Monday, June 27, 2016

Meet Nicole Bennett and Drew Jaymes from Racing Hearts by Ryleigh Renee

Nicole Bennett and Drew Jaymes were first loves back in the day. Years later, they have the chance to reconnect. You can read their story in Racing Hearts, the latest book by Ryleigh Renee. 

Now, in this exclusive interview, you can get to know these two, and then be sure to purchase their story on Amazon.

Your story began when you were both quite young. What can you tell us about it?

NICOLE: I was quite young actually. I had just returned to the states after finishing my studies at an all-girls’ boarding school in Great Britain. 

DREW: We met at a party. Some socialite or other. I saw this gorgeous creature and was so thankful my friend Dixie introduced us. Having grown up in Peach Valley, I knew all the other girls there. I have a way with the ladies you could say. 

NICOLE: That’s not what everyone else in town says. {laughter}

Okay, you met each other. What was your first impression?

(Nicole and Drew look at one another) 

DREW: Okay, I’ll start. The first thing I noticed were her eyes. I’d never seen eyes that color before. They weren’t blue. They’re aqua. As she looked at me, it felt like she was looking inside me. Made me a little nervous. 

NICOLE: You were nervous? You’re never nervous. 

DREW: I knew I wanted to meet her. I can’t put into words what it felt like when we met. And then she spoke. She has the most beautiful accent I’ve ever heard. 

NICOLE: Oh, that’s so sweet. I thought I could listen to your southern drawl forever.

Nicole, what was your first impression?

NICOLE: I was completely petrified! I looked at him and couldn’t believe how beautiful he was. 

DREW: Beautiful? Really? {sounding horrified} 

NICOLE: She did say my first impression. {more laughter} Being raised in England and not being around boys, I truly didn’t know how to act around them. Oh, we had a few times at school where boys came so we could learn to dance, but when I saw his bright blue eyes, I knew he was nothing like the blokes over there. {looking at Drew} I couldn’t believe how handsome you were. 

DREW: Much better!

Alright, obviously this attraction grew. Tell me about that first summer.

NICOLE: I totally convinced myself I was experiencing a school-girl crush. Here was this dashing young man, quite a charmer, who wanted to spend time with me. I have to say, socially I was quite awkward. I thought for sure Drew would come to his senses and send me on my way. 

DREW: You were a very cute socially awkward. All I can remember from that first moment was, I have to spend time with this woman. She looked at me with such innocence.

What do you mean by that?

DREW: I had a bit of a reputation. Trust me, I never should have been at that party. All those innocent socialites! By the way, not a single one of them was innocent! But Nicky, she looked at me and there was no judgment, no condemnation. I didn’t have to prove anything. It was almost like she needed something within me.

Something within you?

Drew: Her eyes always held a sadness within them. At least in the beginning. I could tell that she had something inside her beautiful heart that didn’t belong there. Such a deep sadness. 

Nicole looks down embarrassed. 

Drew: Nicky just wanted to belong. I understood it because it’s something I also wanted. Her grandmother wasn’t the nicest person. She was the only family she had left and yet had no time for her. Over that summer, just the 2 of us, she just started opening up to me. I felt honored and humbled.


Nicole: My grandmother so loved her only child, my father. His death broke her heart. I was so young when my parents passed that I barely remember them. I do remember my father buying me a pony shortly before their accident. I remember how deeply my mum loved me. I wanted my grandmother to comfort, but in her grief, there wasn’t anything left for a young girl. Her housekeeper, Emma, provided me with hugs and such when they passed. Then, my grandmother became quite angry about something and said I couldn’t stay in Georgia. So, I was sent to England and only returned during summers and the Christmas holiday.

That must have been difficult for you.

Nicole: I didn’t know what else to do, so I excelled in my studies. My father was a very prominent lawyer. I took an interest in it. Pursued it. But that summer, encountering another orphan who had such a different outlook and upbringing; I just wished for that. Drew wouldn’t talk about his parents’ passing. Just said it was the hand he was dealt and he grabbed life whole heartedly. He found something else he loved and put his heart and soul into that. Watching him drive a race car one day I remember thinking, I want to just let go like that. Then, we were just sitting around one afternoon and I began talking about feeling unloved. Like no matter what I did, I couldn’t make my grandmother love me. I remember him telling me I was beautiful inside and out and if she didn’t love me, it was her loss. 

Drew: I said that? 

Nicole: {Looking lovingly at Drew} You did. It felt like the first time someone understood me when I didn’t even understand myself.

You spent that summer together. Something happened. Care to elaborate?

Drew: Well, I had no idea what happened. I mean, we had this connection. Then, we made love. It felt like nothing I’d ever felt before. I knew she was innocent. And, I truly felt horrible after. 

Nicole: Horrible?! That night was wonderful! 

Drew: I mean the next day. Nicky is Peach Valley royalty. Losing her innocence to someone like me hit me hard. I mean, I was the town bad boy. Someone no one wanted their daughter with. And, this amazing experience happened. I mean, it wasn’t sex. It was … beyond that. Her grandmother wasn’t happy I brought her home. Thank God she didn’t know I’d made love to her! She refused to let Nicky leave the house. Next thing I knew, Nicky was gone. Wanted nothing to do with me. She left for college and wouldn’t take my calls. 

Nicole: Communication was a problem for us. I ended up thinking he had sex with me for money. That he needed a sponsor to get into a race coming up. Since I’d never known how to be in a relationship, I felt dreadful. Rather than deal with it, I left. Wanted to put the whole thing behind me. So I did.

So, until you saw each other 11 years later, you didn’t know anything about what the other was doing? 

Nicole: Just like I did with my grandmother, I focused on my studies. I figured Drew was in Peach Valley, so I never went back. I couldn’t face her because of the disappointment she’d have for me being with the one person she told me I couldn’t. I couldn’t face Drew because I’d felt shame. Shame with myself for falling in love when I knew I was unlovable. My parents were the last time I’d truly felt love and their passing broke my heart. But it was nothing compared to my broken heart when I left Georgia to go to Harvard. 

Drew: I have to confess. I knew where she was and what she was doing. I focused on other things, but I needed to know she was safe.

Your grandmother’s passing brought you back to Georgia. What went through your mind coming back to a place you never wanted to?

Nicole: I dreaded it! Our only communications were cards at Christmas. Like I said, I wasn’t taught communication in relationships. When I’d been notified of her death, I knew I had to go back. She was the only family I had left. My intent was to go back, bury her, say good-bye and since I didn’t have anything holding me there, get rid of everything. Her mansion never felt like home to me.

You remained quite composed during the funeral.

Nicole: It never felt like burying a loved one. As I said before, I never felt she loved me. I was just her last connection to her son Nicholas. And having all the townspeople offering condolences was quite tiring. I knew it would be quite a task to handle her personal affairs, but I’d no idea. Getting through everything in probate was going to take quite some time.

You went to see her. Why?

Drew: I wish I could say for sure. I just wanted to. I mean, she was back. She’d been so lost 11 years ago that I just wanted to be there for her, you know. Then I saw her and felt like I’d been hit with a sledgehammer. Man, I thought she was gorgeous before. And those eyes of hers. She had no idea what to do. And, her heart of gold wouldn’t allow her to be disrespectful of her grandmother.

You were engaged then, weren’t you Nicole?

Nicole: {Drew groans} Neal is a very nice man {she scolds Drew} 

Drew: Like I said, she has a heart of gold. I mean, no man is worthy of her. 

Nicole: Except you, of course {she teases with a smile} 

Drew: Of course {laughter}

So, you met her fiancé?

Drew: Yeah. Nice is not the word that comes to mind. I mean, the guy was trying to be all prim and proper. What was up with that? 

Nicole: Neal is a very nice man. He just thought he had to make it in my world. {Drew grumbles} Drew, be nice. 

Drew: The guy just rubbed me the wrong way. Seriously, the guy not liking me is one thing. But Dix? 

Nicole: He apologized for that. You have to remember, he knew nothing of my life in Georgia, or Great Britain for that matter. All he knew was my family had been one of the founding members of Peach Valley. Since I didn’t speak of my distaste for the world my grandmother so reveled in, he considered me high society. But, you did grow to like him after all. 

Drew: I stole his girl, I kinda had to.

You had a little legal trouble at the time of the funeral. What happened?

Drew: A little? Hell, the whole town was ready to string me up! Some guy I barely knew gets the crap beaten out of him and all fingers point my way! I mean, I’m back in town a couple months and it was right back to how it was when I was growing up. If someone needed to take the blame for what went wrong in that place, it’s Drew Jaymes.

What happened?

Drew: I left Peach Valley shortly after she did. I felt lost. Didn’t know how I’d messed up. I just didn’t feel a fight in me anymore to keep brushing off everything, you know? But, I still had the house my aunt raised me in. She’d passed away a few years before and left me the place. I needed to clear my head. The only thing that helped me do that was racing. Pushing my car to her limits. Feeling the power in my hands. 

Nicole: It’s also the only time everyone in town didn’t look down on him. He could drive like no one had ever seen before. He was their hero. 

Drew: Yeah, until some guy gets beat up and bam! Sheriff Brown decides to arrest me.

And you were with him when he was arrested, right?

Nicole: Yes. I tried to diffuse the situation. Drew was tired of how he’d been treated all those years. When they told him he was being arrested for attempted murder, he lost it a bit.

You two had a little excitement once all of that started.

Drew: That started us on an adventure no one would’ve guessed. I mean, I couldn’t just let them arrest me. I had to do something to get away. And, seeing Nicky trying to defend me while the handcuffs came out, I did kinda lose it. She was my only hope. Just like that summer 11 years ago, she didn’t see me like everyone else always had. I latched onto that and it just exploded from there.

And you became his defense attorney? But, you’re an assistant DA.

Nicole: Drew was so lost. I knew he couldn’t have done what he was being accused of. When he first asked me; well begged me actually, I could only see his love of life. I couldn’t bring myself to think his hurting someone else with the man I knew him to be. 

Drew: Nicky believes in the justice system. She always believed the system would work. I was so afraid with everything against us, she was going to lose that hope. Her belief in justice being blind. And, there is no defense attorney around who would’ve ever done what she did. I even expected a guilty verdict!

And, you made it through the trial. But, it didn’t end there.

Nicole: No. I have to say, I was on an emotional roller coaster. I went from complete elation with finding the proof Drew was innocent to crashing down. 

Drew: It probably didn’t help you having all those espressos! 

Nicole: It was a little more than that.

Can you explain?

Nicole: I think the challenge for me was I knew I still loved him. Neal was so angry I’d taken on the case. But, I just wouldn’t give up. Neal knows this about me from working in the DA’s office with me. Justice is blind. I knew in my heart Drew was innocent. And, I pushed myself further than I’d ever done before. But, I didn’t want to still be in love with him. I was engaged to be married. I still felt this connection to Drew, but I felt like, at times, he didn’t take his case seriously. I wanted to distance myself. Drew, however, had other plans. 

Drew: I did take my case seriously. But, I can see where I didn’t come across that way. I mean, I knew Nicky had Neal in her life. I knew she was engaged. All I could think of was, my case is what’s keeping her in my life. I didn’t want her to leave again. So, I guess, I was doing all I could to prevent the inevitable.

With your case won, you didn’t need her as your attorney anymore.

Drew: No, I didn’t. But, because she went so far above and beyond with the proof needed to get me acquitted, and I knew someone had set me up to take the blame, I went to her and asked her to help me find that person.

And you did, right?

Nicole: Yes. My objective was to help him one last time. I gave him 48 hours. My heart was breaking. I wanted to be with him, but just couldn’t. I guess I still felt the shame my grandmother must have had with my being with the town bad boy. But, it set off such a firestorm of events. 

Drew: It did. Nicky is the smartest woman I’ll ever know. Had I known all we were going to face, maybe I wouldn’t have asked her to help me. But, I was still so desperate to keep her in my life.

And you had some amazing adventures from there.

Drew: It went at mach speed, and for me, that’s saying something! Part of me wishes it didn’t have to be so … exciting; but then we never would’ve made it back to each other if we hadn’t. 

Nicole: Drew, I don’t think we should give any more away. 

Drew: Right. So, Racing Hearts will give all the exciting details of everything we went through with a little bit of romance along the way.

Thank you both for your time. As Drew said, Racing Hearts is their story filled with romance, intrigue and adventure. I know you’re going to love it.

Also check out an excerpt here.

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