Chapter 1: Amanda
Amanda closes the door on her Subaru WRX with a soft thud. She presses the lock button on her key and places it in her pocket.
She has no business being here, and yet that doesn’t stop her, her Dolce and Gabbana flip-flops clacking against the hot summer asphalt. She questions her choice of footwear, down to the pink bottoms and gold tops. Girls like her—the ones who wear shoes like this, aren’t supposed to be in the warehouse district at 9pm on a Friday night. She should go to a club or pick classes for a fall semester at the college she dropped out of.
A loud thump distracts her from her looming self-doubt and replaces her imposter syndrome with raw, tangible fear.
Two men in their late twenties are facing each other, one has a tire-iron in his right hand. The other, for some unfathomable reason, is laughing.
“I didn’t mean to hit your car, bro,” the man says to the other, shrugging his shoulders.
An orange ‘67 Dodge Charger had flung its door into a 2014 Shelby 500.
There’s a clear dent in the Mustang’s door.
“You didn’t mean to? Then why did you park so close?” He says, his voice getting louder with each word.
He lunges at him, narrowly missing the second man’s temple.
“Jeez, chill out. It’s just a fucking dent.”
“A dent? This paintwork costs more than your entire car!”
She half expects somebody to pull a gun. Instead, an engine revs in the distance.
“You, me, next race.” He says, pointing at him. “If you lose, you’re paying for the body work—and you’re buying me a new TV, too.”
They agree. She lets out her breath, glad that she isn’t about to witness a murder. The tension in her body eases slightly as the men retreat to their cars.
The cars start. She hurries to the side to ensure that she doesn’t become the victim of the man that just moments ago was ready to create blood-stained artwork on the pavement.
She nearly jumps out of her skin when she feels a tap on her shoulder. She twists, mentally preparing herself for the worst, even though her rational brain isn’t sure what the worst would even be.
Andy Connors, son of New York billionaire Harvon Connors, is watching her with a quizzical glare. He should be back home in New York starting his first Fortune 500 or spending his daddy’s money. Instead, he has on a grease-stained grey t-shirt and ripped black jeans that don’t look ripped on purpose.
“What are you doing here?” She says, a little too shocked to sound polite.
“What are you doing here?” He says and then laughs, more jeering than insulted.
“It doesn’t matter,” she says. How can she explain to Andy why she’s there, when she’s not so sure it’s a superb idea?
“Lamenting your days with Vodheo?” He asks, and she visibly winces at the name.
“Definitely not,” She says, her tone defensive.
She watches as two cars line up to the start/finish line drawn with hastily drawn sidewalk chalk, the finish line is more of a finish zigzag.
A green ’97 Supra and a black 66’ Dodge Charger are side by side. The custom green paintjob is vaguely familiar.
One driver revs his engine, and the other driver squeals the wheels of his car.
“The Dodge is nice,” Andy says.
She glances at Andy and shakes her head in disagreement.
“I don’t know. The Supra looks nice,” Amanda says as she crosses her arms, a slight breeze chilling her arms.
“It’s not how a car looks, it’s what’s on the inside,” He says, pointing at the cars. “The Dodge is classic.”
“Sure, but it’s muscle vs. import,” she says. “I’m not even sure why they’re bothering.”
“Well, why not?” Andy asks, and he shrugs.
One of the cars revs its engine, and the other responds accordingly—one car purrs, the other roars. The cars jolt forward, it takes a minute to accelerate, but once they do, they whip out of sight.
She expected more excitement than this. Well, she’s not exactly sure what she expected? It’s not like she’s pulled up her own car. Just being here is enough for her hands to shake.
“Did you bet on the race, Amanda?”
“Honestly, I didn’t even consider betting,” She says. Andy’s question resurfaces her self-doubt. “I’m saving my money for my car.”
“Oh?” He asks, his eyes still scanning the distance for the cars.
She bites her lip. She can feel her stomach gurgling from anxiety, and the fear of Andy’s judgement.
“I want to race,” she says, still timid, testing how it sounds out loud.
“It’ll be hard as hell to get them to take you seriously,” he says, his attention only half on her.
“I know that,” she says. It doesn’t change the pent-up desire that’s been boiling over for the last few years. Even if it’s the worst idea she’s ever had, she wants it too bad.
“It’s kind of boring waiting for them to get back,” he says. “I’d rather be racing.”
The last of the sun is disappearing, the hot heat replaced by a sudden chill.
After a couple minutes, the sound of screeching tires pierces through the night. The two cars spin around the corner. The Charger has two smashed headlights, and the Supra is unscathed.
The Supra is also a good half a second ahead – and eases across the chalk line.
The driver of the Charger is beating his fists on the steering wheel and her stomach knots.
“I guess you lost your money,” She says.
“Nah, I bet on the Supra.”
Amanda’s eyes narrow. “You bet on the driver you thought would lose?”
“I may think Ben has a good car, but I hate him.” Andy says as he shrugs.
He places his hand on her shoulder for a moment. She wonders if she should brush him off, but he smiles.
“Listen, it was great catching up, but it’s time for me to drive,” he removes his hand from her shoulder. “Let me know when you’re ready to race. I want to see what you can do.”
She nods and smiles too.
Andy turns toward the cars, and within a few moments, she loses sight of him. Instead, she catches sight of the Supra’s driver. She takes a much-needed deep breath. Of course, the Supra had won – Ryder is an amazing driver. He always has been.
Ryder grins at the crowd and a couple of girls immediately bring him drinks and fawn over him. Guys who had been recording the race congratulate him, and one pats him on the back. He’s a champion, and by the look on his face, he knows it.
The other driver is ushered away. A few wise friends keep the two from interacting. By the looks of the headlights, it’s a necessary precaution. Ryder may have won, but he didn’t do so without playing dirty.
Ryder looks tougher than she remembers. His face is older and stronger. He was never weak, but he’s no longer a rebellious kid fresh from high school.
He notices her staring.
“Amanda, is that you?” He asks, calling out to her.
She could walk away and pretend she didn’t hear him. Or, she could suck it up. Coming here was bound to dredge up the past. Might as well face it sooner than later. Even though she’d hoped for the latter.
She was supposed to meet with her friend from college, Natalie, but she hasn’t seen her anywhere.
She swallows her breath. Amanda’s never been afraid of anybody, ever. Why does she feel so freaked out by Ryder?
It’s not long before he walks over to her. She hasn’t seen him in 4 years. Her hands shake slightly, so she places them in her back pockets, determined not to let on that she’s anxious.
“So, what’re you doing here, Amanda?”
Lie. That’s her first instinct. Lie, walk away, and never come back. She could go home and pretend this never happened.
“I guess I missed this,” She says.
She missed the cars anyway. The men that drive them is another story.
“You missed watching street racing?” Ryder asks, narrowing an eyebrow.
He’s still glowing from his win.
“Not just street racing – cars, racing, the thrill,” She stops herself to take a quick breath.
He nods slightly, as though he understands, and looks back at the two cars that pulled up to the line.
“Connors isn’t going to beat Ben until he gets rid of that little crap Mitsubishi.”
“Ben? Is that the guy whose car you decimated?”
Ryder smirks, his eyes animated by the mention if his win. “Yeah, that’d be him.”
“You’re lucky he didn’t punch you,” she says.
“Funny he didn’t try,” Ryder says, and he laughs for a moment then continues, “Andy’s a good driver but his car just isn’t good enough to win, not that I’d mind if Ben lost again.” He says, his eyes on her.
“Why, what’s wrong with Ben?” Amanda turns her attention back and forth between the car and Ryder but only glances at Ryder briefly between speaking.
She can’t look at him too closely without thinking about the past.
“Everybody here is competition,” he says. His teeth grit together.
She needs to get far away from Ryder before she reconsiders every life choice that led her to the parking lot.
“I should go, the girl I was meeting up with isn’t here,”
“Yeah, you better run home to your mansion,” He says before laughing at his own pathetic joke. She shouldn’t be surprised he had turned so cold, so fast.
“I live in my garage now.”
“Why?” He says, his eyes narrowing, and his shoulders pulled back as he speaks.
“I want to race,” she says. She stops her hands from trembling and straightens her spine.
He laughs again. Right in her face.
“You don’t have to be a total asshole about it,” she says. Her hands are no longer shaking.
“Sorry,” he says, staring at her. “I just didn’t think you were the type.”
“Type? And what type are you?” She says, her voice snapping.
“I don’t know,” Ryder says. His nose scrunched. “I guess I’m the type that can spill motor oil on my shirt and not break into tears.”
“Don’t be afraid because you know I’ll eventually get better than you, Ryder.” She probably won’t be, but she doesn’t care.
“Go ahead and get your car, and we can test whether or not you actually belong here.”
“Belong here? It’s a back street not the Winston Cup.” She huffs out a breath after speaking. Fuck him.
“Exactly,” he says and then smirks. “We don’t have safety precautions and white flags.”
“I’ll risk it. Why do you care? Are you worried about me?”
“No,” He says. His eyes move down her body. “I’m just worried you’ll break a nail.”
Amanda turns on her heel, unable to handle any more of Ryder’s bullshit.
“I’m not going to be breaking anything that’s not on your car,” She says as she walks off, too angry to face him.
“Go ahead and try,” he says, calling out to her backside as she leaves.