Undeniable RushS. C. Stephens
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products, bands, and/or restaurants referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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Copyright © 2018 by S.C. Stephens
Cover design © Hang Le byhangle.com
Editing by Madison Seidler Editing Services // www.madisonseidler.com
Formatting by JT Formatting
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Table of Contents
About the Author
Also by S.C. Stephens
A huge thank you to everyone who supported this series and asked for it to continue! I’m sad to let the characters go, but so happy for their journey.
A thousand thank yous to my agent, Kristyn Keene of ICM Partners, who was so supportive of this series, and such a huge help in making the books happen. Hugs to everyone at Forever/Grand Central Publishing, who has done such a great job promoting the original book, and a special thank you to Goldmann Verlag for picking up all three books for their German readers. I’m so excited to be able to share this series with my international fans!
Thank you to my two editors, Chelsea Kuhel and Madison Seidler, my formatter, Julie Titus of JT Formatting, my cover designer, Hang Le, and my web designer Lysa Lessieur of Pegasus Designs. I would be lost without your help! A very special thank you to Lori and Becky—this book would not exist without you! Thank you so much for fitting me into your busy schedule. I owe you, big time!
And to all the numerous blogs, readers, and authors who have supported me over the years—from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much! I wouldn’t be able to continue in this business without your encouragement.
“Have you ever had too much to drink, then hopped on a roller coaster? And then during the ride you realized your stomach couldn’t handle it, and you knew you were going to throw up, but you knew you couldn’t throw up, so you willed yourself to hold it in until the ride was done?”
Turning my head, I looked over at Hayden sitting beside me in my truck. He was staring out the windshield at my father’s two-story farmhouse, his usually tan cheeks pale. “No, can’t say I’ve ever felt that way,” I answered, smiling. “Are you nervous about dinner?”
He swallowed a lump in his throat, then twisted to look at me. “Yeah. I know I shouldn’t be. I mean, I’ve confronted Jordan multiple times and while that kind of sucked, it never made me…nauseous.”
Leaning over, I gave him a light kiss. “That’s because you were confronting him…not coming over as a welcome guest. It’s easier to face someone when you’re not afraid of rejection.”
As he pulled away from me, his mouth twisted into a scowl. “I’m not afraid of your dad not liking me.” His expression softened. “And I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘welcome’ guest. More like a tolerated one.”
I knew he was right, but I had hope that one of these days Hayden would be as accepted here at my father’s home as I was. Especially considering how far the two of them had come since I’d first started “seeing” Hayden. Dad almost smiled when he talked to him. Almost.
“Come on, it looks like we’re the last ones here.”
As I cracked open my door, Hayden ran his palms over his jeans. “Great…the entire family is here. Not awkward at all.”
Raising an eyebrow at him, I said, “I’ve already met your entire family, it’s only fair that you meet mine. And this isn’t all of them—just my dad, my sisters, and their husbands.”
He looked over at me with an amused grin on his face. “Thanks, that helps so much.”
The look in his jade eyes, the curl of his full lips…he was dangerously attractive, and for a split-second, I considered climbing back into the truck, skipping dinner, and taking him back to my place. I knew he would say yes if I offered him an out like that. But no…just the fact that Dad had invited Hayden over tonight was monumental. I couldn’t pass up the peace offering. And besides, Hayden and I were slowly easing back into our relationship. He hadn’t even stepped foot inside my home since we’d restarted things, and the thought of inviting him over—of being alone, being intimate, being…bare—I couldn’t deny the fact that it scared me a little.
Shaking my head, I told him, “You’ll be fine.”
Smiling at me, Hayden shook his head and stepped out of the truck. “Well, if I’m not, at least I’ll still have you. I don’t ever want to not have you again.” The look on his face sent an icy chill racing along my skin. Our momentary breakup had been devastating, for both of us, and I knew, without a doubt, I’d rather advertise Benneti Motorsports on my ass again than lose Hayden. And feeling that way was terrifying.
“I don’t ever want to not have you again either,” I whispered.
Hayden stared at me a moment in the moonlight, then he stormed my way. Grabbing my face with both of his hands, he pulled me into him for a kiss bursting with pain and passion. My heart seized as his emotions rolled over me. I could feel how much he cared about me, like his love was a tangible object wrapping around us, warming us, protecting us. When Hayden put his heart out there, let himself connect with someone, he fought for them. Dedication and commitment were deeply ingrained in his soul. But those same traits had also been our downfall.
Lacing my arms around his neck, I deepened our connection. The undulating waves of passion and devotion started shifting into desire as our kiss became more heated. I could barely remember the last time Hayden and I had made love. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold off on being with him, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to move forward—my heart was still cluttered with uncertainty.
“Hayden,” I murmured between the short breaks when our mouths separated. “I…”
I think I want to try… I think I want to take the next step. Take me home.
Before I could say any of that, a gruff voice intruded on our heart-swelling moment. “Mackenzie, stop that this instant and get your…”
I snapped my gaze to the front door, just in time
to see my father take a deep breath. “Will you…please…come inside?” His voice was just as strained as his smile, and embarrassment heated my cheeks.
“Yeah, sorry. We were just…” I stopped trying to explain as I separated from Hayden and grabbed his hand to lead him inside.
Hayden cleared his throat, his expression uncertain as he approached Dad. “Hey, Jordan. It’s nice to see you again,” he said, running a hand through his scraggly blond hair.
Dad lifted an eyebrow. His steely gaze on Hayden was a mixture of resignation and indignation. “Hey?” Dad said slowly. While he hadn’t actually berated Hayden for his word choice, his tone spoke volumes.
Hayden’s hand tightened around mine, and I could see his posture straightening. Five seconds in, and Dad had already pissed him off. I instantly interceded. “Dad, you said you’d be nice.”
Dad redirected his intimidating gaze to me. “I am being nice,” he said, looking genuinely perplexed. I gave him a pointed look, and with a sigh, he returned his eyes to Hayden. Extending his hand, he politely intoned, “It’s nice to see you as well, Hayden.”
Hayden didn’t take his hand right away, and I thought I might have to scold my boyfriend, as well as my father. They might have worked together to get Cox Racing up and running again—and in my name—but they weren’t friends.
Just as I was about to elbow Hayden, he accepted my father’s palm. The shake was almost too short to be considered polite, but at least they’d touched each other in a non-violent way; if we made it out of this dinner with no one getting socked, I’d consider it a success.
I stroked Hayden’s hand with my thumb as we walked past Dad into the entryway. Anything to calm him down. As we stepped into the living room, I heard Hayden inhale a deep breath and slowly release it, and when he smiled, it looked completely natural.
“Oh good, you’re here.”
My oldest sister, Theresa, and her husband, Nick, rose from the couch to greet us. I instantly wrapped my arms around my sister, squeezing her tight. When we separated, I introduced Hayden to Nick. They shook hands—it was a much longer and more cordial shake than when Hayden and Dad shook hands.
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Nick said. “I’ve heard…a lot.” Nick’s pale blue eyes flashed to my sister, and I instantly knew not everything he’d heard was good. Nick was a decent guy, though, and I was sure he would give Hayden a chance. But knowing that Nick had probably been preconditioned to not like or trust Hayden, sucked. If only Hayden and I had been given the chance to start out like a normal couple. Like my sisters and their husbands.
Hayden gave Nick an uneasy smile, and I knew he was also aware of what Nick had been told. “Well, don’t believe everything you hear,” he said.
Nick ran a hand through his dark hair as a nervous laugh escaped him. Then both men were looking anywhere but at each other.
With an inward sigh, I asked Theresa, “Where’s Daphne?”
She pointed behind her. “Out back. Jeff wanted to try out the track.”
That made me smile. Daphne’s husband, Jeff, was sort of…straight-laced. I couldn’t even picture him on a bike. Looking over at Hayden, I gave him a crooked grin. “Want to see the track?”
Hayden’s expression instantly brightened. “You have a track here?”
He looked back at Dad, and Dad shrugged. “Just a simple practice track. Nothing like what you’re used to.”
My eyes widened as I stared at Dad. That was almost a compliment. Hayden smiled and gave Dad a small nod. Oh my God, was that…bonding that just happened? Feeling almost eager, I pulled Hayden to the backyard. Dad, Theresa and Nick followed.
A chuckle escaped me when we got to the track, and I saw Jeff sitting on an older Kawasaki 100cc dirt bike. I think it was mine from when I was six. He looked a little terrified, like he was straddling a rocket. Daphne was giving him pointers on how to ride. That made me laugh even harder. Daphne hadn’t ridden a bike in ages, and back when she had ridden one…well, it was like watching someone on a golf cart.
Hayden’s grin was enormous as he took in the scene. Dad rolled his eyes and sighed; I was pretty sure if I hadn’t ended up a racer like him, he would have spent every day rolling his eyes and sighing.
Bouncing on his toes, Hayden turned to me; his grin was infectious. “Can I try it?”
I pointed at the track where Jeff was just now starting. “It’s an oval. Why are you excited about this?”
Hayden pointed over to a bike next to Daphne. It was a little 50cc pocket bike, a bike that looked like it was made for a doll; it was no taller than Hayden’s knees. “I’ve always wanted to ride one.”
Dad cracked a smile. It had surprised me to no end when Dad had purchased the “toy” bike, but boys will be boys, even if they had hardened with age and discipline. And, of course, when I’d asked Dad about it, he’d had a perfectly reasonable excuse: he’d said it was good to mix up your training every once in a while, confuse the body. Uh-huh.
I shrugged at Hayden. “Go for it.”
Looking like a kid on Christmas, he grabbed a nearby helmet and jumped on the tiny bike. A grown man on a bike that small was a ridiculous sight to see, and we were all laughing at him when he started it, but I knew from experience that it was exhilarating. Your entire perspective changed when you were that close to the ground—it felt like you were going 500 miles per hour.
Hayden took off, zooming after Jeff; he looked like a child chasing an adult. With Hayden’s aggressive speed and profound skill, it didn’t take him long to zoom around Jeff. Daphne frowned when her man was passed so quickly that he looked to be standing still, but then she started watching Hayden, and her expression turned appreciative. As I glanced around, I saw that everyone was watching Hayden with the same small smile on their faces. Even Dad looked impressed. Hayden was handling the small bike just like he would a full-sized one, ducking low in the corners, taking his time to pull out of them. Even on a toy, he was flawless.
His smile widening, Dad turned my way. “I think you made the right decision, hiring him onto your team.”
Shock made my mouth pop open. As I regained my composure, I asked Dad, “And as a boyfriend? Did I make the right decision there?”
Dad’s eyes flashed to the track, his lips pressing into a firm line. Jeff tossed his hands into the air in annoyance as he was lapped by Hayden. Again. Dad smiled. Returning his eyes to me, he shrugged. “It galls me to admit it, but I don’t really know Hayden. It’s too early for me to know for sure, but…so far, I like what I’m seeing.”
He was appraising Hayden the same way he would a new rider, but, oh my God…just him confessing that was mind-boggling. I couldn’t hold back my explosive grin. Dad’s expression instantly shifted to a frown. “Having said that, the moment he hurts you…all bets are off.”
Even that mild threat couldn’t deflate my buoyant mood. Because it wasn’t all that long ago that Hayden hurting me had been exactly what Dad had hoped for. He liked him. He still didn’t want to like him, but he couldn’t fool me anymore. My father approved of my boyfriend. Now if they could just stop getting on each other’s nerves.
Once Hayden was finished, he headed back to us. Removing his helmet, he stepped off the bike. “Now, that was fun!” he exclaimed. I had to laugh at his expression. Doing something he was familiar with—something he was extremely good at—had made him more at ease. I doubted he still felt like he needed to throw up.
Without my help, Hayden walked over to Jeff and stuck out his hand. “Hayden Hayes. Nice race, man.”
Jeff had been sulking at his obvious defeat, but hearing Hayden call it a “race,” like he’d stood a chance against him, lifted his spirits. “Jeff. Thanks. You’re not…half bad on that thing.”
Hayden leaned toward him, his face mischievous. “You should see me on a real bike.” Jeff smiled, his dark eyes amused, and Hayden lightly smacked his shoulder. “You should come to the track, race me on a big bike.”
Daphne, Theresa, and my
father all said, “No,” at the same time.
Daphne shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. “Don’t you dare tempt him to do what you and Kenzie do, Hayden. You’ll get him killed.” Her face morphed into concern as she lovingly stroked Jeff’s arm. Theresa’s expression was the same; they both thought Jeff would die on one of our bikes.
Dad leaned toward me, and said in a low voice, “I’m more concerned about what he’d do to the bike. The boy has no talent for racing. None, whatsoever.”
I stifled a snort, while Jeff gave Daphne a disheartened frown. Hayden leaned in close and whispered something in his ear. Jeff instantly brightened, and Daphne turned her irritation toward my boyfriend. “I said no, Hayden!”
He smiled at her, giving Jeff a conspiratorial look. “I know,” he said, then he subtly bumped fists with Jeff.
I rolled my eyes. Here I’d been worried about my father being the one to murder my boyfriend, but if he took this any further, it would be my sister who put him six feet under. Striding over to Hayden, I grabbed his elbow and started pulling him toward the house. “How about we go inside and get started on dinner. Hayden has a lot to do tomorrow.”
With a sigh, Hayden dropped his head. “God, I hate moving.”
I gave him a wry smile as we walked back into the living room with everyone. “All of your stuff fits in one vehicle. How bad can it be?”
He grinned at me, then sighed. “It’s the principle of the thing. I’m tired of bouncing around…”
Melancholy seeped into his voice, and I put a gentle hand on his arm in support. “You won’t have to bounce around forever,” I told him. It was as close to a promise of moving in together one day that I could give him. I couldn’t proclaim our happily ever after when we were taking things easy.
Theresa, having overheard his comment about moving, told him, “You and Kenzie are moving in together? That’s great!”