“What were you arguing about? That didn’t sound like a work-related argument to me. Are you two involved?”
Dawson’s shoulders flex and tense. “I’m not going to comment on that, other than to say, no, we’re not involved, and we never have been. She’s an intern on the project. It was a business-related discussion.”
The same voice speaks up, a young-sounding male voice. “It sure didn’t sound like it to me, Dawson, and we all know your history with interns and assistants. Come on, man, give us something.”
Dawson’s voice turns hard. “I am giving you something. Don’t be a douchebag, Tom. Leave Grey out of it. I’ll comment on the film, but that’s it. Any more questions about Grey, and this is over.”
All I can see is Dawson’s broad back, the orange T-shirt stretching over his shoulders, and the back of his head, the hair curling around the base of his neck. He needs a trim around his neck. I want to run my hands over the expanse of his shoulders, but I don’t.
“Why are you protecting her, if you’re not involved?” The same voice, whom Dawson had called Tom.
“She’s never dealt with you guys before. You guys are f**king barracudas.”
Tom again. “Sure you won’t comment on her? She’s hot, Dawson. You guys look great together.”
Dawson wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulls me close as we push through the crowd, ignoring the blinding camera flashes and barrage of questions. He doesn’t speak, and all I can do is trot in my high heels to keep up with him. His arm is a platonic vise around my shoulder, a show for the journalists, paparazzi, whatever they are. My heart is pounding. They’ve already caught on to the fact that there’s something going on. They know who I am. They’re going to find out I’m a stripper. Kaz will find out, and he’ll fire me. Everyone will know I’m a stripper, and it’s all I’ll be to anyone. A chick who’s willing to take her clothes off.
We’ve gone three blocks and we’re still not back to the intersection where I jumped out of Dawson’s car. I had no idea that I had run so far. After another half a block, we see a crowd gathered around a policeman, and a flat-bed tow truck preparing to load Dawson’s car. Dawson curses under his breath.
“Hey, you don’t need to tow it.”
The cop turns around, recognizes Dawson and then looks intimidated. “Sorry, Mr. Kellor. You can’t leave your car parked in the middle of the street like that.”
“No shit. But I’m here now, so it’s fine.”
“But—” The cop seems flustered.
Dawson steps closer to the policeman, who is an older man with a rounded belly and salt-and-pepper hair. “You have a daughter, Officer…O’Hare?”
Dawson takes the officer’s ticket pad from him, and pulls a thick black Sharpie from the cargo pocket of his shorts. “What’s her name, Officer O’Hare?”
“Jill, but that won’t—”
Dawson shoots the man a gentle, disarming smile, and writes horizontally across the pad. I read what he writes: To Jill, because your Dad is a hero. Your friend, Dawson Kellor. The name is written in a dramatic slanting scrawl, the inscription printed neatly. He hands the pad back to the policeman and re-pockets the marker, then claps the older man on the shoulder.
“Listen, Officer O’Hare. It was a bit of an emergency. It won’t happen again. I’m sure you understand.” Dawson is striding into the street, pulling me by the hand. The officer is drawn along as if by a magnet, spluttering and blustering.
“Mr. Kellor, I appreciate the autograph, because my daughter is a huge fan, but I can’t just let you drive away.”
Dawson opens the passenger door and hands me in, then crosses around to the driver’s side, sliding in, pushing the keyless starter button so the engine roars to life. He guns the gas pedal so the motor revs. “Then write me a ticket. There’s no point in trying to tow it, since I’m here now. Write me a ticket for whatever you want. Just make it quick, if you could. I have an important meeting with my producers in an hour.”
Officer O’Hare is clearly befuddled. His eyes are flicking to the huge crowd, to Dawson, to me, to the car—which is worth more than he’ll make in his whole life. He’s hesitating, and Dawson is giving off an air of disarming impatience. He digs a card out of his wallet and hands it to the officer. “How about this? I really have to go. Here’s my attorney’s card. You can send a ticket or a fine or whatever to him if you want.” I’m shocked at his gall.
“I guess I could—I mean…” Officer O’Hare glances at the crowd, and then back to me for some reason.
I’m sitting quietly in passenger seat, buckled, waiting, trying to be invisible.
“Good. Glad we got that figured out.” Dawson slams his door closed, reverses the Bugatti to within an inch of the police cruiser parked diagonally behind him, and then peels out into traffic around the tow truck, cutting off a white convertible Bentley. He blows through a yellow light and has the car doing fifty-five within seconds, zipping around slower-moving traffic, stomping on the brakes when he can’t find a path around. At one point he even crosses the center double yellow lines and swerves around a semi into oncoming traffic. I’m breathless, clutching the armrest with white-knuckled fingers as Dawson floors it, pressing me back into the seat as the powerful car rockets to over a hundred miles per hour, and then I’m thrown to the left as Dawson cuts back into the proper lane, braking and doing something with the gears to make the car slow drastically.
The scene of the incident with the police officer is already several miles behind us, and we only left the curb minutes before. My heart is drumming in my chest, and not just from Dawson’s skillfully insane driving. In between shifting the gears, his hand rests on my leg, his finger tracing idle patterns on my knee. I stare at his hand. It’s huge and tan, strong, the pads of his fingers callused and rough on my skin.
“Do you always drive like this?” I manage to ask.
“Yes.” He glances at me with a quick grin. “Why?”
“It’s scary. What if we wreck?”
“But how do you know?”
“Because I know what I’m doing. I’m not just a rich dickhead with a fast car.”
“Then what are you?” I ask.