Authors: Bella Andre,Jennifer Skully
BREATHLESS IN LOVE
The Maverick Billionaires, Book 1
Bella Andre & Jennifer Skully
~ The Maverick Billionaires, Book 1 ~
© 2015 Bella Andre & Jennifer Skully
Meet the Maverick Billionaires—sexy, self-made men from the wrong side of town who survived hell together and now have everything they ever wanted. But when each Maverick falls head-over-heels for an incredible woman he never saw coming, he will soon find that true love is the only thing he ever really needed...
Will Franconi has a dark past that he’s kept a closely guarded secret―very few people have ever heard his real story and he plans to keep it that way. After surviving a hellish childhood, he’s now living the dream life where everything he touches turns to gold. But something’s missing. He doesn’t quite know what, until a simple letter from a teenage boy brings Harper Newman into his life—a woman who just might fill up the empty places inside him...if only he could ever be worthy of her love.
When a man has more money than he could spend in five lifetimes, Harper has to ask herself what Will Franconi could possibly want from a woman like her. She’s learned the hard way that rich men always get what they want no matter the cost. If it were only herself she had to worry about, Harper would manage, but she’s guardian to her younger brother, who depends on her for everything. After he nearly lost his life in a car crash, she’s vowed never to let anyone hurt him ever again.
Still, sometimes Harper can’t help but long to change her story from that of the always cautious woman to an adventurous tale of a heroine who’s wild and free...especially when Will’s kisses and caresses make her utterly breathless. And as he begins to reveal his story to her, she discovers that he’s so much more than just another wealthy, privileged man. He’s kind and giving, and he fills up all the spaces inside her heart that have been empty for so long. Together, can they rewrite their stories into a happily ever after that neither of them would have believed possible?
We are beyond thrilled to introduce the Maverick Billionaires!
For those of you who have read Bella’s series about The Sullivans, you might remember hearing about The Maverick Group in
Come A Little Bit Closer
(Smith Sullivan's book) and then again in
One Perfect Night
(Colbie and Noah's book). Bella has wanted to write about the Mavericks for years and couldn’t be happier about getting to finally write each story in this new series with one of her very good friends, Jennifer Skully, who also happens to be one of her favorite writers!
We hope you fall as hard for our super-sexy heroes as we have.
Bella Andre & Jennifer Skully
Will Franconi gunned the engine of his classic 1970 Dodge Challenger and the rush of speed exploded through his veins.
He had built a billion-dollar luxury goods business by respecting his customers, his suppliers, his business partners, and his employees. After he’d learned the hard way as a kid how lies and cruelty could ruin a life, he’d worked like hell to turn his own around. Today, though his meeting was with a kid instead of a power player, he was just as intent on getting there on time.
And if that meant pushing the powerful car even faster, all the better.
Jeremy Newman’s letter to Will had been scrawled on spiral notebook paper that looked like it had been ripped out of an elementary school binder. Having watched Will’s clip on the TV show
, Jeremy had written that he loved cars, had seen every movie and TV show ever made about cars, and begged to see Will’s collection.
The boy’s longing had touched something in Will that he couldn’t define. And only a total jerk would say no.
Powering into the turn off the freeway, his tires spat gravel while the back end held firm as he blew through the open gates of the municipal airport on the San Francisco Peninsula. The speed sent another rush through him—a rush that he’d always needed, lately more than ever.
Down the row of hangars, the two specks ahead coalesced into a woman and a young man, taller than she was and younger, too—a teen. The boy was bouncing on his feet with nervous energy.
Will had been expecting an eight-year-old. Could this teenager be Jeremy? Will took his foot off the gas and tapped the brakes, slowing as individual features came into focus. The two had similar bone structure, but where the teenager had brown hair, the woman was blond, and not out of a bottle, either.
Rolling to a stop beside them, Will focused on her, the bump in his pulse having nothing to do with his earlier burst of speed. It was all about her—the lush lips, the blond hair cascading in waves over her shoulders, and the business suit that failed to disguise her sweet curves. She wasn’t dressed Saturday casual the way Will was, but all straitlaced and buttoned up. The hair gave her away, though, flowing free and sexy in the breeze blowing off the bay.
“Mr. Franconi, Mr. Franconi!” The teen began waving his arms, practically jumping out of his sneakers. In one hand, he gripped an orange spiral notebook, shaking it wildly. It could very well have contained the torn-out page Will had in his jeans pocket.
Jeremy Newman. He had to be seventeen or eighteen, even though the printing in the letter had been, at best, at a third grade level, and the tone was the same, one of an exuberant child on a mission.
Will climbed out of the restored white Challenger. The car was the reason he’d almost been late. He’d been up in San Francisco that morning checking over a shipment of caviar. An exclusive from Russia, he’d paid a fortune for it and had done the inspection himself. Driving the Challenger to this meeting had been a last-minute decision, and the Bay Area traffic had been bumper-to-bumper on the detour back to his home in Portola Valley to pick up the car. Spring was here, and everyone seemed to be out for a drive on the first clear, sunny Saturday in weeks.
Fortunately, the excitement on the boy’s face as he raced around the car was worth the extra trouble.
“Wowowowow.” Jeremy spoke so fast it was almost one word.
“Jeremy, calm down,” the woman said, but she was smiling at the boy as she did so. Her voice was as smooth as the award-winning Japanese single malt whiskey Will imported.
If Jeremy had been younger, she could have been his mother—the same nose, the same blue eyes. But at somewhere in her late twenties, she was far too young to be the mother of an eighteen-year-old.
“I’m Will,” he said as he left Jeremy to his raptures over the car for a few moments and turned to focus his attention on her. “Will Franconi.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Franconi.”
She shook his hand and he was struck not only by the strength of her handshake, but also by how soft her skin was. So soft that he didn’t want to let go, especially when he caught the flicker of awareness—and heat—that sparked in her eyes when they touched.
“I’m Harper Newman.” She carefully drew her hand away from his. “My brother Jeremy is obviously too excited for a proper introduction.” She smiled fondly again at her brother, who was kneeling to study the rim on the right rear tire, lovingly running one finger over it. “I really appreciate your taking the time to show us your car collection. With your busy schedule, we don’t want to keep you too long.”
“First of all, call me Will. And second, it’s my pleasure.” He hadn’t expected to meet a gorgeous woman—and single, judging by her bare left hand—here today. She had no idea just how great a pleasure this meeting had turned out to be.
Jeremy raced back over to them. “It’s just like the Challenger Barry Newman crashed in
.” His speech pattern was slightly off. Not slurred so much as overpronounced, as though his mouth had to work harder at making the sounds come out right, and his inflections were out of sync with his words. “Barry Newman,” he repeated, then poked his own chest. “Jeremy Newman, get it?”
Will was thinking that Jeremy was way too young to know about the classic movie from the early seventies, when Harper told him, “He’s watched all the great car chases, from
and every one of the
Fast and Furious
movies.” Her hand lay on the boy’s back, rubbing between his shoulder blades, a calming gesture. Sweet and simple affection for her brother.
But Will knew firsthand that there was nothing simple about affection...and that it wasn’t necessarily a given between family members. Jeremy was very lucky indeed to have Harper as a sister.
“I’ve also seen the new
Transformers: Age of Distinction
.” Jeremy said the last word carefully and Will didn’t have the heart to correct it to
. “That chase with the evil bad cars was cool,” Jeremy enthused, his eyes wide.
Harper didn’t correct the movie title, either. Or maybe she didn’t know the difference, given that Will didn’t see her as a Transformers fan. Besides, maybe
was a better word in this case, considering that Harper Newman was already a woman of distinction in Will’s estimation—both because of how well she treated her brother and the way her natural beauty shone through despite the rather severe outfit.
“Was having the same last name as the star of
what got you started as a car enthusiast, Jeremy?”
“Cars are cool. I can’t drive, but if I could, I’d go fastfastfast.” Jeremy didn’t quite answer the question, and again, there was that odd cadence in his speech.
“I like to go fast, too,” Will agreed wholeheartedly.
There was nothing like speed to make you feel alive. Will knew he’d never completely outrun his past, and that he’d always be his father’s son no matter how much he wished he wasn’t. Nonetheless, he’d worked long, hard years to put as much of his past behind him as he could, with all his focus, drive, and energy bent on taking control of his future.
For a good decade or more, success had been enough for him. Yet in the last few months, something had changed—a feeling of emptiness that working harder hadn’t been able to fix. When even millions in profits from a new product couldn’t get him excited, a fast ride was the only sure-fire way to get his blood pumping again.
Until now, at least, when Harper Newman was having the exact same impact on him.
“He’s always liked cars,” Harper answered for Jeremy. “I can’t say I feel the same way.” She offered an apologetic smile and politely said, “But the collection we saw on TV is impressive.”
Would she be equally polite in the bedroom?
Mr. Franconi, could you please touch me here?
, that thought was hot. So hot that he forced himself to push it away, since they were standing in front of her brother.
“When you’re able to drive,” Will said, turning back to Jeremy, “I’m sure you’ll want to obey all the traffic rules.” But his tone was tongue-in-cheek. At Jeremy’s age, he’d broken all the rules. Now he made his own.
Will found himself wondering what kind of rules Harper had...and which ones she might be willing to break with him.
“I can’t drive.” Jeremy’s brow knit seriously. “Harper drives me. But she doesn’t like to go fast. Not like we do.” He nudged Will’s arm with his elbow as if they were a conspiracy of two.
Harper smiled indulgently, and Will could easily guess that Jeremy had told her to go faster one too many times. She didn’t offer an explanation as to why Jeremy couldn’t drive, but Will had realized by now that while the boy might be in his late teens physically, his mental capacity hadn’t caught up for some reason.
She glanced at her watch. “In the interest of time, maybe we should look at the cars.”
Will smiled at her as he said, “I have all afternoon.”
He didn’t actually have much time at all to spare, but like hell if he was rushing this meeting. Not only because he wanted some time to get to know Harper better before he asked her out, but also because Jeremy was bouncing on his toes again, bursting with excitement. Will understood that kind of passion, and appreciated it.
“I store six cars here,” Will told them both. He had eight more classics in Portola Valley, plus his personal vehicles.
Jeremy opened his notebook, flipping through, then held up a picture pasted to a page. “James Bond. Aston Martin DB5. I love James Bond.”
“Sorry, buddy, I don’t have that one here.” Will kept that car at home because the Aston Martin was great on the rural roads of Portola Valley, like driving through the French countryside of a Bond movie.
The boy’s features drooped. But not for long. “That’s okay, Will. I love the Challenger, too.”
Smiling at Jeremy’s eagerness, Will opened a metal box on the hangar wall and punched in the security code. When the red light flashed to green, he tapped another button for the roll-up door. Inside, two rows of overhead lights popped on one after another, stretching to the back of the hangar, spotlighting each classic car in turn.
Jeremy’s voice went soft with awe.
Harper merely smiled her appreciation, though not with Jeremy’s delight. She was clearly the indulgent older sister, here to make her brother happy, and Will liked that about her. Liked it as much as he liked looking at her.
Jeremy tiptoed between the two rows of cars arranged at an angle, each ready to be driven out of the hangar at a moment’s notice. Rolling tool chests lined the metal walls, along with a couple of floor jacks for lifting the cars. Will had a full-time mechanic, Leland, who kept the engines tuned and clean, and the bodies spotless. Leland worked both here at the airport and out at Will’s Portola Valley property.
“1965 AC Cobra,” Jeremy recited as if he’d memorized a list. “Wow.” His gaze was bright in the lights shining down on him as he held his notebook close to his chest, his mouth open slightly.
First on the left, the Cobra was cream in color. Will had thought about topping the paint job with a blue racing stripe, but Leland had rolled his eyes heavenward as if commiserating with the paint gods, then asked if Will wanted to be like everyone else. Of course, Will had never been like anyone else, and Leland had an excellent eye. The cream finish was like glass.
“It’s a very nice car,” Harper said in that polite voice that totally revved Will’s engine. “And it looks brand new.”
“It’s a kit car,” Will explained. “I had all the parts shipped here, and assembled it from the frame up. It’s a replica of a ’65 Cobra.” The project had taken a year. He could have done it faster, but he’d enjoyed the work and hadn’t wanted to rush. There was pleasure not merely in the end result, but in watching something grow.
“You built this yourself?” She looked surprised to hear it. She ran a finger along the finish, as if finally perceiving the beauty that Will saw.
“Cars are my thing.”
Very few people knew Will’s story—that he’d been barely eight years old when his father had taught him how to hotwire his first stolen car, with illegal drag racing coming a handful of years later. It wasn’t until Will had turned eighteen that he’d vowed to turn his life around. Now, though he still spent his free time playing with cars, he always did it on the right side of the law.
“What’s that one?” She pointed to the model opposite.
“1965 Mercedes 300 SL Roadster,” Jeremy said before Will could supply the answer.
“He’s been studying you. Your classic car collection, I mean.”
Maybe she was afraid he’d think her brother was coming across like a stalker, but it was the farthest thing from Will’s mind. On the contrary, he was flattered. Jeremy seemed so open, so hopeful, so happy. All the things Will had never been in his youth. He couldn’t actually say he felt those emotions now either, despite how far he’d come from the derelict Chicago neighborhood of his childhood.
He also liked watching the bond between the two of them, the way Harper looked at Jeremy, the light but warm touches, her affection easy to read on her face. The bonds of blood could be meaningless—or worse, they could utterly destroy you if you let them—but Harper clearly loved her brother with everything she had.
Will had the same kind of connection with the Mavericks. That’s what the five of them—Daniel, Sebastian, Evan, Matt, and Will—called themselves.
The Maverick Group.
Back in Chicago, they’d been five kids brought together by misfortune and neglect. Their bond had been forged in need, not by blood. Most people believed blood relations automatically deserved devotion, but he knew better. Devotion had to be earned, and family and blood didn’t go hand in hand, not in his experience. Susan and Bob Spencer—Daniel’s parents, who had taken them all in—were exceptions, just as Harper Newman and her brother were.
“Is that a kit car, too?” she asked, gesturing toward the Mercedes.
“No. It’s the real thing.”
Jeremy moved down the line, Harper following, her arms crossed. Her high-heeled shoes tapped on the concrete with every step, her hair shifting across her shoulders, the light from above catching the changing hues of blond.