Nick Delisantro is famous--for his scripts, for his looks and above all for his ruthless bad-boy charm. Eva, on the other hand, has spent her life being an overlooked wallflower! Now she has to meet with Mr. Tall, Dark and Brooding or her only chance of promotion is over....
Nick can't stop staring at the mysterious, blushing girl who's dressed like a vixen but frozen under his gaze like a rabbit in headlights.... He can't wait to see what's behind that innocent front! But Nick's about to get far more than he'd bargained for--not only does Eva have the key to his secret past, but there's nothing more dangerously addictive than a good girl going wild....
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Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
July 01, 2012
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Excerpt from The Good, the Bad and the Wild by Heidi Rice
'Don't look now, but he's here and he's right behind us.'
Eva Redmond's heart catapulted into her throat as the urgent whisper from her old college chum tess sliced through the hum of polite conversation and the tinkle of champagne glasses in the upscale San Francisco art gallery. 'Are you sure?'
Tess looked past Eva's right shoulder. 'Tall? Check.' She nodded. 'Dark? Check. Handsome? Check. The only one not in a suit? Check.' She grinned at Eva. 'Yup, it's definitely your rebel scriptwriter.' Her gaze flicked past Eva again. 'And you're in luck. Not only is he alone. But he's even hotter than his photo.'
Eva stared blankly at the six foot square canvas in front of her--which was titled The Explosion of the Senses, but looked more like an explosion in a paint factory to her untrained eye--and swallowed down the knot of apprehension that had been tightening around her larynx ever since she'd boarded the plane at Heathrow that morning.
The knowledge that the man she'd travelled five thousand miles to meet was standing a few feet away made it feel as if she were trying to swallow a boulder.
'Goodie,' she muttered.
Tess laughed and nudged her. 'Don't sound so pleased.'
'Why would I be pleased?' Eva whispered back, fairly sure Nick Delisantro's extreme hotness was not going to work in her favour. If only he were a geeky academic. Sticking with what you knew might be dull. But dull had its advantages.
'Why wouldn't you be?' Tess countered. 'Giving a scorching hot guy the news that he's the heir to a fortune in Italian real estate is what I'd call a win-win situation.'
Eva nobly resisted the urge to sneak a peek over her shoulder. 'Yes, but I'm not you, am I?' she remarked wryly as she studied her friend dispassionately.
In her ice-blue, off the shoulder silk gown and six-inch designer heels, Tess looked elegant, slim, super-confident--and completely at home in the rarefied atmosphere of a gallery opening in San Francisco's Union Square neighbourhood. Which wasn't at all surprising. Tess had spent the last three years building a formidable reputation as an events planner in the US and even at university she'd been able to schmooze for England. Eva meanwhile had spent the years since she'd gained her first at Cambridge burying her nose in dusty antiquarian documents and computer research data. She couldn't schmooze to save her life--and she'd never felt more out of place than among all these beautiful people who had elevated socialising to an art form.
The admission touched some lonely place deep inside. She shook off the thought. She wasn't lonely; her life was exactly how she wanted it. Settled, secure, content. Until two days ago, when her boss Henry Crenshawe had demanded she travel halfway round the globe to be humiliated in public.
'And it's not as simple as telling him he could be the Duca D'Alegria's grandson. I'll also have to tell him the man he always thought was his biological father isn't.' Eva tensed at the thought of having such an intimate conversation with a stranger. A scorching hot stranger who had steadfastly ignored all her attempts to contact him in close to a month. 'I shouldn't have let you talk me into asking him for an appointment here. It's not appropriate.'
Tess gave an easy shrug. 'So don't ask him straight away. Flirt with him first. He'll be much more amenable. I guarantee it.'
Eva doubted that. She didn't know how to flirt and this man was a master at it. During her extensive research for the firm's high-profile new client, it was one of the few things she'd managed to discover about the elusive Niccolo Carmine Delisantro--the man who she had deduced was almost certainly the illegitimate grandson Don Vincenzo Palatino Vittorio Savargo De Rossi, the Duca D'Alegria, was offering a small fortune to locate.
The dry facts of Delisantro's life had told her very little about him as a person--North London runaway turned successful Hollywood scriptwriter and San Francisco resident who had scripted the biggest box-office hit of the decade five years ago--except that he was a wow with the ladies and he guarded his privacy like a hawk.
'You can take a look now, and see what you're up against.' Tess indicated with her champagne flute. 'Kate Elmsly's cornered him,' she finished, mentioning the perky and persistent gallery owner who had greeted them both earlier.
Trying to even her breathing, Eva turned. And her lungs seized to a halt. The back of her neck bristled as she took a hasty sip of her champagne cocktail. This was worse than she thought.
As she studied the man standing about ten feet away Eva realised she wasn't just out of her depth, she was in danger of drowning.
Tess was right. The grainy photo she'd managed to find on the Internet didn't do Nick Delisantro justice.
No mere human being had a right to that level of perfection. Thick wavy hair the colour of rich caramel curled to touch the collar of a worn black leather bomber jacket, which matched his thin black sweater and jeans. Sharp angular cheekbones with a hint of stubble, tanned olive skin to highlight his Italian heritage and a honed, muscular six foot plus physique combined to set him apart from the pampered crowd of local celebrities and dignitaries. His dark brooding masculine beauty drew female eyes, and hers were no exception--the relaxed, almost insolent way he leaned against the bare brick column as the gallery owner chatted effusively only made him seem more aloof. Surly, sexy, supremely magnetic, effortlessly successful as a hunter-gatherer but with a dangerous edge, Nick Delisantro was the perfect male prototype to ensure the survival of his species.
Eva sighed, a shiver running down her spine then sprinting straight back up again. While she was the female prototype to ensure it failed. An academic whose knowledge of men and sex included a few fumbled encounters as a post-grad and a secret passion for florid historical romance novels that had half-naked men with exceptional pecs on the covers.
She swung back to face 'The Explosion of the Senses,' her own senses imploding as her gaze skimmed down the designer gown Tess had lent her. 'This isn't going to work,' she murmured, more to herself than her friend. 'I look ridiculous.'
The crimson velvet creation with its split skirt and plunging neckline would look sensational on her friend, but Eva was two inches shorter and had several extra inches round the bust. The gown had made her feel exhilarated when she'd squeezed into it an hour ago, but now only made her feel like more of a fraud.
She wasn't one of those stunning damsels in distress with long flowing tresses and enough spirit to bring a marauding pirate captain to his knees. She was a risk-averse academic with a wardrobe full of beige who was still technically speaking a virgin at the ripe old age of twenty-four.