She doesn't know who he is . . . and that's a good thing!
All Stacy Carter thought she wanted was a quiet, traditional life. One man, one woman, two-point-five kids and a dog. Maybe a minivan. She never envisioned a stock car thrown into the mix!
That was before she met Jake Hinson, recovering from a boating accident at a secluded fishing cabin. Fact is, Jake's a NASCAR driver with plenty of cash, fans -- and fame. Not something he's about to divulge to publicity-shy Stacy. But when the truth comes out, Stacy's not sure she can handle a celebrity lifestyle -- despite Jake's reassurances.
Besides, Stacy hasn't exactly been the pinnacle of honestly herself. And it's just a matter of time before her own cover is blown . . .
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July 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Almost Famous by Gina Wilkins
Solitude. It was exactly what Jake Hinson had craved the most when he'd borrowed a friend's cozy cabin in the Arkansas Ozarks National Forest on the banks of the White River. He had told everyone he needed some time alone, away from cameras and microphones, intrusive questions and sympathetic gazes. He needed a chance to heal, both physically and emotionally, and he'd said he couldn't do either in the public eye.
Three days into his self-imposed vacation, he was already becoming restless and lonely. He had spent half of his thirty years pursuing fame and attention, he thought wryly. He didn't even know how to live anonymously anymore.
As for the lazy relaxation that had seemed so appealing a few weeks earlier...well, he didn't know how to do that, either. He was accustomed to having every minute of every day scheduled. To going 180 miles per hour on the racetrack and 200 in his personal life. Inactivity was a foreign concept to him, and the novelty had worn off quickly.
At least the late-September weather was nice. After the first couple of days nursing his wounds alone indoors, he ventured outside to the long front porch of the cabin. The last in a row of similar, privately owned vacation homes facing the river, the cabin sat on perhaps a quarter acre of rocky ground, separated enough from the neighbors to provide plenty of privacy. Behind the houses, the land rose to a wooded hillside, perfect for hiking.
Jake felt the draw of that hillside, but he wasn't sure he was ready yet for a strenuous walk over uneven ground. He would give himself another couple days of strength-building exercises and then he would give it a try, he promised himself.
All the cabins, including this one owned by one of his friends back in North Carolina, had boat garages on their property. A couple of empty trailers still hitched to parked pickup trucks sat at the public launch area on the other side of the road, evidence that their owners were out trying their luck with the fish on this Saturday afternoon. Jake didn't even like to think about getting back into a boat just yet, though he hoped there would come a time when he could do so again without remembering the horrific accident that had changed so much in his life.
Sitting in one of the four wrought-iron spring rockers arranged on the front porch, he stretched his jeans-clad legs infront of him, wincing when the position pulled at his healing scars. To distract himself from his discomfort, he looked across the narrow asphalt road toward the river on the other side.
An older couple floated past in a flat-bottomed aluminum boat, their faces shaded by straw hats, their fishing lines drifting lazily along beside them. Seeing Jake sitting there, the man at the controls raised a hand. It was a congenial, generic greeting having nothing to do with recognition. He'd have waved at anyone sitting there, Jake realized as he returned the salute with a nod.
He turned his attention to the row of four cabins leading up to the one in which he was staying. There had been little noise from his neighbors while he'd been there. He saw people coming and going, but other than the occasional nod of greeting, there was no interaction between the cabins. He had done nothing to call attention to himself, staying inside most of the time since he'd arrived. He hadn't emerged until today.
Closing his eyes, he let the quiet sounds around him seep into him, soothe him. The hum of the small boat motor as it traveled downriver. The lapping of the water in its wake.
A sudden burst of high-pitched barking made his eyes open again. It seemed to be coming from the cabin closest to this one. Turning his head, he spotted the source of the sound--a hairy little black-and-brown dog tethered by a baby-blue leash to apetite, slender young woman with long, dark hair and a sling on her left arm. They appeared to be returning from a walk, and had apparently just stepped onto their front porch when the dog had spotted Jake.
A Yorkshire terrier, Jake decided, amused by the attitude radiating from the compact critter. Not just a wanna-be dog, he thought wryly. A wanna-be guard dog. Never mind that a good sized cat could probably make mincemeat out of the little mutt.
Smiling, he raised a hand in greeting to his neighbor, her slinge liciting a tug of empathy from him. He identified all too well with the signs of a recent injury.
Apparently, she didn't feel the same sense of kinship. Maybe because his own wounds weren't as visible to her. Or maybe she just wasn't the friendly type. Whatever the reason, she gathered her dog's leash more firmly in hand and disappeared inside her cabin with only a quick, rather chilly nod in response to his gesture.
Okay, he thought, dropping his hand, his practiced smile fading. So much for being neighborly.
He wasn't used to being so decidedly snubbed by an attractive young woman--just the opposite, actually.