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Personal trainer Terri Whalen breathes car exhaust fumes the way other people breathe air. Born and bred into a NASCAR family, Terri travels the race circuit and ensures the drivers are in great shape. Her rule: job first. Men always seem to want more than Terri can give...until she meets Max Harper.
Max is a good-looking single dad, and the spark plugs between the two start firing almost immediately. When Terri brings Max and his daughter to experience the "behind-the-scenes" world of NASCAR, it's immediately obvious that business has turned into pleasure. But when Max's ex-wife shows up in a bid to reunite her family, Terri will have to decide whether to surrender...or fight!
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Describing herself as a woman who does too much but doesn't know how to stop, Michele teaches high school English, advises the school yearbook, writes for Harlequin, and raises two daughters and five spoiled housecats.
There was only one thing Terri Whalen loved more than stock car racing and even chocolate.
Growing up, the twenty-eight-year-old personal trainer had never been into girls' toys. Her first car had been a small used compact, and she'd saved until she could afford exactly what she wanted. Something big, brash and bold.
The pickup truck she currently drove was an admitted monster that made even the most testosterone-enhanced man green with envy.
First, the diesel-dual crew cab could tow just about anything, including a race car trailer. While most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race shops hauled their stock cars and backups to the races using eighteen-wheeler transporters, for around town a smaller trailer sufficed and Terri's truck easily got the job done.
Second, the truck was totally tricked out with everything from a custom paint job to custom headers and custom exhaust. Not only could her beast tow, it could also go fast and leave a quarter-mile strip of rubber as it moved from zero to sixty.
Terri bit her lip. At the moment she was worried— and it wasn't about the trip down the church aisle she was about to take. When she'd arrived at the church, the only parking space she'd been able to find had been wedged between a wall and a Dumpster. Not an acceptable choice.
Terri admitted to going overboard about her truck. It was her baby. She washed and waxed the vehicle weekly, more if weather conditions made the paint excessively dirty. She assessed the clear coat daily for any scratches that might mar the finish. She—
"Stop worrying," her friend Pam commanded, and Terri jolted. Pam's comment, however, wasn't directed at Terri, but at Libby, who on her wedding day, had turned into a basket case.
Libby's wedding-day jitters weren't caused by anything inside the sanctuary. The wedding was occurring at a lovely church in downtown Charlotte. The florist had created the most gorgeous floral arrangements in the entire world. Guests had arrived and packed the pews.
The bridesmaids' dresses weren't hideous—they were a shade of lavender that complimented everyone's skin tone. All the bridesmaids had arrived on time and Terri's shoulder-length reddish-brown hair was high in an updo. The groom was there—as were his groomsmen—and everyone was sober. No one's parents had started yelling at each other and everyone seemed to be getting along. The organist charmed the crowd and the air-conditioning cooled.
Terri had been at weddings before where everything that could have gone wrong had. Grooms had shown up drunk, parents had brawled and the sanctuary had been so hot that the bride had passed out during the kiss, hitting her forehead on her husband's chin on the way down.
No, Libby's issue was that, outside the church, someone had forgotten to tell the bride that part of the church parking lot would be getting a fresh coat of asphalt. That paving job was the reason parking was so limited, and why Terri's truck was parked so precariously.
Terri wasn't opposed to parking far away and walking a little, only there hadn't been anywhere close enough not to ruin her hair and makeup or hurt her feet. Already she dreaded tottering down the aisle on the three-inch heels Libby had chosen. Terri usually wore flats.
"Who schedules asphalt paving on a Saturday?" Libby wailed as the acrid smell of molten tar wafted through every crevice and air-conditioning vent, overpowering the floral fragrance.
"Shh, it's fine," Pam soothed. "I checked and the church is packed with your guests. You're gorgeous. Stop stressing. You'll ruin your makeup, and you don't want that."
Libby sniffed once and took the tissue Pam handed her. She dabbed her eyes lightly.
Pam, Terri and Libby had been friends since grade one, even though they were very different. Libby had been the pretty cheerleader, Terri had been the jock, and Pam had been the brain. Together they'd survived four years of high school by sticking together through thick and thin.
Pam looked pointedly at Terri, urging her to say something.
"It'll be great," Terri said, trying to keep Libby's mood upbeat. Today was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. "The ceremony starts in five minutes. It'll be over in twenty. Then we'll all leave for the reception."
"We still have to take pictures," Libby reminded them. Even though she was living with her fiancé, she hadn't wanted him to see her the day of wedding until she walked down the aisle. "And I can't have my receiving line outside while they're dumping tar."
She appeared about ready to burst into tears, so Terri replied quickly, "So have it at the reception. That way you can get the photos done faster and get out of here. The minister can announce the change right before he introduces you."
"That could work." Libby cheered up and Terri gave herself a mental pat on the back for her idea. See? Pam wasn't the only one in the group with smarts. Pam shot Terri a relieved smile, and at that moment the wedding coordinator arrived and told them it was time to get started.
The ceremony went without a hitch, if one discounted the occasional clang of dump trucks unloading asphalt that intermingled with the "I do's."
When not concentrating on her official duties, Terri kept her eye on an attractive groomsman directly across the way. He had curly dark hair, smooth olive-toned skin and deep-brown eyes. She'd heard from Libby that Anthony had arrived alone from where he lived in L.A. Better still, he wasn't gay.
He'd also been somewhat slotted into the role of her date, as he was the guy who'd escorted her down the aisle. Both were single. So who knew? A little wedding magic might rub off, and if he felt scrumptious when they danced together...maybe the night and their acquaintanceship would turn into something more.
"Pictures!" the wedding coordinator called, clapping her hands and moving everyone into place. The wedding party posed, girls in front, boys behind, and Terri swore she felt Anthony's hand lightly brush her backside.
"Sorry," he murmured, leaning down to whisper in her ear.
The family photos happened next, and then came a few other shots that included Terri, and finally she and Pam and the other bridesmaids were free to retrieve their belongings and head to the reception. The bride and groom had rented a limo, but everyone else would travel to the banquet hall in their own vehicles.
Now that the church parking lot had emptied of wedding guests, the asphalt company had moved their barriers and started paving over the remaining portions of the lot. Thus, the drivable portion had shrunk in size.
She felt a presence behind her. "Are you driving?" Anthony asked as he came around her right side. "If so, can I catch a ride with you?"
Pam, who'd overheard his question, shot Terri an "ooh" look, giggled and moved past them as she made her way to her car.
"Yeah, I'd be happy to take you," Terri said.
Anthony gave her a killer smile. "Then I'll go get my things."
"I'll start my truck," Terri told him.
Somehow maintaining her balance on the high heels, she made her way down the church steps and headed for where she'd parked.
Hers was the last vehicle in the lot near the portion the company was beginning to pave, and the dump truck made a beep-beep-beep as it backed up into a space ten feet away from her truck.
She'd be able to get out safely; the dump truck was on the other side of those bright orange cones and she had a plenty of room to squeeze through. She walked a little farther, staying on the sidewalk, and then froze when the loud ruckus started. Asphalt crew members yelled, shouted and pointed.
The only explanation for what happened next was that the driver of the dump truck mistook the gas pedal for the brake. Her grandmother had done that once, and ended up driving backward in a circle until she'd crashed into her front porch, totaling both the car and the porch. Luckily her grandmother had been unscathed, albeit a little shaken by the experience.
Even after a nail-biter of a NASCAR race finish, Terri had never understood the expression Time stands still, but she understood it now. The driver had somehow lost control. The dump truck careened backward through the cones and orange tape and slammed into the passenger side of her truck.
After the impact, the driver panicked—he kept crushing her vehicle, pushing it until the driver's side hit the wall and the Dumpster. Shouts mixed with crushing sheet metal. Terri winced, somehow too frozen in disbelief to move.
And it wasn't over yet. The back end of the dump truck began to rise, and before anyone could stop it, the gate opened and molten asphalt poured out and washed over her precious baby and onto the parking lot he was supposed to pave.
"What's going on?" Anthony had reached her side, a small carry-on bag in his hand. Terri tried to make her feet move, but she couldn't. Instead, she glanced around, waiting for someone with a camera to come running and tell her this was all fake, perhaps a movie shoot.
But of course it wasn't. She could tell this was reality by the way the paving crew gathered around, screaming at each other. Some stared at her truck. One was on his cell phone. A few others were talking to the driver of the dump truck and helping him down. He appeared shaken and disoriented.
Terri found herself trembling as a big black glob of hot wet asphalt rolled off her truck and hit the pavement with a resounding splat. Her beautiful truck that she always kept so pristine looked as if she'd gone mudding, except for the fact that underneath the hot asphalt the paint bubbled and peeled.
He'd killed her truck.
"Whoever owns that truck isn't going to be too happy," Anthony said. Together they gazed at the unbelievable sight just across the parking lot.
Terri finally found her voice and her feet. "I own it," she told him, taking a step forward.
"Bummer. Well, I'm sure they have insurance. And it's only a truck," Anthony consoled.
He didn't appear too concerned about her loss, and Terri stopped and stared at him. His words were like someone slapping ...
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Book Description Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0373217943 Ships promptly from Texas. Seller Inventory # Z0373217943ZN
Book Description Harlequin, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373217943
Book Description Harlequin Nascar, 2008. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373217943
Book Description Harlequin, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373217943