He wanted her the first time he saw her. It didn’t matter that he was on stage in front of a room full of reporters, or that his publicist was telling him to move on, or that she was asking him a question about racing. One look at her “just been bedded” hair — completely at odds with her deliciously prim appearance — and Ty Riggs is hooked.
Corrine Bellows is one of the woefully few women in a male profession: sports reporting. In a field where “Hey, sweetheart, can you fetch me a cup of copy” is part of her job description, she’s determined to keep things professional. And while interviewing Ty Riggs, the hottest new driver on and off the track, is a major scoop, Corrine knows that she is in major trouble when it becomes clear that Ty wants so much more and is determined to get it. As things heat up between them, Corrine finds herself on shakier ground. Her big secret just may destroy everything.
“And Riggs makes another attempt to—yes! He grabs the lead with only ten laps to go! Ladies and gentlemen, keep your eyes peeled because this will no doubt be a finish y’all don’t want to miss!”
Cori Bellowes pressed her face against the glass wall that overlooked the track. Throughout most of the race, the announcer’s voice had barely cut over the din in the press box. But now that they were getting close to the finish, the race was becoming more intense. All the reporters had grown quiet, barely breathing as they watched the drivers jockey for position at over a hundred fifty miles an hour.
One of the series’ newer drivers—Ty Riggs—had just overtaken a veteran racer and was pulling away from the pack. It was his second year in the Intercomm Cup, the highest level of stock car racing, but he’d come up through the ranks over the past dozen years and made a name for himself in the sport and in celebrity news.
It certainly didn’t hurt that he was gorgeous, too. But his very fine looks were secondary to his racing abilities.
So it wasn’t a surprise that he was tearing things up down there, but that didn’t make it any less exciting. Cori had been following Riggs in the news for years, well before she’d gone to college, then on to journalism school to become a sports reporter. He was known for being intense and focused on the track, but the most laid-back, affable guy off of it.
Except for the knock-down, drag-out fight with Dave Gilroy that he’d gotten into after last week’s race, that was.
Poor Ty was driving today with a not-quite-healed shiner from that scuffle. Of course, the fight—and the subsequent gossip swirling around about the reasons why he and Gilroy came to blows—was one of the main reasons why Cori was here, in the first place. She couldn’t feel too sorry about it.
“And there’s Gilroy in third, trying to make a move up but—no! He’s blocked by Colt!”
Uh oh. A similar move was how the fight started last week. Ty was in the lead and managed to shut out Gilroy on the last lap.
Gilroy accused Ty of cheating and, to everyone’s surprise, it was Ty’s fist that flew first.
Cori contented herself with the assumption that, since it was Kerri Colt who had blocked Gilroy this week, he wouldn’t dare hit a woman, even if she threw the first punch.
She hoped, anyway. Gilroy wasn’t exactly a model citizen.
The cars seemed to pick up speed and even from up in the box, she could hear the scream of the engines on the track below. Ty was still in the lead, hanging on to his position by a narrow margin of distance. She wondered how he felt, knowing that if he won, fans would probably be hoping he’d get into another fight. A driver like Ty, who’d never publicly lost his temper before? It was too sensational not to.
Of course, she didn’t believe the accusations of cheating that Gilroy had slung at Ty. But she could see how, once suspicion was raised, people would begin to wonder. Ty had been on a winning streak at the end of last season, and last week he’d won the first race of this season by a significant margin.
Fans were starting to talk. People would probably want answers.
The orange and white of Ty’s car—the trademark color of his biggest sponsor—was nearly a blur from above.
To have a sponsor like that was what teams dreamed of. It was impressive. But then, so was the team’s founder, Bobby Riggs—a retired racer and Ty’s dad. Bobby had started his own racing team twenty years ago after leaving Youngtown Racing and had built it into a multi-million dollar operation with eight drivers on the payroll.
It would be almost too perfectly tragic, to bring down the biggest names in racing based on a single post-race throwaway insult.
On the track, the pack whipped around the curve, Ty in the lead.
She tried not to let her plans for Ty bother her. Despite the matching black eye he’d given Gilroy, which the other driver definitely deserved, she knew from years of watching his career that Ty was a good guy. She didn’t like the idea of deceiving him.
That’s not your problem. This is your only chance.
Right. She couldn’t allow her misgivings to get in the way of getting the information she needed.
If he won today, he’d give the reporters ten minutes of Q&A in the press room after the race. Either way, tomorrow during Media Day, she would have a chance to interview him one-on-one.
A one-on-one with Ty Riggs. She allowed herself a small, excited smile.
“Keep your eyes peeled, honey. It’s about to get good.” The reporter standing next to her, a man in his mid-forties—who’d been standing way too close to her all day—nudged her with his beefy shoulder. She tottered on her heels, but pressed her palm against the window, steadying herself before she toppled over.
She didn’t even care about the nudge as much as she did the comment. Only a complete idiot wouldn’t realize that the race was about to get good. It already had, in fact. She knew racing. She loved racing. And she was a damned good journalist. She’d waited for too long and worked too hard to give up the chance to actually report on something, instead of fetching coffee and answering phones.
Even if that chance had come at a price.
She suppressed the urge to nudge the guy back…with the spike of her heel. He wasn’t the first man to think that blond hair and a pencil skirt merited condescension and inappropriate come-ons. She was used to male reporters being assholes. She worked for one, after all. And her boss had already asked her to do something that was outside her comfort zone. Something that the wire service she worked for should never have even considered, in the first place.
But what was done, was done. And she was about to deceive one of the most genuinely good people in the racing business.
That was why she was feeling so nervous beneath the excitement.
She wanted to release some of those nerves by inflicting bodily harm on the condescending reporter, but responding to the jerk at her side would only draw undue attention to her. And she already had enough, being the lone woman in the press box. She didn’t want too many eyes on her in the coming weeks.
So she nodded her head just slightly in acknowledgment, then focused on the track below. As soon as it was over, they’d be rushing to the press room, and she wanted to be sure she didn’t miss a moment of the race.
The announcer’s voice echoed through the box. “Going into lap one-ninety-five, and Colt is working her way through the pack. She’s moving up behind Riggs…she’s challenging him…but Riggs blocks! Colt is forced to drop back with only five laps to go.”
Cori watched Kerri Colt’s car as it chased Riggs’s around the next lap. The two were famous for their friendly rivalry on the track and their close relationship off it. Not that there was anything romantic going on between them. Colt was formerly Kerri Hart, the only woman driver in stock car racing, who had married her team co-owner, Ranger Colt, last year. Kerri and Ranger seemed like the happiest couple Cori had ever seen—at least, they did in the photos of them online. Cori had followed Kerri for a long time, too, starting back when Kerri had still been racing on the Indy circuit. Colt was only a couple years older than Cori, but she’d already accomplished so much, and in one of the toughest sports imaginable.
Cori might faint if she actually got to meet the woman in person.
Of course, that probably wouldn’t earn her any points as a serious journalist.
Then again, considering that Cori was about to perpetrate the most ethically questionable act of her life, a little fainting might not matter at all.
Audra North is a contemporary romance author of more than twenty romances, including the Stanton Family series from Entangled Publishing, the Hard Driving series from St. Martin’s Press, and the Pushing the Boundaries series from Samhain Publishing. She is the owner and publisher of Pink Kayak Press, which focuses on the publication of diverse romance works. Winter Rain, a Pink Kayak Press anthology, won a gold medal in the 2015 Independent Publisher Awards. Audra enjoys speaking to writing groups and at industry conferences. She is also an avid jogger and loves running marathons. She has three children and lives with her family outside of Boston.