On the Move

By: Pamela Britton

PROLOGUE


Open Season

By Rick Stevenson, Sports Editor

YEARS AGO, it used to be that drivers swapped rides late in the season. In one fell swoop—and over the course of a couple months—you knew who was taking over what rides and for how long.

No so anymore.

Nowadays, drivers start talking contract negotiations before the season’s barely begun, never mind when race season’s drawing to a close. You could know in March that so-and-so won’t be renewing his contract in December, and then spend the rest of the year speculating where that driver will go. About the only driver whose fate I knew at the end of last season was Brandon Burke’s.

Brandon Burke.

Now, there’s someone I wish I didn’t know. Let’s recap his stellar career:

Wrecked the leader of the Indy 500.

On the last lap.

When Mr. Burke was twenty laps down.

Has broken the cameras of numerous photographers. Rumor has it Indy 500 photographers took to carrying pepper spray. Rumor also has it that he punched out his father not long ago, and that the brawl had a lot to do with Brandon being booted out of the IRL.

One thing’s for sure, KEM Motorsports bringing Brandon Burke to NASCAR was about the silliest thing I saw done this past season. And I don’t know about you, but I suspect the silliness isn’t over.





Preseason


“Some drivers thrive on winning races. Others love to cause trouble. It’s the latter that gives racing a bad name. Brandon Burke is one of those drivers.”

—Finish Line magazine





CHAPTER ONE



THERE WERE, in Vicky’s opinion, three types of men: Those that made you go, “Eww.” As in, yuck, I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole and a pair of rubber gloves. Those that made you think, “Hmm.” As in, if I was tired, tipsy and just a little bit desperate, I might take him home. And those that made you exclaim, softly, of course, “Oh, my.”

Brandon Burke was a solid “Oh, my.”

She’d known that. Of course she’d known that. The thing was, it didn’t make it any easier to approach him. So she hung back, peering around the edge of one of the many buildings located at the South Carolina racetrack, every once in a while walking forward only to stop suddenly and turn back, the large bag she’d slung over one shoulder hitting her in the spine.

Back to hiding.

You’re being ridiculous. He’s just a man.

It was a busy day at the drag race motorsports complex. People heavily laden with salty-scented sunblock rushed past her, spectators, track officials and crewmen alike. The sweet smell of hot dogs and hamburgers hung in the air, as if everyone were at an outdoor barbecue rather than a drag strip. On the asphalt behind her, cars took off at regular intervals, their engines so loud, Vicky resisted the urge to cover her ears.

Come on, Vicky. Sooner or later you’ve got to do it.

She took another peek.

And her whole body just sort of went oomph.

Brandon leaned against the side of a big rig that hauled his drag bike from track to track, looking very…very…

She thought for a moment.

Gladiator-ish, if there was such a word. He was watching a mechanic work on his bike. Yellow Do Not Cross This Line tape kept fans at bay. Above him someone had pulled a white awning out from the side of the rig. It cast a translucent glow over his darkly tanned skin—as if he stood beneath a photographer’s umbrella—and turned his black leather gear a shade of gray. She didn’t know how he could stand to wear those leathers on a hot, sunny day like today, but she had to admit, he looked, um, hot in them.

She wiped a trickle of sweat off her own forehead. Go on, she silently urged, watching as he leaned forward and said something. But Vicky had never been aggressive where men were concerned. Out on the track, the deafening roar of a race car in the middle of a qualifying run filled the air yet again, but she could still hear the two of them laugh over the sound.

Do it.

Now!

She readjusted the straps of her indigo bag, and headed for him.

He became more beautiful with each step. Race-car drivers were not, as a rule, pretty…at least not in her experience. But this guy was gorgeous in the same way as a Calvin Klein model. Razor-stubble chin. Blond sideburns in front of his ears. Michelangelo’s lips. Botticelli’s wide-armed physique, and the swept-back, shoulder-length blond hair of Perseus. She’d minored in Art…a degree that wasn’t useful in her current job, but terrific for spur-of-the-moment metaphors.

She paused outside the tape, clenched her hands, then sternly told herself to stop being ridiculous. She’d graduated at the top of her class. With honors.

“Hi, Brandon,” she said.

Dizzyingly blue eyes—the same color as oceans south of the equator—gave her a puzzled stare.

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