The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 38: “Are you sure we went the right way?”

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina heard her phone go off for what seemed like the hundredth time, and was almost set to chuck it across the room.

“What time is it?” She wondered, half-asleep, as she reached over for her phone. Seeing that there were eight missed text messages from Lindsay, she couldn’t help but feel concerned as she opened them. “What the hell?”

She calls Chase’s number twice, before hitting Ryan’s twice afterwards. She then resorts back to Chase’s number, dialing it over and over as she gets out of the bed, throwing a sweater and pair of pants on quickly. She makes her way out of the motorcoach, continuing to hit the number, as she makes her way down a couple more.

She knocks on the door, panic slowly building, as she was getting no answer, or sign of return from him.

“Sarina?” Bill questions as he opens the door, confused.

“Have you seen Chase or Ryan?” She questions and Bill shakes his head no, now intrigued. “He was supposed to fly down to Miami, pick Lindsay up, and bring her here. But I haven’t seen him, or Ryan, and Lindsay hasn’t been picked up yet.” Bill felt concern forming as he goes back in his motorcoach, grabbing his phone, looking for any messages or missed calls.

“Have you trie-”

“I’ve been calling his number over, and over, and Ryan’s too!” Bill didn’t want to panic because who knew, it may be a simple issue like he left late due to a problem, or there was still a problem at the airport. However, that thought was also accompanied by the reason he had come down there early.

“Stay here with Cindy and explain to her what’s going on, and I’ll be back. It’s probably nothing, but I’ll go by the airport and see if he’s there…” Sarina takes a calm deep breath, nodding her head as Bill walks over up to her. He wraps an arm around her shoulders. “He’s going to be okay, relax…” He then heads off as Sarina enters the motorcoach, ready to see Cindy.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Beach

The pair had been walking for what seemed forever, but it seemed to be leading them nowhere. They had passed by a couple buildings, but there weren’t open so there was no way to find people there.

“Are you sure we went the right way?” Ryan questions as he stops to take a small break. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he glances around.

“The sun always rises in the east, and sets in the west,” he recalls a saying that he learned during pilot training. “The track is west of the beach, so therefore if we walk away from the sun, we should find the track.” Ryan looks over a little concerned by the theory, as he glances around.

“Meanwhile, we’ve been walking for a while and found nothing!” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks over at Ryan.

“I didn’t say it was a short walk, did I?” Ryan shakes his head. “Besides, are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m not the one bitching that my side hur-”

“You’re also not in perfect shape, either..” Ryan knew that Chase was right as he tries to stretch a little.

“I’m not a big swimmer, man. That was probably the most I’ve gone, and will go, swimming in my life. I’m just sore everywhere.” He then stretches a little bit more before continuing to walk. “But standing around isn’t going to get us anywhere, so we better keep going…”

“Yeah.” Chase then continues walking behind him.

“Are you good to keep walking?” Chase nods his head as he catches up alongside.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Airport

Bill walks down the airport tarmac, surprised by the sight before him as there was no plane, bags, or anything to be found. It was clear that Chase wasn’t there, having taken off, now somewhere between here and Miami.

“Where are you?” He questions as he looks at his phone once again. He had followed Sarina’s lead, also dialing Chase’s number a couple of times, demanding an answer.

He goes to where the plane was parked and was almost set to walk away with no signs of anything, but stopped when he noticed an envelope. He walks over, picking it up, and quickly ripping it open. Before even reading the contents, he figured what was coming.

“You should be more careful as you know I’m always watching,” he reads, letting out an aggravated sigh.

Taking a deep breath, he pulls his phone back out, calling the phone number that Chase had given him for the investigator. His heart was panicking, but he had to do what was right. He just didn’t know how he’d tell Cindy and Sarina what he found.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona, Florida

“Now which way do we go?” Ryan questions as they seemed to be getting closer to where some hopeful civilization would be.

“This way,” Chase answers as he leads them down a path. Ryan almost wasn’t set to listen, given where they’d gotten so far, but he also didn’t have a single clue. “That hotel there – that’s where the crew guys are staying!”

“Wouldn’t they be gone already?” Chase knew that was a possibility, but whether they were there or not, he didn’t care. It was someone that could help them out.

They continue walking, both of them feeling some pain as those clothes clung tight being soaked, walking up to the edge of the Marriott property.

“Chase?” They hear, catching them by surprise. They could only wonder what crew member and team this person was fun, but it was nice to finally find someone who recognized them. They watch as the person immediately heads over their direction, and every reflex relaxed immediately. “We’re just about to come to the track. What the hell are you doing here? And why are you both soaked?”

“Crashed the plane in the beach,” Chase states, causing Jordan’s jaw to drop immediately. “We were going to pick up Lindsay and ran into a bit of a probl-”

“A bit of a problem? Are you serious? This is no little problem! I mean, I don’t know if you realize, but you’re both damn lucky to be simply standing here based on what you’re telling me. I mean, how lucky can one gu-”

“Look, can I call Sarina and my dad, please? They’re going to be worr-”

“Come with me….” Jordan gets the pair of them to follow him up to the hotel, causing some glances from a couple of the other crew members.

It didn’t take Jordan long to explain what was happening, causing more shocked glances from the various crew members. But in their true fashion, they each stepped in to help immediately. They led both boys inside, and back up to the floor they were staying on. They went down to the crew chief’s suite, with Alan letting them in immediately.

“Get out of your wet clothes,” Alan instructs as he goes into the closet. He didn’t have much, but threw a pair of pants and shirt at each of them. “Anything is better than being soaked.”

The pair nod their heads as they follow the instructions, getting changed quickly. Once changed, the crew members had already figured out their plan of action. Josh was set on making sure both of them were comfortable laying in Alan’s bed, having seen the signs of being sore. Alan had taken the action of calling Sarina, followed by calling Bill, while Jordan took the liberty of phoning it in to the investigator.

“Sarina, Cindy, and Bill are on their way over,” Alan states as he glances over the pair. “You both need to get checked out so they can take you. Ryan, if you want, we can call Roger, anybody you nee-”

“I’m fine,” Ryan cuts him off as Alan simply nods his head.

“Do we really need to get checked out?” Chase questions and Alan gives him a glare.

“You’re in pain right now as I can see that,” Alan starts. “You just crashed a plane into the water and want to go on as if nothing happened? Not happening, buddy.” Chase lets out a sigh as he rubs his side a little.

“I already know what they’re going to sa-”

“You’re not getting out of this – no ifs, ands, or buts.” Chase lets out a sigh as he tries to get comfortable.

“Yes sir.”

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

“I’m just glad that you’re okay,” Sarina comments as she cuddles up to him in their bed together.

It hadn’t taken long in the morning for the pair to be reunited, with shock being the number one item of discussion. Although he hadn’t been wanting to get checked out, it didn’t take as long as anticipated either.

Thankfully, he hadn’t actually broken any ribs, but rather just bruised a couple. While it’d take three to four weeks to heal, thankfully a bit of asprin and ice was helping right now. Other than that, some bruises in a couple other spots and rest to heal the tiredness and he’d be good to go.

Ryan had gotten luckier, only having some questionable bruises in spots, and needing some rest as clearly it had taken its toll.

After they were released, the pair returned to the track and their respective tracks. Bill had gone and picked up Lindsay so Ryan and Lindsay were able to spend their time together, while Sarina and Chase had each other.

“I don’t think you realize how luc-” Sarina goes to continue.

“Trust me, I know how lucky I was,” he cuts her off as he runs his fingers through her hair. “Jump any later than I did, or if we weren’t over the water, and we would’ve been in trouble. I get it. I haven’t lost sight on that – especially considering it’s my fault.” Sarina then looks at him confused. “I was running late, and didn’t bother to look everything over. The note was right – I should’ve been more carefu-”

“You couldn’t kno-”

“I should’ve known that it was possible, because of the notes, because of the threats, because of the way the notes have gone. When something like that is going on, you need to be more careful than usual, and I should’ve been. It’s my own fault, and worst of all, I feel terrible for Ryan.” She then lays her head against his chest as she debates what to say next. How was she supposed to make him feel better about this?

“Ryan isn’t mad at you, and you can’t beat yourself up over it. Like you always tell me – learn and more on. Next time, it’ll serve as a reminder to be careful. Be thankful you’re alright and focus on the future.” She then glances up in his eyes. “Besides, don’t you have a race – are you even running the Duel now?” He nods his head.

“This is a whole new package. I learned a lot in the Clash, but I need to figure out some other things. Alan needs the data for the car, too. I’m running it.” She nods her head, accepting, swallowing the lump in her throat as she lays her head back against him.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful, okay?”

“I’ll do my best.” He then kisses the top of her head as he goes back to running his fingers through her hair. “I’m sorry I scared you this morning.”

“It’s not your fault. All that matters to me is that you’re okay.” He shifts a little, getting comfortable.

“I’ll be okay…” She then glances at the clock, and lets out a sigh. “Go practice. I’ll be here when you come back – I promise. I’m probably going to go to sleep for a bit anyway.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call your pare-”

“I’m a big boy, Sarina. I can take care of myself.” She then kisses his lips, before slowly standing up and reaching for her firesuit off of the dresser. She gets changed, snagging another kiss before starting to head out. “Sarina?” She ten glances back. “Can you get me another bag of ice?”

“I thought you said you could take care of yourself. Maybe I should call your pare-”

“Once you get the ice and I put it there, I’ll probably fall asleep shortly after. If I need them, though, I’ll call.” She lets out a sigh, nodding her head. It didn’t take her long to grab the ice, giving it to him and making sure that he was nice and comfortable. “Thank you.”

“Be careful. I love you.” He grabs her hand with his, pulling her close, and kissing her lips.

“I love you, too, and it’s you that needs to be careful. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” She takes a deep breath, slowly turning on her heels and heading out.

She hated to leave him like this, but she knew she couldn’t give up the first practice of the year, either.

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 36: “This is classified information”

Monday, February 12, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

With breakfast done and complete, the dishes were placed in the sink and rinsed off. Chase then came back over to the table, sitting down before her.

“So, this is our one day where we don’t have to do a single thing at all….” He offers and she nods her head, having glanced at the schedule. While yesterday was blank at Daytona, he would be off to Atlanta due to some promoting for the hometown event – something about lucky charms. Then on Wednesday, it was a day full of media, before back to racing action on Thursday.

“Considering how the past two days have gone, I’ll take it,” Sarina comments as there were no doubt that stress had been in the air with Speedweeks action, and the mysterious notes. It was almost unnerving sometimes to think about there not being something in their eyes since Friday.

“But I do have something that we can do, though.” She looks at him intrigued, half-expecting to head to the beach for the day, or over to New Smyna Speedway to watch some late model action. “What about going to Disney World?”

“Seriously?”  He nods his head.

“We both like roller coasters, and there are some pretty neat rides there so why not?” She couldn’t argue with the idea, even if relaxing was more her original plan for the day. But really, any day spent with him was better than nothing, right?

“Why are we still sitting here? Let’s go!”

“Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?” Chase questions once they’re in the park with their passes paid for.

“As much as Space Mountain is cool, you know that I have to go with the mountain,” Sarina answers and Chase nods his head. He should’ve remembered from last year’s trip. “We can do mine and then do yours?”

“Even being at the opposite ends of the park?” Sarina knew it wasn’t the best plan, but they had all day and the idea was to do their favorite rides. So she simply accepted, despite the walking that’d be required.

After taking in them both, they were certainly starting off their day with thrills as the smiles were easily seen from one end of the park to the other.

“What’s next?” Chase questions as it was back to her to decide what they would tackle.

“I challenge you to a shoot-off,” Sarina answers with a determined look in her eyes. He knew that meant Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. “The loser has to give the winner a special treat tonight – no holding back one bit.” He looks back at her with a intrigued glance.

“Are you that determined for me to pleasure you?” She chuckles back in response as they get in line.

“And you better make it worth my while….” Chase then crosses his arms as he thinks it over.

“Who says you’re winning?” She gives him a wink as they inch closer. “I’m serious! Recall, I did beat you the last time…”

“That was beginner’s luck.” He just rolls his eyes back in return.

The shoot-off ended up being closer than either expected, as they were both able to shoot a good number of targets accurately through the whole ride – despite trying to throw each other off at times. Though in the end, Sarina held true to her word as she came out the winner by a couple 100 points.

“You owe me,” she states as they come out of ride. He just wraps his arms around her from behind.

“I have no problem with that because trust me, by the time I’m done, you’re going to be wanting to give me just as much back,” he tells her, kissing her lips as she just smirks back. “Fantasyland or Main Street?”

“Main Street. I worked up quite the appetite kicking your ass.” He then rolls his eyes as they head that way. “Besides, we can go to Pirates of Caribbean afterwards.”

“Aye, the pirate’s life is for me…” She just laughs at the accent as they head off together.

Through the rest of the day, the pair explored the entire park, taking in some of their favorite thrills from one end to the other. Chase made sure to end off their day in style, though, making sure that they had dinner at Cinderella’s Castle.

“A princess like you deserves to be treated as such – especially since you’ll be missing me tomorrow, and we’re busy on Valentine’s Day,” he told her as they entered.

He also made sure to save riding Dumbo the Elephant for last. While it wasn’t the most quickest or intense ride, the sweet serenity of slowly going around in the air underneath the fireworks with his arm wrapped around her meant everything to him.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 – Atlanta Motor Speedway

Kicking off the home track promotional tour, Chase made his way into the media center where an assortment of lucky charms awaited delivery for him. The track had done a promotion for fans to send in something lucky, and needless to say, they had gotten a bunch of stuff.

Glancing over everything, he couldn’t help but smile as there were great, unique items throughout. The next step was doing a Q&A with the media from the stage, followed by one-on-one interviews.

“You have one more to do but we have to wait for your Dad to get here,” Morgan tells him and he nods his head.

“Yeah, he said he’d be here in about 10 minutes or so,” Chase answers, having texted him a couple times.

While waiting, Chase made his way back over to the assortment of items, going through them once again. He then picked up a couple of the envelopes off the floor, flipping through them. He tore open a couple, reading the notes inside to pass the time – admiring some of the notes from the youngest fans. As he reached for the next batch, his hand froze as he recognized the writing on one of the envelopes.

Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, he wished that Jordan would’ve been there to take the envelope and open it away from everybody like he had with the previous one. However, that was not an option today. He could easily hand it over to Morgan, but he didn’t want her to be more concerned than already with the warning at the shop. He also knew he could brush it off to later, but curiosity said otherwise.

Running his fingers along the top, he opens the envelope with ease as he glances inside to see the contents. Being a stack of papers, he admitted being caught off-guard as the small card before them fell into his hand first.

“Always know that I have an eye on you, and access to everything,” he reads quietly, sending a shiver down his spine.

Closing his eyes, reminding himself that it was just a mental game and they were just trying to mess with him, he tries to shake off the feeling that had come over him. He then pulls out the stack of papers, reading them over quickly. It didn’t take long to realize what it was, which caused a new worry.

“How would they have access to the NTSB and FBI report?” He questions to himself as he glances through the papers. At first he believed that they were fake documents meant to resemble the originals. But upon reading closer, checking the details and dates, it was clear – it was either a photocopy of the original documents from the plane crash.

Shoving it back in the envelope before anybody could realize the change in his demeanor, he quickly seals it back shut, before sending a text to both Jordan and the investigating officer. With confirmation that they’d take it into evidence and look into the cause, he tried to focus on the rest of the activities for the day.

“Ready for the interview?” Morgan questions and he takes a deep breath, nodding his head. He puts the envelope back in hidden behind the rest before following her to where FOX wanted him to do it.

Following the interview, Bill stood back as Chase went through the final step of the day, giving pacecar rides to a couple individuals around the speedway.

Once that was complete, Chase was free to leave for the day, ready to head to the airport and fly back to Daytona to be with Sarina.

“I couldn’t help but notice that you were a little distracted earlier,” Bill comments as they head out of the track together. “Is something going on?” Chase nods his head as he couldn’t lie to his father, and Bill already knew about part of what was going on anyway.

“Remember what I told you about the notes, and when we were going to fly to Daytona?” Chase reminds him and Bill nervously nods his head. He couldn’t help but feel a tinge of worry in the perfect set-up that was played at the airport that day. “There was another package today mixed in with the Good Luck Charms.” Bill looks over, surprised.

“Like what?” Chase takes a deep breath as he stops, glancing in the box and sorting through the various bears and other notes. He pulls out the envelope, handing it over to his Dad. Bill opens it, jaw dropping immediately as he looks over the contents. “This is classified information. You can only get this information if it is coming from you, a lawyer working for you, or you’re working in the department. Are you sure this is the real deal?”

“I read enough to know it is.” Bill then stops, looking at Chase with every bit of concern.

“You can talk to me….” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances back at his Dad.

“It’s one thing for a person to send me notes to try and mess with my mind. it’s one thing for a person to know what will bug me and set it up so right. But knowing the person has access to the infield at Daytona, as well as these documents – this isn’t just some random deal anymore.” Bill knew from the beginning it wasn’t random.

“I thought we both believed that Allison had a role in this, meaning it wasn’t random. Now, considering that it was her cousin Chris that tampered with the plane, could she be getting access through his lawyer? Did he receive a copy of documents at trial time to look over as part of the evidence?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he had never wondered and worried about that. Through his fears at that time, he had just let the district attorney’s office handle it, making sure that Chris didn’t have any freedom coming in the future.

“I’ll mention that to the investigating officer to look into. Thank you for the suggestion.” He then takes the envelope back, putting it with everything else as they continue walking. “That actually gives me a bit of comfort as it explains her access to everything. I just wish she’d come out and face me, rather than play hide-and-seek.”

“As much as I don’t want you facing danger or anything like that again, I can see why you would want that, Chase. I understand how this is driving you insane.” Bill knew he wanted to give Chase space as he was grown up now, but this was one of those extreme situations. “Would you feel more comfortable if Mom and I came down to Daytona with you?” Chase knew being an adult, he should be able to handle this alone and deal with every emotion and twist on his mind. however, he couldn’t help but want that extra security feeling.

“If you could please, I’d appreciate it…” Bill simply nods his head accepting, knowing Cindy would have no problem with it.

Sarina sits on the couch nervously as she watches the door open, with Chase entering, followed by his parents. He could instantly sense something was off with her as he walked over, lightly kissing her cheek.

“Why do I have a feeling that I am not going to like what you’re going to say?” He questions, reading her facial expressions immediately.

“Because I fucked up today, like usual,” she answers and he just looks at her confused. “Clearly you haven’t been on twitter at all….” He was now even more confused as he took out his phone, scrolling through some of the messages.

“I’m not seeing anythin-”

“Go to my page and see what I sent out, followed by the responses. And for the record, I’m sorry and I didn’t mean anything by it.” He went to her page, seeing the tweet that she sent out mid-afternoon. It certainly wasn’t something that he would’ve preferred to send out himself, or seen, but it wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve been posted. But clicking the responses, his jaw drops immediately at some of the mentions.

“So because you made a simple joke in regards to the Hooters girls, this is what has transpired today while I was out?” She slowly nods her head as the parents both look on confused.

“What’d she post?” Bill whispers to Cindy as  Cindy had pulled out her phone to look herself.

“Someone asked her about the Hooters girls and how they always hang around Chase,” Cindy whispers back. “She replied that they should focus more on their chicken wings and the kitchen, than him, because there was no way that he was leaving her arms. She then made a crack that her hooters were prettier, anyway.” Bill looks between the pair, shocked and intrigued, as Sarina lets out a sigh.

“Chase, I never meant anything by it,” she starts quietly. “I mean, I was just being a bit of a sarcastic ass-”

“You don’t need to apologize,” he cuts her off as he sits down beside her on the couch. “Have I gotten any messages from Hooters? Nope, but you know they’ve seen it because they replied it – and frankly, they took better to it than everybody else. Have I gotten any messages from Morgan, anybody at HMS, or have you gotten any messages from anybody at KBM? Everybody that’s important is fine with it.” She then lets out a sigh as she taps the tweet to bring up all the replies.

“And what about all this crap? Saying that I should keep my mouth shut? There’s also some that say that I am being a little over possessive, possibly controlling, and you should look into that. Of course, the best is those who say I am only with you for the fame, hence the Late Model ride which got Kyle’s attention. Do I need to go on, Chase?” Chase grabs his phone, instantly shutting off Twitter as he keeps his eyes locked on her.

“Do you see any of those comments bothering me? I know that you’re not that way, and I know what we have. I know that you were just being a little sarcastic – maybe just maybe over the line a tiny bit, but I know you didn’t mean to be harmful with your words. I know who you are. I love you. I want to be with you. I see a future for us. I see a beautiful, charming, stunning, determined, honest, fierce, racecar driver and woman that is my equal and true love. I can give you all the reasons why I love you, not because of what they say.” A small smile forms on her face as she reaches out for his hand.

“I thought you’d be upset…” He shakes his head no.

“Besides, those who know you, know that you didn’t mean anything by it. Those who know and respect you took it the same way that I am. That’s why there hasn’t been any other messages. That’s why I see a ton of fan support mixed in all that garbage. Those who were saying the other things – they’re just jealous of you, for the success you’ve had, and what we have. They’re just haters trying to get you riled up, the same way people say that I only have my ride at Hendrick because of my Dad and that I have no talen-”

“They’re full of shi-”

“Exactly, the same way they are about you. So just ignore it and don’t let it get to you. Stick to your guns, your beliefs, and those who are behind you, and let them hate. Haters are motivators, per your boss right?” She chuckles, remembering those words, as she nods her head.

“Thank you.” She then lets out a sigh. “It just hurt to see everything being said…”

“That’s because your human, and you have feelings, and it’s okay. As long as you realize that those hurtful things aren’t representative of yourself, and do what we’ve said, that’s what matters. It’s also nice that you told me, too.” He leans in and lightly kisses her lips.

“Media day tomorrow should be interesting now, huh?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“Let ‘em talk and ask questions. Just be honest and go with it. Everything will be fine…”

He then stands up, walking to the kitchen as he takes his phone out. He goes back into Twitter, finding one of his favourite photos of them together from Disney World.

This would be one of his more standout posts than what he would usually post, but he wasn’t about to let Sarina face the music alone, either.

@chaseelliott: Everybody can say what they want, but I’m standing behind @SarinaOtt18 no matter what. We both love each other equally, and forever, and there’s nothing going to change that. So she’s right @Hooters Girls, she’s the only leading lady in my life right now but I do like your wings.

Closing his phone and shutting off notifications for the night, it was time to focus on having some fun together with his parents.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 32: “There’s no fun in that.”

Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Sarina glances over at Chase as she lets out a sigh.

“Are you okay?” He looks over at her with an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah,” he answers. “Why wouldn’t I be?” She scoots a little closer, laying her head on his arm.

“Because of what happened in California, and the note at the office.” He understood her concerns as he glances down at her eyes. Certainly it was having its effect and was on his mind. But, he wasn’t going to fall for the trap of letting some foolish notes and scares dictate his life.

“I know it’s not ideal, and we didn’t want to deal with this ever again – but I will tell you that I am fine. I believe that we safe together, and everything will work out. We’ve done what we need to, and all we can do is let it work out. There are people in place, and whoever is doing this will be caught.” Sarina wanted to believe his words, knowing that the Hendrick Motorsports security personnel was upping their number of people, and had one to stay with Chase no matter what if needed. However, she couldn’t help but wonder based on the past.

“Can you just promise me, though, that you will be extra careful?” He nods his head yes as he lifts his arm, letting her lay her head on his chest, wrapping the arm around her.

“I promise. I know what to look out for, and I’m not going to be fooled again.” She then glances up at him.

“Fooled?” He lets out a sigh as his eyes close briefly.

“Ricky and Alan both think that it’s Alison that is behind everything, and frankly, that makes sense. She played my weaknesses when we met before at the pageant, and then at Indianapolis. She knew I’d do anything for you and the team, even subjecting myself, because of how much I care about you guys. My vulnerability is my sweetness, I suppo-”

“It’s also why I, and so many love yo-”

“But when you have someone like her, they take advantage of it and make sure to cause as much pain with that as they can. That’s the mark of an evil genius, and a psychopath. Chris wanted to go after you, so he came after me and those friends close to you. Allison wanted to go after me, so she used those I love against me. This time if she comes around, I’m not letting her fool me into doing something stupid this time.” Sarina accepted his position, but just hoped his sign of strength didn’t fool him into something else happening.

“What time are we flying out tonight?” Chase knew that she had to be in Daytona tomorrow for ARCA  practice, and that meant leaving to go together. Not wanting to be flying in the morning of the session, they had agreed to leave the night before.

“Whenever you want, really. Once I get done at the shop and you do what you need to do, we’ll pack our bags and go.” She nods her head, accepting.

“Can’t we just stay cuddled like this until later?” He chuckles, but certainly wouldn’t mind that either.

“We don’t get any work done like this, and we need to get work done…”

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

Wednesday, February 7 – Hendrick Motorsports

Making his way into the shop, Chase knew the responsibilities on tap today before leaving. The first step included checking in with Alan to make sure everything was going accordingly with his notes.

“He’s here….” Chase hears as he makes his way through the shop, catching his attention. He immediately froze, almost set to burst out laughing, in noticing the three crew members together.

“I thought you were kidding,” he comments as the three walk over. As promised yesterday, Jared Erspamer had brought in a big roll of bubble wrap, while Chad Avrit now held some rolls of masking tape in his hand. To cap it off, Jared Seate was even available to film – as stated.

“I was – but the more I thought about it, I think it’s a good idea,” Chad says as he stops just before his driver. “We’ll make sure that we leave your face uncovered so you can see, speak, and oh yeah – kiss the girlfriend.”

“For all we know, Kyle may be a fan of this idea considering….” Jared Seate adds, causing a couple laughs as Chase gives him a complete stare down. “Suddenly I feel like I’m off your good side…”

“So, are we going top to bottom, or bottom to top?” Chase just shakes his head.

“How about none of the above?” Chase suggests, causing a sad look to form on Chase’s face immediately.

“There’s no fun in that,” Chad offers as he looks back at the bubble wrap. “Now what we are supposed to do?” Chase crosses his arms with a smirk as his eyes return to Jared Seate.

“Oh hell no….” Jared immediately protests as Chase laughs.

“Actually, I have a better idea,” Chase then starts as he looks out towards the parking lot. “We have a rookie teammate here. I think he needs to be welcomed in style.” He looks between the three of them. “Are you thinking what I am thinking?”

“I’m on-board – as long as I get to play with the wrap,” Chad declares as the others nod their heads in agreement.

The objective didn’t take long to complete as they were able to wrap William Byron’s Tahoe in a short amount of time, including some special work on the door handles. The four of them then retreated back to their normal duties – with Chase completing his to-do list as required.

As he was finishing up for the day with a photo sent out on twitter, he couldn’t help but laugh in seeing William walk around the shop.

“Alex!” He heard William call out as Alex Bowman glances over at him. “Do you know anything about the bubble wrap?” Alex shakes his head no. “It’s like something Jimmie would do….”

“Jimmie hasn’t been here all day,” Alex comments as Chase just quietly chuckles.

“So then who would bubble wrap my car?” Alex shrugs his shoulders. “You honestly didn’t see anything?”

“Nope, not a thing. Sorry man.” William then continues to make his way through the shop, questioning others – but nobody gave up the secret as Chase just stood aside with his own chuckles. “He’s going to kill you when he finds out….”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea to bring bubble wrap in today,” Chase says with a smile before heading out.

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

Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte Airport

With their bags all packed and in hand, Chase and Sarina had made their way to the airport, and were now traveling across the tarmac to the plane. Sarina was set to load the plane, as Chase would go over everything to make sure they were good to travel.

The pair reached the plane in good time, and a simple nod was set to begin things as usual. However, Chase’s feet froze in place as he noticed a wrench sitting by the back wheels, with the engine cover loose. Taking a deep breath, trying to push aside the sudden nerves, he makes his way over and takes off the engine cover.

“Are you kidding me?!?” He questions immediately, seeing oil all over as he shakes his head in disgust.

“What’s wrong?” Sarina wonders, setting the first bag back on the ground as she makes her way over. She then noticed the black liquid all over, followed by the wrench that was beneath. “Well, they made it painfully obvious, like they wanted to get caught….” Chase then notices a piece of paper, picking it up and slowly unfolding it. The same familiar black typewriter typing filled the small piece of white paper.

“Considering this a warning that I can get to you under your skin, and to your skin with a flick of the fingers…” He scrunches up the paper, set to chuck it away, when Sarina grabs his hand. “What are you doing?”

“This is what they want. They want the frustration out of you. They want you to be angry. They want to mess with your head. Remember when you told Kyle that? Take a deep breath, and calm down…” He does as instructed, slowly lowering his hand with the scrunched up paper ball. She uncurls her fingers, taking the paper out of it, dropping it down beside the wrench. “Don’t touch anything else, and let’s call this in. Maybe there are fingerprints on the wrench, or maybe there’s a security camera.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “Chase, talk to me, please….”

“I’m fine, and you’re right. We need to do the right thing here…”

The pair walked back to the airport offices, reporting the incident. It didn’t take long before they were met with an investigating officer, who took down their statement and went to see the plane scene for evidence. With some time to calm down, Chase also took the time to call the Hendrick security personnel to make sure they were aware of what happened – and they promised that they’d look into it, as well. He then made the decision to call his dad, asking for a favor.

About two hours after the incident, they were in the air and off to Daytona, landing down there in quick fashion.

“Thank you,” Chase says as he takes the final bag off the plane.

“Anytime,” Bill replies as he gives him a hug. “Be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “And I know you’re scared, but you have to know it will work out fine. They’ll figure this out, but you can also call me if you need to talk.”

“Yes sir.” Chase then walks away, bags in hand as Bill looks over at Sarina.

“Keep an eye on him. He’s not saying much and he’s trying to act like this is nothing, but you can tell that it is eating at hi-”

“I know, Bill. I can see that it is too without him saying a word. Trust me when I say this – I will do whatever it takes for him. He’s always done that for me, so now it’s my turn to return the favor.” Bill gives her a hug before watching her hurry to catch up with him, as he says a silent prayer that things indeed worked out.

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

Thursday, February 8 – ARCA Practice – Daytona International Speedway

Once she was done debriefing with the team, Chase walks over and wraps his arms around her shoulders, pulling her back close in his arms.

“Well that’s one way to make an entrance,” she offers, knowing right away it was him by the simple feel, without even a glance down at the arms that now wrapped around her waist.

“I take it that the practice session went well?” He questions and she nods her head. Throughout the three hours, she only had one single complaint near the beginning, but the team made the adjustments accordingly to get the handling where she wanted by herself. Once in the draft later on, there were no issues and the speed was there as she topped it off in the top-10.

“No scratches on the car, and I have to admit that she drives pretty well, too – actually better than last year, if you want to believe it.” Chase hoped that only meant good things as he wasn’t about to relive the Talladega experience once again. He just needed speedweeks to go as smooth as possible – win the clash, win the qualifier, win the 500, and watch her win both of her races. Considering everything going on, anything else to fry his nerves was not on the table.

“I’m glad. A happy driver usually means a good race, so fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly on Saturday.” She then turns around to face him, kissing his lips lightly.

“I can’t wait to see you behind the wheel of the 9.” He smiles, as he had to admit he was over the off-season by any stretch now. It was time to get back to work – and have something for his mind to focus on.

“Seeing those cars on track today, I’m equally excited. Can it be Saturday already?” She chuckles as she wouldn’t mind the same thing, even knowing that she had another practice and qualifying tomorrow.

“Too bad you don’t have a time machine.” He had hoped for the same thing as he takes a deep breath. “Did they call you with any updates?”

“Nope, not a single thing actually.” She then rubs his arms as she keeps her eyes locked on his.

“You know you can talk to me about your fears, right?” He nods his head, accepting. Even still, though, he couldn’t find the words to say. It was one thing to feel it, but another to express it to someone else. “And just like you always told me, it will work out. As long as we have each other, we can do anything and we will get through this. They will find out who’s behind it, find them, and make sure they stay behind bars. They figured out Chris, they figured out Bethany and they did some damage with Allison; they can do the same again.”

“I know…” He then glances down as she keeps her eyes locked on him.

“But?” He takes a deep breath as he intertwines his fingers with hers.

“I just keep wondering what’s going to happen next. I don’t want to get played again, so I keep wondering what the next card they’re going to play is. I keep wondering how I can stay one step ahead so if something happens, I can do what I need to do about it. I also keep wondering what their end game is, and why they’re doing it, and what they want. I just have so many questions that I want answers to.” He then glances back up into her eyes. “Maybe that’s why I can’t wait until Saturday. With racing going on, I won’t have time to think and wonder, and drive myself crazy in the process.”

“Maybe I have a way we can take your mind off of it anyway….” He then looks at her intrigued, with his mind immediately heading for the gutter.

“You can’t always do that to distra-”

“I don’t see you complaining, though.” He chuckles, shaking his head no as she was right – he had no problems with their intimate moments together. “Actually, what if we go out tonight? What if we go to Volusia and watch some dirt racing?” A smile immediately comes to his face, knowing the World of Outlaws were in town, and it’d be nice to see Tony run for a change, along with some others.

“Why are we still standing here?” She laughs back in response, giving him a kiss, before hurrying in the trailer to get changed.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 180: “There’s so many people here….”

Thursday, November 30 – 5 Flags Speedway – Pennsacola, Florida

Lindsay looked around in awe as she followed Sarina into the infield, glancing at the sea of people that seemed to consume the infield. No matter where she looked, whether left or right, there seemed to be people beyond people, beyond people. How did they pack this many people into a short track? Was this really as big as she was told?

She continues appearing in shock as they make their way down pit road, watching the seas of crews that seemed to engulf their racecars, focused on the smallest details. She even swore that she recognized some of the faces, too, from the time that she watched NASCAR.

She realizes that they had reached their stop, going over to where a couple crew members stood together by the No. 18. It seemed weird that Kyle was running the event, but Sarina was behind the wheel of the 18.

“Any questions so far?” Sarina questions as she puts her hair up in a pony tail.

“You’re running the 18?” Lindsay wonders and Sarina nods her head. “What about Kyle?”

“51. Ever seen Days of Thunder?” Lindsay laughs, having watched that movie numerous times, and knowing that Sarina knew that very well. They had watched it quite a bit together.

“Rowdy Busch. So let me guess, the new kid on the block, Cole whoever, is running the 46 just like Cole Trickle?” Sarina then freezes, having not realized how Kyle did the numbers prior to that comment. That was actually impressive. “There’s so many people here….”

“Chase wasn’t kidding, and it’s only going to get bigger from here on out.” Sarina then double checks her shoes are done up accordingly, before taking her helmet out of the bag. “I’ve got two practices today – with the Snowflake practice session in between. You can either hang here, watch from the trailer, or watch from the stands. Fingers crossed that we got a good car under our belt.”  Lindsay crosses her fingers as she watches Sarina climb the wall, climbing in the car, getting set for the first session.

Needless to say, it did not go anywhere near where they wanted as the frustration showed on her face following the first hour and a half. She just leaned back against the wall, shaking her head as she watched the fury of activity from the crew members. They had ran well here before, coming close to winning. They had won at Winchester just a month ago. How were they so far off, today?

“Well, I guess I should turn around…” She hears, glancing over and seeing Kyle Benjamin standing there. With Kyle Busch busy in Vegas with banquet preparation, he had gotten him to fill-in.

“Unhappy with the car, too?” Kyle Benjamin nods his head as he leans against the same wall.

“I tried to diamond the corner, I tried to roll the corner, and I tried the second groove. Nothing worked at all. I mean, I’ve never been here before, so I thought it was my problem.” She shakes her head no as she keeps her eyes locked on the car.

“I practically won this damn thing, and I’m fighting the same issues. It just seems no matter what Marcus tried, nothing worked. I’m actually glad they gave us the second session today, and another tomorrow because as of right now, we’re out to lunch.” Kyle couldn’t help but agree.

“So, you’re going to the banquet once we’re done practice?” She nods her head as she glances over. “That’s got to be mission impossible…”

“Oh trust me, it’s not going to be easy to make it work, but I plan on getting there on time.” He looks over surprised as she takes a deep breath. “Lindsay has our bags back there – dresses, hair accessories, make-up – everything that we need. The second practice ends at 4:30 – which is technically 1:30 if you’re in Las Vegas. It takes four and a half hours to fly to Las Vega-”

“The banquet red carpet is at 7pm, followed by the banquet. You’ll get there at 6. That gives you an hour.” She smiles, having worked out the calculations a couple times herself.

“I’ve got an hour to get my hair right, get in my dress, and get down to the red – uh, black carpet actually – at 7 with Chase. I am going to make it happen.” He shakes his head in disbelief.

“That’s love right there. I’m impressed…” She could only glance back with a smile of her own. “Say, does your friend there have a banquet date?” She looks back towards Lindsay, giving her a nod, before looking back at Kyle.

“Oh Mr. Benjamin, you know that you cannot come. Tickets have to be arranged in advance and I have no room on the helicopter.” He gives her a grin back in return.

“I could always get Lindsay to sit on my lap for the flight….” She looks at him shocked as he laughs, walking away. She then looks over at Lindsay, rolling her eyes, before focusing on the Snowflake practice session happening.

While the first session was a disaster, the second didn’t go much better as the speed or handling wasn’t found that they wanted. She ended up 43rd quickest out of 56 cars, struggling with corner entry throughout the entire hour and a half.

“I don’t get it….” She comments, shaking her head as she places the helmet securely in it’s bag.

“We didn’t mock up (on new tires), nor were we focused on lap time,” Marcus offers as he watches her closely. “That’s got to make a difference tomorrow.” She knew that would help, but still wasn’t having much faith in laying down a  good lap tomorrow. What if she wasn’t in the top 30 tomorrow locked in?

“Do you seriously think we’re going to pick up that much time? And what happens when those tires fall off 50 laps into the run? We’re going to get lapped by Bubba before we can even think of kissing the snowball.” She then glances down, looking back towards the car. “I hate leaving on this note. We need to figure out something…”

“That’s why Kyle has guys like me and the others in place – this is what we do for a living, right? There’s not much else you can do as you’ve told me what the car is doing. Go and enjoy yourself. You deserve it – as crazy as you are.” She gives him a slightly smile, instantly remembering the conversation with Chase last night.

“If you need anything at all, text me.” Marcus nods as he takes the bag, complete with her helmet, gloves and racing shoes packed away.

“Don’t forget your firesuit in the hotel room…” She nods accepting, before heading off with Lindsay in toe.

As they had hoped, they were able to get out of the track in a timely matter and make it to Pensacola International Airport within a half hour, as Sarina realizes it is 5pm (2pm Las Vegas time). She begins to tap her leg nervously as they sit on the airplane that was already waiting for them.

“Thank you for doing this again,” she comments as Bill glances back at the girls with a smile.

“I’d do anything for him,” Bill adds, before focusing on getting them up and in the air accordingly.

As originally calculated, the flight time was four and a half hours – which equaled four and a half hours of nerves for Sarina as she still hated the thought of flying entirely. As they touch down on the ground, she glanced at the watch – 9:30 (6:30 Las Vegas time).

“The limo is waiting right there for you,” Bill states as he stops the plane, looking back at them.

“Are you coming?” Sarina wonders, having not figured out all the details. Bill nods his head yes, as he climbs out of the plane, grabbing the bag.

“You girls take the back seat of the limo, and I’ll sit up front. You may want to think about changing on the way…” Sarina and Lindsay glance at each other in horror, before looking back towards him.

“There’s no way in hell that I can change into my dress in a limo, Bill!” He understood that as they climbed in the limo, but knew their options were running out.

“It’s going to take at least 11 minutes, probably more with traffic, to get there. Think about it…” He then pushes a button, putting the divider between the seats up, as the girls glance back at each other in horror.

“We’re going to get there for 6:41 at the earli-”

“You know how traffic works, though,” Lindsay ponders as she begins to unzip the bag. “I’d prepare for the worst….”

Sure enough, their original 11 minute timing was met with frustration, followed by wanting to punch a hole in the seat, as they found themselves sitting parked on the road, bumper-to-bumper traffic, not moving.

*********

Thursday, November 30 – Wynn Las Vegas

Chase glanced at his watch once again, shaking his head, before returning his eyes to the mirror before him. He once again fixed the tie, making sure it was straight, before adjusting the jacket slightly.

“Nervous?” He hears as he glances over his shoulder, watching Morgan walk over.

“No, just impatient,” he replies as she nods her head. They were supposed to be heading out to the carpet in five minutes and Morgan wanted them to begin to make their way there. However, each previous time she asked, it was meant with a protest from Chase.

“We need to get goin-”

“I told you that I am waiting for Sarina…” Morgan rolls her eyes, having heard that now four times.

“Chase, are you sure that she’s coming?” He holds up the phone, showing her the text message from his dad that they had landed in Las Vegas. “There’s a ton of traffic out there, and she’s probably stuck in it. They’re probably going to run late. Let’s head down and then she can join you once she shows up, please…” Another glance at the time, and he knew that he couldn’t put this off any longer.

One more glance at the shoes to make sure they looked alright, and another glance at the tie, he reluctantly made his way to the carpet.

He smiles as he begins the walk down, posing for a photo with the Monster Energy girls as instructed. He then stands there, smiling as cameras go off to take photos of himself. The smile faded for a quick second as he wished Sarina was there at that moment, but immediately came back as he made sure to look the part.

He continues to walk down, talking to the various radio outlets, almost feeling a bit of jealousy as he watched other drivers and their wives and girlfriends joke around together. Where was she?

He then went through the TV interviews, answering their questions with a smile firmly on his face. A glance at his watch between them, it was 7:30. They had landed an hour ago. Where was she?

“No date tonight?” Matt Yocum asks as part of his bit with NBC. The comment only made his heart break more, as he shook his head no.

“I guess I got to get better at my game,” he offers.

“Our understanding is Sarina is down at the Snowball Derby….” Chase nods his head, knowing that was partially true. She was somewhere in Las Vegas, but where?

“I can’t say I blame her for choosing to go race there. Hopefully she can pull out a win on Sunday.” Matt then went to say something, a small smile beginning to form, but hid it immediately after being motioned to do so.

“So you’d prefer your girl to choose a race over being your date tonight?” Chase nods his head.

“Thankfully, he doesn’t have to choose between both,” Chase hears as a pair of arms wrap around him from behind. A smile immediately forms on his face as he looks over his shoulder at her. His jaw almost dropped as he took in full view. From head to toe, she was just absolutely looking amazing. From her hair being perfectly in place, to the shine of the blue gown from head to just above the heels. He was then surprised by the heels, too, seeing they had a couple inches on them as the navy blue complimented her dress perfectly. “It was a tough trip, but I’m here – barely, and ready for a night with my man. I’m proud of him for his year, and I wouldn’t miss celebrating it.”

“Now that’s true love,” Matt comments. “Krista, ever had someone do that for you?” He then gives them a quick nod before walking away, set to catch another driver.

Their eyes immediately lock together as Chase stands there, still frozen, caught off-guard more than he could’ve even realized – as he takes another glance at her.

“Did you think I wasn’t coming?” She breaks the silence and he slowly shakes his head no.

“I didn’t lose my faith for a single minute,” he answers, before pulling her back close to him. “And might I add that you look absolutely amazing? I don’t even know what to say, except you’re beautiful. You look dashing…” She smiles back in response.

“Not bad for getting dressed in a limo, huh?” He looks on surprised as she nods her head. “I would’ve been here earlier, but traffic was a nightmare. You look very handsome.”

“The main thing is you made it here in time, and stole the show looking absolutely amazing. I love you.” He kisses her lips, before taking her hand and heading into the ballroom together.

“Damn….” The various crew members let out as the pair sit down together.

“Not bad for someone that just got done practice, huh?” He offers, snagging another quick kiss.

Following the banquet, the pair joined the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports team at the after-party, sharing in a couple dances together as everybody shared compliments for Sarina on how she looked. Throughout their time together, even as he twirled her around a couple times, Chase was just in awe at how amazing she looked. How was he spoiled to have an amazing girl like her in his life?

After a couple hours, he whispered in her ear that it was time for turn in for the night. Knowing that she had a long day tomorrow with flying back to Florida and Snowball Derby practice, followed by qualifying – all beginning with their flight at 7am (10am Las Vegas time), he knew a good night sleep was in order.

“Can I say that I am still in awe at how amazing you looked tonight?” He offers as she slips her shoes off.

“I could say the same about how handsome and charming you are,” she replies as he pulls her back close, again.

“I’m so glad that you came. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted you here until I was standing there alone.” She grabs his hand with hers, rubbing it.

“Chase, like I told you last night, it’s okay to admit your emotions to me. I’m here for you as much as you’re here for me. I knew it wouldn’t feel right not being here – same as last night felt odd being apart from each other, too. You know, when I’m missing you, I play that song over and over.” He smiles as he keeps his brown eyes locked on her blue ones.

“You have a beautiful voice yourself. That message this morning was perfect. I don’t even know what to say in response to that, or you being her-”

“Same thing that I say to you in how you’ve helped me, how you haven’t given up on me, and how you’ve been for me – absolutely nothing because of total shock. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too.” He then kisses her lips. “By the way, where did you leave with Lindsay?” Sarina could only smile in return.

“Her and Ryan were sharing a drink and a dance together…” Chase looks on impressed, but couldn’t help but smile. He’d have no issue with setting his best friend up with her cousin. “Can you help me, please?” He turns her around, undoing the zipper on the back of dress slowly, pulling it down, hand running across her shoulder. “Chase….”

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?” She nods her head, as he had told her a couple times already that night. Regardless, she didn’t mind as she could listen to those words as many times as he wanted. “Have I told you lately how much I love rubbing my hands across your skin?”

“I believe you’ve shown me that nicely before…” He nods his head as he spins her around.

“So, what’s the surprise?” She smiles, knowing how badly he wanted to know the birthday secret. However, again, she knew they needed more time. Besides, weren’t they supposed to be sleeping? They had to be up in six hours for a busy day.

“You’ll find out tomorrow night, I promise. I want to show you when we have time…” He nods, accepting, filled with intrigue, as he pulled her close to him.

“Can I get a clue?” She shakes her head no. “Could I earn that clue?” She was intrigued by the request, wanting to feel his skin against hers, but she still didn’t want to offer anything, yet.

“I thought we were supposed to come up here, relax, and catch up on sleep…” He smiles, remembering the original intention. But a glance in her eyes, the softness of her skin meeting her fingers, he had other plans now.

“I realized how badly I need you…” She smiles, kissing his lips lightly, as she slips the coat off of his shoulders. She then begins tracing the finger tips of his dress shirt with her fingers.

“I need you too, baby…” The grin on his face widened as he backed towards the bed.

“Then help me out of these clothes…” She immediately begins undoing the buttons, slipping the dress shirt off carefully and setting it alongside with the coat.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 174: Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 23 – Dawsonville, Georgia

“Are you ready?” Chase questions with a glance over at Sarina.

“As long as your sister keeps her claws out of me,” Sarina answers and Chase laughs.

“Oh come on, she’s not that bad.” Chase wraps an arm around her. “It’s just because she cares about me.”

“Threatening me with a whole army of men is a little overboard….” Chase lets out a sigh as they reach the front door.

“The more she sees us together, the more she begins to understand how much you care about me and I care about you, she’ll lay off. She’s just being like this because Starr was like that to her about Robert – and that was more so because Starr didn’t have, well, the best of luck.” Sarina nods her head, understanding. She understood where Chase was coming from with that point, and could sympathize with everybody. But, a little bit of wiggle room would be nice.

“Her daughter Kennedy is amazing, though.” Chase couldn’t help but smile in response, as both his niece and nephew were adorable. He opens the door, leading Sarina inside who just glances back a little confused, and he gives her a quick wink. He then closes the door behind him. “Mama, I’m home!”

“And they told me that I’d never hear that again once my baby got a girlfriend – unless he was broken hearted…” Cindy comments with a glance from the kitchen. “I hope that’s not the cas-”

“We’re still happy as ever,” Chase adds as he makes his way to the kitchen, giving her a hug and kiss. “You know I’ll always come to see you, no matter what.”

“Of course, cause you’re baby.” Sarina stands back with a smile on her face, watching them together.

“You didn’t go home for Thanksgiving?” She hears, catching her off-guard as Brittney walks over. She could only roll her eyes in response as Chase glances over.

“Brittney….” He says with a stern tone. He knew she would say something, but didn’t think it’d happen within minutes of entering.

“It’s okay Chase,” Sarina says as she turns to face Brittney. She might as well face the music if she was ever going to quiet down his security guard. “I don’t really have any family, to be honest, that I know – except my brother and cousin, and we’ve talked about that already. Chase invited me to join you guys.”

“She’s one of the family, Brittney.” Brittney glanced between the pair, letting out a sigh. She still wasn’t quite convinced yet.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Brittney comments as Sarina tries to keep a stern face and not it eat at her. Why did it take so much to get Brittney’s approval? “By the way, Chase, I told you that I could take care of that other problem for you.”

“They’re all locked in jail cells and can’t hurt us so I’d rather just move on and forget,” Chase tells her as she rolls her eyes. “Seriously?”

“Guys….” Cindy warns, seeing the glance between siblings.

“Move on and forget doesn’t happen when it’s her brother,” Brittney says as Chase crosses his arms. She did have a point, as his eyes caught Sarina’s.

“You’re right about that,” Chase concedes. “But, I’d prefer to not have it thrown in my face by everybody – especially those who care about me and understand. Besides, it’s clear that we all realize the problems that Christopher and Bethany both brought and where they belong. Is there feelings remaining? Of course, but that’s something for Sarina and I to handle. So if you could please just let it go, that’d be nice.” Brittney glances between the pair, finally letting out a sigh.

“Alright, fine. But don’t think that I’m fully set on you two ye-”

“What is it going to take to convince you?” Brittney shrugs her shoulders as she looks over at Sarina.

“Time to see trust, growth, and everything that is required. I don’t know how long exactly.” Chase nodded his head, accepting.

“I respect that,” Sarina spoke up. “And I totally understand why for the mistakes that I made. I’m fine with us working towards a mutual feeling over time. Just please, give me a small benefit of the doubt and don’t toss it in my face.” Brittney shed a small smile in response.

“Deal,” she replies. “I’m going to go make sure Dad isn’t getting little man into trouble.” She then walks out of the kitchen as Chase walks over to Sarina, wrapping both arms around her.

“Are you okay?” He asks and she nods her head.

“I’m sorry that she has to be a bit of a pain – heck, I feel bad for when I chewed your head off,” Cindy comments and Sarina could only chuckle now. It was amazing to see how far they had come since July.

“I deserved that so I would buy a clue,” Sarina replies as she leans back in Chase’s arms. “You’re his mother. You care about him. I probably would’ve done the same if it was roles reversed. As far as Brittney, it’s one of the things about siblings – and I actually admire how much she cares about you.” Chase glances into the living room, watching Brittney and Bill play with Brittney’s son.

“She’s pretty amazing,” Chase agrees as he focuses back to Sarina. “If she gets to me too much, just tell me.” Sarina rolls her eyes, knowing that it’d probably never come to that. if she was going to get through Brittney’s supposed time test, she was going to do it on her own.

“Food is all on and cooking so we should be eating on time as always,” Cindy interrupts as she wipes her hands off. “Time for some family games!” Cindy heads into the living room as Sarina glances at Chase.

“Games?” She questions and Chase nods his head.

“Pictionary, among others,” he answers as Sarina just shakes her head. “It’ll be fun and entertaining. Come on…” He leads her into the living room as they all sit around, set for one of Cindy’s many plans for the day.

After a couple hours of playing, Chase feels his phone go off. He reads the text message, smiling, responding back in return as he stands up.

“Where are you going?” Sarina questions as Chase smiles. He couldn’t wait for this to fall in place.

“I have to go pick up someone from the airport,” he answers, causing a glance back of confusion. Though Sarina immediately shrugged it off, probably being a cousin or uncle.

“Be careful,” Cindy says as Chase heads for the doorway. A glance amongst the Elliotts, they all knew the plan already. Chase had previously texted his dad about Lindsay, which he passed along to everybody before they showed up.

It was a short drive to the airport, and thankfully, it was easy to find a spot to park. He then heads inside, remembering where he had told her directions to where they’d meet by a small gift shop. He smiles as he makes his way to the spot, seeing her already there with a bag.

“Easy to find?” He asks and she nods her head, following him through the airport.

“You’re good with directions,” she answers as he just shoots her back a smile in return. “I brought enough for a week. I can stay until the Monday after the Snowball Derby. Despite my own skeptical thoughts, I’m going to take in the event.” Chase smiles as he was glad that he would accomplish two goals with one stone.

“You’ll get to see your girl because she’s racing a Late Model for Kyle Busch, against him and 50 of the best drivers in the province.” He puts her bag in the back of the Tahoe, before they both climb in.

“Are you running it?” He shakes his head no as they head out of the parking lot. “How can you brag about an event, saying it’s the biggest event ever with 50 of the best drivers, if you’re not included?”

“I only run an event of that magnitude if I can do it with a certain group of people, namely Ricky Turner. I also refuse to make a one-off Late Model start because you need to have some experience before you head into that deal. Needless to say, my schedule didn’t allow for either this year. It sucks because it’s the 50th. Look at it this way – you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to sit with you and teach.” She just rolls her eyes as he lets out a chuckle. “So we’re headed to my parent’s house. I’m going to take you around the back using the side door while texting my dad. He’s going to ask Sarina to go out and grab something and boom, there you go.”

“That seems simple enough…” He nodded his head in agreement as they turned down another road.

“Are you nervous?” Lindsay glances over, surprised by the question.

“How could you tell?” He chuckles as he stays focused on the road.

“I couldn’t tell. It was just a question of curiosity.” She then lets out a sigh as she looks out the window. The nice country scenery was calming.

“I haven’t seen her in six years, Chase. How would you feel surprising someone that you haven’t seen or talked to for that long?” He nodded his head, accepting. “At the same time, I’m beyond excited. It’ll be nice to have someone that I can share anything with, hang with, talk to, and everything we used to do together again. There was nothing like those times together.”

“How long have you known each other?” Lindsay smiles as she thinks back to some of her earliest memories.

“Since birth. My dad and her momma were close. So as soon as I was born, we were playing together. She was supposed to be the two-year-old teaching me all the crazy ways.” Chase chuckles in response. “Oh, did you get the package?”

“It arrived today – which is perfect since we’re not home. I left my house key with a friend of mine, Dale, and he stopped by and put it inside with the help of some family. I just told him to put in the living room for now.” Lindsay smiles as she was glad that things had gone accordingly. She also had to shake her head at how casually the name rolled off his tongue.

“That’s something that I’m going to need to adjust to – being around NASCAR royalty without going a little nuts.” He chuckles as they pull up to the house.

“Hey, it’s easy to do. We’re just like everybody else – except we happen to go around in circles for a living which makes people love us. Just promise me you won’t freak on my dad.” She laughs back in response, nodding her head, as he shuts the key off. “Are you ready?”

“I guess it’s now or never…” She climbs out of the Tahoe, following him down the side of the house, through the gate, and sits down in one of the patio chairs. He sends a quick text message to his dad with a smile.

“I’m going to go hide…” She then looks on shocked as she thought he’d actually stay to help them along, but couldn’t manage to say something as he darted back to the side of the house.

Sarina makes her way outside, glancing left and right. She couldn’t believe that she was in the backyard, looking for a board game that supposedly got left out there. Why was she elected to go find it? As she looks over to the right, her eyes catch a gaze back in return.

“I recognize you….” She lets out quietly, almost set to hit a panic button as she could only think about this person sneaking onto the property and being a burglar or worse. However, she found herself instead frozen, eyes locked on those before her.

“You haven’t changed much,” was all Lindsay could only manage in return as a flood of memories soared through Sarina. Sarina recognized the voice – but there was no way this could be happening.

“Lindsay?” Lindsay nods her head in response as Sarina’s jaw drops in total shock. “But? How? When? Honestly? Really? Lindsay Dryer, right?” Lindsay chuckles back as she reaches for her pocket.

“I can show you identification if that’s necessary.” Sarina just continues to shake her head.

“I don’t get it. How are you here in Georgia? Why are you here?” Lindsay wanted to reach around the corner and grab Chase as she wasn’t sure she could find the words for the answers.

“Your lovely boyfrie-”

“He picked you up from the airport?” Lindsay nodded her head, once again looking back to where he had gone to hide. “But why? How?”

“Chase, can you come out please?” Chase then slowly emerges from where he was, causing Sarina to glance between the pair shocked more than ever. If the next words spoken that they were old friends, she could’ve smacked Chase for not saying anything in the span of two years. If she was a one night stand and that’s how identity was found, she may just smack them both.

“Remember when you mentioned to me that you were missed family, and wished you could see them sometimes?” Chase questions and Sarina nods her heads. It was one of her lowest day in the midst of Chris’ trial. “I immediately wanted to do something to make you feel better, so I started looking into your family history. Through some help, I was able to put together your six uncles and aunt. It was about deciding who to go see first. Between the story of how Lindsay got you interested in racing and Uncle Mike’s toy box, I went that way first. I went to Lindsay’s house on Tue-”

“You told me you were just going to hang out with the boys…” Sarina remembers and Chase nods his head.

“Technically, I hung out with Alan and Josh as they came for back-up. Anyways, I explained everything about how you changed your name and who you are now. She had some time off from a hectic dance schedule so she decided to come join us for the next 10 days.” Sarina looks over at Lindsay with a bit of shock, and Lindsay nods her head accepting.

“I wanted to see you again,” Lindsay tells her. “I wanted to reconnect. Damn girl, I’ve missed you since the moment you skipped town without a damn trace. I tried looking for you for awhile myself, but I gave up when nothing came up. When Chase gave me that opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up. I don’t have much family left, either.” Lindsay’s eyes tear up immediately as Chase knew the next piece of news wouldn’t be easy on either of them.

“Uncle Mike passed away a year ago from cancer and your aunt died in a car crash just months earlier,” Chase reveals, causing Sarina’s jaw to drop immediately. “This reunion couldn’t have come at a better time because frankly, Thanksgiving is all about two things – being thankful, and being with family. You both need each other.”   Chase then looks over at Sarina, seeing complete silence, almost frozen state. “Say something, please…..”

“I don’t know what to say…” Sarina comments as she looks back over at him. He could feel his stomach drop immediately.

“Say something, anything. I don’t care if you’re upset, happy, surprised, sad, or angr-”

“I could never be angry at someone who totally just went out of his way to find my best friend in the whole wide world, who could use a full hand of comforting after everything she’s been through.” Lindsay smiles a little as the girls look straight at each other. “Chase, you always tell me how much you care for me and how you’d do anything for me. This is beyond anything I could imagine. I don’t even know how I could ever thank you enough, or repay you.”

“You don’t ever need to – you deserve this for everything you’ve been through.” He then gives her a quick kiss on the cheek. “You girls catch up on the past six years. Dinner will be ready in an hour so take the time that you need, and then Lindsay, I can introduce you to the rest of my family.”

“Thank you, Chase,” Lindsay could only imagine to say as he headed inside the back door. “Chels…shit, sorry. I need to get used to this, but Sarina…”

“I can’t believe this,” Sarina comments in response, as she walks over, immediately hugging Lindsay.

Chase smiles from inside, watching them together, as he feels his parents walk over on either side of him.

“You did something really amazing here,” Bill comments as the girls sit down and begin trading stories. “I mean, you can see the bond between them immediately.”

“She deserves it, and more,” Chase says. “I don’t know what I’d do without you guys, Brittney, Starr, or any of my family for that matter.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 165: “Race people how they race you.”

Thursday, November 2

Chase lets out a sigh as he finalizes getting everything packed for the weekend, glancing at the clock. It was early in the morning, but they had to leave shortly so they’d be there timely for Sarina’s pair of truck practices. He smiles as he looks towards the bed, seeing her lying there tangled in the sheets, sleeping. She had gotten back late from her appearance, so he was letting her sleep in a little.

“So, are you ready for the weekend?” He hears over the phone, which was on speaker. He wasn’t surprised to have received an early morning check-in call from Dad.

“Absolutely,” Chase replies. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He hears a small chuckle on the other end.

“I’m just wondering where your thought process is right now with regards to Denny.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that would obviously be a topic of discussion. He couldn’t wait for every person in the world to bring it up.

“I don’t really care about him. Like I said on Sunday, he ain’t worth the time of day. My focus is getting this team into the final four where we belong based on our performance, and that means winning either this weekend or next weekend. I’m ready to win, Dad.” Truth be told, Denny was in the thoughts a tiny bit based on his comments to Sarina yesterday. But, as Jimmie had told him earlier in the week, worrying about that wouldn’t help the cause he should be focused on.

“That’s where your focus should be. But what happens if you’re side-by-side on Sund-”

“Are you asking me if I’m going to pay him back? Are you asking if I’m going to wreck him?” Chase just wished people would come out with the question when they started to get curious.

“Yeah.” Chase takes a deep breath as he sits on the edge of the bed, thinking it over.

“I don’t flat out wreck people; you know that’s not my style. But, I’m not happy with what he did and he knows that.” Despite his feelings, he knew he could never bring himself to flat out turn Denny like Denny did to him.

“Well, just remember what Ricky would always tell you – race people how they race you. If they show you respect, then they deserve it back in return as you’re a respectful, clean driver. But, if they don’t, you need to show them how you feel and you won’t put up with it. Remember that…” Chase remembered hearing that constantly during his late model days, and even putting it into good practice a couple of those events.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Look, I got to go wake Sarina up and get ready. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Alright. Love you. Bye Chase.” Chase couldn’t help but smile.

“Love you, too. Bye Dad.” He then hangs up, setting his phone beside his bag on the dresser. He then works his way back up the bed, slowly untangling the blankets from Sarina. “Hey, it’s time to get up….”

 “Well, well, look at that….” Sarina comments as they fly closer to Texas Motor Speedway. While the track was within sight, she couldn’t have cared less. Instead, her eyes landed on the billboard that was on the backstretch. “Eddie Gossage was supposed to be taking full advantage of what happened and he certainly did.” Chase glances over towards the direction that she was looking, shaking his head.

“Oh boy….” was all he could manage seeing himself 12 feet tall up there. Sarina could only glance over at him and chuckle.

“Oh boy? That’s all you can manage?” Chase focuses his eyes back forward, knowing the airport was coming up.

“I could also say unnerving and strange…” She just laughs a little harder as she takes her phone out, snapping a photo. “Really?”

“Not every girl can say that her man was on a big billboard.” He just rolls his eyes. “I can’t believe that seems strange to you.”

“What can I say? I’m a simple guy….” She just shakes her head, though takes a deep breath as she feels them descending. “Relax, I got this….”

“I always believe in you. I just hate flying.” Chase could sympathize, based on past experiences. He just hoped that it got easier with time for her as he couldn’t wait to show her some of his favorite places to fly over.

“Deep breathes; we’re just about landed.”

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

Sarina walks back into the motorcoach, closing the door, glancing over to Chase on the couch with smile.

He had joined her in the garage area for both her practices, watching atop of the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler as she put together a pair of successful sessions – second in the first one, seventh in the second. He then headed back once they were done, letting her spend some time debriefing with Marcus, followed by some time with her teammates.

“You have a good truck for tomorrow night,” he comments as she walks past him.

“Marcus always gives me good equipment,” she replies, leaning down and kissing his lips.

“If you could drive for anyone in the truck series, Kyle is the man.” She smiles as she slips off the top of her firesuit.

“You know, it felt different today in practice compared to other weeks…” Chase sits his phone down, stopping his random twitter scrolling, as he watches her grab a drink from the fridge closely. “I actually felt relaxed and chilled. I wasn’t stuck up or overly focused – it just felt right. I actually feel like this is where I belong, more so than I did before.” Chase smiles as he watches her sit across from him.

“It’s amazing what a win can do for you and your confidence, huh?” She smiles, nodding her head.

“It just feels so right, but I don’t get why it’s different….”

“Like you said last week, the weight is off your shoulders and there’s no doubt anymore. You proved you belong, you proved you could get the job done, and you don’t have to listen that annoying question of when you’re going to win. Now you can just focus.” Her eyes lock into his as she reaches over, grabbing his hand.

“You’re getting your first win soon so you can feel what I’m feeling, and I mean that. Actually, I think it may come this weekend. I would say that you do look pretty hot when a cowboy hat.” Chase’s cheeks immediately turn red as he lets out a small chuckle. “I’m serious!”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing you wear one tomorrow night.” She smiles back in approval. “Now, what do you say you go get changed and I take you out?” Her smile fades as she just gives him back a shocked face.

“Like a date?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Chase, a little more warning would be more appropriate. I don’t even know if I have something to wea-”

“You don’t need to dress up fancy or anything. It’s not meant to be like that. Just go with a nice pair of jeans and t-shirt, as all I’m wearing is this. It’s just a casual outing.” She then lets out a sigh as she stands up, letting it soak in.

“Alright, fine. Give me 15 minutes, okay?” He rolls his eyes as he kicks his feet up on the couch.

“Take your time. I know you girls are.” She then stops, turning back with a glance.

“Excuse me?” He then looks over his shoulder with a smile.

“Hair, make-up, choosing outfit – I get it.” She could only roll her eyes in response.

“You can sometimes take as long as I do getting ready.” He shakes his head no as she nods her head in response. “But whatever…” He then laughs as she heads to the back for a shower.

Friday, November 3

Chase lets out a sigh as he heads out of the hauler, following Morgan through the packed garage area to the media center. He would’ve preferred to just skip this experience, get in the car, and focus on the task at hand. Instead, he knew he had to follow the obligations at hand.

He also knew the topic at hand would probably surround Denny and their contact from Martinsville. It was obvious what the media wanted to know – his reaction a week later, whether there’d be payback, and if he could overcome being behind to make the final four.

As he enters the media center, he could only think of the conversations that he had with Jimmie and his dad earlier in the week, along with Sarina last night before bed. She had asked him once again his thoughts, which he restated hadn’t changed but he could care less about Denny entering this weekend. Truthfully, he just wanted to focus on winning.

Though as he sat down before the microphone, he could only think about the words that she told him as they lied there, knowing how to choose his words carefully. He could stay focused on the task at hand and not do anything in the long run, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t mess with Denny a little in the process.

“As far as last week goes, I don’t know that my thoughts today are a whole lot different than they were then,” Chase says as part of his opening statement. “I am still pretty frustrated about it and you know, as long as the week has gone along it has given me a lot of time to think about how close we were to going to Homestead.  I think if anything else that will drive you up the wall more if you think about it.  Definitely not happy about it and I don’t think a whole lot has changed.

“But no, I am not going to answer your questions about whether I am going to get him back or not.   Don’t even ask because you are not going to hear it from me.  Just don’t go there.  But yeah, I don’t think my mindset has changed from that standpoint.  This is a point in this round where we are going to have to perform these next two weeks to have a chance at Homestead now.  We are going to have to do just that.”

Sarina sat in the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler, smile firmly planted on her face as she watched the video feed on NASCAR.com with a smile. She was certainly proud of how he chose to go about that, wishing she could see Denny right now to see how much he was squirming and complaining. She actually wondered if Chase would get another text message as a result.

“You seem too happy about his comments….” She hears Marcus comment from the other couch in the lounge as he works through some notes. He had glanced up, noticing the growing smile on her face as Chase said his opening statement, caught off-guard in honesty.

“Because they’re just perfection,” she replies as Marcus felt confused now.

“How so?” She smiles as she kicks back, sipping on her Gatorade, roughly listening to the rest of the words he had to say.

“Mind games. Denny is one of those drivers that lets people’s comments get to him, and urge a response out of him. It’s easy to get under his skin. We saw that in years past, thanks to Kevin when they were fighting for the championship. Tony has done it to him, as well as Jimmie, Joey, and even Brad. You carefully word what you have to say, and boom – you’re in his head. Now rather than focused on his own business, he’s going to be wondering what Chase is thinking.” Marcus shakes his head as he couldn’t believe they had reached this point, but had to admit her observations were on point.

“So in reality, Chase is going to do nothin-”

“How do you know that?” Marcus then gives her a surprised glance in return.

“We know Chase. That’s not his style, Sarina.” She smiles, glad that was clear. “But anyway, he’s just making Denny think that something may happen to try and throw him off these next two weeks.”

“Genius, right? Meanwhile, what Denny doesn’t get is that Chase is solely focused on winning one of these two races. He’s focused on what his team is doing, and making sure they get to the championship 4 somehow, whether this week or next. Like he says to me, you can’t get yourself thinking about other things because they’ll eat at you. For example, when I was worried about what everybody was saying about me – why should that matter? While I’m worrying about that, I’m not focused on my own game.” Marcus nods his head, accepting, as that seemed pretty reasonable.

“I got to say, you got a pretty good advice system between him and Kyle.” She smiles as she glances over.

“I don’t take it for granted ever, Marcus. Kyle is amazing for giving me a chance, letting me drive for him, letting me prove to the world that I could do this, and for being a good close friend. Chase, on the other hand, I can’t even begin to describe how much I love and care about him. I mean, I don’t even know where to sta-”

“So I’m invited to the wedding, right?” Her jaw then drops as Marcus just laughs. “Oh come on now. We know that the wedding is coming eventually. I mean, you guys have been together for two years.”

“Sherry and Martin have been together for 13 and they’re not married.” Marcus then stops, watching her closely as he crosses his arms.

“Are you scared of marriage?” She then stops, glancing down at her lap, realizing that she said too much. “Hey, it’s okay to be scared of the word. I get it and understand why from your background. I’ve seen it with other people. Just go ask Dale as it terrified him due to his parents and everything, until he finally got up the courage to ask Amy. You can admit it and hey, if you don’t want to officially be married, that’s fine too. All that matters at the end of the day is that you’re happy.”

“What if Chase proposes one day and I can’t bring myself to say yes?” Marcus could hear the fear laced in her voice as he kept his eyes focused on her.

“Then you tell him that you’re afraid, and explain why. Knowing him, he’ll get it and understand it. I also know he’ll accept it because he loves you so much that he couldn’t stand to be without you. I also know that if anybody can help you work through that, it’s him. I mean, look what he’s done for you already.” She smiles back, nodding her head, accepting.

“Thanks Marcus…” He smiles as he watches her stand up, taking a quick glance in the mirror. “I’m going to head out and watch Cup practice. I’ll see you later?”

“Of course.”

So far the day had been going smoothly from that point. It was like the frustrations from Martinsville were in the rearview and set to stay there. Chase showed speed in practice, popping up sixth quickest on the board, while she qualified second for the truck race behind Justin Haley.

But of course, the weekend couldn’t just go smoothly.

Sarina stood in the corner of the garage, watching as Chase stood before the camera, debating what to say next.

He had a car quick enough to qualify up front for the race, but of course – things couldn’t go that smoothly. Thanks to being stuck in inspection longer than planned, he did not get through in time, failing to make a qualifying attempt, set to start 37th on Sunday and miss 15 minutes of practice tomorrow.

While frustration boiled through her at the situation, she watched as he took it in stride. He spoke about how they had a good car, could make it even better in tomorrow’s pair of sessions, and had plenty of time to work their way from the back to the front. She even smiled as he referenced Jimmie driving from last to a win in the spring.

She watches as he finishes up, walking over to where she was standing.

“How do you do it?” She questions simply as he just shrugs his shoulders.

“I believe in my guys and this team,” he answers as he gives her a kiss. “I’ll be fine Su-”

“Are you going to tell me how you really feel, or what?” He then looks at her surprised. “What?”

“This is how I really feel. 80 laps is plenty of time to go from 37th to the top-10. Besides, I don’t need stage points as that doesn’t matter right now. Winning is what matters, so as long as I’m leading by the final lap, that’s what counts. I got lots of time to do that. I just made it more entertaining.” She rolls her eyes, knowing that was going to translate into her nerves going crazy. “Now, I love you and good luck toni-”

“Aren’t you joining me on pit road?” He shakes his head, almost set to smack himself as he had forgotten to tell her earlier.

“I have a Hooters appearance at the same tim-”

“You’re missing my race? Are you kidding me?”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 86: “It’s on me.”

Thursday night, Kentucky Speedway

Once the plane landed, it was a short trip to the speedway with the group immediately finding their way to the infield. Couple goodbyes said, and both Jimmie and William headed in their own direction. Dale and Regan stuck with Chase, wanting to make sure he got settled for the night with everything that went on.

They go to the motorcoach, with Chase unlocking the door, quietly walking in. It didn’t take long before Alyssa had her arms wrapped around him tightly, holding him. Dale couldn’t help but smile knowing that was classic her, remembering when she did that to him a couple times.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Cindy starts as she is the next one to hug him. “You need to be home, taking care of yourself…” Chase lets out a sigh, as it didn’t matter how old he was, Momma was always going to try and take care of him.

“I’m fine being here in Kentucky,” he assures her. “The doctor said it was fine for me to fly out as Regan asked. Besides, if I was home, I’d be worried even more over what was going on here. I’ll take it easy, okay?”

“Don’t worry Cindy,” Alyssa adds. “If he doesn’t take it easy, I’ll kick his ass for you.” Chase then looks at her a little skeptical as she just smiles back in return. “You heard me….”

“Well, I’m going to go get settled so I will see you later,” Regan states. “Chase, if you need me, just give me a ring. Take it easy, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Chase says once again as he gives him a hug. “I mean it – thank you.”

“I’m always just a text message away.” Regan then gives Dale a quick pat on the back, before heading out to leave the group by themselves.

“Alright guys, it’s time for you to give them some time to chill,” Dale instructs after awhile. He knew sleep was the best thing for Chase right now, and having the motorcoach crowded wasn’t going to lead to that. “He needs to relax, and she needs sleep before a busy day tomorrow. Time to say goodbye.”

“You’re going to be careful, right?” Cindy asks once again and Chase nods his head. “Alright. Take care of yourself and get some sleep.”

It didn’t take long before everyone cleared out, leaving Alyssa and Chase to themselves, as they both got ready for bed and got comfortable.

“Are you sure you’re okay right now?” Alyssa wonders, still worried about him. He just simply responds by pulling her close to him.

“It’s a little sore, but I’m fine,” he answers honestly. “You don’t need to worry about me.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that was impossible.

“I always worry about you – I always have. You can’t think that a moment is going to go by where I’m just going to sit back and not worry. Give me a break, Chase.” She then lays her head on his chest, a bunch of thoughts running through her mind at what seemed like 100 miles per hour. “I can’t believe this happened, and it’s on me-”

“What do you mean?” She then lifts her head up, staring into his brown eyes.

“Well they stated it was stress related and it clearly happened after my appointment. You’re stressing out over me, which is nothing new.” He then lets out a sigh, rubbing her shoulders. Well she was certainly on his mind, that wasn’t the start of it.

“I’d been dealing with a couple of the signs before then, but chalked it up to nothing. Besides, I’m not stressing about what’s about happen for you. I know that whatever works best, whether amputation or another road, is for the right reasons. I also know that you’re strong beyond anything. You’re like your father in a lot of ways. The world may throw a bunch of bricks at you, but you don’t change; you keep that sweetness, honesty, and every great quality about you. I know you’ll get through it so I don’t stress about you.” She knew he was just trying to make her feel better with his advice, and make it not seem like it was her fault.

“And now you can cut the cra-”

“My stress comes with my anxiety and fears. I’m stressing about everything that I’m going through and feeling. I’m stressing about trying to do the right thing. I’m stressing about the worry in whether I can make things better, come back from this. I’m stressing about…. It’s me that’s causing my own issues, not you. This isn’t something that just started over night.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the doctor’s words in trying to find some way to cope with it all. “I just need to find a way to cope with it all.”

“You’re going to find that, Chase. You will move forward. Everything will get better. We’re not going to be stuck in this situations forever.” He nods his head, hoping that she was right. But admittedly, there were times he wasn’t sure about that.

“I believe you, and I’m trying.” She glances back up at him, again.

“You’re doing a helluva job, admirable. Just take it one step at a time, okay?” She then reaches up, kissing his lips. “Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job if we weren’t getting comfy and going to sleep.”

“Yes, Nurse Earnhardt.” She just smiles as they get comfortable together, set for a good night sleep.

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

Chase made his way through the garage, falling in suit with the crew members, ready for the first XFINITY practice of the day. So far, it was business as usual. Spend the morning hanging out with Alyssa, walk to the garage together, let her get ready to go, and head to the hauler to watch.

“Hey!” Regan says as the pair cross paths. “How are you feeling?”

“Alright,” Chase replies, and that was honesty. The pain had laid off with taking both the pain killers and other pills. It was just a matter of hoping things were starting to heal down there. He had also been keeping himself nice and relaxed, which came easily at the track, so he was following the stress rule so to speak.

“That’s good. Listen, just take it easy, alright?” Chase nods his head. “I’m serious. I don’t want to be creating some emergen-”

“I’m fine, Regan. It’s not that bad and I’m chilled out. Your truck looked good in practice so best of luck later on today. I’m headed to watch Alyssa.” Regan easily lets him go, though his eyes linger on him for a little while longer. He couldn’t help but worry.

The practice went smoothly, with no incidents at all. But that didn’t mean it was all smiles in the JR Motorsports camp as struggling wasn’t the word for it. No matter what they did to the car, it just seemed to be too loose all throughout the session and as a result, she timed in 24th quickest.

“This is ridiculous!” She comments as she runs her hands through her hair. First round of the playoffs and they looked like a bunch of idiots who didn’t know what they were doing. What happened to all the speed they had shown the past couple months?

“I am going to go see if Leo’s guys have any suggestions,” Kevin Meendering says, before walking away. She rolls her eyes in response, not believing that now they were having to rely on their teammate, their competition at that, so they could figure it out.

“Hey, you’ve started weekends like this before and they’ve turned out beautiful,” Chase reminds her as he wraps his arms around her shoulders. “Take a deep breath, think, and relax. You’ll be fine.” She wanted to follow those words, but the drive and desire to succeed was telling her otherwise. “Think about how you’re detailing of what the car is doing, and try to rerun those laps over and over in your mind. Was there something that you missed? Did you maybe not explain something how Kevin needed to hear you? Could you change up or give a bit stronger feedback to get the car where you need it?”

“Maybe it’s not necessarily loose, but tight on entry,” she finally says out loud as she glances over her shoulder at him. “Maybe I’m not realizing that, trying to overcorrect my line, and causing the other issue. So therefore, we’re not fixing what the real problem is….”

“Why don’t you give that a try in the next session?” She nods her head, accepting, ready to tell Kevin when he got back.

“Are you okay?” He immediately rolls his eyes, growing annoyed at every person asking him already throughout the day.

“I’m fine – just focus on getting the car better for tomorrow.”