One Sweet Ride

Chapter 41

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Not for her, anyway.

She rolled over on her side and closed her eyes, needing to shut it all out, just for a few minutes.

Maybe tomorrow she’d be back to her old self again.

And then again, maybe she’d never be her old self again, because being with Gray had changed everything.

The floodgates burst and she let out a soft sob, then anguished cries as pain wrapped itself around her, squeezing her until she couldn’t breathe.

She’d lost him. She loved him, hadn’t wanted to leave him, and she’d let everything go anyway.

There was no winner at all in this race.

*

GRAY THREW THE REMOTE ACROSS THE ROOM.

Dammit. Shit. Fuck.

That’s not the way this should have gone down.

He dragged his fingers through his hair, so damn frustrated. He wanted to jump off the sofa and go after Evelyn, to pull her into his arms and kiss her until the frustration and misunderstandings were obliterated.

Seeing her tonight had made him so happy.

Why hadn’t she been happy, too?

He’d wanted to surprise her, not piss her off.

Had he presumed? He hated being one of those guys. He leaned his head back against the sofa and stared at the white ceiling fan blades, their soft whirring sound the only noise in the otherwise quiet suite.

He was a guy, and guys weren’t all emotional and shit. Women liked to think they could do all that multitasking. And God knew Evelyn was a master at it.

He blinked. She was right. He’d made decisions for her instead of telling her where he was. He would have loved to have seen her this week, even if only for a few minutes here and there. She’d have given him comfort when he was feeling like shit, which was mostly every goddamned day since he’d done the flying car bit.

So why hadn’t he let her? Because he thought he knew what was best for her?

Since when? She was an independent woman more than capable of juggling her job and their relationship.

But maybe the accident and subsequent end of his season had altered his mood more than a little, and he’d backed off his relationship with Evelyn because of it.

What better way of altering a relationship than calling all the shots, right? It was the one thing he’d been able to control in this whole out-of-control week.

Only he hadn’t been in control of the relationship with Evelyn any more than he’d been in control of the number fifty-three during that hellish wreck. So he’d gained nothing, and lost everything.

Now what was he going to do about it? Because Evelyn had just walked out on him, out on them, and effectively ended things between them.

How was he going to fix this now? Or could he even fix it?

He grabbed his phone and made a call. He needed help.

TWENTY-NINE

“WOW. YOU REALLY KNOW HOW TO FUCK UP A RELATIONSHIP, don’t you?”

A week after the convention, Gray was resting on the back deck of his place in Daytona. At least he had company. His best friend Garrett had a day off and was playing Tampa Bay next, so he and his fiancée, Alicia, were spending the day with him.

“This is not the pep talk I’m looking for, buddy.”

Garrett laughed. “Hey, if you want a pep talk, call someone else. All you’re gonna get from me is honesty. You fucked it up. Am I right, Alicia?”

Alicia winced. “I was hoping I wouldn’t get dragged into this one, but yes. He’s kind of right, Gray. There’s nothing worse than telling a woman she can’t do it all.

And you hid from her. While you were injured. You know a woman who cares about you would want to check on you and be sure you were okay. What were you thinking?”

Gray sighed. “I was trying to help. But I made the wrong choice. I get that now.”

“Well, that’s a first step—admitting you were an asshole,” Garrett said, lifting the beer to his lips. “Now what?”

“I have no idea. She’s back in Washington and busy as hell with the presidential campaign.”

“So?” Alicia asked. “If you want her, go after her.”

Gray rapped on his cast with his knuckles. “I’m a little slowed down here.”

“Oh, the poor millionaire,” Garrett said. “You mean there’s something you can’t do? Gimme a break. You’ve always been the man with a plan. There’s nothing you can’t do, cast and broken ribs or not. So what’s got you flummoxed?”

He looked out over the water. “I don’t want to hurt her again.”

“Man, love really screws with your head, doesn’t it?”

“Hey,” Alicia said, giving Garrett a mock glare.

“I didn’t say it screwed me up. Just Gray.”

Alicia laughed and turned to face Gray. “So, do you have a plan? And hopefully that plan doesn’t include manipulating her again?”

“I thought I had one, but it might make her angry if I did something without her knowledge again. Ours is a complicated relationship, and getting to that place where the two of us could be together isn’t easy.”

Alicia leaned over and laid her hand on his. “Gray. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your circumstances are. Love is never easy. But if she’s worth it, you’ll find a way to make it work.”

He missed Evelyn. He’d always enjoyed kicking back and relaxing here at his beach house. Right now he was frustrated because he couldn’t even be at the track until he was more mobile, but he was thinking more about Evelyn than racing, and for him, having a woman take precedence over his career was a first. That meant something.

It meant she was worth fighting for.

He would make this work.

“I have an idea or two. I want to run it by you both and you can tell me if you think it sucks or not.”

Alicia grinned. “You know I’d love to help. I want you to be happy.”

“I don’t care if you’re happy or not,” Garrett said. “But I do like the view here, man, so if it means we get to stay a little longer, I’m all ears.”

“Garrett,” Alicia warned.

Gray laughed, knowing Garrett would bend over backward to help him out. “I knew I could count on you, Alicia. Garrett, you’re on beer duty.”

“Done. Beer for me and Alicia, lemonade and a pain pill for you.”

“You’re so funny.”

“Okay, seriously,” Garrett said. “I’m happy to lend an ear or do whatever I can to see true love prevail.” Garrett sent a look over at Alicia that had her smiling in return.

Yeah, this love stuff? Well worth the struggle if it meant Evelyn would look at him the way Alicia looked at Garrett.

“I like the two of you together,” Gray said. “He was cranky the last time I saw him.”

“He’s still cranky,” Alicia said. “But he has his moments.”

“She loves me, so she’s blind to my faults.”

“I’m not that blind, buddy,” Alicia said. “Remember, I’ve seen you at your worst.”

“True that. That’s how I knew you were a keeper.”

Gray laughed. “Yeah, anyone who could put up with Garrett at his worst and loves him anyway? You should get a medal, Alicia.”

Alicia grinned and cast a look at Garrett. “I don’t need a medal. I got the guy.”

Garrett grasped her hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. “I love you too, babe.”

“Jesus,” Gray said. “Any more of this and I’m going to have to find my crutches and give you two some alone time. Can we get back to me and Evelyn now?”

“Sure,” Garrett said. “Let’s get you and Evelyn that happily ever after.”

THIRTY

EVELYN DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TIME TO BREATHE.

After the convention, they’d gone back to Washington. She’d unpacked, sent everything to the dry cleaners, and barely had time to renew her acquaintance with her apartment before they were on the campaign trail.

Not that travel was unusual for her. But this was a presidential campaign, and it was the big time—everything she’d hoped and dreamed for.

Mitchell was fabulous, and working with Governor Cameron’s team was syncing up beautifully. They had high hopes that, come November, the governor would be the new president. The polls were strong because the Cameron/Mitchell team was in high favor.

They were due in Florida for a campaign stop, and as they hit Fort Lauderdale, Evelyn pondered the proximity to Daytona Beach, her thoughts gravitating to Gray.

Not that her thoughts didn’t center on him every single day anyway.

She’d assumed once the campaign started it would be easy to forget about him, that she’d be way too busy to think about him, and she’d get over the hurt.

That wasn’t happening.

She missed him. Her body craved his touch. She missed sleeping with him at night and sharing her thoughts and ideas with him. She missed the sound of his voice, missed arguing with him about every topic under the sun. She missed the way he laughed, the way his smile made her entire body tingle.

She missed racing and found herself scanning the sports outlets for news about how Preston Racing’s team was doing.

Alex Reed, who was currently driving the number fifty-three, had placed fifteenth in the last race. Pretty darn good considering he was new in the car. And Donny had placed fifth. Great for Gray’s team. She was happy for him and he must be frustrated as hell not to be there, not to be racing or even be at the track.

She missed seeing him in his fire suit. God, he looked good zipped up in that thing, and even better out of it.

Her body reacted instantly and she pushed the visuals aside.

It was time for her to get a grip. She and Gray were over. Some day she’d run for office herself and match up with some representative or senator or lawyer and they’d have similar careers in Washington and it would make so much more sense for her future.

How utterly . . . boring.

She shuddered out a sigh and buried herself in work at the local campaign stop.

When her phone rang, she smiled as Carolina’s name popped up.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself,” Carolina said. “Fort Lauderdale, right?”

“Yup. Where are you?”

“In D.C., actually. You’re flying back in tonight?”

“Yes. This is the last of our Florida stops.”

“Can we have lunch when you get back?”

“Hang on. Let me check my schedule.” She did a quick check. If she adjusted a few things . . . “Yes, I can definitely do that.”

“Awesome. How about one o’clock?”

“Perfect.” They made plans to meet.

It would be nice to spend a lunch hour with Carolina. She needed some downtime, even if it was only an hour or two.

And maybe Carolina would fill her in on how Gray was doing. Evelyn and the senator were busy on the campaign, and she refused to constantly ask him about Gray.

They were over and done with, so it was best to cut those ties.

*

THE NEXT DAY HER MORNING WAS FULL GETTING caught up at the main office, so she had to hustle to the restaurant to meet Carolina, who as usual looked fresh and well put together in a bright sheath dress with a beautiful scarf.

“You look gorgeous,” Evelyn said, kissing Carolina’s cheek.

“You look like you could use a nap.”

They sat at the table at the outdoor café in Georgetown and sipped tea and had salads. Carolina filled her in on what was going on with her fashion line, but they mainly talked about the senator and the election.

“You’re busy,” Carolina said in between bites of chicken salad.

“Understatement. I haven’t slept.”

“But this is what you wanted.”

“It is. I have no complaints.”

“And have you seen Gray?”

She took a deep breath. “No. Unfortunately, that’s over.”

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