In High Gear

( 3 )


Some secrets aren't ever forgotten…

Since the early days of NASCAR, the Murphy and Grosso families haven't been exactly friends. In fact, "bitter enemies" might be more accurate, with tales of deception, cheating and even suspected murder. But driver Kent Grosso—who's still hearing about his grandfather's decades-old grudge—has a few closeted skeletons of his own.…

Professional photographer Tanya Wells thought she knew Kent pretty well, but it ...

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Some secrets aren't ever forgotten…

Since the early days of NASCAR, the Murphy and Grosso families haven't been exactly friends. In fact, "bitter enemies" might be more accurate, with tales of deception, cheating and even suspected murder. But driver Kent Grosso—who's still hearing about his grandfather's decades-old grudge—has a few closeted skeletons of his own.…

Professional photographer Tanya Wells thought she knew Kent pretty well, but it turns out Kent's been hiding a few details from her. To make matters worse, Kent's been getting anonymous e-mails from someone who's a little too familiar with the Grosso family history…and isn't above a little blackmail!

Now the past is coming up fast in Kent's rearview mirror. Question is, can he swerve in time to avoid a deadly collision?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373217847
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/1/2008
  • Series: Harlequin NASCAR Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.62 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Read an Excerpt

He had to be the luckiest man on earth, Kent Grosso mused as he straightened the knot in an expensive red silk tie he wore with a crisp white shirt and an immaculately tailored dark suit. He had the career of his dreams, his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship trophy, a wonderfully close and supportive family and an amazing girlfriend. Some people had suggested that Kent led a charmed life, and he was inclined to agree.

Stepping back, he gave a last cursory check to his appearance in the mirror on his dressing room wall. Brown hair neatly combed, face closely shaved, suit pressed and lint-free. He should pass muster at the party later that evening. There seemed to be a never-ending string of social events during the three months between race seasons. Especially now, just over a week before the new season began.

As defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Kent had a dizzying number of professional obligations lined up for the next weeks, but he wasn't complaining. This was what he'd worked for since he'd been little more than a toddler following in his father's footsteps. His only regret was that his dad hadn't yet won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Still a competitive driver at almost forty-nine, Dean Grosso had never finished a season number-one in points, though he'd come heartbreakingly close a time or two. This year's top finisher would be given the title of NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, and Dean was determined to win that honor.

Pushing his dad's racing history to the back of his mind, Kent walked to the dresser in his brown-and-black decorated bedroom and opened a top drawer. He pulled out a small royal blue velvet box and held it in his palm withoutopening it. He didn't have to see the diamond-and-platinum ring to visualize it; he'd studied it often enough, trying to decide exactly when to present it to Tanya.

He'd had his share of girlfriends during his thirty years, but this was the first time he'd actually considered asking someone to marry him. He'd never felt as strong about any of those women who had come before her. He'd never envisioned himself giving up his bachelor-hood for them, or raising a family with them, or growing old with them.

He pictured all of those things when he thought of Tanya Wells.

Slipping the ring box into the inner pocket of his jacket, he swallowed hard as he decided that tonight could be the night. He was getting tired of waiting for just the right moment. He wanted to see that diamond glittering on her left hand. He'd be the proudest man in the world to call her his wife, he thought with a smile that just might look sappy had anyone been around to see it.

He was ready too early. Restless, he paced through his townhouse apartment, too aware of the silence in the spacious rooms. Though many of the other drivers lived in spacious mansions, he'd kept his luxury apartment because he hadn't been home enough to make a house seem worth the effort just for himself. It would be different after he was married.

He and Tanya would have to start talking about a house once they were engaged, he thought. Maybe she'd like to have one designed and built to her specifications. Lakefront and golf-course homes were popular with the other drivers, though he'd always thought a mountain retreat would be nice for himself for those very few weekends he had free.

He still had fifteen minutes before he needed to leave, he noted with an impatient glance at his watch. To kill time, he sat at his computer and logged on to his e-mail account. Might as well check to see if there were any messages he needed to respond to before he headed out.

TANYA WAS BARELY READY in time for her date with Kent. She'd had a long day of meetings and paperwork, and an appointment with her hairdresser, who'd been running behind schedule that afternoon. She glanced at her watch as she slid her feet into fashionably uncomfortable heels. Five minutes to spare before he was due to pick her up. She congratulated herself even as she checked a full-length mirror to make sure she hadn't donned her black and silver pants outfit backward or anything in her haste to get dressed.

Heavens, she was tired. It had been a very long day, after a late night the evening before.

This was the third party she had attended with Kent since Christmas, including a big New Year's Eve bash.

She'd thought her socialite mother attended a lot of parties, but that was before Tanya had gotten involved with a NASCAR racing champion.

Funny, she thought, applying a finishing touch of silver-red lip gloss to her mouth. She hadn't known much about NASCAR before she'd met Kent, though her brothers had been casual fans for years. If she'd thought about it before, she would have assumed a driver's only responsibility was to sit behind the wheel of a race car and try to beat all the other drivers to the finish line each week. Now she knew how much more there was to the job, especially these days.

Between meetings with sponsors and associates and fan clubs and media, filming television ads, posing for publicity photos, testing at various tracks, and a hundred other daily obligations, Kent barely had time to breathe. Especially during the racing season, which would begin again in just over a week. He managed to make the most of his free time, being an avid boater and hiker and biker—all things Tanya had learned to enjoy doing with him—but that free time was all too rare.

Through Kent and his racing friends she'd met quite a few women who had wanted a lot more time and attention than their boyfriends in the racing world had been able to give them, leading to a few unhappy breakups. Fortunately, she and Kent had found a comfortable rhythm between their personal lives and professional obligations. She enjoyed every minute she spent with him, but she also had a richly fulfilling career of her own. As far as she was concerned, they were perfect for each other.

The doorbell rang and she rushed to answer it, a smile already spreading across her face. She opened the door to find Kent standing on the other side. Even though they had been together almost two years, her heart still tripped at the sight of him. She wondered if there would ever come a time when she did not react that way.

"Hi." She lifted her face for his greeting.

"You look beautiful," he murmured, and then proceeded to kiss away every bit of the lip gloss she had just applied.

By the time he drew back, they were both breathless and laughing.

"Are you sure we have to go to this thing tonight?" Kent asked wistfully. "We could always stay in.…"

She lifted a hand to caress his close-shaven cheek.

"As tempting as that sounds, we can't. This is your thing tonight, remember? I don't think your sponsor would be happy for you to skip out on it."

He groaned and caught her hand, holding it against his face for a moment before reluctantly lowering it.

"You're right, of course. But I would much rather stay here with you."

"I'll second that wish, but we have to go now, or we'll be late."

His fingers tightened around hers for a moment, his gaze intent on her face. "Tanya—"

After waiting for a few moments for whatever he had intended to say, she prodded, "What?"

He hesitated another beat, his expression conflicted, and then he smiled crookedly and shook his head.

"It can wait. I love you."

"I love you, too."

He kissed her one more time, then took a resolute step back. "Okay, I'm as ready now as I'm going to be. Let's go."

"YOU ARE PROBABLY the luckiest woman in the room tonight," Melissa Cassidy, a junior vice president for Kent's primary sponsor, Vittle Farms, murmured to Tanya later that evening, after several hours of dining, dancing and schmoozing.

Tanya smiled across the tiny table at the other woman, a plump, pretty redhead. "I'm not going to argue. I feel lucky tonight."

They both looked across the room, where Kent stood talking to his car owner, multimillionaire Dawson Ritter, and Chester Honeycutt, the CEO of Vittle Farms. An organic-foods distributor, Vittle Farms had been Kent's primary sponsor for several seasons. They'd considered him well worth the expense all along, since he was particularly good at promoting his sponsor in every interview and personal appearance. Now that he'd won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, he was even more the golden boy to this crowd.

"He's so hot," Melissa murmured, practically licking her lips as she studied Kent.

"I'd settle for someone half as good-looking and interesting, but all I've dated lately are frogs."

"Trust me, I've been way too involved with a couple of frogs, myself," Tanya replied with a sympathetic smile. She couldn't help thinking of her last serious relationship, which had imploded very painfully when she'd learned that Michael had been unfaithful to her almost from the beginning.

He had been the most charming, personable and skilled deceiver she had ever encountered, and she'd been young, impressionable and too trusting. She'd fallen hook, line and sinker for his spiel—until a couple of her best friends had finally arranged an intervention of sorts and had opened her eyes to the truth. Her pride had been shattered and her heart bruised, but she'd emerged from the experience with a new maturity and strength. She wanted to believe that she would never be that gullible again. "I'd all but quit looking for a prince when I met Kent almost two years ago."

"Well, maybe there's hope for me yet." Melissa shook her head, causing the glittering green earrings dangling from her lobes to sway. "Still, I don't think I'll ever be as lucky as you are.You and Kent are so perfect together."

The words were eerily close to what Tanya, herself, had been thinking earlier. And all of a sudden they made her a bit nervous, almost as if she were afraid something would jinx the very special relationship she had with Kent. After all, she had thought Michael was perfect, too, she remembered with a hard swallow.

But that was silly, of course. She wasn't at all superstitious. She and Kent really were great together. He was nothing at all like Michael. As Melissa had said, Tanya was the luckiest woman in the room.

IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT, if frosty. Their breath hung in the air when they walked to Kent's car from the ballroom where the party had been held. Kent opened Tanya's door for her, then waited until she was tucked into the passenger seat before closing it and walking around to the driver's door.

"Feels like snow," he said, putting the car into gear.

"Wouldn't be surprised if it fell before morning."

Tanya rested her head against the high back of the seat, her voice just a little weary-edged. "There's only a thirty percent chance."

"You mark my words."

"I'll do that."

He glanced her way, his throat tightening when he saw her smiling gently back at him. She'd always considered herself no more than girl-next-door cute, but to him she was beautiful. He'd thought so from the first time he'd laid eyes on her.

Maybe tonight was the night to ask her to be a part of the rest of his life, he thought, thinking of the diamond ring that was now locked safely in his glove box. "Tanya—"

But no. Not while he was driving. Not when he couldn't even take her in his arms if she said yes. He bit back the words he was growing more impatient by the minute to say.

"Mm?" She lifted her eyelids, making him realize for the first time how sleepy she looked.

"Um…nice party, wasn't it?"

"Mm-hm." Her eyelids grew heavy again. "I liked chatting with Melissa. She thinks you're hot, by the way."

He grinned.

"And what do you think?"

"I think you don't need me stroking your ego tonight." Laughing, he replied, "Maybe we can find other things for you to stroke, instead."

"Behave yourself."

She sounded as if she could fall asleep right there in his car.

"Long day?"

"Very. I worked with two Bridezillas and their mothers today. Very stressful."

"No kidding."

Tanya was a highly sought after wedding and special-events photographer. She didn't accept a great many assignments, being what he'd always thought of as a trust-fund baby from a wealthy background, but word of mouth had made her "the" photographer to book for society weddings in North Carolina and surrounding states. She'd even started getting requests to fly to other areas to shoot weddings—one as far away as Hawaii. That one she had decided to accept.

He and Tanya had met when he'd been a groomsman in a wedding she was shooting. He'd asked her out before the happy couple had even tied the knot. She'd finally accepted sometime during the reception, though she had informed him that she didn't usually mix business with pleasure.

They had been mixing both quite well ever since.

He walked her to her door, then left her there with several long, hungry kisses. She asked him in, but he told her she needed to rest. She had another long day scheduled tomorrow, beginning with an early meeting. Knowing that, he made himself leave, before his will-power slipped away.

He wanted her completely awake when he finally asked her to marry him, he told himself as he drove home alone. He wanted everything to be perfect.

He could wait.

KENT WAS IDLY CHECKING his e-mail again on the last Friday prior to the beginning of the new season. He found the usual notes from friends that he would respond to later, some charity solicitations he would forward to his PR people, a couple of annoying spam messages he deleted unread and an item from an address he didn't recognize. He started to delete that one, too, but something about the subject line caught his attention. Y U left State U.

A chill slithered down his spine.

Telling himself not to jump to false conclusions spurred by a guilty conscience, he opened the disturbing e-mail. He hoped his virus protection was doing its job. The first cursory scan of the message caused his shoulders to sag and his heart to sink.

He thought of his mother, who was so proud of all he had accomplished during the past couple of years. And his rigidly ethical, long-time NASCAR driver dad, for whom any hint of cheating was enough to cause a righteous lecture about integrity and honor.

And then he thought of Tanya, the daughter of a hard-nosed district attorney and an old-money socialite philanthropist. Tanya, the most scrupulously honest, fiercely law-abiding woman he'd ever met.

He hid his face in his hands.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An engaging NASCAR contemporary romance

    NASCAR Nextel Cup series champion Kent Grosso and renowned wedding photographer Tanya Wells are in love. Kent plans to propose to her. However, he is stunned when he receives an email threatening to expose him as a cheat in college. Still ashamed, he knows this will devastate his parents who think the world of him. Worse it will upset ethical Tanya and her honest parents.---------------- Tanya thought she knew her beloved, but she is stunned to learn he hid his youthful indiscretion from her. Kent tries to make it up to his Tanya, but the blackmailing e-mailer sends him something much more disturbing the person claims Kent¿s mother got away with running over a member of the rival NASCAR Murphy family years ago. -------------------- This engaging NASCAR contemporary romance stars two fine protagonists whose relationship is harmed perhaps permanently when Kent failed to tell his beloved his college mistake. The story line is at his best while he struggles to explain only to have a more powerful incident to nuke his well-being and test his resolve to tell Tanya the whole truth. Although the blackmailer scenario is not resolved leaving fans to wonder why not IN HIGH GEAR is a fast trip around the oval.--------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In High Gear by Gina Wilkins Harlequin NASCAR Series Library: Se

    In High Gear by Gina Wilkins
    Harlequin NASCAR Series Library: Secrets And Legends Book 1
    This is the first book of sixteen that focuses around the feuding Grosso & Murphy families along with meeting the Branch family and members from Motor Media Group, who supply PR people to keep things running smoothly.

    When Kent Grosso receives an email that seems to threaten to expose his past mistakes, he can only assume it’s from his enemy Justin Murphy. Until that email arrived Kent was living the perfect life of a very lucky man. Since then things are falling apart. He just wants everything back where it was before.

    Tanya Wells is a photographer and doing well in her business. She loves Kent for who he is as a person, not because he’s a NASCAR driver. She was expecting a proposal in the near future but when he tells her of his past it throws her off balance. He wasn’t completely honest with her and she is carrying pretty deep scars from living with the lies of her last serious relationship. She loves Kent, but is love going to be enough?

    There is more excitement on and off the track as Kent and Tanya work out their relationship while working together against the blackmail. There are also back stories and characters that will have their tales told in the books that follow in this series. The next book, Forbidden Attraction by Marisa Carroll, continues the story with Kent’s sister Sophia and Justin Murphy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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