Church made his way over to the gate as Tex was recovered from the track and the race was allowed to continue. As soon as the race was over and that gate was opened, he was prepared to burst out of it.
"Hey, Church!" he heard Tucker call.
Church cringed. On an ordinary day it took everything in him to put up with talking to Tucker. He had no patience for the forklift's chatter today. "Leave me alone, Tucker. Can't you see I'm doing something?"
"What, staring at a gate?" Tucker laughed and pulled up closer to nudge him. "I can't believe it. You're waiting to get out of here so you can go see Tex, aren't you?" Church scowled, gritting his grille. "You are! You still think you have a chance with her?"
Church felt like screaming in Tucker's face. But he remembered his goal—he needed to get to Tex as soon as he could. "Why don't you mind your own business, Tucker?" he said, his anger barely controlled.
"You think if you got smashed up in one of your amateur races she would come visit you?" Tucker laughed. "You know, I think she's been flirting with me lately."
"You always think that, Tucker."
"No, really. When I went to change her tires today, she let me rub her fender. It was pretty hot. Too bad she's out of commission for a while. I would love to polish her tailpipe, you know what I mean? Bow chicka—"
With a feral yell, Church turned his wheels and smashed right into Tucker's forks. Just then, the gate was unlocked, and Church turned his full attention on the car who was working on opening it. "Hey!" Tucker exclaimed, reversing into a camper who was parked behind him. "What is your problem?" But Church paid him no attention as he plowed forward into the gap in the gate, blowing past the racetrack employee who was opening it. He left Tucker's loud protestations far behind as he sped to the medical tent.
There was a dozing guard behind a table at the entrance to the tent. Church didn't bother to check in, quieting his engine and rolling gently by. It was quiet inside compared to the bustle of the arena, and most of the noises that could be heard were coming from outside. A nurse wheeled by, pushing a cart with several cans of motor oil on it. Church hung back silently until she had passed, then rolled down the center of the tent, peeking between the curtained-off sections until he saw Tex's black-painted, damaged form inside one of them.
He nudged the curtain aside and pulled in. "Tex?"
Her eyes opened a crack. "Church? Is that you?"
"Yeah, it's me," he said, pulling up closer to her. She seemed to be sedated. It hurt him so much to see her this way. She was usually so vital, so filled with RPMs…
"I knew you'd come see me," she murmured, her eyes closing again. There was a moment of silence, other than the beeping of some monitoring equipment that was hooked up to her engine. "It was O'Malley, wasn't it?" she said finally.
Church paused, but he knew that she needed to find out the truth at some point or another. "Yeah , it was."
"I should have known he was up to something." Her eyes opened slowly and looked at him. "The Director of Freelancer Office Supplies has been talking about reducing the number of cars they sponsor. O'Malley knows he's on the chopping block before me. He needed to get rid of me."
"He won't get away with it," Church asserted, drawing himself tall on his struts.
Tex suddenly seemed wide awake and she glowered at him. "This has nothing to do with you, Church. I can take care of myself. Don't do anything to O'Malley. It isn't your fight; it's mine."
"What, you think you can stop me?" Church taunted, backing up slightly. He could hear the nurse with the cart rolling closer to Tex's cubicle. "You're going to be recovering from this for months."
"Church, don't even think about it," she snapped. "I can handle—"
"Excuse me? You need to leave this tent," the nurse said sternly from behind Church. "It's restricted access. That car is injured and she needs to rest."
"I was just on my way out," Church said, not sparing a glance in the nurse's direction. His eyes were locked with Tex's. "Just needed to deliver a message. I'll see my own way out."
After he left the curtained-off section, he could hear Tex calling after him. He didn't hesitate for a second. She couldn't stop him from helping her. Even if she could, she wouldn't be able to. As soon as O'Malley had dared lay a fender on her…
Church flexed his quarter panels, letting them snap back with a satisfying crack. Yes, as soon as O'Malley had dared to touch her, it had become personal.