Velocity

Velocity

Cassandra
Carr

 

Book four in the Buckin’ Bull Riders series.

 

Paolo D’Allesandro has been living
in his older brother Marco’s shadow. But he’s getting older now and realizing
he and Marco don’t want the same things. He’s not sure what his next step is,
but knows he needs to quit riding to figure it out.

Savannah Harrington is a grad
student working on a thesis about adrenaline junkies. She’s joined the bull
riders’ tour to study the men and their motivations to willingly take part in a
dangerous sport. Upon meeting Paolo, they both feel an instant connection. She
can’t stay away from the sexy Italian and his mind-numbing skills in the
bedroom, but knows the relationship can’t last.

Both wish their circumstances were
different, but Paolo doesn’t think he has anything to offer Savannah, and
Savannah doesn’t want to pressure Paolo into another life decision that will
make someone else happy, but not fulfill
him
. As her time to go back to
school draws closer, they need to figure out how to get their highest score
yet—in the game of love.

 

A
Romantica®
contemporary erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Velocity
Cassandra Carr

Dedication

 

To David, for bringing to life the Paolo I had envisioned.

 

To Syneca, for taking the perfect picture and making the
perfect cover.

 

Chapter One

 

Bucked.

Again.

Paolo D’Allesandro picked up his bull rope and skulked out
of the dirt-covered arena. He wasn’t sure what he was doing wrong. His brother
Marco and several other successful bull riders had tried time and again to give
him advice, but it never seemed to stick.

He’d been living off Marco’s generosity for too long now. He
needed to win. After slowly making his way back to the riders’ area, trying not
to scowl at the sympathetic looks being thrown his way, he stowed his gear and
grabbed his bag. Marco’s round would be starting soon and he should go help his
brother. With a sigh, he walked over to the area behind the chutes. It was at
times like these, when he’d been bucked off twice in a row
again
, that
he wondered if he’d ever make it as a bull rider.

After helping his brother seat himself on the bull, Paolo
wandered away. Sure, he could’ve stayed to help other riders, but he always
felt like such a loser when all these better riders stayed on their bulls. A
few moments later he heard a whoop and turned back to the arena. Brady Parrish
was on his feet after an obviously successful ride, giving a bow to the crowd.
Paolo shook his head, chuckling. The man certainly knew how to turn on the
charm.

When Paolo returned to the riders’ area, Brady was still at
it, holding court after another win. Paolo approached, searching the crowd for
Marco or Marco’s girlfriend Natalie. Spying them, he pushed through the crowd,
but stopped dead when a woman turned to greet Marco.

His heart hammered as he took in her appearance, from her
high-heeled sandals to a flirty little sundress and up to the most angelic face
he’d ever seen, aside from the cherubs that graced the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel. That perfect face was framed by dark-brown, closely cropped hair. Paolo
had heard mention of someone having a heart-shaped face, and this must be what
they meant. Huge eyes almost tan in color, a small nose, and full, rosy lips
made him wish he could draw or paint to record her beauty for future
generations, just as Michelangelo had. She was exquisite.

Marco popped him on the arm and he realized he’d been
staring. His face grew hot.

“This is Savannah Harrington.” Marco turned to the woman.
“My brother, Paolo.”

Savannah stuck her hand out and Paolo automatically took it.

Warm and soft. Just the way I like a woman.

He shivered and one of Savannah’s brows rose. Before he made
even more of an ass of himself, he said, “It is nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

Paolo saw Brady look from him to Savannah with an assessing
gaze and realized they were still holding hands. Releasing hers, he stuck his
in the pocket of his jeans lest he be tempted to touch her again. Brady spoke.
“Savannah is here for a while researching adrenaline junkies. Apparently she
thinks bull riders fit the bill.” Paolo frowned and Brady grinned. “Adrenaline.
Like the high you get when you stay on the bull or what you feel in a
life-or-death situation.”

He nodded. He hadn’t taken to English quite as well as his
brother and a lot of words were still a mystery to him.

“Savannah is getting her master’s degree in…” Brady glanced
at her with both eyebrows raised and she smirked.

“Neuroscience.” She looked at Paolo once more. “Science of
the brain.”

This woman was so far out of his league she might as well be
in another galaxy, but Paolo was fascinated nonetheless. Marco had always done
better than he in school, though Paolo had a few subjects he liked and did well
in. When Marco had fled the family compound in Italy, Paolo, though only
eighteen at the time and barely out of secondary school, had followed. Now he
was twenty-three and had never regretted not continuing his schooling until
this very moment.

“That sounds…” He searched for the word he was looking for.
“Interesting.”

Lame.

But Savannah smiled. “It is. I get to meet interesting
people, anyway.”

Paolo’s pulse rate sped up again as he wondered if she was
talking about him or if she meant people in general. Probably the latter. He
really wasn’t all that exciting. His brother was the one who got all the
attention, and rightfully so. At least he could stay on a stupid bull.

Savannah cleared her throat. “Anyway, I’d like to talk to
all of you if you could spare a few moments sometime over the next couple of
weeks. I’ll be at several events. Gotta love student loans…”

Everyone laughed, and though Paolo wasn’t sure what she
meant, he laughed along with the others.

Brady spoke up first. “That shouldn’t be a problem. One word
of warnin’, though. A lot of the guys aren’t crazy about talking before they
ride. We like to concentrate and have good focus when we get on the bull. But
after we’re done I expect any of us would be happy to answer your questions.”

The other men nodded their approval and Savannah beamed.
Paolo’s breath caught. It appeared he wasn’t the only one having this reaction,
as he saw a couple of the other riders swallow or shuffle their feet. A fissure
of annoyance stole through him. It wasn’t as if he had any claim on Savannah,
but damn if he didn’t want to.

With most women, he was happy to spend a night or two having
fun and move on. After watching what his family had done to Marco before they’d
both left Italy, trying to force him into a marriage he didn’t want, Paolo had
vowed he wouldn’t marry unless he found a woman he could not live without. So
far none of the women he’d met in the United States fit into that category. He
glanced at Savannah again.

What is it about her?

One of the guys mentioned they were going to a local bar to
blow off some steam and Paolo readily agreed to go, especially after Savannah
said she’d be there. The next event was only a few hundred miles away and a
travel day had been built in tomorrow, so most of the guys were staying here in
town tonight and leaving in the morning. Many times that meant they’d all pick
up women and either go back to one of the hotel rooms and party or Paolo would
take a woman back to his room if one of them intrigued him enough. He wondered
where Savannah was staying.

“Did you drive yourself?” He cut in and asked her.

“Yes. I rented a car for the first couple of events since
they’re close. I guess you guys fly to some of them?” She looked a little
confused and Paolo cocked his head. “How do you get the bulls on the plane?”

Paolo did his best not to laugh. It was a legitimate
question. It appeared at least some of the other single guys might’ve detected
his interest, because they stayed silent. “They have big trucks for the bulls.
And there are more bulls than are needed for each event, so if the event is far
away, different bulls will be brought to the location.”

Savannah nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense.” Her eyebrows drew
down and the cutest little frown played over her features. “I guess I should’ve
done more research into how the tour works.”

They’d started the walk out of the arena by this time and
Paolo guided her through a door into the main concourse with a hand on the
small of her back. Her warmth seeped in, burning him from the outside in. He couldn’t
wait to see if she was this hot all over.

Take things slow,
amico
. Don’t mess this up. She’s
probably not a one-night-stand kind of girl.

“Why would you need to know about the bulls? You’re not
studying them too, are you? I’m afraid they do not talk much.”

Savannah laughed and Paolo grinned to himself, absurdly
proud she thought he was funny, especially with how much trouble he had with
English. She giggled again. “I was just picturing myself trying to talk to the
bull.” Shaking her head, she slanted him a glance. “So you and Marco are
brothers?”

Paolo sighed.
Here it comes.
“Yes. I am very lucky to
have such a successful brother.”

“You’re not successful?”

“Not nearly as much as Marco. He’s ranked in the top ten.
I’m barely ranked in the top hundred.”

“But you’re on the pro tour. You must be pretty good
yourself.”

He shrugged, not wanting to talk about his abysmal
performances lately. “Would you like me to ride with you? We come here every
year and I know of the bar Garrett mentioned.”

She smiled at him. “That would be great. I hate having to
try to follow people.”

Garrett loped up. “Do you know where you’re going? You can
follow us.”

Savannah and Paolo shared a little smile. If she didn’t stop
this he was going to be half in love with her by the time the night was over.

“Paolo is going to ride with me and show me the way.”

The older man appraised Paolo. “I bet.” With a smirk,
Garrett turned and walked away.

“What was that about?”

“I don’t know,” Paolo lied.

The truth was, the guys were competitive about everything
and no doubt Garrett had wanted the chance to talk to her despite the fact it
should’ve been obvious to him Paolo was interested in Savannah. He didn’t want
to make it too obvious and freak her out, but Paolo planned to stick by her all
night.

Most of the guys, Garrett included, were good guys. Garrett
was too old for her though. As far as Paolo knew, the man was in his
mid-thirties and close to retirement. Besides, Paolo felt something for this
woman that he’d never experienced before. He wanted to strip her bare and fuck
her about a million different ways. Shockingly, just as much, he wanted to put
a layer of bubble wrap around her and shield her from the world so he could
love her as she no doubt deserved.

What a stupid thing.
Love?

He wasn’t in a position to be falling in love with anyone
right now. Before he could even consider that, he needed to figure out how to
earn a living on the tour. And surely Savannah didn’t need protection from
anyone, particularly not by the likes of him. In her heels they were eye level
with each other. One of the only things he had going for him as a bull rider
was his build—five-eight with lean muscle mass. Marco, Brady, Garrett…all of
them were five-ten or shorter. Really, the only rider who consistently did well
at over six feet tall was Conner.

“My car is this way.”

Paolo briefly waved at Natalie and Marco, who both grinned
at him. Before either of them did something Savannah would notice, Paolo turned
back to her.
Time to make small talk.
He never knew what to talk about
though. His mother’s voice echoed in his head.
Ask her about herself. Keep
the focus on her.

“So where are you from?”

She rolled her eyes. “Savannah.”

“Pardon?”

“Sorry. I keep forgetting you’re not American. I’m from
Savannah, Georgia. It’s on the east coast of the US near the water.”

“It must be very pretty.”

“It is, but imagine being named after the city you were born
in. I got teased mercilessly. For the longest time I hated my name. I even
tried to change it when I was in fourth grade, but my mom wasn’t having any of
it.” She glanced over, biting her lip. “I’m sorry, I’m probably boring you.
Where are you and Marco from?”

“You’re not boring me. We’re from Italy.” He figured he
might as well get it all out there in case she was one of those girls who would
only want him for the money she thought he had. “My family owns D’Alessandro
Olive Oil.”

“Oh my God, really? I have that in my pantry at home. That’s
so cool.” Paolo made a noncommittal sound. “So can I ask you why you’re over
here riding bulls when your family owns this big company back home? Feel free
to tell me if I’m being nosy.”

Paolo preferred not to talk about it, but again, if Savannah
was only going to be interested in him for his supposed fortune, he wanted to
know now. He’d seen it happen enough times, especially to his brother. Since
Paolo kept his affairs brief it wasn’t usually a problem, but Marco hadn’t been
as much of a love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy, even before he’d met Natalie.

“Our
padre
wanted Marco to take over and run the
company to keep it in the family. Marco didn’t have any interest, and made that
plain many times, but my father did not want to listen. Finally when he knew
our
padre
would never accept he didn’t want to be in the business, Marco
decided to leave.” Paolo shrugged. “I was eighteen and restless so I went with
him. Besides, I’d always looked up to Marco and I didn’t want to lose him.”

“Wow.” She indicated a small sedan. “This is me.” After
unlocking the doors and starting the car, she turned to him briefly from the
driver’s seat. “I can’t even imagine something like that. My family is so
supportive of me. Even when I said I wanted to stay in school and get a second
master’s degree, they didn’t laugh at me or try to change my mind. My parents
don’t have a lot of money, but they’ve always loved me and my sister.”

“That is the most important thing, I think.” He paused
before continuing. “You must understand. It’s not that my parents don’t love me
or my brother. But they have expectations. Well, they do of Marco. Not of me as
much.”

Savannah frowned. “Why is that?”

“I’m the youngest. Marco was always the one who was expected
to take over.”

As if she sensed how uncomfortable the conversation was
making him, she said, “So now you’re here.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I for one am glad.”

Paolo grinned. “I’m happy too.”

They arrived at the bar and Paolo jogged around the front of
the car to help her out. When he took her hand, electricity shot up his arm.
Savannah seemed to feel it too, as the pulse point in her neck began to pound
so rapidly Paolo could see it from a foot away.

Someone had snagged a group of tables by the time they
walked in and Paolo held out a chair for Savannah. She sat gracefully and he
asked, “Would you like a drink? We usually get a few pitchers of beer, but I
can get you whatever you’d like.”

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