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Authors: Jane O'Reilly

She Who Dares

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She Who Dares

www.escapepublishing.com.au

She Who Dares
Jane O’Reilly

The Ugly Duckling
meets
Top Gear
when a plain Jane mechanic comes face-to-face with the bad boy of rally racing
...

Nic Sinclair spends most of her time hiding under the bonnet of a car. With her obsession with engines, a total lack of feminine wiles, and a stepsister who looks like Barbie, she understands that it’s the safest place to be.

But when Nic’s stepsister sells her half of their vintage car business and does a runner, Nic is forced to set down her wrench and deal with the fallout. Soon she’s engaged in a battle of wills with her new business partner, superstar rally driver Sebastian Prince – a battle he dares her to win.

About the Author

Jane O’Reilly started writing as an antidote to kids’ TV when her youngest child was a baby. Her first novel was set in her old school and involved a ghost and lots of death. It’s unpublished, which is probably for the best. Then she discovered contemporary romance, and that, as they say, was that. She lives near London with her husband and two children. Find her at
www.janeoreilly.com
and on Twitter as @janeoreilly or email her at
[email protected]
.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank the presenters of
Top Gear
and
Wheeler Dealers
, without whom I’d never have written this book. And my husband, without whom I’d never have watched either.

 

For my tomboy, my car nut, and everyone who has ever felt like Nic.

Contents

About the Author

Acknowledgements

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Epilogue

Bestselling Titles by Escape Publishing…

Chapter One

‘Dear Nic
,’ the letter began, as if they were penpals, not stepsisters. ‘
I’m sorry to drop you in it like this, but I need to get away for a while. I don’t know when I’ll be back.
’ And then came the really good part. Even though she knew, Nic still had to settle her stomach with a swallow of coffee before she read the rest of the looping gold script.
‘I’ve sold my share of the garage. It didn’t seem fair to hang on to it when I won’t be around to do any work. I don’t know how involved your new business partner will want to be, but he seemed pretty keen, and he knows cars much better than I do! Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I just need some time to get my head together. Love, Ella
.’

And then there was the tidy little P.S. at the bottom. ‘
Can you let the organisers of Misses and Motors know I won’t be entering this year? Don’t bother haggling the fee.’

Nic re-read the letter a third time, just as she had done every morning for the past three weeks, then stuck it back on the fridge, securing it in place with a magnetic map of Route 66.

She finished her coffee, rinsed out the mug and fought her hair back into a ponytail. Her uggs flopped by the door. She pulled them on, snatched her keys from the hook and set off for work.

Twenty seconds later she arrived. Nic ran her gaze over the garage, checking the rows of gorgeously polished steel sprockets, the two daffodil yellow lifts, the elegant tower of heavy tread tyres in the corner. Having the garage all to herself had seemed like fun for the first half day. Now it was anything but.

It had been three weeks, and this mysterious business partner still hadn’t made himself known. She wished he’d hurry up. She couldn’t sell cars the way Ella did. She didn’t have Ella’s assets. And then there was the little problem of Misses and Motors.

She’d never be as beautiful as her stepsister, no matter how much time she had. The idea of her entering the local beauty pageant was hysterical. And yet…

A Sinclair girl had entered that pageant with a car from the garage every year since its inception in the fifties. Nic wasn’t a Sinclair by birth, but she was one by name, and the last thing she wanted to do was let her stepdad down. Usually Ella entered. But Ella wasn’t here.

Nic knew she could improve a little on what nature hadn’t given her, and finding a fabulous car wouldn’t be a problem. The clock that hung high on the wall clicked on another minute, telling her that she had thirty to spare before she was due at the hairdressers on the other side of the road.

Her last thirty minutes as a mouse. By lunchtime she’d be Barbie blonde. Tucking her t-shirt into the waistband of her battered cut-off jeans, she surrendered a moment to the shiver of anticipation, and decided that the garage had passed inspection. The cramped office at the front passed it too, and she paused only long enough to check the answering machine for messages before heading in to the showroom. With a bit of luck, she wouldn’t get any customers whilst she was in the hairdressers. She didn’t want to shut the garage, but it was either that or sit in her cold little bathroom with a kit from the chemist on her head.

She’d spent a long time looking at those kits before she’d bottled out and made the appointment.

Six cars lined the long, rectangular space, parked at the exact angle that allowed them to catch the sunlight streaming through the glass wall that faced out onto the street. Nic sighed, trailed her hand over curving bonnets, polished doors, years of vintage gorgeousness that no modern car could rival.

It had been her stepdad’s business. Now half of it was hers. Just who had Ella sold her half to? Nerves jangled in her stomach. Nerves she could do without.

Not someone local, she decided as she entered the code for the huge steel shutters and pressed the button to open them. If it was, they’d have revealed themselves by now. No-one kept a secret in a little Cornish town like this for more than thirty seconds without exploding.

The door slid neatly up into the roof space. Nic sank herself into the Corvette, fished the keys from her pocket and started it up.

The engine roared, the power rumbling through her, into her thighs, her backside, up, up, and up until it reached her brain. The rumble of the car soothed her, settling her stomach, and Nic steered her thoughts back to what mattered.

Misses and Motors had been an integral part of the St Austell summer extravaganza for as long as she could remember, a crowd pulling showstopper combining everything the Y chromosome loved the most — pretty girls and fast cars. Yes, it was old fashioned, and Nic knew she should be offended by its sexist nature. She tried to be offended. She’d succeeded for a whole six months when she’d been fifteen.

Ella had won Misses and Motors three times.

Nic wasn’t deluded enough to think she could win, but with a bit of work, she might not make a total fool of herself. Whether or not she could pull off a head full of ice queen highlights was another matter, but no way was she entering as Miss Mouse. Slipping the Corvette into gear, she rolled it out on to the forecourt, then turned off the engine and got out. Gold hair to match the gold car. It had always worked for Ella.

There was no reason to think it wouldn’t work for her, too. Even so, by half past ten she was beginning to wonder if she’d bitten off more than she could chew. Her backside was numb, and her neck ached so much she thought her head might fall off. The hairdresser teased out a few more strands of hair and brushed them with a chilly dollop of Scandinavian blonde before wrapping them up in a neat parcel of foil.

The whole process was torture, but it wasn’t even close to being her biggest problem right now. Slapping shut her copy of
In Style
magazine, Nic stared through the window of the salon.

A man stood on the forecourt, his back to her. She pressed her eyes tightly shut, then opened them again, hoping she’d imagined him. No such luck. ‘Why do I have to get a punter now?’

Fingers pressed to the side of her head, turned her back to face the mirror. ‘Never mind,’ the hairdresser said absently. ‘Would you like another coffee?’

‘No thanks.’ Nic slid her eyes as far to the right as she could, ignoring the strain in her eye sockets. Dark hair, she noted, overdue a haircut, and a black leather jacket and trousers. He was tall too, six foot and then some from what she could see. Biker? They got plenty of them roaring through the town, usually looking for a petrol station, occasionally in need of repairs. She couldn’t very well leave him standing there on the forecourt. What if someone had broken down somewhere and he was looking for help?

Nic turned her head again just in time to see the man reach for on the door handle of the Corvette.

He pulled.

The breath she’d been about to take got stuck in the back of her throat.

The door opened.

He paused for a moment, and then folded himself into the driver’s seat.

‘You have got to be kidding me!’ Nic shot to her feet, leaving the chair in a spin and the hairdresser with her brush in midair and her mouth wide open. Oh god, she hadn’t left the keys in the ignition, had she? A hasty pat of her pockets revealed no bulges. She didn’t want to throw herself in front of a moving vehicle, but she would if she had to. Visions of being carted off in the back of an ambulance flashed before her eyes as she flung open the door to the salon and sprinted across the road at full tilt, the slithery leopard print gown flapping around her bare shins. ‘Hey!’ she shouted. ‘Get out of that car right now!’

Blood pounded in her ears as she brought herself to a standstill next to the open driver’s door, leg muscles burning. ‘Look, pal…’

He turned his head. Green eyes, stunning eyes the colour racing green wished it was locked onto hers. She knew those eyes.
Sebastian Prince.
Full-time rally driver, part-time model, former lover of her stepsister.

Everything felt suddenly very strange, as if the ground beneath her feet had tipped a few degrees to the left, and she couldn’t quite find upright.

‘I’m looking for Ella Sinclair,’ he said, his voice low, a little husky. ‘So I can blast her into the middle of next week for being airheaded enough to leave this beauty out on show with the keys in the ignition.’

Leaning forward, Nic snaked a hand under the steering wheel and groped around until she located the key fob, a little enamelled thing shaped like a high heeled shoe, then snatched the key out of the ignition. The gown slid around her wrists, clinging to her skin with some sort of invisible glue, and she tugged it back. ‘She’s not here,’ she said, her heart beating right up into her throat now, her face on fire as the sleeves slid straight back down.

‘Where is she?’ He planted one forearm on top of the narrow black steering wheel, his fingers holding it as if he owned it, and turned in the seat ever so slightly. Leather met leather and creaked.

‘She’s…busy.’ Nic folded the keys into her palm and took a step back. She stared at him for a long moment, waiting for recognition to flicker into life in those familiar eyes, but it didn’t. Eventually she realised that it wasn’t going to.

It was mortifying. And also, weirdly, a relief, which made her mad, because what could be more insulting? Sebastian had dated Ella for the best part of a year. Admittedly Nic had only met him twice, but surely he should remember.

Nic didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She did know that whatever Sebastian wanted from Ella, he wasn’t going to get it, because she was several thousand miles away. ‘Please get out of the car.’ She folded her arms. All her wits seemed to have deserted her. It was almost as if she’d been struck dumb, only worse, because she’d been struck idiotic instead. Why had she said Ella was busy? Why hadn’t she told him the truth? ‘We’re closed.’

‘I noticed,’ he said, as he levered himself out of the driver’s seat. He was taller than she remembered. Heat crawled over her skin and lingered in her face, his height forcing her to look up at him, making her feel more than a little intimidated.

BOOK: She Who Dares
5.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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