Ben held up his finger and mouthed “one minute” before he walked off to talk to a guy from our class.
“Is that Liam’s Camaro?” I jerked my head towards the starting line where the tenacious, red machine idled. The symmetry of his vehicle fit in any crowd or on any road. It was tough business not to respect a Camaro. And the tires were so wide that they looked like they would help the car float.
“Yeah,” she said, scrunching up her nose in disgust.
“He’s racing Madoc?” What Madoc would do to Liam’s car would be considered a Shakespearean tragedy. Although I’d never seen Madoc race, I’d heard about it. He wasn’t dirty so much as he was reckless and scared the shit out of the other driver.
“Apparently,” she answered.
“I thought you said Jaredwas going to avenge you.” I placed my hand over my chest and batted my eyelashes.
“Oh, shut up,” K.C. said with fake irritability and took a sip of her beer. “That was actually the plan, but Roman is back from college for the weekend and wanted to race Jared. So ya know…,” she trailed off.
The best had to race the best, I guess.
I started to fidget at the mention of Derek Roman. He was a world-class jerk and treated everyone the same. Like shit. It didn’t matter if you were a man, woman, or child. Young, old, rich, or poor. Roman behaved like everyone was beneath him, and had no regard for ethics. He was dirty.
“Where is Jared?” Suddenly uneasy at the thought of him racing Roman, I scanned the crowd for his wispy brown hair.
“Up with Madoc, giving him a talk.” K.C. gulped down her beer, and by the way she rocked her feet, I could tell she was restless.
“I’m sure Madoc won’t do anything stupid. He won’t want to mess up his car. Liam will be fine,” I assured.
“I couldn’t care less.” Her eyes looked anywhere but at me.
Startled by the thundering roar of an engine, I jerked my head towards the starting line and stood on my tip toes to peer through a gap in the crowd. Jared was leaning on Madoc’s doorframe, talking to the concealed driver. His hair fell in his eyes, and an easy grin spread across his lips. The way his face lifted with the radiant smile…
Oh, someone was playing the steel drums on my stomach.
I hated myself for going gooey at the knees. It was unacceptable to be affected by Jared, of all people. I was here with Ben, and he was very good looking, too, I told myself.
“Hey,” Ben walked back up and put an arm around me. His body next to mine warmed me, and he smelled like cologne.
I almost begged for the flutters or whatever to take root in my stomach, but they never came. Having him close or having his eyes on me just didn’t affect me like it should.
“Hey,” I replied. “Should we move to get a better view?”
“You’re really into this, aren’t you?” Ben looked down at me, an amused expression playing on his face.
“Cars? Hot chicks? Yeah.” I narrowed my eyebrows in a “duh” expression.
“Come this way.” K.C. motioned to the right. “Jared’s parked right off the track. We can watch from over there.”
She was here with Jared. I’d almost forgotten. Of course she’d want to watch the action with him.
And why not? I was over our bullshit, and if he could ignore me for the past two days, then I could do the same.
We fought our way through the crowd as everyone took their viewing positions. Jared was already leaning on the hood of his mean, black car. With one leg propped up on the bumper, he fiddled with something in his hand. His black button down was open to reveal a white t-shirt, and he and the car both looked angry.
“Hi, ya.” K.C. strolled up to him and leaned in.
“Hi, yourself.” He gave her a closed mouth smile, before looking to me. His smile faded before his eyes narrowed on Ben.
“Hey, man.” Ben greeted Jared.
“Hey, how’s it going?” Jared asked pleasantly but looked away too soon.
Ben must’ve realized the rhetorical question, because he didn’t answer.
I stood there, trying to seem disinterested, as I looked anywhere but at Jared. Breaking out in a sweat as the images of us wrapped around each other the other night flashed through my head, I fanned myself slightly with the lapel of my jacket. The awkward vibe in the air made me contemplate who needed to be deleted from this equation to make it more comfortable: Jared, K.C., Ben, or me.
K.C. broke the silence. “And Jared, this is Tatum Brandt. Say ‘hi,’” she joked as Jared slid an arm around her waist. My breathing hitched.
He glanced over at me through hooded eyes, and took in my outfit, only jerking his chin at me before returning his focus to the starting line.
I rolled my eyes and turned toward the action.
“And we’re ready!” A young guy I assumed was the Race Master called out for people to clear the track. My eyes darted to all of the money changing hands as people placed their bets.
The roar of the engines vibrated under my feet and sent shivers up my legs. My toes curled. Damn, I wish I was racing. I hated being a spectator, but I still fidgeted with anticipation.
A girl in a short plaid skirt and tiny red camisole took position in front of the cars and raised her hands in the air.
“Ready?” she called out.
The engines revved, sending shouts of enthusiasm through the crowd.
“Set?” She raised her arms higher.