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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

A Fare to Remember

Opal Carew

St. Martin's Griffin

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

Chapter One


Stevie turned on the wipers as the small splatters of rain turned to huge drops bombarding the windshield as she drove, blurring the lights of the city street.

Finally, she’d caught a break. It had been a slow night, leaving her alone with her thoughts, and with what had happened with Hank today … Her stomach clenched and she fought back the tears she would never let fall.

She just wanted to stay busy and keep her mind off it.

Immediately, a businessman waved her down. She pulled over.

“Good evening, sir. Where to?” she asked.

He gave her an address about five blocks east, then stared at his phone the whole trip, tapping away. Probably catching up on his e-mail, or maybe texting his wife or girlfriend. Probably the former. Everybody who got into her cab seemed to want to fill every minute with useful time. Never taking a moment to just look out the window and enjoy the sights. To see life.

She dropped him off, then a couple blocks later another man flagged her down.

“Fairmont Hotel on Bleecker,” he said.

He wasn’t a bad-looking guy. He wore jeans and a leather jacket, but she could tell the jeans were two hundred bucks at least, and the jacket—real Italian leather from a designer label—would have cost him a bundle. He tapped on his phone for a bit, then stuffed it in his jacket pocket and leaned back in the seat. His gaze locked on her picture, then shifted to her rearview mirror.

“A lady cabbie. Been driving long?” he asked.

“About five years.”

He nodded, his gaze lingering on her face in the mirror. “Are you near the end of your shift?”

“No, sir,” she said simply. She knew where this was headed.

“What about a break? Maybe we could get a drink or something.”

“I can’t drink on duty, sir, and I don’t have a break for a while.”

“Okay, well, I’ve heard it can be pretty tough to make a living driving. Maybe I could hire your cab for a couple of hours and you could … uh … perform some other service for me.”

She sighed, glad they were almost at his hotel.

“Thank you for your concern, sir, but if you’d like a woman to have a drink with you or … whatever … just tell the concierge you’d like to meet Rita. I’m sure he can fix you up.”

Rita wasn’t a person, but a code of sorts. A way of asking for a hooker without asking for one.

She pulled up in front of his hotel.

“Sure but … a lady cabbie. That’s hot. Are you sure—?”

“I’m sure. That’ll be eight dollars.”

He handed her a ten and his business card with his room number scrawled on the back and told her to keep the change.

“If you change your mind, call me. I’ll make it worth your while.” With a wink, he left the cab.

She sighed. At least this guy was polite. Some of the guys who tried to pick her up were insulting and even got physical when she turned them down. She could take care of herself, but it became tedious.

The rain had stopped and she drove around for a while, then finally decided to stop for a coffee. She settled back in the cab and sipped her latte.

Her cell phone rang and she pushed the button on her console to accept the call via Bluetooth.

“Hey, Stevie,” Jon, one of her best friends, said over the speaker.

“Hi, Jon.”

“I heard what Hank did and I’m so sorry. That guy is a total jerk.”

Yeah, he definitely was. She’d caught him fucking another woman in the bedroom they’d shared for almost a year. In the apartment they’d picked out together after being in a two-year relationship together. It had been one of the waitresses who worked in the diner he owned, which was less than a block from where they lived. Apparently, they’d gone up for a quickie, Hank assuming Stevie wouldn’t be back before her shift.

“I heard you walked out on him. I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah,” she said, trying to erase the horrendous image burned into her brain.

“Where are you staying?” Jon asked.

“I don’t know. I just threw a few things in a suitcase and walked out.” The small case and a couple of garment bags were in the trunk now and she had no idea where she was going to sleep tonight.

“You know you can stay with us until you figure things out.”

Her heart swelled at Jon’s generous invitation, but she knew things had been tense between him and Derrick recently.

“It’s okay, Jon. You two need to focus on your own relationship right now. You don’t need me getting in the way.”

“But neither one of us would want to see you out on the street.”

She knew they’d work out their problems. She’d seen them do it before. They would hit a rough patch, then do what it took to get things back on track. The two men were truly in love. But she needed to give them the time and space to do that.

“I’m not crashing on your couch and that’s final.” She smiled. “Though I really appreciate the offer.”

“Okay, but I want you to call us as soon as you know where you’re staying,” Jon said.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got it covered.” But Stevie knew that despite her words, Jon would worry about her.

“You don’t have a passenger right now, do you?”

She grinned. As if she’d have let him keep talking about this if she had.

“No. It’s just me.”

“Well, at least now you know why your sex life dried up over the past few months. You thought it was because of the hours you kept, but now you know it’s because Hank was getting some on the side.”

The sex between her and Hank had been good—who was she kidding, it had been fabulous—and she’d mistaken that for love, but now she knew it was just chemistry. A chemistry that seemed to have faded for Hank, leaving her sexually frustrated with diminishing self-esteem.

She wished she could find something like what Jon and Derrick had. Someone who really cared about her. About how she felt and what she wanted.

“Now you can find some good-looking guy and get laid,” Jon said. “That’ll lift your spirits.”

“You make it sound like a trip to the spa.”

“Well, do that, too. But I highly recommend the man first.”

Stevie heard the passenger door open.

“In fact,” Jon continued, “I think you should just screw the next guy that gets into your cab.”

“I’ve got to go. I have a fare,” Stevie said hastily and hung up, hoping to hell her new passenger hadn’t heard Jon’s last remark.

She glanced in the mirror at the well-dressed man in the backseat. He was strikingly handsome with thick, wavy, chestnut-brown hair, a square jaw and full lips … and stunning cobalt-blue eyes. He wore an expensive suit—Armani—that accentuated his broad shoulders and trim waist. The man clearly worked out regularly.

Her heart thumped as an electrical surge of attraction coursed through her. Even more than his exceptional physical good looks, there was a blatant masculine intensity … a mesmerizing aura of raw sexuality about him that made it hard for her to take her eyes off him.

“Good evening, sir. Where to?”

“I have two stops to make this evening, but first I need to ask you something.” Then his gaze locked with hers in the mirror.

For some reason, that look—filled with calm authority and almost aggressive confidence—made her feel like an ill-behaved schoolgirl.

“And what is that, sir?”

“Does your boss often recommend that you cheat your customers?”

“Cheat?” Oh, damn, he meant Jon’s comment about screwing her client. “Oh, no, sir, that’s not what he meant, he…” Then her cheeks went cherry red. “It was just an inappropriate comment. And that wasn’t my boss. He was a friend of mine, so please don’t blame the cab company.”

He continued to gaze at her, assessing, then finally, he nodded.

“First stop, the Hotel Maison.”

“Of course, sir.”

She turned on the meter and started the engine, then pulled away from the curb.

“So does your friend always suggest you sleep with your customers?” he asked.

Oh, God. Was this guy going to come on to her now?

“No. I’ve just had a bad breakup and he was trying to push me to move on.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Were you together long?”

The question startled her. The fact he was interested in making small talk at all, instead of just interacting with his phone, was a surprise, but to show an interest in her life …

“Two years,” she answered.

* * *

Reid nodded. “Again, I’m sorry.”

He didn’t know why he was engaging with his driver. Usually, he’d use this time to catch up on e-mails and handle whatever business had come up. But tonight, he had no interest in business. It had been a rough week. A promising project in Philadelphia had fallen through and his trip here to New York to land a new, very high-profile contract had gotten off to a rocky start. He’d finally gotten in to see Raphael Allegro and they seemed to have hit it off, but Reid suspected he might have to stay in the city longer than he’d anticipated to continue building a sound relationship with the man. Raphael was the kind of businessman who only worked with people he had a good rapport with.

So Reid felt a connection with this woman, who was clearly having just as tough a week. In fact, Reid had received the same bad advice from one of the directors who reported to him. George had suggested Reid find some woman here and have a one-night stand to take the edge off the loneliness and stress of travel.

He glanced at the picture of the driver hanging over the back of the seat. Pretty, in an understated way. From what she was wearing tonight, she clearly dressed to downplay her looks, wearing a hat with the brim pulled down over her eyes and loose clothing—a smart move given her career—but in the photo he could see the high cheekbones, the full, sensual lips, and the spark of defiance in her sky-blue eyes. He didn’t know what she was rebelling against, but he felt a kindred spirit in her. He’d been the rebel of his family, starting his own company at twenty-five rather than taking over one of the sub-companies in his father’s vast empire. Reid’s business was a huge success, with branches across North America and several facilities overseas.

He had this drive to keep growing the business. Bigger and bigger. Maybe it was a need to show his father that he could build something every bit as big and successful as his father had. But lately he was losing interest in that. It never stopped and it wasn’t as fulfilling as it used to be. He just wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted in life.

He had women in his life—several in fact—all willing to do whatever he wanted. Whenever he wanted. But that wasn’t enough.

He glanced at the woman in the mirror. She was prettier in real life than in her picture. What would it be like to be with her? What sounds would she make? Would she whimper? Talk dirty? At the moment of release, would she call out his name?

The more he thought about it, the more he longed to know. It was crazy. He wasn’t the type to pick up some random woman, especially a cabdriver.

But he was the type to try new things. And this woman was definitely something new and different.

“Pull over at the next Starbucks,” he said.

She slowed the cab and pulled up in front of a shop with the iconic green sign.

“I’d like to go sit down and have a coffee. Join me and we can talk.”

“Thank you for the offer, but I’ll just wait here, or you can pay the fare and call another cab when you’re done.”

“No, I want to stick with you and it’s silly for you to just sit out here.”

“There’s a rule that—”

“You’re the type to follow rules to the letter, are you?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

She frowned. “I didn’t say that.”

“Then come in.” At her doubtful expression, he added, “I could use the company.”

Finally, she nodded and got out of the cab, then followed him inside. He ordered them both a coffee and they sat by the window.

“So tell me. What happened with you and your boyfriend?”

She shrugged. “I caught him in bed with another woman.”

“That’s tough. Someone you knew?”

“Vaguely. She works as a waitress at the diner he runs. I assume its been going on for a few months.”

He shook his head. He didn’t understand why any man would cheat on a relationship. He was the type that took charge. If he wasn’t happy in a relationship, he ended it. Sneaking around and having an affair with another woman just seemed … lazy.

“I hope you don’t let this hurt your self-esteem,” he said. “It’s not your fault that he wasn’t man enough to end the relationship before moving on.”

She sipped her coffee, schooling her face to appear nonchalant. “I’m not. The guy was just a jerk.”

“True, but I can see it in your eyes. You’re hurt that he wanted to move on at all. You feel that you weren’t enough for him.”

Her eyes narrowed and her fingers tightened around the cup. “Look, I don’t need you analyzing me and my life. You don’t know anything about me.”

“True. But I can read people. And I’m just trying to be helpful.”

She glared at him. “I don’t need any help, thanks.”

He smiled. She was feisty and independent. He liked that.

“Okay, let’s drop the talk about relationships. How long have you been driving a cab?”

“For about five years.” She sipped her coffee.

She was well spoken and seemed very bright. He wasn’t sure why she was driving a cab, but maybe she had no choice. Maybe her family didn’t have enough money to send her to college.

“Have you ever thought of doing something else? My company—”

“Stop right there,” she said, leaning forward, her eyes intense. “I like driving a cab. It’s what I want to do. So don’t judge me or try to help me out of my sad, impoverished life. I’m doing what I love. That’s probably more than you can say.”

He laughed. “Touché. As it turns out, though, I do love what I do. It has become a bit lackluster recently though. I could use something new to liven things up.”

“Is that what this is all about?” she asked, her gaze cautious. “Asking me in for coffee? Talking to me like I’m a date? You want to screw the lady cabbie to add a little excitement to your life?”

“If I was pursuing you, it wouldn’t be so I could screw you.” He leaned in closer. “I would slowly and purposefully seduce you, then take you to heights of ecstasy far surpassing anything you have ever experienced before.”

Rather than looking shocked, her eyebrow quirked up. “That would be more difficult than you think. Hank might have been a jerk, but he was the best lay I’ve ever had.”

He grinned. “I’m sure I could meet the challenge.”

* * *

Stevie couldn’t believe her own words. What the hell was she doing? But this guy, he was so … so … damn, he was so gut-wrenchingly sexy her hormones were boiling over in a wild fit of primal desire.

She reached for her coffee, purposefully brushing her hand against his. Electrifying desire sparked between them. She picked up her cup, making a decision she knew she would probably regret later, but right now, she didn’t care.

“All right.” Then she stood up and turned toward the door.

He followed her to the cab and got in, then she pulled away from the curb in silence.

She passed his hotel and drove another couple of blocks, then pulled down a side street. It was a quiet, out-of-the-way place she would sometimes use to grab a nap if needed during a long shift. She had friends in the neighborhood that looked out for her. She opened the door and got out of the cab. Her handsome passenger followed.

“Aren’t you going to come up to my hotel room?” he asked.

She walked toward him and rested her hand on his warm chest. A surge of adrenaline rushed through her.

“I think here will do fine.”

“You don’t like a comfortable bed?”

She smiled, loving the fact that she was keeping a man off balance for a change. She stroked up his chest, then along his jaw, the light dusting of whiskers sending tingles through her.

“I don’t need a bed.”

Then she cupped his cheeks and kissed him, feeling every bit in control.

Until his arms came around her and she felt herself crushed against his chest. He pulled off her hat and tossed it onto the roof of the cab. Her long blonde hair fell around her shoulders in waves. He drew back and smiled, running his fingers through the soft strands.

“That’s much better.”

Then she felt herself backed against the wall. He leaned against her, his cobalt-blue gaze locked on hers.

“If this is what you want, then that’s fine with me,” he murmured.

His hands glided up and down her body, sending tingles through her. He hadn’t touched any intimate place on her body yet, other than their joining of lips, but she felt he’d taken ownership of her whole being.

Then his hand glided over her chest and he cupped her breast. The feel of his warm hand surrounding her, even through the layers of clothing, started a blaze within her. She could feel her nipples harden with need.

He kneaded her soft mound while his mouth took ownership of hers again. His tongue pushed between her lips and drove inside.

Oh, God, she was feeling out of her depth. She didn’t know what she’d expected, but him being so comfortable and in control in this dark alley wasn’t it.

His hand found its way under her jacket, then inside her shirt. He cupped her breast, just the lace of her bra a barrier between them now.

“You feel good,” he murmured against her ear. Then he rocked his hips forward and she felt a thick bulge against her stomach.

A shock of awareness rippled through her. It hadn’t really hit home what she was about to do until she felt his erection pushing against her. She was about to have sex—in a dark alleyway—with a total stranger.

She felt his fingers unfastening the button of her jeans. She sucked in a breath and grabbed his hands, then pushed them away.


Copyright © 2017 by Opal Carew