgeous woman—and single, judging by her bare left hand—here today. She had no idea just how great a pleasure this meeting had turned out to be.
Jeremy raced back over to them. “It’s just like the Challenger Barry Newman crashed in Vanishing Point.” His speech pattern was slightly off. Not slurred so much as overpronounced, as though his mouth had to work harder at making the sounds come out right, and his inflections were out of sync with his words. “Barry Newman,” he repeated, then poked his own chest. “Jeremy Newman, get it?”
Will was thinking that Jeremy was way too young to know about the classic movie from the early seventies, when Harper told him, “He’s watched all the great car chases, from Vanishing Point to Bullitt and every one of the Fast and Furious movies.” Her hand lay on the boy’s back, rubbing between his shoulder blades, a calming gesture. Sweet and simple affection for her brother.
But Will knew firsthand that there was nothing simple about affection...and that it wasn’t necessarily a given between family members. Jeremy was very lucky indeed to have Harper as a sister.
“I’ve also seen the new Transformers: Age of Distinction.” Jeremy said the last word carefully and Will didn’t have the heart to correct it to Extinction. “That chase with the evil bad cars was cool,” Jeremy enthused, his eyes wide.
Harper didn’t correct the movie title, either. Or maybe she didn’t know the difference, given that Will didn’t see her as a Transformers fan. Besides, maybe distinction was a better word in this case, considering that Harper Newman was already a woman of distinction in Will’s estimation—both because of how well she treated her brother and the way her natural beauty shone through despite the rather severe outfit.