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.Why would Ryan Sullivan care? Besides, she reminded her racing heart with brutal honesty, he probably had some pretty cheerleaders waiting on him.And they wouldn’t need an out-of-control car to get him to lie down on top of them.Because no matter how tempting it was to believe that she had suddenly been cast in a happy-ever-after fairytale romance, the truth was that getting that close to Ryan had been nothing more than a fluke of fate.And Vicki remained the star of her artsy, and often lonely, move-to-a-new-town-every-year-with-her-military-family teenage life.Only, for some strange reason she couldn’t understand, Ryan wasn’t running in the opposite direction yet.Probably because he felt like he owed her after she’d saved his life.After all, hadn’t he just told her that he would be there for her one day when she really needed him?“What are you getting supplies for?” He asked the question as though he were truly interested, not just acting like it because he felt he should.“I’m making a—” Wait, she couldn’t tell him what she was making.Because she was sculpting him.“I work with clay.Lately, I’ve been trying to capture specific facial expressions.”“Which ones?”Never in a million years did she think she’d ever speak to him, let alone have this long a conversation.But, what shocked her most of all was just how comfortable she felt with him.Even with all of her teenage hormones on high alert, Ryan was, simply, the easiest person she’d ever been around.And she wanted more time with him than just five stolen minutes on the high school lawn.Her nerves were starting to back off a bit by the time she told him, “I started with all the usual expressions every artist knows best.” She played it up for him.“Tears.Pain.Suffering.Existential nothingness.”His laughter made her feel like she could float all the way to the art store and back.“Sounds fun.”“Oh yeah,” she joked back, “it’s a riot.Which is why I’m trying something different now.” She took a breath before admitting, “I’m working on laughter.”“Laughter, huh?” He grinned at her.“I like it.How’s it going?”Being so close to the full wattage of his smile made her breath catch in her throat.In an effort to cover her all-too-obvious reaction to him, she scrunched up her face.“Put it this way, I think I’ve started to resemble all those other expressions.”“Even the existential nothingness one?”As if she were watching the two of them from a distance, Vicki knew she’d always look back to that moment as the one that mattered most.The one where she fell head over heels in love with Ryan Sullivan.And not because of his beautiful outside.But because he’d listened.And, even better, because he’d appreciated.“Especially that one,” she replied.He picked up her bag from the grass.“Sounds awesome.Mind if I tag along?”Okay, so maybe the two of them didn’t add up on paper, but Vicki couldn’t deny that they had clicked.“Sure,” she said, “if you don’t have anywhere else you have to be.”He slung his equipment bag over his other shoulder and walked beside her.“Nothing more important than hanging out with a new friend.”This time, she was the one grinning at him.In the two weeks since she’d moved to Palo Alto with her family, she hadn’t done a very good job of making friends at the high school.As an Army brat who moved more years than not, she’d stopped making the effort a long time ago when she realized how hard it was to not only break into fully formed cliques, but also to maintain long-distance friendships once she inevitably left town.Ryan made everything seem so easy, though, as if the only thing that wouldn’t make sense was their not hanging out.By the end of their trip to the art store and back, she knew all about his seven siblings, he knew she had two annoying little brothers, he’d told her what he liked about baseball, she’d told him what she loved about sculpting, and she’d been invited to dinner at the Sullivan house.It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.The best one she’d ever had.* * *Present day, San FranciscoRyan Sullivan threw his car keys to the valet as he shot past him.The young man’s eyes widened as he realized that he was not only about to drive a Ferrari into the underground parking lot, but that it belonged to one of his sports idols.“Mr.Sullivan, sir, don’t you need your valet tag?”Ryan took his responsibilities to the fans seriously and made it a point never to let them down.But tonight the only thing that mattered was Vicki.Even though a half-dozen missed connections over the years had kept them from meeting up again in person after high school, they’d kept in touch through email and phone calls.Vicki was his friend.And he wouldn’t let anyone hurt one of his friends.Ryan pushed through the dark glass doors to the exclusive hotel foyer and made himself stop long enough to do a quick scan of the glittering room.The Pacific Union Club wasn’t his kind of place—it was pretentious as all hell—and he hadn’t thought it would be Vicki’s usual stomping grounds, either.So why was she here? And why hadn’t she told him she was finally coming back to Northern California after so many years in Europe?He’d been hanging at his brother Chase’s new baby celebration when her texts had come in.I need your help.Come quick.Ryan had cursed every one of the thirty-five miles into the city from his mother’s house on the Peninsula [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]