Home > Throttled (Dirty Air #1)

Throttled (Dirty Air #1)
Author: Lauren Asher






Two Years Earlier

I inhale deeply, welcoming the smell of rubber and engine exhaust before I pull down the visor on my helmet. Gloved hands grip the steering wheel of my Bandini Formula 1 race car, my fingers trembling from the engine’s vibrations while the metal hood rattles. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix crowd bursts with excitement as the crew pulls off my tire warmers. Yesterday’s successful qualifier sets me up in a first-place grid spot, and as long as I don’t fuck it up, the World Championship title will be mine for the taking.

One by one, red lights illuminate above me, shining off the hood’s glossy red paint. Fans silently wait. Lights shut off to signal the start of the Grand Prix. I press against the throttle, and my car rushes down the straight road before I pull up to the first turn. Tires skid across the pavement, squeals sounding off behind me from other drivers. But I suffer from tunnel vision on the track. It’s just me and the road.

“Noah, I want to let you know Liam Zander’s behind you, followed by Jax Kingston and Santiago Alatorre. Keep up the pace and mind your turns.” The team principal’s voice carries over the radio in my helmet.

I stay defensive of my position, making it difficult for anyone to overtake my car at the turns. The hum of the engine fills me with exhilaration as I speed down another straight at over two hundred miles per hour. Fans scream as I pass them. My foot presses on the brake seconds before I make another turn, soft tires screeching against the asphalt. Music to my ears.

The first few laps of the race go without a hitch. Adrenaline flows through my body as Liam’s car comes up next to mine at one of the curves, the recognizable steel-gray paint glistening under the desert sun. His engine roars. I pull a risky move, pushing on the brake a few seconds later than recommended for a curb. Metal trembles as the right tires lift off the ground before slamming back down. Liam pulls back, unable to pass me, as my car surges forward.

A mechanic talks into the radio. “That was a dangerous turn. Relax out there, you still have fifty-two more laps to go. No reason to drive cocky.”

I chuckle at the advice. After a grueling season fighting off Liam, Santiago, and Jax, I have one last Grand Prix between me and the World Championship win.

“Santiago cut in front of Liam at the last turn. Don’t underestimate him, he wants the win.” More chatter echoes through the radio.

Speak of the devil, Santiago’s royal blue car shows up in my side mirror. I shake my head as my car hugs another turn. He acts like a young shit who tries to show off a little too much, attempting to make a name for himself with his team and the F1 circuit. His skills are decent for a new guy, but one too many close calls during this race season make me hesitant to let him get close.

The fucker races right up to my rear wing, closing the gap between our cars—unwise for the narrow set of twists coming up. My heart pumps rapidly. Hands clench around the steering wheel as I take a few deep breaths. Inhale, exhale—yoga shit. I don’t fold on my first-place spot, having no interest in letting Santiago overtake my car. Gray pavement blurs past me. On the next straight road, Santiago pulls up to my side, our wheels nearly touching. Just a few inches apart.

Both engines rev as the accelerators hit their maximum. I push into first place again at the next turn, my front wing creeping ahead of his.

Fuck me.

Instead of Santiago jerking back, he speeds up. Motherfucking idiot.

The whole situation happens in slow motion, like a movie, playing frame by frame. Me, a useless bystander. Bandini’s team principal yells in my ear about pulling back, but the sound of crunching metal tells me I’m too late.

Santiago’s car makes contact with mine at about one hundred and ninety miles per hour, a catastrophic hit I won’t recover from. I curse as the wheels of my car lift off the ground and I end up airborne. Fucking flying before making contact with the road.

My race car flips over twice and drags across the pavement, sparks flying around my head, cement within touching distance. Thank fuck for the protective halo. The shrill sound of scraping steel hurts my ears until my car stops moving. Ragged breaths leave my lungs, pushing through my tight throat.

“Noah, are you okay? Any possible injuries? The safety team is on their way.”

“Negative on any injuries. That piece of shit fucking hit me, knocked me out like a fucking bumper car.” Anger courses through me at Santiago’s carelessness. I plan on punching him the moment he enters the Cool Down room after the Prix. Knock that pretty boy smile right off his face.

“Oh, shit! Noah, brace yourself!”

A chill runs down my spine. Unable to move with my body trapped, I sit while Jax’s car swerves before ramming into mine, the turn from earlier making me vulnerable to another hit. Holy shit. My body shudders and my head painfully bounces against the headrest while our cars spin out of control. The hit jerks me, my body aching in ways I didn’t think possible.

I can kiss my Championship win goodbye. All thanks to Santiago and his stupidity, pulling a move he shouldn’t have to get seconds ahead. Fucking reckless of him. My head clouds as adrenaline wears off and my body gives in to the pain.

“Fuck you, Santiago. Enjoy your Championship win because it’ll be your last.” I don’t give a shit about everyone hearing my team radio. Let fans and him know I hate his guts. Santiago can act like hot shit now, but I’ll come back for him. Asshole started a fight he won’t win.

Black spots fog my vision, the combination of being upside down and being hit twice is too much for my body to handle. I’m fucking helpless as the safety crew works to situate my car right-side up. I stew in my toxic mood and smack my hands against the steering wheel to the hammering of my heart.

I grunt at paramedics who check for any injuries. My body gets an all-clear with nothing to report except for a bruised ego and blood pressure through the roof. The safety team drops me off back at the Bandini suites, and I surge past the pit crew, not interested in pleasantries or fake claps on the back telling me how everything will be okay. I don’t want to hear people say how I’ll win the Championship next year.

I take the steps up to my suite two at a time, ready for who waits behind the doors. My lungs burn from taking a deep breath. Fuck, more like ten breaths, in and out, the rhythm finally calming me.

I open the door to find two people I’d rather not see anytime soon. Preferably not within the next ten years, give or take. My dad paces the small suite, his broad shoulders commanding the space, chest heaving in and out to the tempo of his feet. His dark hair looks disheveled for once, and his deep blue eyes narrow at me. Mother dearest parks herself on a gray couch. Her icy eyes don’t meet mine as she stares at her nails. Blonde hair perfectly coifed, her body is posed against the cushions like the has-been model she is. Lucky for her, she sunk her claws into my dad and snagged the ultimate prize of a child with a famous F1 racer. She hit the DNA jackpot with a son who rivals the man she married.

Quite the family, right? A broken, mangled history of missed birthdays, uncelebrated holidays, and empty bleachers at most Formula races. The only reason they both attended this Prix was because Dad wanted to reminisce while Mom showed off to her friends how grand life is for someone who birthed a racing all-star. Neither one came for me.

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