Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 115: The Unwarranted Visitor

Friday, July 7

A loud pounding at the door awoke Chase as he sat up in the bed, looking around confused.

He glances at his phone, seeing as it was 11am. So he had slept in – big deal. He was awake earlier that morning, set to get ready for practice, when he heard it was put off due to rain. It was that moment he climbed back in bed, knowing the sleep would do him well.

He could tell it was still pouring rain outside through the window, so it couldn’t be time for practice yet. Besides, Alan would’ve called or texted before deciding to pound the door down.

He wondered whether he had missed an appearance or something, but there was no notifications from Morgan either.

The pounding then goes off again as he lets out a sigh, throwing the blanket off the bed.

“What the hell is that?” He hears Sarina as she watches the blanket fly off the bed, sitting up.

“Someone is going to beat my door down if I don’t go answer it,” he tells her as she looks over confused.

“Wait. Let me come with you…” She then emerges from the bed, chasing after him. Neither one could blame the other for wanting some security together, based on everything that happened.

“I know you’re in there!” They hear screamed, and Chase knew it wasn’t a welcoming sight. He also didn’t recognize the voice, hearing all kinds of alarms in his head.

“Call this number, and report this…” Sarina then hands over a card and her phone, having seen Chase’s phone still sitting on his night table. He could only glance at her confused, though began to dial the number. “Track security. Someone was put on the banne-”

“Bethany?” She shakes her head yes as he lets out a sigh. He hits call on the phone, leaning against the counter. He thought they were done with family drama having seen her brother arrested, but that would’ve been too easy.

“Open up, bitch!” Bethany yells once again as Chase rolls his eyes.

“Can you at least open it till they get here?” He questions. “I know you don’t want her, but we don’t need to attract attention either.” Sarina lets out a sigh, but knew that he was right as enough was already circulating through the garage.

Sarina then opens the door in one quick swing, coming face-to-face with Bethany before saying, “It’s nice to see you, too. How can I help you?”

“How could you dare leave your brother locked up in a jail cell down in Florida for no God damn reason?” Bethany questions as Chase walks back through the motorcoach, talking on the phone with the person who answered. He didn’t go far, though – far enough that he could clearly talk and hear what they wanted, but enough to watch the pair of girls at the door.

“I left him there for good reason,” Sarina answers. “He poisoned people, Bethany. He poisoned a crew member off of my team, off of Chase’s team, Ryan, and Chase. Do you not recall all that?”

“You do realize that he has some mental issues and sometimes decisions get clou-”

“Tests have found nothing. It’s just been his cover-up through the years. Open up your eyes, please! It took me awhile to see it, but I do now. You need to believe me….” Bethany rolls her eyes.

“I can’t believe you. I thought you were some great person. But no, you’re a royal trashy bitch. You’re so ashamed of your past that you just leave your brother locked up. You’d think a sister that cares about her brother would stay down there to help him. You’d think she would help him through the process, try and find the help that he needs. Instead, you just leave him like he means nothing and he has to call me to get him help.” Sarina figured that Bethany would be the first call.

“And just like me, you’re going to see it – unfortunately. It’s the worst feeling and I get not wanting to believe it. But it is what it is. He isn’t whom he seems, Bethany.” Bethany just shakes her head in disgust.

“Fine, he isn’t what he seems. So why couldn’t you dare bother to answer my phone calls or texts? You could’ve told me this over the phone. Instead, I have to pull up a damn bloody freaking calendar and find out whatever state you’re in racing and get a flight there. Instead, I have to sneak into the track because I’ve been banned for whatever reason. Did you think of courtesy?” Sarina crosses her arms.

“You should’ve thought of that before you came back into my life, and tried to force me to do things that I didn’t want to do. Did you think of that? You get treated how you treat me.” Bethany just laughs.

“I just invited you to a family reunion, and encouraged you to go to see everyon-”

“And I told you that I didn’t want to go back down that road, ever again. I got out of that and I don’t want to go back there. Drugs, fighting, living life on the run – I’m done with it. I’ve found my common ground, a happy place, and I’m not leaving it.” Bethany just glances around, shaking her head.

“Of course you have, Sarina. Nobody knows about what happened. Everything is just left in the past and forgotten. You’ve got your perfect princess life with a story thought of to match whatever you dream. News flash – you can change your name, but you can’t change who you are. Your background is still what it was, Chelsy Dryer. It’d be funny if everybody found out about it.” Sarina could only smile as she glances over at Chase.

“Go ahead and talk. I dare you. Ask Chase. He knows my entire story because I told him everything. Do you see him running? No, because he understands that it wasn’t my fault for what situation I was put in and the fact that it isn’t who I am. He understands the reason I changed my name – to leave it behind, and sees who I have grown into. Go ahead and tell my background to Kyle, whoever you want. All those who truly care about me and know me best know the story. You can’t hurt me with that threat, Bethany.” Bethany could only smirk in response.

“Don’t put it past me to do something…” She then watches a pair of security guards come up behind her, flanking each side of her.

“Is this the intruder?” The one guard asks and Sarina nods. “Would you just like her arrested?”

“Absolutely with pleasure,” Sarina answers as Chase walks over, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Come with us, ma’am.” The guards then escort her away as Sarina closes the door with a smile.

“Don’t worry one bit about her threat,” Chase comments as he wraps his arms around Sarina. She leans back in his arms, letting out a sigh.

“I never do,” she replies. “That’s how she works. She’s more talk than anything. She’s always held Chris to some high standard because I figure that’s where she got all her goodies from before.” Chase then looks over at her surprised as Sarina smiles. “But hey, it is what it is. No sweat off of my back.”

“You have nothing to be ashamed of for ignoring her phone calls, or anything. You have nothing to be ashamed of with your brother. You’re amazing no matter what she says. I’ve told you this before but I admire you.” He then turns her around so they’re facing each other. “I admire you for going through everything, and coming out strong. I admire your strength, how you keep pushing. I love every bit of you.” She smiles as she leans in and kisses his lips.

“That means more to me than you could know to hear you say that right now.” He brushes a piece of stray hair out of her eyes.

“Anytime you need to hear that, just let me know and I can tell you that and more. When you’re ready to talk about everything because I know you have feelings underneath all that strength, I’m here to listen to you.” He then places his hand firmly on hers. “Just promise me not to run this time….”

“Chase, I could never do that to you. You’re the one person that I could never turn my back on forever and feel good about it. You’ve done more for me than you know by being you. I didn’t know how to trust – you brought that out of me. I didn’t know how to love, and here we are. I’d never do that to you, okay?” He nods his head as he pulls her close in his arms.

************************************

Chase climbs out of the car, letting out a sigh. Glancing at the board, he couldn’t complain too much with qualifying 12th after how practice had gone earlier that day. However, it also hurt to miss the top-10 just by a little bit.

“You’re going to do amazing tomorrow night,” he hears behind him and smiles, recognizing the voice immediately as he glances back at her. “Trust me.”

“Always,” he answers as he spins around to face her, kissing her lips.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 114: Solid Rebound

Thursday, July 6

Chase walked into the garage, smiling as some crew members from fellow teams walked over to ask how he was, followed by some other drivers. He simply answered their quick question, thanking them for the well wishes.

He makes his way into the motorcoach area, smiling as he lays his eyes immediately on Sarina. He walks over, pulling her close without any hesitation, followed by a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m surprised you survived a day without me,” he comments as she rolls her eyes.

“Just be glad that you haven’t heard half of the crap around here yet,” she tells him as he looks at her confused. “You got my text about Briscoe, right? Well, he was one of many with comments.” Chase firmly wraps his arms around her.

“Listen, those comments don’t bother me at all. I’m here to do my job, and that’s drive a racecar as far as I can and try to win for my team. If anybody wants to try and create other drama around us for whatever reason, let them, because it doesn’t faze me – same as the pressure, and whatever else. All that matters to me is what we have, together.” She smiles as she lifts his sunglasses off his face, looking into his eyes.

“Do you realize how special you are?” He chuckles as he takes his keys out of his pocket, twirling them around. He then reaches over, unlocking the door for the motorcoach.

“After you….” Sarina heads in first, with Chase going to follow her, before a hand lands on his shoulder.

“Can we talk first?” He hears and feels like rolling his eyes immediately as he turns around to face his mom. “Are you sure by what you told her? I mean, there’s going to be lots said. People are going to question your actions based on being with her after what Chris did. People are going question everything about her due to her brother, and her background – the same questions that I’ve been reminding you of. Are you ready for that to be thrown in your face?” Chase nods his head.

“Just like I told you on Monday, and will repeat 10 times over if need be, I have her back and nothing is going to change that,” he informs his mom. “Her brother’s actions are not her fault. That is his fault for choosing to do that for whatever reas-”

“What about the fact that she let it go on for longer than it should’ve?” Chase crosses his arms, having asked the question himself initially.

“There was no concrete evidence pointing him to the crime prior to Ryan’s admission and them finding the vials. Secondly, she loved her brother and wanted to believe in a future together reunited just like they were when they were younger. It’s understandable that she didn’t believe it. You wouldn’t believe it if someone close to you decided to do something like that, would you?” Cindy lets out a sigh, shaking her head.

“But you said it yourself – you didn’t know whether you could trust him. That should’ve been a warni-”

“It was a warning, and she did approach him so it wasn’t like she didn’t take any steps. I was guarded more than she was without a doubt, and reasonably so based on what happened. However, I will admit that I started to believe in the change for awhile there before a couple off-key conversations happened. So while you want to accuse her, you can accuse me the same thing because I also trusted him a little there.”

“There’s nothing that I can to say change your mind?” Chase shakes his head no. “You know, I do this because I love you and I want to protect you. I don’t want to see you hurt like that ever again, and I can’t help but look at her because that’s three times now. Normally it’s three times and you’re out. I also know what everybody in this garage is capable of doing with rumors and stories from your father, and I don’t want to see you go through that.” Chase places his hands on his mom’s shoulders as he keeps his eyes locked on her. If they were going to have this discussion, might as well get it all out at once.

“I appreciate how much you care for me, and how you’re looking out for me. But with all due respect, there’s nothing you need to worry about when it comes to Sarina. I won’t get hurt with her, and as I told her – what is said won’t bother me at all, no matter who says it. I’m a big boy; I can handle it.” He then gives her a hug. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He then turns on his heels and heads inside, slipping the door closed as his eyes set on Sarina who was sitting on the couch.

“The usual discussion?” Sarina questions and Chase nods his head. “Chase, I’m sorry….” He walks over, sitting beside her.

“I told you that you never have to apologize, right?” He asks and she nods her head. “Well then, don’t apologize. Besides, she’s starting to come around slowly. She told me that she is just doing this because of how much she cares about me, how she wants to protect me and what not. I think she’s beginning to see why I love you so much.” She smiles as she places her hand on his leg.

“Well how about you begin taking advantage of my caring nature and we go head back there, and relax for a bit? You’re supposed to be resting and building up that energy, huh?” He lets out a sigh and nods his head. “It’s going to be one of those rainy ass days so I say we spend it being as lazy as possible, together as much as we can, until I have to race tonight.”

“Do I have a welcome seat on your pit box tonight?” She smiles and shakes her head yes, remembering her discussion with Kyle.

“Let’s just say that the boss is glad that we are back together.” Chase was glad to hear that as he didn’t need to hear any backlash from Kyle.

“It’s probably because he knows it puts you in a better mood.” She chuckles as she stands up, pulling at his hand.

“Come on. You need to listen to doctor’s orders.” He lets out a sigh as he stands and follows her. He wasn’t one for spending time relaxing quietly, so it was tough to follow the orders of keeping quiet and being lazy. However, if he had to follow them, this was the best way possible.

“Yes, Nurse Ott.”

********************************

After a quiet afternoon, the pair ventured out to the garage area, where Sarina headed into the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler for a pre-team meeting, followed by getting ready. The actions left Chase to himself in the garage area, obviously now surrounded by the same comments that Sarina heard the day before. Of course, they were heightened with the pair having being spotted holding hands.

“You look quieter than normal….” Chase hears and glances over, seeing Ryan leaning against a wall pillar.

“I could ask you why you look lost in a garage, but I’d assume that you’re here to watch Austin and Chase (Briscoe),” Chase replies as Ryan nods his head. “Besides, I’m normally quiet anyway.”

“Touché, but it just seems quieter, and I’ve heard all the comments that people have been saying. For the record, I have your back and I’m glad you guys are back to square one. As long as her brother stays locked away, I have no issues.” Chase walks over, leaning against the wall beside him.

“We’re both on agreement on that, and so is Sarina. She’s been checking in to make sure he isn’t pulling any tricks at all.” Ryan nods his head.

“And what about the comments?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances around.

“I can’t deny what I’ve heard. I’m surprised by who has said some of the things, to be honest. I thought some of these guys in the garage were nicer and more understanding than that. I mean, hearing that Kyle only kept Sarina because she’s a girl, and hearing that I’m messing up my perfect life by aligning myself with a witch like her isn’t heartwarming.” Ryan couldn’t help but shudder at the comments. “But, for the most part, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t really listened to any of it and just let it blow over my head. I’m focused on two things – racing this weekend, and my girl.”

“So you’re for sure racing on Saturday night despite everything that happened?” Chase nods his head, feeling confident that he’d be able to endure the full 400 mile distance despite the heat and everything, even with still working at building his strength entirely back up. “Well, I wish ya the best of luck and hope you do well.”

“Right back at you.” The pair then fell quiet, waiting for their respective drivers as Ryan thought over whether to ask the next question.

“Has Sarina told you her thoughts on the comments at all?” Chase glances over, debating whether he should open up about the text message.

“Oh, about the fact that Austin approached her unfairly yesterday entering the garage with a bitchy comment? Yeah, that happened and she wasn’t pleased just because nobody would expect that out of him. You’d think Tim would’ve raised him better than that.” Ryan rolls his eyes, having heard the rough details from a couple crew members.

“I heard he apologized, though.” Chase nods his head. “I mean, I know that doesn’t excuse him, but hey, it’s something. Oh, and for the record, I have no agreement on that.”

“Other than that, she’s her usual self – focused on doing the best that she can and kicking his ass, fully without any other thought interrupting her. I mean, that’s what makes her so good – her focus. She will stay focused and keep pushing harder, and also take in whatever lessons she can. She was texting Christopher last night while texting me to get more advice.”

“They are on good terms?” Chase wasn’t quite sure how far that went, honestly.

“Working as teammates, and probably as friends too, but I won’t confirm it.” Ryan nods his head.

“Has she mentioned her brother or family at all?” Chase looks over confused. “We both said that it was going to be something that’d tear her apart and affect her emotionally. I was wondering if she began talking, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“She hasn’t said much, yet.” Chase glances down, before taking a deep breath. “Her tactic is to avoid everything, and focus on racing as her escape. I’m letting her do that right now, while continuing to assure her that I have her back. That way when it gets to where she wants to talk, she’ll open up to me rather than running away from it. That’s all I can do.”

“Well, I hope it works out because I want to see you both happy.” Chase smiles, wishing for the same thing.

“She deserves it.” They then smile as they watch her emerge from the hauler, dressed in her familiar white uniform with pony tail fixed appropriately, heading their way.

“Don’t be getting any ideas, Ryan,” she states with a smirk, walking up to Chase. “I see you staring…” Ryan then looks at her as innocently as possible.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about as I wasn’t looking at nothing,” Ryan comments as Chase gives him a glance.

“Just because white shows everything doesn’t mean that you need to stare,” Chase says as he wraps his arms around her. “We know you’re jealous of our relationship. When Emma stops her cock-blocking games, I’ll find you a girl.” Ryan just rolls his eyes as Sarina laughs.

“Keep talking all you want, but remember who got you with the orange juice.” Sarina’s smile immediately disappears, turning into a ice cold stare on Ryan.

“That prank war isn’t over by a long shot, Blaney,” she says before walking away.

“You started a war that you’re not going to win,” Chase adds as he follows her with a smile of his own. It was nice to be getting back to their joking ways.

****************************

Sarina leans against the truck, sipping on a bottle of water following her post-race interviews, smiling as Marcus and Chase make their way over.

“Solid rebound,” Chase comments as he gives her a hug. “That was a job well done, considering.” She couldn’t help but agree. After running up front all race, she got spun at the beginning of the third stage, but managed to fight back for a fifth-place finish.

“Thank you,” she replies. “I just can’t help but think should’ve, could’ve and would’ve. If we could’ve stayed up front, we would’ve been able to possibly fight for the win and should’ve been right there with Christopher.” She then lets out a sigh as she takes another mouthful.

“Don’t let it eat at you. You’re performing great for a rookie – just ask anybody. The wins and success will come if you keep running like you are. You’re doing great.” He gives her a pat on the shoulder as Marcus looks on, nodding his head in agreement.

“Kyle found a gem in you, and we’re going to show everybody that soon,” he adds. “We’re working towards that. We’re running up front – now we just need to put it all together. Patience, young grasshopper.” She smiles as she simply gives her crew chief a hug.

“As long as we survive a night on dirt, I won’t complain,” she comments, knowing the next truck race was at Eldora Raceway. “That’s a whole new ballgame for me so it’ll be interesting.” Marcus chuckles nervously, though wasn’t too worried after seeing others adjust quickly.

“You have a natural feel. We’ll be fine…”

“You can also ask Christopher for advice,” Chase adds and Sarina nods her head, though slightly surprised. She thought that Chase was all set on those two not talking following Christopher’s previous comments.

“Keep doing what you’re doing, focus on your thing, and everything else will fall into place,” Marcus reminds her. “I’ll see you next week.” He then heads off as she turns to Chase.

“He’s right. It’ll work out, everything….” He then pulls her into a hug, knowing that the spin was still eating at her, as he rubs her back.

As she thought it over, she knew being frustrated with the spin was small in comparison to everything going on. If that was the only complaint on the day, than perhaps it wasn’t too bad and maybe Marcus was right. Maybe it was time for that happy ever after, finally.

Though letting out a sigh and seeing a missed call on her phone, she knew that was further from the truth given everything going on. She shakes her head, wishing the accompanying thoughts would disappear again as she deletes the notification.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 113: Talk of the Garage

Wednesday, July 5

Chase took a deep breath, before stepping off the plane and looking around. It was a surprise to be there, considering everything.

With having spent the majority of the weekend in the hospital, everybody was set to cancel his promotional period for Indianapolis. However, upon his release, the agreement was in place to keep it on as planned.

“Just so you’re aware, the Indianapolis media squad knows about what happened,” Morgan starts, as he glances over at her. “They understand that you were just released yesterday. It’s been cleared with them that if it gets to be too much of a day, or you need a break, we can just say something and do it. They don’t have a single problem as they’re glad that you were able to do this, still.” Chase nods his head as he looks around the airport for the group waiting for them.

“I still say you should’ve cancelled entirely,” Cindy comments as Chase rolls his eyes. He knew his mother was just being overly cautious. However, with a good sleep the night before, combined with sleeping the entire flight and continually feeling better, he felt up to going about business as usual. Besides, it wasn’t like there was going to be anything big and taxing on the day.

“Also, if anybody asks about Chris or Sarina or anything, simply state that you have no comment and move forward. I know things are touchy so we don’t need to get into that, and being an on-going police investigation, it’s not allowed anyway. They said they told all media members to not question, but you know how that works.” Chase nods his head.

“What’s first on the agenda, anyway?” He questions as Morgan pulls out her phone, looking at the schedule.

“A helicopt – ah shit,” she answers, as he looks over confused. “So you were supposed to take the track president, along with his head social media guru and two others on a helicopter tour of the city to the track.” Chase roughly remembered mention of that, as questions were made whether he had enough hours on his license to fly a group of people. “Are you still up to doing that?”

“Yeah, I can still do it. Maybe not as long as we discussed originally, but I can do a shortened version.” Morgan nods her head, making a note.

“Are you sure?” Cindy questions and Chase nods his head again. With how he was feeling, he knew that a short flight wouldn’t be a problem as concentration and awareness was back to a level that he was confident.

“If I had any concerns at all, I wouldn’t accept it,” he answers as Morgan meets up with one of the representatives to go over details.

*****************************

Sarina fixes the belt on her firesuit, before glancing in the mirror. She puts her hair up in a ponytail, giving it a quick brush through and smiles. That was easier getting ready than expected.

She then walks out of the Kyle Busch Motorsports trailer, smiling as there were some fans waiting for autographs – as usual. She signs them, before beginning the walk over to the garage for the start of the first practice.

The entire walk over, she could overhear comments all around her and noticed the eyes staring at her. There were some questioning her status with Kyle Busch Motorsports, things surrounding her brother, and whether she was still with Chase. She could only roll her eyes, knowing that there was probably going to be rumors flying every which way all weekend long.

“Well well, the princess is here,” she hears as she reaches the garage, glancing over a stall over. “Did you realize that you’re talk of the garage today?” She takes her sunglasses off, noticing Austin Cindric standing there.

“Yeah, I heard everybody’s thoughts,” she comments with an eye roll. “What’s your point?”

“I’m just surprised that you’re standing here in a Kyle Busch Motorsports uniform set to drive the No. 18 truck this weekend.” She expected those comments from some fans; however, it was a surprise from another competitor.

“Kyle understands that it wasn’t my fault, and stated that he has my back through everything. The sponsors have also said that they’re not backing down on their support. What’s your point, again?” He crosses his arms, a little surprised to hear those words.

“I’m just surprised. I mean, there was a ton of things said – including some wondering whether you still had the ride for the only reason that you’re female, and this isn’t the first incident regarding your broth-”

“Again, what’s your point? Sure, my brother made a mistake and a big one at that. So you’re saying that I should pay for that mistake? The next time you have a family member do something wrong, ask yourself that question. Furthermore, mind your own business!”

She then continues her walk, making her way up to Marcus Richmond. She couldn’t wait to focus on the truck and ignore everything else that was going on.

***********************************************

Chase walks into the building, following the media representatives for the next step of their promotional blitz.

So far, everything had gone with ease.

The helicopter flying came to him naturally and easily, allowing him to follow the route discussed with some entertainment had. It was also an experience that gave him confidence in how he had continued to get better, with focus on the upcoming race weekend. Maybe he’d be better than he envisioned at first.

He went through doing a series of sit-down interviews, followed by some TV interviews and radio interviews as directed by the schedule. Everybody was easy with the questions – all the usual simple stuff you heard for promoting events in different cities.

He also spent some time at the speedway with some go-karters, giving them advice and answering their questions. There was a moment that made the whole trip feel worthwhile when an eight-year-old was beyond excited to meet him and told him how he was his hero, followed by ‘best day of his life ever’ line.

The tour now took them to a local axe throwing place, where he was supposed to have a contest with the track promoter in whom had the better aim for some local television coverage.

“You don’t have to…” Morgan commented as he looked over the axe, picking it up. She kept her eyes, questioning his strength based on what she heard from Alan and Greg.

“I have to get my strength back up and this doesn’t feel too bad,” he states, as he holds it over his shoulder, swinging forward a little. It was probably heavier than he should handle at this exact time, but a quick swing for the cameras wouldn’t be a killer.

“Well then I have a piece of advice for aim – pretend his head is in the middle.” He smiles as he walks over, thinking that over. He looks at the target, taking in the jokes with the promoter. He then pulls it over his shoulder, taking a deep breath with eyes focused forward, throwing it and smiling as he hit the middle of the target.

“You’re pretty good,” the promoter comments, as he throws and misses by a bit.

After a couple more interviews, and some photos, he was released for the day.

Letting out a yawn, he makes his way onto the Hendrick Motorsports plane and takes a seat. Putting his feet up, he glances at his phone, pleased to see that Sarina had posted a time in the top-five in practice. He sends her a quick message, adding that he couldn’t wait to see her, before locking his phone and putting it up.

Another yawn, he stretched back, knowing that perhaps the day had been a little longer than he at first anticipated. He reminded himself that he was still healing, strength wasn’t totally back yet, and knew sleep was welcoming. He closes his eyes, thinking of the weekend ahead with happy thoughts, as he falls asleep.

***********************

With the last run of the day complete, Sarina debriefed with Marcus in the garage, going over what she liked about the truck and where they could improve. Satisfied, she agreed to head back and get a shower, before changing for dinner.

She makes her way through the garage once again, hearing the whispers, which she just meets with more eye rolls.

“Sarina!” She hears and rolls her eyes, recognizing the voice. She just continues walking, though knew that wasn’t going to be enough as she could hear the feet jogging behind her. “Hey!”

“What the hell do you want now?” She snaps as she spins around to face Austin.

“Woah, easy tig-”

“You expect me to be nice after your comments this morning? Never!” He holds his hands up, knowing a fight would do neither of them good.

“Look, I wanted to apologize actually. I overstepped the boundaries there as you have a point. Heck, you couldn’t have predicted what happened and I’m sure you did what you could. I also applaud Kyle for sticking his neck out on the line for you, as well as the sponsors. And you did a good job today. I’m sorry.” She takes a deep breath, trying to let the anger from earlier go away.

“Thank you, and apology accepted. There’s just a lot that people don’t understand.” He nods his head.

“Wanna try to make me understand?” She shakes her head no. “Okay, that’s fine. Look, good luck this weekend and hopefully things die off.” She then rolls her eyes as she knew once Chase showed up, the chaos would just continue.

“Let’s hope….”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 62: Building Belief

Friday at Darlington Raceway

The practice went solidly for Alyssa as she wasn’t the quickest, but she wasn’t that far off from where they wanted to be, posting the 14th quickest time for the session. More importantly, she was pleased with the handling of the car.

Though after finishing up her discussion with Kevin, she couldn’t help but find her eyes focused on Chase, wondering what was going through his mind. She saw his emotions before the practice started, and how he left for some time to himself prior to the session.

So immediately after being released from their post-practice debrief, she made her way over to Chase, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“Are you okay?” She asks as she leans her head against his back.

“I told you that you didn’t need to worr-” He starts.

“I care about you, Chas-”

“You have a race to focus on. If I need someone, I have a bunch of others that I can turn to, if need be.” She lets out a sigh as she rubs his sides.

“I know that you do, but sometimes that can be harder than you think to talk to them versus talking to me. Sure, it’s a busy weekend for me. But I always have time to spend with you, and hear you out. So if you have something on your mind, you can tell me.” He lets out a sigh as they quickly glance at each other. “I saw you leave the garage before the practice started. I could tell something was up before then, hence the concern then. Tell me, please….”

“I just have a lot on my mind, and basically re-visiting that time brought it full circle in my mind.” She rubs his shoulders, now feeling perhaps it was the wrong time to bring out the paint scheme – even if it held a lot of special meaning. Their first ever victory lane photo together was taken at this win.

“I didn’t mean to do tha-”

“It’s fine.” He then turns to face her. “You don’t have to blame yourself or apologize for how I am feeling. It may be a good thing, actually. It let me ponder how things were then, and how they’ve changed since. It made me reflect on how I’ve changed as a person, what I’ve been through, and perhaps find who I want to be.” He then glances down, taking a deep breath, before looking back at her. “I want to get back to who I was a couple years ago, when I believed that everything we’ve been through would be behind me. I want to get back to having that fun I was having. I want to get back to just living it up. I want to get back to being focused on racing and doing what I can, but having those fun crazy moments with friends – like you.” She chuckles, remembering some of those times.

“Including the late nights in the treehouse?” He immediately shakes his head no as she laughs. “Really? No horror movies?”

“I’ve had enough experience, thank you.” She couldn’t help but nod in agreement after her own run with terror. “But yes, moments like those. I want to get back to being able to sleep and not having to worry about that nightmare. I want to be able to wrap my arms around everything, and feel total control. My little glance back in my mind through time gave me the clarity to see all that, realize what I wanted, and focus on fighting for that.” It brought a smile to her face to hear the encouragement in his voice, especially with how they started the week.

“I’ve got your back no matter what, and I vow to help you.”  He nods his head, knowing there was no questioning that.

“I know you have my back. I know Dale has my back. But what’s the most important thing? Believing in myself, even in my lowest moments, that I can crawl out of that hole. Tony talked about remembering that. I didn’t say much then, but I guess I was still questioning myself – letting the anxiety speak more than I should. But reminding me of this, being here, it gave me that answer that I needed. So rather than apologizing for bringing that scheme out of hiding, I say thank you.” An even bigger smile formed.

“Hopefully I can fulfill the rightfulness of bringing it back in familiar style.” He smiled, knowing that’d be a great feeling after the disappointment last week.

“Just focus on doing your best, and believe. You can do this. I know you can.” She smiles as she wraps her arms back around him firmly. He lets out a sigh as he rubs her back. “Alyssa….”

“Everything that’s happened this week scared me more than I admitted. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do.” She then glances up at him. “But hearing this positivity from you, it’s beautiful.”

“I’m going to have my moments. I know I’m not through every emotion that’s rattling in my mind. Randy is still playing his tricks with me even though he’s locked up due to his mazes of mystery. I’m still careful in doings due to fear of something happening – hence why I haven’t ventured off far from here. I’m sure I’m going to slip up and probably flip on you, unintentionally, out of my own frustration. But you’re right – I’m positive about your chances, and I’m positive that I’ll figure this out.”

“I know you will…” She then kisses his lips. “So what do you say we go do some exploring?” He nods his head in agreement as they accept each other’s hands, walking out of the stall together.

As they headed out together, Marie sat by the hauler with Dale, eyes focused on them with intent staring.

“Are you sure it’s best for him to be here this weekend?” Marie questions, catching Dale’s attention as he looks over.

“He couldn’t stand to be at home away from Aly-” He starts.

“I mean, with everything that happened and you told me.” Dale lets out a sigh, having his own reservations. He remembered calling Regan with a call of concern, wondering if they should put some plan in motion. However, Regan convinced him that Chase will find his way and the best way to give him space was let him to do it how he wanted. If they continue to pressure, it could backfire.

“So far, it seems to be working out well. He seems to be in the perfect positive attitude about things with smiles between them. I don’t think we’ll have any problems.” Marie had hesitation, though, based on previous weekends.

“What about the incident that happened at Bristol? What about the fan incident, too?” Dale remembered those, being the reason he had called Regan.

“He knows what happened. He’s taking the steps to make sure they don’t repeat themselves while he figures out what he needs to in his mind. Hence no walks by himself, hence staying away from crowds, and hence staying grounded. With everything put together, I don’t think we need to worry.” He then glances over at Marie. “You haven’t bothered me about them for awhile now….”

“I can’t help it with hearing what happened and his thoughts. Their lives have been shattered, and trying to put the pieces back together….” She then pauses as she looks down. “We know what it’s like, Dale. We’ve seen that and we know how much it hurts. I remember finding you broken down that night through it. I remember when you found me sitting on the balcony another night. I don’t want to see my baby go through that….” Dale wraps an arm around her.

“I know, and I don’t want to see her go through that. But what saved us those times? We knew that we had something to run to, and we had each other. They need each other more than anything else right now. I know you’re worried about Chase and things, but she needs him more than our worry justifies – just like she helps keep him good. We need to believe that it’ll be fine, and give them the space, and let them do what they need to do to get through it – just like we did.” Marie knew he was right, no matter how hard it felt to do so.

“Why can’t we just sweep in and take away all the pain and questions?” Dale wondered the same thing sometimes.

“Because life is unfair in that way sometimes. But hey, admit it – if anybody can do it, it’s them.” Marie nods her head in agreement.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 112: McDowell

Tuesday, July 5

Chase sat on the edge of the bed, tapping his feet on the ground as he looked towards the door. He had gotten the news that he had been waiting for all morning – he was going to be allowed out of the hospital. Sure, there was still some healing to do as he still felt a little sick at times and was finding his strength back, but healing would feel better in his own bed, rather than here.

“Patience…” Bill pats his shoulder as he lets out a sigh, growing annoyed waiting as he looks down at his phone. He and Sarina had stayed there discussing everything they could think of till late Monday night, before she left to get her flight back to Charlotte. The pair promised despite their chaotic schedules to stay in touch as much as possible until they were able to see each other next, including a promise to text each other constantly.

“Why do they tell you one time and then make you wait another whole 20 minutes beyond that?” He questions as he sends Sarina back a message.

“He may have taken longer with a patient than expected.” Chase could only roll his eyes, growing annoyed, though tried to remain as patience as possible. Perhaps logging onto twitter and reading some tweets would waste enough time.

“Why does this not surprise me?” Bill then looks over curiously as Chase scrolls past a series of tweets. “There’s some people insisting that Kyle should let Sarina go because of what happened, insisting it’s her fault.” Cindy just crosses her arms, keeping her comment to herself as she had her own theory on that, still, no matter what Chase insisted. “Then of course you have the constant messages of people wondering whether I’m going to be fine for this weekend.”

“Have you asked the doctor about tha-”

“Seriously?” Cindy questions, not resisting the urge to comment anymore. “Hello, are we forgetting what just happened? Are we forgetting how he was feeling? They said this is going to take time…” Chase takes a deep breath, not surprised by the comment.

“They said that it’ll take time to clear it all out of my system and make me feel perfectly 100% and then get back every bit of my strength due to my body fighting,” he starts. “But if I focus on following what they tell me, rest, and work at that strength factor – I’ll be fine. I’m supposed to take this week and weekend as I want, one step at a time, seeing how I feel each step of the way. I’ve already talked about it with Rick and he’s going to have Justin on stand-by incase. I’ve also talked to Alan and Greg, and we have things in place. I’ll be fine.” Cindy could only roll her eyes, not believing how soon they were discussing it.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful?” Chase looks over, nodding his head, before returning his eyes back to his phone. He then switches to his mentions, scrolling through them. The messages of worry were nice, backed up with interesting messages about people’s thoughts ahead of the weekend. He quickly scrolled past those that had comments about the future for him and Sarina, not caring what everybody else thought. He then paused as he reached Michael McDowell’s tweet.

“Un-fucking-believable!” Bill and Cindy instantly turn surprised.

“William Clyde Elliott!” Cindy yells first.

“Chase?!?” Bill says at the same time as Chase looks up from his phone.

“Sorry,” he quickly apologizes before looking back at the message. “I was just caught off-guard by the message.”

“What does it say?” Chase re-opens the tweet, ignoring the search he had already started.

“I wonder if Chase Elliott watches replays and realizes he wrecks himself. That is twice now, with hashtag untouchables. That’s thanks to the one-talent wonder, Mr. McDowell.” Cindy’s jaw drops in shock as Chase turns the phone to show them.

“He can’t be serious, can he?” Chase rolls his eyes as he pulls open a replay of the wreck, watching a couple different views.

“Clearly he needs a McDoctor because he can’t see, either. There’s no questioning what he did Saturday night. And sure, I may have snapped a little more than I should’ve on the radio, but heck, he deserved that because yes, that’s twice now.”

“Unbelievable….” Chase didn’t even bother focusing on a reply, but instead took chuckle at some of his fans replying back with their words. It was clear McDowell wasn’t winning any argument here. His attention was only taken away from the phone when he heard footsteps entering the room, glad that the doctor had finally made his way in.

“I have something that you probably want,” Dr. Hanken said as he places some papers on the bed beside Chase. “Release papers, along with your waiver for NASCAR clearing you for the weekend, even with the prescription and such.” Chase smiles, as that was a good step in the right direction.

“Thank you,” he simply replies as he sets his phone down.

“Just make sure you take two pills a day for seven days so you clear up the rest of the infection that lies from the poison. If you don’t do that, it has a chance of growing and causing you more problems.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “The sickness feeling should continue disappearing, but don’t be afraid to get your hands on gravol. Remember to take it easy, get lots of rest, don’t push yourself too far, and let yourself heal. If you try to do anything too soon, you’re just going to set yourself back. I know that’s hard for you, but it’s necessary.” Chase nods his head.

“Don’t worry – I won’t pull anything smart off, thanks to everybody already on my ass. Besides, I don’t want to go back to that ever again.”

“And check in with your own doctor next week to make sure everything is going accordingly. If there’s any questions, get him to call me or come down for a visit.” Chase nods his head. “Other than that, you’re free to go – but remember what I said.”

“Got it. Thanks for everything.” He shakes the doctor’s hand before hopping down off the bed, grabbing the papers and glancing at his parents with a smile. “Ready to go?” They both nod their heads following him in toe.

****************************************

Christopher Bell walks over, leaning over the tailgate of the truck as he watches Sarina adjust the mirrors in her truck closely. They were getting everything together ahead of the next event at New Hampshire, and like always, she was being particular on her cockpit.

“Can I help you, Bell?” She questions as she climbs out of the truck, about three minutes later.

“I’m surprised that you’re here and not in Florida right now,” he answers as she looks over at her teammate.

“I had a necessary meeting to attend here. I needed a conference with the team about continuing to improve, and then a meeting with Kyle, Sam and the PR team in regards to everything that happened. I wasn’t about to blow a necessary commitment.” Christopher then crosses his arms.

“But what about Chase?” She then rolls her eyes, as she thought they were done discussing him.

“He’s got his parents to keep an eye on him, and he understood the means to the end. We both agreed to text each other constantly, and see each other when we can. We’re going to make time for each other, Christopher. I thought we were done discussing my personal life.” Christopher remembered her frustration before, and almost kept his mouth shut.

“I was just concerned, considering what happened. I mean, things got pretty serious there. I was wondering whether he’d see the light, and how you’d be feeling with everything considered.” Sarina stops, glancing at the floor and taking a deep breath, before returning her eyes to him.

“I have a ton of thoughts going through my mind that you probably couldn’t even imagine right now. Try putting yourself in my shoes and seeing how all this makes you feel. It’s a mess. Do I feel like talking about it with you, though? No, but I can damn well promise you that like everything else I’m going to figure out what to do and get through it. So don’t dare ever question that. Now, as far as Chase and I, that’s still as tight as ever – in his words to me – so stop worrying.” He then puts his hands up, regretting saying a word to begin with.

“I’m sorry for trying to be a friend and care. I wish you guys the best, and see you at the track.” He then turns on his heels and heads across the shop as she lets out a sigh.

She then leans against her truck, shaking her head. Maybe she was a little too hard on him. Maybe she needed to watch how much she threw her guard up. But could you blame her for watching who she trusted?

Fully pleased with how the day went, she stops by Kyle’s office to say goodbye, before leaving. As she climbed in her car, she knew a nice bath that night would feel good to let the stress go. She knew she couldn’t everything bottled up like his entering the weekend.

She makes the short drive back to the house, surprised when she notices a car in the driveway. She glances back at her phone, remembering that Chase mentioned he was being released. However, there was nothing about returning home as she figured he’d be at his parent’s house.

Grabbing her phone and purse, she climbs out of the car and heads to the door, unlocking and walking in with ease. She then smiles as she could see Cindy in the question from her location. While Chase’s mom wasn’t the sight she needed right now given their feelings for each other, she knew what else that meant.

“He’s upstairs lying down,” she hears from the living room, smiling when she sees Bill sitting there watching TV. “Cindy is making him some soup, and then we were going to order in something. We can add something for you, if you want.” Sarina thought about it, knowing a good bite to eat would be nice. However, avoiding arguments and his mom for now was probably a better option.

“I’ll grab something after, but thank you for the offer,” she says before heading up the stairs. She smiles when she reaches the bedroom doorway, seeing him curled up and relaxed nicely. She quietly makes her way into the room, climbing into the bed, wrapping an arm around him. “I missed you….”

“I was wondering when you’d get here,” he immediately whispers in return, before rolling over to look into her eyes. “Glad to see you. Surprise.” She leans in for a kiss right away. Screw the bath as this was way better.

“Best surprise that I could ever have – even if I have to fly out in five hours for Kentucky.” He then holds up his piece of paper with a smile. “Seriously?”

“They said if I’m feeling up to it, so I’m going to give it a shot. Regardless, it gives me a good reason to spend more time with you.” She smiles, as she couldn’t deny that being a good idea.

“I have no problem with being able to cuddle with you every night.” He then lays down flat on his back, wrapping an arm around her as she lays her head against his chest.

“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and relax. We’ve got some time before mom brings up my soup. I know you have lots on your mind and probably can’t sleep so catch up while you can.” She couldn’t believe how tired she felt, realizing it as she laid her head on him, eyes closing immediately as she relaxed, repeatedly thanking whoever that he was okay.

The pair remained like that in silence as he rubbed her back with her peacefully sleeping, till a knock was heard on the door. Sarina rolled over just enough to let Chase sit up, but remained right close to him.

“Thank you mom,” he thanks his mom as she hands over the tray, including the soup and crackers. Her eyes drift to Sarina for a minute, before returning to him.

“If you need anything else, let me know,” she tells him and he nods his head. She then turns on her heels and leaves the room as Sarina lets out a sigh.

“When is it not going to be awkward between us?” Sarina wonders as Chase glances over at her.

“When she understands why I love you, that it’s not your fault, and everything else,” he answers as Sarina rolls her eyes.

“And that’s ever going to happen?” Chase nods his head.

“As much as my mom can be a pain in the ass and determined with her ways, she eventually will come around and be the best person that you’ve ever known. Just be patient.” He then leans in and gives her a quick kiss. “You should go get yourself something to eat.” She shakes her head.

“I want to make the most of every one of these minutes that we have before I have to leave. I can get something as I’m getting on the plane and eat it.” He was almost ready to argue, but bit his tongue. He could understand her reasons – fear regarding him, mixed emotions about her brother, a trail of broken hearts through her life – so he simply accepted, giving her a quick smile.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 61: Mixed Emotions

Friday at Darlington Raceway

 

Following a relaxing morning together, the pair headed out to the garage, holding hands.

Normally, Alyssa was set to let Chase do his own thing – but she felt some pride this weekend. She knew how much the scheme that adorned her car meant to him and the team, and wanted to show it off to him first. There was also the feeling of a being a little more guarded this weekend after the week’s confessions.

The pair walk into the garage stall and Alyssa takes a glance over the car, smiling as she notices the small touches, before glancing back at him.

“Well, what do you think?” She questions as he takes his own view over the paint scheme. Immediately upon seeing it, he was taken back to that night at Darlington when he put together one of the most impressive runs to the checkered for his second series victory. Back when he was young and free, and back before all the chaos broke everywhere, too.

“They did a good job,” he answers as he takes his time looking it over. “It looks a little strange with the 88 on it, but it still looks amazing.” She smiles, remembering the discussion she had about putting the 9 on it properly, but how that was shot down for a variety of reasons by the team.

“Now it’s just about creating that same type of magic this weekend once again.” He smiles as he turns around to face her.

“I have every bit of faith that you can do that as you’ve impressed me a lot already, and everybody else too.” She smiles, nodding her head, as she lets out a sigh.

She knew the compliments from everybody about how she had driven the past couple of weeks were all good natured, meant to be encouraging given her situation and everything. However, she found herself guarded with each one.

She didn’t want to be known simply for being her father’s daughter. She didn’t want to be known for being that female racer. She didn’t want to be known as the driver who did it with one-hand and stood out her own way.

She wanted to be known as a racer – just like any other person in the garage.

Glancing in the cockpit, she knew there was no way she’d get that feeling totally back as she’d always wonder with each comment whether they’d give the same to someone different – a male, typical driver – versus her.

Though just because there were questions in her mind about comments, that didn’t mean her confidence was shaken at all. She was confident as ever that they’d be up front all weekend, and celebrating by the end of Saturday. She knew she could get the job done, and intended on doing that as she knew the playoffs were just around the corner.

“How long till practice?” She questions, set on focusing on the day ahead.

“15 minutes,” the crew member answers in return, before going back to what he was doing. She then glances over at Chase, watching him as he continues to look over the car.

“Did they miss something?” He shakes his head no. “Talk to me, then…..”

“Just thinking back to then and how things have changed,” he comments as he looks over at her. “You don’t need to worry about me. Focus on what you got to do. I’m fine.” She knew there was no way that was going over her head easily after what happened this past week.

“Chase, you don’t need to be like that with me,” she tells him, catching his attention. “I can focus on my job and damn well take care of you. Heck, I worry about you no matter what. So if you’ve got something going on, don’t be afraid to tell me.” He nods his head, accepting, as she gives him a quick hug and kiss.

“Trust me – I’m fine.” She nods her head, taking a deep breath. There was no time to push the issue as she watched Kevin walk into the garage, knowing that she wanted to go over some things before practice.

Chase watched her walk over to the crew chief, before taking one more glance over the car. He then takes a deep breath, grabbing his headset off of the pit box and beginning the walk out to the hauler. He was earlier than needed, but he knew some time alone to think would be warranted right now.

He climbs the steps, and looks out over the track, letting out a sigh. Through everything that happened, he had kept focused on moving forward and doing what he had to do. It was all about finding the best way to get through it all, and deal with whatever was thrown his way. There was never time to reflect, be glad for the highlights, be thankful for the opportunities, and make sure to not take everything for granted.

As he looks back into the stall at the familiar yellow and blue paint scheme, it brought everything into his focus.

He remembered his rookie season in the XFINITY Series. He was thankful that Rick had taken a chance on him, along with Kelley, Dale and the executives from NAPA. He remembered feeling an odd bit of pressure to perform after the mess that they had come out of from previously with Michael Waltrip Racing.

He remembered the shock at how quickly they were able to perform up front, though also being as hard as ever on himself for each mistake that he made. Of course they were supposed to be up there – welcome to the equipment. Now it was just on him to get the job done. He remembered the victory at Texas, followed by Darlington, and the realization they were going to fight for a championship. He remembered not having to worry about a darn thing, and living the ultimate dream. There were the jokes with friends, and the excitement of the weekend ahead.

He then pauses, and takes a deep breath. After that year, everything that changed. He headed to Daytona and everything began. All the thoughts that mixed through his mind – from pain, to anxiety, to fear, to doubting decisions more than normal, to anger – it was everything that drove him from then. Sure, he found some time with a peace – a good 10 year stretch of being relaxed without anything happening. But yet, he knew it probably lingered there under the surface. There was no way that you could just get rid of that totally.

Now standing there, overlooking a memory so to speak, he knew the situation he found himself in. There were more questions than answers, and more doors open than he could shut throughout his mind with everything flooding through.

Could he get through this? Was he strong enough to find the peace that he warranted? Could he erase the thoughts that Randy had stuck in his mind? Could he find that peaceful opening that was there previously? Would he ever return to the self he warranted for from then?

He also remembered the questions about whether he was destined to continue racing beyond this, or else this craziness would result in hanging it up earlier than expected. Though being reminded of that victory, the excitement, the drive to win, determination, and everything else he could think of – there was no way he could leave that behind.

As the car pulled out of the stall and he placed the headset upon his head, ready to watch the practice, he vowed to himself to keep fighting and find what he needed.

He was going to get through this, and he was going to come through it stronger than ever – no matter what it took.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 111: Their Moment

Monday, July 3

Chase sits up, set for the day’s activities. While it had been nice to chill out for the past day and let himself relax, it was going to be nice to move around. He knew of the day’s activities – walking around some, followed by a series to tests to see if there were any lingering effects. He knew there was no reason to be nervous, since they’d caught it early, but he couldn’t help but wonder if something would be fine.

Taking a deep breath, he also had another request on the day, as well.

“Ryan, do you know if Sarina is still in the area?” He questions, catching his mom’s attention as Ryan nods his head. “Give her a shout and ask her to come over this afternoon. I want to see her, please.” Ryan nods his head, as he pulls out his phone. He knew Sarina would be glad to hear that news.

“I hope the reason is because you’re through with everything,” his mom comments as Chase just rolls his eyes. He knew there was going to be comments, but it still didn’t mean he agreed.

“I’m old enough to make my own decisions, so please let me do that. Besides, it wasn’t her fault that her brother did this. She didn’t do anything wrong so you can’t hold this against her.”

“She trusted her broth-”

“He’s family. It’s just part of you to trust family.”

“What about when you raised suspicions?”

“She had her own opinion, and was stuck to it. I would be too if the roles were reversed. I get not wanting to believe it.”

“I still don’t agree with it, Chase. She’s just brought trouble to your life.” Chase hated to be having this discussion, but knew it was worth it after having a lot of thoughts the past night.

“I know, but it’s not been her fault. For that reason, I can’t hold it against her and we deserve a chance to talk about things. Whether you agree or not, that’s not the point. I hope, though, that eventually you come to liking her and agreeing with this because I think you two could get along well.” Cindy just rolls her eyes as Bill watches the pair from his spot in corner.

“We’ve raised him right, Cindy,” he starts. “Chase knows how to handle situations, and I have to agree with him here. It wasn’t her fault.” Cindy looks over at Bill, surprised. “She didn’t poison him. It also appeared that Chris was going to be fine from his actions and discussions. Just bare with it….”

“Besides, we can all go get something to eat and such while they discuss things,” Ryan offers, knowing that Chase probably wanted to have this discussion privately.

“Do I get anything?” Chase wonders as Ryan looks over, unsure.

“I don’t know if you’re cleared for anything, yet. If they allow you, I can be your best friend.” Chase smiles, knowing that Ryan knew what he wanted without words needed.

**********************************

Sarina takes a deep breath, glancing into the room.

She had just watched the group leave – including a stare from Cindy and a hug from Ryan, and was now set to finally see Chase. She was in total disbelief when she got the text earlier, despite her hopes expressed to Kyle, and she could only hope that it went smoothly.

Taking another deep breath, she forces her feet to move, walking through to the door, smiling as she reaches the bed where he was sitting up. He gives her a quick smile, motioning to the chair beside the bed. So much for bed cuddles….

“It’s nice to see you up,” she comments as she takes the requested seat. “Ryan has been giving me updates, but how are you?” He smiles, not complaining based on the progress seen.

“All the tests that they ran came back clean and I was able to walk all the way around here without an issue,” he says. “Still feel a little shitty, still a little tired, but it’s coming along. It’s like the (y)ucky flu right now.” She makes a face, knowing how much that sucked when she was sick herself. She couldn’t help as a driver herself to ponder the upcoming weekend, even though that should be farthest thing from her mind.

“Well, I’m glad that you’re doing better, honestly. When I heard what happened…..” She then glances down, remembering all of her thoughts from before, despite the constant reassurances from Alan, Ryan and Kyle. “Chase, I feel absolutely terrible. I wish we could switch places in a heartbeat as I hate this. I hate seeing you like this. I hate hearing about Ryan going through this. I hate hearing about the others going through this. It’s all my fault, too. I should never have trusted him. I should’ve known better. I should’ve don-”

“I’m not mad at you, nor do I blame you a single bit. Sarina, even though I am included in the list for him now, I still haven’t changed my perspective. It’s all his fault. He did it, not you.” She wanted to accept those words with ease, but the feeling was hard to shake.

“I trusted hi-”

“He’s your brother; I would do the same if the roles were reversed. If for some reason Star did something like this, I would trust her till the last single moment and somebody was able to show me proof otherwise. That’s what you needed, and I know I would need the same if we switched places.” Sarina knew he was just saying that because he was the easily forgiving type. Everybody else was probably trying to cut her head off.

“But you warned me, and so did Christopher. I should’ve done more….”

“You approached him, right?” Sarina nods her head. “That’s doing something. Really, with no proof, there was nothing else that you could’ve done yourself. You did the right thing through this and I don’t fault you at all. The only reason I didn’t get a hold of you sooner is because I didn’t have the energy to argue with my mom.” Sarina glances down, shaking her head.

“You have the best relationship with your parents, and I’ve screwed that up…”

“No, you have not. Me and my mom are sill close as ever – we just disagree. When we disagree, we argue about it and share our points. However, truly deep down, we trust the other with their decision. We also make sure to take care of each other and be there, leaving that aside. My mom and I will be fine, okay?” Sarina nods her head.

“I walked out on you, though. I yelled at you and left.” She then looks up into his eyes. “How do you ignore that?” Chase admitted to himself that hurt more than anything, but he wasn’t ready to let that show right now.

“I know you are. I know you’ve been through a lot over the years. Your motto is to turn your back and run, hoping to escape it because you don’t want to feel that pain ever again that you felt then. You don’t want to repeat mistakes. Hence why you tried to put everything in the rearview and not a thought. It’s understandable because of everything, and the fact nobody can understand what you’ve been through. I know when you left, it was more for that reason rather than directed at me direc-”

“I yelled at you and told you that I couldn’t trust your wor-”

“Because of your brother’s love and the fact that you love him and didn’t want to believe that. Like I said, I understood that. So I accepted it, knowing that when everything came out, you would understand where I was coming from and I would understand your side and we could talk it out. Sarina, the best part of our relationship – communication. We can talk to each other about anything.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that’s a lie.

“We couldn’t talk about my brother to begin with. We couldn’t talk about your life being in danger. We’ve had issues with trust. We couldn’t rationally discuss this situation. But we have communication, Elliott?”  Chase nods his head.

“We’ve had trust issues – no doubt, and I’ve absolutely called you out on those. However, since February, we’ve taken steps to improve those and be more open with each other. That’s why when you left, I trusted that you’d come back when you were either ready to discuss or come to terms with it, just like you are here today. You didn’t leave Florida because you knew I’d reach out to you. That says something by itself.” She remembered the discussion with Kyle as a small smile forms.

“Kyle didn’t believe me….” Chase then looks on surprised.

“Really? Because I told him that I would always love you no matter what, had your back, and to keep an eye on you for me.” She then looks on, intrigued. “You should ask him. I told him that before the race.”

“I really am sorry…” Chase nods his head.

“You don’t need to apologize.” She then reaches out for his hand, which he easily lets her as the pair lock eyes. “We’re going to be okay. We both know that we have each other’s back no matter what. We both know that we can do what we need to do. I know you have some things to work through, and trust me – I’m here. I’m ready to listen to whatever you want to vent about. I’m ready for the tears, frustration, long nights, whatever comments may be about Chris. I’ve got your back.”

“Thank you, and I’ve got your back. I’ll do whatever you need to help you feel better.” A small smile then forms on his face. “Uh oh….”

“Whatever I need? Seriously?” She nods her head, nervously. “What about a kiss?”

“Do you think we’re really back to that point?” He then tugs at her hand, pulling it up to his mouth, and kissing it. “That’s a tease….” He then chuckles as she stands up, leaning in for a proper kiss. “I missed this. I missed you.”

“I missed you, too. I know you came by. You were the reason I woke up. I wanted to convince you to stay, and stop fighting with my mom.” She then looks on surprised. “I heard everything. I just couldn’t find the strength to do it.”

“You had bigger things to worry about, and I damn well want that to be your focus. You focus on getting better and I can worry about the rest, okay?” It was his turn to be surprised.

“So no more running?” She shakes her head. “That’s good, because I can’t take this again.” He then pulls her back close for another kiss.

“Thank you. Thank you for continuing to surprise me. Thank you for continuing to have my back. Thank you for continuing to be someone that I can trust on. Thank you for always showing me that it’s going to be okay.” He gives her a hand a squeeze with a smile.

“I meant what I said – it will be. We will fight through whatever is going through that mind of yours about everything. I know I fell in love with that simple, determined racer who seemed to know how to have fun, but I’ve fallen more for the woman underneath and the fact that you keep fighting no matter what. I’m here to make that easier.”