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One Wild Ride: A Hollywood Chronicles Novel by Jackson, A.L., Shea, Rebecca (1)

One

Elle

I tossed the garment bag onto the backseat of my car, balancing my phone between my ear and shoulder as I maneuvered my huge bag into the front passenger seat. “I’m heading back to my place right now. Don’t worry. I’ll be there.”

“I swear, if you’re late, I’m going to skin you alive.” Leave it to Kay-Kay to get all spun up and agitated.

“Oh, come on, Kay-Kay. You’ve been crushing on Paxton Myles since the day I met you. Don’t act like you aren’t salivating to get to that theater. Besides, have I ever let you down?” I asked her.

Kaylee Rose Burton hesitated on the other end of the line as if she didn’t know how to answer that question. “No, you haven’t. And for the record, I so don’t have a crush on Paxton Myles. He’s famous.”

She whispered famous as if it was some massive secret, which it so was not since Paxton Myles was indeed famous.

Very famous.

It was why I basically had to force her into agreeing to come.

She’d been my best friend since we’d been paired together as roommates at UCLA as freshman. An unlikely match, that was for sure.

She was about as conservative as they came, and I’d been voted the biggest partier in my high school. Honestly, at the time, I’d been a little horrified that my parents were actually making me live in a dorm. With a stranger, nonetheless.

Ten years later, I could look back and totally understand what they were trying to do and fully appreciated them for it. Tossing me out of my privileged nest, praying I’d spread my wings, flap them hard and fast, and maybe just soar.

Make it out in the real world by myself.

The last thing I wanted to be was some spoiled brat living off her daddy’s dime for her whole life.

No, thank you.

But that sure didn’t mean my daddy wasn’t my world. And tonight was his big night. It wasn't just that I’d be letting Kaylee down. More importantly, I’d be letting him down, too, and that was just not going to happen. “I will be there,” I told her, slamming my door shut and pressing the button to start the ignition of my car. “I’ll call you when I’m getting close.”

“Okay, drive safe,” Kaylee told me.

“I always do.” I ended the call, dropped my cell into the center console, and shifted my car into reverse as I mentally went through my list of things I needed to do.

Hair, nails, and makeup?

Check, check, check.

All thanks to Gregorio, who’d had me in his chair for basically the whole day.

Dress?

I peeked in the rearview mirror into the backseat at the garment bag I’d just laid across the seat.

Huge check.

I bit back a squeal.

I couldn’t wait to get back to my condo to slip out of my VS sweatpants and tank and into the gorgeousness.

All I had to do was rush back across town, change, and climb into the limo.

I glanced down at the time on the dash.

Oh, you know, all in about under five minutes.

Shit.

A pulse of anxiety thrummed in my chest, and I took a deep breath and pasted on a smile.

No worries.

I had this.

I always did.

I started to back out of the parking spot when my eye snagged on the billboard across the street.

My daddy had always told me I had the attention span of a two-year-old.

I begged to differ.

It was my attention getting fixated on something that usually got me into trouble. So distracted and wrapped up that I didn’t have the first clue what was going on around me except for that singular focus.

Take this billboard, for instance.

I blamed it on the marketing degree I had tucked under my belt as well as everything I’d learned at the ad company where I’d worked for the last five years.

It was all due to that keen, savvy eye.

I couldn’t help but stare at the advertisement for an upscale shop on Rodeo Drive.

Plastered on that billboard was what had to be the sexiest man I’d ever seen. He was in nothing but a pair of tight black underwear, his arms folded over his head, a pose that showcased the most glorious set of abs a woman could ever hope to imagine existed outside the realm of Photoshop.

Too bad I knew that all that ridiculous muscle had to have been fabricated on the screen.

The thing was, though, the smolder on his face was enough to ignite a fire.

One right in the center of me, and I was pretty sure that was not something that could be forged.

Obviously, a display of clothes wasn’t necessary to sell them.

Beauty always captured the eye. Sex sold it.

It was only natural.

It was simply human nature to be drawn to it.

So what harm could a little ogling of a picture do? Especially considering every man I came across in this city turned out to be nothing but a douchebag doing anything it took to make it in Hollywood.

I’d settled on a look, but don’t touch policy.

I never felt guilty about doing a little admiring, especially knowing I could bank it for future reference.

You know, for the job.

The text coming in on my phone alerting me that my driver was already waiting at my condo shocked me out of my trance.

Apparently, I’d been looking a little too long.

Crap, I really was going to be late for the premier of my father’s first A-list movie he’d directed.

The payoff of all his hard work.

And I’d be sitting in the front row with him to celebrate that achievement.

I pressed down on the accelerator to back out of the parking spot.

Crunch.

That was all I heard, this horrible grating and grinding and scraping that pierced my ears as my car jostled and jerked.

I rammed on the breaks, my gaze flying to the rearview mirror to see what I’d hit.

Nothing.

There was nothing there, but I knew it had to be something.

Heart stampeding in my chest, I put my car into park, tentative as I unlatched the door, not quite sure what it was I was going to find, praying it wasn’t something bad.

I stepped out, my breaths going short as I edged around to the back of my car, first seeing a wheel, then metal.

More metal.

A motorcycle.

Oh, shit.

A motorcycle.

Panic thundered through my being as I inched forward, the breath fully leaving my lungs when a man came into view, lying right behind my car on his back and writhing in pain.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” I rushed, flying over to his side, dropping to my knees on the pitted pavement.

I scoured him for injuries, but I couldn’t see anything since he was completely covered by a helmet and a leather jacket and holey jeans. The problem was that I wasn’t sure if they’d started out that way or not.

But there was no blood, and I was taking that as a good sign.

His fingers fumbled with the helmet clasp under his jaw, and he ripped it off, gasping for air.

Holy shit.

Holy shit.

My mouth dropped open.

He peeled a single eye open and stared up at me. “Am I dead?”

I blinked at him, his deep voice shocking me out of my stupor, my words falling fast from my tongue. “What? No, you aren’t dead. Why are you asking that? Are you hurt? Oh God, tell me you aren’t really hurt,” I begged.

He squinted up through the sunlight that poured down around his ridiculously gorgeous face.

For the love of God, what was wrong with me that I was noticing that?

“Because you’re looking at me like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I laughed.

Outright laughed.

I blamed it on the adrenaline rush.

“Maybe I have,” I told him, glancing between his face staring up at the sky and the one that was oozing sex from the billboard.

Yep.

Same guy.

I’d just run over the hottest guy on earth.

Of course, I had.

Just my luck.

He groaned, and I gasped. “Are you hurt?”

“What does it look like, Princess? I just got mowed down with a BMW. I think my ankle’s broken.”

“Oh God.”

“I usually like to hear that under different circumstances. Why don’t we try again when I’m not so . . . incapacitated?”

My eyes narrowed. “Are you coming on to me right now?”

“Did you just run me over right now?” he shot back.

Shit.

I had.

“Please just tell me my baby is okay.”

Panic surged through my blood. “Your baby?”

A chuckle rumbled from his chest. “My bike. My baby. But if you want to take that title, I’ll gladly oblige.”

This guy.

He started to sit up, and I set my hand on his shoulder. “Maybe you shouldn’t move. Let me call an ambulance.”

He gave a harsh shake of his head and pushed up to sitting, running a palm over the top of his cropped dark hair. “No. It’s just my ankle. You can take me.”

My eyes went wide. “What?”

He looked at me with those eyes, black as obsidian. “You did just run me over. I would think you could do me the courtesy of getting me to the emergency room.”

“I-I-I—”

Crap.

I looked between him and his bike and my car, realizing how quickly time was slipping away.

I really was going to be late.

“Help me up so we can move my bike.”

I hesitated for a second.

He caught it. “Are you really worried about getting your hands a little dirty, Princess?”

He drew Princess out like it was a vulgar word.

Pushing to standing, I huffed and extended my hand to help him. “No. I just haven’t done anything like this before.”

“What? Run a man over?”

A scoff bled free. “Funny, I was talking about handling a motorcycle.”

His gaze swept me, head to toe. “Oh, I’m sure you handle things just fine.”

My mouth dropped open.

Speechless.

Flattered or offended, I couldn’t decide.

He reached out and took the hand that I had extended.

The second his skin met mine, quivers of heat streaked up my arm.

Oh God. He really did have the power to set me on fire.

He wobbled as he tried to balance on one foot.

“Are you good?” I asked, trying to pretend I wasn’t totally affected by his presence.

Look, don’t touch.

Look, don’t touch.

“I think I am now, considering an angel was sent to save me.”

“The flattery,” I tossed at him.

He grinned.

Dimples lighting on both sides of his cheeks.

Oh damn.

“Come on, let’s get your bike out of the way and get you to the hospital. I have somewhere I have to be in an hour.”

“You’re seriously going to ditch me when you just ran me down?”

“I’m not ditching you. It’s just . . . important.”

His eyes narrowed, taking me in, my hair and makeup done while I stood there in a pair of old sweats, as if he was trying to add me up, figure it out. “And what is so important?”

My mind flashed to the fact he was on a billboard. His striking face. The fact he was here, in Hollywood.

Where all the guys were the same.

I bit back the explanation because I sure didn’t want to give him any details about where I was headed tonight.

Mischief swam through his expression. “You broke my ankle, Princess. I could have died. Tell me you didn’t risk my life to take a selfie for an Instagram post.”

Says the guy who’s bleeding sex on the billboard behind him.

I didn’t say it.

Pretended I didn’t see it. That I didn’t know he was probably just like every guy desperate to make it in L.A.

“Get in the car,” I told him. “I wouldn’t want you to die on me.”

There was no keeping the sarcasm from the words.

Because this guy was most definitely killing me.

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