Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 43: Ghost Tracks (Part 2)

I stare at Jay wide eyed, unblinking.

“Mason?” I repeat in question, still finding it difficult to believe. Jay nods. “Does he know? Does he know that you’re the foster kid?”

“He knows. But his parents don’t.” Jay explains.

Their hatred for each other makes sense now. Well Jay’s half in any case. “I don’t understand. Why does Mason hate you? For what reason?” I prod on further, taking advantage of his rare openness.

“I have an idea, but in all honesty you’d have to ask Mason that himself. I don’t like outing people when they’re not here to defend themselves, even if I do hate their guts.” Jay says, actually choosing to defend Mason despite his bitterness toward him.

I offer Jay a bright smile, “You’re a good person.” I compliment him, “If it were me in your position, I’d out Mason very quickly.”

Jay chuckles, “And that’s why I would not like to be your enemy.”

“You’ll never be my enemy.” I assure him with confidence.

“Good.” Jay winks at me with a laid back grin edged onto his lips. Jay’s eyes soon find the track again and I can tell how much racing means to him. But I want to know why.

“Teach me to race.” I say aloud from out of the blue.

Jay freezes as if mishearing me, “What?”

“You heard me.” I smirk, remembering how he’d said that to me when he dropped the whole first date bombshell on me. “Let me take that car of yours for a spin. Let me see why you love racing.”

Jay shrugs and stands up as he takes his car keys out his pocket and swings it around the tip of his index finger, “I know I’m going to regret this, but fine. Anything for you.” He agrees as we walk back to his car. Jay opens the door to the driver’s side and motions for me to get in as he tosses me his keys. I hop in and Jay joins me from the passenger seat.

I start up the car and drive it to the very beginning of the ghost track. “So Jay-Jay…” I turn my face away from the tracks to look at him, “What’s your secret to winning all the time? It’s NOS, isn’t it? Or is it revving the engine in the start to intimidate the other racers?” I joke.

Jay grins, his blue eyes flashing in impishness before he answers, “One word, acceleration.”

Of course he’d say that…

He’s quick to correct his slip up, “No, but really it’s just precise control. There’s a ton of little things you have to remember. First of all-”

I ignore his ramblings as I put my foot all the way down on the accelerator, the car lurching forward with great power and immense speed as we go flying across the tracks. “Acceleration! Whoo!” I shout at the top of my lungs, lifting both hands of the steering wheel to cheer myself on.

“Aqueela, what are you…”

I don’t hear the rest of his sentence because the windows are all down, the wind making much noise as it tosses my hair about that I can’t even make out the track any more. I lose control very quickly and easily until we go spinning around the track in circles, or as the racers call it, doughnuts.

“No! Not acceleration! Precise control you idiot! Weren’t you listening?!” Jay shouts at me and I can hear the panic in his voice before he takes over the wheel, leaning over me as he begins to steer us clear from the a lamp post that we’d been heading straight for, the tracks way behind us now since I’d gone off them completely in a matter of seconds.

Yes, call your date an idiot. That’s bound to score you brownie points…

He seems to be stressing his ass of whilst I just grin and enjoy the feeling of being free. This must be why Jay loves it so much. I feel like I’ve only just now truly come alive and it’s absolutely amazing, that is until Jay starts shouting at me in my ear, “Brakes! Hit the brakes! Brakes Aqueela! Brakes! Brakes! Brakes!”

I come out of my trance like state to see that another lamp post has gotten ridiculously closer. I take action, control, and slam on breaks.

Jay and I both lurk forward upon coming to a complete stop. If we hadn’t been wearing seatbelts, there would’ve been nothing to protect us from the inertia of the car.

Jay moves back from the steering wheel and leans back in his seat with his eyes closed, his breathing rapid and his chest rising up and down very quickly. I can practically feel his heart and pulse racing faster than I’d just been racing his car.

“Wow! That was great! Round two, here we go now!” I raise my tone excitedly as I prepare to start the car all over again, unaffected by what just happened, unaffected by almost killing the both of us.

Jay’s eyes snap open at my words as he slaps my hand away from the car keys needed to restart the car. “Don’t even!” He scolds, “I didn’t think I’d regret this so soon.” He lectures. I pout and Jay sighs before his terror filled eyes meet mine in submission, “You can try again.” He says to me gently, “But this time, my way. And you’d better stay on the track this time.” Jay gives into my will before he begins to explain, “Usually when we practice the track, we use how first run to get used to the track layout. You want to do that?” He suggests.

I shake my head, “Nah, I just want to dive right in.”’

Jay groans but complies nevertheless, “Fine. When you ride on a new track, the first thing you should do is spot the tricky corners and tight spots. It’s important that you navigate through them without incident. You have to take corners at a fast pace, but not too fast that you lose control and slide off track. You need a balance without having to increase your lap time. You have to pay attention to easy turns to increase speed and improve lap times. Don’t cut your corners too short or you will end up crashing. Don’t ever over steer. Take control of the inertia of inner loops and ease off. Only flat out when the track is straight. Be careful of blind curves and turns. Drive within your limits. Usually I’ll drag around a corner, but you will not be doing any dragging any time soon. Wind affects cars from reaching insane speeds so to solve that you should follow behind other cars to lessen your wind resistance. It’s a method called drafting. You can overtake on the last lap again. You should always-”

“Blah blah blah.” I interrupt him, “We both know I got none of that.” I lie because I had in actual fact been listening tentatively. I couldn’t help myself. Jay’s blue eyes brighten up in passion when he speaks of racing and for some reason it inspires me to want to actually impress him. I know how much racing means to him. It’s his world. I love listening to him talk about something with so much enthusiasm. It has my heart fluttering in glee and anticipation. I like seeing this side to him, the side where Jay actually cares about something.

Jay glares at me for that, “Could you just at least remember slow and steady is preferable to crashing and burning?”

I raise a perplexed eyebrow, “That your racing motto?”

Jay shakes his head, “No, but it definitely should be yours.” I mimic him with a frown before starting the car again and trying to apply the little that Jay had told me. “C’mon Aqueela. Show me that you can race.” Jay encourages.

No pressure then…

I start off well, working my way up to a nice speed on the straight track ahead. But when I see a corner coming up, I begin to freak out because I’m already going at such a speed. “Take it easy here, loosen up on the accelerator, but not too much.” I listen to Jay, taking the tight bend with much effort, but still managing it. “Good, now keep it there.” Jay praises as I keep foot halfway down on the accelerator as I ride on, close to the curve of the track.

I pass the bend as the track comes into a straight branch again. “Oh yes! I took a sharp curve. Racing is easy. I can do this blindfolded in my sleep.”

Wow! First time that saying doesn’t actually work.

“You did take it well, but that was only a mild curve. The sharp corner is still up ahead.” Jay enlightens me, crushing my hope in being a pro racer first time round.

I take my eyes off the track as I glance at him with an unhappy pout, “But I-”

“Don’t take your eyes off the road, stupid!” He roars at me for the second time.

When I look back to the track, I see that sharp corner he’d been talking about. I try to put on some breaks, but instead I end up putting my foot down on the accelerator by accident as we speed full throttle ahead.

“I said to slow down at sharp corners, not speed up!” Jay’s yelling only leads to me panicking all the more.

“Uh oh!” I gulp as I take the sharp corner at an incredible speed.

I try to steer to the best of my ability and keep us on the road, but I end up losing control when I skid off the track onto the grass, the friction making the car jerk from bumper to bumper. Jay’s hands comes up from nowhere and cover mine over the steering wheel, his warmth and touch now distracting me completely. He helps me steer us back onto the tracks before I put on breaks and stop completely. No way am I driving when I can even think straight just because of his touch. We’ll definitely end up dead.

“You were doing okay. I got you back on the tracks. Why’d you stop?” Jay asks me, his hands still over my own as if he’d forgotten to remove them. I cough awkwardly, my eyes flickering down to his hands covering mine.

He follows my gaze before realizing why I’m so unfocused. He laughs softly before removing his hands from mine ever so slowly as if teasing me, “I was just guiding your steering. No need to get all flustered.” He teases as I remain quiet in my position. He notices, “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t race.” I sigh, “I really wanted to do good, yet I couldn’t even finish one single lousy lap.”

Jay’s expression conveys confusion, “Since when do you care about doing good in something?” I narrow my eyes at him. His eyes widen at his slip up as he reaches up to scratch the back of his neck as if truly uncomfortable, “I mean – ah flip. I did it again. That came out wrong. Forget I said anything. I always say the wrong things when I’m with you because you distract me from my train of thought. You-”

Like he distracts me from the road!

“Look who’s rambling away nervously. Now you’re the one all flustered. This is a first.” I tease him, my previous disappointment having faded by my own amusement at seeing Jay nervous. He hardly ever stuffs up, so when he does, I take the full liberty to enjoy it and rub it in his face like the good person I am.

“Shut up.” He mutters in embarrassment.

“No, you.” I retort back childishly, playfully.

“You more.” He decides to humor me.

I giggle at this, flashing him a genuine smile. “Racing means the absolute world to you. I wanted to be skilled at it so it could mean the world to me too because whatever you enjoy, I want to enjoy.” I confess, true to my words.

His blue eyes soften upon hearing my confession, “If it helps at all, I enjoy your company.”

I awe at this before getting all arrogant, “I also enjoy my company.”

Jay chuckles at my ego, “Don’t let it get to your head because your racing is just plain awful.” I scoff at this latest insult, displeased. He could lie just to please me like any normal guy trying to impress a girl. But not Jay.

“Luckily for you, whatever happens on the tracks, stays on the tracks.” Jay grins with that boyish fleck to his blue eyes wrapped in a silver tint. “I won’t let it slip to Grey how rubbish you are at racing.” He taps my nose playfully, being brutally honest in his opinion on my lack of street racing skills.

“No more racing?” I ask him, feigning disappointment.

“No more racing for you.” Jay confirms my theories. “Behind the wheel, people say that I am a different person. Same with you. When you’re behind the wheel, you’re a lot more crazier and reckless than usual. I wouldn’t advice you to race, ever, for the sake of all humanity.”

I glower up at him through my lashes, crossing my arms defiantly over my chest, “You just shush your face. I did this for you.” I admit by mistake.

I wanted to be part of Jay’s racing world because I’m unfamiliar with it.

Jay smirks, his blue eyes glimmering in delight at what I’d just confessed to. “I personally find it attractive that you’d do this just for me.”

Cue my blushing.

Jay chuckles at my expression, “Don’t look so surprised. It should be no secret by now that I’m attracted to you…” He trails off with a mischievous flicker to his eyes, enjoying my discomfort, “Almost as much as you are attracted to me.” He concludes all too happily with a grin at his correct hypothesis.

I roll my eyes at his arrogance, though I can’t deny that I am attracted to him and he knows it.

“Self-proclaimed attraction.” I argue back.

He merely smiles at this, “Whatever you say, even though we both know you can’t resist me.” He mercifully decides to grant me just this one to spare me. Note the sarcasm.

The vibrancy in Jay’s blue eyes soon dies out like a burning silver flame as a more solemn expression overtakes his features, his previous enthusiasm gone. I sigh aloud at the sight, “Okay, obviously you have something serious and broody to say that I won’t remotely be pleased with so-”

Jay interrupts me as he clears his throat and just blurts out whatever it is that is on his mind, “You’re the first girl I’ve ever taken out.”

My eyes widen at this as my mind registers his words and processes it. I was wrong. I am pleased at hearing this, but it still comes as a shocker.

Jay is attractive in every way possible. He’s a looker alright. He’s well sought after by his fair attention of the flocks of females in our school who have a bad boy complex, even though Jay is far from being bad. They don’t know him well enough to know that he’s actually good, sincerely good at heart.

I’ve noticed that Jay doesn’t spare anyone, including his female fans, any attention. Yet still, I was sure that there must have been at least one girl he once took note of, took an interest in. How has he never taken a girl out before? Just looking at him, I can’t believe it. He’s just as new to all of this as me. He isn’t experienced like I’d made him out to be in my head.

“Why?” is what I manage to breathe out, stunned by the revelation that just came out of Jay’s mouth.

He shrugs, his blue gaze settling on me and leaving me breathless at the intense expression on his face, “I’ve just never liked a girl enough to risk taking her out and starting something serious with her, a relationship whereby I can commit to solely and be dedicated to her only.”

No kidding. It’s sure not easy getting in Jay’s good books. I’d know…

Wait! Rewind.

‘… risk taking her out and starting something serious with her, a relationship whereby I can commit to solely and be dedicated to her only.’

I take in an anxious deep breath as I gaze up at him with confusion as to what he was trying to imply, to what message he was trying to deliver. I take my chances and ask away before I lose the opportunity, “Are you insinuating something here?” I raise a playful eyebrow at him as I ponder over what he’d said, feeling honoured and flattered that he decided to take me out. But was is he saying? What does he want from me? He’s usually blunt, but now is when he decides to act all vague.

Jay flashes me an alluring grin before he shrugs yet again as if clueless when we both already know that he has his mind set on something, “I don’t know. Am I? You tell me.” He suggests sincerely.

He always has to be bloody vague…

I glower up at him through my lashes. He knows fully well that I hate it when he turns my question back on me, leaving me with no answer in the end. He knows exactly how to play his cards right and these days he seems to be beating me more often. I don’t like it one bit.

Before I can even answer, Jay’s already laying down pesky demands like Mr Bossy, “Enough of the Ghost Tracks. You’ve obliterated it enough.” He teases before his blue eyes soften upon holding my gaze, “There are some other places I want to show you before the night ends.” He informs me, his voice filled with affection.

More places equals more time with Jay. I’m not complaining.

Jay is the best company.

“Now get out my driver’s seat.”

I take it back. He’s the worst company!

“Don’t sass me boy!” I glower up at him defiantly before folding my arms across my chest, deciding to stay put because of his bossy attitude. He is so protective over his car. I refuse to move until he says ‘please’ like any person raised with manners…not that I would know.

“You asked for it.” He warns threateningly before jumping out the passenger side of the car and coming round to the driver’s side.

What’s happening?!

Before I have time to even react to his supposed threat, my door is yanked open and all in a split second Jay is leaning in and scooping me up effortlessly into his strong arms.

I let out a surprised yelp as I find myself up in Jay’s arms right out of nowhere. For a second I freeze in surprise, but when he glances down at me with those hypnotizing blue eyes that always draw me in, I instantly relax into his hold remembering that with Jay I’m always safe.

He carries me to the passenger side of the car bridesmaid style before lowering me into my respective seat within his car.

I blink up at him from my seat rather stubbornly, puzzled to how he managed to do all that so quickly.

Jay reads my thoughts and winks at me flirtatiously, “I know, I know…” He trails off with a slick grin before attempting to mimic my voice, “How does he do it? What a champion. He’s so irresistible. I will do anything he asks of me until the end of time.” He mocks me teasingly.

I bite back a smile at his cockiness and roll my eyes at him playfully, but allow him to continue raving on about himself nevertheless for my own entertainment to see how he perceives my inner thoughts to be, “He’s such a mysterious mystery man.” Jay finally concludes in a voice that doesn’t even sound at all like me.

I nod, agreeing as I stifle my laughter. “Yeah, you are.” I admit. I find it rather amusing when he gets like this.

I enjoy seeing this laid back playful side to him. It’s refreshing.

“But you love it.” He retorts confidently, way too vain for my liking.

I do.

“Almost as much as I love your humble, ‘down-to-earth’ spirit.” I reply back sarcastically.

Jay catches on quickly as he sends a cunning grin my way, “But obviously not as much as I love your street racing techniques, right?”

“Oh shut up.” I glare at him, but can’t hold the glare for as long as I’d hoped before a genuine smile breaks out across my lips.

Jay inclines his head closer to me as he leans further into me, his face a few centimeters way from me. My heart begins to pound at the close proximity as if on instinct. He raises a challenging eyebrow at me, his gaze filled with pure mischief as boyish grin makes it’s way onto his lips. He takes my silence as his cue before whispering into my ear with a husky yet playful voice, “I dare you to make me.”

For once, challenge unaccepted.

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