Hi Juanita and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Fast Lane!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Fast Lane is the story of youngest Calhoun sibling, Trinity, a NASCAR racing driver who comes home to be with her family when her father is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. She meets hero, Reece Balmain, a man broken by the loss of his foster siblings in a car accident, and raising his godson, Tyler, alone. They have many challenges (and a few fun, cheeky dares) to overcome to find their happy-ever-after. Fast Lane is a story of love, hope, trust, faith and a family bond so strong you’ll wish the Calhouns were real.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Trinity rolled her shoulders, eased the stiffness in her neck, and stretched her spine against the restraint of the body harness. Gloved hands tight on the wheel, legs braced, she lined up in fifth position behind the pace car and brushed aside the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach. Pre-race nerves mixed with adrenaline.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- The working title of this book was Long Drive Home and Calhoun Customs Garage was originally The Three Sisters Garage, but perhaps that would have been too much estrogen in one place for the heroes to handle . So I mixed it up a little. There are five Calhoun siblings—two girls and three boys—Chase, Mason, Grace, Carter and Trinity.
- Chase and Charlie (Charlotte) fall in love in Overdrive (book 1) and you’ll read Mason’s story coming soon in book 3, Burnout.
- Inspiration for this series was born out of my infatuation with NASCAR and V8 racing, and a serious crush on Danny Koker of Counts Kustoms. I was so hoping to get his autograph on Overdrive during my recent visit to his shop in Las Vegas. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.
- My playlist for this book was fueled by Eskimo Joe (Black Fingernails, Red Wine), Black Eyed Peas (Pump It), Silverchair (Tomorrow), Train (Save Me San Francisco) and Talking Heads (Road to Nowhere) from a CD called “A Full Tank of Rock”.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Trinity is a strong, feisty character. She is lively and energetic. But behind that energy is a deep sense of sadness and loss too. Reece is more grounded, a little more serious, but with a big heart and a smile I hope will win readers’ hearts.
What surprised me most about Trinity was how hard it was to pin her personality in a way I could portray to readers. If you’ve seen The Sound of Music and heard the song “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”…well, that’s Trinity. “How do you keep a wave upon the sand? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” (Rogers and Hammerstein)
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Oh! Chris Hemsworth for Reece, yes please! And maybe Megan Fox or Mila Kunis as Trinity. Chris Hemsworth has a wicked chuckle and I can so see him playing the part of a rescue hero.
A drumbeat made her eyes water and her teeth hurt. Stark white light pierced her pupils as gentle fingers lifted her eyelids. She hissed out a breath at the pain that stabbed at her head.
“Trinity, can you hear me?” A male voice. Not Mitch. “Can you tell me where it hurts?”
A chuckle. Deep with cynical ring to the tone. “That’s what happens when you slam into barriers at two hundred miles an hour. Lucky for you the safety gear did what it’s designed to do. Open your eyes for me.”
She cracked one open, the other refused to follow. He’d opened her visor. “Are you an angel?”
That chuckle again. More humor in it this time. “Honey, I’ve been called a lot of things in life. An angel isn’t one of them.”
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
That family is everything and love can overcome any hurdle life throws in the way.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently working on book 3, Burnout. Out of all the Calhouns, Mason is the one I’m most excited about. He has a really tough time in the over-arching plot in the series, and giving him his well-earned happy-ever-after gave me the most pleasure of all the Calhoun clan.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Copy of Fast Lane ebook by Juanita Kees
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: If you had to give up one thing in life that you love because it stands between you and the person you’ve fallen in love with, what would it be and why? (Not a sacrifice but a compromise.)
Excerpt from Fast Lane:
TRINITY STRETCHED OUT the kinks in her muscles as the scenery outside the windshield slid by. Six weeks had passed since her eventful last race at Daytona where a crash and a kiss with a stranger had rocked her world.
She’d taken the drive up from her home base in Vegas slowly, staying overnight in a few places, wishing more than once that she could have changed Paige’s mind about coming home with her. But she understood and respected her friend’s reasons for wanting to stay behind. If only they could turn back the clock on that fateful day, then things between Mason and Paige might be different.
She’d thought she’d be sad to say goodbye to the fast life and the warmer climate. Instead, as the miles clocked her closer to home, excitement unfurled in her belly. Sure, she’d miss the rush, the adrenaline, but after speaking to her dad, hearing his speech slur as a result of Parkinson’s disease stealing his muscle and nerve control, she’d known that, as much as racing was in her blood, home was where she needed to be. Wanted to be. For as long as it took.
Trinity nosed her prized ’75 Dodge Dart onto the last stretch of road into Bigfork as her phone rang. Her Blue-
tooth earpiece kicked in, and Paige’s voice came through. “Are you home yet?”
“Almost. Twenty-five miles to go.” Trinity checked her
trip meter. As much as she’d enjoyed the drive, she’d be even happier to arrive home. “What’s going on at the track?”
“I’m enjoying a lunch break and watching your Twitter feed explode. That kiss, huh? Sizzling. Your fans are still tweeting it like it happened yesterday. There’s a big season wrap-up in the media driving renewed interest. The reporter is speculating on the ‘real’ reason you’ve retired early from the track and if it involves the paramedic.”
“Really? The PR team will handle it.” Trinity avoided too much social media engagement. Before a race, she hadn’t been able to afford to have her focus skewed by opinions on her ability to win or lose. In the last month and a half, she’d been so busy wrapping things up, she’d barely had time to log on to her accounts to interact with her fans. And when she had, her rescue angel hadn’t been amongst them or the new friend requests she’d received. She shouldn’t be disap- pointed by that. “He was cute.”
“Cute? A puppy is cute. He was smokin’ hot. Legs all the way up to an ass that gave a whole new kind of sexy to his uniform. Can you imagine what that man could do to a pair of Levi’s? I thought you’d at least ask him out for a drink.”
Hot, yes. Had she wanted that kiss to go on for longer and maybe lead somewhere? Yes. But Reece Balmain kissed like a man a girl wanted to keep, not the one-drink, one- night stand sort. So why couldn’t she forget how much she’d
liked the taste of him?
She pushed away the same stab of disappointment she’d
felt at not seeing him again before leaving the track that night. But then, forever kind of men had never been on her agenda. Not when her stays in towns were short, her season home a motor coach on RV alley, and her office the inside of a race car. She’d been too busy tearing up the raceways to look for a happy ever after and white picket fences. Could a man want her for longer than a season and more than a trackside distraction?
Life on the track didn’t lend well to long-term relation- ships when the hours were grueling and the seasons long. She didn’t want to give thought to what would happen when her dad was gone or whether she’d return to the track or not when he had. Even going home felt more like a hiatus than retiring from the track for good. And did wondering about Angel matter when she’d be in Montana and he’d be on the other side of the country?
“I was leaving town anyway. Besides, it’s Dad who needs my attention now.”
Paige sighed. “I can’t believe your dad is ill. He’s always seemed unstoppable.”
“It’s not too late to change your mind to come home and see him. Dad would love it. You’ll always be part of this family, Paige. Nothing will change that.”
“I’ll think about it once the season is wrapped up, okay? Maybe I’ll come home for Christmas. Perhaps, by then, Mason won’t hate the sight of me anymore.”
Sadness closed Trinity’s throat. “He never hated you, Paige, not even after. He’s been too busy hating himself. I’m really hoping we can change that before Dad gets too ill. I’d like to see my brother back to his old self. It’s what Mitch would have wanted.”
“I know. It’s just sometimes…I wish I could change things.”
Nothing they did could ever bring Mitch back, no mat- ter how hard they wished for it. “We all needed time to heal, Paige. Some of us need more time than others, but we will heal. What we can’t do is make it un-happen.”
“No, we can’t.” She sighed. “Speaking of time. My pizza should be arriving any minute, and I’m running around in my underwear. The pizza boy doesn’t need to be greeted that way. You take care now, okay? I’ll give you a call later tonight.”
“Sure thing. Over and out for now. Enjoy that pizza.”
No amount of kidding around could cover the pain in her best friend’s voice. Trinity drove the remaining few miles into town in silence. She’d miss Paige. They’d seldom been apart since kindergarten. Paige had spent so much time at the garage, everyone had come to think of her as a Calhoun, not a Drew. Yet another reason no one had been surprised when Mason and Paige had hooked up together in high school. If the two of them could patch up their differences, things could almost be normal again.
Trinity pulled up outside Calhoun Customs Garage and turned off the ignition. She stepped out, stretched her back,
and sniffed the air appreciatively. Pine bark mingled with floral scents, enticing aromas drifted out from the bakery, and the slightly salty smell of fish bait wafted by with a group of young boys as they brushed past her on their way to the dock.
“Smells like home.” Trinity smiled.
Across from the garage, the windows of Molly’s Old Time Five and Dime gleamed in the sunlight, the red and white candy-striped canvas shades over them providing character more than protection for the planter boxes filled with flowers. Affection flooded Trinity’s heart. After she’d seen her family, she’d pop over to see Molly, the woman who’d been surrogate grandmother to the Calhouns when they’d lost their mother shortly after she’d given birth to Trinity.
Main Street teemed with cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks, as visitors streamed into town for the summer. Her brother Carter’s ranch, the Triple C, would be buzzing with vaca- tioners looking for the full working ranch experience.
She turned toward her family’s business. Calhoun Cus- toms Garage. Her heart filled with pride. Home. The tall glass windows showcased her father’s pride and joy, his works of art on wheels. Beyond that, the garage where he transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary. Excitement trickled through her blood. And now she would be a part of that again.
Her feet itched to move faster, to cover the short distance in record time, to rush to hold her dad and feel the strength
of his big bear hug she’d missed so much. Trinity ran the last remaining distance across the showroom floor and pushed open the door into the garage. “Look out, kids, your little sister is home!”
Her focus zeroed in on her dad. Marty Calhoun, king of the track, hero, coolest dad ever and the best hugger in the world. He turned from the fender of a Chevy pickup and held his arms open wide. She went into them, absorbing his warmth and familiar cologne, swallowing the knot of emotion that rose in her throat as his big arms closed around her.
“Look what the sunshine streamed in.” He squeezed her tight. Somewhere in the euphoria, she noted his arms lacked some of the strength they’d once had. His hold was shaky, his hands trembled as he held her away to look her over. “Welcome home. It’s good to have you here in one piece, girl.”
Trinity silently cursed the disease that stole more of his strength with every sunrise. “I wasn’t coming home any other way.” She drew his head down and kissed his forehead. Then she turned to her big brother, Chase, the boy who’d turned man too young to help raise his five siblings, earning him his nickname. “Hello, Mother.”
“Hello, brat. Welcome home.”
Trinity accepted the ruffle he gave her hair with good grace before she spotted the blonde who’d made her brother whole. “Charlie, it’s so nice to meet you in the flesh at last. Skype calls and FaceTime never quite feel the same as real
contact. And this must be Zoe.” She stepped away from her father to run a finger down the baby’s cheek. “Hello, little Zoe. I’m your Aunty Trinity.” The baby tucked her head under her mother’s chin and popped her thumb in her mouth.
“Step away from the kid. You’re scaring her.” Mason strolled out from kitchen at the rear of the garage, a can of something in his hand.
“Hey, you. Always eating. How do you not blow up like a balloon?” Trinity walked across, swept the can out of his hand and helped herself to a spoonful of beans. “Ugh. How do you eat that stuff?” She shoved the can at his chest, pushing him back a step.
Behind Mason, a tall figure emerged through the door- way, all wide shoulders and broad chest covered in a tight black T-shirt, legs hugged by blue denim. She knew that walk and exactly how his ass would look in those jeans.
Her breath hitched and a smile tilted her lips. “Well, hel- lo again, Angel.”
IT WAS HARD to play it cool when his heart pounded so hard he was sure she could see it beating out of his chest. Reece had known this moment would come, had tried not to think too much on it since he’d stepped through the doors of Calhoun Customs at Mason’s invitation.
In a racing suit, she’d been hot stuff. In summer shorts
and a wisp of a tank top thing, she was a volcanic eruption looking to pour lava all over him. And equally as dangerous and destructive. So, no matter how eye-poppingly gorgeous she was, he wouldn’t kiss her.
And that was like telling himself not to breathe, because he’d wanted to taste her lips again since he’d waved goodbye to her trackside. Besides, he owed her one, didn’t he? A dare was a dare after all. Reece stepped around Mason and cupped Trinity’s face between his hands, his gaze holding hers captive.
He caught her response with his lips, her mouth all hot temptation. Her body warm against his, her hips the perfect size for his hands, and the way her palms fanned across his chest all kinds of wrong and right that should have him racing out the door. He kissed her and told himself there was nowhere else to go but in. Into her taste, her scent, her feel.
It took a few long moments to register the rumble of “hey!” from her brothers and the chuckle from her father. Reece lifted his head with some reluctance. She tasted like temptation and made him wish they didn’t have an audi- ence.
With a sigh, she drew away, her eyes still closed, lashes dark against her skin. “Cashing in on our dare, Angel?” Reece set her back gently. “I’m a man of my word.”
She opened her eyes and stepped away, but not far enough for him to lose the sense of her heat. “You’re a long way from Florida.”
He dragged the hem of his T-shirt down, cursing the snug fit of his Levis and the reaction Trinity Calhoun stirred in him. “A change of plans brought me home.”
For reasons he’d prefer to forget, for duties he’d rather roll back the clock on, so they didn’t have to be. The cold reminder of the reason he’d had to come home to Montana and take a job in Bigfork. His throat tightened the way it did every time he thought about Tommy and Harper, and how life had gone into a tailspin.
“Home? I’d remember if you were a local.” She flicked a finger against his chest.
He wanted to smooth away that frown with his thumb just to touch her again. Real. Alive. Beauty out of the ashes of the ugliness that had followed since the last time he’d seen her. “Montana born and bred. Raised in Billings. But my friends own a ranch down this way and I’m…taking care of it for a while.”
Like they’d gone on vacation and would be returning any day now. A part of him wanted to believe they could. That, at any moment, they would drive up and burst through the door and break the deathly silence that had settled on the ranch.
Beside the pickup, Mason cleared his throat. He set his can of beans down on the hood of the pickup. “I guess you don’t need an introduction to our new paramedic since you’re already familiar with him, having kissed him on national television.”
“New paramedic?” Trinity walked around the hood to
pinch her brother’s cheeks. “Look at you all snappy and serious.” She dropped her hands to tickle his ribs, making Mason squirm.
“That’s what I said, new paramedic. Down at the fire station with me.” He tugged at his sister’s hair. “Bigfork’s fire station now shares premises with the ambulance service since the budget cuts. I recognized Reece the moment he stepped in to see the chief. He’s kind of part of the family now.”
The sharp pain of loss stabbed at Reece’s chest. He’d never had a family, not one like the Calhouns. His mother had taken off when he was two, abandoning him in a shelter for the homeless in Billings. His family were the friends he’d made in foster care—Carmen, Tommy, and Harper. Until that too had changed forever.
He’d made the move back to Montana to take care of Tyler, the nine-year-old who’d impressed his coach with his ball skills, who’d shown promise as a future league basketball player. The boy who lay in the regional hospital at Kalispell with a fractured pelvis and shattered legs. A confused child, hurting, having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that he’d be going home without his parents. Down, but not out, Reece reminded himself. Because he’d do everything he could to help Ty recover from this.
Reece drew his pickup keys from his back pocket. Home was a ten-mile drive up the road, and his porch seemed like a good place to be with a beer in his hand. The home Tommy and Harper had left in trust to Tyler. The emptiness of the ranch house still rang in his ears. No Harper yelling about
the mess they’d made eating corn chips and drinking beer, or Tommy teasing her over it. No tempting baking smells coming from the kitchen or noise on the television from a basketball game Reece and Tommy watched together. No Ty jumping up and down on the sofa between them, cheering every basket scored.
Sometime soon, he’d have to clear away the possessions they’d left behind, face the memories, but it didn’t feel right to pack their lives away until Ty had said a proper goodbye.
Reece pushed the thought away, rubbing a thumb across his temple. “I guess I’ll leave you all to it. I’m sure you have a lot to catch up on. Mason, I’ll see you at training tomor- row.”
“Sure thing.” Mason released his sister from the loose hold he had on her and ruffled her hair.
“Okay, well…” Reece looked at the keys in his hand be- cause looking at a rumpled Trinity put all kinds of thoughts into his head about relationships and all the reasons he couldn’t get involved with anyone right now. “Time for me to hit the road. I’ve got a long drive ahead, and my dog will be getting hungry.”
Trinity turned to look at him. “I thought you were lo- cal?”
He shrugged. “Out in Creston, but the highway gets a little busy at this time of day.” And he had a stop to make in Kalispell to see Tyler before he could sit his ass on the porch. An hour round trip for a sixty-minute visit that would challenge and exhaust them both as Tyler worked through
his pain, loss, and frustration.
Trinity chewed on her lip, studying him closely, a frown
wrinkling her brow. “I guess I’ll see you around then.” Her soft gaze skimmed his, a wicked gleam in eyes the color of liquid chocolate and fine whiskey. “Paramedic, lifesaver, dog owner…every woman’s dream. Is there a Mrs. Balmain I need to be afraid of?”
Mason scowled. “Subtle as a brick, Calhoun. Stop teas- ing the guy.”
She shot Reece a look laced with hot mischief that tugged at strings he didn’t want pulled. He hadn’t come home to flirt with Trinity Calhoun. “No Mrs. Balmain, no happy ever after, and no white picket fences either.”
Trinity stepped in close, all teeny tiny shorts and skinny top, heat on her skin and breath as she whispered in his ear. “Lucky I’m not a forever kinda girl then.”
And when her lips touched his ear so lightly he thought he might have imagined it, he wondered briefly what it would take to change her mind about that.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Trinity Calhoun is a name everyone knows on the race circuit, but her days in the hot seat are numbered. She’s tired of the limelight, meaningless relationships and long hours behind the wheel. When her father calls her and her sister home, she’s ready. She slips right back into the family business, finishing off the custom car projects her father has lined up. But racing is in her blood and she’s lured back to risking her life on the hot rod drag strips outside of town. It’s there she meets paramedic and volunteer firefighter, Reece Balmain, who has her re-thinking the road her life is taking.
Reece Balmain arrives in Big Fork a broken man. He’s lived and breathed through horror accidents, haunted by the faces of the people he’s cut from vehicles. He knows one thing–speed kills. He’s hoping not to see too much of it in small town Montana, until he hears about the drag races taking place outside of town. He knows Trinity Calhoun. He’s watched her race, seen her win, held his breath when her car somersaulted into barriers in Daytona Beach. He doesn’t like what she does, but he can’t stay away from the woman who’s claiming his heart.
Meet the Author:
Juanita graduated from the Australian College QED, Bondi with a diploma in Proofreading, Editing and Publishing, and achieved her dream of becoming a published author in 2012 with the release of her debut romantic suspense, Fly Away Peta (recently re-released as Under Shadow of Doubt).
Under the Hood followed in 2013 as one of the first releases from Harlequin’s digital pioneer, Escape Publishing.
In 2014 Juanita was nominated for the Lynn Wilding (Romance Writers of Australia) Volunteer Award, and was a finalist in the Romance Writers Australia Romantic Book of the Year and the Australian Romance Readers Awards in 2014 and 2016. Her small-town romances have made the Amazon bestseller and top 100 lists. Juanita writes mostly contemporary and rural romantic suspense but also likes to dabble in the ponds of Paranormal with Greek gods brought to life in the 21st century.
She escapes the real world to write stories starring spirited heroines who give the hero a run for his money before giving in. When she’s not writing, Juanita is mother to three boys and a Daschund named Sam, and has a passion for fast cars and country living.
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