Now that you understand the kinds of risks they live with on a daily basis, here’s an excerpt that includes their first race as a team.
Overdrive by Ariel Tachna
Now available from Dreamspinner Press
All his life, French racer Daniel Leroux has dreamed of one thing: winning the World Rally Championship. To do that, he needs a co-driver he can trust. If only he could find one….
At the end of a disastrous season, Daniel’s manager replaces his incompetent co-driver with Frank Dufour, a young Canadian whose rally team let him go because he was gay. Daniel’s in heaven, thinking he might find more than just a teammate, but his manager puts the brakes on, declaring Frank firmly off limits. Frank isn’t any more ready to risk his second—and last—chance at making it in the WRC, no matter how attractive he finds Daniel. Sex and cars don’t mix.
Amidst a bitter rivalry with another driver, sabotage attempts, extreme weather conditions, and the stress of racing, Daniel and Frank forge a partnership that defies the odds, but just as things start to heat up between them, a family emergency calls Frank away. Will they find their way back together or will the separation and the spotlight be too much for their fledgling love to survive?
“There’s no fresh snow this morning,” Frank reported as they drove north to Hagfors for the service park and the day’s stages, “so the roads should feel very much like they did yesterday except for the better traction from the racing tires. The trick here is going to be not making mistakes. We don’t have to beat everyone else’s times. We have to stay in the race and place high enough to get points toward the championship.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, “the winter rally almost always goes to one of the Nordic drivers, although Michaels took the stage last night.”
“A two-minute stadium course that was more showboating than anything else,” Frank scoffed. “I know he’s good on gravel, and he’s proven himself on ice in the past, but it isn’t a given that he’ll win. He’s had some pretty spectacular crashes on the ice too. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.”
“Let’s hope we don’t make any this time,” Daniel said.
“We won’t,” Frank replied, his voice confident. “Do you want to go over the pace notes for the first three stages again today, before the regrouping and service park at lunch time?”
“Yes,” Daniel said. “Going through them before the race helped keep things clear in my head for yesterday. Let’s not mess with success.”
They spent the rest of the drive to Hagfors to meet Isabelle and her mechanics, as well as the other drivers and race officials, discussing the stages to come. Isabelle shooed them away from the car the moment the service park time began, the four mechanics going over every inch of the car with as much care as if they hadn’t seen it in ages. Daniel would have made a comment about Isabelle second-guessing herself or not being sure she’d done the job right the first time, but she’d been surprisingly civil last night after the super special stage so Daniel hoped maybe Frank’s conversation with her had helped. He wouldn’t start anything if she didn’t.
Forty minutes later, the race officials called for the drivers to start lining up for the first stage. Daniel strapped in and took his place behind Ryan Michaels’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Daniel would start two minutes after Michaels did, enough that he wouldn’t have to worry about catching up with the American, not at the speeds they’d be driving, unless Michaels had a wreck or technical problems that slowed him down. He’d be happy with not losing time.
Michaels disappeared in a spray of snow, and Daniel drove into position, eyes fixed on the starter. It flashed one minute and started the countdown. He waited, foot hovering over the accelerator as the count continued. As it neared zero, he gunned the engine, foot still hard on the brake. The moment the counter hit zero, he released the brake, Frank’s voice in his ear guiding him through the bends. The car skidded beneath him on the bends, but their practice in the Alps held him in good stead and he managed the bends with enough control not to lose time. He clipped a snow bank on one curve, but it didn’t slow him down by more than a fraction of a second as he manhandled the car back to the race line and around the next bend. He’d have a second chance at that stretch of road this afternoon. Hopefully he wouldn’t make the same mistake a second time, but he’d worry about that during the break for lunch. For now he had to concentrate on the road in front of him, the car beneath his hands, and Frank’s voice talking him through the course.
Eleven minutes and thirty-three seconds after they started, they crossed the flying finish. “How’d we do?” Daniel asked Frank breathlessly as he slowed the car to normal speeds and started the trek to the next starting line.
“We won’t know until lunch, but it felt good,” Frank said, “other than the one snow bank. You ready for the next stage?”
“Bring it on,” Daniel said, flashing Frank a cocky grin as he navigated the narrow country roads, glad of the metal spikes on the tires even at normal speeds.
Michaels was already there ahead of them when they reached the second starting line of the day. They had a few minutes before the start of the next stage, so Daniel got out of the car to stretch a bit, hissing at the cold temperatures.
“Having problems there, Leroux?” Michaels sneered from his car.
“Not me,” Daniel shot back, stretching his back a little.
“Don’t worry,” Michaels added. “You won’t be eating my dust for long.”
“No, you’ll be eating mine,” Daniel retorted, finishing his stretches and returning to the car. “His ass is mine,” he said to Frank as he climbed back in the car.
Frank laughed. “Somehow I don’t think you mean that the way it sounded.”
Daniel scowled at his co-driver. “We can’t let him win the championship. Regardless of how he does during this rally, he’s going down for the season.”
“You bet, boss,” Frank agreed. “Are you set for the next stage?”
“All we need is the green light,” Daniel replied as Michaels’s start time arrived and he sped off down the course. Daniel pulled the car into position and prepared to tackle the third stage.