Authors: Amy Gregory
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Bikers
“Jesse’s Soul will leave you breathless as you slide into the finish line with tears in your eyes and love in your heart! Thank you Amy Gregory for a ride through a cowboy’s soul!” ~Katie Mettner
“An emotional sequel to Carter’s Treasure, Jesse’s Soul will lasso you in and whip you around with all kinds of emotions...I have never gotten chills from a book but wow! What an amazing book!” ~Tobi Helton
Racing to Love
here just aren’t enough words. You are my everything—I love you.
I’m still learning with every paragraph I write. I love this journey, and I know I couldn’t do it without an amazing group of friends and family behind me. Kim C., Chris T., Deliece H., Trish N., Katie M., Tobi H., Chrissie G., Mari C., Blue R., and so many, many more! Thank you so much for your continued support, help, and your friendship!
Most of all, to my kids…thanks for understanding, thanks for your support. I love you each more than anything in the whole wide world. Just do me one favor—never quit dreaming.
This couldn’t be happening—not now.
The sentiment echoed in his head as he stood, momentarily stunned, slack jawed and eyes wide open, staring at the
concrete floor beneath his boots as the news hit him like a two-by-four in the back.
Metal hitting metal, revving engines, yelled curses from some and cheers from others, all commonplace noises in the pits of the race circuit—sounds that were usually distinct—melded together, then in unison faded out until all he could hear was the pounding of his own pulse in his ears. He closed his eyes, absorbing the shock. With his hands stuffed in his back pocket
s, Jesse’s less-than-stellar record from the outdoor season flashed to the forefront. The black and white statistics on Reid’s laptop—a crystal-clear picture in his mind of a season he couldn’t afford to repeat.
All the plans they’d made to change
that were now gone—vanished. The hard work, the brutally long hours, the blood, sweat, and tears—all for nothing.
, his breathing became shallow as his body tried to keep up with his racing pulse. His mind took a nosedive, and the thoughts and questions forming in his head started spinning out of control. Jesse looked up, searching Reid’s face for answers as utter panic took over.
“Oh my God, Reid. What in the hell are we going to do?”
All attempts to keep his cool with his manager were thrown out the window. The tight rein he kept on his temper was ready to snap, something that he had never let happen. He had always prided himself on being easy going. That reputation, however, was going straight down the drain in front of the entire team, but he was too wrapped up in his personal disaster to give two shits.
“We’re one week into the season, and we just pulled in for the second race. What are we going to do? I can’t go into this race without Shawn.” Jesse scrubbed his hands over his face and up into his hair.
“It’s not like we don’t have other mechanics on the team—”
“It’s not the same, Reid”—he cut off his manager—“and you know it. I’ve always liked how differently you run the team from everyone else. It works.”
“Jesse. Stop. It’s fine. I’ve got everything under control,” Reid replied, his voice unusually calm and cool.
There was a four-foot space between the sliding glass door on the side of the semi and two white plastic chairs, and for the last few moments, Jesse had paced the small area like a caged tiger. Reid’s last comment halted him mid-stride. Jesse spun, facing the older man and threw his arms out, palms up, completely distraught.
“Jesse, it was a family thing. Shawn had no choice. He had to go. I know you
...you’re close with your family, and you understand. You also know Shawn wouldn’t have left unless it was absolutely necessary. You’re just panicking, and you need to calm down. I know Shawn is an amazing mechanic, and you trust him. I know that on my team, the relationship between rider and mechanic is crucial, but I promise you, I have this under control. I’m bringing in the best in the business to pair you with. I trained this mechanic myself, and rest assured, there is no one better. It will all be fine. Trust me, son.”
Again Jesse ran his hands over his face and up through his short, almost wavy, light-brown hair, his fingers gripping the short strands, a nervous gesture he couldn’t control. Leaving his hair even more disheveled, he let his arms fall. Sweat beaded on the back of his neck. Flexing his fists at his sides, Jesse’s eyes darted around the space the team had set up as a temporary post. All eyes were on him, awaiting his next move. He was the only rider they had on the big bikes this season. Pressure like he had never known before had been placed on his shoulders, and now the walls were quickly closing in on him.
“I’ve got to…I don’t know, I’ve just got to—”
His stomach was in knots. For the past two months, Jesse had firmly believed this was his year. Of course, he always started
every season off believing that sentiment. He liked to consider himself as a positive thinker. Now, with this news, it looked like that hope was shot straight to hell.
He and Shawn had had some different things they’d planned to try, different strategies they’d hoped would give him an edge. Whether Jesse was riding in dirt, sand, or mud, Shawn had ideas. They spent hours testing out numerous combinations of parts for the various types of terrain over the long break between seasons, and now Jesse was starting over. With a gu
y he’d never met. A guy who may or may not give a crap for all Jesse knew.
Reid took a deep breath. “Do us both a favor and head over to
Sterling’s. Maybe your friends can calm you down a little bit. I’ll call you when they get here. Should be any time now.”
With one more pass around the circle of people watching him, Jesse did as his boss instructed.
Their effort to form a circle was lacking. Foldable camp chairs were pulled up and added to the growing group one-by-one as Eli, Carter and Molly, and Brody got into town for the race. A few others joined in from time to time to be entertained by this band of friends, but they were random and usually came and went. The four Jesse cared about were there, and that was all that mattered at the moment.
A hand gripped his shoulder. “Hey. I just heard. You okay, man?” Cody asked.
Jesse barely glanced at Cody. Giving his head a shake, he let it fall back down to continue avoiding eye contact.
Cody was a good kid—he’
d been the rookie on Carter’s team last year. The difference between Cody and some of the other newbies was that he was like a sponge, soaking up any piece of knowledge or wisdom they shared with him. He was quiet and never had any family come to watch him race. Without ever saying anything, Carter, Eli, and Jesse had each slipped into the role of mentor.
Jesse ran his hands over his face and stopped himself, catching the habit. This couldn’t be happening. In theory, when a mechanic left, the next would be just as good. However, in Jesse’s experience, it was a mistake to think it was that simple. He had a hard time adjusting to a pro mechanic after having his dad at his side, his sole mechanic through his years as an amateur. Then again, when he’d been hired on under Reid, he’d had to get used to not only Shawn and his personal style, but the team’s philosophies in general that were polar opposite to any
other team on the circuit.
The way Reid ran the team, each bike had a dedicated mechanic. The others pitched in here and there, but it was that main relationship that continually brought Reid’s team win after win. It had worked well, until the last half of the outdoor series when Shawn had begun missing races due to family issues.
Something had slipped, and Jesse had gone from being second in points, to running a consistent fourth and fifth by the end of the outdoor season. Jesse knew he was eventually going to have to say something to Reid, but that was part of being a team. He owed Shawn a chance and had hoped that they would find their groove again, especially with the ideas Shawn had drummed up. The last thing he wanted was a new mechanic. The fear of the unknown was a whole lot worse than dealing with Shawn’s absences.
“Can you believe this? Oh my God, what am I going to do?”
“Jesse, honey, it is going to be fine.” Molly patted his arm as she squatted down in front of him. “Reid has another mechanic coming in, and he wouldn’t bring in just anyone. You’re going to have to trust that he knows this guy and knows he’s good enough to bring into this environment. It will all be okay.”
“Mol”—He looked at her, not hiding the fear written all over his face—“what would happen if you had to get used to someone else after being able to count on Joey after all these years?”
“I’m not saying it won’t be hard. There will be kinks, but you have to trust Reid. If Joey moved on, I’d have to trust that Brody wouldn’t let just anyone touch my bikes. This new guy isn’t the only one you need to have faith in. Reid’s been your manager for what, four years or more? He’s never let you down yet, right?”
Jesse shook his head. Her words made sense. Believing them was another thing, though. The rolling waves of anxiety and nausea still controlled his stomach, but with some space away from the situation and surrounded by his closest friends, the bleakness was starting to lift.
“All right, then, Cowboy, it’s time to play. This is what we all get paid to do. You can’t let this much emotion get in or you’re done. And I do mean, pack your shit—done. If you can’t trust your bike, you shouldn’t be on it, and to trust your bike, you have to trust your mechanic. It’s all or nothing, Jess, and you know I’m right.”
Looking at Molly, Jesse blinked in awe. The normally giggly, sweetheart of a girl had been replaced by a serious
my way or no way, take no shit
woman. After living around her adoptive father-figure, James, for almost half of her life, a few things had apparently rubbed off on her.
Her confidence in the situation allowed a calm to settle over him. Releasing the first deep breath he’d been able to take, Jesse finally broke free of the eyes focused on him and looked to Carter for help.
“She’s kinda mean.” Jesse snorted, his lip curled.
“But you know she’s right, Frost.” Carter winked at his wife. “And she gives a hell of pep talk, huh?”
He pulled himself away from the tsunami of emotions that only moments ago had threatened to take him completely under.
It had always been that way for as long as he could remember. The three cohorts, banded together by a love of bikes and racing, bonded together by too many years to count. Carter, Eli, and he had celebrated both personal and professional triumphs as well as supported each other through the dark times.
Brothers. Not by blood, but by choice.
Once again, they would keep him afloat. Foxhole buddies for life. Adding Carter’s new wife, Molly, and her brother, Brody, to the pack changed the group’s dynamic in ways they never knew they’d been missing.
Growing up in a loving but small family was wonderful. Until Molly, Jesse didn’t realize what he had never had with his own sister. She was never teased about being an “accident,” but Ally was almost ten years younger than him. By the time she turned six, he’d turned pro—and was gone. He loved her dearly, but they never had the connection that siblings closer in age do. Now that she was in her freshman year of college, he called her regularly to check on her, and he would leave everything at the drop of a hat if she were ever in trouble and needed him, but it still left him feeling more like her friend than her brother. Something he would have never known the difference between until Molly.
Jesse had quickly grown closer to Molly than his own sister. That had as much to do with her personality as it did the events of last season and the nightmare they walked through with her. As much as they teased each other and acted like a pair of five-year-old twins, Molly was the first one to laugh with him, and the first to stand up and knock some sense into him when she felt he needed it.
As a big brother, he would never pile his troubles on his baby sister, though she’d never told him not to. Jesse would always see Ally as that little girl with a high ponytail and a big bow that hugged him tight when he occasionally came home.
Molly sat perched on her haunches in front of him, and he read the sureness in her eyes. Letting out a yielding breath, he took her face in his palms, pulling her closer then placed a quick peck on the top of her head.
“I’m never getting rid of that nickname, am I?”
Humor fixed everything. The semblance of a grin tugged at the corner of his mouth.
As she stood, Jesse took the hand she held out. From the lower perspective, he gazed up. “Don’t know what I’d do without you guys.”
She squeezed his hand once before letting go. “I could say the same thing, Cowboy.”
Eli nodded in agreement as Brody handed him a beer. “She’s right. It’ll all be good, man. You’ve got to relax, bud.”
Stopping mid-circle, Molly turned back. “Now, Jess, you have to promise me you’ll give this guy a chance. Don’t go into it being an ass. He’s left his life, last minute, to come be on the road with you for five months. Remember that, okay?”
She warned him sweetly, but it was a warning no less, and he took it as such.
“Yeah, D. I promise.”
“You want a beer? I’ll get you one while I’m up.” She looked at Carter. “You want one, don’t you, honey?”
“You’re too good to me, Gorgeous.”
Feeling like a voyeur, but unable to look away, Jesse sensed the onset of the absurd jealousy he worked so hard to hide, starting to surface. What Molly and Carter had was amazing. He couldn’t be happier for Carter, and Jesse adored Molly with all his heart. That didn’t keep him from longing to have the same.
The pride was evident on Carter’s face. Having a woman look at him like he was the center of her world one minute
, and like she needed to devour him the next, was something every man hoped to have. Smoldering looks, hidden secrets and private jokes. Knowing she was the last thing on his mind at night and the first thing on it when he woke with her in his arms.
—that’s what Jesse was jealous of. Not his friends. Just the some kind of wonderful they had, and that he had yet to find for himself.