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Monte Carlo is abuzz with news that Ram Varindha—young, hot and royal—is without a co-driver for the biggest rally event of the year. Though it's been years since she last saw him, Mia leaps at the chance to get up close with the maharaja!
With time to spare before he takes on more serious royal duties, bedding this beauty is top of Ram's list. But Mia has long known Ram's reputation. Is she just in for the hottest few nights of her life, or could her dream of finally taming Ram's playboy ways become reality?
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Susan Stephens is passionate about writing books set in fabulous locations where an outstanding man comes to grips with a cool, feisty woman. Susan’s hobbies include travel, reading, theatre, long walks, playing the piano, and she loves hearing from readers at her website. www.susanstephens.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
She had to steel herself to place the call. Hard to believe she had once taken Ram on as easily as any tomboy took on her older brother's best friend, but a lot of water had passed under the bridge since then and these days Ram was a royal playboy.
While Mia had issues...
Scars and issues, as well as a desire to race cars again that refused to be repressed.
Get real, Mia. At least, don't lie to yourself. This is a chance in a million to see Ram again.
She hadn't spoken to Ram for...too long, anyway, Mia reflected as she waited for the call to connect. From what she'd read about him in the press she expected Ram to be as changed as she was. Ram had announced he would shortly be quitting his playboy life to serve his people in the independent state of Ramprakesh, but before that he was to enjoy one last indulgence—a timed rally car race across Europe in his super-car.
As soon as the newsflash came on, saying Ram's co-driver had been taken ill, Mia knew it was her chance to step in. Ram had to find someone in order to complete the last leg of the rally, which would take place in the winding streets of Monte Carlo—the same glittering locale where Mia had made a new life after an accident in a rally car had nearly blinded her.
She had believed she would never race again, and this was a chance in a million to compete at the highest level, but first there was a little hurdle to overcome: she had to convince Ram to take her on. To do that she would have to be as determined and as pushy as she had been as a child. There could be no allowances made for the years that had passed—when and if he answered the phone she would have to launch straight in as if she were that same tomboy who had never flinched from baiting him.
Heat curled inside her as she remembered wicked eyes, and a man who had filled her early years with the hottest of fantasies—made all the safer for knowing Ram would never look at her that way. But she had to put all that to one side now. Raking her dark, cropped hair, Mia fixed her gaze on the bold print headline that had fired this crazy idea in the first place. The Maharaja's Back in Town! screamed the headline. Ram, or the Maharaja, as Ram was more popularly known thanks to his heritage, his unbelievable good looks and his money—not to mention his raw and dangerous sex appeal—was still her brother's closest friend, and had been Mia's...
Trying to force the lid down on that box proved impossible. Ram meant so much more to her than that—and was still as far out of her league as he always had been. The English edition of the Monte Carlo Times pulled no punches where celebrity was concerned and Ram Varindha needed no introduction, either to this playground for the rich and famous, or to the world. When a man was too good-looking or too rich, or he originated from an exotic land with which he shared an equally exotic reputation—and Ram filled all these criteria admirably—the glamorous principality of Monte Carlo was only too eager to welcome him home.
Mia's heart cannoned into her throat as a familiar black velvet voice growled a suspicious greeting.
'Ram?' She played it cool—authoritative and cool. 'Ram, it's me.'
'Ram, it's Mia....'
More silence as Ram no doubt trawled the telephone directory in his mind, running down the list of Mias until he came to one who lived in Monte Carlo.
'Give me a clue.'
So there were a thousand Mias in his life.
'Don't pretend you don't know me.' Her voice might sound confident, but beads of sweat were breaking on her brow—this was so much harder than she had imagined.
But not insurmountable.
Her life consisted of kicking down doors....
And licking wounds.
But she wouldn't think about those now, Mia determined, unconsciously adjusting the position of her jewelled eyepatch.
As I slipped under the anaesthetic I dreamed I was trying to stick an ice pick into Ram's cold, unfeeling heart, but his heart was a stone that bounced away from me, and when I woke up I was blind— She'd been having that nightmare a lot since the accident, and this was her chance to break free from it—a chance to put an end to the sense of desolation that had overwhelmed her when Ram had walked out of her life.
That had been years ago and she should be over it now. This was the best chance she was ever going to get to prove she wasn't over-faced by Ram, by life, by anything—and she wasn't going to waste it. 'Surely you remember me beating the heck out of you on your best stallion when you were careless enough to choose my parents to stable your horses with?'
Result—but could he sound any less enthusiastic? 'That's the one,' Mia confirmed, keeping up the bright act.
In fairness, she had never been the girl to whom boys' eyes were drawn, so Ram would hardly be eager to see her again. When other girls were trading style tips she'd been happiest mucking out the stables or hot-wiring the tractor. No doubt when other boys had been reading the Beano, Ram had spent his formative years mugging up information in the pages of a heavily illustrated Kama Sutra, but whether this crazy scheme of hers was mad, sad or just plain crazy, she had no intention of putting the phone down now.
According to the article in that day's newspaper—the one beneath the stunning shot of a tall, dark and unreasonably handsome hunk of a man with thick black hair and sharp black stubble—Ram had no intention of giving up on the last leg of the Switch-Back rally.
'What do you want, Mia?'
'What do I want? It's you that's in trouble, Ram.' She wasn't exactly home free herself, Mia realised as her gazed fixed on the newspaper shot of Ram with his thumb casually hooked through the belt loop on his jeans, long, lean fingers pointing the way to his number one attraction.
'Roll back the reel, Mia. Who gave you my private number?'
'I got it from Tom, obviously—'
She held back on the duh. One step at a time. She didn't want Ram slamming the phone down. On the other hand, she had to initiate the type of abrasive banter that had characterised their earlier relationship if she stood any chance at all of getting the best out of this conversation.
'What do you want, Mia?'
Her mind blanked.
'Did Tom ask you to call me?'
The five Ps sprang to mind: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. But she could never have prepared for this. Covering the mouthpiece with her hand, she waited for her heart to slow down. Tom and Ram were as close as brothers, but Ram owed her no loyalty—they hadn't been in touch for years. No wonder he was suspicious. 'Today's newspaper?' she said, regrouping fast. 'The article on the front page says you need help—'
'My co-driver's sick—wait a minute,' he said suspiciously. 'You're not suggesting—'
'I could help you—'
'You?' Ram exclaimed as if the world and everyone in it had gone mad.
'Why not me? I've got the right background.' Having won the junior section of several international rallies before the accident put her out of the game should put her in with a chance.
Ram wasn't exactly biting her hand off, but if she was serious about this she had to convince him. 'You can't be serious, Mia—' 'I'm perfectly serious—'
'Forget it, Mia. Is there anything else? I don't have all day to stand and yap—'
'And neither do I, Knucklehead—' 'What did you call me?'
Ice cubes filled the air. And were just as quickly melted by amusement. Ram didn't have to laugh or say anything for Mia to know that the balance had tipped, and that everything was going to be all right now. They had catapulted back to a different time when squaring up for a good-natured fight came as naturally to them as breathing. 'Of course, if you don't want my help—'
'I don't just meet and greet in a beauty salon, you know—I am a medal-winning rally driver—' 'Of Dinky cars, perhaps.'
She hid a smile. This was not the moment to turn the air blue. She was almost home and dry—she could feel it. And while she might have reinvented herself as a respectable meet-and-greet girl in Monte Carlo's most fashionable beauty salon,
Ram was an international playboy, so she had to raise her game and play it smart.
Ram, a playboy....
He'd always been heading that way—dark, sexy, dangerous—
'Are you still there?' he demanded as heat curled inside her, and far more insistently this time. 'I'm here....'
How did he live? Who was Ram these days—was he royal or a rogue? Was he a professional rally driver, or a professional bad boy? Ram had dropped off the radar around the same time she had, so she had everything to find out about him.
Secrets. What would life be without them?
'Just tell me what you want, Mia.'
'What I want? It's your co-driver who's gone down with a stomach bug—or maybe you scared the crap out of him with your appalling driving. Either way, I'm calling to let you know I'm here for you, Ramekin,' she finished sweetly, using the childhood name that had never failed to infuriate Ram.
'Like I need you,' he scoffed.
'Like, who else is going to volunteer at such short notice?' Mia countered smartly. 'Who else would want to spend the day cooped up in the world's smallest space with the world's biggest head? Who else won the junior section of the Davington rally that you know? And who's her...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373528310
Book Description Harlequin Presents, 2011. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373528310
Book Description Harlequin Presents. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0373528310 Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Seller Inventory # XM-0373528310