family-owned race team, she's got news for him. So what if
Mick's the most famous soccer star on the globe—with cash,
connections and charisma? Fuel line? Finish line? Shelby doubts
the Brit knows the difference.
Superstar Mick knew buying a NASCAR team was going to
be tricky. The truth is the struggling team needs Mick's media
savvy and team-building skills—even if Shelby can't admit it.
Now, with Daytona just days away, Mick won't quit until he
changes Shelby's mind. Any way he can.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Shelby Jackson stepped through the door of Thunder Racing and sucked in a lungful of her favorite scent"motor oil and gasoline, tinged with a hint of welding glue. No double espresso or honey-laden pastry could smell better in the morning. But there was something different in the air today. She sniffed again, drawn into the race shop by her nose and her sixth sense.
There was something pungent, a little bitter but fresh. Her heart jumped and her work boots barely touched the gleaming white floor as she hurried toward the paint-and-body shop. With a solid shove, she flung the double doors, and they smacked the walls with a satisfying synchronized clunk.
And then she drank in the prettiest sight she'd seen in eight long years.
Number fifty-three lived again. "Oh, Daddy," she whispered as she approached the race car, the hand over her mouth barely containing her delight. "You'd love it."
In truth, Thunder Jackson would roar like an eight-hundredhorsepower engine at the sight of the screaming-yellow "fiftythree" surrounded by a sea of purple as painful as a fresh black eye. Then he'd calm down and throw his arm around her shoulder with a mile-wide grin and a gleam of approval in his eyes.
"Shelby girl," that gravelly voice would say. "You done good."
And she had.
She took a few steps closer, nearly reaching the driver's side. The Kincaid Toys insignia"an openmouthed, wideeyed clown"may not be the sexiest logo to fly at two hundred miles an hour around a superspeedway, but it was a damn good sponsor. And Thunder Jackson would have known that, too.
"I didn't quit, Daddy," she whispered again, almost touching the glistening paint. Unwilling to risk a smudge, she held her fingers a centimeter from the cool metal, imagining the power surge that would sing through the carburetor and make this baby roar to a heart-stopping victory. "Just like you always said, Daddy. Never, never, never quit."
"Actually, Winston Churchill said that." A voice. Deep. Male. Nearby.
Shelby scanned the empty shop.
Then slowly, as if she'd conjured him up, a man rose from the other side of the car. "Unless Winston was your daddy."
"Huh?" Lame, but it was all she could manage in the face of eyes as green as the grass on the front stretch of Daytona. All she could say as she took in sun-streaked hair that fell past his ears and grazed a chiseled jaw. Below that, a white T-shirt molded to a torso that started off wicked, slid right into sinful and braked hard over narrow hips in worn blue jeans.
"Which I highly doubt since Winston's children are!" His eyes glimmered, took a hot lap over her face and body and then returned to meet her gaze. "Quite a bit older than you are."
He straightened to what had to be six feet two, judging by how he dwarfed the race car. "Not to mention," he added, a melodic British accent intensified by the upward curl of generous lips, "there's not a redhead in that whole family."
"Who?" Are you?"
He laughed, and Shelby felt the impact right down to her toes. Which, at the moment, were curled in her boots.
"No relation, I'm afraid. But since we're fellow countrymen, I feel the need to preserve history. To be perfectly honest, the quote was "Never, never, never give in,"but it's been messed with over the years. And the man who said it was not your daddy."
Actually, it was. But who was she to argue withperfection? "It's just an expression." Her voice was husky, her brain stalled. She cleared her throat and seized some missing gray matter. "What are you doing in here?"
He cocked his head and lifted one mighty impressive shoulder. "Checking out the car. Do you like the colors?"
Oh, of course. Long hair, foreign accent and just enough beard growth to suggest a distant relationship with a razor. He was the artist. The specialist hired to paint the car.
Although somehow she couldn't imagine the uptight and virtuous David Kincaid sharing space or business with a man who probably had "bad" tattooed somewheregood.
"I do like the colors," she assured him. "I like them a lot." And the painter was pretty easy on the eyes, too.
"I think they're atrocious. Too lemon and violet." Lemon and violet? Artistespeak. "Oh, well," she said. "It'll all be one brilliant blur at two hundred miles an hour."
"Let me ask you something."
Anything. Name, rank, phone number.
"Do these little things really go that fast?"
Fahst. Could he be any sexier? "Not at Daytona. That's a plate race."
"I thought it was a car race."
She laughed. "Very funny."
He winked at her. "In any case, I imagine your clown will look especially fetching crossing the finish line under that flag."
He made a word like fetching sound sofetching. Who used that word anymore? "You mean the checkered flag."
"The victory flag."
Adorable. Incredible. Just plain edible. But the boy did not know racing. "That'd be the one." She stood on her tiptoes to see over the roof. "Still touching up over there?"
He slowly raised his right hand, and a shiny restrictor plate caught the light. "I saw this on the floor and thought it looked intriguing."
"That's one way to describe it." A bane of a racer's existence would be another.
He held the plate over his face, peering at her through the top two holes. "What is it?"
"It's a restrictor plate. That's what makes it a plate race," she explained. "On superspeedways, we have to limit the horsepower."
He lowered the plate and looked appalled. "Why would you do that?"
"It's complicated, but it has to do with safety. You see, if you slide that thing between the carburetor and the intake manifold, you limit the amount of air into the engine, which!" She paused at the amused flicker in his eyes. "You have no idea what an intake manifold is, do you?"
"No, but it sounds hot."
Speaking of hot.
She cleared her throat. Should she tell Painter Boy he was flirting with the co-owner of the race team? She didn't want to scare him off.
"We haven't been introduced," she said.
11 "No, we haven't." He pinned her with those jade-green eyes, the playful hint of a secret visible enough to send a shiver up her spine.
The shop loudspeaker crackled. "Shelby Jackson, pick up line one."
"But you're being paged."
Oh. So he knew exactly who he was flirting with.
She backed away from the car. "Excuse me," she said, turning to the shop phone on the wall, heat prickling over her neck and a weird, foreign numbness slowing her step.
Unable to resist, she glanced over her shoulder. Sure enough, he still wore a cocky grin, his eyes trained on her with a look that was purelysinful.
She picked up the phone. "Sup?" "'Sup? What kind of greeting is that for your grandfather?" "Ernie!" she exclaimed, the familiar rasp of his voice slamming her back to earth. "Are you in the shop?"
"Of course I'm in the shop. I'm in your office. We had a meeting scheduled."
Talk about sinful. Missing a meeting with her grandfather and business partner was unforgivable. "I'm sorry. I got distracted." Big-time. "Did you see the fifty-three car?" Surely that was a legitimate excuse for being late.
"Hours ago. Now get on back here before I die of old age waitin' on ya."
She smiled. "Not likely."
Taking a deep breath, she hung up and paused before turning around. Should she make a move? Should she offer her phone number or take his? Should she act on this palpable, delicious attraction? So what if he was a painter and she was a NASCAR team owner? She hadn't gone on a date in two years, and he was.
Wouldn't her father give her a nudge to the ribs? Wouldn't Thunder Jackson whisper in her ear and say, "Come on, Shelby girl. You only live once."
"So," she said, still facing the phone on the wall, "you planning on painting all of our cars?"
She waited a beat, then turned, expecting to see that provocative tip of his lips, that bedroom gleam in his eyes.
But the only face that greeted her was the clown on the hood of the car. Lemon. Violet. And so not sinful.
She uncurled her toes, cursed her moment of female fluttering and hustled off to find Ernie.
HER GRANDFATHER WAS flipping through her phone messages when she entered the office. She paused and sucked in a sigh of exasperation, the usual excuse ringing in her ears.
He means well. "Ernie?"
He kept reading. "I see no new sponsors have called in the last two days."
She blew out a breath and gave his shoulder a playful punch. "I'm working on it, big guy."
He looked up from the pink slips, snagging her with copper-penny eyes much like her own, only these were minted more than seven decades ago and time had faded them to a dull brown.
"We need money, Shel."
"I know. I know." She slipped behind the desk and dropped into her worn chair and listened for the comfortable, lazy squeak. Morning, Dad.
"Been eight years, Shel. When you gonna give that chair a lube job?"
"He doesn't like when you say that, Ernie." She gave him a sly grin and purposefully rocked, the rhythmic squawk hitting a high note. "You can't quiet Thunder Jackson."
"Lord knows I tried since the day he was born." The older man chuckled, but then his weather-lined skin crinkled into a well-set scowl. "You said you'd be here at seven."
"I didn't think you'd really be here that early." She tapped the mouse to bring her computer screen to life with a twentyyear-old picture of her dad climbing out of a race-torn Ford on the start/finish in Bristol. The year she came back to travel with her father, motherless, eight and scared. That victory was a sign, Daddy had said, that everything would be okay. There would be no more changes. And she'd believed him. "You don't have to get in here so early," she added, looking away from the picture. "I'm handling things."
He grunted, a note of resentment barely hidden in the sound. She almost kicked herself with a work boot. She had to remember not to rub in the fact that he played such a small role in the day-to-day operations of Thunder Racing; running the race team he and her father had started was in his blood.
Without the challenges of the job, Ernie Jackson would be a shell of a man, living in the past. Shelby had to resist the temptation to remind him that she made the most important decisions now. She had to respect that her grandpa needed to run Thunder Racing as much as he needed to eat, breathe and sleep.
"I'm quitting, Shel."
The chair hinge screamed as she jerked toward him. "What?"
"I'm quitting the business."
She stared at him. So much for how well she knew her closest relative.
"Don't look at me like I grew another head, girl. I'm seventy-seven years old." He squished his face into a network of creases so deep that even his wrinkles had wrinkles. "I been on a racetrack or in a garage since I was too young to see over the hood and I been losin' sleep over this team since your daddy was dirt racing. I'm done." His voice softened and he leaned forward. "There's more to life than riding around in circles."
She barely managed to blink. "Where did this come from?" He crossed his arms over a chest that had long ago lost its barrel status. "I just want to enjoy my golden years."
He was lying. "Are you sick?" "Sick of breathin' octane and rubber." He shifted in the chair. "I just want a life without racing is all."
"There's life without racing?" The words were out before she could check herself, earning her a dismal, gruff laugh in response.
"Thunder and me sure failed you, girl, if you really believe that racing is all there is."
"Well, there's the garage. And the pits." She tried to make it sound like a joke. "And the infield."
But he wasn't smiling. "Shelby, you're twenty-eight years old and you work, eat and sleep racing."
She choked a laugh. "And to think I was just about to accuse you of the same crime."
Ernie shook his head, a thin gray lock sliding over his forehead. "And that's fine, honey. I got no issue with that. I justwell, you need to be set up so you're safe and comfortable. We gotta think of the future."
"Right. The future." A future without Ernie was bleak. Lonely. Even a little scary. "Which is why you quitting makes no sense at all."
Ernie pushed that hair away and leaned back on the two legs of the guest chair. She resisted the compulsion to pull his seventy-seven-year-old self to a more secure position.
"Shel, I been givin' this a lot of thought during the offseason," he said slowly. "Before we launch into Daytona next month and the rest of the season, we ought to make a change in our corporate structure."
"I wasn't aware we had a corporate structure." She let out a sober laugh as a little tendril of anxiety tightened her throat. Change. Why did she loathe that word? Because every time a major change visited her well-constructed life, it came with pain and loss, that's why. And this one looked headed in the same direction. "Ernie, this is one of the last family-owned teams in NASCAR, not some gargantuan organization with six hundred employees and their own wind-tunnel simulator. What could we possibly change except who's responsible for picking up the donuts on Monday morning?"
There was no humor in his eyes. "You know as well as I do that if we don't upgrade that small-potato mind-set we'll never be in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing next year, let alone thrive into the next decade. We got one year left with our sponsors, and after that, honey, we're gonna be field fillers if we're lucky."
"Ernie, I'm working on that," she said, her smile fading as the seriousness of what he was saying hit her. "Or have you forgotten that I convinced Kincaid Toys to sponsor a second Thunder car and I signed Clayton Slater to drive it for us? Now we have two cars and two drivers and two major sponsors. That's plenty secure and!" She shifted in her seat and set her jaw. "I don't want to get any bigger than that."
"Don't worry. We're a far cry from the four cars and drivers, the mountains of money and the international corporate sponsorships that the big teams have."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First, a disclaimer...I have to admit - I'm not a NASCAR fan. But then again, you don't have to be a fan to thoroughly enjoy this book. I found myself immediately immersed in the plot, the characters are totally 3-dimensional, and the racing was a backdrop with enough technical stuff to make it real without boring me. And I *love, love, love* the ending - call me sentimental. Another great job, Rocki!!
Whatever this New York Times Bestseller author writes is guaranteed to "thrill" her readers. This book is no exception and a tribuite to the author and NASCAR. I realize there have been articles written about Harlequin and this NASCAR series. Would the series be a success? If this is any indication, then yes but I sincerely believe her contribution to the series and her other book Tis the Silly Season from NASCAR HOLIDAY, are a wonderful addition.
Thunderstruck by Roxanne St. Claire If you enjoy connected stories, this one begins in the anthology A NASCAR Holiday: 'Tis the Silly Season where we meet Shelby Jackson when she’s working with Clayton Slater. Shelby Jackson and her grandfather, Ernie, run Jackson Racing. When her father, Thunder Jackson, died she became part owner. Carrying on the small family operated business and remembering her dad is everything to Shelby. Imagine her shock when Ernie tells her he’s decided to sell his part of the business….to an outsider. Mick Churchill is a famous soccer, or football, as it’s called in his homeland. He has a really good reasons, that are very family orientated, to buy part of Thunder Racing. What he didn’t expect was the beauty that came along with it….the beauty that Ernie has made it clear he keep his hands off or no deal. As the only woman and family owned team, Shelby has a lot at stake. This story will take you for a race on and off the track. A race to keep tradition while trying to keep up with all the new changes happening around them. It also has a touch of danger on the sidelines intertwined in the story as well.
I love this author. I'm reading my way through all of her books including this one. The story line was great, there was humor and the two leads have really good chemistry. I love that the heroine was strong, knowledgable and pretty. That's what draws me to Roxanne St. Claire's books. Her awesome heroines. Not the usual whiny, needy sort. This was a good read. The only reason i gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because i felt the first half of the book had too much arguing. ##
I read a few NASCAR romances and did not like them but I picked this book up at the UBS and totally loved it. This author is funny, and really knows racing. This is a sweet and fun story that is impossible to put down.
I like this author a lot, but I was really skeptical about the new NASCAR books because of what I heard -- no sex, no danger on the track, no 'reality.' But this one is so cute -- the hero, the romance and a really fun ride. Very much like her other books in terms of fast pace and GREAT romance. I recommend it! Killer Curves is Excellent, too. My favorite of hers. Have fun!
I picked up Thunderstruck because Roxanne St. Claire's Killer Curves ranks as one of my all time favorite books ever. This one did not disappoint -- it was very, very good. The hero is adorable, the racing scenes are real, the suspense is scary. I liked it alot. But, if you want a hot, steamy, heartpounding book that will probably make you cry, too, go get Killer Curves, Ms. St. Claire's other book about racing. You won't be sorry.
Shelby Jackson and her grandfather are co-owners of Thunder Racing, a minor NASCAR racing team. However her grandfather has recently been warning her that he wants to retire andto do so he would have to sell his half of the team. He even has a perspective buyer, internationally renowned soccer star Mick Churchill, who needs to purchase a NASCAR team to pay off a bet.--------------------- Shelby is appalled that some sports moron may be her business partner. She vows no way and tries to find alternatives including persuading grandpa to give her time to raise the money. Mick enjoys battling with his future partner as he finds her more than just an attractive distraction. Still the finish line beckons but who will be in driver¿s seat for Team Thunder remains confusing as love has left the battlers in disarray.------------------ THUNDERSTRUCK is a fun contemporary romance starring two likable characters though the underlying friction is caused not by love but by the overly used theme of business partnering in which one party objects to the other. Readers will enjoy watching Mick and Shelby bicker over the Thunder Racing team while each tries to ignore the attraction between them. Fans will enjoy watching this couple reach the checkered flag arguing all the way.----------------- Harriet Klausner
I finished this book last night and it was the first one of the racing and romance kind of books I've read. I loved, loved, loved it. I'm a picky reader and most romance novels make me crazy because they seem like the background and setting is forced so it fits the love story. But this author just made it all work together so nicely, and I felt 'transported' to the world. Mostly, the characters were memorable and different, especially the hero. He was very strong and capable (a British soccer star) but also very tender and funny. The heroine (a race team owner with issues) was exactly the kind of woman we all wish we could be. There aren't many books that you just don't want to end because you like the characters so much and this was one of them.
This book is not your everyday romance. If you want to experience NASCAR and read a sizzling romance with a suspenseful twist (not to mention a charming soccer-playing hero from England), this is the book for you. Roxanne St. Claire's newest book is a winner.
Track magic describes author Roxanne St. Claire's books. You can't go wrong with any of her titles, she just keeps getting better and better. If you weren't a NASCAR fan before, you will be after you finish Thunderstruck. Roxanne St. Claire knows her game: racing, soccer and writing.