Dangerous Rush(9)

By: S.C. Stephens

Hopefully, she would be able to contact a team today who hadn’t been convinced by Jordan to reject her. Kenzie was an amazing rider, and she deserved to be on a team. Someone just had to see past Jordan’s bullshit and hire her. All the local teams had said no, though, so Kenzie’s only chance of keeping her dream alive would be taking a job far away from me. Something I didn’t want to think about yet.

I made my way through the inner gate, to the heart of the complex. Stopping there, I looked around. The focal point of my view was the massive practice track itself. Movable concrete barriers defined the course, creating sweeping turns and exhilarating straightaways. The path was changed routinely, to keep us all on our toes; pushing myself through that gauntlet was one of my favorite things to do.

To the right of the track was the abandoned buildings of Cox Racing. All the team logos were gone, all the windows were dark, and all the doors were locked. A For Sale sign was the most prominent feature, a fact that had my boss, Keith Benneti, in an uproar. He wanted the track, but Jordan refused to sell it to him. To say there was bad blood between them was an understatement. I hated seeing the lack of life on that side of the track, but I was the only Benneti who felt that way. The “bad blood” between the owners had infected the rest of the team as well.

In contrast to the emptiness, the Benneti side, on the left of the track, was bustling with life. I could hear the whining of power tools and engines, could see people walking around inside the open garage bay doors. It was just another day at work, but somehow, it all felt different.

With a reluctant sigh, I turned my bike toward the Benneti garages and prepared myself for…well, for anything. There was a nauseous feeling in my gut as I approached the place that used to be my sanctuary. Okay, maybe sanctuary was a stretch. The other guys on the team had been reluctant to embrace me as a full-fledged member, and even now, it seemed they still had some lingering resentments.

Keith had found me on the streets a little over a year ago. I had no idea how he’d heard about the street racing, and I’d never seen him at an event after that night, but he’d been impressed, and had offered me a spot on his team afterward. With one stipulation, of course—I had to give up street racing. For good. Not because he cared if I was doing something illegal like that, but because he hadn’t wanted to invest a bunch of time and money in me, just to see me banned from the sport. If Keith only knew that I hadn’t entirely given it up last season, he would have gone ballistic.

But he hadn’t found out, and he’d given me everything I could have ever asked for—a roof over my head, a motorcycle to ride around town, another motorcycle to race with on the track, and even spending money. It was difficult for me to feel so indebted to one person—my childhood had taught me that was an all-around bad idea. It helped to keep reminding myself that Keith was ultimately only interested in helping Keith. He wanted a champion, and he believed that could be me.

All the lavish attention Keith placed on me had severely pissed off my teammates, and whenever they’d gotten a chance, they’d done everything they could to take me down a notch. I could almost feel some of the bruises they’d given me. It hadn’t helped matters any that they’d also suspected I was tampering with bikes to win, thanks to Hookup, who actually had been tampering with bikes. Asshole. He’d gone way too far this time. Cutting him out of my life completely was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. Besides dating Kenzie, of course. The crash I was in last season had smoothed things over with my teammates, though—since I obviously wouldn’t let myself get hurt if I was the saboteur—and they were sort of civil now.

Rodney and Maxwell waved hello when they saw me pull up outside of the garage. “Hey, Hayes,” Rodney said. “You see the new girl yet? Hot damn, that is one fine piece of ass. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to keep my mind on the race with that behind me.”

Two very opposite emotions hit me at the same time. A knot of anxiety tightened my stomach so hard I was sure I’d be sore in the morning, and a surprisingly hot flash of anger swept through me. Since neither of those would help me deal with this asshole, I forced myself to respond with a joke. “What makes you think she’ll be behind you?”

Maxwell snorted and held out his fist to me. I grudgingly bumped him, when all I really wanted to do was sock Rodney in the face. Why was I feeling protective of her? Felicia had never needed me to be her bodyguard; she could take of herself. And besides, I didn’t owe her anything—she’d left me.