Speed Bumps

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Star NASCAR driver Gabby O'Farrell can't believe her mother is harping at her again. How many times does she have to say it? She's not going to help run the family's corporation. She's not shopping for a husband of the right pedigree. And there's no way she's ever going to give up racing!

Who cares what the other macho, hothead drivers are saying about her? Gabby knows team owner Vaughn Steiner has got her back. And since they started sharing kisses and strategy in equal ...

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2007 Mass-market paperback New. Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 250 p. Harlequin NASCAR. Audience: General/trade.

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Star NASCAR driver Gabby O'Farrell can't believe her mother is harping at her again. How many times does she have to say it? She's not going to help run the family's corporation. She's not shopping for a husband of the right pedigree. And there's no way she's ever going to give up racing!

Who cares what the other macho, hothead drivers are saying about her? Gabby knows team owner Vaughn Steiner has got her back. And since they started sharing kisses and strategy in equal measure, she's determined to go all the way...to win the coveted NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship.

But now that she's growing close to Vaughn's adorable daughter, is she ready for the mommy track, too?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373217748
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • 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

Energy pulsed around her. Through her. Inside her. If she didn't need both hands on the steering wheel, she would have raised her fist and shouted, "Yes!"

Last weekend she'd driven Vaughn Steiner's Number 111 car in Daytona. The Super Bowl of stock car racing. She'd come in a respectable, if not terribly impressive, twenty-second out of forty-three.

Now here she was at the race track in California and do- ing considerably better. From her twelfth-position start in the pack of forty-three, she'd moved up to third place. Third place!

That could change in a heartbeat, of course. A blown tire. Worse, a blown engine. Or the inevitable crash.

"Pit stop, Gabby," the voice in her helmet announced. Mack Roberts, her crew chief.

She glanced at the row of quivering instruments dotted across the utilitarian dashboard.

Oil and water temperatures. Good.

Oil and fuel pressures. Check.

Volt gauge. On the mark.

But there was no fuel gauge. Gassing up was an art, not a science. Timing was everything. She'd run forty laps since her last pit stop and was now approaching the mid- way mark in the five-hundred-mile race, so far without a major calamity. The Number 127 car had blown a tire a half hour ago, but he'd been at the end of the pack and had managed to pull off safely without the caution flag having to be raised.

Come on, someone, screw up.

She just needed a minor mishap. A shredded tire in the pack behind her. An oil spill. Enough of a hazard to bring out the yellow caution flag so she could make a pit stop while the field was frozen in slow motion. That way she'd stand a better chance of notlosing her position.

"I'm good for one more lap," she answered into her mike.

"Now, Gabby," another male voice commanded.

For a moment his tone reminded her of her mother, and in that split second she was tempted to go into defiance mode and make another circuit to spite him. But Vaughn Steiner was definitely not Della O'Farrell. Not even close. He was the person in charge, though. The team owner. The guy who paid the bills and made all this possible. Be- sides, he was a former driver. She trusted his instincts. Other owners watched from a distance. Vaughn liked to still be in the action.

She snapped the wheel to the left onto the entrance to pit road, lined her vehicle up precisely and tapped the brakes.

Ahead on her left she saw her red-and-black team logo and the metal sign with her car number, 111, bobbing up and down atop a pole. She headed for the stall, clearly out- lined on the pavement in yellow, worked the brake pedal with her left foot and listened to the countdown. She had to be completely inside the box. Those were the rules, and there were plenty of them.

Five, four, three, two, one.

Even before she'd come to a complete stop, her team was leaping over the infield's low concrete wall and sur- rounding her sleek black vehicle festooned with colorful decals. The most prominent, the big one on the hood, was OI, O'Farrell Industries, the local family business her fa- ther had brought from near bankruptcy to become a na- tional trademark.

The engine still rumbling, the right side of the vehicle tilted sharply up. The whir of an air wrench removed lug nuts while behind her on the left specially blended high-octane gasoline streamed into her fuel cell from two 11-gallon cans held high aloft.

The sharp, pungent smells of hot asphalt, burned rubber, raw fuel and lubricants were better than an aphrodisiac. No high could compare with this.

A water bottle attached to a long pole poked in through the net covering the window opening. She grabbed the plastic straw and sucked the ice water into her parched mouth. Even with the cooling system she must already have sweated a gallon in the stifling car. But her mind wasn't on the 120-degree heat or the perspiration leeching out of every pore of her body or the claustrophobic snug- ness of her seat and harness. Her thoughts were focused on only one thing. The race. Nothing else mattered.

The right side of the car bounced down. Two tires changed. A second later the left side angled up. Two to go. The seven- man team moved with quick, sure, practiced efficiency.

"you're hanging back too long on the turn before accelerating into the backstretch," Vaughn told her, his voice coming through the radio headset. It was the only way to communicate in the deafening roar around them: the howl of unmuffled, high-performance engines streaking by, the crowd in the grandstands across the black-ribboned road cheering wildly, the PA system blar- ing overhead.

"Gotcha," she replied, and instinctively nodded, making her aware of the weight of her helmet. She swallowed one last desperate sip of water while fighting a tight grin at the irony of the advice. Vaughn usually told her to back off, to not be so aggressive. Apparently his counsel had overcome her lead-footed impulses.

Easy fix, she vowed. Easy fix.

The left side of the car bounced onto the pavement. "Go. Go. Go. Go. Go ."

Gabby spurted forward, burning rubber, to make up every precious second. The stop to change four tires and fill her tank had lasted less than fourteen seconds. The streamlined car, theoretically a stock Ford Fusion, had no speedometer. She monitored the tachometer instead to keep under the 55 mph speed limit on pit road. Exceeding it would mean a serious penalty. Safety came first in this high-energy, inherently dangerous sport. She hit the track and revved the 750 horsepower, custom-built engine to full throttle and experienced that exhilarating surge of adrena- line race drivers thrive on. Junkies, all of them, for speed.

She zoomed onto the stretch, her foot rammed to the floorboard. One hundred forty miles an hour. One sixty. One eighty. The high-powered engine screamed. Her gloved hands sweat. Turn One was coming up. Jem Nordstrom's Chevy Monte Carlo roared beside her on the right, trying to inch ahead in tiny spurts. Freddie Harris was edging his Dodge Charger up in her left rear quadrant. No way would she allow him in.

She'd taken first once in the NASCAR Busch Series— what a blast that had been—but this was the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. It didn't get any better than this.

Jem and Freddie were now a lap ahead of her, but they were heading for pit stops. If she could hold her own on this lap she had a shot for the lead and, if she could main- tain it, Victory Lane.

Decision time came again. Should she slow down enough to hug the inside of the curve, and probably be overtaken on the outside in the backstretch by Jem, return- ing after his pit stop? Or keep up speed a little longer and take the curve wide, forcing him to slip behind her rather than widen his turning radius? The problem was that it would leave her vulnerable to a slingshot maneuver on the inside by Freddie, who was also back on the track.

Choices. Tactics. Wits. God, she loved this.

Be aggressive, Vaughn had coached her. Don't hold back on the turn. Got it.

Gabby maintained her speed, nudging two hundred miles per hour now, and hugged the inside lane—until the seat of her pants told her she was about to lose traction. Oh, so reluctantly, she eased up on the gas, just enough to maintain control. Halfway through the second part of the turn she flattened the pedal to the firewall. The new wide, treadless rear tires fishtailed for a split second before they grabbed the hot, tacky asphalt and shot down the straight- away. Freddie and Jem, still on her tail, hung close, but Gabby still owned the lead.

A broad grin had her cheeks touching the padded sides of her helmet. Mustn't gloat, she chided herself, and grinned some more.

Jem's car nosed forward, ahead of Freddie's, and shifted left to the inside. He was trying to coax Gabby to the right so he could gain the inside lane, the shortest circumference of any circle.

"Bite me," she whispered.

The next turn loomed. Don't panic and don't yield. If he wanted to play chicken, she'd show him.

She pushed a little longer this time, ran wide-open be- fore letting up marginally on the gas. Jem's Chevy began to drift a little more to the left. No, damn it, she wouldn't give him the inside of the curve, the lead. No way.

The tight radius had her rear end starting to break to the right. Instinctively she countersteered—which took her still farther to the right.

Jem sling-shotted ahead from the inside lane. The ra- dius of the turn tightened. Gabby refused to lighten up on the gas pedal.

But he did. Damn it.

Her left front fender caught his right rear. All of a sudden his tail began to break. Centrifugal force took over. There was no way around him. The chain reaction commenced. She T-boned him. Then Freddie clipped her.

Gabby sat helpless as her Ford began a slow, counter- clockwise rotation across the steeply banked track in a blue-gray cloud of acrid smoke.

She muttered a curse. The shriek of tires and the stench of burning rubber filled her nostrils. Her heart pounded like a pile driver as she gripped the steering wheel.

Jem's Monte Carlo paralleled her motion. For a breath- taking moment they whirled like synchronized dancers. Then came the inevitable, nerve-shattering crunch of metal.

Jem bounced off the outside wall. Gabby struck him sideways on the rebound and ricocheted in front of Freddie. He swerved, but not fast enough. He rammed into her again. Bumper cars without the laughter. The siren call of race cars roared past them. Gabby's ears buzzed. Her body lurched from side to side against the seat harness.

And her heart sank into her stomach. For Gabby O'Farrell, this race was over.

FISTS CLENCHED, jaw locked, Vaughn Steiner watched the

whole episode from atop the hauler in the infield. Nothing he hadn't seen hundreds of times before and experienced dozens of times himself when he was a driver. Yet his heart was pounding like a rookie's when Gabby lost con- trol and went into a slow, spellbinding rotation, like the final revolution in a taunting game of spin the bottle. he'd lived with danger, thrived on it all his life. Yet standing by, observing this relatively innocuous crash, scared the hell out of him.

His fear was all out of proportion. He knew that. Gabby wasn't in serious danger. The cars behind her, driven by experts, were able to give her a wide berth. There was no further chain reaction. No one rolled. No one flipped. There was no pileup.

He took a series of deep breaths and willed his heart- beat to slow down.

His precious Number 111 car was a mess, of course, and out of commission for the rest of this race. Gabby had been slammed hard, but the carefully engineered rolled-steel cage she sat in protected her. The biggest threat in crashes was fire. In this case there hadn't been any. Yet he'd felt unbearable anxiety for her safety and an unrealistic desire to snatch her out of harm's way. This uncharacteristic re- action left him feeling helpless and that made him angry.

While Mack Roberts, the crew chief who had been with him for nearly ten years, scrambled his team to recover the car, and the track crew drove Gabby to the infield care cen- ter, Vaughn paced back and forth.

His anger was fully justified, he told himself. She'd blown the race, wrecked his car. Cost him time and a lot of money. Damn it all. He had every right to be pissed.

He had to remind himself that his other car on the track, driven by Brett Conroe, was near the back of the first pack, in nineteenth place. Okay, could be better, but at least he was still in the race. There was plenty of time for him to move up. Vaughn had few illusions that Brett would win, but the guy was at least making a good showing. Focus on the positive, Vaughn told himself. Focus on the positive.

Yet all he could think about was Gabby.

He must have been crazy to take on a woman driver. What the hell had he been thinking? He wouldn't be fret- ting this way if it was a man behind the wheel.

He was waiting for her when a truck dropped her off in the garage area. He already knew from a walkie-talkie re- port that she was all right. The medics had checked her over for broken bones and for any cuts or lacerations that might need attention. No treatment required. She'd be sore as hell tomorrow, though, from the hard slamming she'd received. Vaughn could promise her that. He also knew from years of experience on the track that the biggest bruise she'd have would be the self-imposed one on her ass from kicking herself.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A fun NASCAR romance

    In the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Gabby O¿Farrell has proven competitive although she has not yet won her first race at that level. She has won one time on the NASCAR Busch series, but never at the superbowl level, which is her dream and her socially prominent mother¿s nightmare.------------- However, ignoring her mother to compete against the best is one thing even though some think she got the opportunity because her dad, CEO of O¿Farrell Industries. However ignoring her feelings for bit boss Vaughn Steiner is much more difficult. She wants him in the worst way and even loves his daughter Stephanie. Unbeknownst to her Vaughn knows how much he cares every time she is on the track as his heart collapses whenever a car is near, which means throughout a race. Winning may prove not enough for this duo to succeed as a couple.----------------- This fun NASCAR romance stars a lead couple who readers will like as they try to remain professional in spite of a deep attraction between them. The racing sequences directly add to the romance as incidents occur on the track that sends Vaughn into male protective mode for the woman he loves. Though her mom and Stephanie¿s grandmother are nasty characters with no redeeming traits, readers will enjoy Ken Casper¿s fine spin around the track.--------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Speed Bumps by Ken Casper Harlequin NASCAR Series Library Gabby

    Speed Bumps by Ken Casper
    Harlequin NASCAR Series Library
    Gabby O'Farrell might have flitted around trying to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up, but now she has not doubts. She discovered car racing and that she's good at it. She moved up from Busch Series to Nextel Cup and is doing great in her rookie year. And she sure is enjoying pleasing her boss on and off the track.

    Vaughn Steiner’s accident took away his ability to drive in NASCAR so he became an owner instead. Running two cars he took a chance on hiring the female debutante socialite and it’s paying off. Problem is that he notices she’s just as much woman as she is driver.

    Maybe driving is easy for Gabby but fighting against her high society mother isn’t. Della wants her daughter in fancy dresses and preparing to take over their company one day. She’s doing all she can to discourage her from driving and having a personal life with anyone but one of the high social standing men she wants her to marry. Definitely plenty of speed bumps in store for this couple.

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    Posted January 24, 2012

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