“Drake, it’s his dream.”
“It’s all our dreams, but we need to be realistic here. We don’t have any of the money Dad started with: no wins equals all expenses, Lainie. It’s a long shot and Dad’s tired, he’s tired, we might as well spend it somewhere calm where he can take it easy …”
“No,” I say firmly.
“Lainie,” he begins.
“No. This will give him new life. This will make him happy.”
He looks at me with pity, the kind of pity reserved for older brothers who are more mature, who’ve dealt with the news about your dad. And me? I have focused on his every dream for the past four years because tomorrow we all die. It’s today that matters to me, because today my dad is right here in the tent, breathing and living and disappointed and I’m the fixer.
“You guys are being too realistic, let me dream for all of us. Give me ONE chance. Just one test. I’ll bring the pilot.”
“Dad, I said I could do this.”
He looks at my brothers, and I groan.
“Who do you have in mind?” Drake finally asks.
“You’ll see,” I lie.
“Whoever he is, you think you can just convince a guy to come with a team on its last legs?”
“How hard can he be? He’s a man, isn’t he?”
I shoot them a look that speaks volumes, then kiss my dad on the cheek and tell him, “I’m going to have to travel. Hang tight, Daddy. I’m not coming back until I find him. I’m not settling for anything but the best—someone who loves the wheel and doesn’t have a ride.”
That same night, I take a red-eye flight from Australia to Atlanta, then another from Atlanta to St. Petersburg, Florida. My plan is to try to catch the Indy drivers during practice before their season starts, and I know they’re practicing in St. Pete right now. So I run through the list of pilots during my flight, researching their pros and cons.
I’m uncomfortable in my seat, shifting as I try not to bother the two people next to me. I booked my flight last minute, and therefore ended up with the very coveted (not!) middle seat.
By the time I land in Florida, it’s afternoon, and I’m badly slept, dehydrated from the flight, and completely exhausted—but I have three days not only to find a driver, but to take the long flight back to Australia in time for the first F1 race of the season. Speculation about our team pulling out of the race must already be in full bloom, and although I can’t control what others think, I’d be damned before I let my father retire with anything less than a gold star. So even sleepless, dehydrated, hungry, and worried, I’m clinging to all my determination to prove myself to my family as I drive my rental to the track. My stomach growls every time I drive past a restaurant, but I know that food needs to wait.
I circle around the track where the drivers are testing before race day. I’m searching for a place to park, struggling because of the blocked streets due to the temporary street circuit set up for the St. Petersburg Indy-Car race.
I spot a space, but I have to slam on the brakes when a red car turns with a screech before me.
I frown, annoyed, and press the accelerator again toward one of two empty slots. The mustang in front of me swoops in and steals the first vacant slot and, panicked that someone will jump out of the blue and take the only remaining one right next to it, I gun it into the second slot. The car stops with a jolt.
I just crashed the guy.
“Ooops, my bad,” I say, putting the car in reverse and then back to drive, carefully parking it in place.
The door of the mustang swings open, and a guy clad in black exits the vehicle. I nervously hurry out of my car and head around to stand next to the guy.
He inspects the damage.
I inspect the damage.
“You need driving school,” he gruffs out in a very deep voice.
Aghast at the insult, I grit, “You need driving manners.” I raise my head to glare at him, and my breath stalls in my throat when I look into his face.
In this world.
Should own such a masculine.
Terribly handsome face.
His eyes have a gleam that makes me feel as if he wants to devour me. They’re irresistible, raw, intense and challenging, completely animal and fiery. The rest of him is absolute beauty. That’s really the only way I can describe him. The floor under my feet tilts a little bit when he smiles, and one lone dimple appears. Oh god, I’m a sucker for dimples.
“Really?” the guy says, lips now curving in amusement as our eyes meet.
“Yes. Really. I’m not in the mood for this. You took my slot.” I feel a frown pinch my face as my anger over his driving manners mingles with my anger over his handsomeness, and his eyes begin to twinkle.
I try to suppress my reaction to that twinkling eye; but the truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen blue of this shade in real life or anywhere but in pictures of beautiful oceans somewhere far away like Fiji.
“I haven’t eaten in hours, or slept at all. I’m really not in the mood,” I say, and when he only glares down at me, something inside me starts to heat up under his intense gaze.
His eyes keep glued to me.
I don’t think anyone has ever stared at me so thoroughly.
Not just with annoyance, and interest, but almost … amusement along with … confusion?
Exactly the way I feel. Staring up at him.
There’s a slight darkening in his eyes as he keeps staring at me. I don’t know what that something is, but it’s something that makes parts of me tickle and squirm.
Duis luctus tempus pulvinar. Curabitur tempor diam non blandit rhoncus.