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Authors: Roz Lee

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Sweet Carolina

BOOK: Sweet Carolina
13.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Sweet Carolina

By

Roz Lee

 

Published by Roz Lee

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 Roz Lee

http://www.rozlee.net/

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com
and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.

 

 

 

 

 

SWEET CAROLINA

 

Roz Lee

 

 

 

 

 

For Sarah,

whose love of the sport

inspired this story.

 

Chapter One

 

“On your right.”

“Stay low.”

“Clear.”

“Hold steady.”

Dell listened to the voice in his ear. Earl
was one of the best spotters in racing and Dell would have to be
crazy not to pay attention. One hundred and eighty miles per hour
doesn't leave much room for error. Hell, there wasn't any room for
error. The 14 car sped past on his right, leaving Dell looking at
his bumper. He loosened his fingers on the steering wheel to keep
blood flowing, then curled them back into a tight grip. His car
inched up the track. The wall zoomed past, close. Too close.

“I'm tryin', Earl,” he answered. “Car's
loose. I don't know if I can hold speed and make it through the
turn.”

“Stay low,” Earl admonished.

Dell fought the car through curve two,
narrowly missing the wall as the rear of the car lost its grip on
the track and pulled him up the embankment.

“Go back low.”

“Fuck, I'm tryin',” Dell said. “Who the hell
built this car? The backend is all over the place.”

“Hang in there, Dell. We'll pit on caution
and adjust the track bar.”

Dell battled the car through two more turns,
barely keeping off the wall in turn four. He coaxed a bit of extra
power out of the car on the straightaway, caught some air drafting
off the car in front of him, and throttled back in turn one again,
fighting to keep the backend from dragging him ass-backwards up the
embankment and into the wall.

“Shit, Dell. Go low. Clear left. Hug the
stripe.”

“I would if I could,” he said through gritted
teeth. “Car needs a rebuild. Piece of fucking shit.”

“Engineers are working on the problem,
Dell.”

“Hi, Ray,” Dell greeted his crew chief. “What
the hell happened? The car was perfect in qualifying.”

“Don't know, but we'll have a fix when you
pit.”

“If I make it that long. Damn thing's
dragging me all over the track.”

“Right.” Earl again.

Dell glanced in the rearview mirror and saw
the car coming up on his right side.

“Got it.”

Shit. “Where are we?” Dell asked.

“Fifteenth, and slipping.”

Well, fuck. The first race of the season, the
Daytona 500, and he was driving a piece of shit that didn't have a
preacher's prayer of winning. At this rate, finishing would be a
long shot. It was only a matter of time before the car asserted its
inclinations and dragged him into the wall, or worse, into another
car. The 35 car passed and dropped down the track, forcing Dell to
throttle back.

“Clear.”

“Yeah, I see.” Fuck.

“Ten laps.” Earl called the milestone
out.

Jesus. Only ten laps? “Roger,” he
acknowledged. “Where's a fucking caution when you need one?” he
asked.

“Patience, Dell,” Earl said. Such an idiotic
statement didn't warrant a response. Dell wrestled the steering
wheel, willing the car to follow.

“You've got a tail,” Earl said.

Dell glanced in the mirror. Shit. What the
fuck would Warner want to draft off him for? Dell couldn't think of
a single reason anyone on the track would draft off a car the
driver couldn't control, and it had to be obvious to everyone the
car was driving him, not the other way around.

“Fuck.”

“Hold,” Earl admonished.

“Like I have any fucking control,” Dell
answered. “What the hell does he think he's doing?” Daytona was one
of two tracks where bump drafting, catching a free ride, so to
speak, from the driver in front of you, was allowed. It could be a
mutually beneficial maneuver, causing both cars to go faster, but
the last thing Dell needed was to go faster. With the recent rule
changes, it wasn't wise, or necessary to draft for the entire race.
Most drivers saved the maneuver for when they or a teammate needed
a boost. If it had been anyone other than Richard Warner on his
tail, he might have been grateful.

His car lurched when Warner eased up on his
bumper, pushing, nudging. Dell reacted, braking, engaging the
clutch and using his heel to rev the engine – keeping the RPM up.
The car responded, and pushed by the car kissing its bumper,
accelerated. Dell's eyes flicked to the control panel and back. He
cringed at the increase in speed. Shit. He re-engaged the gears and
held on for the ride.

His fingers tightened on the wheel and his
arms ached with the effort to keep the car on the track. Seconds.
Flying, fleeting, seconds. Warner was going to take him out of the
race. It was the only reason Warner could have for drafting at this
stage of the game.

Dell ground his teeth as he approached turn
one.

“Clear right,” Earl said.

Fuck. Warner nudged his bumper. The rear end
of Dell's car lost its tenuous hold on the asphalt. He turned into
the slide, trying to bring the car back under his control. The
sound of crumpling metal penetrated his sound-muffling headphones
as the car hit the wall. He spun out of control down the thirty-one
degree embankment at one hundred and eighty miles per hour.

Dell fought for control and prayed no one
would hit him as he spun in dizzying circles. His car came to a
halt at the bottom of the turn, untouched, but mangled from his
close encounter with the wall.

“Caution's out,” Earl informed him.

“Fuck that.” Dell shifted into gear and
throttled up. Warner had fucked with him one too many times. It
ended here. Now.

If Dell was out of the race, Warner was going
out too.

“Damnit, Dell, pit. Now.” Ray's usually calm
voice was anything but.

“Shit, Dell. Pit,” Earl entreated. “Fix the
car, then we'll beat Warner.”

Dell ignored both men and steered what was
left of his car back on the track. He racked up a half-dozen
penalties as he sped around the track, passing the cars slowed
under the yellow caution flag. Warner wasn't going to get by with
it, not this time. This time he would pay.

Turn four. Perfect. In the aftermath of
Dell's spin, Warner wormed his way into the front of the pack and
now cruised sedately three positions behind the pace car. Dell
caught the look of surprise on Warner's face as he traded paint
with him. Satisfaction brought a smile to Dell's face right before
he wrenched the wheel to the right and drove Warner's car hard into
the wall.

Dell eased off the throttle and dropped
behind Warner. Warner over-corrected and his car dropped toward the
bottom of the track.

“Oh, no you don't,” Dell mumbled as he cut
low, accelerating in time to ram Warner in the rear left panel,
sending him back up the track toward the wall. Dell followed,
keeping his right bumper tight against Warner's car, pushing.

Warner hit the wall again and spun. Dell
throttled back, but not in time. Warner clipped him and sent him
spinning down the embankment in turn four. Metal shrieked against
metal. Dell jolted as one car rammed him on the left. Another
plowed into him from the right. Smoke filled the interior, blinding
him. Not that it mattered. His car was destroyed, steering a luxury
no longer available. Dell braced for impact as his car careened out
of control, spinning in circles like a giant, lethal top.

Ray's voice in his ear broke the unnatural
silence. “You okay?”

Dell considered the question. He was alive.
He mentally took stock of his appendages. All present and accounted
for. “Yeah. I'm okay,” he said. “Getting out now.”

He unhooked the six-point seat restraint and
reached up to disconnect his helmet from the communications and
cooling systems. A moment later, he stood beside his mangled car.
He'd come to a stop on the grass, smack-dab in the middle of the
giant painted letters that spelled out “Daytona.”

Before he took his helmet off, the crash team
arrived and hustled him into the back of an ambulance. As they shut
the door, he caught a glimpse of his car. Well, fuck. That wasn't
going to go over well. Even if it were a piece of shit, it cost a
fortune to build. Turning it into scrap metal ten laps into the
first, and arguably biggest race of the season wasn't going to win
him any points with the team owner.

* * * *

“You're a menace, C.J. Your daddy must be
turning in his grave.”

Dell Wayne leaned all six feet of his aching
body against the wall, his arms crossed over his broad chest, and
fists clenched as the power behind NASCAR stewed over this latest
infraction. Why the hell they thought he'd care if his old man spun
in his grave, he couldn't fathom. He just wanted to get this over
with, and go. The race was over, for him, at least. The Daytona 500
would go down as a DNF – Did Not Finish. All because of Dickhead
Warner.

“Dell. My name is Dell,” he reminded the old
man.

“Caudell Wayne, Junior don't you get smart
with me, young man. I've known you since you were in diapers, and
I'll damned well call you whatever I want. Your daddy called you
C.J., and as far as I'm concerned, that's your name.”

Dell held his tongue. What did a man have to
do to prove himself? Apparently, there wasn’t a damn thing he could
do. He'd be Caudell Junior for the rest of his life. He'd never
measure up to his old man in the eyes of these people, just like he
never measured up in his old man's eyes. What the hell? He shook
his head. Why did he even try?

“What do you want from me?”

“We want to know what happened out there
today. Are you trying to kill yourself, C.J.? Or are you trying to
kill the other drivers?”

He flinched on the inside. His fire suit
might as well have been wool. His skin itched, and he couldn't wait
to get out of it, the fire suit, or his skin, either one, and out
of this place – away from the pity and disapproving looks. “It was
an accident,” he answered. “That asshole, Warner, clipped my bumper
and sent me into the wall.”

“And instead of pitting, you went after him.
You destroyed his car, and damned near killed him. If this was a
few years ago, before the new safer barriers, you would have killed
him.”

Dell smirked at the irony of it. Nobody
blinked an eye three years ago when Warner drove Caudell Senior
into the wall at Darlington and killed him. He'd be damned if he
was going to let the fucker do the same to him. “Tell him to keep
off my ass, or he won't finish a race in one piece all season.”

“Listen here, C.J. That kind of talk won't be
tolerated. You can't threaten another driver and get away with
it.”

Dell narrowed his blue eyes, adopting the one
thing he had in common with his old man, a steely-eyed look that
could cut a man to shreds. “It's not a threat. It's a promise.”

The room was silent except for the drone of
high-performance engines on the track. Dell stared down the NASCAR
officials, hating that he was in the official hauler instead of on
the track.

“You took out six other drivers, including
Warner, C.J.”

“They were all start and parks anyway.”

“Yeah, they were, but those kind of teams
can't afford to lose cars and stay in business. And NASCAR can't
afford to lose them. You can't continue to drive the way you do.
You're reckless, C.J. You're out of control.”

“What about Warner?”

“What about him?”

Old doubts began to creep in, sapping his
confidence. “He hit me first.” Dell tried his best to keep from
sounding like a petulant child complaining about the schoolyard
bully, but that's what it sounded like, even to his own ears.
Shit.

“Pack up your hauler and leave, C.J. Go back
to Charlotte. We'll deal with Warner. When we make our decision,
we'll notify your team owner.”

Dell shrugged and pushed away from the wall.
“Yeah, you do that,” he mumbled as he shut the door behind him.

He pasted on a happy-go-lucky face for the
reporters waiting for him. After a few minutes smiling, as if all
was well, and plugging his sponsor, he headed for his motor home.
He should help the crew load the hauler, but he didn't want to face
them yet. Months of work to get ready for the first race of the
season, the Daytona 500, and they'd be halfway home before the race
was over.

BOOK: Sweet Carolina
13.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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