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Hard and Fast

By:Erin McCarthy

Hard and Fast
Erin McCarthy

       For all the wives of racing and your true love stories

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Special thanks to Rhonda Stapleton for suggesting Shakespeare, to Kathy  Love for suggesting the name Imogen , and to Jamie Denton for suggesting  I get out of my own way and just write the book. You all are the best.

CHAPTER ONE





SLINGSHOT:A maneuver in racing where the car following the leader in a draft steals his good air and takes the lead.



How to Work It:Hang back if your man is interested in another woman.  When she proves herself too obnoxious or clingy, move right on past her  into the lead.

-From How to Marry a Race Car Driver in Six Easy Steps





" OH, my God, run!"

Imogen Wilson had her shoulder nearly dislocated from its socket when  her friend Tamara yanked her arm, trying to drag her down the hallway.  Stumbling to keep up with Tamara and their other friend Suzanne, Imogen  glanced behind her to see why they needed to sprint, worried about a  herd of angry race fans, a fire, or a sudden act of terrorism in the  speedway.

What she saw was worse.

It was Nikki Borden. Twenty-two years old. Bouncy. Bubbly. Blond. Built  like Barbie, thanks to Nikki's campaign of personal starvation and the  assistance of breast implants and lip injections. She was definitely a  beautiful girl by most male standards, and Imogen knew Nikki worked hard  to maintain her appearance. Unfortunately, it seemed to be at the  expense of nurturing her mind. The few times Imogen had tried to have a  conversation with Nikki, she had been left wondering if there were  residual effects of the excessive use of hair dye because there was a  whole lot of nothing going on in that girl's head.

None of which would bother Imogen, per se, except that Nikki was dating  Ty McCordle, the stock car driver Imogen had an inexplicable attraction  to.

"Don't turn around," Tamara said to Imogen, horrified. "She'll see us!"

"Damn," Suzanne said. "Too late."

Nikki was waving to them with a big smile, and Imogen stifled a groan.  She did not want to spend her time at the racetrack trying to make small  talk with Nikki, and it was her fault they were going to have to do the  polite. She should have just run and asked questions later, but that  wasn't her personality. She always had to know what was going on, and it  was highly likely her curiosity would be the death of her someday.  Today it was going to result in fending insults from Nikki, who seemed  to think it was her duty





in the name of friendship to inform Imogen of all her physical flaws.

"Hi!" Nikki said, making record time over to them despite her high heels. "Where are you guys going? I'll go with you."

"We have passes to sit in the boxes," Suzanne said. "I'm sorry, I'm not sure we can get you into the restricted area."

Suzanne didn't look the least bit sorry, and Imogen almost felt bad for  Nikki, who clearly was hanging around the track by herself. Imogen knew  what it was like to always be the loner.

"Oh, I have a pass, too," Nikki said, pulling a piece of paper out of  her giant purple handbag. She grinned. "I guess having sex with a race  car driver ought to get you something, right?" Ugh. Imogen had known  that Nikki was having sex with Ty-she had to be. It wasn't like Nikki  was the kind of girl who could cook a man a meal, discuss politics or  racing with him, or even be considered a candidate for bearing his  future children. Nikki was a booty call, if Imogen understood the  definition of the term correctly. But to know it and to hear it out loud  were two different things entirely.

"I guess that I'd rather get an orgasm out of sex than a paper pass, but that's just me," Suzanne said.

Imogen had to concur with that. She would really like to have an orgasm  at the hands of a race car driver. A race car driver. Ty. Sexy,  laid-back, always wearing a grin Ty. Who was instead giving Nikki  orgasms and track passes.

It was utterly futile to think she could ever attract the attention of a  man like that, and she needed to remember that. Why she even wanted to  severely mystified her, but there was something about his joie de vivre,  the way he didn't take himself too seriously, that appealed to her. Or  at least to the parts of her that resided below the waist.

"Well, let's go sit down," Tamara said. "We're going to miss half of the  race and I have a certain rookie driver I need to cheer on."

Tamara was clearly antsy to see her husband Elec driving, already  flashing her pass and making her way into the seating area of the boxes.  Imogen followed her, wondering if her sunscreen was going to hold up  for the duration of the race. She was dark haired and fair skinned, and  the North Carolina sun was brutal. Looking around at the crowds, she  realized that the straw hat she had brought to shield her face wasn't  exactly de rigueur. Everyone else who had on a hat was wearing a ball  cap, most advertising their favorite driver. Imogen was aware she wasn't  dressed appropriately either. She was wearing a black sundress with a  three-quarter-sleeve cardigan and sandals while the majority of the  crowd was in shorts and T-shirts.                       
       
           



       

But considering it was her very first time to the track in Charlotte to  watch a live stock car race, she hadn't known the protocol. She had been  looking forward to it as a life experience and because she was still  fishing around for a thesis project for her graduate degree in  sociology. The culture of stock car racing in the South seemed like a  great jumping-off point, but she needed to home in on a more specific  topic.

Only she hadn't anticipated being stuck sitting next to Nikki. Suzanne  had virtually vaulted over the row of seats to get the one farthest from  Nikki, and Tamara had already taken the seat next to Suzanne. That left  Imogen, then Nikki on the end, who was wiping the seat off with a  tissue.

"I don't want to get my white pants dirty," she said in explanation when Imogen stared at her.

"Then why did you wear white pants?" Imogen couldn't help but ask.

"Because they make my butt look good," Nikki said, like this was completely obvious.

"Don't you have other pants that make your butt look good that won't  attract dirt?" Nikki smiled. "Yes. But with white pants you can't wear  anything but a thong, and men love that." Ah. Imogen didn't see the  logic in that at all, because wouldn't men generally assume that a woman  like Nikki was always wearing a thong? And if they were allowed to  actually gain the knowledge of the thong for themselves, she suspected  they wouldn't care one way or the other what Nikki had on over them.

But there was no point in launching a further discussion with Nikki.  Imogen suspected Nikki had made up her mind and that was that.

"Of course." Imogen settled into her own seat and looked out at the  track. A pack of cars went whizzing by before she could blink, none of  which were identifiable to her by either decal or number. She should





have bought a program so she could attempt to educate herself.

Nikki was rustling around in her handbag and Imogen glanced over to see  the blonde tearing into a bag of mixed greens. She pulled out a piece of  spinach and popped it in her mouth like it was a potato chip.

"Want some?" Nikki held the bag out to Imogen.

Imogen shook her head. "No, thanks." She had zero interest in chewing on greens sans salad dressing.

Watching her waistline was as important to her as the next person, but  she wasn't about to sacrifice at least some kind of flavor for skinny  jeans.

Not that Imogen was really the skinny jeans type. She had probably  exited the womb wearing Ann Taylor coordinates. The clean lines and  understated harmony of classic clothes made her happy, and she was  fortunate to have inherited her mother's naturally thin figure. Of  course, the flip side of that was a serious lack of breasts, but it was  what it was and she had no interest in buying herself a larger cup size.

"Does that actually satisfy your hunger?" she asked Nikki curiously.

"No. But it keeps me from buying nachos." Nikki had balanced her salad  bag in her lap and she was digging a notebook-sized book out of her bag.

"Is that a race program?" Imogen asked. She wanted to look up Tamara's  husband Elec, and okay, she could admit it, Ty McCordle, so she could  monitor their progress around the track.

"No, it's a book I'm reading."

Imogen gained a whole new respect for Nikki. She was reading at the  racetrack. Clearly she was there to show support for her boyfriend, but  had brought a book to occupy herself in the long hours alone as the cars  did something like five hundred laps.

"Oh, what book is it? Fiction or nonfiction?"

Nikki frowned and pushed her sunglasses up. "I don't know. I can never  remember which one means it's real and which one means it's fake."

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