Letting it go, I looked out the window and tried to even out my breathing. I guess I was glad it still existed. But it was my mom’s, and he had no right to take it.
But he still had it? Even after everything. Why?
I made a mental note to get it back after the race.
“Are.We.Ready?” Zack’s voice startled me as he shouted to the crowd. They screamed through their beer drenched excitement.
Jared tuned the iPod to Bullet for My Valentine’s Waking the Demon. I gripped the steering wheel, using the music to clear my head and zone in.
“Ready?” Zack called out and I revved my engine, seeing Roman’s girl jump to rev her engine immediately after.
“Set?” Jared put one hand on the dash while turning up the music with the other.
“Go!” Zack dropped his arms.
Slamming on the gas, I peeled over the dirt road and took off. As the music filled the moment, my hands pushed against the steering wheel, so that my back dug into the seat. With my arms full of tension, I focused on the road ahead.
Shit! The car had a lot of power.
“The first turn comes up fast,” Jared warned. I didn’t know if the other car was next to me or behind me. All I knew was that it wasn’t in front of me, and I didn’t care about anything else. I would race this car without any opponent.
My thighs, dampened with sweat, grated across the seat as I lifted my leg to push in the clutch. I lightly applied the brakes in preparation for rounding the corner. As I let off the brake and made the first turn, the rear started to slide. I quickly steered to the right as the car slid left, to keep from skidding out. Dust clouded the track, and my heart was pounding. I stepped down on the clutch and shifted back into third gear. As my speed picked up and I shifted immediately into fourth, I caught sight of the other car in my rearview mirror.
“Hit the gas!” Jared shouted. “And don’t turn so hard. You’re losing time correcting yourself.”
“Who’s in first place?” I reminded him.
“Don’t get cocky.” Jared alternated between scoping the road and looking behind us to the Trans Am.
Sweat dripped from my brow and my fingers were exhausted from clenching the wheel so hard. Relaxing, I turned up the music and kicked us into sixth gear, bypassing fifth altogether.
This is awesome! The easy way the gas propelled the car forward felt like a space shuttle. Or so I assumed.
“Next turn is coming. You need to slow down.”
Yap, yap, yap.
“Tatum, you need to slow down.” Jared’s voice echoed somewhere in the back of my mind.
The turn was three seconds away, and the vibrations shooting through my legs prevented me from laying off the gas. Gripping the steering wheel tighter, I charged ahead.
Taking my foot off the gas, but not braking, I made a sharp left, and then skidded right, and then forced the wheel left again until I was straightened out. More dust flew around us, but I recovered quickly and slammed on the gas again. Looking behind us, I saw that the Trans Am had spun out around that turn and was now trying to recover. They were more than thirty yards behind us.
“Don’t do that again,” Jared grumbled, now holding the dash with both hands as I stared down the road ready for more. The next turn came and went successfully no matter how much Jared wailed about slowing down.
For an ass**le and a rule-breaker, he really played it safe. And for someone who always played it safe, I’d turned out to be quite the rule-breaker.
As we advanced on the last turn with a significant gain, I slowed down to about thirty miles an hour and shifted down to third. Cruising around the bend at a comfortable speed without any skidding or dust, I looked over at Jared with a wide-eyed, innocent expression.
“Is this okay, Ms. Daisy?” Biting the corner of my mouth to keep from laughing, I noticed his eyes flash to my lips. Heat rose in his gaze, and tingles blossomed through my stomach and down to the sensitive area between my legs.
“Tatum?” His eyes narrowed to slits. “Stop toying with your opponent and win the damn race already.”
“Yes’m, Ms. Daisy,” I retorted with my best Southern accent.
I cruised over the finish line at a safe and hilarious thirty-five miles an hour as I caught the Trans Am in my rearview mirror stuttering around the last turn. Clusters of people swarmed the car, but Jared and I stayed inside for a few moments.
Putting the car into neutral and lifting the e-brake, I leaned my head against the head rest and massaged the steering wheel. My pulse was still going a mile a minute, and I felt alive. That was the most exciting thing I’d ever done. Every nerve on my body felt like it was on a sugar high.
“Thank you, Jared,” I whispered, not looking at him. “Thank you for asking me to do this.”
I reached over and grabbed my mom’s necklace off the mirror and slipped it over my head.
When I looked over at him, he was leaning against his fist with a finger across his lips. What was he trying to hide? A smile?
Raking a hand through his hair, he opened his door, and the sounds of cheers and screaming rushed in like water into a sinking boat. Looking down at his boots, he shook his head. “Waking the demon….” he mumbled to himself, and I wasn’t sure what he meant.
Before he climbed out, he looked over at me again through hooded lids. “Thank you ,Tate,” he whispered.
The hair on my neck stood up, and my hands shook.
He hadn’t called me “Tate” since we were fourteen. Not since we were friends.