He grins, turning me in his arms to face him. I brush my thumb over the curve of his smile, and he bites down playfully on it.
“I like that you worry about me, but you do remember who I am, right? Carrick Ryan, best driver in the world. I’ve got this racing shit down pat, babe. I’m going to do this race, and then we’ll celebrate my win in bed where I’m going to fuck you six ways from Sunday.”
I force a smile. “Only six ways?”
“There’s my girl.” He brushes his lips over mine. “God, I fucking adore you, Andressa.”
And I love you, Carrick.
There’s a knock at the door before I can reply.
“Time.” Ben’s head pops around the door.
“Coming.” Carrick gives me another kiss.
I can taste his pre-ritual race Galaxy chocolate on his tongue, and for some reason, it chokes tears in my throat, bringing that desperation rising in me again.
Curling my fingers into his racing overalls, I press harder to his mouth, needing more from him.
Giving me what I want, his arms come around me, crushing me to his body. He kisses me almost like it’s the first and last time he ever will.
Please come back to me.
Breaking off, panting, his eyes alight with desire. He presses his lips to my forehead, humming the words over my skin, “Fucking adore you, babe.”
Sliding his hand into mine, he grabs his helmet off the side, and we leave his room together, following Ben downstairs to the garage.
Carrick pulls his balaclava and helmet on. He winks at me before pulling the visor down. Then, he climbs in the cockpit. Ben straps him in. The steering wheel is fitted.
He’s ready to go.
His head turns to me just before it’s time for him to pull out for the tire warm-up. He taps two fingers to his helmet, and then he pulls out of the garage and onto the tracks.
And I step back to watch him on the screens.
I’m driving myself insane. I can’t talk to anyone. A few times, Petra and Ben have tried to make conversation with me about the race, but my stare always stays fixed on the screens, my mouth mumbling back one-word responses.
My eyes are dry and sore because I’m so afraid to blink in case I miss something.
I can’t miss a thing.
Carrick’s been driving well…really well. But he hasn’t come in for a tire change yet, and that’s starting to bother me. He’s going to need a change soon. He’s been riding the car hard.
He’s on a straight at the moment, fast approaching a corner. A backmarker is in front of him, and I know Carrick is getting frustrated, wanting to pass. I can see it in the aggressive movement of his car. I don’t need to be on the control desk to know that he’s cursing the other driver to hell. I can hear Owen’s voice from here, telling him to take it easy.
I flick a worried glance in Owen’s direction, but my eyes go straight back to the screens, scanning for the circuit marshal with his blue flag to tell the backmarker to let Carrick pass.
I see the flag come up. Thank God.
They’re almost on the corner when the flag comes up, and I expect the backmarker to slow down, pull back, to let Carrick pass.
But he’s not slowing.
Did he not see the flag?
Then, I see it happen in the split second before it does.
The other driver, in his arrogance, doesn’t slow enough for the turn. His back wheels spin out just as Carrick is cutting past to outbreak him. The backmarker’s rear-end tails out, straight into the path of Carrick’s car. It hits the front, sending Carrick’s car spinning out across the track and slamming into a wall.
The scream gets caught in my throat.
I want to run, go to him, but I’m frozen in place. My eyes are wide with fear, my hands covering my mouth, as I desperately search the screens for a sign that he’s moving in the cockpit. I can see the debris of his car littering the track, and the marshal is scrambling the wall to get to him.
There’s silence all around. Apart from Owen. I can hear his frantic voice, checking for Carrick, asking him to respond that he’s okay.
My heart is beating so hard that it’s painful.
Please be okay, baby. Please.
Then, I see Carrick’s hand move. Yanking off the steering wheel, he throws it out of the car.
He’s okay. Thank God he’s okay.
There’s a collective exhalation of relief.
I’m relieved. Beyond relieved. But still, I can’t breathe.
Why can’t I breathe?
Because he could have died. That crash could have killed him. One wrong hit—that’s all it takes, and he’s dead.
Just like my dad.
“Thank God he’s okay. I was worried there for a second.” Petra is beside me, exhaling her relief, her arm around my waist.
I didn’t even know she was here.
“Hey, you okay?” she asks me.
I blankly stare back at her. I try to move my lips, but nothing’s working as it should. All I can do is nod my mute head.
He could have died. He was lucky this time.
But what about next time?
I move my eyes back to the screen. Carrick’s out of the car now, walking back to the pits. He looks angry. He’ll be mad and frustrated at coming out of the race.
He’s okay. He’s coming back.
But still, I can’t breathe.
Why can’t I breathe?
Because he could be dead right now. Just like your dad. He could have died in that car.
My head starts to spin. My vision blurring. My heart pounding. Blood roaring in my ears. The tips of my fingers tingling.