Witless Protection Program

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It was pointless to argue on principle that Riley didn't need a ride home when she obviously did—especially in the middle of a rainstorm. And with Ashe stubbornly refusing to get into the limousine unless she did, he left her with no choice. No point in being stubborn only to die from pneumonia as a result.

From what Riley gathered as she scrambled into the limousine in front of Ashe, the blonde woman's name was Collette, and right now she was not a happy camper as she sat across from Riley. Sitting right next to Riley, his dark hair miraculously still perfectly styled, Ashe offered her his jacket. Her shirt was drenched, and one could practically see right through her lace bra and even more.

As she allowed him to rest his jacket over her shoulders, she saw that he was just as soaked from the rain as she was, but as he raked his fingers through his dark hair, she had to admit that it suited him. Even his white shirt—or wet shirt at this point—revealed defined muscles along his chest and shoulders. If she looked lower, she was sure to see a six-pack, but Riley didn't risk it. She'd probably drool.

She should have just gone back into Lee's and waited till the rain stopped before hailing a cab. It would have been a much better fate than sitting opposite a seething blonde with daggers for eyes. Collette had a nasty habit of glaring at Riley and then at Ashe, her mouth set in a thin line on her face. Then she'd switch her gaze back to Riley and repeat the process all over again.

So Riley glared back. It wasn't her fault that Ashe had insisted he stand in the rain till she got into the limousine. But then Riley remembered that Collette was Ashe's manager, and he'd managed to slip from her grasp at the hotel. No wonder the poor woman was upset. Losing her client during a major press junket wouldn't have looked good on anyone's resumé. Riley would have been angry, too, if she'd been the one in charge of Ashe and he'd disappeared, refusing to return any of her calls because he was too busy slurping noodles in Chinatown.

So Riley turned her glare toward Ashe, hoping that someone would say something to break the icicles threatening to form inside the limo. Instead, Ashe was busy talking to the chauffeur about how the sudden rainstorm reminded him so much of London, oblivious of the two women glaring at him.

After some time, Collette turned her attention back to Riley, and this time, Riley looked back at her. She was probably in her mid-to-late forties, Riley thought, though she was a terrible judge of age so she stopped guessing. Besides, if Collette was in show business, she probably had an excellent cosmetic surgeon on speed-dial. But as Riley tried not to stare too obviously at Collette, she figured that the woman was under forty. Or fifty.

"Where to, miss?" The chauffeur asked and this time, Riley had no choice but to give the man her Upper West Side address, insisting that he drop her off at the corner. But Ashe told the driver to do no such thing, not in this downpour. He told the driver to drop her off in front of her apartment building and wait for him as he'd walk her to her door.

"You could have at least answered my calls, Ashe," Collette said at last. "Mr. Reign was furious that you were not at the dinner. And I mean furious. One minute you were there with everyone else, and the next, you were gone. Can you imagine the panic, Ashe? We thought someone had kidnapped you or worse—"

"I'm sorry, Collette," Ashe said in a reassuring tone. "I'll make sure to let Abe and the producers know that it was all my fault. I felt so cooped up that I simply had to get out for some fresh air. I've barely been back in action—"

"But you missed the meeting with the producers! We've only been planning this for six months, Ashe! Just because you wrote the damn screenplay doesn't mean you can simply skip out on important meetings like this! This is the second time they've tried to arrange a meeting with you, and then you end up missing it—again," Collette snapped though her voice softened. "At least the first time, it was a family emergency, and they understood well enough to give you a second chance - and even finance the movie without you being physically there."

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