One Track Mind

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The Halesboro Speedway has been in Lori Garland's family for generations. And thanks to a last-minute offer, she may be able to save the debt-ridden race track. Then she discovers who her mystery buyer is—sports agent Kane Ledger, the bad-boy rebel she loved and lost.

The guy from the wrong side of the tracks likes being in the driver's seat for the first time in his life. Now Kane can show his North Carolina hometown—and the girl who turned her back on him—what a success he has...

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The Halesboro Speedway has been in Lori Garland's family for generations. And thanks to a last-minute offer, she may be able to save the debt-ridden race track. Then she discovers who her mystery buyer is—sports agent Kane Ledger, the bad-boy rebel she loved and lost.

The guy from the wrong side of the tracks likes being in the driver's seat for the first time in his life. Now Kane can show his North Carolina hometown—and the girl who turned her back on him—what a success he has become. But seeing Lori again is opening old wounds…and rekindling desire. Is history about to repeat itself? Or can Kane and Lori restore the race track to its former glory and become the winning team they were meant to be?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373185252
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Series: Harlequin NASCAR Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 4.00 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Bethany Campbell was born and raised in Nebraska, and now lives with her husband, Dan, in Northwest Arkansas. The two met when they were students at Northern Illinois University. They discovered they had a number of mutual interests, especially when it came to movies.

Their record so far is seeing 11 in one day at a documentary film festival. They usually agree about movies, and are passionate defenders of Ishtar.

"We love it," says Bethany. "We have the video tape and watch it at least once a year. We have special fezzes we wear for the occasion. The moths ate some holes in my fez, but the tassel is still in good shape."

Among their all-time favorite movies are Chinatown, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Bridge on the River Kwai, The Maltese Falcon, The Man Who Would Be King, Midnight Cowboy, Road Warrior, and Beauty and the Beast.

Both are interested in animals. When they married, their combined menagerie consisted of two cats, two dogs, two snapping turtles, a Siamese fighting fish, three newts, an iguana, a guinea pig, and a king snake named Sir Hiss. Presently they are down to one dog and two cats.

Do they share tastes in everything? "No," says Bethany. "We like very different things in music; we can drive each other nuts with our CDs. I've been known to hide his Bjork albums. He thinks my movie scores are soppy."

Other differences? "He's athletic; I'm a klutz. He's an adventurous eater; I'm picky and get queasy even looking at an oyster. He's outgoing; I'm shy." Dan writes video scripts as part of his business and has published science fiction and humor.He'spresently working on a screenplay.

Does having two writers in the house create tensions or jealousies? "No," says Bethany. "It helps, because when you have a technical problem, it's hard to discuss it with somebody outside the writing business. We have some very nuts-and-bolts conversations that would bore most people to tears." She pauses.

"I am jealous of one thing, though. His fez is much nicer than mine."

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Read an Excerpt

She'd had no choice.

Lori Garland had put the Halesboro Speedway on the market eight months ago. And when the For Sale signs went up, she felt as if someone had cut out her heart.

Before her father died, he'd begged her to keep the speedway alive—it had been his greatest dream and his proudest accomplishment. She'd pledged all her energy to granting his wish. He wanted it to be his legacy, a monument to his place in North Carolina racing.

She'd quit her job at the high school to devote herself to that legacy. But all Lori's energy, all her determination and dedication weren't enough. The speedway needed money.

The track had once stood out, a state-of-the-art facility, scrupulously well-kept. But when Lori's father was dying, it had sunk into decline. Had he understood how far? Did he really comprehend? By the time of his death, it was dilapidated, unprofitable and mortgaged to the max.

And her father, full of unwarranted resentment, had given up his single NASCAR race, believing it came too early in the year. He demanded the date be changed or else. It was or else that came to pass. Halesboro gave up the right to host the race and took a terrible blow to its importance in the sport— and to its finances.

When her father passed on, she sold her parents' house, she sold her own, but there still wasn't enough cash. Now if she didn't catch up with the speedway's mortgage payments by the end of June, the bank would foreclose.

For seven long months, nobody'd showed a jot of interest in buying the speedway. Then, in the middle of May, a real estate outfit in Miami, the Devlin Development Corporation, contacted her.

Lori knew she had to sell, but she'dvowed to do it with one nonnegotiable condition: the speedway must remain a speedway. Those were her terms; she wouldn't change them, and she told Devlin so.

Devlin's reply was that it wanted only the land. It intended to raze the speedway and build condos and time-shares. Their representative rejected her condition, then stated the company's offer. It was insultingly low.

She took the offer to her friend Liz, a Realtor. Liz urged her to accept it, but Lori held out. There was haggling and dickering from Devlin, which finally issued an ultimatum: Lori would sign the contract as it was by the sixth of June, or Devlin would withdraw its offer.

"I won't do it," Lori told Liz. "I can't."

"Lori, take the money. It's all you can do. The bank's going to foreclose. Devlin will turn around and buy it from them. You'll still be in debt and for what? A speedway that's a lost cause."

"I have to think it over," Lori said, squaring her jaw. She had only three days left to accept Devlin's bid. She knew her situation was desperate and she was about to lose everything, including her honor—for she'd given her word to her father, and she couldn't keep it.

But she wouldn't quit without one more try. Quitting wasn't in her nature. She'd go to her banker, old Martin Grott, and give his arm another twist, the kind she was famous for.

The Carolina morning seemed promising, balmy with a tender blue sky, a kindly sun and vireos warbling in the maples that lined the sidewalks. As Lori approached the bank she kept her back straight, her stride sure and her chin up. Never let them know you're scared, her Uncle June used to tell her. You know who wins? Folks who believe they can win, that's who.

She was a small, shapely woman, a former teacher who looked young for her thirty-seven years. She had an unlined face, wide green eyes and an upturned nose. Today she'd covered her freckles with makeup and pulled her long red hair back into a sleek, no-nonsense chignon. She wore a slightly out-of-fashion summer suit of lavender, hoping it made her look like a woman intent on business.

She moved with such energy and easy confidence that a stranger would think she hadn't a care in the world. She tried to act as fearless as her father and his closest friend, Junior McCorkle—the man her family always called Uncle June— would want her to act.

It was a quiet day in Halesboro, unnervingly quiet, and that was part of the problem, not only Lori's, but the whole town's. She saw no other pedestrians, only two elderly men sitting on a bench outside the boarded-up hardware store. A dog lay by their feet, idly scratching fleas.

Occasionally a car sighed over the asphalt of Main Street, on its way to somewhere more interesting or important. The highway was only a quarter mile away, and she heard the cars and trucks traveling past Halesboro toward destinations that bustled instead of drowsed.

Well, Halesboro had bustled once—more than any other town around. And it could bustle again; she knew it in her mind and she knew it in her heart. But she had to convince other minds and hearts.

She slowed her gait as she neared her destination. The Halesboro People's Bank building was the oldest bank in town. It was also the last bank open in town. It had stood on the corner of Main and Park for more than a hundred and forty years.

The building had once been a small showpiece of Victorian architecture, two stories tall, made of blocks of pink Carolina granite, a roof of pinkish red tiles and a cupola topped by the finest brass weathervane in three counties.

The bank still occupied the first floor. But the second story, which had once housed the offices of a dentist, a doctor and a law firm, was now vacant, its windows dark and empty.

The bank building, like Halesboro, had known better days. In her heart of hearts, Lori feared her trip there was probably hopeless. But one more try—just one more— couldn't hurt. Could it?

She remembered her father's favorite saying: "No guts, no glory." She opened the door with its tarnished brass trim, took a deep breath and marched inside.

Martin Grott, the bank president, was eighty-one years old and claimed he did not intend to retire until he was one hundred. He sat behind a desk so massive that it dwarfed his wizened body. The fluorescent lights glowed down on his pink scalp and his few unruly white hairs. He looked at her with something akin to distaste and demanded, "You? Again?"

"Me. Again," said Lori. She was not by nature a demure woman, but she sat demurely as possible, because Martin expected ladies to be ladylike. She gave him her most innocent Southern belle smile.

He leaned toward her and lower to his desk, peering at her like an elderly lizard assuming a predatory crouch. "Didn't I just see you yesterday at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon?"

"Yes, sir. I was there." She smoothed her skirt and kept her ankles daintily crossed.

Grott pointed a crooked finger at her. "And at the Chamber, you gave your spiel about saving the speedway and revitalizing the town and our heritage, blah-blah-blah?"

"I mentioned the Renewing Halesboro project, yes," Lori said.

"Hmmph. I thought so. And weren't you at the city council meeting night before last?"

"I'm on the city council," she reminded him. "I'm supposed to be there."

"And weren't you saying the same damned thing?" he asked. "Renovate the speedway? Pump new economic blood into the town?"

"Sir, since the speedway's been in decline," Lori said, "the whole community's felt the effect. Pump fresh life into it, and it'll pump fresh life into Halesboro."

Grott narrowed his eyes. "Don't beat around the bush. When you say 'fresh life,' you mean 'fresh money.' And you want to shake it out of me. The answer is no."

Lori sat straighter and lifted her chin. "What's good for the speedway is good for the town and this bank. All I need is a second mortgage and—"

Grott crouched lower, as if deciding how hard to pounce. "No. Forget it. For your own good. Be off. Be gone. Goodbye."

She didn't budge, only clenched the worn wooden arms of the chair in determination that she feared was futile. She called up all the passion she could muster, and the amount surprised her.

She cocked her head and said, "The Halesboro Speedway is part of North Carolina's heritage. Motor racing's heritage. It's a legend—"

"It was a legend," Grott hissed. "It isn't anymore. It's insolvent. It's unsustainable. It's past saving."

Her green eyes sparked as stubbornly as his cold blue ones glared. "Halesboro Speedway is a historical legacy that—"

"You're mistaken," he informed her. "It's not historical. It's history, period. Dying, done for, over, kaput."


"You're mortgaged to the hilt. Your credit's run dry. You've got no collateral left. Nobody with the sense of a gnat would loan you a dime. And you ought to know better than to try to go even deeper in debt."

Her face paled with resentment.

He sat back in his chair and shook his head. He gave her a look that was almost sympathetic. "I know that you promised your daddy you'd do your best to revive it. You've done your best. It's unrevivable. I know about the Devlin offer. Everybody does. Your father would want you to take it. And get on with your life."

Lori wanted to protest that the speedway could have another golden era with enough hard work, enough faith, but most of all, enough backing.

But before she could speak, he said, "I've already given you a loan modification. A second mortgage? Impossible. Take Devlin's money. It's the only sensible action. Do you know how close to bankruptcy you are?"

And then she couldn't speak, because she knew. She'd given every ounce of her strength, every last resource to save the track. And she was going to fail. The knowledge made her feel ill.

"Stop fighting the inevitable," Grott said. "I know what Devlin's offered. It's not much, but it's the best you'll do. I mean that."

Lori's jaw clenched in rebellion. Tears stung her eyes, but she fought them down. She realized that Grott, in his crotchety way, was trying to give her good advice. If she took the Devlin money, she would be able to pay off her debts—just barely.

She swallowed hard. "I want to follow my father's wishes, that's all."

"You can't afford to be sentimental," Grott said with an air of finality. "Devlin's offer is your only lifeline. I knew your father well, and he wouldn't wish you to compromise your economic future. And I won't help you do it. I won't do it for your sake. And I won't do it for his. You know he wasn't himself in his last years. The man he was at his best would never have asked this of you. Do what the best in him would have wanted."

He looked her up and down. Then, he picked up a document, adjusted his glasses and began to read it. He had said what she always avoided admitting.

In her father's last years, he slowly lost his hold on reality. That was why the speedway declined. The truth pained her, and she could tell it bothered Grott, as well. He was not a man who liked speaking of such things. The conversation was over; she'd been dismissed.

She realized that the old man was actually trying to be kind to her. "Thanks for your time," she said softly. "Goodbye" was all he said. He didn't look up. She rose, squared her shoulders and left.

Lori felt mercifully numb as she walked back to her car. She unlocked her ten-year-old blue Mustang and got in. Like a robot, she turned the ignition key and put the car into gear.

As if to spite her, the Mustang began performing its new trick, a dramatic act. It became deeply recalcitrant before consenting to go into reverse.

Clunk. Sputter-sputter, it proclaimed as she finally backed out of her parking space. Wheeze. Hockety-hockety-thud…

"Please don't let that be a death rattle," Lori begged the car. "Please just have the hiccoughs. Give me a break."

The Mustang quieted itself to a low groan and behaved until she reached the highway. Then she pressed the accelerator. Nothing accelerated.

Clunkety, thunkety, the car said. But then it sped up. "Don't do this to me," she told it. "Learn another way to express yourself. I can't afford to repair you."

But then she thought she'd have the money because she was going to sell the speedway to Devlin. She'd played her last card and it had been a joker with an unsympathetic grin. Her fate was sealed, and so was the speedway's.

"Never feel sorry for yourself," Uncle June always used to say. "Worst waste of sympathy in the world."

She smiled in spite of herself, thinking of him, her family's friend and her godfather. She supposed all of her talk of renewing the speedway and Halesboro was a delusion of grandeur—as if she could somehow both save the track and revive the town.

Once thousands of fans and tourists had poured in during the racing season. Restaurants flourished, the town hotel prospered, motel units popped up like orderly, geometric mushrooms. Her father opened a campground and RV park. Shops and stores did a brisk business, and so did nightspots. She smiled nostalgically. Think of it—Halesboro used to have nightspots! Now it had only two small, rather sad bars left.

Her smile faded. So much was changed, so much was gone. Halesboro, the only place she'd ever known as home, seemed to be fading away. Someday it might live only in memories, and then the memories, too, would die. The thought sickened her.

For years, Halesboro's textile mills, owned by Uncle June, and the speedway had made the place secure, even prosperous. But the mills had shut down ten years ago, the speedway hung by a fraying thread, and Halesboro was becoming one more little rural town on its way to oblivion—or radical change. For who knew what the Devlin Corporation might do to it?

She'd always loved Halesboro. Her family roots here went back for generations. Yes, she'd been some sort of megalomaniac to think if she'd save the speedway she could help revive the town.

Well, she couldn't do anything of the kind. She wasn't a heroine, only an ordinary woman, and not a very successful one at that. Her father had left her a failing business, and she couldn't stop its failure. She'd been married at twenty-two to the athlete who'd been the homecoming king in high school his senior year.

Her husband came to realize that he'd peaked in high school. He worked for his father's insurance company, but he made only middling money, and he felt as if all his promise had somehow deserted him. He began to drink and mourn his lost youth.

When he reached thirty, he tried to cheer himself up with younger women, a long, embarrassing series of them. Lori divorced him when she was thirty-three. They'd had no children, and she realized that was probably a good thing.

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