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Here is a short sample from the book:
Cam drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the farm truck and stared at the speedway gate. The second race was about to begin—he could hear the engines revving at the starting line. Ellis should’ve been out here by now.
He’d seen a figure dart out of the gate and vanish into the shadows of the parking lot just as he pulled onto the main drive, but it was too short and slender for Ellis. After three years of pestering him about buying the bike, the man better not’ve changed his mind. It was hard enough for Cam to part with the only damned thing in the world that had ever been truly his. But five grand was a third of the money he needed for the property taxes…so it was sell the Harley, or let Lowell win.
Anything was a better choice than that.
Just as he was debating whether to head for the pit and drag Ellis out here, the man himself ambled through the gates with his hands stuffed in his pockets. It wasn’t a shock to see Jack Ellis looking less than thrilled. After the accident last year that took his eye and ended a promising racing career, he didn’t have much to smile about. But tonight he’d lost the layer of fury he usually wore to cover his black depression.
Cam climbed out of the truck and approached him, suddenly sure he’d either changed his mind or didn’t have the money. That’d leave him back at square one. Without a prearranged buyer, there was no way he’d be able to sell the bike for anywhere near what it was worth in the next two weeks.
“Thatcher.” Ellis drew a hand out and offered it, and Cam shook. “How’ve you been?”
“Looks like I’m better than you.” He smiled a little. “Who pissed in your cereal, man?”
Ellis opened his mouth, then closed it abruptly. “It’s nothing,” he said, and promptly shook off the misery to prove it. The man was a damned good liar. “I have to admit, I was surprised to hear from you after all this time. I almost didn’t come out here. Thought it was a joke.”
“No joke,” he said. “You still want it, five grand takes it.”
Ellis stared at him for a long moment, then walked past him to the truck bed. He reached up and ran a hand along the seat of the SG with something like reverence. “She’s gorgeous,” he said. “You know, she’s worth a hell of a lot more than five. Double that, at least.”
“You paying more, then?”
“No. That’s my offer.” Ellis turned a piercing gaze on him. “And you shouldn’t be taking it, Cam. So why are you?”
Panic tried to swell in him, but he beat it down. “My reasons aren’t part of the deal,” he said. “You want a reason, it’s yours for another five grand.”
Ellis frowned. “I don’t like this. I’ll take it,” he said, “but only because I know you must be desperate. Damned if I’m going to be happy about it, though.”
“Well, I guess that’s your loss.”
Another stare, and then Ellis laughed. “You’re about the only person I know who’s more stubborn than me,” he said. “Give me a lift to my car. I’ve got the cash for you in there.”
Cam raised an eyebrow. “You drove?” he said. “How were you planning to get the bike back?”
“Oh, I’m riding it home. That piece of shit Chevy can stay in the lot forever, much as I care. It can’t possibly rust any more than it has.” Ellis gestured at the nearest row. “I’m down there,” he said. “Come on, I’ll—”
The sound of a wheezing engine rose into the night and cut him off. Down the row he’d just indicated, headlights pulsed in time with a vehicle that was turning over and over, but failing to catch. It stopped for a few seconds and started up again, longer this time. Then a female voice yelled, “Shit!”
Ellis grinned. “Sounds like that’s for you,” he said.
“Hey, you’re the mechanical genius.” Ellis held up a hand. “I only know how to drive.”
“Great,” Cam muttered. All he wanted to do was get the money, go home, and do some heavy manual labor until he was too tired to think. Now he’d have to offer to help some woman, who was probably a townie and might even know him. Which meant she’d either refuse, or take his help with a side of sneering and a fresh batch of lies to spread about him. “Well, this’ll be fun.”
He got back in the truck and waited for Ellis to climb in the passenger side. As he drove down the row, the headlights of the damsel in distress went through another round of flickering, running lower with every pulse. “She’s going to kill what’s left of the damned battery if she doesn’t stop that,” he said. “Christ, doesn’t anybody know enough to…”
The words died in his mouth as they got close enough for his own headlights to shine on the troubled vehicle—which happened to be a pickup he’d already seen once too often today.
That truck belonged to Sydney Davis.
* * * *
Sydney wanted to scream.
She twisted the key and held, listening to the engine give out a series of weakening coughs. Why did her truck have to pick tonight to quit? No way was she going back in there to ask Tommy for a ride home, and she wasn’t going to make Luka leave.
Well, she probably just needed a jump. She could try to find somebody out here with jumper cables, or call home and ask Dad to help—though she didn’t like that option much, either. Her parents already did a lot for her.
Just as she decided to give it one more try and hope for a miracle, headlights swept down the row and stopped right in front of her. At once relieved and embarrassed, she cleared her throat and prepared to explain the problem, at least as much as she knew.
Two doors opened, and two figures came around into the glow of the headlights. She recognized both of them with a sinking heart. The big bear Luka had called Ellis…and Cam Thatcher.
This was the last thing she needed.
Cam approached her open window slowly and stayed far back. “Sydney,” he said. “Never pegged you for a racing fan.”
“I’m not. I came here with—” No, she wasn’t going to say that. Besides, the sneer on his face said he knew what the next word would’ve been. “I’m fine,” she said. “I was just about to call my dad and have him give me a jump.”
“From the sounds of it, you need more than a jump.”
She stared at him. “How could you know that from a sound?”
“Pop the hood.”
“No, really, it’s just the battery. I’ll call Dad…”
“Sydney.” Cam folded his arms. “This the first time it wouldn’t start on you?”
“Any of your lights been dimming before now?”
She sighed. “No.”
“Pop the damned hood.”
“All right.” She reached down and pulled the hood latch. The pop sounded loud as a shotgun, making her flinch a little.
Cam walked away. As he opened the hood and propped it, the big man wandered over to the window and grinned at her. “I’d listen to him,” he said. “The man knows his engines. He’s practically a mechanical savant.”
Something clanked under the hood. “Shut up, Ellis,” Cam said.
“Sorry. We’ll stick with genius.” He stuck a hand toward the window. “Hi, I’m Jack Ellis,” he said. “Saw you outside earlier.”
“Yes. I’m Sydney.” She shook and offered a tentative smile.
The truck bounced, and Cam swore loudly. “Gotta get my toolbox,” he said. “Be right back.”
Cam straightened and stalked toward his truck, and Ellis shook his head. “I guess you’re lucky he’s lost his mind,” he said. “Otherwise he wouldn’t be out here tonight.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been offering to buy that bike of his for three years and change. He finally decided to sell.” Ellis shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Just called me out of the blue this afternoon. Said he’d meet me tonight with it.”
“His bike?” Sydney said. “You mean the Harley?”
“That’s the one.”
A sudden chill moved through her. Cam had loved that bike forever. One of her clearest memories of that day back in middle school was him showing her the not-yet-restored version, and the way his face lit up when he talked about it. It’d been years before he finally got it going, and he rode it everywhere. “Why would he do that?” she said.
“He wouldn’t say why.” Ellis furrowed his brow. “Look, uh, Sydney. Are you his friend?”
“Absolutely not,” she blurted before she could think it through. “I mean…well, I went to school with him. We haven’t talked in years.”
“Too bad,” Ellis said quietly. “Because I think he could really use a friend right now.”
“Ellis. Shut the hell up.”
Cam spoke in tight, controlled tones from a few feet away, where he’d apparently materialized with his toolbox. At once, Sydney felt lower than dirt. Had he heard her insisting that she wasn’t his friend? It might’ve been true, but she still shouldn’t have said it like that.
If Cam did hear, he gave no indication. “You’re going to miss your boy’s race,” he said to Ellis. “Just put the money in the truck. I’ll unload the bike for you when I’m done here, all right?”
“Sure.” For a long moment Ellis didn’t move. “Look, this is an open-ended deal, understand? Any time you want to buy it back, it’s yours.”
“I don’t back out of deals, Ellis.”
The big man looked about to say something more, but the cold in Cam’s voice must’ve stopped him. “Whatever you say, Thatcher.” He frowned and glanced past Sydney at the beacon of the raceway. Then he met her eyes and said, “Well, it was nice meeting you, at least. Hope you get home safe.”
“Thank you. Nice meeting you, too.”
She watched him walk away, and then turned to Cam—but he was already banging away under the hood. She really hoped her truck would survive his wrath.
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