Open your eyes; listen closely to the sound of my voice. With every word and every number, you move faster and faster. On the count of ten, you will be in Horizon.
One. Your pulse begins to quicken.
Two. Your friends rattle in the backseat.
Three. You’re moving faster and faster, the ocean roaring beside you.
Four. Your thoughts begin the wash away in a cloud of wind and dust.
Five. Coloured lights flurry in the distance.
Six. The lights shutter, everything lost in a thin blue haze.
Seven. You hurdle faster and faster into infinity.
Eight. The crowd thunders.
Nine. You cross into a larger, more colourful world.
On the count of ten, everything you have ever known fades away. You will be in Horizon.
I say… ten.
Genoa, Florida, Italy
June 26th 2014
The Mediterranean was just as beautiful as she had imagined, the coastal strip that was the Italian Riviera making her impatient to finally be off the ferry. She wanted to drive alongside the sea, to explore its twisting roads. Unfortunately, she was not here on vacation. She would still enjoy some of the sights but would probably not have time to actually take it in, not with how packed her schedule was going to be. By what she had gathered from her agent, she would be expected to race all over Northern Italy and Southern France in what was hailed as the world’s biggest car racing event, the Horizon Festival.
Turning her gaze away from the breathtaking view, Emma Taylor looked at the silver key fob in her hand, her finger lightly tracing the ‘H’ engraved underneath her name. She had to give it to the event organiser’s originality. It was a unique invitation card.
The Festival was opened to all, be they rally or F1 drivers, amateurs and professionals alike, all competing for coloured bracelets, the winners going on to bigger events. Only a select few had been officially invited as VIPs, famous race car drivers from all over the world, experts in their fields. Not only would they join the higher tiers competitions but also take part in exhibitions races and extravagant showcases meant to please and amaze the crowd. Now those were right in Emma’s alley and the main reason she had accepted the invitation. She never could resist a good challenge.
She briefly closed her eyes, sighing softly. Though coming here did mean her anonymity would unfortunately come to an end. Still, it was too good an opportunity to pass on, something her agent had stressed every hours since she had received the invitation. At least, unlike her father, Emma would not have to worry about sex groupies, though it was not for the lack of trying on their part if the fan mail she received almost daily was any indication. She could not help but wonder if those would stop once the truth about her came out. Somehow, she highly doubted it but one could fervently hope.
“May I have your attention, please!” someone suddenly called out, a stylish woman walking towards where the others were congregating, a clipboard in her hand and a headset on her elegantly coiffed hair. The event organiser most probably. One look at the shore showed that they were just about to dock. Finally! “I need all who have received an invitation to follow me down to the cargo hold.”
That was unexpected but she nevertheless pushed herself away from the railing and walked across the sun deck, the event organiser looking at her with a raised eyebrow and a fake syrupy smile on her lips.
“I’m sorry but only those—” this one started to say but Emma effectively cut her off by flashing her key fob making sure the woman could well read the name etched on it. Just seeing this one’s reaction was worth coming here.
“So the cargo hold?” She only received a very muted nod. “Thanks.”
“Wait! Could you— I mean— would you mind autographing my clipboard? Please?” She hesitated for a moment but the woman’s hopeful smile burned through her reluctance.
“Laurie! I mean, that’s my name, Laurie.”
Emma smiled while autographing the clipboard. She wondered if ‘Laurie’ knew she held something quite unique. Due to the fact she always kept well away from fans, she never signed autographs. It seemed that was something she would now have to get used to.
She wondered if it was too late to take a car and drive like mad to the nearest airport. Naturally, she would not. She was not the sort to run away from anything. Like her father always said, when you come to a tight hairpin turn, you clench your teeth, one hand on the wheel, one on the handbrake, and simply go for it.
With a wink that made the event organiser actually squeal softly, Emma went down to the cargo hold where the other eleven VIPs were though what truly caught her eyes was the car, a bright yellow Lamborghini Huracán. She made a beeline to it, her fingers lightly caressing its beautiful body. She yearned to make it roar like a beast, to push it to its limits, to make it do things it had not been built to do.
“Wow! They did think of everything,” she heard someone say, one of the drivers giving her a leering smile. “Not only do they provide the cars but the sexy ass to drape over it.”
She turned and gave him a mocking smirk.
“Oh look! Someone with no class. You must be a NASCAR driver,” she answered sweetly.
“A famous NASCAR driver! I don’t recall ever seeing your tits on any magazine covers, sweet-cheeks.”
“You’re ‘famous’, huh! Since when? Last season? How long before you get knocked down the podium? Next season?” Emma rested a hand on her hip and gave the man a quick once over, her lips drawn in a sneer. “Please! You guys can’t stay on the podium for more than two seasons. I bet you’re barely recognised outside the U.S. I wouldn’t call that ‘famous’. And no, my ass is not here to drape over a car. I’m here to make you eat my dirt and watch as I win all the races.”
“As if I’d believe you’re a race car driver! Sorry, sweetheart, but Mario Kart isn’t the type of racing included in this festival. But, if you hang with me and play nice, I’ll make sure you have a good view of the finishing line,” the man chuckled rudely. Though none of the other drivers joined him, neither did they try and stop him.
This level of sexism was one of the reasons why Emma had opted for anonymity when she had started her career. However, there was nothing that would bring her more pleasure than erasing the smug look off his face.
“No matter the style of racing, including Mario Kart, I’d beat your dumb redneck ass hands down and, compared to you, I can do any types of races, not just go round and around always turning left like some sort of moron. Your name, whatever it may be, will never be as recognised as mine. I’m C.J. Taylor.”
Dead silence settled in the cargo hold, the men all looking at her in shock.
“Wait! You mean, the C.J. Taylor? The stunt driver who is featured in most movies, TV series, music videos, and ads since the last two years? That C.J. Taylor? The co-owner of CET Customs Auto Shop in California? THAT C.J. Taylor?!” one of the men babbled. “But— you’re a woman!”
Emma made a gun with her fingers and pretended to shoot it at them.
“Bingo!” she replied. “Yes, that’s all me, Charles Junior Taylor.”
“Charles— As in, Charles Taylor, the Rally driver? The man who never lost a damn race until he retired?!”
“Yes, that’s my father—” The NASCAR driver interrupted her with a snort.
“Easy enough to say all that. How about some proof, sweet-cheeks?”
“My invitation, the same one as yours, should be proof enough but, then again, it’d be dependent on whether you know how to read or not,” she answered sarcastically.
Emma briefly looked around the cargo hold and then closed her eyes.
“Nissan GT-R, MaLauren P1, Audi R8, Lexus LFA, Pagani Huayra, Ferrari LaFerrari, Dodge Viper, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Koenigsegg Agera R, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Aston Martin V12 Zagato, and, last but far from the least, the Lamborghini Huracán,” she enumerated, opening her eyes once she was finished. “I know more about cars than you could ever imagine, sweetheart.”
She had practically grown up on the race tracks, shadowing her father from the moment she was barely able to walk. Everything she knew about cars and racing had come from him. The other rally drivers had started to call her Junior and the nickname stuck. It had been easy for her to go under the name C.J. when she started her stunt driving career and, since car racing was still a very predominantly male occupation, the name made people automatically assumed she was a man.
Her career would probably have stalled from the get go if if had been known she was a woman. After all, like her father’s buddies had often said, it was too bad she had been born female and thus not be able to become a race car driver. No, her future, according to them, had been to find a good husband, hopefully a rally driver so that the great Charles Taylor might be blessed with a grandson to pass on his legacy.
And now here she was, at the top of her career, hailed as the best stunt driver and still facing the same blatant sexism as when she was younger. It was infuriating!
“Good! You’re all here. I want to thank each and everyone of you for accepting to be a part of this unique festival!” Laurie-the-event-organiser cheerfully said, the woman’s high heel clicking loudly in the closed in cargo hold. Emma’s feet were hurting just thinking about wearing those shoes. She much preferred her cowboy boots. “Now I can imagine you’re all wondering why I brought you here. As you can see, there are twelve of you and twelve cars. The festival is actually not set in Genoa per say. The town is too small for the sort of venue we have. So, the Director of the Festival thought it would be a good idea to have you drive there. Now, I’ll assign each of you a key and, at the same time, give you all a Bluetooth device so that Mr. Miller can communicate with all of you directly.”
So the rumours were true. The Horizon Festival had been able to convince Bennet ‘The Boomerang’ Miller to be their front man. The man was supposedly a god in the street racing scene. Hell, he had easily won the last Horizon Festival which was no easy feat since it demanded a variety of skills most common drivers lacked. She wondered if they would race against him. Perhaps as the last event before the closing of the festival. Now that would be something she would love to do, to pit herself against The Boomerang. She never was able to refuse a good challenge, the harder the better. Supposedly his drifting style was unsurpassed. She wanted to see it for herself.
“Miss Taylor?” She turned her attention back to the event organiser. “Here’s your key. I assigned the Lamborghini to you.” She could not resist smiling brightly. “Lucky me! It’s my favourite car.”
“Oh I’m so glad I got it right! I wasn’t sure the information on the forum were correct. I mean they did get your height wrong. I so can’t wait to correct them on that one! Oh! Is your birthday really on March the 18th? Are you really 26 years old? Are you single?”
Emma could only demurely nod while trying to assimilate the fact there was at least one forum on the internet devoted to her. She felt like some sort of teenage idol. Oh crap! She dearly hoped no one had written fanfictions about her! She would probably be crushing some people’s fantasy when it came widely known that C.J. Taylor was a woman. Then again, it did not seem to bother the event organiser who kept blushing at her like some sort of schoolgirl.
“Laurie, are they set?” she heard someone say through the Bluetooth on her left ear. Australian voice. It had to be Bennet Miller.
“Yes, Mr. Miller. Everything is set. The ferry is docking as we speak.”
“Fantastic news! Hi everyone, as you might have guessed, I’m Bennet Miller and I’m in charge of the festival. I want it to make it the most fantastic event ever held and each and everyone of you will help me accomplish just that. I must say that the PR for the Horizon Festival has totally paid off! There will be a massive crowd at the dock to see the cars so take it easy when coming off the ferry. When you reach the road you can put your foot down as I’m sure you’re all itching to do. You’ll be heading inland and rendezvous at the festival tonight. The coordinates are already set in the GPS. It’s not a race to get there but you wouldn’t want to be last to arrive now would you? Before I let you go, I just want to thank all of you for helping get these cars to Horizon. Believe me, it’s just a taste of what’s to come. This is going to be the summer of our lives!”
The summer of their lives. Emma was more than down with that. She had been working almost nonstop for the last two years so this festival came as a nice reprieve no matter how charged her days would be, a time to simply have fun and enjoy it to the fullest. And who knew? Perhaps she would even find someone to share it with for a brief moment. Racing adrenaline and sex always made such a nice combination.
“Well, let’s get this show on the road,” she whispered, slipping her Maui Jim sunglasses on and making sure her hair was securely held in its ponytail. Only then did she get behind the wheel of the Lamborghini and turned the ignition on. The deep purring of the engine, the suppressed power she could feel through the steering wheel almost made Emma wet herself in bliss.
“Have fun out there, guys. And remember, impressing the crowd is what the Horizon is all about! These Genoa streets are made for drifting, I swear. I’ll see you tonight at the festival. Drive fast but drive safely and remember, races aren’t won through sheer speed alone,” Bennet Miller told them moment before the cargo hatch opened, the Italian sun briefly blinding.
She eased the car out of the ferry and onto the dock. The man had been right. There was a lot of people gathered around, cheering them on. It was electrifying, the adrenaline making her blood sing.
With a grin, Emma revved the car. The crowd cheered louder. Well, she was nothing if not a showoff. She was, after all, a stunt driver. When they came to the turn bringing them onto the main road, she stepped on the gas pedal hard before braking and swerving the steering wheel sharply to the side. In a screech of tires, the Lamborghini went into a drift, the car sliding around the turn. The crowd went utterly wild.
Easily transitioning out of the drift, Emma changed gears and drove away in a burst of speed, her concentration sharp and focused, her breathing deep and steady. The race was on to the Horizon Festival, a race she planned on winning.
Dusk had already fallen by the time Emma arrived at the festival site. The GPS had been a great help in navigating the twisting roads of the Italian Riviera but had become unnecessary the closer she got. The festival could be seen from far away, flares of lights and bursts of fireworks flashing in the darkening sky. The balmy summer air coming in from the opened window combined with the music blasting loudly from the radio just added to the electrifying sensation of it all.
She was the first to reach the festival though not by much. It was only the fact she was skilled in weaving through traffic at high speed that had made it possible for her to win this unofficial race. It would be interesting to see how she fared on a more traditional track against the other drivers.
Slowly, one by one, they drove inside the festival ground, crew members keeping the cheering crowd at bay, until they reached the auto show area, several cars already on display. There were so many people gathered around, many of them women skimpily dressed. Groupies. No show was complete without them, unfortunately. Hopefully, she would be able to slip through the crowd and enjoy the festival in peace. At least she should be able to until her first event. So far, no one other than the other VIPs and the event organiser knew who she was. One night to enjoy herself to the fullest.
Getting out of the Lamborghini, Emma looked around wondering where Bennet Miller was. After all, he had said he would meet them here but other than crew members, no one came forward to greet them. Guess the man was too busy. Then again, with how big that festival was, it was not surprising in the least. It had to be a headache to organise such a beast and make sure everything ran smoothly.
“Hey you survived!” she suddenly heard the man through the Bluetooth device. “Sorry I can’t be there to welcome all of you but something came up that needed my attention. But enough of that! So? What do you think? Perfect mix of music and machines, right? This was a long time in the making but totally worth it. Tomorrow morning you’ll all get fresh cars and then we’re off on our first road trip! But for tonight… Welcome to Horizon!”
Welcome indeed! Untying her hair, her fingers combing the knots out of it, Emma closed her Bluetooth Device. She did not want to be bothered tonight. She was so ready to enjoy the evening! This was most probably going to be her last night as a normal unknown person for come morning, C.J. Taylor would take centre stage in the greatest car racing event of their time!
With a soft defeated sigh, Ben Miller took off his Bluetooth device and put it in his pants’ pocket before tiredly rubbing the bridge of his nose. He had pulled a lot of strings, had made offers that could not be refused, had spent countless hours dealing with agents, all to have twelve of the most famous race cars drivers, his VIPs, people he had personally selected as the best in their fields, from the stunt driver to the F1 pilot, everything to make his festival the best ever. And how had he repaid them? By being stuck dealing with rising problems thus not being able to meet with them. What a host he was! He would not blame anyone if they chose to leave.
“Mr. Miller—” He sharply turned to look at his assistant while raising his hand.
“Didn’t I tell you, mate? Just call me Ben, alright? Especially when we’re surrounded by people.” He had been able to ditch the latest mob of fan girls but barely. They were somewhere on the festival grounds, probably sniffing to try and catch his scent. Just for one night he wanted to be as incognito as his fame could allow. Was that too much to ask? He liked his fans but, at the same time, he often wanted some peace from the fawning, the adulation and, most importantly, from the fame seekers who were much too numerous for his taste.
Sometimes he did yearn for the time when he had just started street racing, when the name Bennet ‘The Boomerang’ Miller had meant almost nothing, a time when he could flirt with a woman with the knowledge that her interest was genuine and not because she was starstruck.
“As I was saying,” his assistant continued on. “The mayor of Nice categorically wants you to call him back so you can reassure him that we won’t be wrecking his city otherwise we’ll have to find a new road trip destination.”
“What? He already accepted months ago! You’re telling me he’s going back on his word now that the festival has started?”
“I know that but—”
Ben did not hear the rest of what the man was saying for someone had inadvertently bumped into him.
“Oh, sorry!” the young woman said, flashing him an apologetic smile while walking away though not before quickly checking him out. Ben silently chuckled at noticing her swift interest. To be fair, he was checking her out too, his eyes following her through the crowd. She had sun-bleached hair, a long sleeved shirt that enticingly moulded her body, and cut-off denim shorts showcasing long tanned legs, a pair of cowboy boots completing the ensemble. She was a heady combination of a beach girl and a free-spirit, one he never could resist. And the best part of it all was that she had not fallen at his feet professing her undying love to The Boomerang.
“Mr. Mil— Ben! Are you listening?”
“Hmm? What? I’m sorry but what were you saying?” he mumbled briefly turning to look at his assistant. Unfortunately that was long enough to lose sight of the woman. Shit!
“You need to call the mayor of Nice.”
“I will but tomorrow. I want to enjoy this night.”
“You can’t be serious! The road trip to Nice is tomorrow morning! We’ve got no backup plans!”
Ben shook his head with a sigh. Why had he accepted on being the Horizon Festival’s Director? It would have been much simpler to only be here as a driver. Granted, it would not have been fair for the others to have him compete but still.
“It’s my festival, yeah? So I want to enjoy it a bit,” he explained. “I’ve been dealing with last minutes problems all day so I think I deserve a break, don’t you?” That said, he started to walk in the direction the young woman had taken.
“But what about Nice?” his assistant shouted. He turned and walked a few steps backwards, giving the man his most charming smile.
“No worries! She’ll be right, mate. Go on and enjoy yourself! It’s Horizon, for fuck’s sakes, yeah?”
The night was young, the crowd’s mood contagious, the music making him want to dance. All he needed was someone with whom to share it all and he had already set his sights on one. All he needed to do was find her. Good thing Ben loved nothing more than a good chase.
This place was so amazing! Everywhere she looked, new sights and sounds enchanted Emma. It was like one giant carnival without it being corny. There was something for everyone, from a large stage where DJs performed, to amusement rides, and, of course, the auto shows. There was even a place for people to compete in informal races. If that was not enough, multiple air balloons drifted lazily over the entire site giving the people in them a perfect view. Truly, they had gone all out for the festival.
Though she wanted to experience as much of it all as she could, she nevertheless went to where one of the large Ferris wheels was set up. Her blood was still buzzing with the adrenaline boost the race to the festival had given her and she would not be able to settle down and appreciate the night if she did not take a moment to simply catch her breath.
It seemed that she was always racing, her life in nonstop motion, her thoughts constantly on the next stunt. The only place where she felt like she could just stop and simply breathe was in a slow moving Ferris wheel. It never failed to ground her in the moment and not simply watch everything pass by in a blur of speed. When she was in one, she had no control and could only wait until it let her out.
Emma had barely sat down in the seat that her lungs slowly expanded to let in more oxygen while her coiled muscles released their tension. It was exactly what she needed. Now all that was left was for the wheel operator to lock the front bar and let herself be swept away into the night sky.
“Hey, wait up! Excuse me. Just passing through. Oi, mate, wait up!” someone shouted, a man weaving between the people waiting in line for the ride. It was the same man she had accidentally bumped into not too long ago. “Sorry to bother but I wanted to know if this seat is taken.”
It was corny in a sweet way and he was cute with his short side-shaved dark auburn hair, thin beard covering his jawline and casual clothes. He was just the sort of guy she usually went for. Plus he was obviously Australian and that accent was already curling her toes. She was never able to resist men with such accents.
She smiled at him. He smiled back. Damn, even his smile was cute.
“No, it’s not,” she finally answered while scooting slightly to the right to give him space on the seat. They remained silent as the wheel operator locked the bar in front of them. Slowly, they rose up.
“Hi, I’m Ben,” the young man said, turning to look at her. There was a twinkle of merriment in his dark brown eyes.
“Emma,” she replied preferring not to go by her career name just in case. No, tonight she was only Emma and not someone famous.
“Emma. That’s a sweet name,” he chuckled. She felt a tingle travel down her back at how he pronounced it. “American? I mean, I’m guessing you are.”
“You’re guessing right. I’m from Venice Beach, California,” she explained. Actually, that was where the custom shop was, her father living in a penthouse not far from it. Since she was almost constantly on the move, she had not true fixed domicile other than the room at the back of the shop where she sometimes crashed in whenever she was in town.
“Venice Beach? Do you surf?”
Usually such small talk got on her nerves but Ben’s carefree attitude made her feel at ease, his genuine interest refreshing. It felt right getting to know one another while riding a Ferris wheel, the sounds and sights of the festival all around them. There was, though, something vaguely familiar about him, as if she had talked to him before but that was impossible. She had had no contact with anyone except for the other VIP drivers and that crazed event organiser.
“I do. Not as often as I would like to but, whenever I have spare time, you can bet I’m riding the waves.” After all, surfing was just another manner of doing stunts and getting the adrenaline pumping. “What about you?” she asked back.
“Well, I’m Australian in case it wasn’t extremely obvious. I’m from Newcastle, New South Wales. And, like any good Aussies, I do surf.” He slightly turned on the bench to face her. “What brings you to the Horizon Festival?”
She did not want to outright lie to him but there were ways to answer such questions without giving too much information.
“The showcases,” she answered truthfully though not mentioning that she would be the one performing them. “I love cars, have always loved them, the fastest the better, and since I missed the last Horizon in Colorado, I decided to come to this one. The fact it’s held in Italy and France is an added bonus.” It was not a lie, she had missed the festival when it had been held two years ago. She had been too busy building her own racing career back then to take part in it.
“Oh I was there! It was grand though nothing like this one,” Ben told her. “So, you surf and you like cars, huh. Your boyfriend is a lucky guy.” He was obviously fishing for a certain sort of information.
“I would have to find one able to keep up with me first. But, so far, no luck,” she said with a laugh. It was a forthright answer as to her single status. “What about you? What brings you to this festival?”
He seemed to hesitate for a moment but them shook his head slightly.
“Truthfully? I work for Horizon,” he answered, his head turning to look at the view below them. “I’m in charge of some of the cars.” He had to be a mechanic. After all, with a festival this big, they had to have a full team of mechanics. Who would have thought that she would bump into a cute Australian guy who liked to surf and with whom she would be able to talk cars?
“So I take it that you like cars too?”
“What’s not to like about cars?” he almost shouted enthusiastically.
“Oh, I completely agree with you on that one,” she laughed before gazing at him with a cocked eyebrow. “Does your girlfriend share you passion for cars?” He was not the only one curious about their state of relationships.
“I wouldn’t know since I don’t have one. My crazy schedule doesn’t mesh well with meeting girls, let alone those who could endure my passion. Well, until this festival that is,” he explained, his arm going to rest on the back of the seat, his fingers just shy of touching the nape of her neck. Her skin was fairly tingly from their nearness. “What’s your favourite, by the way? Car, I mean.”
That was an easy answer for her.
“Lamborghini. Like I said, the faster the better. I saw a gorgeous Huracán in one of the auto shows here. Nothing can compare to the beauty of its lines. What about you? Any cars that grab your fancy?”
“Though I do love good old muscle cars I must admit I’m more partial to Japanese ones like the Toyota Supra. Now that’s a car one can have fun with,” he replied.
“Yes it is. Not only fast but a sweet drifter too especially if its suspension and differential have been modified.”
He suddenly bent his head towards her, his fingers lightly touching the side of her neck.
“Now you’re talking my language, Emma,” he whispered, his gaze moving from her eyes down to her lips. Emma resisted the urge to wet them hungrily. She was of a mind to grab him by the shirt and deeply kiss him but a sudden bump made her look away from him to the wheel operator who was stabilising their seat before unlocking the bar. The ride was over. She had not even seen the time pass. Were those rides not supposed to last longer?
Ben lithely got up and offered her his hand.
“Come on,” he said. “The night is still young.”
She grabbed it without hesitation. Not only was the night indeed still young but also very promising.
It felt natural to walk around the festival site holding Emma’s hand. Ben had never met anyone quite like her. Sure, he knew women who liked cars, or at least pretended to like his fans, but not many were able to talk about them the way she did. He wondered where she had come to her knowledge but she was not forthcoming with much information about herself. To be fair, neither was he.
He had not lied too much when he had told her he was working for Horizon. In a manner of speaking, he was. He was not trying to be deceiving, he just did not want to risk having her act differently due to who he was. Although his cover had almost been blown away when his assistant had inadvertently seen him. Only his vigorous shake of the head had stopped the dratted man from coming to nag him once more about calling the mayor of Nice. It had been a good thing Emma had not noticed the exchange. He did not want to add to the half-truths he had already told her.
“So what do you want to do?” he asked her having to bend his head towards her so she could hear him since they were near the main stage, the music good but loud. Instead of answering, Emma gave him a bright smile and pulled him towards the dancing crowd.
Though he wanted to enjoy himself, Ben nevertheless took a moment to look around, spotting the different security guards roaming around, watching for anything out of the ordinary. The last thing he wanted was for people, especially women, to get hurt during his festival.
Thus reassured that everything was running as it should be, he turned his attention back to Emma. His breath got lodged in his throat. There she was, in front of him, her body sensually moving to the rhythm of the music, her hands languorously lifting that mane of sun-bleached hair. He wanted to touch her but was not sure he could. Granted, she had given him hints that she was interested but he could not assume. However, unlike some women he knew, she was not afraid of taking the first step. No, it seemed Emma was a bold girl. Just the way he liked them.
“Come on, dance with me,” she told him, her hand pulling him close to her, her body almost touching his as she continued to move to the beat of the music. She was absolutely entrancing.
He slipped one arm around her waist and almost moaned when she hooked a leg on his hip while bending her upper body back, her hands caressing their way down his chest. Her grey shirt lifted up revealing her abdomen. Its skin was as tanned as her legs. He felt the desire to trail his tongue across her exposed navel but she snapped back up before he could succumb to the temptation, his free hand going to grab her leg still around his hip to steady her. Their faces were a mere inch apart, their ragged breath mingling, their gaze locked.
He watched as she slowly bit her lower lip making his blood boil in desire. He badly wanted to kiss her but, instead, he let his hand travel up her back until it reached her neck. She pushed her chest against his, the press of her firm breasts making him clench his teeth hard, her leg sliding down his. He was fast losing control. By her arched eyebrow, Ben knew she felt how hard he had become. He gave her a roguish wink instead of trying to hide how she affected him.
With a sultry smile, Emma turned so her back was now pressed against him. Still keeping to the rhythm of the music, she sensually moved down into a crouch before getting back up, her ass teasingly rubbing his erection.
“Emma…” he hissed but all she did was bring her arms up and around his neck, her body sinuously moving against his.
He grabbed her hips and pulled her closer to him, his hands slipping into the front pockets of her cut off denim shorts to stop himself from grabbing her inner thighs. His fingers touched something metallic in the right hand pocket. A key fob?
Something pulled at his brain but before Ben could concentrate on it, Emma bent her head back against his shoulder exposing the side of her throat to him. His hand slipped out of her right pocket and travelled up under her shirt until he reached her ribcage, his thumb barely grazing the underside of her left breast. Turning his head slightly, he breathed in the soft fragrance of her skin, his lips just shy of touching her. He felt more than heard her moan.
“Ben…,” she whispered against his ear, her hot ragged breath making him close his eyes tightly as he strove to control himself. “I want you. I want you now.”
His eyes snapped open. Turning her in his arms so she faced him, he gazed deeply in her eyes. There was no hesitation, no doubts, only raw desire.
He gently tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before grabbing her hand and guiding her out of the crowd. For the first time since planning his Horizon Festival, Ben felt that it was too big. It would take them much too long to reach his trailer and everywhere else was just too public for his taste. The only place left was the main garage. The cars there had already been inspected so it would be empty. Due to the value of the vehicles, the comings and goings were closely monitored. Naturally, as the Director of the Festival, he could go wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted, his key card giving him access to everything except the VIPs’ trailers.
His decision taken, he made his way to the main garage near the site’s entrance. With a swipe of his card, the side door unlocked. They were finally alone.
“Oh, Super Trucks,” he heard Emma cooed softly.
“Yeah, for an off-road race,” he explained.
“Off-road? That’ll be so much fun. I can’t wait.”
Once again, something nagged at his mind, something he could not quite figure out but, as before, she easily brought his thoughts back to the current moment by grabbing his shoulders and lithely jumping up, her legs wrapping themselves around his waist. His arms automatically caught her. The feel of her body pressed against him quickly revived his erection.
“So many choices,” she purred while nuzzling his throat. “But I think the Ford Shelby Raptor is our best bet. If you leave the tailgate open, its cargo is big enough for two people to lie in and, as an added bonus, its suspension can take a lot of pounding.”
“There’s nothing sexier than hearing you talk about cars,” he growled.
Keeping her firmly against him with one arm, he brought his hand up, his fingers lightly caressing the side of her neck before entangling themselves in her hair. He had wanted to do that all night!
With a light tug, Ben bent her head slightly back and, after giving her a searing look, kissed her. It felt as if a bolt of electricity travelled from the top of his head right down to the heel of his feet.
They broke apart slightly, their ragged breaths echoing in the silent garage. Letting out a soft growl, Emma grabbed the back of his head and kissed him, her tongue tracing his lower lip before sucking on it, her hips moving up and then down so that her crotch rubbed his erection.
Damn but the guy could kiss! It was driving her crazy. From the sharp intake of breath when she sucked his lower lip in her mouth, to how he clenched his jaw whenever she rubbed herself against him, everything Ben did was making her want him, her lust growing to unsurpassed heights. Emma was not the sort to sleep around since her schedule was so busy but she was a healthy young woman with healthy appetites. Plus, there was something about him, a sort of kinship that seemed to call out to her.
She kissed him deeply, her tongue flicking against his suggestively. This time, instead of sucking on his lip, she lightly bit it making him growl deep in his throat. Resting her weight on his shoulders, she unhooked her legs from around his hips and took a slight step back.
“Emma…?” he asked, a look of confusion crossing his face. She said nothing, bringing her hands to his shirt instead. She loved the fact he did not tuck it in his pants as it made it easier to completely unbuttoned it. Damn but he looked like some sort of surfing god, nicely sculpted without being too bulgy.
Her gaze never wavering from his, she let her fingertips trace their way down his chest to his muscled abdomen, her hands following the path his hip bones carved until she reached the top of his pants. There she stopped and gave him a saucy wink before turning to make her way towards the Shelby Raptor. She had never opened a tailgate faster than she did right then.
Jumping in, she knelt in the cargo. Ben had still not moved, his eyes tracking her every movements. Guess she had to give him an incentive to come join her. Her shirt came off in less than a second, her hand trailing down her chest, her fingers tracing the edge of her lacy bra.
“Are you going to just stand there and enjoy the show?” she teased making him chuckle while slowly walking towards her.
“Though the view is real grand, I’m more a hands on kind of bloke,” he replied with that damn cute smile of his. The way he was looking at her made Emma almost tremble in anticipation, heat pooling below her navel. And yet, despite the raw hunger in his eyes, he nevertheless gently cupped her face, his lips light and teasing against hers.
She was not a woman used to taking things slow, far from it. Indeed, her entire life was centred around speed, sex included. She wanted nothing better than throw Ben under her and ride him as hard as she would any cars. She probably would have done just that had he not touched her.
Her mind completely fizzed out the moment his warm hands slid around her waist, his fingers slightly digging in her skin as he slowly pushed her onto her back, his body covering hers, his knee tantalisingly rubbing against her crotch. She rocked her hips upwards to increase the friction hating the fact they were still wearing clothes.
“You’re an impatient one, aren’t you?” he chuckled. “Races aren’t won through sheer speed alone, possum.”
Wait, that sounded familiar. She had heard that saying not too long ago, had she not?
Emma tried to jump start her memory but his lips started to trace down her throat, his tongue flicking over her skin. All her thoughts vanished in a fog of lust, her fingers raking through his hair. Down he went, his teeth lightly biting the swell of her breasts before dipping lower making her arc her upper body. A shuddering breath flowed past her lips when his tongue trailed down to her navel, his hands going up the back of her thighs, his fingers slipping under the ragged cuffs of her shorts. Her hips jerked up when he tightly grabbed her ass, his answering growl rumbling through his chest.
“Thong?” he asked in a ragged breath.
“No, I’m a commando type of gal,” she whispered provocatively.
One moment she was lying on the floor of the cargo, the next she was up against the cab, her hands grabbing hold of the chase rack, her boots flying off the side of the truck, her shorts quickly following. Ben took a moment to kiss her savagely before kneeling down and hooking her left leg over his shoulder. His fingers had barely parted her before his hot tongue slid inside her.
Her head rolled back over the roof of the cab, her gasping breaths turning into moans which fast rose in intensity as he licked his way up to her clitoris, his tongue flicking it mercilessly. Her insides started to clench, her thighs quivering. There was nothing but the feel of his mouth on her.
“Oh shit,” she gasped when he slipped one finger inside her. It was quickly followed by a second one while his tongue continued to ravish her, his thumbs parting her up further to give him better access. “Oh fuck… shit… oh god yes! Yes! Shit! Just like that… oh yes… YES!”
Her screams echoed in the garage, her body convulsing as orgasm swept through her. She felt Ben move up, his teeth lightly biting one nipple through her bra before kissing her. She could taste herself on his lips and tongue.
“Now this is the only time I enjoy not finishing first,” he whispered while nibbling along her jawline.
“Don’t worry, darling, the race is far from finished,” she purred while pushing his shirt down his arms before letting her hands rover over his chest, the muscles jumping under her touch. “Interesting tattoo,” she mused out loud, her fingers tracing the green and yellow swirls in the shape of a boomerang on his right clavicle.
She felt him grow still under her touch. Well, that would soon change.
How could he have forgotten his damn tattoo! It would be easy for Emma to add it all up and come up with the name Bennet ‘The Boomerang’ Miller! Ben was ready to explain himself but her lips sucked at his neck, her teeth lightly biting him while her hands caressed down his chest, her nails raking the skin. He drew in a shaky breath, swallowing hard when she brushed over his pulsating erection. She was driving him wild.
“Look at me,” he heard her whisper, his gaze locking with hers. Her eyes were heavy-lidded, her smile sultry. He watched as she licked her lips before sensuously kneeling down, her tongue tracing down his chest and over his ribcage until she reached the top of his jeans. She stopped and gazed up at him. He was so hard it was a wonder his pants had not ripped at the seams.
Without breaking eye contact, she unbuckled his belt, and pulled down the zipper, the friction against his erection making him groan. Her hands slipped under the waistband and pushed his jeans past his hips, her fingers curling around the back of his thighs passing so near his balls that he had to bite his lips to stop himself from moaning.
“Fucking Christ!” he nevertheless shouted when she lightly bit his pulsating erection through his briefs before pushing them down.
He steadied himself with one hand against the side of the truck, his other one lifting her hair off her face, his fingers holding it in a loose hold. His breathing laborious, he watched her part her lips, the very tip of her tongue hovering over the engorged head of his cock. Without warning, she licked it before going almost all the way down, her lips pulling his erection into the hot wetness of her mouth, her tongue curling around its shaft, her teeth just barely scraping the sensitive skin.
His hand gently guided her head while she sucked him, his moans growing hoarser with ever passing moment. He could feel his muscles coiling, hear the blood rushing in his ears.
“Emma…,” he panted. “You best stop, possum.” But she did not heed him, instead continuing to torture him with her lips and her tongue. “Em…maaahhh!” Her hand cupped his balls and he lost all control, his hips jerking in the throws of his orgasm. “Shiiit!” he cried out while she sucked him dry, her tongue milking him until he was sure he would pass out from sheer bliss. “Stop… please stop.”
She released him and licked her lips, her eyes gazing brazenly up at him while languorously getting back up on her feet, her body rubbing against his before she took a step back. He barely had time to blink that her bra was off leaving her completely naked in front of him. He started to get hard once again.
“So,” she said, her eyes roving over him. He could almost feel the searing heat of her gaze. “Ready for the last lap?”
“Well we haven’t fully put this suspension to the test,” he replied while stepping out of his jeans and underwear before grabbing her waist and pulling her against him, his lips hungrily kissing her, his teeth nibbling on her lower lip.
“Do you have any condoms?” she whispered in between kisses.
With a nod of his head, he released her and bent down to retrieve one from his wallet while making sure to hide his driver’s license. He would come clean later on about who he truly was.
By the time he turned his attention back at her, Ben stifled a curse. There Emma was, her hands gripping the chase rack, her legs spread wide, her lower back arched up. He did not even need to fist himself to get completely erect once more, the way she was looking at him over her shoulder enough to make him burn in lust.
No sooner did he put the condom on that he buried himself fully. Bloody hell! She was so damn hot! He tried to visualise every races he had ever won on to try and control himself, his breath hissing past his clenched teeth.
His hands firmly grabbing her hips, he slowly pulled out and then rammed back in, the sound of his hips slapping against her ass resonating in the garage. Her moans and yelps spurred him on, pumping in and out of her almost frenziedly while still trying to restrain himself.
“Fuck me… oh yes just like that! Oh god… oh… oh shit! Harder! Fuck!”
He swiftly withdrew himself, turned her so she faced him, and lifted her against the truck’s cab, hooking her legs firmly around his waist. With a searing kiss, he rammed hard inside making her scream. He became completely still, his eyes shut tight, his throat convulsively swallowing. Fuck, he had hurt her!
“DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE STOP!” she screeched, her nails gouging his back making him hiss in pain.
He buried his face in her neck, and thrust in and out, her screams drowning the creaks of the truck. He could feel her inner folds start to convulse. He lifted his head to watch her, wanting to see her caught in the throes of orgasm. The sight burned all of his restraints.
He bent down and bit her shoulder hard, his hips plunging incessantly, sweat trickling down his back stinging where she had raked him. It only spurred him on, his body seeking his own release. He could feel it building up until it crashed into him, more raw and powerful than his previous one. His head thrown back, he let out a ragged cry, his body jerking uncontrollably until his orgasm died out.
He briefly rested his forehead against her shoulder, his lungs burning for oxygen. He felt as if he had been in the most gruelling race of his career and, by the sound of her own broken breathing, she was just as spent as him.
Holding her gently, he let himself slide down until he laid on the floor of the cargo, her body automatically snuggling against him. They really should get dressed and leave. Now that their lust was sated, he could bring her to his trailer. There, he would explain everything. If he was lucky, she would not slap him, or worst kick him in the balls.
It was not like he had deceived her, per say. He rarely went by his full name except during competitions. It was a way for him to separate his racing career from his personal life. He did not like mixing both which was the reason why he never slept with any fan girls no matter how much some kept throwing themselves at him. No, he was not the sort to sleep with every girls he saw, far from it.
Yes, he would explain everything to Emma because he was not ready to move on where she was concerned. Hell he would bring her to Nice with him if she wanted. She could stay with him for the entire festival, all of summer even! The could travel all over Europe! No, he was not ready to let her go. But, first things first, he needed to rest a bit, just until he got his strength back.
Closing his eyes, Ben listened to Emma’s steady breathing. Yes, just a short nap.
“Ben. Ben! Mr. Miller!”
Sitting up, a hand going over his eyes to shield them from the sunlight, Ben softly growled, his muscles screaming in pain. It took him a moment to realise where he was and to remember the events of the previous night.
“What the hell?!” he hissed.
“I’m very sorry, sir, but you need to be on the road in less than an hour,” his assistant said, the poor man’s face so red it was a miracle this one did not keel over from a heart attack. “I tried reaching you all morning but your Bluetooth was closed. It’s only when I received the entrance log to the gara—” He got up effectively shutting the man up, this one looking at anything but his naked body. He did not care, his eyes scanning the place.
“Where’s Emma?” he asked.
“Emma! The woman that was here with me!” She was nowhere to be seen. Even her clothes were gone.
“I’m sorry but you were alone when I arrived.”
Cursing softly, he sat down on the tailgate. She had left while he slept. No notes, no phone number, nothing. Well, they had a fun night and that was it, it seemed.
He gathered his clothes and started to get dressed. He felt sore all over and his back hurt when he slipped on his shirt. He knew if he looked in a mirror, he would see scratch marks. Emma had branded him but so had he when he had bitten her…
“Fuck no!” he suddenly shouted making his assistant yelp.
He jumped off the truck and slammed the tailgate closed before turning to face the quivering man.
“I want you to find someone. Her first name is Emma. She’s an American from California. I want you to call in every damn hotels on the Riviera until you find her!” If she only wanted a one night stand, then fine but he deserved at least the opportunity to say a proper goodbye.
Slipping his Bluetooth device from his pocket, he put it on, took a deep breath, then turned it on.
“Hey guys!” he said jovially as soon as he was connected to his VIPs. “I’m real sorry about last night and all. I hope you all had fun. Believe me, it’ll only get better from this point on. I’ll meet you all at the entrance. I’ve got a bit of a surprise for you guys. See you all in a bit!”
Ben had less than an hour to shower, change clothes, find Emma and get his ass to Nice. It would be a tight race against the clock but he never was one to go after an easy win.
With a hiss, Emma brought her hand away from her shoulder. She had been doing that far too often this morning. Ben had left quite a mark on her on top of a very sore body. She hissed once again. Thinking of him was also something she needed to stop doing.
If she was honest with herself, she hated the way she had snuck out while he slept. Sure, she had had her reasons. She had needed to get to her trailer to shower and be ready for whatever was expected of them. It would have taken too much time to explain everything to him, time she just did not have, not with how busy her schedule was. She was not, after all, here to enjoy the festival like any normal spectators. As a matter of fact, neither was he.
They would probably both be too busy to ever meet let alone hang out. Not that Ben would automatically want that. They had fun and they had great sex. Most people would say they had a one night stand. He probably would say that what they had was merely a one night stand.
Her throat strangely constricted, her hand going to rub her aching shoulder.
“Fuck it all!” she growled louder than she had meant to, the other drivers looking at her perplexedly.
“Hey Taylor,” one of them said. “There’s coffee if you want some. Looks like you need it. Rough night, huh!” At least she had earned a bit of respect the previous day. Still, it did nothing to alleviate the guilt she felt this morning nor how gloomy her thoughts were fast becoming. “Oh and don’t forget to put on your Bluetooth.”
Crap! She had completely forgotten about it!
“Thanks. Any word on where we’ll be going?” she asked trying her best to sound casual.
“Miller said he’d meet us here. A surprise, he said. The surprise would be to finally meet him, eh!”
She let out a snorting laugh while walking towards a table set to the side where the crowd control barriers were, the sublime aroma of coffee making her almost purr. Despite the early morning, there was a lot of people gathered though none gave her more than a passing glance. They probably thought she was part of the crew. How long would that last? Ben was bound to find out about her sooner or later. She wished she had had the chance to tell him herself, to explain why she had not been upfront with him.
Deciding to push the man out of her mind, Emma turned and took a sip of scalding coffee only to almost spit it out. There Ben was walking towards the other VIPs, smiling that damn smile she liked so much though it seemed slightly forced.
What was he doing here?
“Hey guys! It’s great to finally meet you all.” It was his voice and yet, at the same time, it was different. No, he sounded like someone else, someone she had heard before…
Something was nagging Ben but he could not seem to be able to concentrate enough as to discover what it was. So far, his assistant had had no success in finding Emma. He knew it was an almost impossible task. If only he had asked her last name! But no! He had wanted to keep his identity a secret. What a fool he had been!
He shook himself mentally. Now was not the time to get lost in his thoughts. He had a festival to take care of!
“Like I told you all yesterday, we’re going on the first road trip of the festival today. We’re going to la bella Nice, the beautiful city! You guys are going to love the cars I’ve selected for this. So? What are we waiting for? The sun is bright, the weather’s warm. Perfect conditions to be on to the road!” he said, his cheerfulness sounding forced to his ears. He just was not into it at all.
He watched the men go towards the cars the crew had brought. It was then that it finally dawned on him. There was one driver missing! Laurie had reassured him that every drivers he had personally selected had come so why was there one missing? Who was missing, as a matter of fact? He knew all of them by name and reputation but other than the F1 pilot, he was at a loss as to who was whom.
He looked around, his gaze settling to where the crowd was. His heart skipped a beat. There resting against the refreshment table was none other than Emma! What was she doing on this side of the crowd control barrier?
“Ben,” he heard her said as she slowly walked to where he stood, her hips gently swaying with every step she took, the same hips he had tightly grabbed just a few hours ago. His breath lengthened like it did whenever he was sitting behind the wheel of his car, his adrenaline mounting.
She stopped a few paces from him, one hand casually tucked in her right jeans pocket.
There was one driver missing and the car he specifically had assigned to that person still unclaimed…
“Or should I say Bennet Miller,” Emma continued, her gaze roving over Ben resisting the urge to lick her lips. He still affected her. No matter what, he still got under her skin. “I so should have made the damn connection. Your voice, that boomerang tattoo! Shit, I really should have realised who you were.” All the hints throughout the evening, the things he had said, that familiar feeling she had had.
“Is it my turn to guess who you are?” he replied, his smile growing brighter by the second. “I remember touching a key fob while we were dancing. You knowing so much about cars. You came for the showcases, right? And your reaction at seeing the trucks, at learning about the coming off-road race. C.J. Taylor, I presume?”
She took her hand out of her pocket, her silver key fob dangling from her fingers.
“You got it right on your first try.”
“Honestly, I thought you were a guy.” She could not resist laughing.
“Well aren’t you glad I’m not one?” she purred softly. “So, Nice, huh? I see a Supra over there, a nicely modified one too. Perfect for street racing and drifting. I take it that you’re tagging along?”
“Tagging along? I never just ‘tag along’, possum.” How she loved when he called her that.
Emma walked past him. She did not stop until she reached what she guessed was her assigned car, a sweetly modified Mazda RX7 in burnt orange and black. She could have a lot of fun with that sort of car. Her fingers lightly tracing its body, her adrenaline already revving up. She turned to look at him over her shoulder.
“Can you keep up with me, Ben?” she asked him. She watched as he realised the implication of what she had just said, of the conversation they had had while riding the Ferris wheel. The smile he gave her nearly turned her legs to jelly.
“You best believe that I’m the only guy who can indeed keep up with you, Emma.”
“Well, then I guess I’ll wait for you at the finishing line.”
“Not if I beat you there first.”
“Winner claims the prize?” she asked.
“The only prize I'll claim is you, possum,” he replied.
They stood for a moment, their gazes locked. A heartbeat later, they were both in their respective cars, the engines roaring as they raced away from the festival.
He had been right. This was promising to be the summer of her life.