Living the Charade(3)

By: Michelle Conder


Ignoring the fact that she felt as if he was still watching her, she turned to Ruby. ‘He’s got holes in his jeans and a T-shirt that says “My pace or yours?” How many glasses of this crap wine have you had?’

Ruby paused, glancing briefly back at the bar. ‘Not him—although he does fill that T-shirt out like a god. I’m talking about the suit he’s talking to.’

Miller turned her gaze to the suit she hadn’t noticed. Similar-coloured hair, square, clean-shaven jaw, nice nose, great suit. Yes, thankfully he did look more her type.

‘Oh, I think I know him!’ Ruby exclaimed.

‘You know Ripped Jeans?’

‘No.’ Ruby shook her head, openly smiling in the direction Miller dared not turn back to. ‘The hotshot in the suit beside him. Sam someone. I’m pretty sure he’s a lawyer out of our L.A. office. And he’s just the type you need.’

Miller glanced back and noticed that tall, dark and dishevelled was no longer watching her, but still some inner instinct told her to run. Fast.

‘No!’ She dismissed the idea outright. ‘I draw the line at picking up a stranger in a bar—even if you do think you know him. Let me just go to the bathroom and then we can share a taxi home. And stop looking at those guys. They’ll think we want to be picked up.’

‘We do!’

Miller scowled. ‘Believe me, by the look of the one who needs to become reacquainted with a razor all it would take is a look and he’d have you horizontal in seconds.’

Ruby eyed her curiously. ‘That’s exactly what makes him so delicious.’

‘Not to me.’ Miller headed for the bathroom, feeling slightly better now that she had decided to call it a night. Her problem still hovered over her like a dark cloud, but she was too tired to give it any more brainpower tonight.

* * *

‘Would you stop looking at those women? We are not here to pick up,’ Tino Ventura growled at his brother.

‘Seems to me it might solve your problem about what to do with yourself this weekend.’

Tino snorted. ‘The day I need my baby brother to sort entertainment for me is the day you can put me in a body bag.’

Sam didn’t laugh, and Tino silently berated his choice of words.

‘So how’s the car shaping up?’ Sam asked.

Tino grunted. ‘The chassis still needs work and the balancing sucks.’

‘Will it be ready by Sunday?’

The concern in his brother’s voice set Tino’s teeth on edge. He was so over everyone worrying about this next race as if it was to be his last—and okay, there were a couple of nasty coincidences that made for entertaining journalism, but they weren’t signs, for God’s sake.

‘It’ll be ready.’

‘And the knee?’

Coming off the back of a long day studying engine data and time trials in his new car, Tino was too tired to humour his brother with shop-talk.

‘This catch-up drink was going a lot better before you started peppering me with work questions.’

He could do without the reminder of how his stellar racing year had started to fall apart lately. All he needed was to win this next race and he’d have the naysayers who politely suggested that he would never be as good as his father off his back.

Not that he dwelt on their opinion.

He didn’t.

But he’d still be happy to prove them wrong once and for all, and equalling his father’s number of championship titles in the very race that had taken his life seventeen years earlier ought to do just that.

‘If it were me I’d be nervous, that’s all,’ Sam persisted.

Maybe Tino would be too, if he stopped to think about how he felt. But emotions got you killed in his business, and he’d locked his away a long time ago. ‘Which is why you’re a cottonwool lawyer in a four-thousand-dollar suit.’

‘Five.’

Tino tilted his beer bottle to his lips. ‘You need to get your money back, junior.’

Sam snorted. ‘You ought to talk. I think you bought that T-shirt in high school.’

‘Hey, don’t knock the lucky shirt.’ Tino chuckled, much happier to be sparring with his little brother than dissecting his current career issues.

He knew his younger brother was spooked about all the problems he’d been having that so eerily echoed his father’s lead-up to a date with eternity. Everyone in his family was. Which was why he was staying the hell away from Melbourne until Monday, when the countdown towards race day began.

‘Excuse me, but do I know you?’

Tino glanced at the blonde who had been eyeballing them for the last ten minutes, pleasantly surprised to find her focus on his little brother instead of himself.