21 | A Woman of Ambition

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Evanna squealed, momentarily slammed back against the seat as the car surged forward in a burst of acceleration. Pain pulsated across her back while laughter rolled out, drowned out by the rock music pumping out of the car stereo. Her heart soared in an exhilarating rush as they whizzed along the highway like it was frictionless maglev. When they gathered speed, trees on either side flew by in a dizzying blur. Just as she clutched the seat, her breath hitching, Shane deftly shifted gears. The monster of a car emitted a drawn-out hiss before settling on a smooth uniform velocity.

"Holy cowsies!" Evanna shrieked, bursting into laughter again.

Her heart thudded against her ribcage in sync with Animal I Have Become. The beat vibrated her to the core as the subwoofer blasted out rhythmic spasms of bass.

She twisted around to see Shane chuckling as he leaned back against the seat, one hand relaxed on the steering wheel. Her eyes widened when he lifted the other hand and raked his hair in a slow, languid motion—attempting to tame it, but tousling it more in the process. He lazily turned his head and caught her gaze, the smirk on his face accentuating the roguish glint in his eyes. For a prolonged moment, she was effectively paralyzed, heart leaping to her throat again.

Then she tore her eyes away from his and tried to stifle the beaming smile that spread across her face.

Shane lowered the audio volume to a muffled throb. "You like my car?"

"Mhmm." She let out a breathy laugh. "It's insane! I love that hiss."

"That's the blow-off valve." His smirk grew more pronounced. "Turbo engine."

"Oh, I definitely like your car. No sign of nausea either so far."

He looked mildly alarmed. "Please don't barf."

"I wasn't going to!" She let out an indignant exhale. "Plus, I'd warn you beforehand."

"You don't take any meds?"

"I'm good. Even if I feel nauseous, I'm totally fine after barfing anyways. I brought an emergency barf bag and a mouthwash, in case it happens."

He frowned. "That's—never mind."

Bright sunlight flowed in from the window, its toasty touch warming the chilled interior. She tugged at the strip of cloth wrapped around her chest. Its edges rubbed against the tender welts on her back, and the sore intensified with time. She tugged harder at the binder in an attempt to loosen it, but Jinxy had secured it too well. I shouldn't have gone for the chest binder! Well, you planned on wearing the disguise the whole day, Ev!

"What's wrong?" Shane asked, voice lowered to bass notes.

"Nothing," she muttered. "Where was I? Oh, yeah, I like muscle cars anyways! Good for drifting—once you do some mods."

That grabbed his full attention.

She hastened to clarify. "Not in real life! I don't even have a car in this—I mean, I'm just talking about video games! Need for Speed."

"Right." His eyes twinkled. "So, you like drifting the most?"

"Yeah, 'cause it's not just about you going fast—I mean, I love that too and those insane police pursuits." She grinned. "Drifting is sort of artsy."

"Hm."

"Brings back memories." Evanna gazed at the pine forest in the distance as they zoomed through an uninterrupted expanse of green. "I used to push myself to break my own records. So in the end, I had to finish the entire race without breaking the drift, get the first turn perfect and—wait, do I sound like I'm bragging? I'm not bragging, okay! This is the sort of stuff I got excited about as a kid!"

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