The Fearless Maverick. Robyn Grady

The Fearless Maverick - Robyn Grady

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set his jaw. Damn right there will be.

      The Jaws of Life arrived. Soon, sure hands were assisting him out and a world of fire-tipped arrows shot through that injured joint. Biting down, Alex edged out of the debris aware of fans’ applause resonating around the park. He let go supporting his right arm long enough to salute to the cheering crowd before sliding into a response unit.

      Minutes later, inside the medical tent and out of his helmet and suit, Alex rested back on a gurney. Morrissey, the team doctor, checked out his shoulder, applied a cold press, then searched for signs of concussion and other injuries. Morrissey was serving up something for the pain and inflammation when team owner, Jerry Squires, strode in.

      The son of a British shipping tycoon, Jerry had lost an eye as a child and was well known for the black patch he wore. He was better known, however, for his staggering wealth and no-nonsense attitude. Today, with his usually neat steel-grey hair mussed, Jerry spoke in gravelled tones to the doctor.

      ‘What’s the worst?’

      ‘He’ll need a complete physical evaluation … X-rays and MRI,’ Morrissey replied, his glasses slipping to the tip of his nose as he scribbled notes on a clipboard. ‘He’s sustained a subluxation to his right shoulder.’

      Jerry sucked air in between his teeth. ‘Second race of the season. At least we still have Anthony.’

      At the mention of his team’s second driver, Alex pushed to sit up. Everyone was jumping the gun! He wasn’t out of the game yet.

      But then the pain in that joint flared and burned like Hades. Breaking into a fresh sweat, he rested back on the elevated pillows and managed to put on his no-problem smile, the one that worked a charm on beautiful women and bristling billionaires.

      ‘Hey, settle down, Jer. You heard the man. It’s not serious. Nothing’s broken.’

      The doctor lowered his clipboard enough for Alex to catch the disapproving angle of his brows. ‘That’s still to be determined.’

      A pulse beat in Jerry’s clean-shaven jaw. ‘I appreciate your glass-half-full attitude, champ, but this is no time for a stiff upper lip.’ Jerry glanced out the window and scowled at the churning weather. ‘We should’ve gone with wets.’

      Alex flinched, and not from physical pain. In hindsight, granted, he should have opted for wet-weather tyres. He’d explained his rationale to the team earlier when other pit crews were changing over. Now he’d reiterate for the man who forked over multiple millions to have him race as lead driver.

      ‘The rain had stopped ten minutes before the race began,’ Alex said, feeling Morrissey’s eagle eye pressing him to button up and rest. ‘The track was drying off. If I could make it through the first few laps—get a dry line happening—I’d be eating up the k’s while everyone else would be stuck in the pits changing back to slicks.’

      Jerry grunted again, unconvinced. ‘You needed extra traction going into that chicane. Simple fact is, you called it wrong.’

      Alex ground his back teeth against a natural urge to argue. He hadn’t called it wrong … but he had made a fatal error. His mind hadn’t been one hundred percent on the job. If it had been, he’d have aced that chicane and the race. Hell, anyone could drive in the dry; handling wet conditions was where a driver’s ability, experience and instinct shone through. And usually where Alex Wolfe excelled. He’d worked bloody hard to get where he was today—at the top—which was a far cry from the position he’d once filled: a delinquent who’d longed to flee that grotesquely elaborate, freakishly unhappy English manor that still sat on the outskirts of Oxfordshire.

      But he’d left those memories behind.

      Or he had until receiving those emails.

      While Jerry, Morrissey and a handful of others conversed out of earshot, Alex mulled over his sister’s message. Annabelle had said Wolfe Manor had been declared a dangerous structure by the council and Jacob had returned to reinstate the house and grounds to their former infamous glory. Images of those centuries-old corridors and chunky dusty furniture came to mind, and Alex swore he could smell the dank and sour bouquet of his father’s favourite drop. The veil between then and now thinned more and he heard his father’s drunken ravings. Felt the slap of that belt on his skin.

      Clamping his eyes shut, Alex shook off the revulsion. As the eldest, Jacob had inherited that mausoleum but, if it’d been left to him, Alex would gladly have bulldozed the lot.

      Still, there’d been some good times as kids growing up. Alex had surrendered to a smile when Annabelle’s email also mentioned that Nathaniel, the youngest of the Wolfe clan—or of the legitimate children, at least—was tying the knot. A talent behind the lens for many years now, Annabelle was to be the official photographer. Alex had followed recent news of his actor brother in the papers … the night Nathaniel had walked out on his stage debut in the West End had caused a terrific stir. Then had come his Best Actor win last month in LA.

      Alex absently rubbed his shoulder.

      Little brother was all grown up, successful and apparently in love. Made him realise how much time had passed. How scattered they all were. He best remembered Nathaniel when he was little more than a skinny kid finding his own form of escape through entertaining his siblings, even at the expense of a backhand or two from the old man.

      Voices filtered in and Alex’s thoughts jumped back. Across the room it seemed Jerry and Morrissey had finished their powwow and were ready to join him again.

      His eyebrows knitted, the doctor removed his glasses. ‘I’ll attempt to reduce that joint now. The sooner it’s intact again, the better. We’re organising transport to Windsor Private for those follow-up tests.’

      ‘And when the tests come back?’ Alex asked.

      ‘There’ll be discussions with specialists to ascertain whether surgery’s needed—’

      Alex’s pulse rate spiked. ‘Whoa. Slow down. Surgery?’

      ‘—or more likely some rest combined with a rehabilitation plan. It’s not the first time this has happened. That shoulder’s going to need some time,’ Morrissey said, tapping his glasses at the air to help make his point. ‘Don’t fool yourself it won’t.’

      ‘So long as I’m back in the cockpit in time to qualify in Malaysia.’

      ‘Next weekend?’ Morrissey headed for his desk. ‘Sorry, but you can forget about that.’

      Ignoring the twist of fresh pain, Alex propped up on his left elbow and forced a wry laugh. ‘I think I’m the best judge of whether I’m fit to drive or not.’

      ‘Like you judged which tyres to kick off the race?’

      Alex slid a look over to Jerry Squires at the same time his neck went hot and a retort burned to break free. But no good would come from indulging his temper when the frustration roiling inside of him should be directed at no one other than himself. No matter which way you sliced it, he’d messed up. Now, like it or not, he needed to knuckle down and play ball … but only for a finite period and largely on his own terms. Because make no mistake—if he had to miss the next race, he’d be in Shanghai for Round Four if it killed him.

      First up he’d need to shake any press off his tail. After such a spectacular crash, questions regarding injuries and how they might impact on his career would be rife. The photographer jackals would be on the prowl, desperate to snap the shot of the season—the Fangio of his time, the great Alex Wolfe, grimacing in pain, his arm useless in a sling. Damned if he’d let the paparazzi depict him as a pitiful invalid.

      Privacy was therefore a priority. Any recuperating would happen at his reclusive Rose Bay residence in Sydney. He’d source a professional who understood and valued the unique code elite athletes lived by. Someone who was exceptional at their work but who might also appreciate a lopsided grin or possibly an invitation to dinner when he was next in town, in exchange for which

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