Arianna rubbed her scalp in frustration, immediately running her fingers through her long red hair to try and fix whatever damage she’d done. She was Arianna-freaking-Gaeheart, and she should be able to get her hands on this one book. With a sigh, she straightened; staring at the book shelf wasn’t going to make it magically appear. Even her willpower had its limits.
She pulled her cell phone from her leather purse, checking the time, debating. She could, like she had at every other store in town, find someone and ask if they had the book in stock, hiding somewhere that wasn’t this shelf. Or, she could give in and order it from the internet – only that would require paying for a rush delivery because she needed it, now. Or she could do the former, find out they didn’t have it, and end up doing the latter anyway.
Tucking the phone away, she pivoted on her heeled d’orsays and headed for the front of the store. She had a meeting with her latest project over lunch, and the girl would be nervous enough wondering what Arianna Gaeheart wanted without Ari being late on top of it.
The redhead took a turn down the automotive books aisle in an attempt to avoid the people clustered around the young adult romances. The aisle wasn’t as empty as it usually was, however. In fact it was pretty much completely blocked, between a large pile of books and the blond-haired piece of delicious who had put those books on the floor in the first place. Arianna shortened her stride just a hair to make time for a better assessment. Taller than she was, even in her heels; definitely a plus. Fantastic cheekbones, firm jaw, long lashes. Broad shoulders and a trim waist. Apparently buying a stack of books on the more technical aspects of cars, and currently perusing a slim volume on motorcycles she’d bought herself not too long ago. She had three minutes to spare; he was worth spending them on.
She walked breezily past him, her skirt fluttering nicely around her knees, then very deliberately tripped over his carelessly placed pile of books, grabbing those oh-so-yummy shoulders to catch herself on the way down. With a small, feminine shriek of surprise, she pulled up short behind him, pressed against his back, one foot still perilously caught in the middle of the tumbled pile of books and the other just off-balance enough to make it impossible to let go of him.
“Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry,” she started breathlessly, trailing off as he turned to face her, reaching out with his free hand to help her keep her feet. Wow. Look at those fantastic blue eyes. Yup, definitely worth the three minutes. Just the right amount of concern and contrition on his gorgeous face, and … yes. The flicker of surprised appreciation. Not that she blamed him; she was worth appreciating.
“No, please, I’m sorry.” He turned the rest of the way around and steadied her while she removed her foot from his pile of books, “Stupid of me to leave those lying on the floor.”
“Let me help you pick those up–” she started, stooping, but he stopped her.
“Please, don’t worry about it. I’ll get them in a minute.” He offered her a grin that made even her heart skip a bit. “I don’t often meet beautiful women in automotive, and you’re a lot more interesting than those books.”
Arianna reached out a manicured hand and took the motorcycle book from him. “I haven’t been down here since I picked this one up a few weeks ago. I don’t have a lot of time to mess with my bike, and frankly I’d rather ride it than tool it.” She offered him a flirtatious smile, flipped the pages so they fanned her face. “That’s what mechanics are for anyway, right?”
She had to hand it to him — he covered his skepticism over her bike riding abilities well, and answered her smile with a quirked eyebrow and a teasing, “A lady such as yourself couldn’t have anything too difficult to handle. Mechanics-wise, I mean.”
Arianna flipped her hair over her shoulder without breaking eye contact, batting her eyes with exaggerated cluelessness. “Honda CBR 1000. I don’t know how it works, but it drives real fast.”
He burst out with a quick laugh, then shook his head, “I shouldn’t have even asked, because your bike officially owns mine.” He held out a hand to her, “Jason Thompson. I’d love to see this Honda of yours sometime.”
Arianna took the hand and let him hold it longer than he should have. He was good. She ran the tip of her tongue along her top lip consideringly before asking, “Just the bike, or were you interested in the babe with it?”
“I never say no to a babe,” he answered her with that same heart-skipping grin.
Arianna cocked her head to the side as she withdrew her hand. “I didn’t figure.” She pulled her phone out and glanced at the time. With an exaggerated sigh, she pushed the book back up against his chest, tucking the phone away. “Wish I could keep this up, but I’ve gotta run to a meeting. Call me?”
With a little twiddle of her fingers in his direction, she turned to walk away. Jason grabbed her arm, pulling her up short with a firmness that startled her. She looked over her shoulder at him, raising a questioning eyebrow at him. “Your name. And you didn’t give me your number, either.”
Arianna laughed at him, her smile turning impish. “Arianna Gaeheart. Call the office; the number’s on my webpage. I’ll make sure my secretary knows to put you through to me — she screens a lot of your type of calls.”
With that, the shapely redhead pulled away from him, waving over her shoulder as she walked away. Jason watched her go, deep admiration for the view all over his face and pushing the surprise out only barely. That’s why she’d looked so familiar. He didn’t resist the urge for a quick fist pump; Troy would never in a million years believe he’d been picked up at a bookstore by Arianna Gaeheart. With a triumphant laugh, he bent to pick up the rest of his books, slapping the motorcycle guide on top before heading to the checkout. He had a feeling he’d need all the help he could get to keep up with that.