Chapter 1: Battle at the Mountain
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The black bitumen stretched out in front of me. My car thrummed to the tune of the V8 that rested under the bonnet, issuing an angry growl whenever my foot grazed the accelerator. There was no one in front of me. No one between me and victory. No one but me. This scenario was achingly familiar, my last eight starts were from pole position and my last five races have ended DNF. Did. Not. Finish. I couldn't even get the car around the fucking racetrack. Not since Queensland Raceway.
Every time I felt close to victory, something clicked out of place in my mind and everything fell down around me for a fraction of a second. But when you're barrelling down a straight at just shy of 300 kilometres an hour and coming into a sharp right, a fraction of a second is too long. This time, I was lined up for the fucking Bathurst 1000 - an endurance race - which meant it wasn't only my ass on the line. My co-driver, Jasper Whitlock, had already let me know what he would do to me if I managed to total the car again. Let's just say it involved a pair of rusty pliers and a part of my anatomy that I was particularly fond of.
My team had informed me I was actually close to getting one record this year. Apparently, I was one wreck away from passing the all-time repair cost in a single season. Suffice to say this wasn't the record they, or I, wanted. In fact, my team bosses were so unhappy with me at that if I kept it up I would lose not only the championship, which let's face it was out the window anyway, but also my career. And I fucking loved this job. I loved everything about it, not just the fast cars and loose women – although they were a benefit, a distinct benefit in fact. I allowed myself a brief second to replay the images of the pair of girls I was with the previous night. There was nothing they wouldn't let me do. By the end of the night I had violated both of them in every way possible before sending them on their way. But thinking about that was probably not the best idea while in control of a 600hp, 1300kg beast. I needed the blood to stay where it belonged - in my head.
A big part of me couldn't really understand what had changed in the last twelve months to leave me where I was. Twelve short months ago I was at the top of my game. King shit. No one could touch me when I was on the track. Last year I started as the dark horse and finished as the youngest driver ever to win the championship. At my age it was a fucking miracle I was on the team at all, let alone being discussed as a possibility for lead driver in the next few years. Or at least I was being discussed. But suddenly I was a wash-up who couldn't even finish a race. Not even twenty-two and my career was over - unless I finished this race.
The cars behind me began to rev in anticipation fof the start. I started to think that maybe if I could just get away clean, I could have a chance of finishing. A podium would be nice – but just a finish would be a change. I could do it – couldn't I? Maybe that's what I needed to do – think positive or some shit. Be the change I want to see in the world. Or maybe I should just stop fucking analysing everything so much. Maybe if I spent more time on the racetrack and less in my head I might actually stand a chance of salvaging something of the shit that was left of my life.
Time passed swiftly and suddenly the flags were due to go up at any minute. I allowed myself one second of solitude and shut my eyes. I pressed my foot deep onto the floor, listening to the angry snarl that issued from my beast. It blocked out all other sounds and left me momentarily in peace.
Then my eyes snapped open and it was time to go.
Ride on instinct.
You know what needs to be done - just do it.
I could do this. I would do this. It's only 1000 kilometres. Easy.
I was in pole position and that gave me an advantage. I got away clean from the starting line; launching to the front of the pack. My radio blared to life almost immediately. It was just the crew letting me know there was an incident behind me in the first corner. Not a safety car, so there mustn't have been any major damage. I didn't listen to who was involved. I didn't care. I only cared about the track ahead of me.
My fingers danced across the instruments. Up. Down. Clutch. Accelerator. Break. Like a dance. One, two, three, four. Hard to the left. Up Mountain Straight. Hard to the right. Through the cutting and Reid Park. Past McPhillamy and into the skyline. The view as I neared the top of the mountain would have been breathtaking under any other circumstances but right now I needed to focus. To stay in the moment and feel the car. The road dropped away from underneath me and then I was floating through the S bends into the dipper. A soft right then a hard left around Forrest Elbow and then I was flying down Conrod Straight.
I knew this racetrack like the back of my hand. I'd been watching this race every year for as long as I could remember. And I'd raced here for the last four years. First in production cars and then finally last year in a Supercar. And I fucking finished second. On debut, and I finished second. I was just that good. I drove with Jasper then as well. And then I'd gone on to win the championship. Such great fucking prospects and then it all went in the can this year.
I passed the start/finish line and it flashed away beneath me. One lap down, one hundred and sixty to go. Luckily I only had to drive around half of those. But I was getting ahead of myself. I needed to get through the laps the only way I could at the moment – one at a time.
I needed to keep my head in this lap, this stint. Thirty more laps, give or take, and then Jasper would take over and I would have nothing to think about, nothing to do but watch on and be ready to take control again when the time came. The track in front of me was still empty and I had put a few seconds buffer between me and second place.
The laps continued to drop away as the cars jostled for position behind me and my radio squawked to life at regular intervals, directing me to watch my fuel, my tyres, issuing directions for small adjustments I needed to make. The laps flashed past in a haze of sun, heat and speed. I fell into the comfortable pattern of the track and felt my mind start to drift. Suddenly a lilting voice shrilled in my mind, focusing me back on the track.
"Safety car, Edward. Bring it in."
Lap thirty-one. Thank Christ. Jasper would take over now. I breathed a sigh of relief, all I needed to do was bring the car safely into the pits and I was in the clear for another thirty or so laps, because Jasper would be in control and if he crashed - it was all on him. I wondered for a second if he'd let me near him with the rusty pliers if that happened.
As soon as I had left the immediate pit area I unzipped my fire suit, pulling it off my arms and allowing the top half to hang loosely around my waist. It was fucking hot. The air temperature was easily 34 degrees but on the track it was closer to 60. I grabbed my water bottle and sat to watch the race on the monitors.
Jasper's stint was slipping past without incident, of course. He was a speed freak too and, as much as I hated to admit it, a fantastic driver. He had just the right balance of brains and balls. That's why he had finished second behind me last year. He was older and more experienced - and the current lead driver for Cullen Racing. One or two more championships under my belt and that might have changed. It was being fucking discussed. But that was before Queensland Raceway.
Queensland fucking Raceway. The track that was close to where I grew up and that used to be my stomping ground. It was where I'd started in karts and where I'd cut my teeth in professional racing. I moved rapidly through the classes while I was still in high school before being noticed by Carlisle Cullen from Cullen Racing. They were the elite Holden team in the V8 Supercar world. Carlisle said as soon as he saw me race he wanted me to be part of his 'family'. So he had courted me onto his team by offering me a five year contract for a lot of money. No, not just a lot – an absolute shitload of money. More money than a suburban boy like me expected to make in his life – let alone per year. The only problem was it meant relocating to Sydney. Which meant leaving all my friends, and saying a final goodbye to her. Even though we'd already broken up by the time I got my contract, I knew it would be devastating to say that final goodbye – the hurt was still so raw and when we broke up I think we'd both assumed we would end up back together before long.
After signing my contract and moving I became a junior driver for Cullen Racing for two years until I finally got control of one of their V8 supercars the previous year. I had more than exceeded everyone's expectations. I was just that good. Or at least I used to be - before Queensland Raceway.
That was where I saw her again. I had no idea what she was even doing at a race. She hated the sport. She always told me she never could never understand the fascination boys had with their 'toys' as she had put it. But there she was, mere metres away, separated from me by a group of about twenty people. I wanted to speak to her so badly. We hadn't spoken since I left for Sydney a little under four years before. She did try to call, a lot in the beginning in fact, but I knew then that if I wanted to have a chance of making my career work I needed to avoid Isabella Swan – Bella. She was much too small town for me. And I knew a clean break would be easier for her. Easier for both of us. Over time her calls slowed until, almost a year after I moved, they stopped all together. And when the calls stopped I was almost able to put her out of my mind for good. Almost. Because she still resided in my dreams and nightmares, both good and bad, smiles and tears. Our past played out on instant replay every night. But other than that she never crossed my waking mind.
Until Queensland Raceway.
Until I saw her again.
She was waiting, looking expectantly around the crowd. For half a second I arrogantly thought she was looking for me, even though I was the reason we were no longer together. At least I had thought that, until I saw him. Then I knew she had no further interest in me. He walked towards her from the concession stand with two hot dogs in his hands and two cans of coke balanced in the crook of his arm. Her face broke into a wide smile when she saw him. His russet-coloured face returned the grin before he planted a kiss on her lips and handed off her half of the food. She had willingly come to watch a race with someone and seemed to be enjoying herself. It must have been love – she'd never come to any of my races. When I saw that I realised I should have been happy for her. I really should. After all, I'd walked out of her life. So why did I feel like ripping that fucker limb from limb?
And that was Queensland Raceway.
And that occurred immediately before I climbed in the car.
And that was the first race, ever, that ended in a DNF for me.
And that was why the former love of my life was now the bane of my existence. Because it was her that haunted me around the race track, leeching my concentration away for vital seconds at a time.
I sat pinching the bridge of my nose, trying to clear my head of all thoughts of her. We were at lap 62, and I would be back in the car for a double stint soon. 60-odd laps straight before handing it over to Jasper to take it home. We'd agreed that would be the safest option, it was always sometime in the last ten laps that I choked.
I stood and slipped the arms of my fire-proof suit back on and zipped it up, getting ready to take control of the car. Control. That's all I needed – a little control.
I glanced at the monitors. Shit. I'd been sitting in the corner of the garage for so long, not paying attention to anything but my meandering thoughts and I hadn't realised it had started to rain. I should have known really. Rain at Mount Panorama on race day; it was an almost annual tradition. But the rain always caused problems. The track was elongated, stretching up over the mountain, so unless the rain was a consistent downpour over the whole area it always had dry patches. Which left the teams with a difficult choice – stay on slicks and risk sliding all over the track if it's too wet or put on wet weather tyres and risk chewing through the tread and slowing the car down if it's too dry. The decision came down to forecasting and the wrong decision could cost time later on, if we stayed on slicks and the rain continued we would need to pit that much earlier to change to wet weathers and vice versa. Luckily, we had Alice as our race strategist. She had a knack for getting these things right and she currently had the guys warming a fresh set of slicks.
I was about to pull on my balaclava and helmet when Alice darted to my side. She pulled her mic away from her mouth. "It's going to be a bit wetter at first but I think it's clearing and you'll be alright on slicks. You just gotta keep your head these first few laps and you'll do fine. Just watch yourself on Forrest Elbow at the top of the mountain."
She grinned at me. Sometimes, especially lately, it felt like she was the only one on the team that was on my side. I quickly pulled on the rest of my protective gear and headed out to the pits. Minutes later Jasper slid the car to a perfect stop and jumped out. I climbed in, quickly reattaching everything and fastening my harness. Then I clipped the window netting back into place and gave the thumbs up to let my crew know I was in and ready. I knew these races were won and lost as much by strategy and fast pit stops as by actual driving. As soon as the car was dropped back to the ground, I pressed my foot to the accelerator, careful to keep the speed limiter on – the last thing I needed was a stop/go penalty. As soon as I reached the end of the pits I exploded out of the exit. In this moment, at this speed, I felt invincible. Thanks to my original lead and Jasper's driving, we were currently in fifth position on track, but first overall after adjusting for compulsory pit stops. Now I just had to keep us there.
And so the dance began again.
I was coming around Forrest Elbow and I felt the tail start to slide. I hit the marbles on the edge of the track struggled to retain control. But I did. I got there. And it felt fucking fantastic.
Maybe I could do this after all.
I allowed myself to hope for a few seconds but then I saw her eyes. Red-rims around chocolate brown irises – they way they looked when I said goodbye, a little under four years ago. I shut down the images as quickly as I could as I felt my tail slide loose again. This time it kissed the car attempting to come up my inside before I managed to right it.
My radio crackled to life and Alice's voice came through my headset. "Watch it, Edward. Jasper's asked me to remind you about the pliers."
Just think about the track ahead.
Three more laps and I found my groove. The lighter fuel load and drier track kept the car straight. I began to put more distance between me and the people behind. I overtook a Ford down Conrod Straight and was in third position overall and still outright first. My breathing steadied as I felt the car fall into rhythm. Up. Down. Clutch. Accelerator. Break. One, two, three, four. Hard to the left. Up Mountain Straight. Hard to the right. Through the cutting and Reid Park. Past McPhillamy and into the skyline. Float through the S bends and into the dipper. A soft right then a hard left around Forrest Elbow and fly down Conrod Straight.
Alice had been right about the track, by my ninth lap of this stint the track was bone dry and cars who had gambled on the rain staying were scrambling for the pits to change back onto slicks. I used the time to push even further ahead. Alice squawked at me down the radio that I had just achieved the fastest lap time for this race. I was celebrating that small victory as I came across the top of the mountain again, across skyline. The glare from the sun reflected in the top corner of my windscreen and I was blinded. Not by the light, but by the vision in my mind that the sun reminded me of. Bella smiling, the sun glinting off her watch as we kept an eye on the time. It was one of the rare days when we had ditched school to hide out in our secret meadow nearby. As bad as the visions of Bella's red-rimmed eyes were, this was worse. This was a tangible reminder of how happy we had been and I didn't want to suppress this image. By the time I did it was too late. I had no time to do anything else but adjust the angle of my car as it smashed into the wall of the first of the S bends before ricocheting across into another car and spinning. I felt it lurch sickeningly towards the wall again, smacking my side of the car hard into the concrete. Another car came flying down from skyline and, unable to avoid the scene, smashed roughly into the back of me. The nose of my car crunched loudly into the wall, the impact forcing the tail to launch into the air and spin around. I finally came to a rest with the passenger side of the car hard against the wall.
"What the hell, Edward?" Alice's voice admonished me. "Carlisle's going to have your ass for this."
I smacked the steering wheel hard before scrambling out of the car. I kicked the car door in frustration. "Fucking, shitter of a fucking bastard of a fucking car!" I screamed. I knew I was supposed to leave the track straight away, to avoid further injury, but I couldn't resist kicking the car a few more times to vent my frustration. Finally, after another few "Fucks" and "Fucking hells" I climbed over the barrier to the medics.
Alice was right, as usual, Carlisle was going to own my ass over this.
Fucking Bella 'small town' Swan. If it wasn't for her none of this would be happening now.
I didn't hang around the track long enough to get grilled. My weekend was over. I was already going to get a fine for my outburst at the car after I crashed so it couldn't get much worse for me. And frankly I couldn't give a flying fuck what else happened to me, so I climbed into my Monaro and drove straight back to Sydney. I didn't want to deal with the press or with the other drivers. There were five of them that wanted my ass – Jasper included. I drove straight home, parked the car and called a taxi. I was going to hit the town and I was going to get absolutely shitfaced. That was the only way I knew how to deal with this thing.
My phone buzzed a few times when I arrived at the club but I steadily hit ignore. Then I turned it off completley when the caller didn't take the hint. I was in a VIP room and I was scoping out the talent. There were three blondes, four brunettes and a redhead. That meant my choices were narrowed from eight to four. I couldn't do brunettes. I had tried, a few times, absolutely fine pieces of ass they were too, but I couldn't do it – every time I saw them sucking my cock or bent over in front of me, I pictured Bella. And I couldn't picture her as one of these skanks – as a random piece of tail to use, abuse and recycle.
The redhead and her blonde friend seemed to be dancing very closely on the dance floor. I wondered how many more drinks it would take to get both of them. Half a second of watching them later, I bet myself that I could fuck both of them before I left the club. The bartender knew what they were drinking – one of the perks of the VIP room – so I ordered them each another drink and a corona and a double-shot of whiskey for me. I downed the whiskey before even paying for the drinks and ambled over to them with our drinks in hand.
"Hey ladies, thought you might be thirsty," I flipped them my wicked smile. They giggled in response. This would be easier than I thought.
The redhead gaped at me. "You're Edward Masen aren't you?"
"The one and only. And tonight I'll be your personal escort."
She giggled again. She was already maggoted. I had this made.
"I'm Vicki and this is Tanya," she indicated her blonde friend. They continued to bump and grind against each other as we talked. I felt myself getting hard already.
"Well, Vicki, Tanya, mind if I come between you?" I ensured I put the emphasis on the come.
They both giggled and downed the drinks I had brought them like it was water. I skulled my Corona just as quickly and then they each grabbed one of my hands and pulled me between them. Soon we were a meld of hands and bodies. I brought drink after drink.
As they pressed themselves into me, I brushed my hand along Vicki's chest and, when I got no negative reaction, I grabbed more forcefully, fingering her breasts. She moaned against me and I captured her mouth with mine and her fiery red hair with my free hand. I used the control this position gave me to push our way over to one of the booths that were in the dark along the wall. As soon as we reached our destination, I began to slide my hands up her dress, pushing it over her hips and pulling down her panties. She pulled down my zipper and pressed her hand into my crotch. I was tangled with her when I felt hands slide down my back. I released Vicki's mouth to look behind me and saw Tanya pressing herself against me. I reached back, grabbing Tanya's hair and pulling her face into mine. Vicky continued to rub at my crotch.
I had my eyes closed when I saw the flash, followed quickly by another and another. Shit. This place was supposed to be fucking discreet and they allowed photographers in here. Great. Just what I fucking needed after the shit of the race meeting – gossip mags.
A week later, I was sitting in Carlisle's office. Three things lay in front of me - the latest issue of "Gossip Weekly" with my public threesome gracing the cover, a letter from the Supercar officials and a plain envelope.
"You've really ruined things for yourself this time, Edward," Carlisle said, his voice firm.
I just nodded – what could I say really? I couldn't deny it.
"You've been fined $10,000 for your outburst at Bathurst," he continued.
I nodded again. Ouch – but not unmanageable.
"And another $10,000 for that display." His hands indicated the magazine cover. "For bringing the sport into disrepute."
Fuck. $20,000 in fines in one week. Maybe that's another record. Great. As if my life wasn't screwed enough. I knew better than to argue though, Carlisle exuded calm at all times and seemed to be the very picture of patience but I knew just how explosive he could be if you argued back.
"What's this?" I asked timidly, pointing to the third item. The plain envelope. That one scared the hell out of me. I wondered if it was my marching orders.
"Open it." His tone gave nothing away.
I opened it slowly. There was a key and an airline envelope. "What's this?" I asked again, my voice filled with surprise. I inspected the airline ticket – it was a business class ticket to London. Leaving tomorrow.
"You are taking the rest of the season off." There was no question in his voice. This was a directive from the boss.
"But the sponsors?" The team's sponsors paid for a certain amount of track time each year and the sponsorship money was refundable if that time wasn't met.
Carlisle laughed sardonically at me. "To be honest I think it will be cheaper to back out of the sponsorship deals than build a new car every meet. The way you have been driving, it's unlikely we'll meet the requirements anyway."
I hung my head in shame.
"Take the time off, go to London. Get your shit together and come back fresh next season."
I nodded. Then asked the other question that was burning, "What's the key for?"
"An apartment I own in London. You'll have free access to it but that's the only thing I can offer you until you return."
"Thank-you," I whispered. Maybe this was what I needed – to get out of the country and get my head together.
"You do realise this means your pay will be suspended?"
I nodded, mentally calculating what I had in liquid assets. I should be able to make it through without compromising too much – although I would miss that $20,000 much more now.
"And I shouldn't have to remind you that your contract is up for renewal next year. I'm willing to overlook this last six months if you can prove to me that you are back on top next year."
"When I hired you I meant it what I said about you having the potential to be a great driver, Edward. Nothing's changed since then. You just need to get your head back in the game."
I nodded again.
"That is all."
I stood and left his office, staring at the plane ticket in my hand. Leaving the next day with an open return date. I had three months before I needed to be back for testing. Three months to get Bella 'small town' Swan out of my head for good.
I ducked into the men's room to avoid Jasper when I heard him coming towards Carlisle's office. I knew he was more than pissed at me, his closest rival for the championship had won the race at Bathurst and my DNF all but put Jasper out of contention. I'd received a stack of voicemail messages from both him and Alice over my little screw-up. I had yet to return any of their calls.
I looked at the plane ticket again. Three months out of the country was definitely what I needed.
A/N – Well this story is one that sprung up on me unannounced but then it announced itself pretty loudly and I needed to get this chapter down.
This one was partly inspired by a conversation with gabbysway2 on twitter about *fit* V8 drivers & party by the song "The Distance" by Cake. As it is set in Australia (at least in part) I am using Australian terms (e.g. KG's, kilometres & degrees Celsius).
Hope you enjoy this – it will be a bit more full on language & lemons than my other stories.
Also I have put some links in my profile (info about Mt Panorama & Bathurst 1000) if you are interested in finding out more. I have used my little bit of knowledge and a little bit of research to put together the racing scenes so apologies for any & all factual errors. :)
I would love your feedback on this. I hate to show preference to any of my story, but I have to admit the ones that get the most reviews tend to get the most attention because they are the ones where I feel the love.
I am on twitter if you don't know – (at)mpg82