Sara Butler Zalesky
Publication date: July 4th 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance, Sports, Suspense
Known as the Ice Queen of the peloton, pro cyclist Loren Mackenzie rarely shows emotion in the heat of competition; she leads her team with quiet strength and determination. But her successes have not come without suffering, and her tragic past is hidden inside tarnished armor.
While out on a training ride with her cycling team near Enfield, England, a chance meeting quickly develops into an unexpected whirlwind romance. But a relationship with an A-list celebrity brings with it the microscope of tabloid-media attention, which expose jealousy and rivalry that threaten to undermine Loren’s leadership of her team.
The new romance also reveals a dangerous obsession, culminating in a terrifying confrontation with someone from Loren’s past. Her injuries not only put her chances at the World Championship in jeopardy but also bring forth memories of a life she had long buried – for good reason.
Can Loren open her heart to the love she has held at a distance, or will her fear ultimately defeat her?
The follow up novel in the Wheeler series is coming soon.
Goodreads / Amazon
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.
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Excerpt from Wheeler, by Sara Butler Zalesky
Giro Rosa Prologue, 2km
Dusk had begun to lay claim to the city of Kamnik as Loren Mackenzie made her way to the stage. The starter greeted her with a nod, and a steward kept her bike upright from behind as she checked it was in the correct gear for her start, then swung her leg over the seat. Her heart hammered in her chest, in time with the pounding bass of the music blaring out of the speakers behind her. She clipped into the pedals and stood up, flexing her hands on the small outer bars of her time trial bike.
She took several deep breaths to try and relax, but her mouth filled with saliva as a hot flash swept through her. No, not now. Don’t get sick.
She closed her eyes and breathed as the announcer introduced her. I am the storm. I am enough.
“Pet, štiri, tri, dva, ENA! GO!” The steward released her bike.
Loren jumped away, gathering speed down the ramp to sit and bank into the tight right turn, only to surge out of the saddle to the 400-meter straightaway. There was no time to think, only react, as a yellow line on the road flashed under her, a safety warning the turnaround point was ahead. She squeezed the brakes hard and swung sharply around the median, only to pull a violent acceleration out of the turn.
Tucking back into her aero position, she tore down the 700-meter section, ignoring the burn in her legs from the heavy gear. Faster and harder she pedaled until another yellow line passed under her wheels. She clutched at the brakes again and dove into the turn, only to burst out of the saddle and hammer into the pedals. With a few revolutions of her legs, she was back in position, pushing with all her strength, her body screaming for relief. The yellow warning line appeared under her tires again.
Don’t go wide out of the turn. Don’t go wide. She grabbed at the brakes and banked aggressively into the right-hand turn that would bring her back to the start/finish line.
The carbon front wheel dipped as it hit a depression and a sharp snap echoed out across the square. Its support disintegrated and her bicycle flipped over, sending Loren head first into the tarmac. The force of the impact separated her from her bike, and she slid across the ground and into the metal barriers. Cold aluminum was poking her in the ribs as Loren opened her eyes with a groan.
What the hell? Her ears were ringing, and there was a metallic taste in her mouth. She wiped her gloved hand under her nose. I’m bleeding, then gasped. Get the fuck up! Get up! You can’t continue if you don’t get up!
She crawled out of the twisted metal barricades and struggled to stand on shaky legs as pain and dizziness narrowed her vision. Stumbling the few feet to her broken bicycle, she slung it over her uninjured shoulder to limp the few remaining yards and cross the finish line, where she collapsed to her hands and knees, trembling and spitting out blood. Strong arms gently encouraged her to sit up.
“Easy now.” She looked up at him as Felix put his arm around her waist.
“No, I’m fine,” she mumbled, and tried to pull away from him.
“You are not fine, ma bien adoré. I will not leave your side,” he whispered as he helped her to the stretcher. Paramedics pushed him out of the way as one clamped a neck brace around her throat. His hand slipped from hers as they pushed the gurney away.
A piercing beep startled Loren to consciousness, squinting against a painfully bright light shining in her eyes. Something was shoved up her nose, but she couldn’t move her arms to relieve the pressure.
“Where we goin’, mama?” she croaked and tried to turn her head. “Mama? Mama!” She strained against the straps, and more alarms sounded as her breathing and heart rate increased. “Mama! Get up! We have to run!” A cool hand touched her forehead, smoothing her hair back from her face.
“You had an accident, gattina,” a woman murmured. “We are going to hospital.”
She renewed her struggle and started to cry. “No, no, don’t leave me here! Please! I’ll be good! I promise!” She froze when a man spoke to her, his hands holding her head still.
“Shhhh, it will be alright, mon tresor. I will not leave you.”
Loren forced her eyes open again and focused on the diffused light above her. She was in the back seat of the Volvo with the rear dome light shining in her eyes. Her head was on Aria’s lap and Felix was in the driver’s seat. Waves of nausea swept over her as the throb of her head beat in time with her heart. Her entire right side complained as she adjusted her position with a groan and a cool hand covered her forehead.
“Move slowly,” Aria told her and Loren hissed through her teeth she sat up to face her friend.
“Did I fall asleep?” She gasped as shadows distorted Aria’s features in the dim light of the back seat of the car.
“What do you recall?”
“Uh, I crashed in the prologue.” Her eyes widened. “Did I get shot?”
Felix scoffed from the front seat. “You hit a pot hole and your wheel exploded.”
“Oh.” Loren put her hand to her face and felt a plastic splint across the bridge of her nose. “My nose is broken?”
“It is a slight fracture,” Aria replied. “They were concerned because of how much blood you swallowed.” Loren pulled her tattered jersey farther away from her face.
“That’s what’s making me feel sick. But why am I still wearing my skinsuit? ”
Felix glared over his shoulder. “Don’t even think about getting sick in the car.”
Aria gave him a look and shook her head. “You did not want to leave the hospital in only a gown. I did not have a change of clothes for you.” Loren ran her hands over her chest and down to her thighs, feeling tight Lycra covering her body. “They cut off my bras and my undershirt, but not my skinsuit?”
“You would not let them.”
“He was in the room?” she whispered. Aria frowned deeply and nodded. Loren crossed her arms tightly over her chest, her stomach adding to the burning of her abused skin.
Felix was in the room when they cut my clothes off. Images of a bright light and several masked faces flashed through her mind. Her eyes slid to the rear-view mirror and met Felix’s gaze. He held my hand the whole time.
“There is a flight leaving Kamnik tomorrow morning,” he told her. “We’ve arranged to have a UCI doctor escort you home.”
“No,” she shot back. “I’m not leaving.”
He twisted his neck to see her. “Yes, you are. You cannot continue in your condition.”
She hissed as she sat up straighter. “Yes, I can. I know the protocol. I answered all their fucking questions.” He quickly brought the car to a stop on the side of the road and turned around to glare at her.
“Yes, you know the protocol. You know it well enough to supplant it.”
“I have to be conscious enough to fake it!” Loren groaned and rubbed her temples with her fingertips. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Even if you take the time trial, it won’t make any difference,” he muttered and turned back to the road.
Aria’s concern was obvious in both expression and tone. “Are you certain you should continue? It is nine days. I do not think it is wise.”
Loren closed her eyes. “I can’t let them down.”