Seduced:The Unexpected Virgin(2)

By: Emily McKay

Besides, he was Ward freakin’ Miller. Musical superstar and the most recognizable do-gooder in the country. Oh, yeah. And he was hot.

Any one of those elements would be enough to intimidate a woman of her meager accomplishments. The triple whammy just might induce cardiac arrest.

Maybe she was even hoping he’d turn out to be a jerk. She’d been a fan of his since she hit puberty. Professional distance would be easier to fake if he ended up being just as obnoxious as…oh, say, Ridley Sinclair, the supposedly happily married movie star who’d relentlessly hit on her. Okay, so Ward didn’t have to be that bad. All she asked for was just a smidge of artistic temperament to help her establish some boundaries between her fantasies of Ward and the real-life man she was about to face.

Christi came to stand beside Ana. They stood shoulder to shoulder by their office door, trying to imagine the first impression the room would give.

Ana clucked. “It’s not fancy enough. It’s not elegant enough. We should have met at the Vista Del Mar Beach and Tennis Club like I wanted to.”

“His personal assistant said he didn’t expect any special treatment,” Christi reminded her.

Ana gave a guffaw of disbelief. “I’ve worked with a lot of famous people. They all expect special treatment.”

And she was so not good at pandering to celebrities. Inevitably, she tired of their nonsense and her temper got the better of her. Oh, it’s that fiery Latin temper, her friends would tease. Which only made it worse. She hated living down to that stereotype.

“Either they demand a particular kind of water, chilled to a precise temperature,” she continued. “Or they want a collection of seventeen different snacks that are all a shade of blue. Or they’re on some cleansing diet that requires them to snort free-range kelp up their nose five times a day.”

“I think,” Christi quipped, “I would have remembered it if his assistant had mentioned free-range kelp snorting.”

“What did the assistant mention?” Ana asked, unable to swallow her curiosity any longer. “Never mind. I don’t want to know.”

She wasn’t a groupie scanning the pages of Tiger Beat for the Jonas Brothers’ favorite color of M&M. This was professional interest only.

But it irritated her that she asked, because of course she was curious. What hot-blooded American woman between the ages of twenty and eighty-nine wouldn’t be? What woman her age hadn’t slow danced in some smoky bar to the sonorous rhythm of “Falling Hard”? Or sat in traffic singing along with “Caught You”?

He was her generation’s…well, Bono, Paul McCartney and Johnny Cash all rolled into one. A sexy bad boy with a heart of pure platinum and talent for writing songs so good they made your soul ache. He hadn’t performed or put out any new albums since his wife, Cara, had died of cancer three years ago. His absence from the public eye only added to his mystique. Die-hard fans still clamored for new songs. She certainly had her share of giddy excitement about meeting him. Maybe more than her share. But she’d worked really hard to bury it under a layer of professionalism. She just hoped she succeeded.

She glanced at her watch again. “And, he’s officially late. Very late.”

Then a voice came from behind her. “Not too late, I hope.”

It was the gravelly voice of a rock star, a voice she’d know anywhere. Hearing it made her stomach drop straight down to her toes.

She turned slowly toward the voice. And there he was. Ward Miller.

He stood just inside the hallway that led to the service entrance. He was taller than she expected, maybe just shy of six feet. He dressed in the ubercasual style of celebrities, with green cargo pants and a simple V-neck white T-shirt that emphasized the breadth of his shoulders. He held mirrored aviator glasses in one hand and had on a Stingrays ball cap. Why did stars always think a simple hat would be enough to fool people? His dark, wavy hair was shorter than when he’d toured regularly, but still long enough to make him look scruffy and a little disreputable. His face was narrow, his lips thin, but neither feature made him look parsimonious, as they might have on another man. Instead, he looked soulful and sensitive. Though not entirely tamed. That edge of wildness surprised her. Magazine photos hadn’t captured that.

Perhaps most important, he didn’t look offended. Good thing, too. Hardworking do-gooders with liberal arts degrees were a dime a dozen, but mega rock stars willing to lend their name to a charity were so much harder to come by.

Face-to-face with all his star power, she suddenly felt a little light-headed. “Mr. Miller, you’ve surprised us by sneaking in the service entrance.” She hadn’t intended to let the note of censure creep into her voice. But maybe that was better than the alternative. She could all too easily imagine herself giggling like a schoolgirl.