“Lucy Monroe rediscovers a love she never lost and professional ties she’s unable to leave behind.”
Lucy Malone tossed another suitcase in a growing pile of luggage. She slung a shoulder bag toward the massive stack of leather and cloth, releasing a grunt when the last piece fell to the grassy ground.
“This is just perfect,” she grumbled, aware of the fact that no one was around to hear her complain. She glared at the large house towering over her like a black widow’s curse. “Grandfather got his final wish. I’m at the start-finish line with a lot of tracks behind me and a winding road straight ahead.”
She snarled at the plantation-style home, half expecting some sort of return gesture. With the chipped white paint and black shutters strategically placed on the upper and lower floors, the house appeared to glare back at her through various sets of dark, hollow eyes.
This must have been the devil’s joke.
At the very least, Lucy’s return to East Tennessee was her grandfather’s cunning way of getting what he wanted, and that knowledge irritated her to no end. What she’d give to dig up the old geezer and have a sit-down talk with him, the kind of conversation guaranteed to start a war of words.
When Mason Malone was teetering around among the living, the old man always found a way to manipulate those around him. Death hadn’t changed him any. He played his final hand like a great game of chess, strategizing until he took his last breath.
Lucy might as well get used to losing. In this small county, it was hard to find a winner’s circle right smack dab in the middle of no-man’s-land.
To add insult to injury, Lucy never possessed the desire to live in Church Hill, Tennessee. None. There wasn’t anything for her in Small Town, USA. Nothing.
Yet here she stood, light years away from the glitz and glamour of being the front woman for Mason Malone’s High Performance Group, a stock car auto racing conglomerate she’d owned with her grandfather and cousins until she bought them out one by one.
As a high-profile race team owner, Lucy was accustomed to stressful situations. Handling everything from publicity to mechanics, Lucy maintained a demanding career, but what she learned in the pits never prepared her for this.
Dealing with race car drivers—all of whom were on her payroll—was one thing, but facing off with cowboys she’d avoided, quite another. Most men were all the same unless they were topped off by a Stetson, wearing manure-covered boots and a cocksure attitude.
Lucy couldn’t feel too sorry for herself. She had pushed her SUV to extraordinary limits, ignoring the laws set by every state she put in her rearview mirror. Driving ninety miles an hour from Dallas, Texas, she rarely took a rest, deciding there were only three reasons to brake for traffic—coffee, chocolate, and necessary refueling.
For some reason, even with a smidgen of dread embedded in her head, she’d been in a mighty big hurry to get back to this godforsaken place. The why behind her need for racing up the interstate at a high rate of speed infuriated her on many levels.
Turning her gaze toward the McDavid land, Lucy searched the property boundaries. The grass was greener on the other side of the fence, or at least, Lucy used to think so. At the moment, the land looked like any other small-town farm.
Round bales of hay lined the center of the McDavid’s lower fields. Several horses frolicked in the distance, kicking up their heels as if they meant to show off before a spectator’s eyes, and a tractor slowly backed up to an empty wagon.
Most would consider the day a fine time for a homecoming. High above her in the whispering trees, birds chirped and sang their high-pitched songs. The sun was bright in the afternoon summer sky, and the smell of honeysuckle and lilac filled the air around her.
In that moment, Lucy reached a calming decision. Denying why she’d gotten in a rush to return was pointless. Lucy had hit I-30 East and kept one speed—wide open and as fast as she could go, driving like a madwoman who meant to arrive somewhere the day before yesterday.
Truth told, she should’ve returned home years ago. She’d realized that much when she’d felt the excitement in her pulse as she’d watched Dallas disappear in her car mirrors. Her heart found an uneven tempo from the moment she punched the pedal. Then, her breathing changed and her palms stuck to the steering wheel. They were clammy and more noticeable at every turn.
Those were the early signs of a disaster waiting to happen. Of course, being a woman and all, what did she do? She drove faster, clutched the padded wheel even tighter, and with stark determination kept her eyes focused on the road with every intention of closing the distance between Texas and Tennessee.
Spotting another overnight bag, Lucy opened the car door and grabbed a stubborn duffle from the backseat. She latched on to the stiff handles with both hands and tugged the daylights out of one final leather satchel. She gave her luggage a whirl, heard it land with a plop, and slammed the heavy automobile door, satisfied that the sound was one of finality, a defining moment to notify her of the obvious.
After years of running, she’d found her way home.
As a child, Princess imagined a fairy tale ending. As an adult, she envisions a satisfying conclusion to a storybook romance years in the making.
During the next caution, she discovered she was likely to get slapped with two more fines. She was back on the track following the pace car around when she told Marty, “I’m going to play the sexist card. They’re picking on me because I’m a woman. Men can say whatever the hell they want, but let a woman say ‘fuck’ or ‘screw’ and she’s slapped with a fine.”
“If that’s true, you just caught two more,” Marty told her.
“We’ll see,” she said, punching the pedal as soon as the pace car moved his sexy little bumper out of her way. “Here we go, Marty. Think big and beautiful things.” A beat later she added, “Larry, I’m glad you’re my partner today. Cause I know you’re gonna get a hard-on outta this.”
She sped down the track, hit turn one as fast as she could go and looked in her rearview mirror to find David coming up quickly behind her. He was pissed and she reminded herself of this as she moved down low and tapped her brakes by accident.
David spun, a car T-boned him, and three more piled on top.
“What the fuck was that?” Larry yelled. “Are you trying to get everyone killed?”
“My foot slipped!” she called out.
“The hell it did!” Larry yelled back. “Fuck!”
Under caution again, which was typical for Bristol, David filled the airwaves with all sorts of profanity for which Princess assumed he’d never be fined. However, there was a lingering threat left behind when he said, “I’ll kill that bitch if she ever does that again.”
“That’s racing, David,” she reminded him, quite accustomed to the threats thrown out in the heat of anger. “And I’m racing today. You, on the other hand, are done for the night.”
BANG THE BLOWER
***A READER FAVORITE***
Julie Jenkins should’ve died. After crawling away from one of the worst crashes in drag racing history, Julie faces rehabilitation manipulated by two stubborn cowboys. Somewhere along the way, she discovers her torrid past and accepts her racing failures as stepping-stones to a future filled with love.
Duke and Hank Hinman are troubled by Julie’s accident. They build an automobile with Julie’s protection in mind, hoping she’ll prefer stock cars to dragsters. When tampered brakes nearly put her in the wall, Julie reevaluates career choices. Someone wants to kill her, but the reason behind their quest isn’t clear.
Suspecting foul play will continue, Duke and Hank vow to protect Julie. However, they quickly discover it’s hard to win a race when the opponent refuses to show his face. And it’s harder still to defeat the challenger when the opposition refuses to lose.
“Disaster struck the world of drag racing today when Julie Jenkins found herself airborne in a car destined for massive destruction. Jenkins seemed to bang the blower as both chutes were out at an estimated four hundred and ten feet. The car malfunctioned, crashed into the wall, and the dragster was surrounded by a whirlwind of dancing flames.
“A spokesman for the sport said this is by far one of the most devastating wrecks to ever occur in drag racing. Julie’s dragster burst into a blaze of fury, exploding into bits and pieces of metal while fires erupted on various strips of the track.
“Julie is in critical condition. Her representatives are protecting her privacy. However, Howard Leer—a spokesman for Julie’s racing team—told Racing Times Review earlier today that Jenkins is not expected to return to the sport anytime soon due to life-changing injuries…”
Hank Hinman glared at the television. Clips and replays of the accident sent harrowing chills up and down his spine. Gripping both sides of the leather recliner, he stared at the footage through moist eyes, resisting the tears he didn’t have time to cry.
“Will she make it?” Hank asked his brother as he entered the media room.
Duke cleared his throat. His face was red, his cheeks damp. He moved his lips, but words wouldn’t form until he took a deep breath and finally managed to say, “I just spoke to the attending physicians at University Hospital. It’s bad, Hank. She may never walk again.”
Hank slowly nodded. “What do you know about her injuries?”
“Other than the spinal damage—and the physicians won’t comment on her condition until they finish running tests—she has a broken arm, and severe burns on her back. A sliver of metal sliced through her suit so the cuts are pretty bad, but nothing that won’t heal.”
“How soon can you leave for University Hospital?”
“We won’t be able to see her,” Duke informed him.
“I want to be there when she wakes up. In the meantime, we’ll talk to the hospital administration and make sure she has everything she needs.”
“She’ll receive the best care,” Duke said. “Frank spoke to her crew chief and team owner this morning. He made sure they understood we’re picking up the bill and we expect her to have the best care money can buy.”
Hank gasped as another horrific image scattered across the screen. “How in heaven’s name did she crawl away from that wreck?”
Duke slowly shook his head. “I have no idea. Those close to the track all feared she was dead. She crawled a good fifteen feet away from the wreckage before she collapsed.”
Covering his mouth, Hank leaned forward and listened to the reporters as they bantered back and forth about what might have gone wrong. Normally, Hank would’ve been interested in hearing the various theories. Today, he was only interested in facts.
“Hank, there’s something else, too.”
“You don’t have to say it. I already know. Julie was one of the best drivers out there. There’s foul play somewhere.”
“That’s the word on the track,” Duke said, confirming his suspicions.
Hank narrowed his gaze on one final clip before grabbing the remote and clicking off the power. “Any word on who Julie may have pissed off this time?”
“According to her crew chief, there were several team owners who don’t appreciate her antics. Some drivers claim she’s a sexist bitch, and those fellas who don’t like her say she was the kind of driver destined to die in a dragster.”
Hank snorted at that. “She’s a sexist bitch, huh? Since when?”
Duke shrugged. “We haven’t seen her in a long time. Maybe when she left us, something snapped.”
“Maybe,” Hank mumbled while considering the possibility.
Duke sighed. “What do ya wanna do?”
“We’ll go to Pennsylvania and sit with Julie for a few days. After she regains consciousness, we’ll head to Indianapolis where we’ll ask questions. Somebody—mechanics, crew chiefs, fans, someone—knows what happened.”
“There ain’t a question in my mind. Someone tampered with that car but finding a witness who’ll talk won’t be as easy as you might think.”
“Maybe not, but we’ll buy our information.” A strike later, Hank added, “And we’ll keep paying until we know who was behind the crash that almost cost Julie her life.”