Published October 26th 2015 by Leap Books, LLC
YA/NA > Contemporary | Romance
BLURB FROM GOODREADS:
Eighteen-year-old Jesse Copeland learns of a local car race sponsored by his father’s nemesis, Shep Bradley, and the prize money might be enough to keep his family from losing their home–if he can win. Brooke, Shep’s daughter, is also aiming to compete, with or without her father’s approval. She’ll do whatever it takes to persuade Jesse to make her car race ready. Both are driven, both are risk-takers, and soon it’s more than engines getting fired up. Jesse tells himself their relationship is strictly business, until it isn’t. Can two star-crossed lovers overcome a family feud as old as Ford vs. Chevy, or will the competition become too explosive for these racing hearts?
See you at the finish line… With the big race weeks away, eighteen-year-old Jesse Copeland struggles to keep his head in the game and his hands off his smoking hot competition. But when Brooke reveals a secret that could destroy Jesse’s family, it sends him into a tailspin of self-doubt. Jesse must pull himself together if he hopes to have a shot at the prize money, save his home, and win the heart of the girl he loves. Can these two competitors overcome the sins of their fathers or will a shadowed history destroy their dreams forever?
RH1 two scenes from Brooke’s perspective, first-person
By Laura Lascarso
Not many things held my attention, but that Cobra did, especially speeding down the highway in broad daylight like it was the Daytona 500.
I adjusted my rearview mirror to get a better look. From the shape of the hood I guessed it to be a ‘69 and I might add that the driver was easy on the eyes as well. He pulled up next to me and revved his engine, which roused me from my afternoon daydream. Maybe it was a tease or maybe it was a challenge. There was only one thing I could do—I revved my engine back.
“Nice ride,” he called out, checking me out with just the right amount of discretion. I appraised his lines—powder blue paint job polished to a high shine and not a scratch or dent on her. I appreciated a man who took care of his car. That Cobra was a beloved machine.
“Back at ya, Hotshot,” I called. “Want to race?”
He tilted his head and seemed to give it some thought—for an entire half-second.
“I don’t race girls,” he called. I smiled even though I’d like to slap the smug grin off his face. A lot of guys make the mistake of underestimating me on the racetrack, and then I cream them. And then I laugh.
“Oh no?” I revved my engine again. The sound was like a drug to those of us who chase the thrill of victory. Racing was an addiction like any other and the possibility of an unexpected challenge gave me goose bumps all over. My adrenaline kicked into high gear. “Just this once?”
He might have been reconsidering when the light turned green. I gunned it, slithering in front of him like a snake. I saw his stunned expression in my rearview. Now I had his attention. It took him half a beat to recover and then he was chasing after me.
I darted in and out of a few cars—they seemed happy to oblige. The wind was in my hair and my endorphins were flowing—the best feeling in the world. I was soaring near 60, free as a jaybird.
He finally caught up, or maybe I slowed down a bit to let him catch me, because after all, he was pretty cute and his taste in cars was something to be admired. Maybe if I got to know him, he’d let me drive his Cobra. We could take our cars down to the Circle-Circle and race for real. There I could beat him proper, maybe put some money on it, just to make it interesting, Mr. I-Don’t-Race-Girls.
“What’s your name?” he called out. Distraction was a method my brother Junior often employed, one I’d trained myself to become immune to. I pulled ahead just a tad, making sure he couldn’t overtake me.
“Brooke,” I shouted, keeping an eye on the road. My exit was coming up fast. No more time for small talk.
I sprinted ahead and dirt-tracked a turn onto the bridge. My tires burned some rubber and an oncoming car laid on their horn like a demon. A thrill of panic raced through me—I nearly sideswiped the car—and then my backend straightened out and I was safely in my lane. I blew my racing partner a kiss and drove on.
I thought maybe he’d follow me, but alas…
Sure it was fun, but this small time stuff was for amateurs. I needed a real racecar on a real track—a professional outfit. That’s where I needed to focus my energy. I had two months before my father’s race, and whether he liked it or not, I was going to enter. Now, all I needed was to find someone to make my car race ready, and fast.
This summer I’d prove to my father that I was a contender. I’d make it so that he couldn’t do anything but sponsor me in the racing circuit. Other girls might have opportunities—marriage, college, career… But for me, there was only racing. That was the one thing I was good at. And everything else was just a blur outside my window.
I went to visit Jesse that Sunday, despite my brother’s warning, partly because I wanted to see him again, but more because I saw his potential—his potential to help me, that is. Here under my very nose was a first-rate mechanic who wasn’t in my father’s pocket, who could not only make my car race-ready, but who might also be able to keep it under wraps—something unheard of in my family.
I found him in the back garage, banging away at the inside of his Mustang with the music on full-blast. I may have paused for a moment to admire his arms, which were ripped with muscles from hard labor, and his shoulders, broad as an ironing board. His thin t-shirt clung to his back and outlined the V-shape of his torso. I may have noticed those things, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was distracted by them.
“Hiyah, Hotshot.” I had to shout to be heard above the music.
He looked surprised and stopped what he was doing mid-swing. He climbed out of the car—sweaty, grimy and completely adorable.
“Hey, yourself,” he said with a little half-smile, one of those you don’t even know you’re giving.
“Don’t you ever get a day off?” He seemed to always be working, and though I didn’t know for sure, the fact that he didn’t have his own car or cell phone made me think that he wasn’t too well-off. Maybe he spent all his money on cars. Or drugs. I hoped not drugs.
“This is my day off.” He walked over to the sink and turned on the water, splashing his face and running his hands through his hair. It still stuck out every which way. He pulled up his t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his neck, affording me a glimpse of his finely chiseled midsection. Can I get an order of fries with that?
“Your brother know you’re here?” he said, completely ruining the moment.
This was a delicate situation. My brother could be pretty intimidating and my father would blow a gasket if he found out I was building myself a racecar. Jesse would be taking a risk to help me out, which meant I’d have to offer him something in return, something he needed.
“No, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
I took a tour around the garage, stalling for time while checking out his Mustang. It looked like a hell of a lot of work, and the way he was swinging that crowbar made me think that it would take me three times as long to complete a job like this.
Time was not on my side.
“Looks like you’ve done this before,” I said.
“A couple times. Well, I helped my dad. Sam helped him. They always worked as a team. Sam was my dad’s pit boss, when he was still racing.”
“Was he now?”
He nodded and turned over two buckets, offering me a seat. It was such a gentlemanly thing to do without any thought to what reward he might get in return. I’d noticed that about him. The way he was generous for no reason. In my family, it was always tit for tat—what’s in it for me? With Jesse, he seemed so trusting and open. It gnawed at me a little bit, knowing what I was about to ask him.
“I’ve got a proposition for you, Jesse.” I’d be up front about it. He seemed to be the type to appreciate directness.
“I’m listening.” He slouched back a bit and crossed his arms. I took a deep breath.
“It would require me divulging some information that I’d like to keep private.”
“You got a secret?”
“I’m no gossip.”
I believed that he wasn’t, but Sam seemed like the head biddy in the henhouse with the way he scratched at the dirt. I glanced over to where he was chatting up another mechanic.
“Sam? Yeah, he’s a blabbermouth, but he can keep quiet, if it matters.”
I’d have to take the risk. I had no other options. “I’ve got a racecar.”
“The ’97 Camaro?” He had a good memory for cars.
“Yep. But it isn’t a racecar just yet.”
His grin faded a little like I might have hurt his feelings. Maybe he liked me. Maybe I liked him too, but that was beside the point.
“You need someone to make it race ready?” he guessed.
I nodded, doing my best to appear as a damsel in distress. It wasn’t my favorite look, but it worked so often that I couldn’t give it up.
Jesse groaned. “What for?” he asked. I knew he was entering the race, and I didn’t want him to worry about me being his competition, so I decided to keep it vague.
“I’d like to have a little practice behind the wheel.”
“Why don’t you ask your dad? He’s got plenty of mechanics at the dealership. I’m sure they take on side work.”
Because if my dad knew about this, he’d ground me for life or send me to some boarding school run by nuns or worst of all, take away my cars—both of them. “The truth is, Jesse, he doesn’t want me racing.”
I had a little pout, poor me. He narrowed his eyes and studied me—seeing right through my act. I could see he was having some inner argument with himself. It seemed this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.
“I don’t think I can help you,” he said at last.
I sighed, all slow and dramatic-like. He checked out my boobs, but tried to act like he wasn’t, and though I didn’t want to have to resort to this, it seemed he was giving me no alternative.
I did my sexy walk over to his car and laid my hands on the hood. I’d deliver him a two-fer. If my looks didn’t persuade him, then maybe my pocketbook would.
“Must be expensive,” I said, “doing all this work to a car, just for one race. I’d pay you, of course, for your time and labor.”
He didn’t say anything, but I knew I’d piqued his interest. I tossed my hair over my shoulder and bent over a little. I’m not proud, but like my father always says, you got to use whatever advantages you’ve got. Being the daughter of a car salesman I’d learned a few things in that regard.
“I know the realities of racing Jesse. It’s expensive and it’s dangerous, but what can I say? I love it—like our fathers, and like you. If you’re trying to protect me from the big, bad world of racing, you’re about ten years too late.”
He groaned and I knew I was wearing him down. “You know the heap of trouble I’d be in, if your father caught wind of this?”
“I’m very good at keeping secrets.” I gave him my most innocent look.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” He stood, but I could already tell he was coming around. Some kind of sixth sense, I suppose. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper that had my phone number on it.
“I could really use your help, Jesse. You’re the only person I can trust with this.” I took his hand in mine—big and calloused and caked with grease—the hands of a working man or a race car driver. “Here’s my number. Think about it.”
I smiled and walked away, praying that he’d swing my way. I needed him to get my car in shape. That’s all there was to it. Without him, I was sunk. And if we had to spend a little more time together, if I had to watch him work in his garage with his muscles slick with oil and his hair all disheveled like he just got out of bed. Well, I suppose it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
So long as it didn’t become a distraction.
Laura Lascarso aims to inspire more questions than answers in her young adult fiction. Her debut novel COUNTING BACKWARDS, which deals with mental illness, was awarded the Florida Book Award gold medal for YA lit in 2012. Her most recent novel, RACING HEARTS, tells the story of two star-crossed lovers set in Daytona Beach, the mecca of motorsports, and has been described as a Romeo & Juliet on wheels.
She lives in North Florida with her husband, two children and a menagerie of animals.