When I read the synopsis for Wheeler I was excited to showcase a book about a female athlete. There are just not enough books the have female athletes in my opinion. This is also story that weaves tragedy, unearthing of secrets, and a whirlwind romance. Definitely sounds like it’s going to be a great read!
Wheeler by Sara Butler Zalesky
Publication Date: July 4, 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance, Sports, Suspense
Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’
The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’
Loren Mackenzie has spent much of her life honing her body to meet the physical challenges of being a professional cyclist in the women’s European peloton. She has also refined the control of her mind, using the power of her emotions in competition to become one of the elite cyclists in the world. After an accident at the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, Loren must rise to the challenge of leading her team as the Women’s World Tour races across Europe, culminating with the opportunity to compete at the World Championships in Richmond, Virgina.
When a chance meeting develops into a whirlwind romance, what appears to be the perfect relationship threatens to unravel Loren’s tightly wound life. The microscope of tabloid media attention dredges up fears that her past will be unearthed; tragic secrets she has kept buried, even from those closest to her.
Can Loren face the trauma of her past and vanquish the demons within, or will betrayal and obsession ultimately defeat her?
Excerpt from Wheeler:
Aviva Women’s Tour, Stage 5
Marlow to Hemel Hempstead, 102.6km
The next morning, Loren arrived at the start line shortly after the rest of the riders formed up. Thanks to Aria’s treatments, her sore muscles weren’t troubling her, but she knew it was only a matter of time. She slipped on her dark mirrored sunglasses to keep anyone from seeing the dark half-moons under her eyes. Shut it out. Shut everything out. I am the storm.
When the head steward announced her name, she raised her hand in acknowledgment but didn’t smile. Heather moved up next to her.
“You look like shit,” she said.
“I’m fine,” Loren replied, scowling. “And fuck you, too.”
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the fifth and final stage of the Aviva Women’s Tour. Today’s stage travels 102.6 kilometers from Marlow to Hemel Hempstead.”
“Thank you, Peter. Seventeen seconds separate the Tour’s leader, IDC’s Loren Mackenzie from Heather Ross of Team USA. As we join the action, the peloton has remained intact through the first twelve kilometers.”
Loren shadowed her former teammate at the front, and as the kilometers ticked by, Heather had glanced back at her several times. As Ross turned her head yet again, Loren’s already frayed temper snapped.
“Would you stop fucking around and go already,” she growled, then cringed as Ross’ teammate Amber Moll turned her head.
“Friendships dissolve at the start line as Ross begins her assault on Mackenzie’s lead.”
“Indeed, and we have an answer from Mackenzie as she goes headlong after Ross, taking three more riders with her. As I recall, both ladies were rising stars in the US with GTS Pro Cycling, but have now taken different paths.”
“They certainly have. Ross is prime domestique with Team USA, while Mackenzie has come into her own as the leader of IDC here in Britain.”
Loren caught Heather in short order but wasn’t about to fall into line. She narrowed her gaze at the back of her former teammate. You’re gonna have to suffer if you want this. With her hands into the drop bars, she gathered her anger like a cloak and took charge of the breakaway.
“As we head to Cryer’s Hill, Mackenzie has set a blistering pace, looking to claim those Queen of the Mountain points.”
“But Mackenzie gets blocked by GoreTech’s Federov and can’t hold off Ross’ effort up the climb as she shoots ahead and stakes her claim.”
“It’s a hard ride staying ahead with the narrow country roads of Buckinghamshire. If you’re not in the front and ready to rumble, you’ll be taken to the kerb.”
As the breakaway group sped on ahead of the peloton, none of the other riders would allow Loren to rotate out, forcing her to keep the high pace alone.
Motherfuckingsonsofbitches! They’re trying to hang me! She gnashed her teeth. Fine. You want a fight, I’ll give you a fight. Just before she shifted gear to take off, Ulrik’s voice crackled over her radio.
“Don’t fall for it, Loren. Ross knows how to needle you. Don’t do their work for them.”
She grimaced. Damn, he’s right. She stopped pedaling and sat up a bit as the other riders either slowed down with her or took over at the front. Heather did a double-take as Loren slipped back into her draft, but it would be another ten kilometers before she could execute her revenge.
“What an attack by IDC’s Loren Mackenzie, catching the bunch by surprise! She’s certainly making her point today, forcing her rivals to chase her down.”
“Two riders have already been blown off the back, but the challenge for all will be the climb at Tom’s Hill Road and its technical descent.”
“There’ll be another gathering of the minds for the sprint points at Little Gaddesden, not too far away as well.”
Loren settled into a hard rhythm, her chin down and hands in the drops. She extended her awareness, taking in the sounds around her: the whistle of the wind, the breathing of the other riders around her, the whoosh of her heartbeat in her ears. From her right, the hum of tires on blacktop became louder, with a faint chink every time the pedals rotated.
That’s Cole behind me, and I bet Heather is sucking her wheel. If I go all out on the climb, neither can keep on me. But do I have enough? She clenched her jaw. I am the storm. I am enough.
“Mackenzie isn’t going to let anyone else take the Queen of the Mountain points from her this time. Look at that assault on the climb! I don’t even think she shifted gears, Peter.”
“That’s just a show of raw power, Michaela. Her seventeen second lead has been stretched to twenty-five, thanks to those points. However, if Ross and Cole continue to work together, they might well catch Mackenzie before the final intermediate sprint at Little Gaddesden.”
Loren could see the sprint banner flapping in the wind ahead, even as she heard the others catching up to her. Ulrik came over her radio then.
“You’ve got a bit of a cushion, Loren. Let them catch you. All you have to do is hold steady with Ross.”
As the other riders swarmed around her for the sprint, she dropped her head, only slightly exaggerating the fatigue she felt. Heather stayed in her draft and Loren clenched her hands around the bars as her anger flared up.
You fucking bitch. First, you steal my college boyfriend, then you sleep with Phillipe. Now you’re stealing my draft! You’re fucking going down.
“And now the neutral car’s steward holds up a sign, showing the breakaway riders there are ten kilometers left.”
“There goes Loren Mackenzie, back on the offensive with a blistering attack! She’s hunkered down for the long haul now. If she can hold on, they might not catch her before the finish.”
Her pace began to slack with three kilometers remaining and Loren focused on just turning the pedals. Just push harder here. Hold on for a few more meters. I can do it.
“There’s been a bit of a falter in Mackenzie’s form as her pain barrier has been pushed to the limit. Hopefully, she can suppress it a little longer.”
“Even if Ross catches her, Mackenzie is the virtual winner on the road. The fight now is for second.”
“We’re down to the final kilometer, with Loren Mackenzie of IDC still out in front. She’s lit the entire matchbook to keep herself ahead!”
As Loren passed under the one-kilometer banner, cheers from the crowd told her someone was coming up from behind, and fast.
I’ve worked this hard. There’s no fucking way I’m letting anyone beat me now. She banked hard into the corner then jumped out of the saddle to give everything she had left.
“Heading into the final turn at 500 meters, will she let it go? No! Mackenzie has found some dynamite in her pocket and takes one final leap out of the saddle! She finishes a wheel length in front of Heather Ross.”
“What a nail-biting finish! IDC’s Loren Mackenzie takes stage 5 and wins the Aviva Women’s Tour!”
Loren rolled to a stop several meters beyond the finish and hung over the handlebars. Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick. As each of her teammates crossed the finish line, they gathered around her, screaming and hugging her.
“Okay, okay. Don’t jostle me too much,” she groaned.
Cece held out her arms. “Back up! She’s gonna hurl!”
“Cut it out, Cece,” Loren grumbled. As Sven held her bike, she slowly dismounted and thanked him, then caught Ingrid and Cece exchanging a glance.
“Here, I’ll help you.” Ingrid grabbed Loren’s elbow and all but dragged her to the anti-doping area. After the drug testing was complete, Loren climbed the steps of the main stage where the head steward was waiting for her.
After the announcer presented her as the overall winner, an aide helped her don a clean, long sleeved yellow jersey backward and zipped it up, so the sponsors’ logos could be prominently displayed. She tried not to grimace as she pulled the jersey away from her throat.
Loren plastered a smile on her face and waved to the crowd, then turned to shake the hand of the Tour representative who helped her with the jersey. She then turned to the right to accept the customary bouquet of flowers and almost fell off the podium in shock.
“Hiya.” Actor, Graham Atherton beamed at her as he presented a bouquet of brightly colored Gerbera daisies to her. He kissed her right cheek, then her left. “Congratulations.”
Before he could back away, Loren snaked her arm around his neck. “You’re not getting away that easy,” she laughed as Graham steadied her with an arm around her waist, chuckling as he kissed her.
Cheers rang out even louder as Loren held her arms up high. I won. She flashed a grin at Graham. I’ll be really pissed off if this is a dream!
Sara was born in the wee hours of a November night in New York City. When her family moved to a small borough in northwestern New Jersey, she had little choice but to move as well. Self-sufficiency is a tough thing for a toddler.
The dichotomy of being the middle child of three, but the only girl, was difficult, as typically no one really pays attention to a middle child. Mostly, Sara spent her time creating fanciful stories in her head when she should have been focused on other things, an issue that continues to this day.
Most of these stories have never been shared, let alone completed. This all changed in the spring of 2015, when Sara was encouraged by a friend to expand upon a short story she had accidentally emailed to him. The result is ‘Wheeler’, a romantic, women’s fiction/sport novel, which combines the author’s romantic inclinations and her passion for cycling.
Sara currently resides in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with her loving husband and their son. She is a paralegal for a boutique law firm in Chester County, Pa, an avid road cyclist and indoor cycling instructor at a national chain.
Follow the author’s blog at sarabutlerzalesky.wordpress.com or on Twitter @sarazalesky. She does a little dance every time someone ‘follows’ her on Twitter. Really.