Victory Lane, Texas

With a smile, I crawled out of my number thirty-seven car and stood on the window as champagne and beer hit me from all sides. “Yes!” I called out as the crowd went wild. I turned and jumped into the arms of my pit crew as the celebrations started.

Quickly setting me down, my eyes scanned everywhere for her.

Adaline Morgan.

The love of my life ever since the day she pushed me on the play ground in elementary school for pulling her pigtails.

We both had called Marble Falls, Texas home. Adaline was my best friend and biggest support of my racing since the first time I crawled into a cart.

“Emmit, how does it feel to win your first NASCAR race and here in your home state of Texas?”

Still searching the crowd, I smiled bigger when her blue eyes met mine.

Adaline.

I pinned her with my stare. “No words could describe it. I feel like I’m in a dream. Nothing is better than this.”

I did my duty and answered all the reporters’ questions. The second they cut out, Waldo Morgan, my crew chief and Adaline’s daddy, came up and gave me a bear hug. He had been my crew chief since I first started racing stock cars.

“You did it, son. I always knew you would,” he said as he slapped my back.

I shook my head. “Couldn’t have done it without you, Waldo.”

“Go celebrate,” Waldo said with a laugh as he shook my body and smiled.

With a quick smile, I made my way to Adaline, picked her up and spun her around as she laughed.

Setting her down, I stared into her eyes. “We did it.”

Her hands went to my chest, causing a rush of excitement to race through my body. “You did it. I’ve always known you would.”

I cupped her face as I brushed my lips across hers. “I’ll meet you on the bus.”

With a quick kiss, I gave her a wink and turned to head back out into the crowd. Everyone was talking about how the nineteen-year-old newcomer had dominated the entire race.

Hell yeah I did. And I’m just getting started.

Nothing in the world could ever knock me down from this high.

***

As I stepped onto the bus, I grinned from ear to ear as my eyes fell on the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. Tonight was going to be perfect. The ring was tucked under my pillow safely, and I had practiced what I was going to say about a hundred times in the mirror over the last two weeks.

“Hey,” I whispered as I moved toward Adaline. Standing she gave me smile back.

“Congratulations, Emmit. I’m so proud of you.”

Adaline gazed up at me through her long eyelashes as her hands went to my chest. My body was exhausted, but I knew I couldn’t wait to be with her. My body craved hers. Adaline snarled her lip and shook her head. “You smell like beer.”

With a laugh, I kissed her quickly on the lips. “Yeah, that was insane. All the pictures and interviews were fucking amazing though.”

Adaline gave me a sweet grin. “You must be tired.”

“Yeah, but I’m going to go take a quick shower. I have one more interview and some pictures. Then it’s just me and you,” I said as I placed my hand on the side of Adaline’s face. Something passed over her face before she gave me a warm smile. I knew this was hard for her. It felt as if we fought for alone time together.

I stripped out of my clothes and I jumped into the hot shower to clean up as fast as I could.

With a towel wrapped around my waist, I made my way over to Adaline. Her eyes roamed my body as she bit down hard on her lower lip.

Fuck the interview.

I dropped the towel and pulled Adaline to me and moved my hand up her dress.

Adaline dropped her head back so that I could kiss her neck. “Emmit, your interview.”

My lips moved across her soft skin. “It can wait.”

With one swift move, I pushed her panties out of the way, lifted her and slowly sank her down onto me as I let out a moan.

Adaline wrapped her arms around me as she said, “Emmit, condom.”

The knock at the door caused me to let out a frustrated sigh. “Ignore it,” I whispered against her lips.

Adaline kissed me like it was going to be our last kiss as her hands pushed through my hair and pulled.

“Emmit, condom or interview,” she breathed into my mouth.

Another knock. This time louder.

I kissed her deeper.

Another knock. “Emmit! Dude, everyone is waiting to talk to you.”

I let out a frustrated sigh as I rested my forehead against hers. “I’m sorry, Addie.”

“It’s okay. Go do what you have to do and then we’ll grab something to eat and relax for a bit.”

I pulled out of her and slipped on some jeans and a T-shirt and headed out to finish up the day.

By the time I made it back to the bus, Adaline had arranged for dinner to be delivered to us. Taking her

hand in mine, I led her back to the bedroom and slowly made love to her. Dinner could wait.

My hand reached under my pillow as I took the box holding the ring out and looked Adaline in the eyes and smiled.

“Adaline, you mean more to me than anything. My life is nothing without you in it. Will you marry me?”

I smiled as I opened the ring box while Adaline stared at it. A tear rolled down her cheek as she pressed her lips together.

Her eyes met mine as she swallowed hard. “I love you so much, Emmit. But I can’t marry you right now.”

My heart dropped to my stomach as I pulled away from her and stood up. “W-what?” I asked as I looked at her.

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she wiped them away. “I was going to talk to you tonight, but then you won and I didn’t want to take away from that.”

My mouth dropped open as I stared at her with a stunned look on my face. “Well fuck, Addie. I’d say you turning down my marriage proposal is a pretty big downer.”

Adaline jumped up and pulled one of my T-shirts on over her head. She looked so damn adorable. All I wanted to do was pull her into my arms and kiss her to erase the last few seconds.

“Emmit, this is the last thing I want to do, but I need to be honest with you. I’m not sure this is the life I want. Being on the road like this and living out of this bus. At least not right now.”

My knees shook as I reached out for something to keep me from falling. “What are you saying, Addie?”

Adaline’s blue eyes looked into mine as she said, “Emmit, I’ve always dreamed of being a nurse, and I can’t go to school and be on this bus every week with you and go to school. As much as I want to be with you, I can’t give up my own dreams.”

“Addie, I want you to follow your dreams. If you want to go to school, I’ll stand behind you one-hundred percent. I can fly you in for the races, baby.”

A look of despair moved across Adaline’s face. “Emmit, I can’t be going to school and then fly out every weekend. It would be too much.”

My heart was pounding so loud in my chest, I was sure she heard it. “Okay. So we’ll figure something out, Addie. Just tell me you’ll marry me and, baby, you know I’ll wait as long as it takes.”

She shook her head and wiped more tears as she looked away. Glancing back at me, Adaline’s blue eyes looked empty as a small sob escaped her lips. “Emmit, I don’t know if it’s going to work with us being apart for so long. I know you. You’re going to want to fly in and see me or want me to fly out and see you. It will become too stressful.”

My chest tightened and fear raced through my body. “What are you doing, Addie?”

“I think we should maybe take a break for a bit. You need to get settled into this life and I need to get settled in Austin.”

“Austin?” I asked with a confused look on my face.

Adaline barely spoke. “I got into the nursing program at UT.”

“What the fuck, Addie? When were you going to tell me you were planning to leave me? How long have you known you were going to do this to me?”

Adaline pointed to me as anger filled her eyes. “Don’t you do that to me, Emmit Jerome Lewis. Don’t you dare make me feel guilty. You don’t think I’m confused as hell right now? I want to be with you. I love you, Emmit!”

With a curt laugh, I shook my head. “You love me? You love me, Addie? You’re fucking breaking up with me, on the biggest day of my career! I just asked you to marry me and you said no.”

Sitting down on the bed, she buried her face in her hands. “Emmit, I don’t want to leave you,” she whispered as I slipped on a pair of shorts and made my way over to her. I sat down next to her and dragged in a deep breath.

“Addie, I don’t want to do this without you. Baby, I want to give you the world.”

Adaline threw herself into my arms and held me tightly. “I need to do this for me, Emmit. I want to be with you too, but I need to find who I am and follow my own dreams. If I don’t I know I’ll end up regretting it and taking it out on you.”

I pinned her with my stare as I pulled back from her. “Why can’t you follow your dreams and still be mine, Addie?”

Her eyes lit up as she gave me a weak smile. “I’ll always be yours, Emmit. Always.”

I knew I needed to let Adaline follow her dreams. “Please don’t fall in love with someone else, Addie.”

Her lips pressed to mine as she whispered, “Never.”

My heart wanted to believe her, but my head knew better.

Chapter One – Emmit

Three years later.

Staring out the window, I watched everything go by as we got closer to the track.

I was back in Texas, and those old feelings bubbled up. Anytime that happened, I usually found the closest girl and tried to push the memories away with a quick fuck.

It was either that, or get drunk. I couldn’t really get drunk when I had a race in a few days.

With a frustrated sigh, I dropped my head against the chair and closed my eyes.

Adaline.

No matter how hard I tried not to think of her, those blue eyes would pop into my dreams.

Adaline had gone back to Austin and pursued her dreams of becoming a nurse. The first two months we talked every single day. Then it slowly began to be every other day until it was twice a week. Either she was busy with class or I was busy doing some interview or sitting in a racecar. When I would call, she would be studying or too exhausted to talk. Eventually, I stopped calling. Adaline had called a few times and left voice mails, but by then I was too hurt and angry to call back. We drifted apart and started living separate lives.

My phone buzzed and pulled me away from my thoughts. Looking down, I saw it was my boss, Jack Elliot. He owned the team I had raced for since I first started my career with NASCAR.

Jack: I need a favor.

Me: Anything, Jack.

I’d do just about anything for Jack Elliot. He took the chance on a young, cocky nineteen-year-old kid whose only dream was to be a NASCAR driver. I’d never forget that. He was closer to me than my own father.

Jack: My niece is going to be with me at the track this week. Her fiancé just left for a nine-month deployment. She’s looking to get in the business on the finance side of things but wants to see how this side of racing is.

Rolling my eyes, I cursed under my breath. Great. Jack wants me to babysit his damn niece. Fucking hell.

Me: Okay, what do you need me to do?

Jack: Keep her close to you, Emmit. Show her what it’s like behind the scenes. She’s also planned a small dinner for Friday night, so I want you there and I’d like for you to escort her. You’re the only one I trust.

There was the guilt. Jack had no idea how many women I had fucked around with the last two years. Once I found out Adaline and I were no more, I went a bit crazy with every blonde, blue-eyed woman I could find when Adaline invaded my thoughts.

Me: Will do Jack. I’ll make sure she has a good time and gets her mind off her fiancé.

With a quick glance up, I saw we were pulling into Texas Motor Speedway.

Here we go.

Jack: And Emmit. Keep your hands off of her. I know how much you like blondes.

I shook my head and smiled. “I guess Jack really does pay attention,” I said to no one but me.

Me: Pulling in now. See you in a bit.

I had decided to ride on my bus instead of flying. The less time I had to spend in Texas, the better.

“We’re here, Emmit. Would you like a few minutes?” Hank, one of my drivers, asked.

With a smile and a wink, I stood up and said, “Nah, I’m gonna take Lola out. I’m sure she’s ready to stretch her legs as much as I am.”

Glancing over my shoulder, I could see into my bedroom where my one-year-old black lab, Lola, had been crashed for the last two hours.

“Lola, we’re here.”

Jumping up, Lola dashed over and stood by my side. She was the only girl I could ever count on. Always faithful and loved the hell out of me.

I squatted down and pulled her closer to me as I ran my hand over her fur. “You’re my beautiful girl, aren’t you?”

With a bark, Lola caused Hank and me to laugh. “Damn dog loves the shit out of you.”

My heart ached as I stood. Adaline would love Lola. She’d always wanted a black lab. I shook my head to clear my thoughts, I grabbed Lola’s leash and headed to the door. “Thanks, Hank. We’re gonna go for a run.”

“Sure thing, boss. Have a good run.”

I pushed the door open as Lola waited for the steps to come out before she took off toward the first person she saw.

With a quick look around, I took in all the people already at the track.

“There he is,” Jack said as I turned to look at him. My eyes widened in surprise when I saw the beautiful blonde walking alongside of Jack. Good fucking thing he told me she was engaged.

“Jack, good to see you,” I said as I extended my hand out to him. Lola made a beeline over to Jack’s niece where she promptly fell to the ground and demanded a stomach rub.

Leaning over, the blonde quickly showered Lola with attention.

“Perfect chick magnet.”

With a laugh, I turned to Jack and said, “I like her already.”

Jack slapped me on the back and said, “Just don’t like her too much, Mr. Lewis.”

“Lynn, this is the one and only, Emmit Lewis.”

Giving Lola a good pat on the stomach, Lynn stood and made her way over to me as she reached her hand out for mine. “I bet NASCAR’s star driver is just thrilled to be babysitting me.”

I shot Lynn my signature smile and a wink that melted the girl’s hearts. “It’s not a problem at all. I’ll make sure you have a good time.”

Lynn’s eyes lit up as she gave me a smirk. I wasn’t sure how to read this girl. She was engaged and her uncle, who also happened to be my boss, stood right next to her as she seemed to flirt with me. “I bet you will.”

I looked back at Jack as I cleared my throat. “I’m gonna take Lola for a quick run and then I’ll be back in time for practice.”

“Sounds good. I also want you to take Lynn for a spin around the track,” Jack said as he reached down and gave Lola a quick rub down. Lynn flashed me a bright smile.

“Before you start getting the wrong idea, I’m very much in love with Brandon, my fiancé. I was slightly star struck when Uncle Jack introduced you. I want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

A sense of relief washed over my body as I grinned and glanced at Jack and then to Lynn. “We are for sure on the same page, Lynn. Don’t worry.”

Lynn smiled as she stood straight. “Great! See ya later, Emmit.”

Lola and I stood there as we watched Jack and Lynn make their way through the crowd.

I glanced down to Lola and said, “Why in the hell are women so complicated?”

Staring at me like she didn’t have the answers any more than I did, Lola barked.

With a chuckle, I said, “Right. Let’s go for a run.”