Read Racing to You: Racing Love, Book 1 Online

Authors: Robin Lovett

Tags: #France;athlete hero;academia;study abroad;curvy heroine

Racing to You: Racing Love, Book 1

BOOK: Racing to You: Racing Love, Book 1
9.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Love—the one roadblock they never expected.

Racing Love
, Book 1

Aurelia is living her dream, teaching for a year in the south of France. Except it’s all going wrong. The carefree culture is challenging her academic goals, and her students are so difficult that she wants the unthinkable: to give up and go home.

Meeting Terrence doesn’t help. When he’s not training for the Tour de France, the cocky pro cyclist is flirting with Aurelia, but she didn’t cross an ocean to hook up with an American jock, even if he does have killer dimples and looks hot in spandex.

Until the jock sets out to prove he’s more than mere muscle. He wants to teach her what having fun really means, which could be as dangerous to her structured life as it is to her heart.

As life hits unexpected roadblocks, they turn to one another for support, and flirtation becomes game-changing love. But Terrence is chasing his dream of being the fastest man on two wheels, and she isn’t sure how far he’ll go to win…or how far she’s willing to follow.

Warnings: Includes a hopelessly romantic hero, a guilt-free sex proposition, a lot of orgasms and, of course, croissants.

Racing To You

Robin Lovett


To Richenda,

For giving me the friends and the means

to be the writer I didn’t know I could be.

To my agent, Rachel Brooks, for your tireless belief in my writing

and the grit to fight for it.

To my editor, Laura Elliott, for the support, the kindness, and the dedication

to all the details Terrence and Aurelia needed.

To Esher, my Mom, Elaine, Alexis and Chelsea, for reading and giving advice.

To my husband, for more cycling info than could ever fit in a romance novel.

And to the PWG, for being there from word one, day after day.

You made this possible.

Thank you.

Chapter One

A flash of blue draws my eyes up the boulevard.

Five bicycles race toward me.

They pass by almost every day, their pedals whizzing and buzzing in my ears. Masculine laughter trails them and sparks my jealousy—they’re a team. I wonder what that’s like, working together, belonging. I came to France hoping to find that.

I haven’t.

Their aqua-and-yellow jerseys turn the heads of everyone on the sidewalk. The bike lanes too slow for them, they speed amongst the cars and dodge traffic like it’s entertaining. I tug my hood against the rain and stand on tiptoe for a longer view. They hunker so low over their curved handlebars that there’s no hint of their faces. Rain sloshes around their skinny tires and off their backs like waterfalls.

They disappear up the avenue, and I wonder where they go in this weather.

The traffic light changes, and I puddle-hop to my café, toward hot coffee and buttery pastries. Maybe once I’m there, I won’t feel so lonely that I’m envious of guys crazy enough to ride bicycles in the rain.

* * * * *

Two hours in my café is exactly what I need. The scent of warm croissants, the clinking of espresso cups, the
en français
murmur of the patrons, and me, buried in a novel—it doesn’t get better than this. Mostly.

The bell rings in the door, and two old men shuffle inside.

They’re here every afternoon. Sometimes I understand what they say. Today, they exchange jokes about the weather using phrases I don’t completely grasp. I wish I could ask what they mean, but talking to strangers in a foreign language involves a level of awkwardness I’m not brave enough to overcome today.

Espresso in one hand, his cane in the other, the more unstable man begins a cautious amble to their table at the back. Usually, I repress the urge to help, assuming he prefers independence. Perhaps it’s because his shoes are slippery from the rain, or because the tables are pushed closer together than normal, but worry wrinkles his mouth.

Before I can change my mind, I’m out of my seat, reaching for his cup and saying, “
Puis-je aider
?” Can I help?

He gives a small smile and lets me take the cup from him. I follow him to his table.

He sinks slowly into his chair. “

I place the cup on the table and nod. I want to say something, but, nervous that I’ll say it wrong, I retreat to my table by the window.

Behind me, the two men begin their usual conversation, and I have my usual wish that I had someone to meet and talk with in the café. I force myself to read rather than feel sorry for myself, but after turning one page, in walks someone else, or a group of someone elses—the last someone elses I expect to see.

The cyclists, in the same aqua uniforms I saw racing up the boulevard, invade my idyllic French world with—a surprise—American accents.

“Seal view play,” one guy says in an auditory assault like squealing brakes, and I cringe.

Undoubtedly, he means “please”,
s’il vous plaît
, but it’s such a butchering that it must be intentional. No one can speak French that badly.

When I look up, I forget to care about accents—or anything else. It’s mortifying what that first close-up does, and it’s not even from the front.

From the back.

Count them—
un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq
—in spandex. The microfiber molds to their tight butts in a lineup of sculpted musculature. The stretchy fabric clings to their firm cheeks and thick thighs. How can something look hard and silky at the same time?

“Hey, lovely,” the guy continues in his American twang.

I duck my head. I didn’t even look at his face. I was too busy staring at his ass.

Maybe he wasn’t talking to me. I glance over my shoulder.

Just the two old men sitting in the corner. No one he would call lovely except…

I am an intellectual, an academic, going for attraction of the mind, not body. Except apparently I’m into men in spandex shorts.

I refocus on the book in front of me, and do the trick where I glance at him from the corner of my eye, without moving my actual eyeballs. It kind of hurts, but it’s enough to see that he’s turned around, facing the barista again.

He’s not looking at me anymore.

I should be relieved, but disappointment prickles my scalp. I shouldn’t want to talk to him, but it’s been weeks since I’ve spoken to another American, except my parents on the phone. I came to France for total immersion in the language and culture. I promised myself I would speak English as little as possible.

I’ve never been more tempted to break that promise. Four months until my teaching assistantship is over and I can go home. I’ve tried to deny it, but I can’t anymore. I’m homesick.

The French novel on my table is so out of focus it may as well be Arabic.

I pick up my cappuccino, forgetting that it’s empty. I pretend to sip it anyway, and sneak a look over the rim at him.

The barista passes espressos to the five of them. They mingle at the tables by the door.

The American guy shifts his feet, and his thigh contracts, bulges, like the muscle beneath the spandex is a singular living thing. It puckers around his knee cap. A physical manifestation of explosive power.

My cappuccino cup suspends in mid-air, all pretense of drinking it gone. I’m not someone who goes starry-eyed over guys. They’re just muscles. He’s just a man, but I can’t seem to help my gaze shifting upward, crossing over his crotch, where if I look too closely, I’ll notice things I don’t want to. Or I do want to. My throat works, and I might be turning scarlet, but the dizzying pizzazz of his uniform draws my eyes up and up.

I reach his face, and I jolt.

His light-brown eyes glow like amber, and one winks at me. “Do you speak English, sweetheart?” He has this dimple that divots in one cheek. If he were in a museum, I’d stare at him all day.

Maybe if I don’t respond, he’ll think I really am French and don’t understand his English. Unlikely. I’m totally missing the French
je ne sais quoi
. I’m not stylish, I’m not skinny, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t affect their suave manner. And since my parents are Filipino, add in my skin and features… Not many people mistake me for French.

Wait, he called me “sweetheart”. I am not sweet. I cement my eyes back to my book and mutter, “Go away,

“Is that a yes?”

Damn it. I need my “social leper” sign. It doesn’t matter if I want to talk to him; my propensity to say the wrong thing has gotten me laughed at more than once.

The barista tattles on me. “
Elle est américaine
.” His thin lips stretch in a wry smile.

“Really?” The jock walks toward me. His shoes clap on the floor, but his swagger is louder, with more cockiness and attitude than a star footballer.

My heart lurches into panic mode.

He stops in front of me and rests his helmet against his hip. “What’re you reading?” He gestures with his espresso cup at my book.

I need relief from the nerves fusing in my gut. “Leave me alone.”

Jeers come from his teammates by the door. “Braker burns,” one says.

Braker. That’s a weird name.

He watches me, like he’s waiting for me to say more. The need to speak with someone from the same country as me wings like a caged bird in my chest. I want to say, “
I’m Aurelia. Where are you from? What’s with the bike riding?

His finger doodles on the page of my book, soft and swirling. It’s such a man’s hand, even his knuckles are muscular. “All right, Frenchie,” he says with mock forlorn.

“Frenchie?” My eyes flip up.

His lips curve in a smile so contagious that mine lift like he’s tugging them on a string. It’s been a long time since I smiled, as in full-face, cheek-bending, real deal smiled.

It somehow unravels my tongue. “How come you’re not having a croissant?”

“They’re good, huh?” He licks his finger and glides it over the crumbs on my empty plate. The leftover flakes stick to his finger. He sucks them into his mouth.

He has a mouth. And lips. Delectable and soft.

Duh, of course he has a mouth. My brain is pudding.

“Braker, let’s ride,” his friend says up front.

His eyes travel my face, like he’s searching for something. “See you tomorrow.” Then, with a wide walk and clapping shoes, he follows the other cyclists out the door.

Chapter Two

“Tomorrow…” I whisper to myself.

A shout from outside jerks my head to the window. He mounts his bicycle—laughing. Their muffled voices claw at a cold place behind my sternum.

His feet slip into the pedals like he’s putting on a pair of worn sneakers, and he hops the bike off the curb like it’s an extension of him. If his walk gave him a swagger, the bike makes him flow like a river, parting the earth as he passes.

Then he’s gone, along with the jovial voices, leaving a bare and quiet sidewalk.

I am stiff, frozen but warm, aching yet hot, like I’ve been pried open. A strain lifts from my shoulders, but it gives me an annoying sense of anxiety.

“Aurélie.” The barista wags his eyebrows at me. “
Il est beau, non

.” My neck stiffens against the urge to bang my head on the table. He asks if the man in spandex is beautiful, and I reply yes without thinking.

My book lies open, lifeless, a stale lump of ink and paper. That’s not true. It’s words combined to create a rich world that captures hearts and minds.

It’s not capturing me today. I don’t want to go home and be alone, but I can’t stay here either.

I close the book and stow it in the messenger bag my mom sent me for Christmas. Not going home for the holidays was hard, but the plane ticket was too expensive.

“Leaving so soon?” the barista says.

À demain
.” I’ll see him tomorrow.

Outside, the sun is going down, and I shield my smile under my coat collar. A giddiness tickles my skin. God, that cyclist was gorgeous.

I walk the winding narrow alleys through the Old Town of Nice—the locals say Vieux Nice. The rain has stopped, but even wet it’s historical perfection. Three-story sandstone buildings with wrought-iron balconies shadow the cobblestone streets. Everything here is beautiful and old. I pass bakeries and flower markets, and the quiet streets, too narrow for cars, are lit only by the glow of the little shops.

French residents mingle, shop, and live here. I live here.

I love being here. I do.

I’ve wanted this all through college, since my first French class in middle school. For the five months between graduation and coming here, I counted the days until I arrived in the city of Nice. I should be happy, happier than a book nerd in a library.

I’m so homesick that I’m salivating over an American cyclist.

Walking up the stairs to my studio on the top floor, the chatter of the family who lives downstairs seeps into the hall. I pause. I like hearing their two little kids prattle in French.

I hardly speak to my neighbors. I’m the strange American girl who’s only here until June, the one who speaks too bluntly at awkward moments and has a penchant for insulting people by accident.

One high little voice says, “
Je veux un bonbon
.” I have to smile. Kids in France love sweets as much as kids anywhere. I miss my youngest cousins at home. I don’t have any siblings, so my cousins are the closest I get to brothers and sisters. Perhaps the whole only-child thing is why I don’t mind being by myself. Or why it never used to bother me.

I force my feet to move on, before I become the American girl with a penchant for spying.

I have the urge to check Facebook, to see pictures of my family, my friends. But I don’t have wi-fi in my apartment.

I do, however, have papers to grade.

* * * * *

A room full of teenagers stares back at me, faces full of skepticism and boredom. I wonder if today will be the day they discover I’m a fraud and have no idea what I’m doing.

I clear my throat and walk around my desk. “In the case of the American Revolution, how is your country’s history different from mine?” My palms sweat. It’s as bad as a joke falling on silence in a comedy club. They aren’t talking to me. I can’t teach them English if they won’t speak.

A student raises her hand, and I sigh in gratitude. “Yes?”

“But, Ms. Santos,” she says. “American history is not your history.”

The breath halts in my lungs.

I glare at the notes on my desk, not really seeing them, willing myself to stay calm. It’s just ignorance. My bronze skin and dark hair conflict with her preconceptions of what an “American” should look like.

I’ve told my students many times: “My parents are Filipino, but I was born and raised in the States. I am an American. A Filipino-American.”

Desperate to diffuse the awkwardness, I swallow and say, “All right. How’s French history different from American history in this case?”

The anger her comment sprouts lies heavy in my belly all day. A hundred different scenarios flit through my head for how to teach her that she’s making racial assumptions, but I say none of them. It’s me against them. I am one, and they are many.

My last class finishes. I jam their homework assignments into my bag for grading later and scramble for the door.

BOOK: Racing to You: Racing Love, Book 1
9.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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