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Racing Hearts

By Charley Manning All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Romance


Drew Jaymes is Peach Valley, Georgia’s bad boy. Orphaned at a young age and raised by his aunt. His dream of racing his passion, until he met a young woman with bright aqua eyes. One summer with her, his whole life changed. Nicole Bennett was part of a founding family of Peach Valley. A grandmother that was cold in life, yet was the only family she had once her parents had died in a car accident when she was a child of five. Her young life was spent in an all-girls school in Great Britain. Returning to Peach Valley before heading off to university, she met and fell in love with Drew and lost her innocence and her heart. Believing Drew’s love wasn’t real, she ran off to university and left Peach Valley, never wanting to return. Eleven years later, the death of her grandmother brings her back to the one place she never wanted to be. Seeing the man who broke her heart all those years ago wasn’t something she’d ever planned on either. Charged with attempted murder, he turns to the only person who can help him: Nicole. She’s a successful ADA up north and needs her skills as his defense. Little did they know this trial would take them on bold adventures and reveal secrets long buried.



“Nicole, you just have to come to the party,” Dixie pleaded.

“I don’t know, Dixie. I’m not sure Grandmother would approve.”

“You’re not a kid anymore. Y’all don’t need your gramma’s permission on everything you do.” Dixie gave her a concerned look.“Besides, it’s only a birthday party.You’ll get to meet people your own age.”


“But nothing. If you’re gonna be in Peach Valley for the summer, you’re gonna make some friends.”


“I won’t take no for an answer.” Dixie tugged on Nicole’s arm and led her into the house and up to her room.“Now let’s see what we can find in this closet of yours.”

Nicole dressed in a light cotton sundress with asymmetrical skirt in a soft apricot color. She sat before the vanity while Dixie pulled her long, black hair that reached her waist up into a French braid, weaving an apricot colored ribbon throughout.Once her hair was done, Dixie applied earth tone shadows to the lids of her aqua eyes.

“I think you’ll do,” Dixie teased, standing back and taking in the sight of her creation. “What’s wrong Nicole?” she asked when Nicole’s faced remained serious.

“I’m nervous. How do I act around these people?”

“Y’all don’t act. You be yourself and have tons of fun,” Dixie told her.

Nicole envied how carefree Dixie was. Nicole was as shy as they came.

Buggers. Nicole felt as out of place as her British accent.Nicole may be eighteen years old, but certainly didn’t fit in with American girls of the same age.

They had been at the party an hour. Nicole was meeting many of the guests and was amazed how different it was from the atmosphere at school.Because she was Elizabeth Bennett’s granddaughter and possessed an accent from her many years in Great Britain, she could sense the falseness of the other girls at the party.The immaturity of them was staggering.All she wanted to do was find Dixie and go home.

She was standing near the punch bowl when she met the man who would haunt her from that day forward, Drew Jaymes. He was twenty years old, slightly taller than her, his hair was light blond and he had eyes as blue as the bluest skies, with a casual smile that could melt an iceberg.Unlike the other guests, he dressed in jeans and tee shirt.He looked as out of place at this celebration as she felt, but didn’t have a care in the world of how others viewed him.

“Nicole, I’d like you to meet Drew Jaymes. He’s a really good friend of mine,” Dixie introduced them.

Nicole reached for his extended hand, still looking into his gaze. “Nice to meet you,” she managed, her voice almost a whisper.

His hand was soft and warm as it gently shook hers before returning it to his jeans pocket.

“You’re not from around here,” he commented upon hearing her accent and giving her a huge smile. “But, Dix tells me you’re here for the summer?”

“Till September,” she answered.

“Drew used to play football in high school,” Dixie told her, not noticing their mutual gazing at each other.

Nicole bashfully pulled her gaze from his. “I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with that American sport.”

“Quite alright. I don’t play that sport.”

She looked confused.

“Drew now finds racing cars more interesting than a football game,” Dixie interjected.

“I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with automobiles either,” she bashfully confessed, looking at him.

“Are you familiar with dancing?” he asked.

“A little,” Nicole shyly replied.

“Well, let’s see how familiar.”

He reached for her hand and gently pulled her toward the other dancing couples. Slow songs were playing as their bodies swayed together.“I haven’t seen you ’round these parts before,” he said after a few moments of awkward silence.

“I don’t visit Grandmother often. Just on holiday.”

“Who would’ve thought old lady Bennett had such a cute granddaughter.” He smiled bright.

Nicole could only look at him. She really didn’t know her grandmother all that well.She was shuffled off to boarding school shortly after her parents’ deaths when she was a young child of five and only visited on holiday.Yet, her grandmother always seemed too busy with social functions to pay her any mind.She met Dixie when she was nine years old and found an instant friend and someone to spend her time with.

“Do you have plans for tomorrow?” he asked, bringing her from her thoughts.

Her eyes met with his. “Not really.”

“Good. Why don’t you and Dixie come on down to the garage?”

“The garage?” she asked confused.

“I’ll be working on my car. You said you aren’t familiar with them.I’ll give you your first look at a real race car.”

She saw his eyes dance when he spoke of his car.

“I don’t know…”

“Do you have a tea party or just afraid you’ll get dirty?” he interrupted.

She pulled away from him sharply. “I was going to say I don’t know if Dixie has other plans before you so rudely interrupted!”

He smiled at her display of spunk. “I’m sorry,” he apologized.“I’d really like for you to come.”

* * *

She’d been in town a couple of weeks. She and Dixie spent many afternoons in Drew’s company.He even taught her how to drive a stick shift, which was quite the experience.

He was working on his car engine when she entered the garage one afternoon. He looked up when he heard her walk towards him.“Hey Nick!” he greeted.

“Hi Drew.” She walked over and stood next to the car.

He saw her looking about the garage silently. “If you’re looking for Dix, she’s not here,” he told her. She looked at him confusedly.“She called here earlier and asked me to tell you something came up and she wouldn’t be able to go shopping today.” How much stuff could women possibly buy? he wondered as he saw the disappointment flow over her.

“Oh,” she said, disappointed.

“You’re more than welcome to stay and keep me company if you’d like.” He smiled.

“I can see you have work to do,” she answered.

He stood straight and wiped his hands on a towel he took from the workbench nearby. “Tell ya what.You can help me work on the car.”

“But, I don’t know anything about automobiles.”

“No time like the present to learn now is there?”

She looked at him silently for a moment. “I’m not really dressed for working on cars.”

He took in her appearance. She was wearing light blue shorts and an off white camp shirt and her usual bobby socks and white canvas tennis shoes.

“We can solve that problem. Follow me.” He couldn’t explain it, but he wanted her to stay.Usually when he worked on his car, he wanted total solitude.He spent numerous hours alone with his car on a regular basis.Why was he suddenly not desiring that time?

She followed him to the office area. After searching for a minute, he found what he was looking for.“Here, slip this on over your clothes.” He handed her a set of coveralls.“They’ll probably be a little big on you, but you’ll keep clean.”

She did as she was instructed. Once she had the coveralls on, he helped her roll up the sleeves to just below her elbow.

“You’d better give me this.” He reached for the clasp of her delicate gold watch and removed it.She felt a tingle run up her arm when his fingers made contact with her flesh.

He looked in her eyes and saw a flash of… anxiety? He placed the jewelry in the desk drawer once he escaped the mesmerizing hold her innocent eyes held over him.“Are you ready for your first lesson?” he sounded more serious than usual.She nodded, her bottom lip between her teeth.

They worked side by side for hours as he patiently explained the procedure to rebuild a carburetor.

“You’re a fast learner,” he encouraged as her delicate fingers put gaskets and screws in place. No one touched his car, yet here she was, her delicate touch on metal.Part of him was jealous of the car!

“Had a good teacher,” she playfully responded, looking up at him. “What’s so funny?” she asked, noticing the smile on his face.

“Nothing,” he answered. “Just never thought I’d see Elizabeth Bennett’s granddaughter with grease on her face.” He chuckled when her hand rose to wipe her cheek, only to get more grease on herself.“Here, let me help with that.”

He reached for a clean towel on the bench and began wiping the grease from her face. She was feeling strange at his touches, feelings she’d never felt before.Her innocent eyes were bright and pulled at him.His hands cupped her face as his eyes gazed into hers.She felt nervous at his being so near.Being sent away to an all-girls boarding school hadn’t prepared her for encounters with young men.And definitely not a man like Drew Jaymes.Slowly, he began lowering his face toward hers.

“I’d better get going Drew,” her voice was just above a whisper as she pulled free from his hold. “I’m already late for dinner.” She retreated to the office.

An unexpected emptiness filled the garage after she stepped through the door and left.

* * *

Dixie couldn’t believe her ears when she heard of Nicole’s afternoon in the garage. “Honey do y’all have any idea how many girls would kill to spend a day with Drew Jaymes?” she squealed.

She should have realized then that she was falling in love with Drew. She had convinced herself it was only a school girl’s crush.After all, what did she know about men?Even when he kissed her a few times, she’d have no idea how to react, even though they were only soft pecks on the cheek, just like the ones he gave Dixie.But, she learned a lot that summer.

* * *

Late August. Almost time for her to head up north to university.Dixie had convinced her to attend one last party.

“Hi Nicky,” Drew greeted her from behind.

“Drew!” Her face lit up when she saw him. “I didn’t know you’d be at this party.”

“I don’t know for how long. Doesn’t seem to be much partying going on,” he answered.

“Yeah, I don’t know why I let Dix talk me into coming to this one.” She tried to cover the excitement running through her at seeing him.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested.

They hadn’t realized how long they had been walking until they heard the rumble of thunder approaching.

“We’d better find some place to ride out this storm.” He reached for her hand and they ran through the fields, trying to outrun the approaching rain.

The rain was coming down heavily by the time they reached the stable on her grandmother’s estate. They were both soaked and laughing.She nervously climbed up the ladder to the loft and sat against a beam.

“Nick?” he called softly when he entered the loft, seeing her hug her knees to her chest. “What’s wrong?” He sat down beside her.Her eyes were full of fear.“Nick?”

“I don’t like storms,” she replied with a trembling voice. “My parents died when their car ran off the road in a storm.”

He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. Her head on his chest sent a warmth through him.After a short while, she sat back and looked at him.His smile filled her with a comforting warmth.

He looked into her eyes. The cool breeze made her shiver in her wet clothes.Her eyes stayed with his, hypnotizing her.She closed her eyes when his hands rose to her face and he brought his lips to hers lightly.

A strange feeling flowed through her at his kiss. One she hadn’t felt before.Pulling free abruptly, she stood and walked away from him, her arms hugging her stomach like a shield.

“Nicky?” He stood behind her, his hands on her shoulders.“What’s the matter?”

She felt the warmth of his hands through her wet clothes. “I’m just not feeling well I guess,” she nervously replied.

He turned her to face him. Lifting her chin with his finger, he looked deeply into her eyes.“Care to tell me what’s really bothering you?” his voice was low, sending a current through her.

How did he read her so easily?

“It’s silly really.”

“If it’s bothering you, it’s not silly.” His gaze intently matched hers.“Did I do something to offend you?”

“No!” She pulled free and walked away.He followed and stood behind her.“I just feel funny.”

He again turned her to face him. “Funny?”

She looked at him with bright eyes. “When you kiss me, I have a funny feeling inside.”

He knew she was innocent, but not this much. She was also the most open and honest person he’d ever met.

“Is it a good funny or bad?” When she tried to pull away, his hands tightened on her shoulders.“Nick, you can talk to me.”

“I don’t know. It scares me.”

“Why?” he probed.

His eyes were reassuring. “I don’t know what to do.I don’t know how to kiss a boy.”

He smiled. “That makes us even.I don’t know how to kiss a boy either.”

“Drew!” she laughed. His eyes were so warm and understanding.“What if I do something wrong?”

“Remember that old carburetor we worked on?” he asked. She looked confused.“All the parts had to fit together a certain way for it to work.”

“So.” She was still confused.

“Well, kissing is pretty much the same.”

She chuckled at his statement. “Drew!”

“Seriously. You wouldn’t want to bump noses would you?”

“No. But…”

“Same rule applies to kissing. Once the pieces of the carburetor match up right, it knows how to do the rest on its own.”

“But Drew, a carburetor?”

His hands rose and framed her face. The warmth from them traveled throughout her body.“Trust me,” he whispered.“Feel.Don’t think.”

He brought his lips to hers. She felt as though her body were made of Jell-O, all wobbly inside.His eyes had a different look to them when their lips parted and he looked into hers.She felt like she was being pulled into their depths.

His breathing was rapid when their lips parted. “See, that wasn’t so bad now was it?”

“No,” she hoarsely answered.

He brushed hair back from her face. “Follow my lead.”His own voice shaky.“I want you to kiss me.”

She nervously licked her lips. “But, I don’t…”

“Feel Nicky. Just feel.”

His lips came to hers as his hands tangled in her hair. He deepened his kiss and pulled her close when she tried to pull back.When her hands reached up to tangle in his hair at his nape, his hold became even tighter.

“Oh Nick,” he softly called as he began tantalizing kisses at her neck. Her innocent trembling flowing through him.

“Drew.” Her breathing very irregular. “I feel funny.”

“It’s okay,” he reassured her with whispers in her ear. “I feel funny too.”

He raised his head to look into her eyes. “Drew, I’m scared.”

“Shhhh. It’s alright.I won’t hurt you.” He brushed his lips on hers.“Kiss me Nick.”

Her trembling lips against his excited him beyond belief. “Oh Nicky.You are so beautiful.” He kissed her hungrily as he lowered his body to the floor and rest her atop him.

She wasn’t the only one feeling apprehension. How could one woman make him feel this way?What was she doing to him?He couldn’t get enough of her.He rolled their bodies so he was above her.Her hands tangling in his hair holding him close.She was innocent.As pure as a fresh snow.Why was he unable to stop?His body and emotions had a mind of their own.

His hand caressed her throat as their kiss continued. Her soft moan filled him to his core.“Oh my God Nick,” he called breathlessly.

“Am I doing something wrong?” she asked in a whisper. She hoped not because she was seriously liking this sensation flowing through her.

“No,” his own voice shaky. “Oh God no.”

His lips returned to hers. He couldn’t stop himself from separating her lips with his tongue and exploring.

Her breathing became almost erratic at the feel of him inside her moist cove.

“Drew,” her whispers just about hyperventilating. “What’s happening to me?” she stuttered.Did she get struck by lightning from the storm outside?It sure felt like it.

He raised his head to look into her eyes. He wanted to see fear in their depths.Innocent need was all that stared back at him.

“Nicky, tell me to stop. Please.”His breathing as erratic as hers.


“Nicky, you have to tell me…” Her eyes were drawing him in.

She hiccupped a breath. “But, Drew.This is a good funny I feel.”

“Oh God.” His eyes looking skyward for strength.“Please make me stop,” he prayed.

“I don’t want you to stop,” she responded, thinking he was pleading with her.

He looked into her eyes. Her lips trembled as her hands pulled him to her.

“Nicky, no.”

There was no turning back when her tongue entered him and began exploring. His tongue challenged hers.She continued trembling while boldly continuing his challenge for challenge.

“Drew,” she huskily called his name as he began tender kisses to her neck. She felt transported to another dimension under his touch.She didn’t protest when his hand rose and began unbuttoning her blouse.Though a cool breeze blew in, her body was flooded with warmth from his caresses.

Spirals of emotions ran through her at his delicate touch. Sensations she’d never felt before, nor understood, ran wild within her.

He sat up and pulled her to sit before him. Taking her hands in his, he brought them to his chest.“It’s your turn,” he whispered.She nervously licked her lips as her eyes stayed with his.“Go ahead.”

The sound of the pouring rain all around them was no longer scary. It felt right being with him, here, now.Her fingers fumbled with the buttons down his shirt.She felt him shudder under her touch when her hands swept across his chest to push the fabric aside.He quickly grabbed her hands when she tried to pull away.

“No Nick. Don’t stop,” his voice hoarsely pleaded.


“I won’t break Nick. Trust me.”

His eyes shined brightly in the night. She pushed the shirt past his shoulders and tossed it to the side after removing it.Her hands caressed his broad chest curiously.His head back as he enjoyed her soft touch.She was branding him right then and there.

She wanted to explore him. Know every inch of him.Feeling brave, she leaned forward and kissed his chest.

His soft moans filling her senses. “Oh Nicky,” he sighed.

He reached for her and brought her lips to his, filled with a hunger he’d never felt before. When she responded to him, he lowered her body and gently rested atop her.

It was only a short time later before their clothing was completely discarded. He felt her entire body stiffen along with her quick intake of breath and wince when he entered her.He rest on his elbows, looking into her gaze.“It’s okay, Baby,” he reassured her.He gave tender kisses at her temples, tasting the salty tears that delicately flowed from her eyes while keeping his rhythm slow.

“Drew!” she cried softly. “I can’t.”

He gave her butterfly kisses. “It’s okay Baby.Just relax,” he whispered between kisses.

Her hands tangled in his hair. When her sobs lessened, he brought his gaze to hers.“Trust me Baby,” his voice was low before kissing her tenderly.

When her breathing became more rapid, he knew she was on her way to a more enjoyable place.

“Drew!” she called, not knowing this new emotion flowing through her. “What’s happening?”

Her warmth wrapped around him so exquisitely. “Oh God, Nicky.Just feel.It’s okay.”His own breathing labored in sheer delight.


“What is it Baby?” Her snug fit bringing him to heights he’d never felt before.

“This feels better than okay.” Her body taking over, arching, allowing him in further.

Oh God, she is a fast learner, raced through his mind.

“I’m sorry Nick.” He couldn’t last. Her body took him too high, too fast.He felt her shudder as she reached her summit just before him.Her squeal filling his senses knowing his body had pleased her.

He should feel guilty for taking her innocence. He didn’t.He felt intoxicated by her.He gently rest atop her feeling the beat of his heart slow.Her perfectly manicured nails caressing his spine, causing him to moan.

“Oh Nicky,” he sighed before rolling to her side and pulling her into his embrace.



“I’m not sorry.”

He held her tighter. Why did his heart feel like it was in a vice grip?He caressed her hair.

“You are an amazing woman, Nick. Don’t let anyone tell you different.” He kissed her forehead.

“I think you’re special too.”

He closed his eyes at her statement. He’d never been called special in a good way before.The town bad boy.The rebel.A man not allowed with any of the high and mighty daughters of Peach Valley.

They held each other, listening to the rain on the roof. She relaxed listening to his heartbeat while he caressed her hair.Words weren’t needed.They simply enjoyed the comfortable silence.

* * *

The storm had passed. Both knew they couldn’t stop time.They dressed and made their way to his car and he drove her home.She didn’t want to get out of the car.She enjoyed sitting next to him in the front seat.

“I meant what I said before,” she whispered.

He hooked his finger at her chin and brought her gaze to his. “And what would that be?”His smile filling her with emotion.

She cupped his cheek with her hand. “I’m not sorry tonight happened.”

Her eyes were still innocent. He pulled her to him for a warm, wet kiss.She still trembled under the power of what his kisses made her feel.

She rested her head on his shoulder. “I wish I didn’t have to go off to university.”

He felt his chest tighten at the thought of her leaving. “You’ll be back on breaks.”

“It’s not the same.” She lifted her head to look at him, a sadness flowing through her.“You’d better send me pictures of that racing trophy you’re going to win.”

“I have to get in the race first. I need a sponsor to do that.” He kissed her again.“You’d better get inside.Your Gramma’s probably worried.”

“Trust me, worry isn’t an emotion Grandmother feels for me.”

He heard the sadness in her voice. He came around and opened her door for her before walking her to the front door.

“Good night Drew,” she softly said before turning and entering the house.

He stood staring at the closed door feeling an emptiness at her absence. He raked his hand through his hair and turned to leave when he heard shouting from inside.

“Nicole Elizabeth Bennett! What on Earth do you think you’re doing getting home at this late hour?”

“I’m sorry Grandmother. The storm…”

“Child you need to get over your fear of a little rain!” Drew couldn’t believe the lack of sympathy. “Was that Drew Jaymes’ car I saw brought you home?”

“He was at the party.”

“Surely there were better boys in attendance who could have been more worthy of your time.” Elizabeth was exasperated.

“Grandmother, Drew is nice. If you’d only give him a chance.”

“That boy is not fit to be in the presence of a Bennett. Do you hear me young lady?”

“No! If I’m old enough to go to university, I’m old enough to choose my own friends!”

“Why you ungrateful child! After all I’ve done for you!”

“What have you done Grandmother? Sent me off to another country so you wouldn’t have to even look at me!” Drew heard the hurt in her voice.

“I sent you to school to get a proper education.”

“If proper is being a snob like you, I don’t want to be proper!”

He clenched his hands into fists when he heard Elizabeth’s hand connect with Nicole’s face.

“You will show proper respect in this house! Now off to your room!”

He heard her sobs as she raced up the stairs. His anger at what he’d just heard was overwhelming.He took a while to calm down before making his way to the back door of the Bennett estate.

* * *

“Master Drew!” Emma, the housekeeper, whispered loudly before walking to him.“You shouldn’t be here.”

“Em, I need to see Nicole.”

“Oh no. Miss ’Lizabeth has left word with Jennings and me that you aren’t to be let near the girl.”

“Em, please.”

“Miss ’Lizabeth is quite angry. Never thought I’d see the day she’d take a hand to that little girl.”

He reached for her arm. “Em, she’s not a little girl.Please, I just need to know she’s okay.”

“Oh Master Drew, I don’t know.”

“Please Em. I promise, no one will find out I was here.”

She saw the pain in his eyes and gave a heavy sigh. “Follow me up the back stairs.And keep quiet!”

Emma guided him up the stairs and through the dark hallway toward her room. She opened the door and motioned him to go inside.“Miss Nicole?”Emma called softly.

“Go away!” Nicole sadly answered.

Drew gave Emma a reassuring look. “It’s okay,” he whispered before Emma left the room.

He walked to the balcony off her room and found her sitting on the floor with her legs hugged to her chest. He walked over, knelt down and stroked her hair.

She looked up at him with a face covered in tears. “Drew!” She flung her arms around his neck and cried.

“It’s okay Nicky. I’m here.” He held her close and caressed her hair.After a short time, he pulled her away to look at her.Her cheek was still red from the slap of her grandmother.

“I hate her,” she sobbed. “Now I have no one.”

He cupped her face. “You have me.” He looked in her eyes.“And Dix.”

She shook her head. “She won’t allow it anymore.”

He sighed and brought his forehead to rest against hers. “Do you want me to talk to her?”

She pulled back sharply. “No!” She covered her mouth with her hand before continuing quieter.“You can’t,” she said. “She’ll have you arrested if she finds out you’re near me.”

“Don’t worry ’bout me. She can’t do anything to me.It’s you I’m worried about.”

She gazed into his eyes a moment before she lifted her hands to pull his lips to hers. “I can’t let her hurt you Drew.You didn’t do anything wrong.” She kissed him tenderly.

He held her in his embrace as his back rest against the wall until nearly dawn. She looked so peaceful in her slumber.

“Master Drew!” Emma’s hoarse whisper woke him.“You can’t be here.Miss ’Lizabeth will be fit to be tied.”

“Shhhh.” He sternly looked at Emma to keep her from waking Nicole.“I’m sorry. I lost track of time.She was pretty upset last night.”

“You best put that girl in her bed and shoo. Miss ’Lizabeth will be here when the sun comes up to check on her.She finds you here and she’ll skin us both!”

* * *

A few days had passed. Her grandmother had kept her prisoner in the house.Her only companions were Emma and Jennings.

“Emma,” she called softly, entering the kitchen from the back stairs.

Emma’s hand went to her heart. “Child, don’t sneak up on me like that!You scared me half to death.”

Nicole’s gaze went to the floor. “I’m sorry.”

Emma approached her and hugged her close. “I’m sorry Miss Nicole.You don’t need some old woman like me yellin’ at ya too.”

Nicole looked up. She smiled at the love she saw within Emma’s eyes.“Will you please do me a favor?”The sadness in her eyes pulled at Emma.“It might get you into trouble with Grandmother though.”

“You let me worry ’bout Miss ’Lizabeth. What can I do for you child?”

Nicole handed her an envelope. “I need you to get this to Dixie.It’s very important.” She looked into Emma’s eyes.“And, please tell her I miss her.” She turned and went back to her room the same way she came.

Emma’s eyes welled with tears. “That poor child. She needs her friends and Miss ’Lizabeth has her locked away like a fairy tale princess.”

Nicole sat on the balcony floor off her room and looked at the vast backyard of her grandmother’s estate. Dixie would get the envelope to Drew.Looking out through the railing, she softly said aloud, “Please make your dreams come true, Drew.”

* * *

Nicole found herself completely bored with her grandmother’s latest summer tea party. It allowed her out of her room, so she took advantage.She was making small talk with some of the older women when a conversation between CindyLou Parker and Katie Nelson caught her attention.

“Can you believe he actually had the audacity to attend the social event of the summer?” CindyLou asked.

“I’m sure the town lothario wasn’t on the invitation list.”

“Just look at how cozy he is with that woman. She must be at least fifteen years older than him.”

Nicole looked in the direction they were. A lump formed in her throat when she saw Drew talking with the blonde woman near the buffet.They were both smiling and laughing.

“I hear he’s in need of a sponsor for his car in the race next month,” CindyLou stated.

“Well, he obviously knows who to cozy up to. That’s Mrs. J.P. Stratton from Atlanta.She’s very well known for taking care of her young men and their needs.”

“It’s really a shame. Drew is a looker.I wouldn’t mind having him back in my bed.”

“Oh Cindy. He’s a pro.He only beds those he knows he can get the big bucks out of now.Not the casual lover he was in high school.”The two young women laughed and walked away.

Nicole felt as though the walls were closing in. She continued watching them.She felt a coldness run through her.The woman was beautiful and wore a very tight knit dress.Drew wasn’t dressed in his usual casual manner of jeans and tee.Instead he wore dress slacks and polo shirt with his hair neatly combed instead of its wind-blown look she normally saw.

Their eyes met when he looked away from the woman and saw her. He held up his glass of punch in toast to her while sending her a smile before returning his attention back to the blonde.

She felt like a fool. It felt as though anyone who looked at her could see the humiliation she was feeling.She made her way up the stairs to her room and locked the door.

She sat on her bed with her knees hugged to her chest when she heard voices outside. Walking toward the balcony, she saw him with Mrs. Stratton below.

“Drew, I didn’t realize you worked on your own car,” Mrs. Stratton’s voice was low and seductive.

“I wouldn’t trust anyone else to work on her. She’s won quite a few races thus far.”

“I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with cars.”

“You’re welcome to come down to the garage anytime. Cars really aren’t so hard to understand.Once all the parts are in place, the car pretty much knows what to do from there.”

His words felt like daggers in her heart. She slid down the door frame and quietly continued listening.It was obvious he had a system.It had worked on her the other night in the barn.

“Sugar, you have to come back to the house soon. It’s so lonely there with my husband out of town.”

Her heart broke more as she watched him lift her hand to his lips and softly kiss her knuckles. “I’ll stop by again soon.I promise.”

Later that evening she told her grandmother she wanted to leave for Harvard a week early. Her grandmother didn’t protest or question her request.She left for Connecticut early the next morning, leaving Drew behind.If only she could leave the pain behind.

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