Living the Charade(8)

By: Michelle Conder


Not wanting to play to his supersized ego, and feeling entirely out of her element as he regarded her through sleepy eyes, Miller made a quick decision. ‘Well, I’d hate to be accused of insulting your masculinity, Mr Ventura, so by all means take the wheel.’

His slow smile told her that he’d heard her silent shove it and found it amusing. Found her amusing. And it made her blood boil.

Hating that he thought he’d won that round, she kept her voice courteous. ‘As it turns out I don’t mind if you drive. It will give me a chance to work on the way down.’

‘But you’re not impressed?’

‘Not particularly.’

‘What does impress you?’

He folded his arms across his torso and Miller’s brain zeroed in on the shifting muscles and tendons under tanned skin. What had he just asked?

She cleared her throat. ‘The usual. Manners. Intellect. A sense of humour—’

‘You like your cars well-mannered and funny, Miss Jacobs? Interesting.’

Miller knew she must be bright red by now, and hate turned to loathing. ‘This isn’t funny.’ She caught and held his amused gaze. ‘Are you intending to sabotage my weekend?’

It gave her some satisfaction to see an annoyed look flash across his divine face.

‘Sunshine, if I was going to do that I wouldn’t have shown up.’

‘I don’t like you calling me Sunshine.’

‘All couples have nicknames. I’m sure you’ve thought up a few for me.’

More than a few, she mused silently, and none that could be repeated in polite company.

Desperate to break the tension between them, Miller moved to the back of her car and pulled out her overnight bag. Valentino met her halfway and stowed it in the sports car before holding the passenger door wide for her.

Miller raised an eyebrow and gripped the doorframe, steeling herself to stare into his eyes. This close, the colour was amazing: streaks of silver over blue, with a darker band of grey encircling each iris.

She sucked in a deep breath and ignored his earthy male scent. ‘You need to understand that I’m in charge this weekend.’ Her voice wasn’t very convincing even to her own ears but she continued on regardless. ‘On the drive down we’ll establish some ground rules, but basically all I need you to do is to follow my lead. Do you think you can do that?’

He smiled. That all-knowing grin that crinkled the outer edges of his amazing eyes. ‘I’ll give it my best shot. How does that sound?’

Terrible. It sounded terrible.

He leaned closer and Miller found herself sitting on butter-soft leather before she’d meant to. Her brain once again flashing a warning to run. Taking a deep breath, she ignored it and scanned the sleek interior of the car: dark and somehow predatory—like Valentino himself. It must have cost a fortune to rent, and again she wondered what he did for a living.

She couldn’t look away from the way his jeans hugged his muscular thighs as she watched as he slid into the driver’s seat. ‘You’re not a lawyer like your brother, are you?’ she asked hopefully.

‘Good God, no! Do I look like a lawyer?’

Not really. ‘No.’ She tried not to be too disappointed. ‘Do you have the questionnaire I gave you?’

‘No one could fault your excitement about wanting to get to know me.’

He reached into the back, his body leaning way too close to hers, and handed her the questionnaire.

Then he started the car, and Miller’s senses were on such high alert that the husky growl of the engine made her want to squirm in her seat.

‘You’ll notice I added to it as well,’ he informed her, merging into the building inner city traffic.

She glanced up, feeling completely discombobulated, and decided not to distract him by asking what he’d added. She concentrated on the questionnaire.

His favourite colour was blue, favourite food was Thai. He’d grown up in Melbourne. Hobbies: swimming, running and surfing—no wonder he looked so fit! No sign of any cerebral pursuits—no surprise there. Family: two sisters and two brothers.

‘You have a big family.’

He grunted something that sounded like yes.

‘Are you close?’ The impetuous question was too personal, and unnecessary, but as she’d spent much of her youth longing for siblings her curiosity got the better of her.

He glanced at her briefly. ‘Not particularly.’

That was a shame. Miller had always dreamed that large families were full of happy, supportive siblings who would do anything for each other.

‘What does “Lives: everywhere” mean?’ she asked, glancing at the questionnaire.