Recipe for Attraction
She’ll go to any lengths to keep his demons at bay…
Bad boy Neil Harrison may have a sexy body and an even sexier smile, but there’s no way in hell architect Carson Kelly is falling for the elusive bachelor. For starters, he’s her boss, and getting intimately involved with the infuriating alpha male could be a career-killer. And secondly, he’s battling personal demons in one of the most dangerous ways possible: illegal street racing. After a friend’s tragic death years ago, Carson swore she’d never get involved in that life again.
Neil knows Carson’s keeping secrets and he’s determined to uncover all of them…even if he has to seduce them out of her. But as their antagonistic work relationship ignites a passionate affair, Carson must decide if protecting Neil from his need for speed is the perfect outlet for her own restless desire, or if they’re on a one-way path to destruction.
Of all the stupid, insane, idiotic, dangerous things Neil Harrison had ever done, this one definitely topped the list.
“You got the money, rich boy?”
Neil handed over the bulging envelope to the goon standing in front of him. While the man flipped through the 100 twenty-dollar bills, quickly counting the payment, Neil looked over to the man in charge. Hector Diaz. The premier promoter of illegal street racing in the city.
“I didn’t think you’d show up,” Hector said. He staggered a little closer. The half-dressed woman on his arm eyed him like he was her next meal.
“I told you. I want in the race.”
Diaz obviously didn’t like the idea of Neil hanging around. Too much exposure. As if he’d rat. Diaz would just have to get used to the idea because he wasn’t going anywhere. He was here to ride.
It had taken a few months, but Neil had finally made contact with a rider who knew a guy who knew a guy who’d vouch for him. It took another couple of weeks, showing up at the races, sitting on the sidelines of the hidden roadways, before Diaz would even look in his direction. He’d been racing on his own, through deserted countryside roads and picking up races with other riders on the street also looking for some action. He’d wrecked more than a handful of bikes just being careless. But he was lucky. He’d come out unscathed, save for a minor scrape here and there. Unlike some of the other riders he’d heard about—or even witnessed—who braved broken legs, concussions, and sometimes, much worse.
But this was the big time. Diaz controlled all of the illegal races in the city. All it took was a $2,000 buy-in—plus the willingness to risk life and limb. But for Neil, it wasn’t about the money. He had more than enough to last three lifetimes. It was the rush. The danger. The feeling of letting go of everything and everyone, even if for a brief moment.
The goon finished counting the money, glanced at Hector, and gave him a nod. “It’s all here.”
“Afraid I’m going to stiff you, Diaz?”
Hector laughed. “Take your spot, pretty boy. Let’s see what you got.”
Neil smirked and walked his bike to the starting line. Two other racers—one to his left, one to his right—were already in position and obviously didn’t give him enough credit. They grinned at each other when he pulled up. One of them even chuckled.
A woman in tight, barely there clothing walked by. The smell of her cheap perfume wafted through the open visor on his helmet and attacked his nostrils. Based on the sway of her hips, she thought highly of herself, and the two other men seemed to agree. But Neil was no fool. She was Hector’s woman, one of them at least, and he wasn’t going to even look for fear of his retaliation. Most of the casualties on the racing circuit had to do with man hitting the pavement, but it was no secret that some of the injuries were human-inflicted. Diaz and his crew were dangerous and they needed little provocation. Which was why he had counted the money in his envelope six times before he’d left his condo.
Twenty feet from the starting line she stopped and turned, pulling a green scarf from her cleavage. The bikes beside him roared to life and Neil followed suit. The rumble of the engine got his heart racing. The vibration between his legs never failed to give him a half stiffy. He smacked down his visor, putting his world into perspective. For some reason, everything made better sense through the dark tint of his helmet.
But he was distracted when a commotion in his peripheral vision caught his attention. A rider in black approached Diaz, getting in his face. When he made to walk onto the track, Diaz held out his arm to stop him. The dude had balls to question the boss. Maybe he was new to the scene.
The rider still had his helmet on, the visor lifted just enough to let out his words, but not far enough to show his face. Most riders took their helmets off when congregating on the line, but this guy didn’t. With a small build, the fragile looking man flailed his arms. It was obvious expletives were being thrown. What did he want with Diaz? Was he trying to stop the race?
Hector made a weak attempt to keep the guy in place. After a few more exchanges, the rider finally broke free of Hector’s grip and vaulted to his bike, a blue Honda VFR. The 2012 model. A sweet ride.
But as he lifted his leg to mount, what became even sweeter than the bike was the familiar, tight, female bottom that taunted Neil through the dust kicking up from the spinning tires as she took off. It was a very familiar behind. A behind he’d seen every day at his new restaurant’s construction site for the last year. A behind he dreamed about every night.
He shook his head. It couldn’t be the person he was thinking. She rode a Ducati.
The rider stopped hard in front of him, blocking the starting line. The thicker back wheel spun out and his suspicions were confirmed the second she whipped off her helmet and black hair cascaded down in lush waves.
Carson Kelly. His architect. Here. In the flesh.
Shit! He was at an illegal street race and she was witness to his actions. Having his secret exposed definitely diminished his credibility as an employer, not to mention the fallout he’d face if his family found out. The business contract they’d signed didn’t include a confidentiality clause when it came to Neil’s extracurricular activities. As he watched her anger flare and the pulse pound at the base of her neck, he knew she couldn’t be trusted. He was screwed.
“Are you insane?” she yelled. She fit her helmet between the bike and her body and kicked out the stand.
Yep, that was her. All bark…and no flirt.
Neil took off his own helmet. Shock wasn’t strong enough a word to describe his feelings about Carson’s being here.
“Actually, I take that back.” She lifted her leg, getting off the bike with the ease and grace he had seen so many times before at the construction site. “You are insane. It would explain why you’re here trying to kill yourself.”
Neil lifted the visor on his helmet so he could respond. “I’m not trying to kill myself.”
“Could have fooled me.” She stared at him with her famous pissed-off expression, still managing to look smoking hot.
“Nice bike. Is that a 1200?” His bike was top of the line. Hers was better.
“1237.” She smiled. It was the first time he’d seen her genuinely smile since they’d met. “Yours is an 1198, right?”
Neil cursed under his breath and growled, “It’s a 1200.”
She crossed her leather-clad arms across her chest and smirked, the curve at the side of her lips making appendages on his lower body twitch and harden. “Sort of a waste if you crash and burn. But you can just go and buy a brand-new one any time you want.”
That. That right there was part of what infuriated him about this woman. Her assumption that he took for granted everything that had been handed to him. But he wasn’t going to let her goad him into a fight in public. Especially at his first official race.
The riders to his left and right grew irritated. And the woman who was ready to count down the race had cocked her hip to the side and now studied her fingernails. Neil decided to ignore them.
“What are you doing here?” he snapped.
“A girl can’t take a midnight ride and stumble upon an illegal street race where people almost die every night?”
He gave her a sarcastic look to match her response.
It didn’t make any sense. A daddy’s girl through and through, Carson probably went to the best private schools and the Ivy League and was now being groomed by her father, the best architect the city had seen in fifty years. If the outspoken bombshell of a woman didn’t annoy the hell out of him on a daily basis, he would have been impressed that she could follow in those footsteps and actually live up to the standards set out in front of her.
“Let’s just say I had a feeling I’d find you here,” she said.
“And why would you know where here is?”
“Can we ride?” the biker to his left yelled out. “I’ve got a certain female waiting to congratulate me at the finish line.”
“CK!” Hector called out to Carson from his position at the sidelines, motioning her over with a wave of his hand.
The night got weirder by the minute. She knew Diaz personally. Had they…? No way she dated that douche. And no way Daddy would ever let his daughter associate with this rough crowd. But that didn’t explain how she and Diaz were on a first-name basis.
Hector’s goon approached and grabbed Carson’s arm. A growl formed in Neil’s throat. “Get your hands—”
She jerked her arm away and gave the goon an evil death stare. One he’d seen far too many times while they argued about the height of his restaurant’s ceiling. “Don’t forget who you’re manhandling.”
The goon recoiled, his hand freezing in place. This woman wasn’t just an architect. She looked as if she were completely in her element. But how the hell did she fit into this world?
She turned back to Neil and threw her hands up in defeat. “Fine. Kill yourself. I’m leaving.”
Like hell she was. Not until he got an explanation.
“You’re not going to give me the details?” Curiosity gnawed at him as he reached out and grabbed her arm. The leather of her jacket was soft, just as he imagined her skin would be if he ever had the opportunity to touch her bare flesh.
Their gazes clashed and for a moment, Neil wondered what it would be like to stare into those brown depths from above, with him settled between her legs, his hips thrusting against her body. He’d wanted her from the very first day she rode up to the Madewood farm on her bike. But he’d pushed his desire aside not only because she was his architect, but because he didn’t have time to deal with this particularly infuriating woman. From their first meeting, Carson Kelly was a ball-breaking hard-ass. His first instinct was to end the meeting early but when she pulled out her designs, vision won out over personality. She had incorporated everything he had dreamed and taken it to the next level. He wanted the best, and the best was Carson Kelly III.
She shrugged. “The details aren’t important.” She pulled her arm away, breaking their contact. She walked her bike away from the starting line.
“Details are always important. I’d like to know why my architect is at an illegal street race and is on an intimate level with Hector Diaz.”
“But you’re allowed to be here?” She challenged as she mounted her bike. “Forget you ever saw me here.” She revved the engine. “It was a mistake to follow you.”
“I just wanted to make sure you were all right.” She looked over her shoulder. “You shouldn’t get involved with him.”
“And what do you know about it?”
She glanced around, a sullen look spreading across her face. “Just trust me. There are only two things in this world I am sure of: how to design a building and that this place is bad news.”
She didn’t give him the chance to respond. She sped off, gravel kicking up behind her.
Who did she think she was giving him orders? Telling him what he should and shouldn’t do? All right, she only told him what he shouldn’t do, but it was no less annoying.
And like hell if he was going to obey the orders of a high-strung, overopinionated employee.
Over the hum of their engines, the rider to his left laughed. “She told you, boy.”
Neil didn’t even look to his right.
He slapped down the visor on his helmet and concentrated. It was a quarter-mile race straight to the finish line. A cakewalk. The races with hazards and hills didn’t interest him. He wanted speed, not skill, and this was the perfect race for him.
The woman twenty feet ahead whipped up her hands, the green scarf swaying in the slight wind that had picked up as the sun went down. He focused, waiting for it to drop to her side as he revved the bike.
The green scarf dropped and Neil shot forward. The roar of engines surrounded him. He tapped gears, first, second, third in rapid succession. The guy to his left shot ahead, the one to his right lagged behind. Neil kicked it up to fourth, his speedometer wavering with every increase of his speed.
He was head-to-head with the bike on his left. Despite the heavy tint of their visors they locked eyes for a second, long enough for Neil to get the jump. He pushed it even further, reaching 130 and clearing the finish line half a second before his competition.
He slowed the bike and breathed deeply, letting the momentum from his speed take him farther down the track.
When he returned to where Diaz and his goons lingered at the starting line, the rider who had been to his left threw his helmet on the ground. A woman was already humping the leg of the other rider as he leaned back against his bike. Seemed like a pretty good conciliation prize.
Neil ripped off his helmet, unable to suppress the cocky grin that curled at his lip. Victory. His first time in the game.
He looked in the crowd and noted the money exchanging hands. He had no doubt big bucks had been lost for those who had bet against him. Which was probably most of the crowd.
And then he found Carson. Deep in conversation with Diaz.
Overwhelming satisfaction spread through him. Maybe it was the adrenaline. Maybe it was the atmosphere. No matter, he was going to do something he’d wanted to do for a very long time.
Neil cut the engine and dismounted, not taking the time to analyze that she was his employee.
He stalked over to Carson, grabbed her arm, and twirled her around.
“Are you in—?”
And he kissed her. Hard. Rough. Just as he’d always imagined.
She squirmed against him, as if to get away. But when he deepened the kiss, pushing his tongue into her mouth, he felt her soften as she melted into his body.
Diaz cleared his throat and Neil pulled back.
Fuck, she was hot. Her brown eyes were hazy with desire and she looked even hotter with her lips wet and swollen from his kiss.
She just stared at him, her jaw practically on the ground.
“I won. I’m supposed to get a kiss, right?”
She nodded, but just as quickly as she had spaced out, she snapped to, her eyes narrowing. He cut her off before she had the chance to spit out her disdain.
“I’ll see you on-site.”
Neil walked to his bike. The goon followed and handed over two white envelopes. He’d just doubled his money. Not that he really cared. He got what he came for. He just hoped that short rush would last him until the next race.
“You lost a lot of people a lot of money tonight, rich boy,” Diaz’s goon said.
It didn’t surprise Neil that he was the underdog. Who would have expected the new guy on the scene to take the race?
“Mr. Diaz wants you to come back tomorrow night. A lot of egos kicking up on the sidelines. People want to kick your ass.”
Neil laughed, enjoying the fact that he was enemy number one.
The goon nodded.
“I’ll be here.”
Before he rode off, he looked for Carson in the crowd but she was gone. That kiss had been everything he’d imagined and more. Between the adrenaline coursing through his veins from his win and the sexy way she gave in to his kiss, he was painfully hard.
Carson Kelly. At a street race in the middle of the night. It just didn’t make sense. And how had she known where to find him? There was more to this daddy’s girl than he originally thought.
Maybe she knew what it was like to want to take that walk on the dark side. He shook his head—no way. She’d probably gone through a “slumming it” phase, like some rich girls do, and stumbled upon this scene. She didn’t—couldn’t—know about real loss. Hell, the only thing she’d probably lost was her virginity.
Neil tapped the gearshift once more, taking the bike to well over the speed limit.
What would happen when she showed up to the site tomorrow morning? Would they fall right back into their usual back-and-forth arguments? Neil demanding. Carson stubborn. If he didn’t know better or dislike her so much he would consider their arguing a form of foreplay. He smiled at the thought.
Or would their next meeting just be supremely awkward? But he now knew her secret. He was positive Daddy didn’t know his sweet little girl associated with people like Hector Diaz.
Unfortunately, she knew one of his.
Given his family connections, the tabloids would have a field day if his newfound extracurricular activity got out. He had too much on the line right now to risk a scandal in the media. His new restaurant was practically complete, and the new Madewood Foundation his brother Jack formed last year was knee-deep in fund-raising initiatives. Not to mention, he couldn’t risk his family finding out about his need for danger.
That would end in a family confrontation that he wasn’t up for.
Carson Kelly could not reveal his secret. And he’d do whatever it took to keep her quiet.