Authors: Alexia Adams
He lives in the spotlight. She has to exist in the shadows
If Formula 1 racing driver Daniel Michaud is to win the championship, he must steer clear of all distractions. However a compromising photo has his sponsor demanding that he be chaperoned for the rest of the race season. It’s bad enough a sexy advertising executive is assigned to accompany him, but then they’re joined by her adorable car-obsessed son. It’s all Daniel can do to keep his mind on the track and off the tantalizing taste of love and family that could destroy his career.
Lexy Camparelli blames the Formula 1 circus for her parents’ divorce and the obsessive eating disorder that ruined her teenage years. To keep her job, she’s forced back into that high-stakes world. At least her heart isn’t in jeopardy, given Daniel’s playboy reputation. Then she discovers the gorgeous driver’s secret and it’s a race to see if Lexy can emerge victorious or lose everything—including custody of her son.
By Alexia Adams
Copyright 2016 by Alexia Adams
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author's imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. Exceptions are made for brief excerpts used in published reviews.
255 Newport Drive
Port Moody, BC V3H 5H1
Contact: [email protected]
Edited by Julie Sturgeon
Cover design by Steven Novak
First Edition April 2016
Product of Canada
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or borrow it from an accredited library, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
In memory of Jules Bianchi. #17 Forever.
This book would not be readable without the amazing talent of my editor, Julie. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the fascinating world of Formula 1. To the drivers, team principals, aerodynamicists, mechanics, and everyone who works in the background, thank you for putting on a spectacular show. F1 has been my favorite sport since childhood when I used to watch it with my dad. I’ve wanted to write a story centered around Formula 1 for years and am so happy I finally managed to find two characters willing to go through the intense highs and lows of race season. Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the support of my family who pretend to understand when I forget to do something because I’m off, at least mentally, in some distant land. Thank you, too, to all my readers who keep buying my books and make living this wacky writer’s dream possible. I hope you enjoy
The Playboy and The Single Mum
It was only eight in the morning and already Lexy wanted to start her day over. Of course, being awakened at five thirty by her three-year-old son with the news he had a tummy ache seconds before he threw up all over her was never the best way to begin a day. Thankfully, as soon as he’d vomited Max’d felt better and had toddled off to watch CBeebies while she showered, threw her bedding in the wash, and got them both ready for their respective days: His to the downstairs flat where Sonia looked after him while Lexy was at work, and hers to catch the Tube to her office in Victoria where she spent her time trying to sell crap to people who already had too much stuff. Ah, the joys of advertising.
She was about to fall asleep on her forty-minute commute when the front page article of the paper the man across from her was reading caught her attention. Daniel Michaud, Formula 1 driver and the face of her firm’s biggest client, stared at her in all his masculine beauty. What the hell had he done now? She’d been the one to pitch him to Destin Designs as the perfect front man for that up-and-coming fashion house’s luxury brand. He had specific behavior clauses in his contract. If he’d screwed up, she’d be the one to pay the price. Losing a 2.5 million-euro contract was probably nothing to the international playboy. Losing her job would be devastating to Lexy; she barely covered her bills now.
She tried to read the article from across the carriage, but as the train filled up and people stood in front of her, it proved impossible. Of course she couldn’t read the story on her phone, because for some reason the London Underground had to remain the last bastion against technology, so there was still no mobile service available.
Finally, she reached Victoria station and rushed aboveground, only to find it was pouring rain. And she’d left her umbrella on the Tube. Typical. And, as with all rainy days in London, the city’s fleet of taxicabs had dissolved into black puddles. No getting around it; she had to leg it to work in three-inch heels and a pencil skirt. Still, it was only four blocks—how wet could she get?
Turned out, very wet.
“Is it raining?” Tori, the receptionist, asked as Lexy squelched across the marble-tiled floor. There was enough water in her shoes to bathe Max.
“No, I thought I’d switch it up and shower after I dressed today,” Lexy replied as she pushed a dripping strand of hair behind her ear. Chirpy Australians were just too much to take some days.
“And a happy Tuesday morning to you, sweetie. To further make your day, Mr. Petersen wants to see you as soon as you get in.”
Oh God, this wasn’t good. There was only one reason the head of the company would want to see her on a morning when he normally didn’t get in until noon. She was about to get fired. Well, she wasn’t going down in this state. She had some pride.
“Give me ten minutes before you tell him I’m here,” Lexy begged.
“What’s it worth?”
“I’ll cover the reception desk for an extra half hour on Friday so you can meet your boyfriend for lunch in Docklands.”
“You’re on. Oh, and here.” Tori tossed her a plastic shopping bag. “I was going to return this to the store because it was too small, but looks like you could use it. Girl, if you’re going to wear a white top and get drenched, you should at least put on a nice bra. That one looks like it was left over from your breastfeeding days.”
It was. She’d been so busy with her final assignment for her online university class that she hadn’t done laundry in two weeks. She peeked inside the bag. A light turquoise top lay at the bottom. “Thanks, Tori. I owe you.”
“Remember that when Daniel Michaud arrives. I expect an introduction.”
“Daniel Michaud is coming here?”
Could my day get any worse?
“He’s expected in around noon. I have a car at City Airport ready to pick him up when his private jet lands.”
“Have you read the story? What’s he done?”
“Some other guy’s wife, apparently.”
Lexy groaned. The top of the list of forbidden behavior. At least she’d get the chance to kick him in the privates for getting her fired. “Thanks for the shirt.”
Lexy fled to the women’s washroom to survey the damage. So not good. Her mascara had run and irritated her eyes, so she’d have to wear her glasses now. Her hair was plastered to her head, and there wasn’t a dry spot anywhere on her clothes.
She needed a miracle. Preferably one that would occur in the next ten minutes.
What she got was a pathetic hand dryer and some wipes she kept in her bag to clean Max’s endlessly sticky fingers. Oh God, she couldn’t lose her job, as miserable as it was. She had to provide for Max and keep his father from finding out their son even existed.
There was a sharp knock on the door and Tori stuck her head around. “Thought you might need this, too,” she said, handing over a Marks & Spencer bag.
Lexy pulled out a super-sexy bra. “Um, why?”
“Because I refuse to allow you to wear that nice top with that ugly thing you’ve got on. And you need the confidence of a good sheepdog bra.”
Lexy shook her head. Anyone who tried to have more than a two-minute conversation with the antipodean receptionist would come away with the firm conviction that English and Australian were two entirely different languages. “Dare I ask?”
“Rounds ’em up and points ’em in the right direction.” Tori grabbed her own breasts and demonstrated.
I’m getting fired with perky boobs
. But she had to admit it did help in the confidence department. And if she fell on her face, there’d be something to cushion the impact.
“Mr. Petersen called again to see if you’d come in yet. So you’d better get a wiggle on. And good luck,” Tori called out with the door already closing behind her.
Tori was right: Lexy couldn’t hide out in the bathroom all day. Time to face the music. She risked one more glance in the mirror. It was the best she could do. She’d pulled her hair back into a tight bun and put on red lipstick to make up for the fact that she wore no other makeup. Thankfully, her skirt had dried somewhat by using the hand dryer. How presentable did one need to be to get sacked?
Daniel Michaud had better hope she was out of the building by the time he arrived. Or he’d be driving his next race with one less functioning testicle.
“Alexandra, please come in,” Mr. Petersen said as she hovered by his door. His secretary obviously hadn’t expected him in so early either and wasn’t at her desk yet. Her boss was one of three people who always used her full name, rejecting the diminutive Lexy. Her ex-husband and her father were the other two. She didn’t care much for them, either.
“You wanted to see me, Mr. Petersen?” Dumb question. Maybe she should have had a second coffee this morning. And a sausage buttie. It was definitely a sausage buttie kind of day.
“Have you seen the papers?”
“No, unfortunately, I haven’t. Has something happened?” She widened her eyes and let her bottom lip fall open. Her son Max got away with mischief by playing the sweet innocent; she’d give it a try.
“Daniel Michaud has breached the terms of his contract. It is too late in the ad campaign to get another face. But this can’t be allowed to happen again. So the CEO of Destin Designs and I have decided that Michaud needs a minder.”
She wasn’t going to be fired. They just needed her to come up with someone to keep a sexy playboy in control. She ran through a list of possible candidates in her head, ready to suggest a name as soon as Mr. Petersen stopped looking at her with that odd expression.
He cleared his throat. “You will accompany Mr. Michaud for the rest of the F1 season. Make sure he doesn’t get into any more trouble.”
“Mr. Petersen, I can’t. Have you forgotten I have a son? I can’t leave him for two months.”
“I’m sure you can come to some sort of arrangement for him. Our client is willing to pay 20,000 pounds for you to secure childcare for the next two months. Further, if the campaign is successful and Mr. Michaud behaves in a manner as outlined in the contract, you will be given a bonus of 50,000 pounds. I’m sure that’s a sweet enough deal to put up with two months without your son. Besides, you can see him between races.”
“All the remaining F1 races are abroad. The European season is over. I appreciate your generous offer, but I’m sure we can find someone else suitable.”
“The fact that you know where the remaining races are is proof that you are the ideal candidate, Alexandra.”
She was drowning in quicksand, reaching for anything to stop herself going under. “There has to be someone else.”
“Name me one person who first knows the Formula 1 circus as well as you. You were practically born on the track. And second, speaks fluent French, as well as, what? Two other languages?”
“Four. Italian, Spanish, German, and Russian.” Languages she’d picked up trailing her father around the Formula 1 races for the first five years of her life. Mr. Petersen had described it accurately: it
a circus. One she’d put far behind her.
“Point three: you have a degree in psychology. You can get inside his head and keep him on the straight and narrow.”
“I haven’t completed my degree yet.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m sure you know enough. He drives a car for a living and has a different woman in his bed every night. How deep can he be?”
Not as deep as she was sinking. “But the whole idea behind the advertising campaign is for him to be seen as an international playboy with a woman in every city. If I’m trailing him around, won’t it look like we’re dating? The media may start to think I’m his girlfriend,” she said.
Mr. Petersen didn’t even bother to look her up and down. “You’re not his type. And no disrespect, but I don’t think anyone would confuse you for a WAG.”
No, she was the antithesis of a sports celebrity wife or girlfriend. With her frizzy hair and high-street clothes, no one would mistake her for a woman able to attract a celebrity. And given Daniel’s love ’em and leave ’em philosophy, she was fine with that.
“Still, don’t you think a man would be better for the job?”
“No. But that brings us to point four. You were the one who recommended Daniel Michaud for this advertising campaign. You convinced the client he was the only one who had the right image. If this goes wrong, then it’s your head on the chopping block. That should be motive enough for you to do a good job.”
“But … I …” There was nothing else to say. She
the best person for the job. It was just that she didn’t want it. Babysitting a spoiled playboy millionaire racecar driver who went through women like her son went through Cheerios was not her idea of career advancement.
“He’ll be here soon. Let me speak to him first then I’ll call you in. In the meantime, sort out your childcare. Be ready to leave when he tells you.”
And with that, her world imploded. Yep, definitely a day she’d like to start over.
Daniel ground his teeth.
What am I, some kind of errant schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s office?
He should never have signed the damn contract. He knew the behavior clause was going to bite him in the ass one day. And the whole thing was just a stupid misunderstanding. Sure, he’d been photographed carrying his ex-girlfriend, now the wife of another man, out of his hotel room while wearing only his boxers. But it was all innocent. Too bad he couldn’t tell anyone the truth, because it would reveal Jacqueline’s secret. And he’d never do that.
So instead he had to play the penitent playboy and promise not to get in any more “trouble.” A couple of demure smiles, a firm handshake, maybe a few drinks, then he’d be good to go. Back to Paris for a few days, or maybe he’d lay low at his brother’s chateau in the Loire Valley. Then off to Russia for the next race.
The championship was tight again this year. He needed to win the majority of the last remaining five races to clinch the title. Or for his two closest competitors to not finish a race. He never relied on luck, though. He wanted to win by skill, show the world that his first championship hadn’t been a fluke or because his car was better than anyone else’s. Last year he’d missed winning it all by two points. He had to be the best this year. His career was all he had left.
“Did you fly straight in from Japan, sir?” the driver asked as they stopped at a light.
“Yes.” Thankfully he had his brother’s private plane, complete with a double bed so he’d been able to sleep some of the way. He’d given a lift to four mechanics who had celebrated the team’s one-two placing, so it had been noisy until they’d passed out.
“Good race,” the driver continued. “Shame about the pit stop. You should’ve come in first.”
Daniel forced his media relations smile. “Everyone did their best. At least the team got both top spots.” And narrowed the margin between him and his teammate. Robert was catching up—only ten points separated them now; the difference between first and third place. Daniel clenched his hands. The wait between races was the worst. Gave a man too much time to think.
He leaned his head back and shut his eyes, hoping the chauffeur would take the hint. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate his fans. But it had been a tough weekend, followed by an epically long flight. All he wanted was some peace and quiet for a few hours. Was that too much to ask?