Start Your Engines
by Jim Cangany
Published by: Crimson Romance
Publication date: August 7th 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Buckle up for a race for the championship and the prize of a lifetime in this heartfelt reunion romance.
When racing team director Brad Thomas needs a new driver, his boss insists there’s only one answer: Gabrielle Marquez. The Indycar ace has newly returned to the United States after becoming one of the European circuit’s top drivers. But ten years ago, Gabrielle caused a crash that ended Brad’s racing career and killed their mutual best friend, along with the burgeoning crush they were exploring.
Gabby’s ready to put the past behind her, even though she knows making amends and regaining Brad’s trust won’t be easy. Rebuilding their professional relationship paves the way for healing, and old feelings soon rekindle, but a rival’s dangerous game of sabotage may threaten their team’s chance at the title.
Then an irresistible offers lands on Gabby’s windshield, forcing her to choose between her heart and her hard-fought career. Will achieving her professional dreams mean personal sacrifice?
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
Start Your Engines by Jim Cangany
The AES machine flashed across the finish line as the starter waved the green flag, the prismatic paint job displaying every color of the spectrum.
“God, she’s beautiful.” The moment Brad had uttered the words, he realized he wasn’t sure if he was referring to the car or its driver. He was happy he didn’t have his microphone on, though.
A video feed of Gabrielle’s progress was in a corner of his computer screen. As she barreled down the long backstretch, which was five-eighths of a mile in length all by itself, he checked her speed. She was zooming at over two hundred miles per hour.
At Gabrielle’s request, the team had disconnected her speedometer. Brad was to report her speed when she finished the first lap and again when she completed the attempt. He was to say nothing else.
Brad held his breath as she flew down the front straight, the song of the turbocharged engine sweeter than an opera singer, and completed lap one. Her speed flashed on the screen. It was all Brad could do to keep from shouting.
“Two hundred point thirteen. Everything looks great.”
The first lap was pole-winning speed.
Down the backstretch and into turn three, the line Gabrielle took was as smooth as soft-serve ice cream. Exiting turn four, she drifted up so close to the white concrete retaining wall, Brad flinched and closed one eye for a moment.
The close call didn’t slow her down, though. She took the checkered flag, completing the run with a two-lap average of 200.2 miles per hour.
“Congrats, Gabrielle, you just set a Continental Series track record.”
“Yes!” Her shout almost burst Brad’s eardrums.
Scott gave Brad a thumbs-up but pointed at the scoring pylon. There were two cars left to make their qualifying attempts. One of them was Chas.
By the time Gabrielle was out of the car and had her helmet off, the number seventy-seven had the first lap in the books at just under 199 miles per hour. He was no threat. The team gathered around her to wait for Chas to make his attempt.
Brad gave Gabrielle a fist bump, but nothing more. He didn’t want to jinx anything.
The Thornton Industries machine looked fast as it took the green flag. Brad reached out and took Gabrielle’s hand. A pleasant tingling sensation went up his arm when they touched. She didn’t pull away. Rather, she held on. It was a perfect fit.
Nobody said anything as Chas came into view coming out of turn four. Brad kept his focus on the scoring pylon as their rival completed lap one.
Gabrielle loosened her grip a touch as the group let out a collective sigh of relief. Chas wasn’t far off Gabrielle’s time, but catching her could be a tall order. It was an order he couldn’t deliver. His second lap was a tick over two hundred miles per hour.
Gabrielle was on the pole.
For the most important race of the season.
At the most historic racing venue on Earth.
Amid a cacophony of whoops and shouts of elation, Brad took Gabrielle by the shoulders.
“You did it.” At that moment, someone bumped him into Gabrielle, which brought his lips to hers. The moment they made contact, fireworks went off. Brad wasn’t sure if they were real or imagined, but he didn’t care. Kissing the woman in his arms was electrifying.
Her lips were soft, with a hint of blueberry from her lip balm. His thumb stroked her cheek and wiped away a tear. All too soon, she pulled back. He opened his eyes to find her red-cheeked but smiling from ear to ear. He recovered his senses enough to take her wrist and raise her arm.
“Presenting your pole winner for the Memorial One Hundred, Gabrielle Marquez.”
She moved toward him as a blond woman got out of the SUV and a trio of men in suits stepped from the sedan. One of the men had a phone to his ear. He was probably calling for security. That was good. It meant Brad had a couple of minutes. Maybe.
Gabrielle came closer but stopped ten feet away. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you.” He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow.
“Gabrielle, do you need help?” the blonde asked. The woman had something in her hand. Hopefully it wasn’t pepper spray.
“No, I’m okay.” She halved the distance between them. “Am I?” She kept her voice low enough that Brad was the only person who could hear it.
“Yes, totally. I promise.” He held up his hands as if to surrender. “If it’s not too late, there are a couple of things I need to say to you.”
“Really, Brad?” She closed her eyes and massaged her forehead. “I’m about to go in that building behind you and sign a contract that will change my life, and now you want to talk?” She crossed her arms. “What could you possibly have to say?”
His throat was desert dry. It was now or never. Help me, J.P. “For starters, I want to say I’m sorry. You never held anything back from me. Not then and not now. The same can’t be said for me.”
The suits had joined the blonde at the front of the SUV. For the moment, they seemed content to leave this between him and Gabrielle.
“After you got the offer to come here, I was being honest when I said I wanted you to be happy. What I wasn’t honest about was letting you know how much you mean to me. I put together a counter offer. It’s peanuts compared to what these guys are offering you, but I never gave you the chance to look at it.”
Gabrielle put her hand on her hip. “It hurts to be told that now, you know. There was never any ‘please stay.’ It was all, like, ‘Knock them dead, Gabrielle. Send us a picture from Europe.’ After all we’d been through. After all we accomplished. Can you imagine how that felt?”
“No, I can’t.” This was so not going the way he’d hoped. She hadn’t signed, though, so he still had a chance. “All I can say is I’m sorry. If I had the chance to do it over again, I would in a heartbeat. Because you’re the best thing to happen to Gale Force Racing.” He took a deep breath and made sure he had eye contact. “And more importantly, you’re the best thing to happen to me.”
Gabrielle scratched her wrist, right where her tattoo was. She turned and looked at their observers. When they didn’t say anything, she came within an arm’s length of him. “You’re making one heck of a scene, Brad. If you have anything else to say, you better say it now.”
Behind him, a vehicle skidded to a stop, and two doors opened and then shut. A radio crackled to life, but he couldn’t make out the conversation.
“Come back to Fleetwood with me. You’ve made me the happiest man on Earth, and it wasn’t until you left that I realized it. You’re my world, Gabrielle. If you come back with me, I’ll do anything and everything to make you the happiest woman in the world. I know I’m asking you to give up a dream of a lifetime, but maybe together we can make a new dream, our own dream. The two of us. What do you say?”
“You came all this way to ask me this?” She smiled when he nodded. “What if I say no?”
Brad’s blood ran cold, but he wasn’t a quitter. Not anymore. Not after what Gabrielle taught him about perseverance. “Then I’ll say thanks for hearing me out and walk through that gate, and I won’t bother you anymore.”
“No, that’s not it.” With his left hand, he took her right hand so they could see the matching reminders of hope. “You’ve made me a better man than I thought possible. You’ve shown me the light when I thought there was only darkness. You touched my heart and showed me joy I didn’t think could exist. I was broken, and you fixed me.”
Someone was running down the steps of the building. His time was up.
“I love you, Gabrielle. I won’t stop loving you, ever.” He pulled his sketchpad out of his bag and handed her the piece he’d worked on while on the plane. “There’s a piece of land just outside Fleetwood. It would be perfect for a couple starting out. Perfect for us. Please come back with me. Please come home.”
“I am the Fire” by Halestorm – This would be Gabrielle’s on-track theme song, as she’s picked up the pieces of her career to resume chasing her dream. Lzzy Hale, the lead singer of Halestorm is an amazing talent and this song of belief in oneself and female empowerment would really resonate with Gabrielle.
“Angry Young Man” by Billy Joel – Brad might not like it, but this classic rock song really captures the essence of who he is early in the story. His dreams have been crushed and he’s chosen to carry those negative feelings with him, like a weight around his neck.
“The Distance by Cake” – I can totally envision Brad racing to this song early in his career. It also carries a touch of the rage that drives him after his crash.
“Madness” by Muse – This is how I imagine Brad would feel when he realizes how deeply he cares for Gabrielle. He knows it’s crazy to pursue a relationship with her because of their history and his broken-ness, but he can’t help it, and he wants her to help him move beyond the madness.
“Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol – There’s a highly emotional scene in Start Your Engines when Brand and Gabrielle finally talk about their past and the damage it’s done to both of them. In the aftermath, they spend some quiet time, simply being in each other’s company. This is the song that would be playing in the background as they lay together in the grass together.
“Sweet Home Chicago” Blues Brothers version – Start Your Engines has more than a handful of ups and downs for Brad and Gabrielle, but one of the highest peaks is Gabrielle’s first win of the season in Chicago. I thought it would be fitting to celebrate the team’s first race win in the City of Big Shoulders with this Chicago blues classic.
“Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys – Gabrielle and Brad face plenty of challenges on their way to their happily ever after, but it’s simply crushing when they find out people have been scheming against them. This would be Brad’s response to those people.
“I won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz – While Gabrielle and Brad both are works in progress in Start Your Engines, Gabrielle is much further along her road to healing. Because of that, I can see Gabrielle telling Brad she won’t give up on him, or them, when he asks her for help.
“Ultraviolet (Baby, Light My Way)” by U2 – To me, this song encapsulates Brad and his deep love for Gabrielle when he makes his grand gesture near the end of the book. He’s ready to let her lead him wherever their road takes them. Plus, this one of my top five favorite U2 songs.
“Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay – I simply adore this song. From its bouncy groove to its hopeful message, I think it’s a perfect metaphor for the adventure of a lifetime that awaits Gabrielle and Brad at the end of the story.
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A lifelong resident of the State of Indiana, Jim Cangany is proud to call himself a Hoosier. The youngest of eight children, he grew up in a household full of books and people. Thanks to the influence of his older siblings, Jim gravitated toward fantasy and sci-fi when looking for something to read. He wrote his first story at age fourteen. A school project, The Magic Coin was a fantasy that involved a king, some bad guys, and, not surprisingly, a magical token.
These days, Jim writes romance on the sweet end. If you ask him what is a guy like him is doing writing romance, he'll reply, "Those are the stories in my head." A believer that the world has enough doom and gloom, he likes stories with a happy ending, regardless of genre.
He lives in Indianapolis with his wonderful wife Nancy, sons, Seamus and Aidan, and kitty-cat Maria.