When racing team director Brad Thomas needs a new driver, his boss insists there’s only one answer: Gabrielle Marquez. The Indycar ace has newly returned to the United States after becoming one of the European circuit’s top drivers. But ten years ago, Gabrielle caused a crash that ended Brad’s racing career and killed their mutual best friend, along with the burgeoning crush they were exploring.
Gabby’s ready to put the past behind her, even though she knows making amends and regaining Brad’s trust won’t be easy. Rebuilding their professional relationship paves the way for healing, and old feelings soon rekindle, but a rival’s dangerous game of sabotage may threaten their team’s chance at the title.
by Jim Cangany
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
Jim Cangany lives in Indianapolis with his wife, two sons, and a sleepy kitty cat. A lover of all things fast, he spends his time following motorsports when he’s not writing romances. Find Jim Cangany at www.jimcangany.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @JimCangany.
An excerpt from Start Your Engines:
Brad was at Barbara’s side in a flash. “You have a new driver? Who is it?”
“I may have a driver, but before we go down this path, which will make me endure an unpleasant conversation with the elder Mr. Thornton, I want assurances from you.”
“Anything. You name it.” After the Chas disaster, Brad was willing to give just about any driver a try.
“You will give one hundred fifty percent to this driver. You will work with this driver in good faith. Lastly, any concerns you may have about this driver will be addressed to me only, and that will be behind closed doors.”
“Sure.” Brad nodded. He wanted to compete. He wanted to win. He wanted to get back to the International Series, the top rung of Open Wheel Racing. He couldn’t do it without a driver he could trust. “I promise. Whatever you say.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” She tapped away at her phone for a minute. “Come with me, please.”
The drivers looking for a ride were usually found hanging around the area where the team transport haulers and motorhomes were parked. Barbara was headed in a different direction.
“Um, are you sure—”
“We’re headed for my suite above the grandstand, Mr. Thomas. Your new driver is waiting for us there.”
Images of following his older brother, Greg, down the ravine to the dirt go-kart track back on the family farm came to mind. It was his tenth birthday, and he was finally going to race his own kart. Over the course of the afternoon, he killed the engine twice, spun out three times, and was passed by both of his older brothers more times than he could count.
And it had been beyond epic.
It took his muscles a week to recover from the beating, but he didn’t care. That birthday had been the best day of his life.
Back in the present, adrenaline surged through Brad’s veins like it had on the trip down the ravine twenty years before. He forced himself to keep still on the elevator ride to the suite.
As they walked down the carpeted hall decorated with portraits of past Tampa Grand Prix champions, names of potential drivers popped into his head—Stewart, Mann, Graham—all accomplished young drivers who had excelled on the junior circuit and could, with his guidance, take the step to the next level.
“And here we are.” Barbara swiped a key card in front of a door handle. “Don’t forget your pledge.”
He followed her into the suite. His new driver rose from the couch and extended her hand to shake. Her combination of ice-blue eyes and copper skin were unforgettable. At some point over the years, she’d added some gentle curls to her jet-black hair. There were a few more curves to her figure, too. The years had been kind to Gabrielle. No doubt about that.
Brad stopped, unable to move, much less talk. He had a long history with this driver. As teens, they’d been friends, brought together by their mutual goal of reaching the top of the open wheel racing mountain. Shoot, she was one of the few friends he’d had, thanks to his reserved demeanor. His life changed in too many ways to count, both good and bad, after they met.
In fact, she was the one who spun Brad’s life around one hundred eighty degrees.
She was the one who’d taken away his dream of becoming a championship race-car driver. Since the day that dream died, thanks to her recklessness, his top priorities, both for his team and for himself, were safety and predictability. The more predictable a driver was, the safer it became for everyone on the track.
Those priorities had also kept Brad safe away from the job. He’d suffered enough heartache. This new driver would only add more.