Chasing Lights

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Chapter 36: Discoveries

Phoenix

God, I was exhausted.

I’d spent most of my days preparing for the season. That included training twice a day, following Idir’s meal plan, and rushing in and out of the damn factory to get the car ready for me. Just yesterday, I’d sat in the preliminary seat for hours to make sure the mold would fit me perfectly by the time I got back on the asphalt.

“Five more!” Idir called out, holding up his hand while counting down with his fingers.

“You said that twenty times ago,” I huffed while doing my hundredth push-up of the day. My muscles ached just the way I wanted them to ever since I broke my damn leg. Idir had been taking it easy until the prospect of a seat rolled around, and ever since then, I’d been getting the 24-hour special treatment with sore muscles and a heavy neck.

“Stop whining, McCoy. We gotta get your ass fixed.” He grinned as I pushed myself up again. “Three more.”

Shaking my head, I finished my set and got back on my feet. I hissed at the pain piercing through every inch of my body, but then smiled in relief. The accomplishment coming with finishing my sessions had always fueled me, especially since it made a massive difference in the car.

People underestimated just how much muscle memory did for your body when you drove the fastest racecar in the world. They could try going through 5G in a fast corner without breaking your neck.

“Alright. Run it out.” Idir nodded at the treadmill at the other end of the fancy gym. It was the first time we’d been here, but I didn’t like the sterile vibe. “And then you’re done for the day. I ordered lunch to your room already, so make sure you’re there in an hour. You got the meeting at eight and we’ll have another session tonight.”

The grin on his lips made me roll my eyes; this asshole was enjoying my torture far too much. I couldn’t deny that it was part of why I chose him as my trainer, though. Idir loved his job with every fiber of his being — we’d always bonded over that.

Even if he pulled me out of bed at five in the morning every damn day.

“Thanks,” I retorted, throwing a black towel over my sore shoulders while he gave them a squeeze.

I set myself up on the treadmill at the far end of the room and watched how he left the gym, the blue and red glass door sliding open for him. He didn’t step out, though. For some reason, he just stood there in the open door and looked out into the hallway.

Suddenly, he jumped to the side, pressing himself against the edge of Azure Racing’s glass door before waving his arms in front of him.

A familiar dog with blue wheels came rushing through the door, sprinting straight into the gym without even looking where he was going. My heart thundered instantly, the dots connecting in my mind just when Florence stepped through the door.

Her dark hair was clipped to the side and pulled into a short ponytail that wiggled when she jogged after her dog, catching him just as he reached the step machine in the front of the gym.

My breath caught at the sight of her; a black oversized shirt stopped just above her waistline, and a pair of grey gym leggings stuck to her trained legs that were way too damn long. Had she grown over the past decade? Fuck.

Florence had always been beautiful, but the years had graced her with a healthy body, showing more curves and edges than her teenage self.

My assumption from that day at the pub became truer the more I looked at her:

She really wasn’t a girl anymore.

“Do you have a problem?” Her voice ripped me out of my thoughts, and for just a second I feared she’d caught me staring like the star-struck idiot I was. But then I realized she was facing a completely different direction, staring straight at a tall blond guy who was standing behind her. Florence got off the step machine, turning around to deal with the guy. “I’m talking to you,” she said.

He stood up straight, dropping a barbell to the ground. “What? I’m just doing my workout.”

Her dog looked up from the tiny bed laying next to her, watching the situation with curious eyes.

“Is your testosterone-driven body able to do your workout without staring at my ass like I was some piece of meat?”

I almost snorted at her response, suddenly glad as hell I was at the other end of the gym. I was well aware of me staring, probably just the same way this guy just did, and made a mental note to avert my gaze the next time she — or any woman, for that matter — entered the gym. It wasn’t polite and usually not something I did, but she really blew my mind for a moment.

Not that it was an excuse.

“No need to be rude, lady,” the guy retorted, shamelessly eyeing her up and down until she crossed her arms in front of her chest, making him look at her face.

Even from the distance, I saw how Florence raised one brow, almost challenging the guy to say the inappropriate shit that probably ran through his head.

“You’re the one acting like a damn teenager. How old are you? Fifteen?”

“I’m twenty-six,” the guy grumbled, and Florence laughed in response.

“Yeah, right, and I’m Shania Twain.”

The blond stared at her, scratching the back of his head. “Who’s Shania Twain?”

“Oh my God…” Flo shook her head. “Look, just stop ogling people like that, alright? It’s unsettling and disrespectful. I’m trying to clear my head here. That’s hard to do when I feel you staring at my ass like I’d put googly eyes on it.”

Again, I’m stifling my laughter, hiding like a damn coward behind the red pillar with a blue A on it. Her confidence definitely had grown.

“Yeah, damn, alright.” The guy reached for the barbell and carried it to the side. “I’m done here, anyway.”

He was already by the door when Florence called out again, approaching him. “Not really!”

The guy turned and startled backwards when spotting her right in front of him, almost meeting his height. “What?” He cleared his throat.

“You’re not done,” she said, stepping further toward him. “You still need to apologize.”

“What the fuck for?”

“For making me feel uncomfortable, for not respecting my privacy, and, well, for being a dick?”

Damn. Florence Nyx was not playing around.

The guy seemed speechless, wide eyes blinking slowly as he took her in. “You can’t just call me a dick.”

“And you can’t just objectify my body whenever you feel like it.” She shrugged. “Look, you won’t leave this gym without apologizing, so you might as well just get it over with.”

The guy seemed amused, though the way he pulled at his fingers told me he was more nervous than he wanted her to notice. Knowing Flo, she probably saw even more than me, though.

“You think you can keep me from leaving?”

Florence stepped right up to him, way too close for my liking, and smirked straight into his face. “Wanna try me?” I almost couldn’t hear her from where I stood, but even from the distance, her confidence outmatched his by miles.

He stared at her for a long moment, probably trying to find a way out of this without doing what she wanted him to, but ended up sighing in defeat. “Fine. Fuck. I’m sorry, okay? Happy now?”

“I’ll be happier when you just stop staring like that next time and don’t waste my time. Your little stunt cost me ten minutes of my workout.”

The guy shook his head, picking up a white towel from the bench and throwing it over his shoulder before he glanced back over at her. “Damn, who the fuck are you?”

A bright grin curled on Florence’s lips, the sight stealing my breath even from a few feet away. “You’ll find out, boy. Now leave before my dog makes you.”

As if to prove her point, Rimmy barked from his spot, giving his all into the growl to make him sound as dangerous as possible. I wondered in which world this one would ever make anyone leave, but then again… This was Florence Nyx’s dog. Who knew whatever the hell he could do.

The guy shook his head and left the gym, and only now did I realize it was just her and me in the room. It was merely six in the morning, and since not everyone was subjected to Idir’s torture or had a circadian rhythm as flawless as the Goddess of the night’s, the gym was unfrequented.

I watched how Florence got back to her spot, setting up her machine. Suddenly, I felt for her. Felt for the fact that she had to take the damn time to put that guy in his place. Was it always this hard for women?

Well, who was I kidding? Of course it was.

And so I left her alone. I’d just run my miles outside; that’s what I preferred, anyway.

Grabbing my phone and towel, I made my way out of the gym as silently as possible, actually tiptoeing until I reached the sliding doors.

“Thank you.” Her voice made me stop in my tracks, and I turned around to see her facing me directly, a genuine smile on her lips. “For not stepping in, I mean.”

Fuck. So she did see me.

It took me a moment to realize who she was and what I’ve been doing, her gaze burning my every brain cell.

“I know you can hold your own,” I finally retorted with a nod.

The smile on her lips broadened, and her eyes glimmered with that same appreciative spark they had all those years ago. It was the one physical thing that hadn’t changed about her: her fiery blue-green irises. They’d always had the power to express everything she was feeling, convey who she really was in her core. It was hypnotic and unlike anything I’d ever seen.

“Good.” She smirked and shot me a meaningful look that I still had to decipher. “See you at eight, McCoy.”


I’d already met most of the people I had to meet; both race and performance engineers, the strategy department, human resources… It felt like I needed a whole damn folder with names to memorize. But as I stepped into the meeting room, I realized I hadn’t even seen the worst of it.

When I’d switched teams in the past, I didn’t really care about who I’d be working with. I hadn’t cared about their names or their occupation. I’d just wanted them to do their job and get me to the front.

Something about coming back to Azure Racing changed that, though. This place felt familiar, even with the dozens of unknown faces around me, and I caught myself trying to keep up with the names, to make a good impression. Surely had nothing to do with a certain brunette leading the mechanic department…

“Damn, I don’t think I know anyone here,” Idir muttered, reading my mind as he glanced around the room.

“I know him.” I nodded to the entrance when a familiar Spaniard waltzed through, his long hair tied into a ponytail. A smirk spread across my lips when his eyes met mine and he beelined towards us, a lopsided grin on his face.

“Phoenix!”

He pulled me into a hug without hesitation, and I reciprocated the motion with a slap on his back.

“Felipe.”

“It’s been a while!”

“It has.” Nodding, I pulled back from him, watching how he turned to the side and waved at a man that also seemed strangely familiar.

“You guys remember Hector, right?”

The tall dark-haired man stretched his hand out to me, and I had to admit, there was no way in hell I would’ve recognized him as Felipe’s trainer from a decade ago. Then again, I hadn’t really paid much attention to anything outside of my own life back then.

“Good to see you again, Phoenix.” The guy shook my hand confidently.

“Likewise.” I nodded, watching how he approached Idir.

When Michael had told me about my teammate for this season, I’d been more than relieved. Felipe and I went way back to the karting days, and even though we’d never been really close friends, I’d always known he was a good person and a respectful driver.

Maybe even a little too respectful.

“So, back to the roots, huh?” He nudged my ribs, hinting at our time together as teammates at Azure Racing for a couple of years.

“I sure hope not,” I remarked, considering the championship had slid through my fingers twice with this team.

His laughter echoed through the room, and I couldn’t help but smirk in response. Felipe had always been the jokester of the paddock, his good mood seemingly spreading onto anyone who’d let him.

And even though I wasn’t a big fan of his clown-identity, I caught myself being thankful for his presence; the alternatives of a teammate weren’t appealing, especially since I couldn’t be picky.

I’d been lucky to even get this spot so close to season start, and part of me still wondered how I pulled this off to begin with. My past had made me skeptical, but Michael assured me all they wanted was the best for their team.

He’d never seemed like a liar to me, but lately, I wasn’t too sure.

The chatter of a few dozen people in the room filled the atmosphere, and I took a deep breath, trying to ignore the urge to slam my fist on the table to tell everyone to shut up. This was part of the job I’d always despised: You’d have to work with a ton of people to get shit done.

“Guys…” The voice made me glance to the other side of the room, where Florence, dressed in an Azure Racing polo shirt, stood at the head of the table, glancing around the area with a thick folder pressed to her chest. People were still chatting, not regarding her at all. I had no idea how they couldn’t; I even wondered how I hadn’t spotted her walking in, considering she just turned heads wherever she went.

“Guys!” She raised her voice now, brows furrowed in frustration. A few of the men glanced over at her, but didn’t make an effort to shut up. It took every ounce of me to not tell them to shut up myself, but if there was one thing this morning taught me, it was that it wasn’t my business to speak for her. She had her voice, and she definitely knew how to use it.

Felipe leaned in, whispering, “Damn, did you know she’d be here? I thought—”

The thick folder slamming on the table interrupted him and everyone else in the room. People turned and stared at her, some of them seeming annoyed. Michael walked in just in time, his brow raised at the scene in front of him.

“May I have your fucking attention, please?” Flo said, her voice determined and booming through the conference room.

I smirked at her choice of words and glanced over at Michael, who also hid his mouth behind his hand, shaking his head. She waited until the silence stretched on for a few seconds before she cleared her throat, squaring herself up to her full six feet.

“My name is Florence Nyx, and I’m your new head mechanic. I will also lead this meeting today.” Her voice was thick with pride as she stood up straight, exuding confidence on every imaginable level. “Now, we don’t have any time to waste, so let’s get this show on the road. Gonzalez, McCoy, you’ll sit over here.” She pointed at the seats to her left and right. It was pretty damn hard not to let my jaw hit the ground from her assertive behavior. “Followed by your trainers, assistants, and engineers. My mechanics will fill the rest of the seats, and marketing and HR can take over those that are left. Any questions?”

Every single person in the room stared at her wide-eyed, some of them glancing at each other, silently asking if this was really happening.

“No?” she asked, raising a brow. “What the hell are we waiting for, then? Get to work!”

Michael raised a hand, amusement playing on his features. People looked over at him until Florence noticed him as well, and even though she tried very hard to keep a professional surface, I noticed the faint hint of a smirk on her lips as she said, “Yes, Michael?”

Our boss smirked at her pronouncing his name the German way, even though her accent made it sound a little awkward.

“Um, yes. Thank you, Miss Nyx. Where do I sit?”

Felipe turned around and coughed to hide his laughter, which made grin even harder. I didn’t even try to hide it by now.

“Right by my side, of course,” Flo retorted, patting the seat next to her at the head of the table. She looked like she belonged right there, controlling a few dozen men with her sheer confidence. It was astonishing and made it even harder to look away from her. “Alright, get going!”

The clap of her hands made people rush around, and soon I found myself in the first seat to her right, followed by Idir and everyone else who belonged to my team. Technically, we all worked together, but every driver had his own specifications and goals, so it made sense to separate teams when it came to details or the race.

Florence glanced over at Felipe and leaned across Michael to hold out a fist to him, which he bumped with his own. “Good to see you again, Flo.”

“Same to you, old man.”

“Ouch.” He laughed, throwing his hand on his heart. “Haven’t lost your edge, I see.”

She shook her head, shooting him a wink. “Let’s hope you haven’t either.”

The sound of scraping chairs and people looking for their seats filled the room, and as everyone tried to find their place, I instantly knew where mine was.

With my gaze set on hers.

She looked too damn tempting when her entire body oozed power, confidence, and fire. Felipe was wrong. She hadn’t just kept her edge; she’d grown it out, too. The determination in her eyes made it impossible to look away from her, even more so when she met my gaze and stared at me the way she did now. A sliver of who was all those years ago lingered beneath her strong facade, and every inch of me wanted to discover more of her.

I’d always regretted not having the chance to get to know her fully before our ways had parted. Then again, looking at her now… I was glad as hell there was still a part of her I could uncover, that I hadn’t missed my chance of seeing her for all that she was.

Or at least I hoped I didn’t.

“McCoy,” she said, staring straight into my soul. I could see that trembling fire of her spirit, the fragments of herself she’d always been trying to hide so damn hard. Invincibility had always been her dream, and even though she’d obviously picked it up a notch since I’d last seen her, her essence remained the same. I could practically feel her body on that swing next to me, telling me she was the daughter of Chaos and could speak to the stars.

That’d always be who she was to me.

“Nyx.” I nodded in response, feeling every damn nerve ending in my body just from looking at her.

This really wasn’t good.

Well, no, fuck that. This was as imperfectly perfect as it could get.

The door opening interrupted our silent exchange, and Florence glanced up at the other side of the room, raised brows directed at whoever was late to the meeting. My gaze followed her own, and I almost laughed when I saw the same blond from the gym stepping inside, having about fifty pairs of eyes on him now.

“Nice of you to join us, Jonathan,” Florence quipped without even flinching, head nodding to the seat in front of him. “You can have a seat there. That’s where marketing sits, anyway.”

The guy glanced from the marketing corner to Florence and back, confusion written on his features. “Wait… How do you know my name? And who even are you?”

Florence shrugged, her gaze flicking to mine for just a split second before she looked back at him. “You lost your privilege to that knowledge when you were fifteen minutes late to this meeting. Sit your ass down and listen. Maybe you’ll figure out who you’re dealing with, then.”

And as I watched the guy take her orders, sitting down in the last remaining seat, I realized something.

Florence Nyx was way more powerful than I’d imagined. For a decade, I’d wondered who she’d turned into, what this life had planned for her.

Looking at her now, it became so damn obvious that not even life itself could’ve stopped her from doing what she wanted, from reaching for the stars.

She was a force to be reckoned with, and even though my head told me it was such a damn terrible idea, that her entire being had the power to burn my life down… my heart wanted to be set aflame the second it met hers all those fucking years ago.

There was no damn way on earth I’d stay away from her.

I wasn’t strong enough to.


Author’s Note

Hey, folks!

Yay, two chapters in two days! Hope you enjoyed this one. I know these seem a little like filler chapters, but they’re necessary, and we got a lot more action starting now.

How are we all liking present Phoenix and Florence? Are they much different from the past?

Hope you’re having a wonderful Tuesday.

Stay safe and lots of love,

xx Jane

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