Victory Lane (Shady Falls #1), page 1
COPYRIGHT © 2015 SHELLY DAVIS
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, this book and any portion thereof may not be reproduced, scanned, transferred, or distributed in any print or electronic form without the express written permission of the author. Participation in any aspect of piracy of copyrighted materials, inclusive of the obtainment of this book through non-retail or other unauthorized means, is in actionable violation of the author’s rights.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, media, brands, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and registered trademark owners of all branded names referenced without TM, SM, or (R) symbols due to formatting constraints, and is not claiming ownership of or collaboration with said trademark brands. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, or events is purely coincidental.
To my husband who believes in me,
even when I don’t believe in myself.
Trigger warning – for the purposes of this novel and to experience the trauma that the female protagonist has suffered, several scenes depict flashbacks to those traumatic experiences. These scenes depict sexual assault, physical violence, and mental abuse and can be very sensitive to some readers. Discretion is advised.
The sun will learn to smile again
The waves will soar and toss
When we have sifted out the mud
From hidden pearls in dross
The wind will whisper soothing words
To all who hear in peace
The raging storm will clear the deck
And then the clouds will cease.
The sand itself will laugh and sing
The trees will up and dance
As joy and peace and love and truth
Are given lasting chance.
Julius – Five years ago
“Anna, we ain’t gonna fight about this shit again, are we?” I growled.
The constant fighting over racing was getting ridiculous. If she wasn’t bitching about the traveling, she was bitching about the races. Arguing seemed to be the only real communication between Anna and me lately. We’d made plans last week for a nice dinner before I left for Bristol. I just called to remind her about dinner, to see if she wanted me to pick her up, but things with Anna could never be that easy. Instead of making plans to meet at the restaurant later, I had to defend my fuckin’ job. Again. It wasn’t just my job and she knew it. Racing was all I ever wanted to do with my life. She had said she was onboard with that.
Resting my head on the steering wheel, the Bluetooth sticking out of my ear, I rubbed my temples to try to push away the pain threatening to explode. I hated this; we always fought about the same damn thing. The traveling, the duties, the signings, everything was fuel for her complaints.
Five years ago, Anna and I moved from our small town in Tennessee to North Carolina so I could race in the truck series. A driver/owner discovered me during a dirt track race when I beat him, edging him out of first place by a nose. So impressed with my driving, he wanted to give me a shot in one of his trucks.
Even though we hadn’t been dating long, Anna was determined to come with me. She swore she’d stand by me and support me. But that didn’t last long. She stopped going to races about six months after the move. Years later, all we seemed to do was fight.
“Jules, you promised you would give up the dirt track racin’ when we came here. What the hell do you expect from me?” she shouted. My Bluetooth vibrated in my ear, making my eardrum feel like it was going to burst. Anger boiled up in me with every word she spoke. She was supposed to believe in me, but she didn’t. She was supposed to support me, but it was becoming painfully obvious she never would.
“I’ve been waitin’ for you to stop for five years now. Don’t you think it’s time? Axel’s never gonna give you a shot at the cup series if you don’t give up this shit. Don’t you want outta the damn trucks and into a racecar?”
“Dammit, Anna. You know this is what I need to do to get my name out there. I need to keep my name fresh in everyone’s minds. The more they see me, the more likely I’ll get a real shot. Don’t you remember where Axel found me? It was a fuckin’ dirt track. Besides, I love it. I only do a couple dirt tracks a season. It’s not like I do it weekly anymore.”
“Whatever, Jules. You’re gonna do what you wanna do and you won’t give a shit about what I want, like always. Obviously you love racin’ more than me. So do whatever the hell you want. But don’t expect me to drop my shit for you.”
“Shit, Anna. What the hell’s your fuckin’ problem? We made plans for tonight. I called to see if you wanted me to pick you up, spend some more time together before I have to leave. Instead, you attack me the moment you answer the goddamned phone. Maybe I shoulda just left and said screw the fuckin’ dinner.” I’d grown so damn weary of her bitching that I didn’t know what to do anymore. She wasn’t the same girl I met in high school; she’d changed so much since then. She used to stand by my side at our hometown track, but now it was rare for her even to come to races. Other girlfriends and wives sit in the pit with the crew and calculate fuel usage or help in other ways. If Anna came to a race, she’d sit in the trailer and not even watch.
I felt in my pocket for the small box. When I bought it a few months ago, I was excited to give it to her. I loved her; I wanted a life with her. I’d waited for what I thought was the perfect time. I was finally going to ask her to marry me. I’d planned this whole thing out and made reservations at her favorite restaurant. But instead of being happy to meet me for dinner, or remembering it takes time to make a name for yourself in this business, she attacked. Anna’s constant verbal onslaught was exhausting. I started to wonder if I actually wanted to marry her.
“Whatever, Jules. I changed my mind. I can’t go to dinner with you tonight. I have shit to do. I’m not at your beck-and-call. I don’t have to drop everything just because you decide to give me some of your precious time.”
“Damn woman. You knew this wasn’t going to be easy for me. You knew race season was gonna be long and hard. It’s not like this is our first season. You act like somethin’s changed in the past five years. It hasn’t. And if I ever do get to race in the cup series, it’s just gonna get worse. It’s gonna take more time and more effort, not less. Then what the hell are you gonna do?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Anna growled. “I’m gonna go. I’m meetin’ some friends for dinner and dancin’. Have a good race, Jules.”
Anna hung up the phone without a goodbye. Without an ‘I love you.’ Without any kind of resolution to our argument. We’d been having the same fight for over the past year or so, but it was getting worse. She was getting more flippant about everything. She was so sure I would suddenly be famous once we moved to Mooresville. I think she was counting on it. But fame wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to race. I was happy on the dirt track and I was happy in the truck. Did I want in a cup series car? Hell yeah I did, but I wasn’t going to beg Axel or anyone else for the shot. If they thought I deserved it, they’d offer it to me. I just had to keep proving myself every week.
Anna wasn’t satisfied. It didn’t take long for her to show me that she was all about the fame. She wanted me to be recognized everywhere we went. She loved to make sure people knew I was a racecar driver. She constantly told people I was famous. She would demand prefere
Frustrated with the entire situation, I picked up my phone and redialed her number. I took the ring from the box and twisted it around in my finger. It was a modest style of average size. I didn’t want to go over the top and get her something big and gaudy; I wanted something to show my love for her. Staring at the ring as the light reflected off the diamond and platinum, realization struck—she wouldn’t be happy with such a simple ring. My simple, down-home country girl seemed to be gone. Anna’s behavior had me wondering if she had ever been real. Sadly, what I’d once been sure about, not so long ago, wasn’t such an easy decision anymore. Suddenly I wasn’t sure if she was whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. The thought of having this same argument twenty years down the road made me ill. The phone continued to ring while I played with the object in my fingers. My worry and confusion grew with each buzzing tone in my ear.
“Hello?” she huffed. The annoyance in her voice was evident. Part of me just wanted to hang up, stop this whole thing. But I’d spent years with this woman. The girl I loved had to be there somewhere.
“Hey, honey. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to get so upset. I just wanted to see you before I had to leave.”
There was nothing but silence on the other end of the line for what seemed like an eternity. She was frustratingly stubborn sometimes, but she’d been by my side for a long time, that deserved loyalty … right? I didn’t know what life would be like without her. I was so used to her being there.
She let out a long breath, sighing into the phone. Anna’s exasperated sigh made me question why I was trying so hard. There was obviously a problem here and the more she acted like this, the more I questioned why I wanted this relationship so badly.
“Its fine, Jules. I just wish you’d think about me sometimes.”
What the fuck does that even mean? That was it. Something in me finally snapped. I wanted to start screaming and yelling at her. I wanted to growl at her, maybe shake her a little to try to get her to see. Think about her? Is she fuckin’ serious? Between Anna, my mother, and my sister, I almost never thought about myself. I had wanted to give Anna everything she’d ever wanted. I wanted to buy my mother the huge house with land and all of the beautiful things she could never have because she raised my sister and me alone. I wanted to help my sister pay off her school loans and help her to find a job. I wanted to bring my mother to North Carolina with my sister and me, and be able to provide for them both. All I ever thought about was other people, and Anna was on the top of the goddamn list.
“Anna, you’re all I ever think about. What the hell’s goin’ on with you?”
“Me?” she shouted. “What’s goin’ on with me? You know what Jules, I’m not havin’ this conversation with you right now. I have friends to meet!”
Breathing in deep, trying to calm myself before I exploded, I waited until I felt composed before responding. When I heard myself speak, I didn’t sound like myself. The words were forced and I couldn’t hide my annoyance with her. “Where’re you goin’ tonight? Maybe I can catch up with y’all for a little while.” It sounded reasonable to me, but judging by her exasperated sigh, Anna didn’t agree.
“No,” she said adamantly, “I’m goin’ out with my friends. I don’t want you hoverin’. Just go to Bristol for your race. I’ll see you next week.” Without another word, she hung up on me a second time.
Hurt, anger, and regret burned through me. There was something different. She wasn’t acting right; she hadn’t been acting right for a long time if I was honest with myself. I would hope if she was truly unhappy in our relationship she would say something or talk to me. Hell, I’d hope she would break up with me if she was so incredibly unhappy. I worried about what she was doing. She was hanging around different people. She was going out drinking and dancing all the time. I didn’t want to tell her she couldn’t or shouldn’t do those things, so I didn’t say a word. I wanted her to enjoy life; I just wanted her to enjoy some of it with me.
Instead of sitting around and waiting for morning when Kyle would be ready to leave, I decided to go out and have a drink. Picking up the phone, I dialed my crew chief.
“Hey, fucker. What’s goin’ on?” Ky answered the phone. He sounded happy. Damn, my crew chief was happier to hear from me than my fuckin’ girlfriend. This shit was beyond fucked up.
“Nothin’. Wanna go for a beer? I’m buyin’.”
“Yeah, you comin’ to get me?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Be there in ten.” I pulled my black C-10 pickup truck out of the driveway and drove toward town. I loved this truck; it was my first real useless purchase after I signed my contract with Turner Racing. Ky and I spent an entire off-season restoring it with the help of our friend Kevin.
Ky was outside when I got to his place. He smiled when he opened the door, but I guess the look in my eyes made his smile drop. “What’s the problem?” he asked when he slid into my truck.
“Anna,” I said, but didn’t elaborate.
“What the hell’s she doin’ now?”
“Same shit, man. Bitchin’ we never spend time together, but every time I try to take her out, she’s got other plans. What the fuck am I supposed to do? I’m no goddamn mind reader.” I looked over at Kyle. Aside from his annoyance with Anna constantly fucking with my head, he had a smile in his eyes. “What the fuck’s gotten into you? You find a new piece of ass?”
His face fell a bit. “No,” he said harshly. He was pissed. “She ain’t no piece of ass, dude. She’s the one.”
What the hell? The one? “You’re shittin’ me, right?”
“No, I’m not. But I have a problem. Her family don’t know about us. But I wanna marry her, man. She’s it for me.”
“So tell her family. Why the hell wouldn’t you tell her family? Who is this chick anyway?” I asked. I knew he’d been seeing some girl, but he never brought her around. I figured she just wasn’t into racing or something, but now I wondered what the problem was if her family didn’t know.
He didn’t meet my eyes, and he seemed to be nervous. A myriad of emotions crossed his face before he spoke again. His usual cheery blue eyes were clouded and nervous. He removed his number fifty-five ball cap and ran his fingers through his disheveled brown hair several times as he spoke.
“Dude, what the hell’s your problem. You’re actin’ weird.”
“We haven’t told her family yet because her brother is my best friend.” After he said it, he looked me dead in the eyes. It took a moment for what he said to filter its way into my brain until it registered. His best friend … Well unless there was another, the best friend would be me. Her brother … I’m her brother? Margie? He’s in love with my sister Margie?
“Margie? You’re in love with Margie? What the fuck, man? When the hell did this happen? I didn’t even know you were seein’ her! Shit, Ky. Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” I knew my words sounded angry, but I felt a smile moving across my face. Ky was my best friend and one hell of a guy. I couldn’t ask for a better man for my sister.
“You’re not pissed?” he asked, obviously noting my smile. “Why the hell’re you smilin’?”
“I am pissed. Why the hell would neither of you tell me? I’m pissed you thought I’d be pissed. Hell, I’m even pissed you hid it from me. But I’m not pissed about you bein’ with my sister. I couldn’t ask for a better man for Margie.” Then something hit me. “Shit, I referred to my sister as a piece of ass. Dammit dude, you coulda fuckin’ told me.”
His face broke out in the biggest smile I’d ever seen on him. “I wanna ask her to marry me, Jules. I wanna ask her this weekend in Bristol. She went to Tennessee to get your momma. The two of them are meetin’ us there.”
“You’re gonna ask my sist
We pulled in front of a local restaurant where we could grab a bite to eat and have a few beers. My mind was all over the place, happy for Ky and Marg but annoyed with Anna.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple practically fucking on the hood of a car in the parking lot. Once upon a time, Anna and I couldn’t keep our hands off each other. We would’ve been just like the couple on the car, unable to wait until we got somewhere private. We were so hot and heavy in the beginning of our relationship. But that was so long ago. I knew it was normal for things to cool down between couples, but lately she never seemed to be in the mood. And keeping our hands off each other was no longer a problem, fucking on a car—we haven’t been that free in years. Sometimes I missed our younger days.
Next to me, Ky stiffened. I looked over at him and his face seemed to have gone ghost white. He was frozen in his seat, staring out the window. I followed his line of sight to the couple on the car and familiarity hit me hard. The car was a brand new silver Mercedes with a rag top, custom rims, and a Tennessee vanity plate. Just like the car I bought Anna last Christmas. The blond had her legs wrapped around the guy’s waist. She had on sky-high heels and her skirt was hiked up to just below her ass. When reality hit me, I was physically ill. The weight of the fucking ring in my pocket now mocked me.