Disclaimer: I do not own any recognizable characters, the song lyrics which belong to Kelly Clarkson, or the right to anything NASCAR related. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This story was born of my imagination getting out of control while reading mpg's Chasing Victory. They are totally different kinds of driving, but I guess that doesn't matter in my head. LOL. Anyway, once again, I'm writing about something that I have a minimal knowledgebase and am doing my best through research to be as accurate as I can. Please bear with me and give a little creative license leeway in regard to the NASCAR aspects of the story. I hope you enjoy this new imagining of our favorite Twilight characters in yet another new role. Please meet NASCAR driver (Izzy)Bella and Cocky Cullen, her teammate.
A big thanks to my beta, AgoodWITCH for her beta work. I hope you enjoy this one. This one will be much shorter than my other stories. As of now, I anticipate it to be around ten chapters, maybe fifteen, so I hope you enjoy this shorty. I'm not going to promise a schedule on this one, it will post when I get around to it, at least until SF is done. In all truth, I'm guessing this will wrap before SF though.
Link to the song that inspired the title and a portion of the story. www. youtube .com/watch?v=hKCGBv65w_M&feature=PlayList&p=9B7250B24F312818&playnext_from=PL&index=0
(by Kelly Clarkson)
I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes 'till I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget the ones that I love
Take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
As the newest driver to make waves in NASCAR slid behind the wheel of the powerful car, the smell of hot asphalt, warm rubber, car exhaust, and Florida heat thrilled her. It was never easy for a woman to get her foot in the door in any area of racing, but NASCAR was a long standing boys club that took a lot of hard fighting to get onto that track, and the less than stellar reputations of her predecessors did not make it easy on Isabella "Izzy" Swan.
Unfortunately, the other women who had made it onto these tracks tended to have diva attitudes and expected special treatment. They expected the sport to mold to fit them, which it would never do. Izzy Swan knew better. Raised by her Dad, Izzy had a special insight into the male mind and the world of racing. She applied her knowledge, modified her nickname to something that wouldn't make men cringe immediately at the pure estrogen that her lifelong moniker of Bella seemed to ooze, strapped on her big girl panties, safety coveralls and helmet, and let the power of the engine and her skill in the turns speak for her.
Her dreams all began on Sunday nights at the dirt tracks where she and her Dad would sit watching the stock cars fight for dominance on the small muddy oval. She loved the feel of the engines as their horsepower literally vibrated within her chest and made the metal bleachers below her bottom rattle. There was just something magical about the smell of the exhaust mixed with the mud that would fling up toward the crowd with every pass of the cars as the roar would grow louder and then diminish again with each pass. It was pure, unadulterated fun.
By the time she was sixteen, Bella had managed to work her way into her friend Jacob's crew, working the pits for his dad, Billy. She was one of the best on the team because she was fast, efficient, and never balked in the slightest. This was, of course, partially because she knew that as a girl, she had to tow a straighter line or she'd be out, but more than that, she just felt honored to be a part of it. That honored feeling grew to euphoria when at seventeen, Billy offered to allow Bella to drive his car in the Powderpuff derby…the one time every year when women were allowed to race on the field. It was more of a joke than anything. Often people would tolerate it while heckling the women who tended to drive much more slowly and cautiously than their male counterparts. Of course, this was probably also due to the fact that they only got about a week of practice out of the year, while the men practiced constantly and raced weekly.
Bella was so nervous when she slid behind that wheel for the first time to race. The adrenaline was like heroine to her soul as she revved the engine to warm it before slowly making her way out of the pits to line up at the starting line. The flag was dropped and they were off. Due to the luck of the draw, Bella was pretty far back in the pack, but her skill definitely made up for any position handicap.
Two laps later, she had the crowd riveted as she managed to take the lead of the pack, pushing out past the leader and gaining ground on the rest of the group. Before the completion of the twenty laps assigned to the Powderpuff Derby, Bella had lapped the entire pack not once but twice. The crowd was on their feet, screaming as Bella proudly took the checkered flag and made her victory lap around the track. The pure unadulterated exhilaration was beyond anything she could have ever dreamed. It was perfect and she wanted more!
Five years later, she had slowly moved up from dirt to asphalt, the quality of the cars she drove slowly improving with each rank-up, eventually gaining sponsorships and moving up the ranks until NASCAR came calling. After winning three Busch Series races, she was offered a spot on a team in the Cup Series, and here she was, now sitting exactly where she always dreamed, getting ready to take part in her very first points race at the famous Daytona 500.
Izzy checked her helmet again before glancing out at the stands, filled with people milling about waiting for the race to start. This would be her first and last time to look at them before either she completed the race or was taken out by a crash. She sincerely hoped that she would, at the very least, complete her first race, but she also knew many of the guys were not happy she was there and would most likely do their best to psych her out and force her to drop.
She looked ahead of her and groaned when she realized the number sixty nine was directly in front of her in the lineup. She knew he had done better than her in the qualifying races, but she had no clue that she had been so close to beating him. She noticed movement of a hand by the driver's seat, observing that he appeared to already be yelling at his pit crew through his helmet coms. She rolled her eyes, Edward Asshole Cullen…why he was considered the sexiest driver in racing was beyond her. Yeah, he was aesthetically attractive, but his cocky attitude destroyed whatever his external beauty may have done for her. He was a self important, sexist, chauvinist pig, and she knew as surely as she knew that it would be messy to pee standing up that he was doing to try to foul her up. It didn't matter that she was his 'teammate,' racing for the same owners, he hated her, and he wanted her GONE!
Izzy tightened her grip on her wheel, feeling herself growl at the very idea of Assward destroying her first race for her. Her venomous thoughts were interrupted by a brief crackle in her ear followed by the voice of her pit boss, Jasper, coming through the earpiece.
"Calm down, Iz. Don't let him psych you out before the race has even begun. I just heard his boss bitching that he's singing along to a rap song. He's just playing head games. Don't let him distract you. Focus on your car, feel the vibrations and the grip on the road. Trust your instincts and at the first change in the feel, you let me know. Odds are you'll feel something wrong before we will see it. Just focus on getting your 200 laps in and nothing more."
Izzy smiled, loosening her grip as she glanced in the direction where she knew her pit crew was waiting along pit road. In addition to being a female driver, she had a half female pit crew. She made the acquaintance of Jasper and his brother Emmett when they worked with her on the Busch Series, discovering quickly that they both had kick ass wives that would make a great pit crew, if only the owners would allow it.
Once Izzy was pulled in, she worked a little magic and got Rose and Alice on her crew. Rose looked like she should be draped across the top of the car, not tinkering under the hood, but honestly, she was the best damn mechanic in the league, even if few would admit it. Alice was another surprise, clocking in at just over five feet and right around 100 pounds, nobody would ever think the little sprite would be good at changing tires on the fly, but the tiny girl was like a blur in the pits as she worked. Between the three women, their team was composed of the most undervalued talent in the whole Sprint Cup Series, but with any luck, they were about to prove them all wrong.
The two minute warning went out and all the engines in the row began to rev loudly, the collective rumble causing the bodies in the stands to vibrate both literally and figuratively with excitement. Izzy fluttered the pedal, feeling the car chassis shift under her as the engine fought against the brake holding her in position. The feeling of all of that horsepower just waiting to be unleashed caused a smile to slowly melt across her face. She knew she was supposed to be in the zone, but what good is racing if you don't enjoy it?
"This is it, Izzy, focus." Jasper's voice filled the air followed by the encouragement of the other team members. Izzy took a deep breath before the green flag went down and the pack surged forth with quickly increasing speeds. Two laps later, drivers began to jockey for position, lining up to draft the car ahead of them in hopes of finding an opening to slingshot past the car and rank-up on the field.
Bella kept her movements tight as she slowly began to work her way up the pack, the straight-aways seeming nonexistent as she circled the track with the rest. She had moved up five positions, with Cullen leading before her, always one car ahead and never making a mistake as he shifted between the cars. When the first yellow flag dropped and the pace car took the track, Izzy felt a slight sense of relief until she reached the place where the accident occurred to a driver who had been traveling a few cars behind her. She had seen wrecks before, even been in several herself, but the sight of the crumbled car, thick black plumes of smoke billowing from under the now accordion shaped hood, made her stomach clench.
Izzy tried to focus on the feel of the road and the car before her as the memories came to the forefront of her mind. It was the end of the last year's dirt track season back home, and Bella had returned to help with the crew for old times' sake. It was a thrill to be back at her roots. The night felt perfect until Billy was clipped on the rear quarter panel by his biggest rival, the car spun out of control before flipping, trapping Billy in the car. When they finally freed him, he was in bad shape. Billy Black never walked again and Jacob and the boys left the racing world for good. Bella seriously considered it as well, but in the end, the draw of the V8 was far more powerful than the risk, angering Jacob and the boys when she left home once more to return to the North Carolina tracks that would eventually lead to her successful rise to Daytona.
Izzy didn't regret the decision, but every time she had to drive past a wreck like the one on the track, it always made her heart clench. Soon the green was returned as the cars began to speed again, looking for quick openings to move up the field. So it continued for the next fifty laps, Izzy would move up the ranks, always just behind Cullen. To all outsiders, they looked like a team, but in reality, it was every man for himself.
Finally, the time came when Izzy knew she needed gas and new tires. She was just over the halfway point in the race and had already pushed her tires way past what she should have. She rushed into pit road, sliding stealthily into her stall on the row. Cullen was ahead of her.
Jasper lowered the net by her window handing her a sport bottle full of ice cold water while the rest of the team worked to hurriedly prep the car for a return to the track. Jasper smirked at her as he took the bottle, reaching to replace the net.
"So the whole world thinks you and Cullen are the power team. We all know different, but it looks like you're working together out there."
She gawked at him as he smiled. "They like it, that's all I'm saying."
The car dropped and his face shifted. "Go! Go! Go!"
Instantly Izzy was back in the zone. Cullen and Izzy quickly regained their ground, making their way into the top seven, Iz riding his draft the entire way until number 00 pulled next to her. If Cullen was a chauvinist pig, James Daniels was Satan incarnate. He edged her toward the wall until she finally let him take the lead, if only to keep herself out of the wall, but not before dropping back down into his draft, waiting for her chance to slingshot around him.
He was a slimy S.O.B, nearly impossible to get past as he cut her off time and time again. Izzy settled back, focusing on keeping her position as James inched closer to Cullen's quarter panel. Before Izzy knew what had happened, she had to yank the wheel hard to the left to avoid colliding with the newly sideways Cullen, fighting to keep out of the wall. Izzy froze for a moment, worried for Cullen's safety as she barely missed his rear bumper, lost in the gray smoke rolling from his spinning tires. When she passed through the blinding cloud, she discovered she was making contact with someone's bumper. A second later, that car drifted out of her way.
Izzy gasped in amazement that she made it out of the pileup by some strange miracle as the cars clumped behind her on the edge of the track along the wall. The yellow flag came out as the pace car moved out in front of the pack. Izzy shook her head at the realization that thanks to James' slimy move, she was now fourth.
She moved back and forth in the race for the last seventy five laps, even managing to be lead car for all of four laps before it was reclaimed by the previous leader. When the checkered flag came down, Izzy Swan came in with a respectable third place. Not only had she finished the race, she actually placed extremely high for her first points race with 170 points! Meanwhile, Edward had finished at 17th with 112 points.
While she hadn't won, Izzy still found herself surrounded by a sea of reporters once the race was over. She was, hot, sweaty, and exhausted, but she did what she knew she must. She smiled for the cameras and gave the most energetic, yet sincere, interviews she could before the owners finally rescued her, directing her to the RV where a warm shower awaited her. Yes, the water pressure would be pathetic, but at least it would wash away the sweat and grime, and allow her to feel at least slightly feminine again.
Once she escaped the bathroom, she was assaulted by the enthusiastic women of her pit crew. That was another reason why nobody took them seriously as a pit crew before today, Alice and Rose were two of the girliest girls you ever met when they were outside of the pits. Both were dressed in short dresses with perfect hair and three inch heels.
Bella protested as the dragged her to the chair in the middle of the sitting area of the RV and began poking and prodding.
"We have to, IsaBella," Alice sighed, emphasizing her former nickname on purpose. "Have you forgotten….owners' celebration party tonight? You have to dress for the occasion since the press is expected to arrive. They want you to prove yourself on and off the track as not another run of the mill tomboy."
Izzy sighed, settling in to allow the girls to do their work without complaint. It wasn't that she really minded dressing up. She was a girl and she enjoyed getting pretty and going clubbing from time to time. The thing that bothered her tonight is that this was all scripted. Nobody ever thinks going in that racing is sort of like actors, the people in charge want the public to see you a certain way, and thus they manipulate events to show the side they want seen. In Izzy's case, she's supposed to be the pretty, sweet girl next door who looks just as hot in a dress as her moves are on the track.
Izzy always hated the innocent little ingénue stereotype that most women new to any industry were cast into. She was far from sweet and innocent, having spent a great deal of her formative years surrounded by foul mouthed men. She knew how men thought, how they interacted, and what she should expect on and off the track in her new circle of influence. If Izzy was anything, naïve was certainly NOT it!
An hour later, she found herself standing at the door to the trailer wearing a red dress that was quite a bit more conservative than the tight, short ensembles Alice and Rose wore, yet was more innocently sexy. It was a sleeveless number with a tight fitting bodice that loosened into a flowing bell type skirt that ended at her knees. It was paired with a set of two inch red heels, a heart shaped locket, and matching earrings, which were easily seen due to her hair being swept up into a tangle of curls atop her head. Izzy felt every bit as sexy as the outfit was supposed to convey.
She stepped down from the bus to climb into the SUV full of boys waiting for the girls to finish getting ready. The boys, of course, were far more casual than the girls, wearing nice pants and different colored button ups with the top few buttons undone. Izzy slid in the back next to Alice and Jasper who curled up happily with goofy lovebird smiles, while Emmett drove holding Rose's hand between them on the seat. Surrounded by adoring couples, Izzy couldn't help but feel lonely. She had love once, but when she chose to keep going with her dream in spite of Billy's injury, Jacob broke things off with her and turned his back on her. She hadn't even come close to finding love since then.
After twenty minutes of Izzy lamenting over her lack of love life, they pulled into the dazzling hotel in which the owners were staying for the past two weeks. They left the SUV with the valet and walked through to the elevator, waiting as it carried them to the penthouse suite on the top floor where the owners of their racing franchise were waiting.
As the group walked into the room, all conversation stopped and all eyes focused on them. The silence was deafening until Aro, the head owner of the team, walked toward Izzy with a beaming smile, his hands clasped in front of his chest.
"Isabella! The lady of the hour! Please come in and join the festivities. It was your victory which led to this wonderful soiree this evening!"
Izzy felt nauseated as Aro's syrupy sweetness oozed over her revolted body while the journalists in the room took notes and a few cameras flashed in their direction. After ten minutes of Aro's undivided attention as he introduced her to the elites of the room and the journalists, he finally let her be. Izzy found herself slinking into a corner with a glass of champagne, gazing out the large glass windows overlooking the Daytona lights stretching beyond and wishing she could be anywhere else.
She heard her name in a conversation off to her left and looked up in time to meet jade green eyes full of angry fire. Edward continued to speak to his cohorts as he stared unabashedly at her. If the burning hate in his eyes were corporeal, she would be incinerated on the spot.
Finally, no longer able to handle his rude display, Izzy slinked away to the bathroom to find some solitude and collect her thoughts. Yeah, she and Cullen didn't get along, but he usually didn't act so openly hostile.
After a few minutes, she finally sighed, taking one last look at her tired eyes before turning to open the door and return to the party. She was surprised to find Edward leaning on the wall opposite the door, the same expression on his face. He pushed her back into the room, slamming the door behind him and locking it.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Cullen?"
"Me? ME! What the hell were you doing running me into the wall. You could have killed me, you bitch!"
By this point, he was towering over her, and had it been any other woman in this position, she probably would have cowered in fear. Izzy, on the other hand, stood her ground, having spent her life with hotheads and been taught long ago how to defend herself. She lifted her hand to poke Edward square in the chest hard enough to make him wince slightly at the painful intrusion.
"You listen here, Assward! I did no such thing. Daniels took the lead from me nearly two full laps before that happened, and I watched him clip your quarter panel. It wasn't me, you dumbass, and if you were even halfway aware of your surroundings, you would have known that. Not that I even meant to, but I ended up pushing him into the wall right after that while trying to blindly navagate your rubber cloud, so don't be pissed at me, jackass!"
He frowned down at Izzy, more than a little surprised that the shy little quiet girl had some balls after all. Of course, he should have known she wouldn't be quite as she was billed, very few racers were, himself included. Izzy stared up him, refusing to break their glare as they openly displayed their mutual dislike for one another.
"So are you going to apologize, or just stand there and glare at me all day?"
He huffed, crossing his arms and finally leaning back a bit from his aggressive stance when their conversation began. "I have nothing to apologize for, Isabella."
She scoffed, rolling her eyes, crossing her arms to mirror his expression as she tapped her red leather clad toe impatiently. "So, you're not going to apologize for accosting me in the bathroom and accusing me of putting you into the wall when I was completely innocent?"
He huffed, running his hand through his hair. "Hell, for all I know, you have some sort of arrangement with Daniels to make you look good!"
Izzy stomped her foot with a growl, feeling her anger building by the second. "Listen, asshole. You are my teammate, God help me. I'm not going to go and make some alliance with Satan himself in order to hurt you, when damage to your car means damage to my own team. I may not like you, but business is business and we were actually working pretty well together out there, not that you noticed."
He leaned back against the door, running his hand through his hair again with a sigh. "I noticed. You were doing a good job of using my draft to stick with me. If I hadn't been knocked out, I'm almost sure we would have taken first and second."
Izzy leaned against the vanity across the small room and began to play with the strand of hair that had fallen from her elevated hairdo with quiet agreement. After a long moment of silence, while Edward stared at Izzy as she studied the design of the parquet flooring, he finally pushed off the door to walk toward her, with an extended hand.
"This may not be what either one of us would have chosen, but we are more or less on the same team now. If we want any chance at bringing home the cup, we're going to have to work together. So, peace?"
She chuckled, taking his hand in a firm handshake. "Peace…although, I'm not the one that started getting all pissy to begin with."
Edward smirked down at her, the expression involuntarily causing strange reactions within her body. "Admitted. Now can we go out there and finish the boring shit so I can go out and have some real fun?"
Izzy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, Cullen. I'd hate to keep you away from the bar full of Daisy Duke clad hookers just waiting for you to arrive," she teased as she walked away from him back toward the party.
Edward watched her walk away with a frown. Even the rest of the driver's bought the image, and normally that didn't bother him, but for some reason it galled him that Isabella Swan believed the hype as well. There were many different personas in the racing world. There was the cocky asshole, the playboy, the nice guy, the redneck, the sweet little girl ingénue, and then there was Edward who somehow managed to garner several of those reps at once, but just as he now suspected that Isabella Swan was no naïve southern sweetheart, neither was he an indiscriminant man-whore.
Author's Note: Okay guys…what did you think? As I said, this is going to be a shorty and just like the sport this is based on, things are going to advance quickly. I'll do quite a bit of jumping forward in time here and there. I was pleased do many of you were excited to read this, so I figured I would go ahead and post while the kids napped today. Please share your first impressions. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think!