Chapter 11: Morning
Lindsay woke up the next morning and immediately placed her hand on her head as she felt a pounding headache coming on. Why did her head hurt so much?
“I was thinking that you’d never wake up darling,” she hears beside her, causing her eyes to snap open. Why did that voice sound familiar yet so strange at the same time?
She then looks to her side and almost jumps out of bed, though stops as she feels her head spin, freezing her immediately. The person beside her was familiar – but perhaps not for the right reasons. She knew the face. She knew the eyes. She was in bed with none other than Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“Oh shit!” She lets out as her life starts to come back to her. She was in bed with a NASCAR star and not just any NASCAR star, but one of her bosses. That couldn’t be good, right?
“Relax, I know what you’re thinking,” he starts, which catches her off-guard. “You think that you’re probably fucked and I’m going to fire you for this sleep in bed stunt, right?”
“Well that’s what would normally happen in this type of situation.” She then sits up as the previous night comes to her. She was at the party, sharing drinks and dancing. One thing must’ve led to another and here they were. “I’m so sorry.”
“Just relax, please.” She then looks at him cautiously. “Well it’s partially your fault, it’s also my fault so I can’t totally blame you for the fact that we’re both laying here right now. I also know that I can forgive so don’t worry- this’ll stay between us and you still have a job.” She lets out a cautious sigh as she wasn’t expecting that at all. She knew that she needed the job if she was to keep what she had going. She also liked working in the shop and getting to know the other girls, like Shelly.
“No catches – I promise.” She lets out another sigh as she slowly climbs out of the bed and grabs her clothes off the floor.
“Thank you. You don’t understand how thankful I am.”
“It’s no problem.” She then starts to get dressed as she doesn’t even know what to say next. She honestly wanted to run out of the house without turning back.
“Thanks for hosting a great party, I guess.”
“I remember a good part of it before we both ended up here and I will tell you this – you are a wonderful lady and I was glad that you bumped into me.” He then sits up. “In honesty, I think it was fate that we crossed paths in that kitchen.” She then fuses her eyebrows together, worried. This wasn’t what she signed up for.
“How so? What are you trying to say?”
“I’m trying to say that perhaps we were meant to meet each other. Maybe we should go on an actual date together as from what I remember, I was falling in love with a sweet red head with the most beautiful eyes that I’ve seen.” She feels her stomach churn, immediately wanting to go hide in that corner.
“I don’t think that’s the best idea.”
“How come? Are you not feeling a connection?” She then sits down as she slips her shirt on.
“I am feeling a connection – but I’m not ready to fall in love. I don’t want to be in a relationship right now, if you understand.”
“I understand. Something has happened that has scared you and you don’t know if you’re ready to put your heart out there, right?” She looks back at him and shakes her head yes. “It’s okay. No hard feelings. I understand. As far as I am concerned, we can pretend this night never happened. We can move forward with you working in the shop as you were and just be acquaintances. We could perhaps maybe be friends if you want that and forget this happened; we could remember the conversation that we had. I’m not going to pressure you.” She smiles as his words put her at ease immediately. While she didn’t want to be in a relationship and wanted the night to disappear, she wanted to call him a friend as she felt something that beyond special in her mind. Maybe one day they could make it worth more.
“How about we stay as friends? Is that okay with you?”
“That’s perfect. Tell you what. Change out of those dirty clothes and go in the guest bedsroom next door. There should be a couple outfits left over from my ex-girlfriend. I know it sounds trashy, but find a shirt and a pair of pants you like and grab a shower. You can fix yourself up. I’ll meet you downstairs in 15 minutes. We’ll both head down as if we’re friends and I let you stay here because you were too drunk to go home by yourself. Is that deal?” A smile forms on her face as she shakes her head yes.
She then leaves the room and heads to the guest bedsroom as Dale flops back in the bed, his own headache coming on as he grabs the bottle of Tylenol. He wanted to have that special relationship with Lindsay. She seemed like she was special. However, he understood her position and was willing to wait till she opened up to him and gave him the chance. He also wanted to unravel the rest of the mystery that she seemed to him.
Chapter 12: Breakfast
Lindsay makes her way down the stairs, satisfied with the pair of blue jeans and pink t-shirt that she picked out from the options available in the drawer. She heads to the kitchen, smiling as she sees him.
“Good morning,” she says as he turns to glance at her and smiles as well. “You don’t have to make me breakfast. I’ve always made this morning more awkward than it needed to be.”
“You’re a guest in my home and as a guest, you deserve to be served breakfast,” he starts as he motions for her to sit down. Knowing that she wasn’t going to win the argument, she takes a seat at the table. A couple minutes of silence past and he brings over a plate, setting it down in front of her with bacon and eggs.
“Orange juice or coffee?”
“Yes ma’am.” He goes to the fridge and grabs her a glass, before returning and sitting beside her.
They then start to eat, both remaining silent. There was no doubt that it was awkward and Lindsay worried that things would be awkward with him from now on simply because of what happened. She also wondered if things would be awkward at work, as well. He wanted to break the silence, but he also didn’t want to set things off wrong considering things had started that morning.
Neither wanting to do the wrong thing, they both finish their breakfast in silence. Once she’s done, she stands up and takes her plate to the sink, rinsing it off. He then follows her over, doing the same, as he keeps an eye on her. That mysterious feeling that he got around her was certainly still there in force.
“Thanks for the breakfast; it was good,” she speaks up as a smile forms on his face.
“You’re welcome,” he replies as he leans against the counter. “So are you going to tell me how you made your way down to North Carolina after growing up in the north east?” She then glances at him surprised by the question. Now she wondered what she had told him last night and what he actually remembered.
“Needed a life reset and that led to North Carolina with a friend offering me a place to stay.”
“Well, you’ve chosen a good spot to reset your life.” She shakes her head in agreement. “So how is the life reset going? Are things better than they were before?” She shakes her head yes.
“They’re way better, actually.” By those words, he could only imagine that something had happened that caused things to throw things in turmoil. If he had to guess with her fear of falling in love, someone possibly broke her heart and she wanted to run away from them.
“I’m glad to hear. Are you enjoying working for my sister?” She shakes her head yes.
“Your sister is a great boss and I’m not just saying that because she’s your sister. I haven’t had any problems with her or Shelly yet. I hope to keep it that way also as I don’t want to screw this up.” She knew at that point that she should bite her tongue. She wasn’t ready to spread her life story to people as she didn’t want to be judged on that. She also was worried that everything that she had worked for would be thrown out the window once they heard what happened, as well.
“I don’t see that happening as you seem like a great person.”
“Thanks. That is something that I strive for. Well, I better go. My roommate and I are supposed to go shopping today.”
“I have to go meet up with a friend so I understand.”
“Thanks for the breakfast once again.”
“Thanks for the friendship and like I said – last night, never to be spoke of again.” They then share a small hug before he leads her to the door and she grabs her jacket and shoes before heading out.
As she walked further away from the house, she felt her heart craving and wanting her to run back in and see him.
Chapter 13: Friends and Nothing More
Lindsay walks up to the door of the apartment and walks inside, setting down her bag with her dirty clothes as she closes the door behind her. She then slips off her shoes and hangs up her sweater.
“Finally you’re home!” Lindsay hears, causing her to freeze as she sees Demi flip the television off. There was no doubt what her friend was probably thinking. Lindsay then walks by Demi and goes to her bedsroom, setting the bag in the laundry. Demi gets up off the couch and walks into the bedsroom.
“Yeah – I got drunk last night and stayed over with a friend,” Lindsay tells Demi as she sits back on the bed. She was glad that the Tylenol had made her headache cool off from earlier in the morning.
“That’s understandable. So who’s the friend?” Lindsay bites her tongue. She hated lying. She promised to not lie when it came to situations. However, she also didn’t want to tell Demi everything. Demi crosses her arms as a smirk forms on her face. “I ge-”
“It’s not lik-”
“Then who is it?” Lindsay lets out a sigh as she glances towards the window.
“You slept with Dale freaking Earnhardt Jr.?” Lindsay then looks towards Demi, surprised by her friend’s reaction. She had hoped that Demi wouldn’t get that idea. “Oh wow. So in other words, the party was amazing.” Demi then walks in the room and flops on the bed beside Lindsay.
“It was a lot of fun, okay? As far as us sleeping together, that’s another topic. We both got drunk last night and neither one of us remembers how it happened.” Demi shakes her head in disbelief as she never thought of Lindsay to be the type of person to be coming home with a story like this. “Thankfully, he’s very forgiving and didn’t fire my ass.”
“So in other words, he has a crush on you?” Lindsay looks towards Demi again, once again shocked. She knew that Demi was speaking the truth, though, as she could tell by how sweet Dale was – no matter how much he put up the ‘just friends’ and ‘don’t care on your decision’ front. “I take it by that look that you’re surprised that I figured it out. No guy lets that go if it’s a girl that they don’t like so therefore he has to like you – even a little – if he was sweet afterwards. That, or he’s looking for some more ass candy later on at another date. Let’s face it, he’s had his ring with the woman in the past.”
“I don’t know much about NASCAR like you do, but I know that you’ve got that wrong as he’s not that type of person. You’re thinking of Hamlin. That guy is the king of screwing every woman possible. When it comes to Dale, it’s a small crush as he told me that he liked me. That’s as far as that goes, though. We’re just friends and nothing more. So are we done gossiping?”
“Oh no, we’re far from done. You don’t get off that easily, girl. Do you have a crush on him?” Lindsay felt her heart flutter at the question. There was no doubt that she had a crush on him. However, she was afraid of love. She didn’t want to be another relationship. Everything about her past flooded her mind immediately as soon as she thought about being in a relationship.
“No, I don’t. I think he’s a great guy and could possibly be a great friend based on our conversation last night and this morning, but nothing else. It’s odd and strange, I know, but that’s how it is.”
“Girl, you can’t fool me. You were standing up for his ass earlier. You didn’t like that I offended your poor sweet blue eyed southern gentleman so you told me to screw off.” Lindsay rolls her eyes as she did that, however she knew that she could cover her tracks.
“I stood up for a frie-”
“You mean dream lover?”
“I stood up for a friend. He deserves that after not firing my ass right there, and accepting my decision to not fall in love with him.”
“Nope, instead you fell on his dic-”
“Demi Lang!” Demi laughs as she stands up and heads out of the room as Lindsay lies back on her bed. This was going to be harder than she thought to keep him out of her mind. She couldn’t do it….she couldn’t fall back in love….
For the rest of the year, she was able to keep her heart guarded and keep a solid friendly conversation with him. She even attended more of his parties – and managed to escape ending up in his bed along the way. They grew to be solid friends and on New Year’s Eve, their News Year’s resolutions would make total sense based on.
Dale swore that he’d finally kiss Lindsay’s lips again and capture that love, while Lindsay swore that she’d learn to love again and not be afraid.
Chapter 14: Contracts
The first three months of the new year went by pretty dryly. Racing season kicked off and work stayed as steady as always. Lindsay was getting along great with her co-workers and had made some awesome friends. Dale and her also stayed in touch about plenty of things and friendship was a good thing.
Though come April, things took an interesting twist for them.
Lindsay was over at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated as she had to pick up some things that were needed. It was normal and things were going off casually. She even said a quick hello to a couple guys in the shop – as usual. Though a trip upstairs past the offices is what caught her attention.
She was walking by and didn’t even have the idea to stop – till she caught his eyes. He seemed to be deep in thought and sort of look lost and confused. Deciding that it’d be a good idea to stop, she peaked in the doorway.
“Everything alright?” She asks, causing him to look up and snap out of his thoughts.
“Yeah – they’re fine,” he answers without hesitation. “Just having one of those days. What are you doing here?” She holds up a box of shirts as he shakes his head, immediately understanding. “Shelly keeps you busy, huh?”
“Well I better not interfere. Hope you have a wonderful day.” She then smiles.
“Hope the same goes for-”
“Are you doing anything tonight?” His question immediately causes her freeze as she didn’t expect that to be asked. She shakes her head no as a smile forms on his face. With everything that was going on, he wanted a distraction and knew that spending time with her would be perfect. After all, he did have to make good on his New Year’s Resolution. “How about dinner?”
“I don’t know….” She wanted to so badly just jump up and down and say yes. However, her own fears crept in once again as she felt the door closing up as it had done so before.
“I thought you said you were free. Perhaps I could offer some company and we could talk – like friends. We’re still friends, right?” She shakes her head yes shyly.
“There’s no question that we’re friends. I just don’t know…..” She wanted to come up with some reason, however no reason was coming to mind. Demi had already told her earlier that she’d be late that night due to a sponsorship event with Penske.
“Are you trying to avoid me, Ms. McKenzie?”
“No.” He then gets up from his desk and walks over to her.
“Then please say yes to my offer.”
“Only if you tell me what’s on your mind. I can tell by your eyes that you’re not getting sleep.” He lets out a sigh as no doubt she wasn’t the first person to mention that to him that morning. There was no doubt that there was a lot on his mind at the current time. “How’s that deal, buckaroo?”
“Buckaroo?” She shrugs her shoulders.
“It seemed to fit the line.” He laughs, slightly.
“It does fit what you said, and I’ll tell you what’s on my mind.” He then walks over and closes the door to his office, surprising her, before returning to his desk. She follows him over as he picks up a piece of paper off his desk and hands it to her. She accepts it, unsure, reading it over.
“It’s contract year and I have a lot to decide. I could resign with DEI and accept the terms as laid out by Teresa since she isn’t willing to budge on what I asked her for. On the flip side, I have another offer that has come to me – secretly – that I could accept.”
“What’s that offer?” She was wondering if he’d open up and tell her what the offer was. It’d give a good leeway on where their trust was for each other and perhaps an assurance of trust would open her heart up more to him. “Or is that classified information?” She then hands him back the contract proposal.
“For you, it’s not classified information but word gets out – I will hunt you down and kill you, by the way. The other offer comes from Rick Hendrick. They may let Kyle Busch out of his contract early due to some issues there and slide me in.” She then looks at him surprised as that wasn’t to be expected. Kyle’s contract wasn’t up till the end of 2008 and a lot of people had said that Hendrick Motorsports was full and not open to offers. With it being a top team, there was certainly a lot at stake. “I’m having a tough time deciding what’s best.”
“So now that I’ve told you, do I get my dinner? Or do I have to kidnap you?” She then grins.
“You can have dinner with me – as friends.”
“But I thought if I told you my tale of thoughts, you could be willing to open up for a kiss.” He then stands up and makes his way around the desk. “You do like me, don’t you?”
“We’ve talked about this plenty of times and you know where I stand. I thought we had a friends only agreement after what happened.” She then looks away, feeling her heart clamber up at the thought of love. “When it comes to your contract deal, let me tell you one thing. Go with your gut and your heart and don’t care what the world says. I’ll see you at your place at 7.” She then leaves before she can give herself a chance to even start to open up.
Dale leans back against the desk as he thinks things over. She liked him – he could see that. Now how was he going to make her open up to him?
Chapter 15: The Kiss
As arranged, she showed up at his house for time together and dinner – as friends – later that night. He led her through the house after getting her at the door to the dining room, letting her take her seat as he already had dinner ready to go. He then sits beside her, still wondering how to tackle the night at hand.
“I hope you enjoy it,” he comments as she smiles. There was nothing wrong in her mind about chicken and a Caesar salad.
“It looks good,” she replies before taking a bite of her chicken.
“Now is it as good as it looks?” He wonders as he starts to eat his.
“It’s even better. Thank you.” She then focuses on her meal, not wanting to really bring up much with her feelings. However, she couldn’t kill the curiosity in her mind about what they talked about earlier. “So, have you thought about the offers more?” He shakes his head no.
“I was hoping to escape that for a while and then look back on it with a decision. It’s just hard right now.” She shakes her head understanding, feeling bad for bringing it up given his feelings.
“I’m sorry I brought it up.”
“Don’t feel bad. You didn’t know.”
“So since you don’t want to discuss that, what do you want to discuss over this dinner?” He smiles as he looks at her. The answer was simple.
“You.” She then looks at him surprised, though full of worry.
“Me?” He shakes his head yes. “What about me?” She then sets her fork down, fear settling in deeper. “Oh no….oh shit…” She then looks away. This was every fear she had when the plan was set in motion. “You found out my past?” Dale watches her curiosity, wondering why she was so nervous.
“All I know is what you’ve told me.” She lets out a small inner sigh as that gave her some comfort. She was scared if he found out her past and what his thoughts would be about it.
“Oh…okay. So what else do you want to know?” Dale then sits back.
“Let’s see. All you’ve told me is that you came down here looking for a new start. You also aren’t in close contact with your family and you’re from New York. There’s got to be more to you, Lindsay. Aren’t friends supposed to get to know each other?” She shakes her head yes nervously as he takes a sip of his drink. The mystery, the oddness about her past – it seemed to light up more with each passing moment. “So how about I tell you something about me and then you can tell me something? For instance, this contract stuff is a bitch and I’m avoiding it simply due to the relationships that I have with the people caught up in it.”
“That’s what you get for working with family, by the way. Family can sometimes be a bitch, as a whole. I had a great relationship with my mother as we had that special connection together.” He then looks at her curiously.
“What changed that great relationship that you had?”
“My father.” He shakes his head understanding.
“That’s a good reason. How did he change it?” She then looks down, debating the way to explain it without saying the whole truth.
“Let’s just say that we didn’t see eye to eye and that transferred into my mother not being happy with my decisions about him.”
She then takes a deep breath as she thinks back to being the little ‘Mob Princess’ that she was and having to listen to his instructions. It was all ‘protect the money’ and ‘don’t trust this’ and teaching her ideas for future business deals as she was to follow in family tradition.
She had spoken to her father since getting released and he had demanded that she tell him about her location, however she refused. She knew that he’d either come get her or expect her to conduct business down south.
“My mother and I slowly drifted apart as the years went on,” she adds, finishing her thought as she looks at him.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he comments. “In contrast, I have a great relationship with my mom. It’s my step-mom Teresa that I don’t have a good relationship with. We love each other, but we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things – especially the company. That’s why the contract is hard because this is family and I have to ask if I really want to leave the family team behind because I’m done with her. Do I make the switch to possibly have a better shot at winning the championship? Or do I try to make it work?” She loved how he was opening up to her more and more, and that gave her more and more comfort in being in that moment with him.
“That’s a decision that only you can decide for yourself, Dale. Part of my reason for leaving New York was because I wanted to get away from my family and not deal with my father.” He then looks at her concerned, really curious about her past now. It seemed with each piece that she revealed, more questions surfaced.
“Did your father ever hurt you?” She shakes her head no immediately, knowing that she has given him a very wrong idea on what is going on. “Okay, that’s good to hear. I can’t blame you for escaping it and giving yourself a new life, though.”
“Perhaps that’s what you need to do – with regards to the contract. Maybe a change in scenery would be good for you.”
“Possibly. But what if I make the move and it doesn’t work out?” Finished his dinner, he stands up with his plate and carries to the kitchen. “Then what am I to do?” He then turns around to see her behind him as she places her plate in the sink. “Then it was all for nothing…”
Their eyes then lock together as he brushes her hair out of her face. With the conversation that they had over dinner, everything seemed more clear. The mystery that was there was fading a little and he could see that no doubt he was right. She did love him.
“Why won’t you just give in to your feelings?” He questions as she stand there frozen.
“I…My….I…” she stutters, though doesn’t get to finish her thought as he pushes his lips against hers, capturing them in a kiss as he lets the passion that he has for her show.