Overheated (Harlequin NASCAR Series)
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Overheated (Harlequin NASCAR Series)

4.1 7
by Barbara Dunlop
     
 

Things Crystal Hayes could do without: her looks, men obsessed with her looks, and guys who think they're God's gift to the ladies. She'd rather be behind the wheel of a truck than navigating cheesy pickup lines. But when Crystal makes a delivery to a NASCAR event, she meets the one guy who could blow all her preconceptions away....

All his life Larry

Overview

Things Crystal Hayes could do without: her looks, men obsessed with her looks, and guys who think they're God's gift to the ladies. She'd rather be behind the wheel of a truck than navigating cheesy pickup lines. But when Crystal makes a delivery to a NASCAR event, she meets the one guy who could blow all her preconceptions away....

All his life Larry Grosso has lived in the shadow of his well-known racing family--but it's now time for him to take what he wants. And on the top of that list is Crystal--breathtaking, sweet...and twenty-two years younger. Their age difference is creating animosity within their families, and suddenly their romance is the talk of the entire NASCAR circuit!

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373217922
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
08/01/2008
Series:
Harlequin NASCAR Series
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Crystal Hayes was glad of the familiar chaos as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams arrived for the race at Charlotte. The town was abuzz with activity, and the fast pace of track deliveries from Softco Machine Works kept her mind off the little things—like her bank balance.
Thursday morning, she swung the company delivery truck out the bay door of Softco's east shop. The complex had grown from its humble beginnings as a single bay garage to an impressive complex of three modern machine shops, two warehouses and a ten-person office. There was an apartment over the office, where Crystal had lived since her husband, Simon, died two years ago.
But she wasn't thinking about that today. In particular, she wasn't stressing about how long a twenty-eight-year-old woman could live above her parents' business without looking pathetic. Today, she was headed for the speedway in Charlotte and the Dean Grosso garage to be part of the pulsating hive of activity surrounding a premier NASCAR event.
She pulled the truck onto Deerborne Street and headed north toward the interstate. When she got up to speed, she popped a vintage Creedence CD into the player, in the mood to get nostalgic. Her father had played Creedence, Pink Floyd and Nazareth in the truck when Crystal was a child riding along on deliveries, and she still had a soft spot in her heart for classic rock.
She toured past the Rondal Bicycle Factory and the Pearson Furniture Warehouse before traffic increased and the landscape turned to retail businesses. The bright red, Treatsy-Sweetsy ice-cream parlor sign rotated slowly in the distance, its stylized, red TS towering above the surrounding buildings. Crystal could almosthear her childhood voice begging her dad to stop for a butterscotch cone.
She smiled to herself as Creedence rasped on about the calm before the storm.
She thought about the forty-odd dollars in her pocket. She'd planned to treat herself to a pizza on Saturday night, which would leave her with just enough for groceries until her next Softco paycheck. If she splurged on a cone, she'd have to compromise somewhere else.
A part-time job as a delivery driver, combined with the occasional advance check on her short stories, didn't exactly provide for a high lifestyle. But she wasn't touching Simon's military widow's pension and life insurance policy, not even to relive the childhood memory.
The rotating sign loomed closer.
She could taste the velvet smooth ice cream, the crisp waffle cone—made daily on site, as they had been for thirty years. She could feel the melting butterscotch oozing over her fingers in the hot, May sunshine.
Oh, to hell with the pizza.
She stomped on the brakes, gluing the unwieldy box of a vehicle to the hot pavement. The tires protested with a screech, but she made the corner, parked across four marked spaces in back of the lot and shut down the diesel engine.
She rounded the building and approached a small patch of garden between the street and the front entrance. There was a black Lab tied to a spindly shrub at one edge of the sparse lawn. Somebody had brought him some water in a Treatsy-Sweetsy ice-cream bowl, but he wasn't drinking it.
He was staring off down the sidewalk, twitching at the end of his lead.
He watched one car approach, brows up, ears quirked. Then it passed without slowing, and the anticipation leeched out of his body. He moved onto the next car, growing alert, obviously expecting his owner to appear at any second. He had gray fur around his muzzle, and a chunk missing from one floppy ear, testifying to a long, probably less than pampered, life.
Crystal drew his attention, and he watched her with big, brown eyes. For a second, she was tempted to buy him a burger. But she quickly reminded herself that she was broke. She'd already compromised her Saturday night pizza. Plus, she reasoned, the owner might not appreciate random strangers feeding his dog.
The small Treatsy-Sweetsy dining room was a whole lot cooler than outside. It was also completely empty, so she walked straight up to the counter. She looked up at the menu board, debating between a regular and a large cone. She wasn't worried about the calories, only the price. She had a naturally thin frame, and a metabolism that was very forgiving of her abuses.
"Help you?" asked a young, ponytailed girl in a pink and white striped blouse and dangling white, plastic earrings.
"A large butterscotch cone."
The girl nodded and rung the price into the cash register. "Two seventy-five."
Crystal handed her a twenty and glanced back at the dog.
He was still standing at the end of the yellow rope, twitching at something he saw down the street, his expression hopeful.
"Your change," said the girl, and Crystal turned back.
"What's with the dog?" she asked.
"Animal Control's coming for him."
This surprised Crystal. For some reason, he hadn't struck her as a stray. He seemed intelligent and, well, dignified—if the word could be applied to an old dog with such a battered ear.
"Is he lost?" she asked.
The girl shook her head, jiggling her plastic earrings and swaying her ponytail. "There was a car accident this morning." She pointed. "Old man hit the tree."
Crystal stared back, seeing the white gash in a stately, old oak.
"Old guy was killed. Dog was fine."
Crystal's heart instantly went out to the poor dog, and her chest tightened painfully. His owner wouldn't be coming back. And the city pound would…
She swallowed, not allowing herself to think about what might happen at the pound.
"Did he have relatives?" asked Crystal. Maybe there were children or grandchildren who'd take the dog.
"The dog?"
"The man."
Another shrug. "Didn't know his name. Came in here alone a lot." She took a sugar cone from the stack and opened the ice cream bin.
Crystal watched the girl form a scoop of the swirled butterscotch, feeling like a heel for indulging in something as silly as ice cream when the poor dog was probably about to be put down.
It's not like somebody was likely to adopt him. The pound was full of bright, lively puppies. Who would choose an old, gray-whiskered dog with a bad ear?
The girl balled up a second scoop, while Crystal felt an impulse growing within her.
"If I give you my name," she said, half her brain telling her to shut up, the other half urging her on. "Will you tell the pound people I've got the dog?"
The girl stopped mid scoop, staring blankly at Crystal.
"I'll take care of him until they check for relatives," Crystal explained. How sad would it be if somebody put the dog down, then a relative showed up later? She knew the pound didn't keep stray animals for long.
"You're taking the dog?" the girl asked, clearly confused.
Crystal nodded. "Do you have a pen?"
The clerk seemed to remember she was in the middle of making a cone. She added the second scoop and handed the cone to Crystal. Then she pulled a pen from under the counter.
Crystal quickly jotted down her name and number on one of the Treatsy-Sweetsy napkins and handed it to the girl. "Tell them to call me if they find a relative."
The clerk nodded bemusedly, while Crystal turned for the exit, telling herself she hadn't lost her mind. There was nothing wrong with occasionally being a Good Samaritan.
Out on the hot sidewalk, she gingerly petted the dog. He sighed and gazed up at her, giving his tail only a cursory wag. But his round eyes closed while she scratched between his ears.
Okay. That was one question answered. It didn't look like he'd bite her.
Carefully balancing the melting cone, she untied the rope from the shrub and coiled a few loops around her free hand.
"There we go, doggy," she crooned. "You want to go for a car ride?"
Predictably, he didn't answer, but stared silently up at her with an expression of benevolent patience. He seemed confused when she started to walk. But after a moment, he came willingly enough.
Across the parking lot, she opened the passenger door. Again, he gave her a curious stare.
"Up you go," she prompted.
He jumped onto the floor of the truck.
Crystal patted the seat.
He gave her a look that questioned her wisdom, his brows knitting together. But when she patted it a second time, he gamely hopped up, curling into a little ball.
She shut the door, refusing to examine the logic of her actions. It was a temporary fix, just until the old man's family could be contacted. And if no relative showed up, well, she'd deal with that later.
On the way around the cab, she licked a dribble from the back of her hand, then she swiped her tongue across both scoops a few times, making her way down to the solid ice cream before hopping into the truck.
She turned the key in the ignition.
"Okay, dog," she said aloud, with a forced note of bravery in her voice. "Looks like it's you and me for a while."
She gave the dog the rest of her ice cream, then put the truck into Reverse.
Rufus, as Crystal had decided to call the black Lab, slept soundly on the soft seat, even as she maneuvered the Softco truck in front of the Dean Grosso garage. Engines fired through the open bay doors, compressors clacked and impact tools whined as the teams tweaked their race cars in preparation for qualifying.
As always, when she visited the garage area, Crystal experienced a vicarious thrill, watching the technicians' meticulous, last-minute preparations. As the daughter of a machinist, she understood the difference a fraction of a degree or a thousandth of an inch could make in the performance of a race car.
She muscled the driver's door shut behind her and waved hello to a couple of familiar team members in their white and pale-blue uniforms. Then she rounded to the back of the truck and rolled up the door. Inside, five boxes were marked Cargill Motorsports.
One of them was big and heavy; it had slid forward a few feet, probably when she'd braked to make the Treatsy-Sweetsy parking lot entrance. So she pushed up the sleeves of her canary-yellow shirt, then stretched forward to reach the box. A couple of catcalls came her way as her faded blue jeans tightened across her rear end. But she knew they were good natured, so she simply ignored them.
She dragged the box toward her, over the gritty, metal floor.
"Let me give you a hand with that," a deep, melodious voice rumbled in her ear.
"I can manage," she responded crisply, not wanting to engage with any of the cat-callers.
Here in the garage, the last thing she needed was one of the guys treating her like she was something other than, well, one of the guys.
She'd learned long ago that there was something about her that made men toss out pickup lines like parade candy. And she'd been around race teams long enough to know she needed to behave like a buddy, not a potential date.
She piled the smaller boxes on top of the large one.
"It looks heavy," said the voice.
"I'm tough," she assured him as she scooped the pile into her arms.
He didn't move away, so she turned her head to subject him to a back off stare. But she found herself staring into a compelling pair of green…no, brown…no, hazel eyes. She did a double take, as they seemed to twinkle, multicolored, under the garage lights.
The man insistently held out his hands for the boxes. There was a dignity in his tone, and little crinkles around his eyes that hinted at wisdom. There wasn't a single sign of flirtation in his expression, but Crystal was still cautious.
"You know I'm being paid to move this, right?" she asked him.
"That doesn't mean I can't be a gentleman."
Somebody whistled from a workbench. "Go, Professor Larry."
The man named Larry tossed his own back-off look over his shoulder. Then he turned to Crystal. "Sorry about that."
"Are you for real?" she asked, growing uncomfortable with the attention they were drawing. The last thing she needed was some latter-day Sir Galahad defending her honor at the track.
He quirked a dark eyebrow in a question.
"I mean," she elaborated, "you don't need to worry. I've been fending off the wolves since I was seventeen."
"Doesn't make it right," he countered, attempting to lift the box from her hands.
She jerked back. "You're not making it any easier."
He frowned.
"You carry this box, and they start thinking of me as a girl."
Professor Larry dipped his gaze to take in the curves of her figure. "Hate to tell you this," he said, a little smile coming into those multifaceted eyes. "Odds are," Larry continued, a teasing drawl in his tone, "they already have."
Something about his look make her shiver inside. It was a ridiculous reaction. Guys had given her the once-over a million times. She'd learned long ago to ignore it.
She turned pointedly away, boxes in hand as she marched across the floor. She could feel him watching her from behind.
He was just like the rest.
But then, she remembered his apology for the team member's ribald remark. She couldn't help but smile at that. When was the last time anyone cared how she felt about being the subject of sexual overtures?
"Hey, Crystal." Dean Grosso greeted her as she set the boxes down on the workbench. "I see you met my brother, Larry."
Crystal glanced back at the tall man who still stood beside her truck. Dean's brother? Really? She would have pegged Larry as much younger than Dean.
"Is he really a professor?" she asked, dusting off her hands and tucking her chestnut hair behind her ears. In the past couple of months, her hair had grown out to a nondescript style. But until she figured out her economic life, she didn't want to spend any money on a haircut. Plus, anything she could do to look plain and boring was a good thing in her world.
Crew chief Perry Noble approached, pulling a pen out of his shirt pocket.

Meet the Author

Barbara penned— well penciled, actually—her first major work of fiction at the age of eight. It was entitled How the Giraffe Got His Long Neck and was released to rave reviews. Unfortunately, the print run of one copy hindered distribution. But the experience whet her appetite for celebrity and acclaim.

Three years later she became a reporter for the venerated publication The Berry Street Times. With a circulation of 11, this forum allowed Barbara to reach even more faithful readers.

After writing her first romance manuscript, she discovered the efficiency of word processing and email distribution. Her beleaguered friends and relatives courageously plowed through each and every story, continuing to provide encouraging feedback.

When Harlequin offered to publish Barbara's stories under the Duets and Temptation imprints, it was a dream come true. Not only are her friends and relatives still compelled to read her stories, but they now enjoy the privilege of paying for them and placing them in prominent positions in their homes. Barbara knows this, because she routinely checks their bookcases while listening to their effusive compliments and wondering what could possibly have caused all those peculiar facial tics.

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Overheated (Harlequin NASCAR Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
Overheated by Barbara Dunlop Harlequin NASCAR Library Secrets And Legends Series Book 9 Professor Larry Grosso has buried himself in his work since his wife passed away three years ago. Unlike his family that has four generations of racing in their blood he prefers solving mathematical problems rather than driving. His son Steve even joined the racing world by working with his cousin, Kent. When he meets the most beautiful woman ever he decides it may be time to move on with his life. Crystal Hayes hates being beautiful. She’d done the trophy wife thing and never wanted that again. Even dressing down didn’t help hide her looks. When she met Larry she realized that maybe there was someone out there who could care for her beyond her beauty and even take the time to realize she had brains as well. If only she can convince him that being over twenty years older than her don’t matter. Love don’t always make life easier. Steve is sure that Crystal must be a gold-digger and others tell Larry she deserves someone younger. Tell their hearts that. The series continues with past issues. Patsy wants her husband Dean to retire, but after trying for a championship for thirty years he’s not ready to quit without it. There are still past mysteries to be solved. Book ten continues back with the Murphy family in Teaming Up.
teddylover11 More than 1 year ago
just loved this book i would recommend this to any of my friends
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truck driver Crystal Hayes loves her job as she drives for her family's firm. As she listens to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crystal muses how much the open road may be gender specific but is the life for her as she definitely has no desire for a man in her life one was enough.---------------- The Grosso family is one of NASCAR¿s royals. However, the black sheep is Professor Larry Grosso, who as an academia is sort of an outside nerd as if he fell out of the family tree. When Crystal delivers her latest truck load to the Grosso NASCAR team, they meet. In spite of his being two decades older than she, the attraction is stratospheric. He wants her although his family fears she is only after his money whereas she was married once so has doubts about a second time around the track.-------------- Racing takes a back seat as two at best NASCAR peripherals fall in love. The story line focuses on how age does not matter but pasts do as each has ghosts that make them hesitate to forge a loving relationship. Readers will enjoy Barbara Dunlap¿s second chance at love starring two OVERHEATED protagonists who fear risking their hearts.--------------- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book that lets you know that age is just a number when love is involved. Couldn't put the book down.....I have followed all of the NASCAR Secrets and Legends books and have not been disappointed.