Ginger Scott takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster ride with her newest series about the epic romance between two childhood friends who ultimately became lovers. All books in this angsty new trilogy are now available, and you can read an exclusive excerpt from the first book in the series below.
Hannah’s knees are locked tight, and tiny bumps cover her skin, lit up by the LED glow of my interior lights. She’s nervous, and I wish I could say something to calm her. But I’m in character now; I have a job to do, and easing her discomfort can’t be part of the description. Besides, she’s a big girl. She can handle this.
I pull my seat belt out from my chest and let it fall snug against my skin as Hannah does the same. We’ve both seen enough go wrong when people don’t wear them. I give the Supra gas and it sings under my feet. God, that sound is sweet.
Spectators peel away as I crawl from the side of the road to the pavement. The lights from the last two racers glow in the distance. They’ll be back in seconds. Nobody cares. Money flashes around me. I catch rolls of it exchanging hands in my periphery. I knew Vegas would bring in the money. I only hope the cops keep their unspoken promise and stay away tonight. We have a no-harm-no-foul agreement that’s never been uttered out loud but is understood, mostly because the chief’s son has been racing out here for years.
The cars in the race before ours hit their brakes several hundred feet away, and the one on the right smokes and fishtails from his inexperience. It takes a few minutes for the driver and his friends to get it to the side of the road and crack open the hood. While we wait, I glance over to my competitor, amused as he’s smooshed against his door in an effort to give his right side the room it needs to work. I lean forward a little more and wave to Lawrence, who gives me a thumbs up as he rocks back and forth to whatever music he’s pumping through his earbuds.
“What are you doing after this, sweetheart?” Alex shouts. His voice permeates my entire body. My eyes narrow on him after I see Hannah squeeze her legs together tight.
My hand reaches to the right, gripping the shaft with enough force that I may yank off the metal ball.
“Letting Dustin take me shopping with all his winnings,” she hollers back without pause.
Alex rolls his eyes and shakes with laughter I know is an act. He doesn’t like being disrespected like that. The one thing I know for certain from the short time we spent together in Vegas is that Alex has zero problems getting women to fall at his feet. That cologne of his must stop working past the state line.
She rolls up her window before Alex can think of a good comeback, and her eyes lock on the road ahead. She’s stoic, like me. Learned behavior from miles and miles of watching me do the same thing.
Ava Cruz strides between our cars, her long nails dragging along the chrome and glass as she passes through and continues several feet until she’s far enough in front of us that she’s clear to see. Looking at her, you would never know she’s a mom of five and in her forties. Earl’s her father, and Ava’s been known to drag on this road a time or two. I’ve heard stories from Tommy’s dad about the hell she raised back in high school. She’s royalty on the Straights, and if it’s a race that matters, she still comes out to start it.
I nod at her through the windshield and tighten my grip before relaxing into my zone. For the next four minutes, nothing else matters. I breathe in the mix of warm desert air and cooled AC that’s trapped in here with me—with us.
No. I have to remember that I am here alone, even if I’m not.
Alex’s engine revs and I allow one last glance to my right. He’s locked in, and it seems he convinced Lawrence to chill out and sit still in the tight space next to him. My eyes scan along the dash and I will myself to forget the passenger in my car. I am all that matters. I breathe out, the air spilling slowly through my slightly parted lips. One blink. Two.
Ava holds her arms high in the air, the bright yellow scarf wrapped around her wrist as the tail flaps in the breeze above her. My hand caresses the knob of the shifter, my touch light and seductive. You can’t punch a car into driving past its limit; you have to coax it. And faster than the other guy.
The scent of burnt oil and toxic gas fills the air, permeating through the vents and filling my lungs with my secret serum. When I feel like this, I am unbeatable.
I count the sways of Ava’s hips. I’m too far away to see the smirk on her bright red lips, but I know it’s there. This is my home court advantage, and I know it’s the reason she’s here. Six sways and the yellow will fall. My muscle twitch is ready, the rhythm in my lungs as calm as an early morning lake prime for fishing. Nobody is here—no Tommy; no crowd. It’s just me and a yellow scarf that will drop in three . . . two . . .
My foot takes over and my hand follows. My limbs dance together, each knowing what to do independent of the other yet coming together when they should. The wheel feels good, ride smooth despite the roar hugging me through the leather seats. I don’t need to look to my right; I already see Alex’s lights. The desert dust catches everything, and it tells me all I need to know. I only have him by inches, but I have him.
The next series happens fast. The climb from third to fifth is effortless, and I push to sixth sooner than I should because I’m feeling it. The drag isn’t there, and I blow out a hard breath because I took a risk and it paid off.
“Come on, baby,” I mutter, glancing down then up over and over as my speed climbs over a hundred, one-oh-five, one-ten. Dust particles, insects, and the glimmer of desert brush lit by my headlights whir by and the light to my right dims. I have him by feet now. Not many, but I have him.
I lock my arms and hold the line, feeling the road, knowing the posts we’re blowing past by heart. The flip is coming, and it’ll come fast, but I think I’ve got the edge. I won’t need to give up my lead. Alex doesn’t deserve to feel comfortable.
The familiar stretch in my lips inches up and my breath steadies in and out of my nose. My chest barely moves. My muscles are locked, holding their position for thirty seconds, for twenty, for ten. My hand knows exactly where to go, gripping the shifter while my legs work the clutch, the brakes, the gas. The spin to double back happens so fast I barely remember going through it, the only proof I ever spun at all the stench of burnt rubber and the faint trail of smoke illuminated by the red of my taillights.
I don’t know where Alex is, but he’s close behind. His headlights light up the road to my left now, the specks on the pavement too bright. He’s too close. I lean forward ever so slightly, wanting to be ready for the unknown. The Tahoe’s coming up ahead. I don’t know whether it’s heading right at us or if it’s parked, but I know it’s there, and I know the lights are off. It’s going to be a matter of seeing it first and gaining the position. Only one of us will be able to pass. Whoever gets there last will have to slam the brakes.
My palm instinctively pounds the wheel, willing my baby to go faster. My jaw clenches as relaxation loses out to grit. I don’t like this, not knowing. I grip the shifter on a gut feeling, and the glow to my left gets brighter.
“No fuckin’ way,” I fume, my foot heavy on the pedal. My body rocks forward and back as my eyes scan the road, the mirrors, the road, my left, the road—the Tahoe. It’s just a hint of the bumper, a faint reflection that most people wouldn’t notice, but I see it. It’s there, and it’s directly in front of me. I’m either going to have to beat him outright or give up my position to get behind him and pass to the left.
If I do that, I lose. And I don’t lose. Not ever.
I inch closer to the line between us, my tires warning me of the action, the constant drumming of reflectors being ripped from the ground under my tread. I move in closer, sensing the nearness of my back tire to Alex’s front. He’s holding his position, and there’s time, but not a lot. My mind races through the calculations as I lean back and let feel take over. Tommy wasn’t completely wrong. This is a gamble. And this is the moment it all comes to a head. What I do and what Alex does, both independently and in response to one another, shatters into a dozen possible outcomes: he hits my tail and I spin out; he hits my tail and rolls into the desert; I hit the brakes and he sails by, which is not an option; or he chickens out and I beat him outright.
What kind of man are you, Offerman?
I commit to my choice before the next beat of my pulse. I veer left, and nothing about my movement is subtle. It’s a decision, and it will either hold or not. The Tahoe is growing closer. I could slow down and try to push Alex out right now, but he’s too good. He’ll take advantage of that and swerve into me. I won’t have a choice. The only option is to hope he gives in. Even if he doesn’t, I’m not changing my plan.
We’re nearly touching, and the thought of jacking up my right side to prove how crazy I am flashes across my mind. Lots of details pass in a flash. The road so rough, vibrating my hands on the wheel and my thighs in my seat. My leg jack-knifed, knee locked as I press the pedal through the floor to take the lead. My engine roaring so loudly that the sound makes my ears feel full of cotton. Tires swerving and the stench of brakes working hard. The Tahoe in my headlights, then gone—in my taillights.
I roar the rest of the mile in a trance, blowing past the crowd honking horns as headlights light up the road where everything ends. I keep going, everything numb, the joy still behind held at bay. My mind has gone where it goes, a level that’s almost insanity but one that ensures I never lose. The rush is coming; it gurgles in the depths of my belly. The burn hits my chest.
Fists pound against the top of my steering wheel, and I press on the brakes as I let out the air in my lungs.
“Yes!” I shout, my hands letting go of the wheel as I fishtail. I grip the wheel to whip around and jerk to a stop. The smoke from my tires colors the road.
“Fuck yes!” I shout again, pounding the wheel a few more times as my eyes gloss over from adrenaline. The road ahead is a blur, the lights from the cars like one of the Impressionist paintings.
Tommy is running down the center of the street and I kick open my door, ready to join him in celebration when everything from the outside comes soaring in.
My head swivels to the side and I briefly catch Hannah’s form, her eyes forward, hands on her knees, gripping them tightly, blood drawn on her skin where her nails dug in. She’s rigid, and I don’t get to stare long enough to tell whether or not she’s breathing before I’m yanked the rest of the way out of my car and pounded in the face not once, but twice. My nose is bleeding and I stumble backward several steps as my head jerks to the side. The cut on my lip tastes like metal. What’s with the Judge kids hitting me in the face? I deserve this one, though. I know I do, and it’s the only reason I leave my hands out to my sides and stand my ground, preparing for more pummeling.
Tommy runs his sleeve across his nose while I do the same. Mine leaves behind a streak of crimson. His eyes are wide with fury, his hair is wild, and sweat soaks his T-shirt. Beads of sweat dot his forehead too. It’s warm out but not that warm. He’s hot from nerves and anger.
“Fucking careless! You could have killed her!” His voice curdles with anger.
He’s right. I could have.
“I’m sorry.” I shake my head, more reality seeping in. What the hell was I thinking?
Tommy turns and stalks away, his hands threaded behind his head and elbows splayed. He makes it a dozen feet before spinning and pointing at me again.
“You drop this thing you have, whatever it is. With my sister? That’s a hard no, Dustin. You understand? N. O. Hannah never gets in that car again.” He charges a few steps closer and our eyes lock. My mouth is heavy on the corners, the weight of my risk sinking me into the ground. I’ve never felt the sting of having something to lose. Tonight . . . I could have lost Hannah. Not my car, or my pride.
“I understand,” I say to my friend. My arms dangle limp at my sides and I hold the stare that is meant to imprint every word on my soul. Those words were threats and rules—they were law when it comes to his sister.
I didn’t only cross the line.
I obliterated the line.
“Alex’s cousin has your cash,” Tommy barks out. He pinches the bridge of his nose and glares down at the pavement between us. “Nice fucking race.”
He turns and marches away, back into the lights to the kegs and weed that he will no doubt get lost in both to forget me and to spite me. I’ll wait and drive his ass home. Sick as it is, I can’t help the tiny smile that itches the right side of my mouth. My chest puffs with a single laugh, part exhale of stress and part appreciation. As pissed as Tommy is, he’s still in my corner when it comes to my gift.
Nobody beats me. Nobody. And one day, nobody in the world will.
I kick at the road a few times and breathe out all that’s left in my chest before rolling my head to my right. Hannah’s eyes are waiting for me. She hasn’t moved much, but she watched all that go down. Hard not to, I suppose.
I climb back into the driver’s seat and drape my hand over the wheel, as if we’re out for a Sunday drive. My body is poised the exact opposite of how it was only minutes ago. All of that aggression has passed. It’s like sex, driving like I do. I’m satiated. And as wrong as it was to put her through that, it also felt right.
“That was the single most amazing feeling I have ever had,” she glees, cutting me off. “Ever.”
My grin returns, bigger this time, and I jerk with another short laugh.
“I almost got us killed.”
Turning slightly in her seat, her hands release their grip on her legs. Her eyes square with mine and her gaze locks on mine for several wordless and breathless seconds. Reaching to her side, she clicks the safety belt free and lets it coil away from her body before leaning over the center console and pressing both of her hands on my burning hot cheeks.
“You would never hurt me, Dustin Bridges. I know it. I trust you with my life—every . . . single . . . time.”
I barely have time to unravel the mystery of her words when her lashes sweep down and kiss her cheeks as she leans in and presses her cool pink lips to mine. It’s the faintest touch, a taste of heaven and all its angels that sends a chill down my body and through every inch of my veins. She pulls back slowly, our lips almost clinging to stay connected.
“I’ll walk back,” she says in a hushed tone, the smirk on her lips just enough to seal the mystery in place.
Hannah Judge is all grown up, and she thinks I’m all grown up too. I see a woman and she sees a man. And we are doing a lot of things we promised Tommy we wouldn’t do. I don’t think I can let the taboo stop here. I’m already buzzed on her kiss.