Almost Famous

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All Stacy Carter thought she wanted was a quiet, traditional life. One man, one woman, two-point-five kids and a dog. Maybe a minivan. She never envisioned a stock car thrown into the mix! That was before she met Jake Hinson, recovering from a boating accident at a secluded fishing cabin. Fact is, Jake's a NASCAR driver with plenty of cash, fans--and fame. Not something he's about to divulge to publicity-shy Stacy. But when the truth comes out, Stacy's not sure she can handle a celebrity lifestyle--despite Jake's...

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All Stacy Carter thought she wanted was a quiet, traditional life. One man, one woman, two-point-five kids and a dog. Maybe a minivan. She never envisioned a stock car thrown into the mix! That was before she met Jake Hinson, recovering from a boating accident at a secluded fishing cabin. Fact is, Jake's a NASCAR driver with plenty of cash, fans--and fame. Not something he's about to divulge to publicity-shy Stacy. But when the truth comes out, Stacy's not sure she can handle a celebrity lifestyle--despite Jake's reassurances. Besides, Stacy hasn't exactly been the pinnacle of honesty herself. And it's just a matter of time before her own cover is blown....

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373217762
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/1/2007
  • Series: Harlequin NASCAR Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Solitude. It was exactly what Jake Hinson had craved the most when he'd borrowed a friend's cozy cabin in the Arkansas Ozarks National Forest on the banks of the White River. He had told everyone he needed some time alone, away from cameras and microphones, intrusive questions and sympathetic gazes. He needed a chance to heal, both physically and emotionally, and he'd said he couldn't do either in the public eye.

Three days into his self-imposed vacation, he was already becoming restless and lonely. He had spent half of his thirty years pursuing fame and attention, he thought wryly. He didn't even know how to live anonymously anymore.

As for the lazy relaxation that had seemed so appealing a few weeks earlier…well, he didn't know how to do that, either. He was accustomed to having every minute of every day scheduled. To going 180 miles per hour on the racetrack and 200 in his personal life. Inactivity was a foreign concept to him, and the novelty had worn off quickly.

At least the late-September weather was nice. After the first couple of days nursing his wounds alone indoors, he ventured outside to the long front porch of the cabin. The last in a row of similar, privately owned vacation homes facing the river, the cabin sat on perhaps a quarter acre of rocky ground, separated enough from the neighbors to provide plenty of privacy. Behind the houses, the land rose to a wooded hillside, perfect for hiking.

Jake felt the draw of that hillside, but he wasn't sure he was ready yet for a strenuous walk over uneven ground. He would give himself another couple days of strength-building exercises and then he would give it a try, he promised himself.

All the cabins, including this one owned by one of his friends back in North Carolina, had boat garages on their property. A couple of empty trailers still hitched to parked pickup trucks sat at the public launch area on the other side of the road, evidence that their owners were out trying their luck with the fish on this Saturday afternoon. Jake didn't even like to think about getting back into a boat just yet, though he hoped there would come a time when he could do so again without remembering the horrific accident that had changed so much in his life.

Sitting in one of the four wrought-iron spring rockers arranged on the front porch, he stretched his jeans-clad legs infront of him, wincing when the position pulled at his healing scars. To distract himself from his discomfort, he looked across the narrow asphalt road toward the river on the other side.

An older couple floated past in a flat-bottomed aluminum boat, their faces shaded by straw hats, their fishing lines drifting lazily along beside them. Seeing Jake sitting there, the man at the controls raised a hand. It was a congenial, generic greeting having nothing to do with recognition. He'd have waved at anyone sitting there, Jake realized as he returned the salute with a nod.

He turned his attention to the row of four cabins leading up to the one in which he was staying. There had been little noise from his neighbors while he'd been there. He saw people coming and going, but other than the occasional nod of greeting, there was no interaction between the cabins. He had done nothing to call attention to himself, staying inside most of the time since he'd arrived. He hadn't emerged until today.

Closing his eyes, he let the quiet sounds around him seep into him, soothe him. The hum of the small boat motor as it traveled downriver. The lapping of the water in its wake.

A sudden burst of high-pitched barking made his eyes open again. It seemed to be coming from the cabin closest to this one. Turning his head, he spotted the source of the sound—a hairy little black-and-brown dog tethered by a baby-blue leash to apetite, slender young woman with long, dark hair and a sling on her left arm. They appeared to be returning from a walk, and had apparently just stepped onto their front porch when the dog had spotted Jake.

A Yorkshire terrier, Jake decided, amused by the attitude radiating from the compact critter. Not just a wanna-be dog, he thought wryly. A wanna-be guard dog. Never mind that a good sized cat could probably make mincemeat out of the little mutt.

Smiling, he raised a hand in greeting to his neighbor, her slinge liciting a tug of empathy from him. He identified all too well with the signs of a recent injury.

Apparently, she didn't feel the same sense of kinship. Maybe because his own wounds weren't as visible to her. Or maybe she just wasn't the friendly type. Whatever the reason, she gathered her dog's leash more firmly in hand and disappeared inside her cabin with only a quick, rather chilly nod in response to his gesture.

Okay, he thought, dropping his hand, his practiced smile fading. So much for being neighborly.

He wasn't used to being so decidedly snubbed by an attractive young woman—just the opposite, actually. Aware that his pride was stinging a bit, he chuckled ruefully as he limped through his own door. Maybe he had gotten a bit spoiled by the celebrity that had accompanied his rise in the ranks of NASCAR racing. He had become more accustomed to being pursued by pretty women than rebuffed by them.

It was probably good for him to be hit with an occasional reality check. Just to keep him from getting too conceited—not that his teammates would let him get too full of himself. He could count on his no-nonsense crew chief and blunt-spoken team members to keep his ego in check.

Suddenly, almost overwhelmingly homesick for his friends and his temporarily stalled career, he sank into a chair and allowed himself to slide into an uncharacteristic and totally self indulgent bout of self-pity.

Stacy Carter locked the door of her brother's river cabin, then pushed the dead bolt into place, just for good measure. For the most part, she felt perfectly comfortable staying here with only her pet Yorkie for company. The solitude was greatly preferable to the ordeal she had been through back home, giving her a chance to rest, recuperate and catch up on the piles of work that had accumulated during the past couple of weeks.

Her family had been concerned about her coming here alone, but she had assured them she would be fine. Her brother had owned this place for several years without a single unpleasant incident. The locks were sturdy, the grounds well lit, and she had a strong signal for her cell phone.

And she had Oscar, she thought with a smile, glancing down at the dog who was chewing on his favorite fire-hydrant squeaky toy at her feet. Oscar believed he was as fierce as any Doberman pinscher, and he made sure she was aware of every odd or suspicious noise.

Even with one arm temporarily out of commission, she wasn't worried about staying here, and had no doubt about her ability to take care of herself. Still, it didn't hurt to take extra precautions. Like keeping the doors locked. And not encouraging the attentions of the unknown man in the house next door.

She had been aware that the other cabin was occupied, though she hadn't seen anyone until today. Now she knew her elusive neighbor was a good-looking man with dark hair and a flashing smile.

She hoped he hadn't recognized her. She had tried to keep her face averted from him, hoping he'd gotten the message that she wasn't here to socialize. All she needed was to have some reporter show up on the front porch of her hideout, hoping for a filler feature story for a slow news day.

It wasn't as if there was anything left to write about her, she thought grumpily, but that had never stopped the local news hounds before. Not where her family was concerned, at least.

Oscar dropped his toy and headed for the kitchen, his body language inviting her to follow him. He'd made it clear he thought it was snack time, and he was right, she decided, thinking of the bowl of fruit waiting on the kitchen table. She ordered herself to forget the neighbor, forget the problems back home and concentrate on the more pressing dilemma of whether she wanted an apple or a pear.
The morning after Jake first glimpsed his reclusive neighbor, he sat outside again, this time on the deck that spanned the backof the cabin, overlooking the woods. It was a spectacularly beautiful day. The sky was a brilliant blue dotted with fluffy whiteclouds, and a light breeze kept the temperature comfortable.

A bird feeder sat on a pole in the neighboring backyard, and an interesting variety of birds fluttered around it, chirping and singing from the surrounding tree tops. A couple of playful squirrels chased each other around the trunk of a big oak tree, and a trio of deer wandered briefly into sight, then disappeared silently back into the woods.

Though he couldn't see them from where he sat, he heard an occasional vehicle pass on the road on the other side of the cabin and a few boats puttering past on the river. He thought he heard a small dog yap a couple of times, but he caught no glimpse of the dog or its owner. He had peace, quiet and privacy—exactly what he had come here to find. And he was going slowly out ofhis mind with boredom.

The cell phone he kept clipped to his belt vibrated, and because any distraction was a welcome one, he lifted it to his ear without checking the caller ID. "H'lo?"

His crew chief, Wade McClellan, greeted him with typical brevity. "Hey, Jake."

"Hey, Ice. Aren't you too busy getting ready for today's race to talk on the phone?"

Wade chuckled. "Actually, yes. I just wanted to check on you. How's paradise?"

"Let's just say I'd be climbing walls if I had all my limbs back in climbing commission."

"Ready to come back home?" Jake thought of the reporters who would be waiting there to ask him how his recuperation was proceeding. When he would be back in top form. How soon he'd be back behind the wheel. How he felt about losing his shot at this season's championship. And, oh, yeah, how it felt to lose a long time friend in the tragic accident.
"No," he said, somewhat reluctantly. "Not quite."

"Doing your exercises?"

"Obsessively." It was pretty much all he had to do here.

"Hurting much?"

"Nah." Pain was something a professional athlete—and as a race car driver, he counted himself among that group—learned to live with. Just the physical stamina required to spend four hours or more stuffed into a cramped, overheated, tension-filled cockpit was daunting, and that didn't count the jarring crashes and dizzying spins that were inherent to the sport.

"You keep following your doctor's orders, you hear? Don't try to rush it or overdo it."

Jake couldn't help but smile a little in response to Wade's admonition. He spent so much of his life with Wade's voice in his ears—usually through headphones—calming him, encouraging him, preaching patience, demanding his best efforts.

But another driver would be hearing that voice this afternoon, he thought, his smile dying. Another driver would be hanging on to the wheel of the Number 82 car, pedal to the metal, a monster engine between his legs, blood pounding in his ears and forty-two other drivers doing their best to leave him in their dust.

"How's Pete?" he asked, reminded of that other driver.

"Oh. You know." Typically, Wade conveyed a great deal with those few words.

"He's giving it his best?"

"Hundred percent. He's working as hard as anyone here. And the team's determined to provide him with all the support they can give. Everyone likes the kid—but he's not you."

Swallowing hard, Jake spoke brusquely. "Give him my best,okay? And tell him not to get too comfortable in my car. I'm coming back to claim it in a few weeks."

Wade chuckled again. "I'll tell him. You okay there? You need anything?"

"No, I'm good. How are things with you and Lisa?"

Wade had been nicknamed "Ice" McClellan for his ability to keep his feelings hidden even under the most trying of circumstances. When all hell broke loose on the racetrack, his was the voice of calm. When the team struggled in the points race or had a run of bad luck, everyone but Wade would get tense. Testy. Wade's tone never changed.

It changed now, at the mention of the woman he loved. The woman who had broken his heart years ago, but with whom he had reunited in the middle of this eventful racing season. "Things are good," he said, and though the words were rather prosaic, the deep satisfaction in his tone was so obvious that Jake had to smile again.

Wade had a hard time showing his emotions—one of the reasons he and Lisa had split up all those years ago—but that didn't mean he was unfeeling. He had a bigger heart than just about anyone Jake knew. Wade loved his coworkers, his employer, the fans who had been so supportive of him and Jake, and he quite simply adored Lisa. Something she understood now as she hadn't the first time they were together—and returned in full.

Jake was genuinely pleased for them. Wade was as close as he'd come to having a brother, and Jake wanted him to be happy.

Seemed as if just about everyone he knew these days was happily hooked up with someone, he thought as he disconnectedthe call a short time later after wishing Wade luck for the race. Wade and Lisa planned to be married during the winter break, as did another Woodrow Racing driver, Mike Overstreet, to his fiancé, Andrea Kennedy.

Another team driver, Ronnie Short, was expecting his first child in early December with his wife, Katie. NASCAR took pride in being a family-oriented sport, and Jake was surrounded on a weekly basis by the spouses and offspring of other drivers and team members.
People sometimes teased him about being a confirmed bachelor at thirty. They thought he liked playing the field, dating lots of women, staying footloose and unentangled. And while he wouldn't deny that he'd had fun as a single, popular NASCAR driver, the truth was that he hadn't led quite the swinging lifestyle many people assumed.

Racing was a career that required intense focus and dedication if one wanted to reach the highest levels, and Jake had always been driven toward the top. From the day he had secured his first full-time ride, he'd aspired to a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship title, and he had worked and sacrificed accordingly.

Marriage and family had also been on the life plan he haddrawn up for himself more than ten years ago. Having never hada real family of his own—just himself and his often absent singlemother—he had always envied the apparently happy families hehad observed around him during the years. Moms and dads andkids. Pets. Real houses to spend holidays in, not rent-by-theweek motel rooms or cramped, colorless apartments.

So maybe his mental image of family life was a bit too heavilyinfluenced by idealistic old television programs. And the careerhe had chosen was one spent mostly on the road, every weekendbooked through ten months of every year, leaving little opportunity for soccer games or dance recitals or PTA meetings orfamily camping trips. But plenty of others were making it work,and he had no doubt that he could, too. When he set his mind onsomething, he didn't let anything get in his way—barring the occasional unforeseen circumstances of life, he added, glaringmorosely at his game leg.

He would survive the disappointment of being sidelined for acrucial part of this racing season, he assured himself. And whileit would be a longer process, and one he never expected to getover completely, he would eventually recover from the loss of alongtime friend in the boating accident that he himself hadsurvived only by a stroke of luck. Next season would start witha clean slate, with him back on track both literally and figuratively.

Once his career was under way again, he could focus on the personal side of his mental to-do list. Look more actively for someone with whom he could settle down and start a family. Someone who would be there to cheer him on during the races and celebrate or commiserate with him afterward, who would share his luxurious motor home at the tracks and his palatial estate on Lake Norman in North Carolina. Someone who would understand the joys and demands of high-level stock car racing. Someone like Wade had found. And Ronnie. And Mike. And all those others who made up the huge and cheerfully obsessive NASCAR family.

Letting himself drift into that admittedly self-serving fantasy future, he closed his eyes, sprawled more comfortably in the canvas-cushioned outdoor lounge chair and felt every muscle in when a faint cry of distress, accompanied by what sounded like frantic barking, brought him quickly and awkwardly to his feet.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    a reviewer

    NASCAR driver Jake Henson takes refuge near the White River in Arkansas Ozarks National Forest he is physically recovering from a boating accident that left him injured and his best friend dead. Next door to the cabin he borrowed is Stacy Carter, and her Yorkie Oscar she borrowed her brother's cabin to escape the media who have made her, daughter of a notorious politician, into an amazon because she disarmed a thief. --- Oscar introduces the temporary neighbors to one another. Each is instantly attracted, but both hides their history from one another as he believes she detests publicity and she assumes he will detest her roots. Besides this is a short fling in the hills. Neither expected love to meet them at the finish line, but though they must reveal what they concealed, they fear the relationship will end once the checkered flag is dropped. --- ALMOST FAMOUS is a fun contemporary romance starring two celebrities taking a respite from fame. Jake and Stacy are likable characters while Oscar is cute as he believes he is a raging Doberman. Fans will enjoy the story of two people hiding critical parts of their résumés from their beloved. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2013

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    Almost Famous by Gina Wilkins Harlequin NASCAR Library If you li

    Almost Famous by Gina Wilkins
    Harlequin NASCAR Library
    If you like reading connected books you may want to read Hearts Under Caution first, as this book continues where that one ended.

    Jake Hinson goes to a friends fishing cabin to recover from his boating accident. Not only did he have physical healing to deal with, but also the guilt that his friend died and he didn't. Being use to constantly moving and staying busy it didn't take long for Jake to be bored. That is until he met his beautiful neighbor and her feisty dog.

    Stacy Carter just wanted to be out of the limelight so she headed to her brothers fishing cabin. She planned on staying to herself but somehow her handsome neighbor drew her to him. Best of all he didn’t seem to recognize her from her last incident or from her past.

    Both Jake and Stacy hide their true identities as they enjoy each other just as regular people. Can their blossoming relationship survive when Stacy finds out he’s a NASCAR driver who enjoys the media while she is trying to hide from it? Both of these books were really good and I recommend reading them in order to get the full picture.

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