One Sweet Ride

Chapter 4

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He turned his attention back to Donny, watching his practice.

At least his focus was on racing and Donny this morning instead of on Evelyn, who had shocked the hell out of him when she’d told him she was going to become an extra appendage from now until the election.

Just what he didn’t need. He’d only agreed to this because of his mother’s urging. If he’d known that meant Evelyn would be following him from city to city, he might have rethought this whole deal.

He’d ignored her during his meetings this morning, but now, as he watched Donny race, he looked for her.

He scanned the track and found her sitting in the stands with some of the wives and girlfriends.

She’d changed that morning they had breakfast, and he’d been shocked by the transformation. In a suit, she looked like she belonged on his father’s campaign. He could mentally compartmentalize her there. In a white button-down shirt and skintight jeans that showed off her body, she’d fit in at the track—in his world. And that made him just a little bit uncomfortable.

Maybe he didn’t want her to fit in. Maybe he wanted her as uncomfortable as she made him. He was used to the women who frequented the track, women he knew, not this intelligent woman who regarded him like she knew all his secrets. Plus, she was part of his dad’s world, and that made him even more uncomfortable.

When Donny pulled into the pit and climbed out, Gray started over to congratulate him on his practice run, determined to push Evelyn Hill out of his head for as long as possible.

Donny tossed his helmet into the driver’s seat and graced him with a big smile.

“That one felt good, boss.”

“It was a good run.” Gray looked over at Donny’s crew chief, who nodded and brought over a digital notebook. As they walked away from the track, he looked at the numbers from Donny’s run.

“Let’s talk,” Gray said, then led Donny to his trailer.

And there was Evelyn, just like he’d met her that first day. Only this time she was in jeans again. The heat was climbing, so she’d shed the long-sleeve shirt, leaving her in a white T-shirt that hugged tight to her full breasts.

He blew out a breath. So much for shoving her from his mind.

“Evelyn Hill, this is Donny Duncan.”

“Ma’am,” Donny said, shaking Evelyn’s hand.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Donny.” She looked to Gray. “If you’re busy, I can find something to do.”

“If you’re supposed to hang with me, then hang. Come on in. Donny and I are going to have a short chat, then we’ll get started.”

Donny gave Evelyn a once-over, and Gray was certain he was probably curious. He hadn’t told anyone about Evelyn, wasn’t sure what he was going to say, but he supposed he’d have to fill everyone in sooner rather than later.

“Take a seat,” he said to her.

Evelyn found herself a seat in one of the far corners of the trailer, while he and Donny grabbed a spot at his table.

“Here are your numbers from your run this morning.”

Donny grabbed the notebook from him, scanned it, then lifted his gaze to Gray and grinned. “Damn. I’m good.”

“Don’t get too full of yourself. It was a good practice run, but it wasn’t a race. And you came in twelfth on Sunday with a car that was top five running shape.”

Donny’s smile died. He dragged his fingers through his dirty blond hair and nodded. “I know. I should have done better. The car was perfect, and you’re right. I was top five the whole race. I just let them pass me the last ten laps. That one was on me. I lost my concentration. It won’t happen again.”

Hard to argue with that, and since Donny seemed to be aware of his failings, there was no point in Gray beating on him. “A good racer constantly evaluates what he could have done better. Since you’ve already done that, I guess you and I don’t have anything to talk about. Unless it happens again.”

“Understood, boss.”

“I had a whole speech and everything, Donny,” Gray said. “You kind of ruined it for me.”

Donny laughed. “Sorry. Would you like me to fuck up again this Sunday?”

Gray cracked a smile. “I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Okay. My goal is to get a win.”

“That’s a good goal to have. Don’t forget, you’re not out there alone. You have an entire team behind you who’ll help you get to the finish line, so listen to what they have to say. And pull your head out of your ass and start using your brain. Now get out of here.”

Donny scrambled out of the seat, nodded at Evelyn, and left the trailer.

She stood and came over to him. Gray caught the subtle scent of something musky and very alluring. He tried not to lean in closer to figure out what it was since she was already distracting enough.

“Donny works for you?” she asked, placing her briefcase on his table.

“He drives the second car for Preston Racing. I added him this year. He’s young, but has great skills.”

“So you’re developing him and he shows a lot of promise.” She took a seat and pulled a laptop out of her bag, opened it, and started typing something.

He swung into the other side of the booth. “What are you doing?”

“Working on an amended bio for you.”

“For?”

“I’ve already got some posts up about you.”

Irritation made his jaw clench. “Uh . . . posts? What posts?”

“The senator’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

When he didn’t say anything, she lifted her gaze to his over the top of her laptop.

“Problem?”

“Big one. Let’s get some rules down before we go any further. Rule number one: Don’t write anything about me or connect me to the senator in any way without me seeing it first.”

She leaned back in the booth. “I thought we’d already discussed this and it had been decided we’d work together. If I’m going to have to run everything by you, this is going to be difficult.”

“Then it’s going to be difficult. Show me what you’ve done and where you’ve posted it.”

She continued to stare at him, and her gaze narrowed in irritation. Tough. He didn’t like this already, and the fact that she’d put up some media bullshit about him pissed him off.

“All right. Give me a second here.” She turned her attention to the laptop, then swiveled it to face him. “It’s not much, just a general announcement that the senator is pleased to have his son working with him. It’s very vague.”

Gray read the post. It wasn’t vague. It connected him and his racing team to his father and his father’s political ambitions. It might as well say, “Gray Preston fully endorses his father.”

“Goddammit, Evelyn. This isn’t what I signed up for.” He stood and paced for a few seconds, then turned to face her. “Pull that shit off. Now.” He walked out of the trailer, fury boiling in his veins.

Without thinking, he headed toward the track, finding Ian waiting for him.

“You’re early.”

His teeth grinded against each other and he was ready to lash out, but his current state of mind wasn’t Ian’s fault. “I need to drive, now.”

Ian took one look at him, then looked behind him. Gray turned to see Evelyn heading in his direction.

Oh, hell no. He turned back to Ian. “Now. I mean right fucking now.”

“Sure.” Ian got on the radio to one of the other teams. “Hey, can we slide into your spot? Gray has a time conflict.”

In a few seconds, Ian nodded. “You sure?”

“Positive.”

“Get into your suit. Your car is ready.”

He got into his fire suit and climbed into his car, strapped in, and put on his helmet.

By the time he fired up the engine, he had an outlet for all this excess energy.

Getting behind the wheel and pulling out onto the track revved him up. Cranking up the speed made him forget everything but the feel of the track and testing the way the car handled.

He’d always been the most content when he was in his car. From the first time he’d climbed into one of his buddy’s midget cars on a dirt track, he’d been hooked. Only sixteen years old at the time, the roar of the engine, the smell of oil and fuel and dirt flying into his face had been a lure he couldn’t deny. He’d still been playing baseball at the time, with the promise of a sports scholarship and pressure from his father to pursue law and a future in politics. Under his father’s thumb and still tied to the Preston money, he’d toed the family line, but found every opportunity he could to race cars and learn about engines.

And still managed to piss off his father when he’d accepted the baseball scholarship to Oklahoma.

As he cranked up his speed heading around the track, he cracked a smile. Irritating his dad had always been one of his greatest pleasures. Maybe he could still find a way to do that. He might have agreed to help him, but he didn’t have to do it the Mitchell Preston way. He could control Evelyn and her laptop and he’d make damn sure nothing went onto the Internet that he didn’t want on there, worded exactly the way he wanted it.

This might be his father’s race, but they were going to play by his rules.

He downshifted around the curve, then laid on the throttle on the straightaway and gave the car everything he had on the last lap. By the time he began to slow down, the last of his adrenaline rush had burned itself out.

Now he had a plan, and his car was in good shape. He felt good about this race and the position of his race team. Of course this was only the first practice run, but he had to keep a positive outlook.

He climbed out and Ian fell in step with him as the crew took the car to the garage.

“Well?” he asked, his focus on the car and only on the car right now.

“Decent time and the car looked good. You ran it a little tight out there. You burning off some frustration?”

Ian knew him well, could always tell Gray’s mood from the way he drove. “Maybe a little.”

“What’s going on? And who’s the hot blonde?”

He blew out a frustrated breath, ready to climb into his Chevy again and do more laps, the only thing that could ease his irritation. “She works for my father.”

Ian stopped and stared at Evelyn, currently sitting in the front row of the stands, before turning his attention back to Gray. “No wonder you were so pissed off. What’s she doing here?”

“It’s complicated.”

“I’m listening.”

“I sort of agreed to help out my father’s campaign.”

Ian arched a brow. “No shit. Your dad dying or something? Because that’s the only reason I can think of that you’d bend to the old man’s will.”

Gray snorted. “No. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. He’s got a shot at the vice presidential nomination.”

“Really.”

“Yeah. And they think my fan base can make him look more attractive.”

Ian laughed. “I’m sure they could. What I want to know is why you give a shit.”

“My mom asked me to help.”

“Oh. That’s different.”

“Yeah.”

“And the hottie works for your dad?”

“Apparently she’s my liaison to my dad, so she’ll be with us for the time being.”

“Sweet, man. You could have gotten some old fat bald guy. Instead you get a centerfold. Not really a hardship, is it?”

“I can already tell she’s going to be a pain in my ass.”

Ian slapped him on the back. “Oh. Gee. I feel really sorry for you. Having to put up with looking at her every day.”

“Suck it, Ian.”

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