Carrick gets in his beside me.
The marshal stands at the side of the track, green flag in hand.
We’re on for fifteen minutes. Looking at probably less than a minute a lap, it’s going to be about fifteen laps.
He holds out three fingers, indicating his countdown.
I rev my engine.
Flag goes down, and we’re off, zooming and building speed down the track.
Carrick is ahead of me but not as far as he should be, and I know he’s holding back for me.
I should take it as a nice thing, but I’m competitive by nature, and it just pisses me off. I don’t need sympathy.
We’re racing around, but Carrick isn’t putting too much distance between us. He’s either trying to wind me up or be kind.
Well, whatever it is, it’s bugging the hell out of me.
My killer instinct kicks in, and I now have to win this race no matter what.
When I eventually see the marshal on the track, he’s showing the white flag, telling us we’re on our last lap, and I already know what I’m going to do.
I’m going to win, no matter what.
Carrick is still just ahead of me, and I know he’s just waiting until the last corner to get through, and then he’ll fly off and cross the finish line.
Yeah, not going to happen, buddy.
We approach the final corner.
I see my opportunity coming up. We’re down at forty kilometers per hour to take the corner, so I take advantage. Instead of slowing further to take it like Carrick is, I keep speed and clip the back end of his kart, spinning him off the track and onto the dirt.
Glancing back to check that he’s okay, I see his kart on the dirt, and Carrick’s head is turned my way. I don’t have to see his face to know he’s pissed.
Laughing to myself, I slam my foot on the pedal and zip over the finish line.
The checkered flag comes down, and I win.
Grinning to myself, I drive my kart over to the pit. Stopping, I climb out and pull my helmet and balaclava off.
Seeing Carrick driving in toward me, I start dancing around, doing a little victory dance.
Carrick slams on the brakes, parking the kart behind mine.
He climbs out, yanking his helmet and balaclava off. He’s scowling.
Oh, he’s mad!
That only makes my smile wider, and keeps me dancing.
“I can’t believe you just did that!” he exclaims.
“Did what?” I play dumb.
“Knocked me off the track! You fucking cheated!”
Stopping my winner’s dance, I place my hands on my hips. “I did not cheat. I won.”
“By cheating!” He throws his hands up.
“Oh, someone’s a bad loser. Well, if you hadn’t been doing the pity drive, you might have thought of the move yourself and won. You’re just mad ’cause I got there first! A strategic move is not cheating, Carrick.”
He growls, which only sets me off laughing.
“I beat the great Carrick Ryan, and he can’t take it!” I sing.
He gives me an exasperated look, a hand tugging on his hair. “You didn’t win because you fucking cheated!”
“Winner! Winner! Andi’s the winner!” I chant. Lifting my hands in the air, I move my body around like I’m doing a cheer.
I’m laughing so hard now that I have to bend over to catch my breath. I currently have tears in my eyes. I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard. But I do remember the last time I did laugh, and it was with him.
It’s always with him.
I see his feet approaching, and as I lift my head, I find he’s standing directly in front of me, his face all shades of serious.
I wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes with the backs of my hands, still chuckling. “Beat by one of your mechanics—and a female one at that. What’s this gonna do for your reputation, Carrick? This could kill your career. You’ll be ruined if this ever gets out.”
His lips twitch. “Am I being blackmailed again?”
I tilt my head to the side, grinning. Lifting one shoulder, I say, “Maybe.”
He shakes his head. I can tell he’s desperately trying not to laugh, but his eyes are shining with it.
“Blackmail, cheating, and now blackmail again. Who are you? And what have you done with the Andressa I know?”
“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.” I wink, ticking his nose with my finger.
He catches my finger, holding it.
The instant my skin makes contact with his, it’s like something supercharged has just conducted its way through my body.
I suddenly feel very alert and very aware of him.
The way his chest is lifting on each breath. The parting of his lips as he exhales. How tense his body is. How very close he is to me.
Everything is heightened. And the air thick all around us.
I meet his eyes, and my mouth dries instantly.
The laughter that was in them is gone and has been replaced with something else entirely.
It’s a heat I feel deep inside of me.
His fingers slide over my hand, curling around it, gripping. “Andressa, you’re—” His voice has changed. It’s deeper, husky.
“The winner?” I cut him off, trying to inject sass into my voice. But it didn’t work. I just sounded all breathy.
I need to bring us back to where we were, but I don’t know how.