About author, M.K. Ducote: M.K. Ducote grew up in the small town of Davie, Florida. Eager to see more of the world, M.K. studied abroad in Melbourne, Tokyo and Paris as an undergraduate, studying business finance, art history and classics, and interned with Sotheby’s auction house in New York and Melbourne. The eternal scholar, M.K. went on to law school and studied international law and human rights in Cape Town and Lima, graduating with a J.D. from the University of Florida and an LL.M. from the University of Miami.
Having seen the world, M.K. settled down to practice law and met her husband, Chapman Ducote, a professional racecar driver and entrepreneur with over 14 career podiums under his belt.
Tossed into the exciting and scandalous world of motorsports, M.K. was enthralled by the behind-the-scenes drama. M.K. quickly turned to her life-long passion and set pen to paper, plucking from real life the colorful settings and scenes of her fiction series, Naked Paddock.
Each year, M.K. Ducote embraces her passion for travel and writing, accompanying her husband to racing circuits all over the world and gathering inspiration for her high-octane novels. When not on the road, the couple calls home to Miami Beach, Florida.
Describe yourself in five words: Curious, playful, driven, thoughtful, messy.
Have you always liked to write? Yes, it’s in my blood. Since I was five years old, I have written little short stories and have loved escaping into fiction. Every day that I work on Naked Paddock, I’m happy at my desk. It took eight years of school, two law degrees and a thriving law practice for me to realize that nothing else would be able to entertain or sustain me like writing, so I put my legal career on the shelf and dedicated myself to writing full-time.
Who or what inspires you? My initial inspiration to write came from my mom. She’s a great storyteller and when I was very young we used to make up stories to entertain each other. I think it was that foray into imagination that got me hooked on creating my own adventures on paper and bringing my own quirky characters to life. My inspiration to write a racing novel, however, came from my husband. When I first met Chapman, I knew nothing about racing. As I was thrown into the world of motorsports and started traveling to races with him, I was shocked. Fistfights, love affairs, lawsuits—the drama behind-the-scenes in the racing world is crazy! That’s when I realized I had an opportunity at my fingertips to open a new world to readers’ eyes and show them what really goes on behind-the-scenes. I started taking notes and collecting ideas from real life at the track and never looked back.
What made you want to write a book? I’ve written short stories and poetry all my life, but in the past, no single idea captivated my attention for more than a short story. When I began traveling to races and saw the unending glamour and gossip of international motorsports, I knew I’d hit upon an idea and a world of characters that would entice me not only through a novel, but through an entire fiction series.
Walk us through a typical day in your life: Typical Day? Those two words are foreign! On a day-to-day basis, I’m tossed in a lot of different directions. When I’m not traveling on the racing circuit, or filming for TV, or doing some last minute legal work for one of Chapman’s companies, then my days usually start at 9 (begrudgingly!) with a pot of tea for breakfast, and I’ll start writing right away in my pajamas. Around lunch, I’ll go to a café in Miami Beach (like Icebox or Olivers) by myself to eat and write a little more. In the afternoon, I’ll do some type of exercise—spinning, kickboxing, swimming or yoga, then cook dinner and watch an HBO show with Chapman (or try to sweet-talk him into an episode of Downton Abbey!). After that, it’s back to the book. My creativity seems to come alive between midnight and 3am. I love writing late at night when the world is sleeping. That’s definitely when I get my best work done.
What was the writing/editing/publishing process like for you? I loved every minute of the writing process and it came very easily—what is writer’s block anyway? The editing process, on the other hand, was tortuous. I had two different editors, and it was a lot of push and pull to make everyone happy. As for the publishing process, it was a bit confusing in the beginning and took so much time, effort and research, that I ended up forming my own publishing company, so in the future I can help other authors through the process now that my feet are wet.
How did you come up with the title of your book? Some people are initially confused by the title Naked Paddock because they associated the word “Paddock” with horses. In car racing, the Paddock is the area of the racetrack where the drivers hang out and where most of the drama takes place. I went through a series of working titles, but in the end I wanted to introduce a racing term right from the start and when we first hit upon Naked Paddock, Chapman and I looked at each other and knew we’d found it.
Where is your favorite writing location? My favorite place to write is at whatever trackside hotel we happen to be staying at while Chapman practices with his team for the next race. For each Grand Prix, there are at least two or three days of practice and since his attention is completely absorbed with preparation, I get large blocks of free time to write. With racecars roaring around the track rattling the hotel walls and constant drama unfolding in the Paddock, I couldn’t ask for a better place to write!
What are you reading? I’m always reading five or six books at a time. I devour everything from ancient Greek Tragedies and Ovid to classics by Tolstoy, Chekov, Austen, Fitzgerald and Hemingway to contemporary fiction like Gone Girl and Savages. I just finished re-reading Gone With the Wind, and lately, I’ve been reading everything I can find about great historical women, like Jackie Kennedy and Wallis Simpson.
If “Naked Paddock” were turned into a movie who would you want to play the parts? Actually, I think it would be quite cool to have real drivers in the parts. On the whole, professional racecar drivers are young, confident, sexy and used to constant media attention. So, Hollywood might be an easy step for them! Patrick Dempsey is a professional driver that we bump into at all the races. He really seems to love and understand the sub-culture of racing, so he would be great to have onboard.
What is it like to be married to a racecar driver? It definitely keeps things interesting! It’s a lot of travel and suitcase living, which thankfully I love. Of course, when Chapman’s behind the wheel it’s nerve-wracking, but I delude myself into thinking that advances in safety equipment make the sport fairly safe. To be a racecar driver, you need to have a screw loose, and in general, drivers are a pretty passionate and eccentric lot, but they are also entertaining and exciting, which to me is worth the tradeoff!
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? Chapman and I have some exciting plans in the works for more reality TV and guest appearances in the near future, and we are organizing a book tour. I’m also working on the second novel in the Naked Paddock series (and loving every minute!), and Chapman is mid-season, so we’re traveling to all of his races and gathering more plot lines and drama for Books 2 and 3!
**Contact M.K. Ducote:
“Naked Paddock” by M.K. Ducote
PALM BEACH, FLORIDA
The Ferrari FXX lurched into sixth and for a split-second Palm Beach International Raceway was silent in the morning light. Then the gears of the 6.3-liter V12 bit and the Italian engine roared with violence down the straightaway toward Turn 10. The sky was robin’s egg blue and the only constant. Everything else blurred past the slim windows, stretched by speed.
“Ready for a real ride?” Coleton asked, checking on his passenger from the corner of his eye.
The man’s lips were pulled back into a grimace, and a drop of sweat had splattered the inside of his visor, but his dark eyes glimmered. Coleton piloted through the double apex corner, then slapped the transmission paddle into fourth with more force than necessary.
“Let’s give the nanny a break, shall we?”
Coleton leaned into the Momo five-point harness and switched the Manettino system to Race. To the untrained eye, nothing had changed, but Coleton felt the smallest shudder through the wheel. Ahhhh…Pure Driving Experience.
With a flick of the wrist he had disabled the ABS system, which prevents wheel lock under heavy braking, and various other safety measures and driver aids, relying on nothing but his own skill and confidence to keep the machine under control. Coleton coaxed the FXX even faster, opening her up and letting her run reckless like a thoroughbred on its first hot lap.
The rev limiter danced dangerously at 8000 rpms. His car was the only rig racing at PBIR that Thursday, but Coleton protected his line and pushed through the corners like he was fighting for the Championship at Atlanta with one lap left.
Like all racecar drivers, Coleton detested the “nanny” systems installed on today’s supercars. These “electronic safety nets” are designed to safeguard normal drivers from the power of Formula 1 technology and protect against liability suits. Professional drivers, however, hate any dilution of complete control and are generally faster without them. Coleton was here to drive the FXX—not babysit the thing.
After one more hot lap around the 2.25-mile circuit, Coleton peeled off into pit lane and pressed his thumb on the Limiter button. The car instantly fell to 60 kph. The sound of the engine dropped to a low, chugging growl. The men could breathe more easily, and peripheral objects slid back into view, sharp and clear.
“See this button?” Coleton asked. The passenger nodded. “This button drops the gas to the engine and slows us down to the Pit Speed Limit. In a race, you get a penalty if you come into the pits too quickly.”
The passenger nodded again, but Coleton doubted he was processing any information yet. His eyes were glazed, and his brain was still a swamp of adrenaline.
The instant the Ferrari FXX halted in the pits, people swarmed around it. Beyond the low pit wall, two models with identical blonde hair that fell to their waists jumped up and down in tiny leaps, clapping their hands with glee. One slid a diamond-studded iPhone from the back pocket of her cut-offs and took a picture of the car.
Coleton pulled his door handle, and the gull-wing door folded upward. He popped his five-point harness and ducked under the shoulder strap. At six feet, he was tall for a racing driver. His shoulders were strong and wide and tapered down to a narrow waist. Coleton was naturally athletic and built for speed like an Olympic sprinter, whereas most other endurance drivers looked like marathoners. When he worked out he had to be careful not to bulk up so he could fit in the cockpit. He swung his legs over the wide doorsill and hopped into the sunlight.
The passenger wasn’t having such an easy time. He struggled to untangle the harness until Nicolas “Nico” Costa came over to help him. Once free of the belts, he stuck both legs out the door, but the doorsill was too wide for his feet to reach the ground. The fat man wiggled them up and down as he waited to be extricated. Nico motioned to one of his dealership employees, and it took both of them, working together, to hoist him out like a cadaver—feet first.
Nico owned Ferrari Fort Lauderdale, one of the largest Ferrari dealerships in the country. Sometimes he gained access to rare Ferrari supercars, but seldom could he convince even the richest buyer to cough up over a million dollars for candy they hadn’t tasted. So, a few times a year he rented out PBIR for the day, and brought in a professional to give the buyer a bat-out-of-hell ride and a glimpse of what he could own. It was great PR, but he needed a good driver to prove the product.
Nico and Coleton had been friends for years, since before Nico ever dreamed of owning a dealership, when he was a senior studying business at the University of Miami during the week and playing on Miami Beach on the weekend. Nico’s father, a Greek shipping magnate, agreed to bankroll the dealership, partly in hopes of making a businessman of his middle son, and partly as a way to guarantee himself access to the world’s most exotic cars. For certain limited production supercars it doesn’t matter how much money you put on the table; it’s connections that secure the keys.
When the sparkle of this sale first surfaced, Nico knew Coleton was the driver for the job. Ferrari agreed to fly in one FXX from Italy for a single track day. Nico didn’t have much time to close the deal.
Coleton unzipped the top of his racing suit to let in some air, and pushed his sweaty dark hair back off his brow. His face was classically handsome, and he knew it: high forehead, straight nose, full lips. His emerald eyes were startling at first glance, not hazel, but full-fledged green.
“Water?” Nico asked.
In the distance, Coleton heard a low muted rumble. “Is that thunder?” he asked, turning. A few dark clouds had begun to gather in the east.
“Welcome to South Florida,” Nico said. “Where storms roll in quick, and the money rolls in quicker.”
“You’re such a cheese ball,” Coleton laughed.
Nico wiped sweat from his brow. His face was full and soft, with deep-set eyes. He wore his unruly hair thick and parted in the middle. The collars of his polo shirts were always popped upward, and he was rarely seen without a sweater draped around his shoulders—even on sweltering days like this one.
Coleton squinted at the bottle in his hand. “Do I look like a spring water kind of guy?” He tossed it back to Nico.
“What’s wrong with spring water?”
“Nothing, if you don’t mind drinking water animals have been pissing in for the past hundred years.”
Coleton walked over to the bag that carried his racing gear and searched around in the bottom. He pulled out a bottle of Essentia.
“What’s the difference?”
“That’s like asking what’s the difference between a taxi cab and my 1100 horsepower racing machine. Essentia water is purified by reverse osmosis, infused with electrolytes, alkalinized to 9.5pH and restructured using Ionic Separation Technology.”
“Do you have any idea how anal retentive you are?”
“I’m a professional athlete.” Coleton smiled his perfect print-ad smile, tilted back his head and took a long sip.
“I mean, the fact that you carry all that information around in your brain. It’s disturbing.”
“It’s probably why my body looks like a temple, and yours, well, could use a little work.” Coleton poked Nico in the stomach.
Panting, the buyer waddled up to them, still trying to connect the two sides of the built-in belt on his new Ferrari race suit, but they were too short to meet over his protruding belly. The models trailed behind him, their legs impossibly long, like stilted circus performers.
“That was amazing. Really amazing. We went fast!” he said, eyes gleaming. He had shaggy black hair, olive skin and the soft look of a man unaccustomed to manual labor.
“That wasn’t fast,” Coleton said distractedly, as he and Nico stared past him at the models. They were giggling and whispering in each other’s ears.
“I think now I try,” the buyer said, stroking his cropped black mustache.
“Oh, that wouldn’t be possible,” Coleton said. “There’s no—” Nico grabbed Coleton by the shoulder before he could say another word.
“Come here,” he hissed. He pulled Coleton into the catering tent. Behind them, one of the models tugged on the tab of the buyer’s collar, while the other pinched his wide nose playfully.
“Look, Al-Aziz is Saudi money, okay? Stupid money. He’s a prince for Chrissakes. If he likes this car he’s going to order two more for his cousins. He owns—”
“Aren’t there only 29 of these in the world?” Coleton interrupted. He tipped his head back for another sip of water.
“How did you manage to get your hands on three?”
“I didn’t. Not yet. But, I will. I had to put my ass on the line to get this one flown over. Tonight it gets sent back to Maranello. If we don’t make this happen now, I’m jeopardizing my whole relationship with Ferrari.”
“It’s getting late in the day,” Coleton said, lifting his eyes to the darkening cumulus clouds. “That storm’s really moving in.”
“Al-Aziz just bought an indoor racetrack in Dubai, modeled after the Monte Carlo Formula 1 track,” Nico continued. “An indoor racetrack, man! The power of this car is intoxicating. Four laps behind the wheel and he’ll be sold.”
Coleton shook his head and moved to a folding table where he had left his helmet bag. “You’re out of your mind if you think I’m getting in a car with that yokel at the wheel.”
Unzipping a side compartment, Coleton pulled out his BlackBerry. He quickly checked his text messages. Nothing earthshattering. Then, opened his voicemails. One new message from a number he didn’t recognize.
“Listen to me—” Nico began. Coleton raised his index finger, then held the phone to his ear and played the message.
“Hi Coleton?” a female voice asked. She sounded both perky and nervous, as if she had consumed a pot of coffee before breakfast. “This is Candice. From last night. Your housekeeper let me out. I had a great time. We should do it again. I realized I never gave you my number. It’s 305—”
Coleton hit the delete button and dropped his phone back into his helmet bag. He turned to Nico and raised his dark eyebrows in a make-it-quick look.
“Al-Aziz will take it slow,” Nico said. “I know that he—”
Coleton cut him off. “Forget it. I’m not risking a shunt in the off season for some rich asshole.” Coleton’s green eyes glimmered. “Not even for a ‘prince.’” Coleton made air quotes around the word. He picked up his helmet to pack it away. Nico glared at him.
“Listen—Al-Aziz used to drive Rally cars somewhere in the Middle East. He knows something about driving. It’ll be fine.” Nico grabbed the helmet from Coleton’s hand and shook it at him for emphasis. “Just get in the car!”
“Just because he drove a Jeep in the desert doesn’t mean he can drive one of the fastest cars on the planet. You want your sale?” Coleton asked. “Then you take him!”
“You know I can’t take him. You can tell him what to do, how to take the corners, everything. He’ll listen. Besides, he wants to drive with you. His son has a poster of you on his bedroom wall.”
“Not going to happen,” Coleton said. His voice was quiet, but he looked Nico right in the eye. “To that guy, this is all just a video game.” Coleton motioned at the fire red Ferrari and the racetrack beyond. “Just a lap in Forza 4.”
Then, Nico brightened with an idea. “I’ll cut you in on the sale.”
That was the magic incantation, and they both knew it.
“No,” Coleton said, grabbing his helmet back. “You’ll cut me in on all three sales.”
A wide white smile lit up Coleton’s face. The kind of smile that gets what it wants.
“Ten percent,” Nico offered.
“Twenty,” Coleton said.
“Fifteen and no more.”
“Where do you own ‘em?”
“One point seven each,” Nico said through a smile, then bobbed his head. “And, he’s paying two.”
“Two million for a car that isn’t even street legal?” Coleton whistled. He did some quick calculations in his head. He wasn’t a math genius, but when it came to money Coleton could be quick on his feet.
“Four laps. That’s it. For a hundred and thirty-five grand I’ll eat a little shit,” Coleton snickered as he pulled on his fireproof balaclava, then his helmet. Coleton loved when things fell in his lap.
ou must get some serious ass,” said Al-Aziz, turning to Coleton. “Come on, you can tell me.”
With three laps under their belt, Coleton began to relax. One Hundred and Thirty-Five Grand. For each corner, he had showed Al-Aziz brake markers long before the ones he used, and Al-Aziz had done well.
“Eyes on the road, Your Highness,” Coleton instructed. “Into Turn 4, stay far to the right, then turn in for a late apex and clip the curb. See that red and while curbing?” Al-Aziz nodded.
Al-Aziz had really picked up his pace on the last lap, and Coleton was surprised by his creeping boldness. Maybe he was more experienced than Coleton gave him credit for and was finally settling in.
“Good,” Coleton said, as they coasted through the corner. “Now make the right-hander through Turn 5. Go ahead and shift up to third.”
“Too slow.” Al-Aziz giggled. He paused at third before pushing the car into fourth, and the engine wailed an octave higher. Turn 5 came fast, but Al-Aziz managed the speed through as the RPMs dropped. He picked it back up, accelerating down the short straight. The speedometer waved to 80.
“Take third,” Coleton instructed. He shifted his weight uneasily.
Al-Aziz pretended not to hear. Then mid-corner, he realized Coleton was right. He shifted down to third quickly, but the car still squirmed beneath them.
“Turn 7 is tricky,” Coleton warned, his voice rising. Al-Aziz snuck back to fourth. “Slow down,” Coleton ordered, as the car launched over an undulation in the pavement.
“I only go one way and that’s up!” Al-Aziz shouted. The rear of the car skidded sideways, but Al-Aziz juggled the steering wheel and made it through the left right complex. His eyes were wide and bulging, as he pushed into the sweeping right-hander of Turn 8.
“Easy!” Coleton yelled. They narrowly missed fishtailing into the wall at the exit of Turn 8.
Coleton watched the tachometer wave into the red. Al-Aziz shifted to fifth, redlined, then sixth. They roared down the longest straight: 120, 130, 140, the fastest speed of his session.
“Okay, you got your speed. Shift back to fifth, fourth, slow down,” Coleton demanded. A drop of rain splattered the windshield. 150, 160. “Slow down, now!” Al-Aziz would need to brake earlier and softer because of the changing weather conditions.
Suddenly it struck Coleton. This asshole wanted to hit 180. Probably all day he’d held it in his mind, the roundness of it, like a hot babe. A mile every 20 seconds. Now the pitch of the roaring engine swept higher. 160, 170. This was Al-Aziz’s last chance to see the needle sweep across the dial to his target. He was going for it, and there was no way for Coleton to stop him. 175…
“Brake, now!” Coleton screamed over the shrieking engine. On instinct his foot shot out and hit the foot well where the brake would have been, if he had been driving. They were coming in too hot. Way too hot for the wet conditions.
All professional racecar drivers have crashed, big. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. Coleton’s crashes fell under many categories: embarrassing, stupid, dangerous, asshole-puckering, and then there was that one crash two years ago—life threatening. Like his peers, Coleton could recall every intimate detail of each crash sequence. Even years later, he could describe a two-second crash with intense clarity: what he saw, heard, smelled. He was about to add another slow motion video to his mental library.
Al-Aziz nailed the brakes, and Coleton felt the wheels lock instantly. Recognition dawned. Without even a glance at the F1 style switches, Coleton knew what was happening, frame by frame. He had forgotten to switch the Manettino off its Race setting, and the anti-lock braking system was disengaged.
When the wheels of a car lock under heavy braking, professional drivers do the opposite of what human nature dictates: they release them gently, and can vaguely feel through the pedal the level of adhesion available to the tire. They keep just enough pressure on the pedal to extract every iota of tire adhesion before the tires lock and a slide begins. No more. No less.
An amateur, on the hand, hits the brakes as hard as possible, aggressively trying to stop. Once the car starts to slide, an amateur never unlocks the wheels, which would allow the tire to rotate and use its adhesion capabilities to slow the car. The first mistake induces fear, which brings on panic and then the whole cataclysmic effect takes hold. Control is lost. Physics takes charge.
Al-Aziz’s leg locked into place on the brake, as if trying to thrust the pedal through the floor. His brown knuckles went white, clenching the wheel. The huge Brembo brake calipers clamped like sharks teeth on the ceramic rotors, the wheels locked, the Ferrari slid.
Coleton knew they were going into the wall at the end of the straight. He also knew once they slid off the track the wet grass would accelerate their momentum. Physics. The 2,600 lb Ferrari flew off the asphalt and through the Michelin trackside banner like a bobsled on an Olympic run.
“Release the brakes and pitch the car!” Coleton yelled. “Turn the wheel!”
By throwing the car sideways at the last instant, a pro driver can enhance the deceleration and change the trajectory to a side impact. The broader surface area of a side impact dissipates more energy and reduces the severity of a crash.
Al-Aziz remained frozen, unable to process the order. His eyes stared straight ahead. Out the windshield, Coleton saw the Armco barrier approach, frame by frame.
“Fuck me,” Coleton hissed.
Coleton spent most of his time in lightweight prototypes that slowed more quickly even when out of control and off of the racing surface. He had forgotten how much weight becomes the enemy in racing. The Ferrari was like a red missile careening into the wall.
The markings of prior visitors came into focus. Rubber marks, green paint, yellow paint, missing chunks of concrete the size of a fist. Maybe the others walked away unscathed, Coleton thought briefly. Maybe.
The wall grew larger. Click. Click. Click. His memory registered every frame.
“Hands off the wheel!” Coleton screamed the instant before impact, yet another counterintuitive step a pro driver takes a millisecond before going in hard to prevent a matched set of broken arms.
Al-Aziz released the wheel, as if electrified, all ten fingers extended in the air.
The initial crunch was surreal in its gentleness, as the bumper disintegrated. The front-mounted radiators exploded. The hood flew off as the Ferrari continued to compress into the Armco. Like taking a stack of crackers and bashing them with your fist on the counter, the bits and pieces disintegrated while debris shot outward: pieces of glass, shards of carbon fiber, bent aluminum from the chassis.
Coleton heard that familiar initial crunch, smelt the steam from the burst radiators. He could feel the mounting points rip out of the carbon fiber monocoque chassis. Then…
Coleton felt the jolt and knew exactly what it meant. The expendable front of the car had been destroyed, its parts dissipating energy as the car slammed forward with huge kinetic force. Then came the last stand, Ferrari’s Alamo, the safety tub: the thick carbon fiber structural element designed to stop the accordion effect of a frontal crash. The fist obliterating the crackers suddenly met the granite countertop. After thousands of engineering hours, the tub did what it was supposed to do.
The Ferrari stopped dead. The sudden stop with his right foot deep in the foot well shot fiery pain through Coleton’s leg. There was a hiss of steam as hot fluids dripped into the wet grass. Then silence. Complete silence. Just the faint sound of a few raindrops splattering the wad of carbon fiber and steel that used to be a state-of-the-art Ferrari. Super toy for the super rich.
“You alright?” Coleton yelled, grimacing. The engine had cut out and his words came out louder than he expected.
Al-Aziz grunted and let out a string of words Coleton didn’t understand.
“Yes or no?”
“Yeah…I think so,” Al-Aziz said, his voice groggy.
“You’re lucky,” Coleton said, as he pulled his harness release. “Somebody would’ve been wiping your ass for the next two months.”
Coleton pulled the door handle but it stuck. He forced the wing-like door upward, and swung his legs over the doorsill. Electric pain shot up his right leg. Using his triceps he hoisted himself onto the doorsill. Then, he braced himself against the car and stood up on his left leg. He took a breath and tested the sole of his right foot on the ground like a lame horse. Pain exploded up his calf and the metallic taste he’d met more than a few times flooded his mouth. He lifted his foot off the ground, suddenly queasy, and knew. It’s broken.
Coleton ducked his head to see Al-Aziz fiddling with his harness. He was in shock, but he appeared to be fine. Let the paramedics pull the fat bastard out.
Although carbon fiber shards littered the track, there was no fire risk. Coleton hopped away from the wreck, right leg cocked at a right angle, and sat on a stack of tires that made up part of the crash barrier. He felt his temperature rising with the pain, the first prickle of sweat, as a few drops of cold rain needled his scalp.
Nico tumbled out of the pit truck, his legs moving before they hit the ground. He looked at Al-Aziz still buckled in the driver’s seat, but ran straight to Coleton. Coleton pointed to his right leg and shook his head.
“Is it broken?”
“Pretty much.” Coleton shrugged.
“Maybe it’s just a sprain. Let’s get you to the hospital.”
“It’s not my first rodeo, Nico.” Coleton looked him in the eye.
Coleton lay in the bed of the pit truck and they rumbled down the track toward the pits. He watched the paramedics struggle with Al-Aziz, pulling him from the driver’s seat headfirst. Coleton squeezed his eyes shut and cut the scene from view. Fat Bastard.
The truck shuddered to a stop on pit lane.
“Bring my car around,” Coleton demanded, as Nico appeared at the tailgate.
“There’s another ambulance on the way,” Nico offered. “It should be here any minute. They’ll check your leg out and take you to the hospital.”
“It’s broken. I told you. The paramedics aren’t going to fix it. My keys are in my helmet bag. I’m not leaving my car here.”
Nico recognized Coleton’s tone of voice and knew there was no use digging his heels in. Nico pulled Coleton’s silver Ferrari F12 streetcar next to the truck, hopped out and opened the passenger door for him.
“What are you doing?” Coleton asked, still sitting on the tailgate of the truck. Nico looked at him blankly. “You think I’m letting you drive? I’m driving.”
“Your leg is broken,” Nico scoffed.
“You think I don’t know that?”
Using Nico’s shoulder as a crutch, Coleton hopped to the car and lowered himself in. His leg was throbbing. He needed ice. But there, behind the wheel and in control, he immediately felt better. Nico got in the passenger seat and shrugged at his dealership employees as they stared open mouthed.
The F12 had a paddle shifter rather than a traditional gated Ferrari shifter with a separate clutch, so Coleton could drive it even with one leg. He had always complained that with paddles the F12 didn’t stay true to the Ferrari tradition. Coleton was a purist in some respects and enjoyed heel-toe shifting. Then, why would he buy an F12, which only comes with paddles? Coleton’s quick retort was always, “Because, it’s the best.”
They bumped along the road through the gates of PBIR. The rear tires of the F12 spun out, spitting gravel as they fishtailed onto Beeline Highway and sped past the Pratt and Whitney factory.
Coleton had always loved lines. Lines like that black delineation between playing it safe and turning your lights out. Riding those lines is always dangerous, and Coleton knew it. But, he also knew exactly where they lay and he loved playing with them. He loved taking a car just to the edge of out-of-control and keeping it there. So, driving at 98 mph on a public road with his left foot, while his right foot lay broken on the plush prancing horse floor mat wasn’t even close to the edge. That was business as usual.
Twenty-two minutes later, they arrived at Good Samaritan hospital in West Palm Beach. Coleton pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance and revved the engine. It roared under the covered entranceway. The sliding glass doors opened and an attendant stuck his head out. He let out a long, low whistle at the car.
“We need a wheelchair, please,” Nico called. The man nodded his head and disappeared. Returning with one, he wheeled it out the doors toward Nico in the passenger seat.
“Not for me, for him.” Nico nodded at Coleton. The man looked confused, but wheeled the chair around to the driver’s side. Coleton smiled at the man’s disbelief, as Nico pulled him up out of the seat and into the wheelchair.
Nico wheeled Coleton through the sliding doors into the cold, sterile entrance. Everyone in the waiting room stared, not expecting to see a man in a full, Ferrari-red racing suit on a random Thursday afternoon.
“Name, please,” said a woman behind the desk, looking over her glasses.
“This is Coleton Loren,” Nico said.
“Oh, are you a race car driver?” She stood up to get a better look.
“What gave you that idea, sweetheart?” Coleton asked, giving her a good-natured wink.
The woman rolled her eyes, but a smile tugged at her lips. “Have a seat. And fill out these forms.” She passed a clipboard through the slim opening in the glass to Nico.
Coleton’s phone rang. He pulled his BlackBerry out of the jumpsuit hip pocket, and saw the name Ira Goldstein on the screen. Coleton stared in disbelief. Already? Unbelievable!
“What?” Coleton answered.
“Are you kidding me?” Ira asked. “You broke your leg?”
“How the hell do you know that already?”
“I’ve got ears,” Ira said smugly. “You break your leg and your agent has to hear about it from someone else?”
“Calm down, asshole. It only happened half an hour ago. Hey, I gotta go. They’re ready for me,” Coleton lied.
“Where are you?”
“I’m coming over.”
“Like hell you are. You have a plane to catch. And, Ira?”
“Try not to piss off Arthur Elrod. I want to race for Elrod Racing next year, and with the $10 million we have in sponsorship from Miller Sunglasses it should be a lay-up deal.”
“Piece of cake. I’ll be back Sunday and we can meet at the Breakers for brunch to celebrate.”
“Why is everything with you about food?” Coleton asked with a smirk. “Fine. But, if you screw up the meeting tomorrow, Ira, so help me God, you may as well stay in New York.” Coleton didn’t wait for a response or a parting farewell before he hung up. He dropped his phone back to his lap. “Great. The word’s out about my leg.”
“Maybe Ira’ll keep it quiet,” Nico said.
“Are we talking about the same guy? The last time Ira stopped talking was in 1983 when he got his tonsils out,” Coleton said, but Nico had already checked out of the conversation and was reading emails on his phone.
Coleton massaged his thigh muscle. The pain was creeping upward.
“Make yourself useful, will ya? Get me something to read.”
Nico continued to stare at his phone. He finished his sentence, then looked up. “What’s that?”
“Get me a magazine.”
Nico strolled over to the wall, perused the clear plastic rack and returned with a tattered magazine.
“Really?” Coleton asked. “Good Housekeeping?”
“It’s all they’ve got,” Nico laughed.
“Sure,” Coleton said, but flipped through it. He needed something to divert him from the pain.
“Coleton Loren?” called a nurse with curly, dirty-blonde hair and navy scrubs.
“It’s pronounced LO-ren, not Lauren. It’s French,” Coleton said.
She looked down at her clipboard and adjusted her glasses. They were attached to a thin silver chain that looped her neck, and the movement sent the chains swinging.
“Whatever you say, Hero.”
After Coleton convinced the nurse, whose name he’d learned was Margaret, that his leg was broken, she wheeled him straight to Radiology for X-rays. She then took him to an exam room and checked his temperature, pulse and blood pressure. When she began to pull up the leg of his racing suit, Coleton winced in pain.
“Okay, then. We’ll do it the hard way.”
Margaret unwrapped a pair of surgical scissors from a metal tray and set them to the edge of his pant leg.
“Are you crazy?” Coleton demanded, pulling his leg out of her hand and flinching again. “This is a five thousand dollar racing suit!”
“Fine,” she said curtly. “Put this on however you want.” She handed him a thin gown with small blue hearts scattered across the fabric. She picked up his chart and made a few notes.
Coleton unzipped the front of his suit and pulled it off his shoulders and down to his waist, exposing the fireproof Nomex long underwear underneath.
“Fair warning, Marge,” he said, as he pulled the long-sleeved Nomex shirt over his head and exposed a muscled torso. “I’m not wearing underwear.”
Coleton started to push the suit down past his waist. With a shake of her head, Margaret dropped his chart in a clear plastic box on the wall and left the room, but not without one last stolen glance.
Coleton managed to get the suit entirely off, except for the right pant leg. He was having a hard time pulling the suit over his toes without igniting fire in his ankle.
The door swung open, and Coleton froze. A beautiful woman in her mid-20s with long, straight blonde hair walked into the room, studying a clipboard. She didn’t look up as she shut the door. She was wearing purple scrubs under a long white lab coat.
“Okay, Mr. Loren. How are we doing today?” she asked, looking up.
“I’m naked,” said Coleton. “How are you?”
“Whoops,” she said, laughing. She held up the clipboard to cover her eyes. “I’ll give you some privacy while you work that out.”
“No, wait…help me.”
She lowered the clipboard to her nose. Her eyes were large and bright blue.
“Can you just pull this pant leg off, please?” Coleton asked.
She grabbed the gown from the tray next to him, shook it open and handed it to him. Coleton leaned back on his elbows, extending his leg into the air. She gently pulled the suit over his foot, then turned her back while he finished putting on the gown.
“Okay, done,” he said. She turned around.
“Right. I’m Dr. Harlow.” She held out her hand.
“Sorry if I startled you,” he said.
“It was nothing.”
“Nothing?” he asked. He was still holding her hand. “I think I’ve just been insulted.”
She pulled her hand away.
“Are you sure you’re a doctor? You’re too hot.”
“I’m a Resident,” she told him. “How about you? First time driving?”
“How tall are you?” he demanded.
“Why don’t you let me do the physical?”
“It’s just a question.”
“I’m 5’11,” she said. “Please lie back.”
“That’s a great height.”
“Let’s see, did the nurse check for HPI?” she asked, more to herself than to him, as she flipped through his chart.
“Oh God, I hope I don’t have that.”
“It means History of Present Illness,” she said, trying to hide her smile. “Have you broken bones before?”
“I’ve broken everything except my femurs,” Coleton said proudly. “Arms. Toes. Fingers. Ankles. Almost every rib, compressed some vertebrae, you name it. I even fractured my skull once.”
“There’s an achievement,” Camilla said. She sat on a rolling stool, slid in front of a computer and entered some notes in the PATS software. Her fingers clicked on the keys. “Could explain a lot.”
“Occupational hazard,” he said.
“You’re a racecar driver?” she asked, nodding at the suit that lay in a heap on the floor. “Were you in a race today?”
“No. I mean, yes, I’m a racecar driver, but the season doesn’t start until March.”
“So, you drive in circles really fast, risk your life and end up in the same place you started?” she asked, turning her head to blink at him.
“It looks more glamorous on TV.”
“If you say so,” Camilla said, standing. She bent over his leg. “Let’s take a look.”
“It’s the other leg,” said Coleton.
She startled, then glanced at his chart.
“Ha, made you look,” he said, grinning.
She shook her head slightly and rolled her eyes. “I bet that works every night at the Holiday Inn bar.”
“You wouldn’t believe.”
Coleton’s leg was swollen and his ankle was turning purple, but no bones had broken the skin.
“Is the pain radiating?”
“Of course. It’s broken,” he said with authority. She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head.
“Let’s see if your X-rays are in the system yet.” Dr. Harlow went to the computer, clicked on a tab and an X-ray of Coleton’s leg appeared on the screen. She leaned in to study it, then angled it toward Coleton.
“Your tibia is broken in two places. See here?” She pointed to two thin lines on the X-ray that Coleton could barely see. “But, they’re only hairline fractures.”
“Motherf—!” Coleton started, but reined himself in, his voice dropping off. “How long will they take to heal?”
“They aren’t too messy. I’d say you’ll be weight-bearing in two months. But, I’ll have the orthopedist come downstairs and take a second look, since you’re an athlete.”
“I’ll be walking in six weeks.”
“Excuse me?” she said. “You’ll walk when we say it’s safe. Until then, I hope you have a comfy chair.”
“Honey, testing starts the end of January. My comfy chair will be the driver’s seat of an 1100 horsepower LMP1 Prototype.” His voice softened. “This is my career. This is what I do.”
She sighed, but humored him. “Testing?”
“Practice laps before the season starts. You ever been to a race? I could get you some passes. After all, you never know when I might need my doctor.”
“First things first.” She made some notes on his chart before placing it back in the plastic box on the wall. “What color do you want your cast?”
“Tell you what. I’ll let you pick the color if you go to dinner with me.”
“Okay, Hotshot. Get the pink,” she said. She extended her hand to Coleton, and he held it a moment longer than necessary. “Someone will be in shortly.” She smiled politely, then left the room.