“Oh my God! He’s signing autographs today!”
Lily turned and was nearly run over by Alli, who was on her way to the front of the gift shop. “Who?”
“Cam Carter,” Alli gushed, grabbing Lily’s hand and pulling her toward the gathering crowd. “C’mon. If we hurry, we can get in at the end of the line.”
Lily froze. She’d never been one for celebrity crushes, but she had one on the twenty-five five-year year-old race car driver. She was certain to make a complete fool of herself if she went anywhere near him, though she was dying to get up close and personal to look into those serious eyes. “You go on. I’ll wait out in the car for you.”
“The hell you will! You’re coming with me. I dragged you out of bed to give you the grand tour of race shops, and believe me, this is way better than anything I had planned.”
“Seriously, Alli? I’ve seen the race shops dozens of times, so you didn’t have to drag me out of bed.”
“Seriously, Lily. If not for yourself, then for me. Please? You need to come with me and make sure I don’t end up making a complete ass out of myself by jumping across the table at him or something.” Alli continued talking a mile a minute, and pulling her toward the line on the far side of the lobby, which was lined from one end to the other with glass trophy cases on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows on the other. They had to do some fancy maneuvering around the two race cars on display but finally found their way to the tail end of the line. “Besides, you know you want to meet him too. And Candi will be so jealous when she finds out.”
Alli had a point. Candi was big Cam Carter fan and would be green with envy when she found out she hadn’t gotten to meet him and they had. At the same time, she might get over it more quickly, given that she was in Italy tasting fabulous food and wine while they were stuck stateside.
“He’s just a guy, Alli. And you don’t even like him all that much. I’ve been here since mid-April, and you’ve heckled him during every race we’ve watched.”
“Oh please, Lil. I do like him. I just…you know, play devil’s advocate when he’s on the track. He’s an in-your-face and up-your-ass, ‘get the hell out of my way’ driver. Besides, I don’t really have a favorite. I like ’em all. Especially the single ones.”
She had a point. “That’s true. There’s never been a man you haven’t liked. But he’s still just a guy. Yeah, sure, he drives a race car…” Lily shrugged. “What’s the big deal?”
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Lily looked away from Alli. She knew exactly what the big deal was about Cam Carter. Currently the hottest race-car driver on the circuit, Cam was young, aggressive, and winning. A lot. The fans loved to hate him, and from the crowd gathered in the lobby of the race shop, they loved to love him too. He had it all: fame, fortune, boy-next-door good looks, smarts that rivaled men’s twice his age, and the kind of cocky confidence that most women loved. Including her.
Damn, what a package.
“Just a man? Just a driver? You’re telling me that if he offered himself to you on a silver platter, you’d look at him and think of him as ‘just a guy’? The heckling is all in good fun, and you know I don’t mean anything by it. And he’s just so yummy, Lil.”
“Yeah, sure, yummy in a robbing-the-cradle kinda way.”
“He’s not that young,” Alli said, slanting Lily a sideways glance.
“He’s twenty-five. You’re thirty-two.”
“That’s not a bad age difference. Just because you only date men our age, when you decide to date, that is, doesn’t mean the rest of us have limited ourselves.”
“Oh shut up and get over there before you miss your chance.”
Alli grinned. “Right. Come on.”
Lily sighed. Watching Cam as he smiled and laughed and chatted with the people gathered around, she smiled to herself. The truth was, she found him incredibly cute, and his charisma was just plain hard to resist. She was a fan, a huge fan, but would only dare admit it to herself, unless she was at a race, and then she kept it purely race related, grinning at the gibes thrown out at him from those around her. How would it look for a woman her age to be openly lusting after a man so much younger? It wasn’t Alli she needed to be worried about. It was herself. Looking at him did funny things to her, and she wouldn’t even think about the fantasies he’d inspired. Her insides were having a freakin’ parade. She’d never met any celebrity before, and though most people outside the racing community didn’t know his name, race fans — hundreds of thousands of race fans — knew exactly who he was.
Before she knew it, she and Alli were up next, and Lily’s heart kicked up speed. Damn, but the man had great eyes, and his smile… Her belly flipped, then flopped to be so near to that smile.
“Hi, Cam! Oh my God. I can’t believe I’m meeting you. Can you sign this T-shirt?” Alli held up a brand-new shirt she’d just bought, and beamed at him, while Lily stood slightly behind her, trying not to stare. Cam winked and smiled brightly at Alli. Why wouldn’t he? While she was thirty-two, she didn’t look a day over Cam’s twenty-five and had the bubbly personality that he seemed to go for, if his on-camera girlfriends were any indication.
He reached for the shirt, but Alli held it against her body. “Sure.” Seeing his long, slender fingers lying flat against the shirt, holding it down against Alli’s chest while he signed his name, Lily had visions of being naked on the hood of his race car, those fingers inside her, that hand holding her down, that mouth…
“Lil? Earth to Lillian.”
Lily shook herself out of her erotic thoughts with a guilty smile and looked at Alli, who was now bouncing up and down and holding up the T-shirt with Cam’s signature against her jiggling boobs. Lovely.
“Yeah, fine. Sorry. Let’s go.” She tried to nudge her friend, but Alli wouldn’t budge. She was staring at Lily oddly, and it made Lily feel uncomfortable, as though her friend and Cam and everyone else in line knew what she’d been thinking.
Alli shrugged then and looked back at Cam with a wink. She blew him a kiss. “Thanks.”
“Not a problem.”
Lily watched his smile and started to follow Alli past the table, but he stopped her by reaching out and tugging the sleeve of her shirt. Startled, she looked over at him.
“What about you?”
Crap. “Oh, uh…no, thanks. I didn’t bring anything with me for you to sign,” she said, her voice soft, her gaze darting away from his face, and heat creeping into her cheeks.
“Why not? Don’t like me?”
There was humor in his tone, and she made the mistake of quickly returning her gaze to his. The crowd laughed at his always present sarcasm, but Lily was beginning to tune them out. Dark sapphire eyes danced with merriment, and she couldn’t help but return the smile. “I like you just fine.”
“Embarrassed by it? As you know, I am the favorite of fans everywhere.”
More sarcasm and more laughter accompanied an “open arms” gesture, but the look between Lily and Cam was changing. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Alli glancing back and forth between them and scolded herself for making a spectacle. She didn’t like to be the focus of attention in groups of people. She preferred to just blend in, stand on the outside, observe. The way people were staring at them made her uncomfortable.
The way Cam was staring at her made her uncomfortable in a completely different way.
She and Alli needed to get out of there.
“No, I’m not embarrassed. I just…”
She could see in his face that he was waiting for her to continue. When she simply shook her head and didn’t say anything else, he smiled a softer, more personal smile and took a picture from a nearby stack of promotional photos. He signed his name, then flipped it over and quickly scribbled something else.
“Oh, um, Lily.” Heat touched her cheeks and slid through her body to pool between her legs. He had such young features, like those of a guy just entering his freshman year at college, and his antics were less than grown-up most times in his dealings with the press, but his eyes — his eyes belied a maturity that tugged at her. He’d found balance for both sides of himself, a balance that had seemed to escape her. She’d seen what his combined focus on fun and maturity had done for him on the race track, and she wondered about that same focus being trained on a woman.
“Lily. Just Lily?”
“Short for Lillian,” Alli supplied.
“Pretty name. Here you go, Lily, short for Lillian.”
“Th-thank you.” She took the picture and was careful not to touch him. If she did, she might do exactly what Alli had warned she would have done if Lily weren’t with her.
His cocky smile returned for the benefit of the crowd, but the look in his eyes was still all for her.