"The Widow-Maker" was released by Whiskey Creek Press in 2008 and garnered five hearts from Night Owl Reviews, four and a half books from LSR before becoming the subject of a film rights contract with an independent Australian film-maker. The promotional trailer is doing the rounds at the moment to drum up the finance for the full length film.
It is the story of Lexie Douglas returning to her home after an eight-year absence and falling in love with Glen Smallwood, the manager of a motorcycle team competing in the Australian Motorcycle GP at the Phillip Island circuit near her home. When he decides to ride The Widow-Maker, a bike with an experimental rear suspension that has already killed one rider, her reputation as a jinx comes back to haunt her and she can't face watching him race, hiding from everyone. This is an excerpt
It was a tableau. One of those dioramas you see in museums with life-like figures posed to capture a moment in time, every face turned towards her in shock.
"Sorry I'm a bit late." Lexie's voice sounded odd, even to her. "I had to take a bit of a detour getting here." She concentrated on Glenn's face, willing him to understand.
"You're here. That's the main thing."
The distance between them disappeared and she was in his arms, her lips on his, the world banished. Glenn held her, his arms, his lips her only reality. She'd been a fool to believe there was any other way.
The others created a private space around them, moving purposely to complete the race preparations, checking obsessively... and then checking again. As if preparation alone was the only thing that mattered. All too soon they would be sidelined, watching helplessly from the sidelines as the drama played itself out on the track. They understood how vital Lexie's presence was to Glenn and were grateful. It was the first thing Lexie felt when she came back to the world.
'I tried so hard to stay away.' She owed him the truth. "I was afraid I'd beg you to stop and fail you when you needed me most."
The familiar touch of his finger on her lips stilled her words and a slight shake of his head reinforced it, telling her these were things for another time.
She nodded. He was right.
"The team shirt suits you." Glenn's words made no sense. Her mind was too far away. "Green's the color Salvatore raced in."
Lexie looked down at the brilliant green silk, with its sponsor's logos and the gold Bagnelli name across the front. "He told me. Sang your praises and explained everything. Said you'd earned his loyalty more than he'd ever deserved yours."
She watched his face.
He was smiling; a fond remembrance of a friend. "Sounds like him." He looked into her eyes. "Am I forgiven?"
"Only if it's mutual."
"One last thing to do."
Lexie knew what Glenn meant, but his choice of words sent a chill wave of fear down her spine. She fought down a shudder. He didn't need her fears distracting him. "Then, let's get it done." She tried to smile naturally, afraid it would come out as a grimace.
The starting grid was chaotic with people, and nowhere more so than the first few rows, where the major team riders grouped, every bike surrounded by a dozen attendants. Raised umbrellas marked the riders and Lexie was about to follow suit when the touch of Glenn's hand stayed her movement.
"Wait until I'm on the bike," he said. "Your arm will get tired enough then." He'd moved them onto the verge of the track, clear of Angela and the others.
She sensed him consciously drawing strength. From her, from his surrounding and from the deep wellsprings of his soul, he was accumulating courage for the moment the race began. Earlier, she'd viewed the process from outside; now she was part of a moment crazy enough to be just a little glorious!
Her terror was still there, scrabbling at the walls she'd built to keep it out, but she accepted it as the price of loving Glenn. He couldn't step away now and she couldn't abandon him.
The three Japanese walked across from their team rider, ostentatiously to shake Glenn's hand before the race, and she glared at them. It was their paranoia over patents that led him into this situation and their formal politeness fed her fury.
Glenn's hand fell on her arm, turning her to him, and he shook his head. "Bastards," she muttered, and turned away until they bowed one last time and left.
"That was very good." Glenn's words turned her back. "Anyone watching will understand that you are not happy with the prospect of me riding for them. It may even keep the pretence going till after the race."
"I-I..." She stopped, appalled. "I didn't mean that at all."
"I know." His eyes were wicked with amusement as he drew her to him and their lips met.
A horn blared in the distance and the PA announcement of "Five Minutes!" was reinforced with a raised board at the front of the grid. "The Race is Dry!" the PA declared.
Their lips parted and he was smiling at her. "Things to do," he said and led her back to where the Widow-Maker brooded on its temporary stand.
Angela had gone back to Tony, so the two mechanics fussed around Glenn and the bike, obsessively checking and rechecking.
The three minute horn blared its warning, backed by the PA announcement and the changing of the raised board. Time for one last kiss before the helmet went on and turned Glenn remote, separated from her by a purpose she couldn't share.
She held the umbrella up to block out the sun.
The one-minute horn startled her, sending a shudder up her arm so that the umbrella shook uncontrollably.
He started the Widow-Maker's engine and the mechanics rocked it off the portable stand, leaving her nothing to do but shade him from the sun.
Time was rushing by, slipping through her fingers like grains of sand. There was so much to say...so much to do...
The horn blared again. "Thirty seconds. Clear the grid!"
He turned his head, she looked into his eyes for one last moment, then the visor slid into place, and he was just an anonymous figure astride a brutal machine.
She stepped back, furled the umbrella and continued backing until she came up against the fence, her eyes never leaving him.
The Starter's green flag sent the field away of their final warm-up lap and Lexie felt Angela join her. Arms around each other for comfort, they watched the big screen opposite as it followed Glenn's progress. He was a rider of interest and the Media's ghoulish focus never wavered.
"The other riders are giving him space at the corners." Angela's voice was hushed. "That will change when the race begins. No one wants to fall on a warm-up lap."
Lexie couldn't glance away. Every image must be stored against the time when there would be no more-only futile memories.
"He's riding well." Angela seemed compelled to talk, adding her own commentary to that booming from the speakers. "He caught the pack by surprise coming out of Honda Corner. There's a thirty meter gap now."
Lexie swallowed nervously, her mouth dry one second and then filled with bitter saliva. "What will happen next?"
"They'll come back to the grid and the others will pause while the front row riders take their place and the grid will fill backwards. As soon as they're settled, the starter will get them away so their tires don't cool too much. Glenn will be there first, so you and the mechanic will go out to him immediately. The starter will tell you when to clear the grid. Walk, don't run. Come back here and we'll watch them away and then go back to the pit."
Lexie nodded, her attention never leaving the screen opposite.
Ninety seconds had never seemed so long, each one drawn out to breaking point and disappearing into eternity. It was agony.
"Here they come."
Lexie dragged her attention away from the screen and looked to her left. The leading riders were just coming into view at the top of Gardiner Straight.
"Take this." Angela handed her a squeeze bottle with a bent spout. "He might want a drink."
The chill of the liquid had defeated the insulating wrapper and Lexie felt it draining the heat from her hand. Something else was draining the heat from her heart and the strength from her legs. They felt wooden as she moved forward from the fence to meet Glenn.
The Widow-Maker stopped on its mark and his helmeted head turned towards her, only his eyes recognizable behind the visor. She raised the umbrella to shade him and offered the drink bottle. The helmeted head shook a negative, but his eyes concentrated on her face. She thought he smiled. The mechanic drew his attention and the helmet shook another negative before his eyes returned to her. He gave a thumbs-up just as the PA amplified a click and the Starter spoke. "Clear the grid! Clear the Grid!"
Their time had run out. A single glance and the helmet turned away and his body tensed, wiping away everything but the task at hand. She'd been foolish to think that he'd go anything but flat out to win.
Lexie backed two paces and then turned, half running to join Angela at the fence.
A blue light started flashing at the end of the pit lane and the red light above the Starter's Stand went out. The whole circuit held its breath. Lexie whispered something that was half prayer, half farewell. Her pulse thudding in her ears...