Desire Love and Passion
Author:Lesia Reid

Chapter 1

He took the corner faster than intended but made a deft correction and accelerated even faster into the next turn. He was just out of the turn when he saw the car. Even as he moved to correct the path of his vehicle, he knew that a collision was imminent. The piercing sound of metal rending metal ripped through the otherwise quiet Saturday afternoon. When he had cleared the car, he tried easing to the shoulder of the road. He was going faster than he wanted to. The twang-twang of stones under the metal carriage sounded like bullets. The front skidded and the Porsche did a spectacular one hundred and eighty degree turn. He took his foot off the accelerator pedal. He tapped on the brakes and still the incessant twang-twang-twang as stone bullets continued to punish the undercarriage. Finally, the Porsche came to a stop, mostly in the middle of the road.

He was out of the car immediately. There was a loud reverberation in his ears like water rushing rapidly over rocks in a stream. He knew it was his adrenaline-laced blood pumping. The acrid scent of iron dogged him as he ran towards the yellow Beetle. The color seemed too bright, even alien against the dusky landscape. The distance between the cars was minimal, but seemed as expansive as an ocean.

The driver's door of the Beetle was wedged into place. He yanked at the door trying his best to avoid jagged metal edges, but it would not open. He saw the driver moving across the passenger seat so he rushed to the other side of the vehicle and grabbed the passenger door. It opened easily.

"Are you alright? Are you alright?" The words rushed from him automatically.

Her mini dress had ridden up revealing sexy laced stocking tops with garter attachments all covering smooth, creamy caramel skin. He tried to look away, embarrassed and more than a bit flustered.

"Are you alright?" he anxiously asked again. He thought to himself that he sounded like a broken record.

She looked up at him. Her large brown eyes were alert in smooth beautiful and flawless skin the color of dark caramel. Her silky black hair was drawn back from her face. He soaked in her full lips and high cheekbones and something feral stirred within him, replacing the embarrassment he'd felt mere moments before. There was a strange familiarity about her. His mind struggled to stay focused while furtively digging for a memory that he knew did not exist, yet seemed so real.

She knew he was a handsome man from his television and newspaper images, but in the flesh, he was much more...exquisite. The infamous scar that stretched from beneath his left eye across the bridge of his nose, over his right cheek and ended just short of his right ear added a roughness that she found more than a little appealing. Vivid green eyes stared down at her. He flinched under her gaze and she looked away.

"Are you alright?" The question seemed to be stuck on his lips as if it would stay there until she answered.

"Yes." Her answer was no more than a whisper, but with that breathy expression he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Her calm unnerved him even as he found himself inexplicably aroused by her.

She was almost all the way out of the car and he felt his embarrassment return with a vengeance as adrenaline gave way to endorphins. All he could think about was those laced stockings and garters. Holding the car door with one hand he reached for her with the other. She ignored his outstretched hand. Instead, she braced against the car door for one final shove. She swung both legs out of the car at the same time with another flash of lace and garter clips. He stepped back to give her room.

"Are you alright?" He asked again, though she had already answered.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, yes, yes. I am so sorry."

She walked away from him and towards the other side of her car where she inspected the damage. She folded her arms across her chest as she rubbed her elbows. He followed her.

"I am sorry," he said again.

"You already said that."

Now she truly straightened up and looked at him.

She was impressively tall; almost as tall as he and he was six feet two inches. He inevitably looked her up and down. She was in sensible pumps, no more than an inch or so high.

He watched as she returned his look, giving him a cool appraisal from head to toe.

"What are you doing out here alone?" she asked. "Where are your bodyguards?"

"They may be a few paces back."

"This is a very expensive All Fool's Day joke," she said.

"Why do you say that?"

"The most famous man in the world just plowed into the side of my car. We are standing on the side of the road hoping to bum a ride with his bodyguards that may or may not be a few paces behind. Nothing in that story seems likely. Damnit," she said. "I knew I shouldn’t have had that extra glass of wine. I’m dreaming right? How hard do you think I have to pinch myself to wake up?"

He chuckled. Her calm demeanor soothed his anxiety.

"That depends," he replied after a few moments. "How heavily do you sleep?"

"You're my dream," she said. "Don't ask logical questions."

"How often have you dreamed about me?" he quipped.

"Never!" she said forcefully.

"Don't make it sound that bad," he said.

He found himself unwittingly on the defensive. For some inexplicable reason, he wanted her to like him.

"It’s pointless to dream about you if there’s never a chance of meeting you. I would have wasted a whole fantasy."

"I wouldn’t say zero now," he replied. "After all, you’re not dreaming and I am here."

"You have a point."

"I’m interested in the fantasy part of your dream. Care to share?"

Just about that time, the hum of approaching vehicles broke the spell.

"I'll take care of everything," he assured her.

"The important thing here is that we’re both okay." She had a deep throaty voice that carried a sensuous and seductive tone. Once again, his mind went to images of laced stockings and garters. He knew he must look flustered. Her soft chuckle only sent another embarrassing wave of heat to his cheeks.

"I'm Willow Barnes, by the way" she said just as the vehicles came into view.

His cavalry had arrived.

"James Monroe," he said as he took her hand.

"I don't think you need an introduction."

The vehicles came to a halt within a few feet of where the pair stood. A short, slender young man with dark hair and horned-rimmed glasses stepped out of the car ahead of the security personnel. He walked purposefully towards them and it was obvious from the look on his face and his pursed lips that he was not at all happy at the moment.

Willow instinctively took a step back and James moved in front of her as if to shield her. She found it comical as it was she whom they intended to keep away from him.

James heard Larry speaking to her as he moved to the side of the road. He knew it was going to be a publicity nightmare if she didn’t cooperate. As he listened, he heard her give her responses in a calm even tone. Yes, she would allow them to take care of the accident. No, she didn’t need medical attention. No, she wouldn’t go to the press. The questions seemed to go on forever. All the while, she answered in that calm, silky smooth voice of hers.

"Here is my card," Larry said, handing her a business card. "If you need transportation to get a rental car, I will arrange it. We will also cover the cost of your rental and any other expenses with regard to this matter."

"I don't need a rental," she replied. "I believe I have an old car on the property."

"Yes, an immaculate 1950 Jaguar XK 120. Not exactly an everyday ride." His tone was condescending.

"Ah, what do you know about me?"

"Nothing," he said, "save that you turned down an offer for more than twice what that piece of property is worth."

"Money isn’t everything," Willow replied.

"Yes, that might be true for some of us." Again he had that condescending note in his voice. He hated that she hadn't sold. "Now that you know who your neighbor is, I will have to insist you stay within your property lines. There are signs posted for would-be-trespassers. This was a rather unfortunate incident and I cannot impress upon you the importance of keeping this private."

"Why would you think I cherish his privacy over mine?" She thumbed her finger in James’s direction as she spoke.

James almost laughed as he listened. Larry had finally met his match. Seeing the look on his assistant's face, James walked over to where they stood.

"Larry," he said "give us a minute, will you."

Larry hesitated but walked away. The woman turned to James. He had met a lot of beautiful women in his time and she was beautiful, but there was something wild and uninhibited about her, too. Her lips were not as full as he first thought, but not that thin, either. They seemed to curl at the very corners of her mouth. It was as if she was forever laughing at an inside joke. Every visible aspect of her appealed to him on the most basic level. That was not the only unsettling thing. What was most unsettling was that strange sense of familiarity she had.

"I am really sorry about what happened."

"You've said that already," she replied.

"Are you related to John?"

"Sort of," she replied. "I inherited his property. He never told me he had a neighbor like you, though."

"I don't think he knew I lived here."

"Well, your secret is safe with me, Mr. Monroe."

"Please call me James," he corrected. "I think we are a bit beyond the niceties."

He watched as her eyes zeroed in on his scar. Again, he flinched under her gaze. He waited to see the pitying look in her eyes, but it never came. She adjusted her gaze and he thought he saw a blush as she realized he was watching her.

"I didn't mean to stare," she apologized.

"It happens all the time," he replied.

"It's a pity you go to such lengths to hide it," she was referring to the scar. He knew as her gaze shifted from the scar to his eyes then back again. "It reminds us that there are still true heroes. Besides, it looks quite fetching on you."

Her candor surprised him. He was at a loss for words. He’d literally heard it all before. He’d been given all the pity speeches and had caught all the guilty look-aways. He sensed the tension in a lover during a kiss. This, however, was new.

"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you," she said into the silence. "Your man, Larry, has offered to escort me and my belongings to my place in exchange for my silence. I think I'll get going."

"You can ride with me," he said. "I don't mind."

"Please," she said almost comically, "I haven’t been vetted by your security service. Your assistant would have a heart attack. As I said, he is only doing this bit for my silence, which I would have given anyway."

"Larry works for me," he said. "Not the other way around. He’s not allowed to have heart attacks on the job."

She smiled.

"Well, then, how can I refuse, Mr. Monroe?"

"James, please."

Larry did indeed protest. James would hear nothing of it as he climbed into the backseat of a heavily tinted black sedan with Willow. The items from her wrecked car were placed in the backup car in which Larry followed.

"If you don't mind me asking, what is it that you do?" James asked as the car started.

"I'm a photographer for a marketing company," she said.

"Really?" He was surprised.

"Don't worry," she replied. "I do have an office that I disappear to every so often, so you can play stock-car racing on the road all you want."

He blushed.

"Why do you ask?"

"Just curious," he replied though he was thinking about her outfit. "I feel really awful about the accident. I would like to invite you to dinner tomorrow."

"There’s no need. Accidents happen," she said.

"Well, let's say it is a welcome to the neighborhood dinner."

"Then tomorrow sounds perfect."