“Ben. Ben! Mr. Miller!”
Sitting up, a hand going over his eyes to shield them from the sunlight, Ben softly growled, his muscles screaming in pain. It took him a moment to realise where he was and to remember the events of the previous night.
“What the hell?!” he hissed.
“I’m very sorry, sir, but you need to be on the road in less than an hour,” his assistant said, the poor man’s face so red it was a miracle this one did not keel over from a heart attack. “I tried reaching you all morning but your Bluetooth was closed. It’s only when I received the entrance log to the gara—” He got up effectively shutting the man up, this one looking at anything but his naked body. He did not care, his eyes scanning the place.
“Where’s Emma?” he asked.
“Emma! The woman that was here with me!” She was nowhere to be seen. Even her clothes were gone.
“I’m sorry but you were alone when I arrived.”
Cursing softly, he sat down on the tailgate. She had left while he slept. No notes, no phone number, nothing. Well, they had a fun night and that was it, it seemed.
He gathered his clothes and started to get dressed. He felt sore all over and his back hurt when he slipped on his shirt. He knew if he looked in a mirror, he would see scratch marks. Emma had branded him but so had he when he had bitten her…
“Fuck no!” he suddenly shouted making his assistant yelp.
He jumped off the truck and slammed the tailgate closed before turning to face the quivering man.
“I want you to find someone. Her first name is Emma. She’s an American from California. I want you to call in every damn hotels on the Riviera until you find her!” If she only wanted a one night stand, then fine but he deserved at least the opportunity to say a proper goodbye.
Slipping his Bluetooth device from his pocket, he put it on, took a deep breath, then turned it on.
“Hey guys!” he said jovially as soon as he was connected to his VIPs. “I’m real sorry about last night and all. I hope you all had fun. Believe me, it’ll only get better from this point on. I’ll meet you all at the entrance. I’ve got a bit of a surprise for you guys. See you all in a bit!”
Ben had less than an hour to shower, change clothes, find Emma and get his ass to Nice. It would be a tight race against the clock but he never was one to go after an easy win.
With a hiss, Emma brought her hand away from her shoulder. She had been doing that far too often this morning. Ben had left quite a mark on her on top of a very sore body. She hissed once again. Thinking of him was also something she needed to stop doing.
If she was honest with herself, she hated the way she had snuck out while he slept. Sure, she had had her reasons. She had needed to get to her trailer to shower and be ready for whatever was expected of them. It would have taken too much time to explain everything to him, time she just did not have, not with how busy her schedule was. She was not, after all, here to enjoy the festival like any normal spectators. As a matter of fact, neither was he.
They would probably both be too busy to ever meet let alone hang out. Not that Ben would automatically want that. They had fun and they had great sex. Most people would say they had a one night stand. He probably would say that what they had was merely a one night stand.
Her throat strangely constricted, her hand going to rub her aching shoulder.
“Fuck it all!” she growled louder than she had meant to, the other drivers looking at her perplexedly.
“Hey Taylor,” one of them said. “There’s coffee if you want some. Looks like you need it. Rough night, huh!” At least she had earned a bit of respect the previous day. Still, it did nothing to alleviate the guilt she felt this morning nor how gloomy her thoughts were fast becoming. “Oh and don’t forget to put on your Bluetooth.”
Crap! She had completely forgotten about it!
“Thanks. Any word on where we’ll be going?” she asked trying her best to sound casual.
“Miller said he’d meet us here. A surprise, he said. The surprise would be to finally meet him, eh!”
She let out a snorting laugh while walking towards a table set to the side where the crowd control barriers were, the sublime aroma of coffee making her almost purr. Despite the early morning, there was a lot of people gathered though none gave her more than a passing glance. They probably thought she was part of the crew. How long would that last? Ben was bound to find out about her sooner or later. She wished she had had the chance to tell him herself, to explain why she had not been upfront with him.
Deciding to push the man out of her mind, Emma turned and took a sip of scalding coffee only to almost spit it out. There Ben was walking towards the other VIPs, smiling that damn smile she liked so much though it seemed slightly forced.
What was he doing here?
“Hey guys! It’s great to finally meet you all.” It was his voice and yet, at the same time, it was different. No, he sounded like someone else, someone she had heard before…
Something was nagging Ben but he could not seem to be able to concentrate enough as to discover what it was. So far, his assistant had had no success in finding Emma. He knew it was an almost impossible task. If only he had asked her last name! But no! He had wanted to keep his identity a secret. What a fool he had been!
He shook himself mentally. Now was not the time to get lost in his thoughts. He had a festival to take care of!
“Like I told you all yesterday, we’re going on the first road trip of the festival today. We’re going to la bella Nice, the beautiful city! You guys are going to love the cars I’ve selected for this. So? What are we waiting for? The sun is bright, the weather’s warm. Perfect conditions to be on to the road!” he said, his cheerfulness sounding forced to his ears. He just was not into it at all.
He watched the men go towards the cars the crew had brought. It was then that it finally dawned on him. There was one driver missing! Laurie had reassured him that every drivers he had personally selected had come so why was there one missing? Who was missing, as a matter of fact? He knew all of them by name and reputation but other than the F1 pilot, he was at a loss as to who was whom.
He looked around, his gaze settling to where the crowd was. His heart skipped a beat. There resting against the refreshment table was none other than Emma! What was she doing on this side of the crowd control barrier?
“Ben,” he heard her said as she slowly walked to where he stood, her hips gently swaying with every step she took, the same hips he had tightly grabbed just a few hours ago. His breath lengthened like it did whenever he was sitting behind the wheel of his car, his adrenaline mounting.
She stopped a few paces from him, one hand casually tucked in her right jeans pocket.
There was one driver missing and the car he specifically had assigned to that person still unclaimed…
“Or should I say Bennet Miller,” Emma continued, her gaze roving over Ben resisting the urge to lick her lips. He still affected her. No matter what, he still got under her skin. “I so should have made the damn connection. Your voice, that boomerang tattoo! Shit, I really should have realised who you were.” All the hints throughout the evening, the things he had said, that familiar feeling she had had.
“Is it my turn to guess who you are?” he replied, his smile growing brighter by the second. “I remember touching a key fob while we were dancing. You knowing so much about cars. You came for the showcases, right? And your reaction at seeing the trucks, at learning about the coming off-road race. C.J. Taylor, I presume?”
She took her hand out of her pocket, her silver key fob dangling from her fingers.
“You got it right on your first try.”
“Honestly, I thought you were a guy.” She could not resist laughing.
“Well aren’t you glad I’m not one?” she purred softly. “So, Nice, huh? I see a Supra over there, a nicely modified one too. Perfect for street racing and drifting. I take it that you’re tagging along?”
“Tagging along? I never just ‘tag along’, possum.” How she loved when he called her that.
Emma walked past him. She did not stop until she reached what she guessed was her assigned car, a sweetly modified Mazda RX7 in burnt orange and black. She could have a lot of fun with that sort of car. Her fingers lightly tracing its body, her adrenaline already revving up. She turned to look at him over her shoulder.
“Can you keep up with me, Ben?” she asked him. She watched as he realised the implication of what she had just said, of the conversation they had had while riding the Ferris wheel. The smile he gave her nearly turned her legs to jelly.
“You best believe that I’m the only guy who can indeed keep up with you, Emma.”
“Well, then I guess I’ll wait for you at the finishing line.”
“Not if I beat you there first.”
“Winner claims the prize?” she asked.
“The only prize I'll claim is you, possum,” he replied.
They stood for a moment, their gazes locked. A heartbeat later, they were both in their respective cars, the engines roaring as they raced away from the festival.
He had been right. This was promising to be the summer of her life.