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When you grow up in a small town like Great Meadows, you learn to create your own entertainment. You can either spend your time getting high, partying at The Field, or working on cars. For Veronica Russo, there’s a certain solace found underneath the hood. As the youngest sibling of the Russo Family, Veronica is under the watchful eyes of her four older brothers. Four very protective, very overbearing, and very outspoken brothers. Every guy in town knows Veronicas label—Strictly Off-Limits. They have succeeded in enforcing it; running off every guy that so much as looks in her direction. That is, until Chase arrives back in town. Close family friend and motor head, Chase Daniels, returns from his deployment and his world is turned upside down when he comes face to face with Veronica again; shocked to find that she is all grown up. The more he surrounds himself in her company, the more he feels an intense pull towards her. There’s just one problem—his best friends won’t allow it. Is the fallout of a life-long friendships worth the possibility of something more?

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Exhaust Fumes


It’s a Friday night, and there are only two places any young adult would be in this small rural town… the strip or the field. The drag strip is my favorite place to be. There isn’t a weekend that you won’t find me here, along with the other motor heads of Great Meadows. The strip brings all ages to its local track, along with its range of cars. From old classics to new imports, you’ll find it here. We all have that one thing in common, our love for cars.

My fingers wrap around a link in the metal fence separating me from the paved slab of asphalt about twenty feet away. Two cars go racing by, exhaust fumes follow in their wake, along with the loud tune of their tailpipes. The excitement as they race towards the finish line is palpable just watching gets my blood pumping. I know neither of the drivers, but the determination to win is contagious.

The maroon Ford Mustang is in the lead, but the further away the cars move down the track, it’s harder to see who crossed the finish line first. Two large digital boards, standing tall above the drag strip on either side of the lanes, flash the racers’ time confirming the Mustang beat its opponent by 0.5 seconds. It was a close race, but those 0.5 seconds mean everything.

My gaze moves back to the starting line as the next two opponents pull up. The black Mitsubishi Evolution roars, the driver revving its engine until it hits the red line causing the car to pop in multiple sessions. The car is done up nicely, lots of money put into that engine. I would know. The driver is Wes, my best friend’s boyfriend. His opponent, a blue Subaru STI, revs his engine causing the same backfire. A communication between racers, a way of saying, It’s on!

“WHOOO! Let’s go, baby! ” The unexpected scream comes from my left, making me jump. I grasp at my chest, and turn to look at my best friend, “Dammit Tay.” I yell.

Taylor laughs as she tucks a few blonde strands of her hair behind her ear. “Sorry V didn’t mean to scare you,” she responds but her attention is on the starting line.

“What the hell took you so long?” I ask her. She was gone like fifteen minutes. “I almost called the police.”

Even though she’s not facing me, I can see the roll of her eyes and her thin lips pull back into a smirk, “The line was a mile long, it’s like every single person had to pee at that moment. Oh!” She gasps as if remembering something. “I ran into Jessica too, apparently she’s seeing Blake now.”

Ah, Blake. We have some history, and its only history because of my brothers. My four loud, very overbearing, and very protective brothers. Speaking of, I look over my shoulder at my three brothers who are currently huddled together looking under the hood of a silver car. With the lot of them standing in front of the car, I can’t make out what it is, and what’s so special about it that has them fascinated. My eyes squint together, hoping to make out an emblem or maybe a headlight, but my brothers are as wide as they are tall. It’s no use I can’t see anything. I turn my attention back to the race that’s about to go down.

The cars buck as each driver rev’s its engine waiting for the tree, a tall light placed in the middle of the two lanes signifying when a racer can go, to light up. The flash of the light shines the front of each car, showering their car in an orangish-yellowish color.





Both cars take off, their front ends slightly lifting as they press on the gas. Wes is quick off the line, just a second faster than his opponent, giving him an amazing reaction time. Within seconds, they’re racing past us, Wes holding the lead. “Yeeaahhh! Go baby!” Taylor yells while jumping up and down, shaking the fence with her movements. Her high-pitched scream nearly bursting my eardrum. Even though she knows he can’t hear her, it doesn’t stop her from being his cheerleader. My hands move to my ears, covering them, “Geez Tay, you’re going to bust my eardrum!” I yell at her.

“Oh, shut up and put in some earplugs!” She pulls a pair out of her pocket, still in the wrapper, and throws them at me. They bounce off my boob and land in the grass. “There’s no way I’m louder than the cars!”

Point for Taylor. I shake my head in amusement before bending down to pluck the plugs from the grass, then shove them into my back pocket. She screams again and jumps on my back, completely taking me by surprise. My hands shoot forward, grabbing onto the fence for support before we both eat dirt. “Taylor!” I yell, “Are you insane?”

“He beat him!” she shouts, her legs clutching my sides, ignoring my grunts of protest. “WHOOOO!!!!” she screams while clinging to my back like some kind of monkey. Despite her weight, my head shoots up to look at the times displayed on the board. He won, indeed.

“He had two hundred bucks on that race!” she says at a more reasonable volume.

“Really?” I glance over my shoulder, her face hovering above mine.

Her large almond-shaped blue eyes are wide with excitement, “Yep! Honey taking his boo out to dinner!” She gestures to herself with a mega-watt smile.

I slap my hand against her leg at my hip. “Your ass could skip a dinner. Get off, you monkey!”

She mumbles as she slides down my back, and I finally stand up straight. “My ass is getting some dinner!” Taylor shouts out in victory, pumping her fist up in the air, not caring people are giving her weird looks.

A loud deep rumble is quickly approaching our spot, Wes’s Evo appears behind a line of cars, coming from the exit of the drag strip, pulling into the open space next to the silver car. The same silver car that my brothers are engrossed in.

“Okay Pauly D, let’s go congratulate your man.” I pull her hand down and drag her towards the group.

As we near the group, I can hear my brothers speaking very loud and animatedly to whom I assume is the owner of the mystery car. I’ve never seen him before, which is odd considering I know most of the people who come here. Even if not personally, by name. He’s tall, broad, clean-shaven, sharp features, nice lips, and just really freakin’ hot. He’s almost too hot for me to notice his car. Almost.

Now, I see why this car has my brothers’ attention. It’s a Nissan Skyline. A rare, it only recently became legal to own in the United States, and very expensive beautiful art of machinery. Now I have a serious lady boner.

Taylor runs to Wes and jumps into his arms, giving him a huge congratulatory kiss. The commotion gets Vin’s attention. “Yo, V! C’mere, you’ve got to see this!” he yells when he sees me standing near Wes and Taylor. Vance, Vaughn, and the new guy look up. I slowly walk toward them, the new guy’s attention never leaving me. Vance notices this, he snaps at the guy. Literally snaps his fingers at him. “Nuh-uh! That’s my baby sister. Get your eyes off her!”

“Seriously Vance!?!” I yell at him.

The new guy puts his hands up. “Got it.”

I squeeze in between Vance and Vin. “You’re such a dick,” I mumble. This earns a glare from him, and a chuckle from Vin. I finally look at the engine bay, it is definitely impressive.

My gaze flickers upward catching the eyes of the new guy. Despite my brother’s warning, he’s still watching me. He’s risking his eyeballs, but I like it.

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