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.”

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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.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 155: Mixed Plans & Emotions

Thursday, October 5

Sarina glances into the bedsroom, smiling as she sees Chase glancing in the mirror, putting the final touches on his outfit for that night. While she was all for a simple t-shirt and jeans, there was nothing like a sharp dressed man, and he looked mighty fine.

“Are you just gonna stand there and watch me, or are you going to say something?” He questions as he catches her eyes, glancing towards her. She just smiles back in return as she enters the room.

“I was just admiring how handsome you look right now,” she answers as he smiles. She then walks up behind him, rubbing his shoulders. “Besides, I know how much you’re not one for dressing up all perfect snazzy. I take the moment when I can get it.”

“I thought you hated the make-up and dresses, too.” She then laughs, knowing how much she wished make-up never existed.

“I do have a love for fashion, remember? I can understand having an appreciation for having that perfect look. It’s just I can’t handle doing it myself for hours upon hours, and impressing people with something fake for no reason.” She then leans in and kisses his cheek. “But I do know when a man looks plenty hot, and I take full appreciation when I get the chance.” He nods his head, accepting.

“Normally, I’d be for all getting out of the shirt, pants, and jacket, and just kicking back. But tonight, I don’t think so. I’m looking forward to this.” She smiles, knowing perfectly why. There was a special sense of pride in knowing the No. 9 was returning back to his door next year. Now set to unveil what the car would look like and having played a small part in the design, everything just seemed to be coming together.

“You haven’t even shown me a preview of what it looks like. Don’t I at least get that?” He laughs and shakes his head no.

“I don’t even have a copy of it anywhere saved to show you.” She then looks on surprised. “I’m serious! Go through my phone!”

“Can I get a hint on color? I know there’s some blue and yellow involved – but tell me something, anything!” He laughs, shaking his head. He just loved how flustered it seemed she was getting at that moment.

“You’ll just have to wait and see like everybody else….” She then lets out a sigh as she flops back on the bed.

“There’s no really advantages to being your girlfriend at times, is there? I mean, you got to see what my truck looked like before everybody else!” He then walks over, pulling her arms to lift her up so she was sitting on the edge, eye-to-eye with him.

“One advantage – you get to spend time with me that nobody else does. Another advantage – you get to know my inner secrets. You also get to feel this…” He then brushes his lips lightly across hers. “There are girls that for some reason would scream and faint if they got that honor. Do I need to go on?” She simply smiles as she wraps her arms around his hips.

“I also get the secret of knowing the fact that you can dance and sing quite decently, too – which makes missing the Cup banquet that much more painful.” He then looks at her surprised. “Same day as Snowball Derby practice and qualifying. I checked.”

“There’s got to be some way that you can do both. Have you talked to Kyle?” She shakes her head, though knew that was a possibility. He had done both in years past without any issues. “You better talk to him. I don’t want to go through the banquet without you by my side, even if you’re only there for a bit.”

“I’ll see, okay? Besides, I was looking forward to showing you the dress I picked out.” He could only imagine how cute she would look as he knew her taste in dressing was right up there. “But let’s make this clear – you’re coming to my banquet, right?”

“My schedule is completely that day so yes, I will be there to support you. I just hope you can return the favor.” She nods her head, showing him her fingers crossed.

“Besides, I’m surprised you’re not running the Derby….” He then lets out a sigh, having heard that question plenty of times over in the past couple weeks.

“You know how I run my late model program. I only do it one way and that way only. There’s no way I can get that group of guys together for that weekend this late in the year. Besides, you can’t just waltz in there and run that race without some others on your belt to get your program right.” She nods her head, accepting. It’s why her and Kyle had developed the schedule that she had.

“So you don’t mind that I’m going to be missing your race on Sunday to be in Winchester?” He then gives her an odd glance, surprised that she hadn’t mentioned it sooner. “Last minute deal put together by Kyle and the guys once they realized it was a truck off-weekend. We both figure that a week in the late model would be good right now.”

“Hey, I can’t argue with that. I’d do the same thing in your shoes.” He then takes one final glance in the mirror before grabbing his phone off the dresser. “Ready to go?”

“Absolutely. Let’s go see what this beauty of a car looks like….”

**********

Friday, October 6 – Florida

Sarina took a deep breath, fixing her dress slacks, before entering the court room.

She would do anything right now to be anywhere but here. She would even take working on her trucks and late models over being here. She would take doing anything right now at Charlotte Motor Speedway as Chase practiced and qualified than being here.

But nope, she was there – without her man, and she hated every single moment of it.

Taking another deep breath, she knew she needed to get her testimony over and done with as quick as possible as she couldn’t stand being there any longer than she was already.

Taking the stand, she spoke to the court room about her brother’s temperament as a younger boy, and the trouble that he found which eventually led to her father’s death. She spoke about how he re-entered her life, the layers he went through in hiding himself while attacking both her and Chase, followed by the reveal. She spoke of how he convinced them of his crazy act, followed by the reunion scenes that almost made her feel like her family would be whole again. She then went into detail about how that slowly fell apart, how others began to see it, how she didn’t want to believe it, and why, followed by watching the pieces fall apart eventually.

With her words in the books, she could only fidget nervously as she watched Chris’ lawyer stand up, knowing any excuse to get him off the remaining charges would be fought for.

“When Mr. Elliott first told you that Mr. Blaney said your brother was to blame, what was your reaction?” The lawyer questions, as Sarina takes a deep breath. Why was she having to repeat herself?

“I already told the court that I didn’t believe him,” Sarina answers. “I kept questioning him as to what he was saying, trying to find some other theory. I kept that belief in my brother because I didn’t want to believe what was happening. I didn’t want to see my brother as the bad guy. I wanted that same brother back that I had years ago.” She felt her eyes beginning to get wet, holding back every urge to cry as she focused her eyes straight forward on a single spot on the wall.

“What if your brother didn’t do it then and your suspicions are right – almost like sibling intuition?” Sarina now had to laugh as the lawyer was certainly stretching for some far with her assumptions now.

“My brother isn’t innocent, as we saw with him pleading guilty to the other charges. Also, hearing his opinion on myself and Chase’s relationship, as well as faking insanity for sympathy, that’s all I need to know. I believe Ryan fully now that I have taken a step back and looked over everything. I can promise you that it wasn’t something that was telling me he didn’t do it at all.”

“Is there a possibility that Ms. Adams could’ve poisoned Mr. Blaney and Mr. Elliott?” She knew the lawyer was now reaching for suspicion, same as she had done with Chase. She wasn’t about to let her guard down as her eyes turned to her brother.

“Absolutely not. Bethany didn’t take any actions until my brother was behind bars and unable to act further. She was just someone working alongside in the background, only taking charge when he couldn’t get his way. Besides, he poisoned the other people so it shows he know what he’s doing. Why would he stop there when we know the target was eventually breaking my life apart, piece by piece?” Her heart was tearing apart even more in saying those words out loud. How could your own sibling want to tear your life into pieces?

“How do you believe that to be the target of his behavior?” Sarina now laughs as she turns to the lawyer.

“He and Bethany told me themselves. What else can I say?” She wanted to glance at the jury, making her point stick, hoping these people were smarter than those who met Allison.

“Nothing more I supposed. We’re done….” Sarina felt satisfaction in seeing the lawyer done early, seeing as though nothing went her way through the entire testimony.

She slowly steps down, going past where she was supposed to take a seat afterwards and out the doors. As the door slips closed behind her, she barely makes it to a bench before sitting down quickly, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Sarina…..” Marcus lets out as he sits down beside her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close as he rubs her back. “Sssh, it’s okay…”

“Why does it have to be my own brother?” She questions outloud as she continues crying into Marcus’ shoulder. “Why not someone else? Why not a stranger?”

“I don’t know sweetheart…”

“My own family, my own flesh and blood. They say all you have is your family. What the hell do I have?” Marcus continues to rub her back as Christopher sits down beside them.

“You have your racing family,” Christopher speaks up, catching her attention. “You have myself, Marcus, Kyle, Sam, Todd, Harrison, and your whole entire team. You’ve also got Chase, Alan, and heck – I think Chase’s team loves you, too. You’re not alone, ever. You have so many people that love you, support you, and have your back. You may not have that family everybody envisions, but you have people. Heck, I’m like that pesky little brother that won’t go away.” She then chuckles as he hands her a Kleenex.

“I guess that makes me like an uncle who is there for support and advice,” Marcus adds as she looks between them with a smile.

“We’ll never give up on you, and we’ll have your back – no matter whatever happens. I hate to say it, but you’re stuck with us.”

“You both are amazing,” Sarina comments as she wipes some of the tears away. “But sometimes I question letting you guys and Chase grow closer. What if I’m just tainted and bad news? What if that’s just in my bloo-”

“If that was the case, Kyle and Sam never would’ve hired you,” Christopher cuts her off. “If that was the case, sympathy wouldn’t be in your vocabulary. You wouldn’t be feeling sorry for those around you, or sorry for yourself. You’ve shown so many signs of being great beyond what has happened that I don’t doubt who you are.”

“You told me on father’s day that your father was a great man,” Marcus starts, remembering their trip together. “You talked about how courageous he was in the line of duty, but you also mentioned how understanding he was if you brought a problem to his attention. You talked about how kind he could be in helping someone in trouble, and how compassionate he was to the point that you really thought he got their level. Sweetheart, there may be some bad seeds in your family, but I can tell you that you’re not one of them. If anything, you remind me of how you talk about your father. You need to carry that legacy forward…” Sarina nods her head, remembering the stories she shared with Marcus that day.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you both today, any day actually. Thank you for being here,” she comments as Marcus keeps her held close.

“It’s going to be okay….”

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

Saturday, October 7 – Charlotte Motor Speedway

Chase knew his mind should be focused on the upcoming practice session, but he couldn’t bring himself to think about. Instead, he was stuck on everything that had happened over the past couple of weeks.

He was thinking about Allison. How could she be found innocent? What if she did something, again? What if they didn’t escape it next time? They had already tempted fate too many times to count.

He was thinking about Chris. Would he actually be found guilty on both of these charges? Either way, he was going to jail having pled guilty to the others – but it would be nice to have the icing on the cake. But what if he convinced the guards to let him out sometime? What if he played the insanity card again, but yet succeeded, while in prison? What if these thoughts were just nothing of the possibility?

He was thinking about Sarina and her emotional breakdown as Marcus told him about. He was thinking about what Sarina had to say about it later on that night. He was thinking about those family connections, and whether it was a good idea. What if he just found more bad news? But what if he found something good?

Why was he thinking about all of this when he should be focused on his racecar and the playoffs? There was no way he would make the next round if his mind was elsewhere and they didn’t do a good job today in practice to get the right set-up to run well tomorrow.

“I know that look on your face….” Chase hears as he watches his father enter the garage stall. “That is a look of too much on the mind to process, and no time to focus. Am I right?” Chase nods his head as he quietly looks over towards his dad. “Is it because Sarina is in Winchester?”

“It has nothing to do – okay, it has something to do with her,” he answers. “But it’s not because she’s not here. I’d be having these thoughts no matter what.” Bill then looks at him intrigued, but nothing else needed to be said. Bill had gotten the lowdown on what happened at Chris’ trial as he was keeping tabs, making sure that justice was served for what happened.

“I heard that she was on the stand yesterday to speak about her brother’s relationship, and involvement.” Chase nods his head.

“Christopher and Marcus went with her. She had a complete breakdown afterwards, and then when she got home, she broke down again to me with all of her emotions and regrets.” Bill could sympathize with that happening, knowing it had to be tough to be in her shoes.

“It’s understandable. How would you feel if one day you woke up and found out that one of your sisters was doing stuff like that, and going behind your back?” Chase knew the reaction he would have, and it wouldn’t be pretty. It took a lot to wile him up, but that would do it.

“It’s not that I don’t understand it and get it. It’s just it breaks my heart to see her going through that – and with no family to lean on for support, on top of that.”

“Did you remind her that she has peop-”

“Marcus and Christopher did. Christopher related himself to a pesky brother who won’t leave her alone, while Marcus says he can be the caring and advising uncle.” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing this conversation was going to get them nowhere. “Dad, what can I do to make it easier for her? I just hate seeing her in this much pain….”

“There’s no magical cure that you can follow, Chase. You can’t just wipe your hands and make it all better. It’s going to take time for her to come to grips with those emotions, and sort her way through them. It’s like she talked about before – she kept moving around the country, running, so there’s probably a lot that she never faced then. With this bringing all that out, on top of what happened, it’s like a tidal wave for her. The only way to fight that wave is to ride it. Be there for her, hug her, cuddle her, comfort her, hold her, assure her – just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing an amazing job even if it seems like you’re doing nothing at all. That’s all you can do, and at some point, you’ll both see that light and it’ll be okay.” Chase nods his head, accepting. It wasn’t the best answer that he could hear, but it was something.

“Thanks….” He then takes a deep breath, glancing towards the car, seeing as the guys were done the pre-session adjustments. “Now, I got a job to do…”

“Don’t let me stand in your way…” Bill then walks back out of the stall, glancing back with a small smile. He was willing to give Chase his space and let him grow, but also knew the times to step in and offer some advice.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 152: Family

Thursday, September 21

Sarina glanced at herself in the car mirror once again, before letting out a sigh as she looked over at Chase.

“Are you sure we should be doing this?” She questions, causing a small laugh to escape Chase.

“Are you kidding me?” He replies as she looks over, surprised. “We’ve been going together for a couple years now. Starr and Brittney have been begging me for you to meet them. I can’t keep ignoring them.” Sarina lets out a sigh as she glances towards the house. “It’s just lunch, and we have an excuse to get out of there timely….” She smiles, knowing their plans for tonight.

“Let’s go….”

The pair of them gets out of the car, walking up to the house, knocking on the door. It wasn’t before long that the door swung open and their eyes were locked on a little girl.

“Chase!” Kennedy yells out as she leaps up into her uncle’s arms. “I miss you!”

“I missed you too,” he replies as he hugs her tightly, before letting her down. “Do you know who my friend is?” Kennedy looks over at her, shaking her head. “That’s my girlfriend Sarina.”

“You’re pretty.” Sarina immediately smiles.

“Aw thank you,” Sarina replies. “I like your dress. It looks great on you.”

“Thank you,” Kennedy says as she looks between the pair. “Are you going to marry? Are you going to have babies? Do I get a cousin?” Sarina immediately goes into full shock mode as Chase just shakes his head.

“Kennedy oh Kennedy, what have I said about asking too many questions?” They hear a voice rang through the house as Starr walks up to the door, pulling the child back. “One step at a time. I’m sure if they love each other, maybe that’ll happen one day. Why don’t you go play with your dolls? I heard Grandpa was trying to undress one….” Chase looks on shocked.

“Oh no!” Kennedy then hurries through the house as Starr takes a couple steps back, letting the pair of them inside.

“I am so sorry about that,” Starr starts. “She’s at the stage where she has so many questions about everything. I really didn’t want that to be the first meeting.”

“It’s okay,” Chase replies as he slips his shoes off, followed by giving Starr a hug. “It’s nice to see you, and see you’re doing well.” Starr smiles, nodding her head.

“You look great as ever…” Her eyes then glance over at Sarina, followed by a smile. “And you must be the light of his life.” Sarina just laughs. “You think I’m joking? This boy can’t stop talking about how much he loves you. So hence why both Brittany and I insisted that we have a lunch with Dad while she’s in town and you come.”

“Oh boy….” Sarina lets out as she simply smiles. “Well, I’m glad to be here….”

“Come sit down…” Starr then motions towards the living room, which Sarina easily enters. Chase holds back, placing a hand on Starr’s shoulder.

“Easy on her now,” Chase warns as Starr laughs.

“You don’t got to worry about me,” she replies. “I’ve never been protective about your ass and you know that. Now your sister on the other hand….” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing how Brittney was even with just being half-siblings.

“Please tell me you warned her….” Starr shakes her head.

“Do you really think that would work, Chase?” Chase lets out a sigh. “Relax, it’ll be fine…” The pair then enter the room, joining the rest of the siblings as Brittney went ahead and introduced herself and her husband to Sarina without hesitation.

“Where’s the little guy?” Brittney glances over, knowing how much Chase loved seeing him.

“He’s staying at Robert’s parents since we’re going out tonight,” Brittney answers as Chase nods his head, accepting. “He wants to come to another race, by the way. Afraid to say it, but you damn well have him hooked.”

“It’s in his blood, sweetheart,” Bill comments. “Just like flying in your blood.”

“You’re a pilot, too?” Sarina questions and Brittney nods her head.

“She actually went away on a mission with the US Air Force,” Chase adds, causing Sarina’s jaw to drop.

“Wow….”

Through the afternoon, it was simple casual conversation as everybody traded stories and caught up with each other. Sarina was even able to relax, sharing some stories of her own, and feeling like she was one of them.

It all seemed to be going perfectly without a hitch, as she made her way out to the kitchen to set her glass down.

“I was wondering when we’d get a chance to talk,” Brittney states as she follows her into the kitchen. Chase had noticed this and gone to follow, but Starr held him back. He could only let out a sigh as he glanced their way.

“Oh really?” Sarina questions as she turns around to face her.

“Yeah.” Brittney then crosses her arms as she keeps her eyes locked on Sarina. “I wanted to make something clear to you. Since you’ve entered my brother’s world, you’ve turned it completely upside down. Do you realize how worried you’ve made his father? Do you know much that irks at me? I mean, I can’t believe the amount of things that my dad has shared with me because of you. Then of course, there’s the media articles, too. I mean, I literally can’t stomach it at times…” Sarina takes a deep breath, knowing someone was going to say something eventually.

“Look, I never meant for any of this happen. I wish I could make it go away and never happen in the quickest blink of an eye. I never thought my brother would do what he did, nor did I think Bethany would actually do something. I even tried to warn Chase that there could be trouble due to my past, but he kept fighting against it. None of this was never my intention, Brittney.” Brittney nods her head, accepting, having heard the same thing hours earlier.

“That’s what my dad and Cindy told me, too. I just don’t know if I fully believe that yet – but maybe that’ll take some time. I just want you to promise me one thing. Promise me that you truly love him, promise me that you really want to make everything right, and promise me you’ll never break his heart.” Sarina takes a deep breath, knowing that promise didn’t take much to say yes, too.

“I promise, fully and completely. I love him so much, and I would do anything…” Brittney nods her head, accepting.

“Good, I’m glad. Because if you dare ever do something so as much to hurt him just a little, I have friends and we can take care of you in a flash of a second. I’m sure you’ve heard about how military works for…” Sarina swallows the lump in her throat, nodding her head. “Awesome. It was nice to meet you.”

Brittney then turns and walks back in the room, taking her previous seat. After some calming deep breathes, Sarina followed, taking the same spot that she had held before beside Chase.

“Are you okay?” Chase questions and Sarina nods her head. “She didn’t grill you too hard, did she?” Sarina shakes her head no as she glances over towards Brittney.

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

“Do you want to talk about what she said?” Chase asks as they park in the parking lot later on that night.

“It was nothing, Chase,” Sarina answers for what seemed like the millionth time. “Typical big sister who will protect you no matter what. She made sure my intentions were clear, and swore she’d kick my ass if I ever did hurt you.”

“She don’t fool around, either,” Ryan adds, having heard some of the stories about Brittney.

“Do you know from experience?” Ryan shakes his head no with a smile.

“I knew to never piss either of them off, or Cindy for that matter.” Chase smiles, remembering some of their times growing up together.

“We had a deal – never piss off the ladies in each other’s lives because we didn’t know if we could handle the consequences,” Chase offers as Ryan nods his head. “As long as you’re fine with what she said, then it’s fine…”

“You don’t need to worry,” Sarina assures him as they pull their tickets out, showing them, before heading inside for the Eric Church concert that night.

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

Friday September 22 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Sarina sat up on top of the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler, eyes focused on the track. She didn’t have practice till later that day so it was nice to take in some of the views, see what line everybody was running, and obviously watch her man in practice.

“You seem quiet today,” Sarina hears, turning as she notices Christopher had joined her.

“How long have you been up here?” She wonders and Christopher shrugs his shoulders. “Well, I’m sorry I’ve been quiet but I didn’t notice you…”

“Right, because you’re off in your own little world.” He then scoots closer. “What’s on that mind of yours?”

“Family.” He then looks at her puzzled. “I went to an Elliott family lunch yesterday afternoon and met Chase’s sisters.”

“He has sisters?” Sarina nods her head.

“Half-sisters from his dad’s first marriage.” Christopher nods his head, now understanding. He remembered hearing somewhere that Chase was the only child between Cindy and Bill, so now it made sense.

“Let me guess – you got the overprotective speech from them both?” Sarina laughs.

“How did you know?” Christopher shrugs his shoulders.

“That’s what you always hear about siblings.” Sarina nods her head, accepting that. She had been protective about her brother at times before.

“Starr is alright. She’s a little different than you’d expect coming from them, but she’s pretty cool. We actually hit it off. Now Brittney on the other hand, that’s overprotective to a key. She watched me all day, keeping an eye on everything I said or did, and watched how I behaved with Chase. Then the first moment that she could get me alone, she took full advantage….and laid it on pretty thick, if I do say.” Christopher crosses his arms, certain where this was going.

“Because of the trail of events, I’m going to guess that you’re a danger, a threat, worried the family too much, ruined the perfect life that Chase had – should I go on?” Sarina laughs and shakes her head. “So what threat did she lay on you after telling you about how she didn’t trust you and all the bad reasons?”

“She’s a member of the Air Force so she has friends. I dare hurt him just a touch, and those friends along with her will make sure I disappear.” Christopher looks on shocked.

“Seriously?” Sarina nods her head. “Welp, that’s taking it to the extreme. Please tell me you tried to calm off the army.”

“What more could I say? I assured her that I loved him dearly, would withhold the promise, never hurt him. There’s not much more I can do, Christopher.”  Christopher nods his head, accepting.

“Did she leave open a window for the surrender flag one day?” Sarina thinks back, eventually nodding her head. “Well, that’s progress. At least you’re not totally written out of the family.”

“You think that’s what I’m concerned about? You think I’m worried about what she said to me? Oh hell no! I have no reason to worry about her because you’re damn right, she will lift that flag one day. For me, my worry surrounds Cindy and Bill. As long as they believe in me, and what Chase and I have doesn’t hurt their relationship as a group, then I’m fine. And for once, I believe I’m making progress as Cindy was fully opening all doors of conversation yesterday.” Christopher smiles as it was nice to hear progress.

“See, that’s what I like to hear….” Sarina’s eyes glance back to the track, though she knew they couldn’t end the conversation there.

“So have you had any of the same dealings with Morgan’s family?” Christopher thinks it over, remembering the meetings.

“Can’t say it’s been all rose…..Oh shit!” Sarina’s jaw drops immediately as she watches Chase slide up the track, making significant contact with the wall.

“Crap!” She immediately lets full attention turn to the headset, hearing the words that she knew he was going to say. After all, he didn’t hit too hard. “He’s okay. He just got out of the groove and lost it.”

“That stuff is supposed to be really slippery if you get outside of it….” Sarina nods her head.

“And if you combine the fact that Alan and Josh aren’t here, you can bet that car wasn’t handling perfect, either….” Sarina was still in a mood to kill Alan and Josh for what they pulled last week with the stupid tape. Great way to start the playoffs…..  “Listen, I’ll talk to you lat-”

“Go!!” She immediately makes her way down the steps, hurrying over to the 24 garage stall as she wanted to see him amongst the chaos.

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

The pair walk into the motorcoach together, shutting the door behind them.

Sarina was in a decent mood herself, having posted the second and fifth quickest speeds in truck practice. But her concern was more towards Chase following the practice crash, and qualifying 14th for Sunday.

“Are you okay?” She questions after he emerges out of the shower.

“Absolutely,” he answers as he flops down on the bed beside her. “You saw the wreck. Barely hit it, but enough to go to a backup.” She nods her head, remembering.

“I meant confidence level, and how you’re feeling that way…” He lets out a sigh as he rolls over onto his back.

“I’d prefer not to be working with Kenny this weekend as I’d rather both Alan and Josh here – or at least Alan. But I can’t blame them for trying. We’ve done dumb stuff like that, too.” Sarina nods her head, remembering her Snowball Derby disqualification clearly.

“So are you still set for a good day Sunday?” Chase nods his head.

“I think Kenny and I can get the car handling a bit better tomorrow and we’ll be fine. We just need a solid points day – nothing special, just solid. Then we can move onto next week, another solid day, and we’re off to round two.” He then rolls back over onto his stomach close to her. “Now on the other hand, you have a very fast truck and nothing to lose….”

“I’m going for that win tomorrow, no doubt about it.” He smiles, leaning in for a kiss.

“Do me a favor – learn from my mistakes and don’t jump the cushion.” She could only smile in return.

“Gotcha.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 149: Hot Dogs and Kisses…

Thursday, September 14 – Chicagoland Speedway

Chase stood on top of the Venturini Motorsports trailer, watching as Sarina took part in ARCA practice. He had been going back and forth between Venturini’s and the Kyle Busch Motorsports’ hauler as she was doing double duty this weekend.

Kyle had gotten with Billy earlier in the week, believing it was a good idea to get her more seat time at Chicagoland ahead of Friday night’s regular season finale. Besides, it may also be a good stress relief after the past couple truck races, too.

It was no surprise that he had been allowed on top of the KBM hauler – Kyle had set that in place with Marcus earlier in the year, which didn’t bother him one bit. There was a respect in the relationship that Chase and Sarina had together, with knowing how much access to not gain the notes.

It did surprise him when Billy Venturini had no issue with him going up there with Marcus for both ARCA sessions. He had never talked to him much before, but it was automatic acceptance without a question asked. While it surprised him, Christopher reminded them that racing for the Venturinis is like a big family.

So far behind the wheel of both cars, she had been fast, showing speed in every session with good handling package to back it up. He just hoped that translated over to the weekend’s races.

As he climbs down following the second ARCA session, he hears his phone go off, taking it out of his pocket.

“Hello?” He questions, intrigued by his parent’s calling him.

“Hey,” Bill replies. “Where are you?” Chase was caught off-guard by the question.

“I’m at the track. Sarina is running tonight’s ARCA race.” He heard a sigh through the phone, now really intrigued.

“Did you forget about that when we talked on Tuesday?” Chase immediately flashed back to the discussion, letting out a sigh of his own. He knew he had forgot to make a phone call.

“I feel so bad now. Kyle put together this deal late for Sarina, and I didn’t want to miss the race.” He knew no matter how many times he apologized, it wouldn’t make up for it. How could he forget about family dinner plans?

“It’s fine, Chase. I totally get last minute details. As long as you’re both doing well. Besides, Cindy and I have other plans that we can embrace tonight. We’ll do dinner on Saturday night, okay?” Chase double checked his calendar, not wanting to mess up the plans once again.

“Deal, and I appreciate your understanding.”

“Anytime. See you tomorrow.”

“Alright. Bye Dad.” Chase hangs out, letting out a sigh as he makes his way over to the garage.  “Are we happy?” Sarina grins, nodding her head.

“Both cars are working really well,” she offers, having had a good solid day so far. Now she just needed to cap it off. “Who were you talking to?”

“My dad,” Chase offers. “I forgot about family dinner…” Sarina’s jaw drops immediately.

“Chase, I’m sorry. I should’ve let you stay bac-”

“You didn’t force me to come. Besides, I wanted to be here to watch you. I just forgot to let them know the plans when you told me on Tuesday.” She looks on intrigued as it wasn’t like him to forget things. “What?”

“Nothing…” He crosses his arms, knowing that look better than that. “It’s just you don’t forget things normally.”

“We’ve had a lot going on lately. From our separate schedules, to the trials, to media appearances that can drive me insane, and starting off the playoffs. It just got away from me.” He then grabs her hand with his own. “Relax….”

“As long as I’m not getting you in troub-”

“Never.” He then kisses her lips. “Even if you were, it’d be worth it.” She then rolls her eyes.

“Great, I’m slowly converting you to the dark side. There’s goes the perfect angel…” He laughs as he keeps her held close.

“Perfect angel? What have I told you about that? Besides, I thought you learned differently while we were away.” She thinks it over, remembering some of the memorable moments.

“I just hope that we can dance again sometime.” He smiles, knowing how great that made her feel, as he twirls her around in the garage. “Chase, I didn’t mean here and now…”

“Then let this be your rain check for the banquet, okay?” She nods her head, accepting.

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

With the last lap made on track, the pole for that night’s ARCA race was officially hers.

Sarina pumped her fist in the air, before sharing high-fives with each team member. She finally made it over to Chase, giving him a big hug.

“Great job!” He tells her, before giving her a kiss on a check. “That was a spectacular lap.”

“I’m honestly in disbelief,” she replies as she glances down pit road. “I was ready for either Christopher or Austin to be quicker.”

“There’s no beating perfection, and you ran your line perfectly.” She nodded her head, easily accepting.

She then turned and did a couple media interviews, before going through the series of pole sitter photos that ARCA required. Once they were done, she met back up with Chase. Their plan was to make their way through the garage and grab a quick bite to eat before that night’s race.

“Sarina!” The pair hear as they walk, glancing at each other curiously in seeing a man with a microphone and camera. “Can I get your reaction to Bethany Adam’s guilty plea last weekend?” Sarina takes a deep breath, remembering the advice given to both her and Chase following the last media incident.

“No comment,” she replies as she continues walking. The reporter follows, keeping the camera and microphone focused on her, stopping her in her tracks. “Look, I said no comment. I’m here to focus on racing, and that alone. If you have a question about that, then maybe I’ll answer. Otherwise, beat it!” The camera man doesn’t move as he stays in the one position. “Don’t make me call security.”

“Look, I just wanted a quick comment to make my producer happy. You have to have some sort of reaction to the news. But okay, if you can’t comment on that – what about the fact that this involves your brother and your cousin? How is that affecting family life?” Chase knew the question was cutting the core as he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly as they tried to keep following the same path. “Would you care to say something if she can’t?”

“No comment,” Chase replies sternly as he pulls his phone out of his pocket. “Do I have to call security?” The reporter then moves away, allowing the pair to continue walking. They head straight to the KBM hauler, making their way inside and closing the door behind them.

“Did that seriously just happen?” Sarina questions and Chase nods his head as he types a text message to Morgan. “What are you doing?”

“I noticed what his microphone said so I know his affiliation.  I’m warning Morgan that there’s someone being an ass and our reac-”

“Did I do something wrong?” Chase immediately shakes his head no as he looks up from the phone.

“You handled him perfectly for the way he was acting. Besides, once this gets to Morgan, she’ll get a hold of NASCAR and strip his credential.” He finishes sending the message, before putting his phone back in his pocket as he pulls her close. “You don’t have anything to worry about.”

“But I told him to beat it!” Chase nods his head, having heard that clearly.

“He deserved that and anybody will see that, no matter how they spin it.” He then rubs her shoulders. “Talk to me. I know the family comment had to touch you somehow.” She shakes her head no.

“I’ve just become used to people asking. When they do, I don’t think about it as family. I think about those that are close to me now as family – Kyle, Sam, Christopher, Marcus, and obviously you. If I have to answer any question of that nature, my mind goes there immediately. Chris and Bethany are never family to me, okay? Family is people that have your back no matter what. Obviously, they can’t get behind my decisions.” Chase nods his head, accepting her point of view.

“So you’re still 100% ready to kick some ass tonight?” She laughs and nods her head. “Good, because I can’t wait to see you in victory lane tonight, my girl.”

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

Chase sat up on the pit box, keeping his eyes peered on the No. 15 Toyota all night long, fingers crossed for a good night. He didn’t want to think back to the last ARCA race she ran – Talladega, the wreck, the foot. Shaking his head, tonight was going to go much better.

She led some laps at the start of the event, though ultimately drifted back a few spots as they got into the middle portion of the event. Tire strategy also didn’t seem to be panning out, either, as she fell back some more positions.

When the caution flew with mere couple laps to go, her crew chief Jaba made the call to bring her down pit road for four tires. Taking a deep breath, Chase knew her starting 10th with four brand new tires was going to be wild.

The green flag came out with two laps to go, and both Christopher and Sarina immediately jumped to the high side of the track as they crossed the start-finish line.

“Holy shit!” Chase let out, along with practically everybody else on the pit box as Christopher went from eighth to second in the first corner, with Sarina right behind him. Christopher then got by Austin Theraiult for the lead down the backstretch, with Sarina slotting behind Austin in third. “Come on Sarina…” By the time they got around again, it was Christopher stealing the win with Brandon Jones just barely edging her for the third spot.

“Nice job there!” Jaba tells her immediately. “Great job at the end.”

“That was insane!” She lets out on the radio, which was the thought going through everybody’s mind, still in disbelief by what they saw. “Gosh, Christopher is a king of restarts…” She knew there were some good mental notes to make after making it through traffic like that for the future. There was a reason he could gain track position so quickly.

“You did a great job following him through there. Sorry we got you behind there as you did a great job driving all night long.” Sarina knew what Jaba was thinking – what if? Perhaps if they’d started in front of Christopher, it would’ve been a different story.

“10-4 No worries, buddy. You still did a great job and a helluva call at the end. I love you still.”

Sarina then goes through the usual post-race routine of interviews – without any problems, too – before sharing a hug and a couple comments with Chase. After giving the team a round of high fives for a great day, she headed to victory lane to congratulate her teammate on his success.

As Christopher was posing for various photos, she snuck up behind him, dumping a bottle of water down his neck, causing him to jump and spin around quickly.

“Congratulations!” She says as she gives him a quick hug. “That was amazing!”

“That was just purely insane,” Chase adds as he had to admit he was impressed too.

“Thanks,” Christopher replies. “I just went for the holes as they were opening and hoped it worked out. I could never have imagined passing that many cars in one car, though.”

“You did a great job sweetie,” Big Bill says as he wraps his arms around Sarina, giving her a big kiss on the cheek. Christopher could only laugh as Chase looked on, caught off-guard.

“Thanks for the opportunity,” she replies as he heads off to go see someone else.

“Well, at least I wasn’t the only one getting kissed tonight,” Christopher comments as she laughs.

“Did you get the full treatment?” Christopher nods his head as she laughs once again.

“Big Bill, Bill’s wife, Billy, and I think about three others all went for kisses. Heck, Big Bill went for the lips. Yuck!” Sarina could only laugh in response.

“When you win for the Venturinis, you know to watch out…” Chase could only look on, shaking his head.

“Some winning traditions I am glad that I can pass on,” Chase comments as Christopher takes a deep breath.

“Then can you help me out with one tonight?” Christopher questions, catching them both off-guard. “Eat that hot dog.” Sarina and Chase both look over, taking a closer look at the hot dog that seemed to have everything known to mankind on it. “Supposedly, its form one of the big event sponsors. I’m supposed to take a bite for a photo…”

“Is that thing supposed to compare to the Martinsville hot dog?” Christopher shrugs his shoulders. “Regardless, you’re on your own…”

“Not gonna take the plunge for me?” Chase immediately shakes his head no.

“I’ll gladly get photos to plaster all over the internet, though…”

“I don’t think it’s that bad,” Sarina comments as she looks it over. “I mean, it’s not the worst combination of things…”

“You can’t even see the wiener, though!” Christopher lets out.

“Did your girlfriend offer to eat it for you?” Christopher shakes his head no.

“She told me she wasn’t even touching it!” Both Chase and Sarina laugh.

“Good luck then!” The pair was going to originally promptly leave victory lane, though stuck around as they wanted to catch a glimpse of the famous bite. It was worth the laughs as it just went everywhere as soon as Christopher bit into it. The face he made afterwards – priceless. “Please tell me you got that…”

“Perfectly,” Chase comments, showing her the image as she laughs.

“That’s awesome,” Sarina says as she laughs at Christopher trying to wipe up the mess.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t win now?” Christopher questions as she shrugs her shoulders.

“If I would’ve won, I would’ve eaten the whole damn thing. But hey, I got out of that now.” Christopher just rolls his eyes.

“They’re going to have one available all weekend for every single winner…” Chase immediately makes a disgusted face as Sarina shakes her head.

“Eating something disgusting to make the playoffs – is it worth it? Absolutely!”

“What would you do to win a championship?” Chase questions as she just smiles.

“I heard they also have a special additional gift for Sunday’s race winner, too,” Christopher’s girlfriend Morgan Kemenah comments as Chase fears the worst. What could be worse than the hot dog?

“Do I wanna know?” Morgan shrugs her shoulders.

“I don’t know what it is so I can’t say anything, right?” Chase nods his head.

“Either way, it’ll probably be a classic Kodak moment so I will be there – unless you delete that image,” Christopher comments as Chase laughs.

“Never, ever, ever. In fact, I’m going to forward it to Sarina so she can share it with everybody she wants…” Christopher then goes to grab his phone as Chase runs off.

“Do you see what you started?” Morgan questions as Sarina laughs.

“It’s better than them giving each the other death stare,” Sarina offers and Morgan couldn’t help but agree.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 135: Couple of Doubts…

Friday, August 18 – Bristol Motor Speedway

Chase lies there, pulling Sarina closer as he lets outs a sigh. He knew that Wednesday night still lingered on her mind, and he wanted to comfort her. He also didn’t feel like moving, even with practice time soon, as he was perfectly comfortable.

Though hearing a knock on the door, Chase rolls over and lets out a sigh. There was no sleeping in now…

“Are you kidding me?” Sarina questions out loud as she kicks the blanket off. Chase just smiles as he looks over.

“Go back to sleep,” he tells her, throwing the blanket back over her as he stands up. “It’s my parents. They probably just got in town. Get some sleep, and then come out later when you’re ready.” She smiles as she sits up, watching him get dressed quickly.

“Are you sure?” He nods his head.

“I can handle them…”

“Thank you!” She then flops back in the bed, pulling his pillow close as she curls up once again.

With another knock on the door, Chase makes his way out of the bedsroom, slipping the door closed before walking to the door. He opens it, immediately smiling.

“Did we wake you?” Bill questions as he and Cindy enter the motorcoach, each giving him a hug.

“I was awake – just hadn’t moved yet,” he answers, following up inside. He then makes his way into the small kitchen, pulling out the orange juice. “Sarina and I were up late watching movies so I was taking advantage of the time. She’s still sleeping…” The parents both sit on the couch, eyes focused on Chase.

“So what did you two kids do yesterday?” Cindy wonders, and Chase wasn’t surprised by the question. With nothing happening on track and not wanting to travel back for a single night, the pair agreed to take in the town with a fun afternoon.

“We found some great parks and caves to check out, so it paid off for a great afternoon of biking and running. We then spent some time at the lake, chilling and talking, before heading back here to enjoy a quiet night in.”

“Sounds relaxing,” Bill comments and Chase nods his head as he leans back against the counter.

“It was needed,” Chase adds. “She was pretty frustrated with how things played out Wednesday night…” Cindy looks at him with raised eyebrows.

“Like when you’d get frustrated and pick apart every single detail, frustrated?” Chase nods his head as Bill just smiles. “Now you get to see what we dealt with…” Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Thanks a lot, Dad.” Bill crosses his arms, remembering some of those nights.

“Let me guess – lots of pressure on her to win with the playoffs and a short track, and yet that was thrown away because of a crew member’s mistake?” Chase nods his head. “So obviously that ate at her big time. Did you tell her that sometimes that happens, you can’t take it back, she did what she cou-”

“I gave her every liner that you could use in that situation, but you know yourself – it doesn’t replace that feeling. That’s why I figured a day away would be perfect to forget it.” Chase then smiles as he thinks to the upcoming week. “That’s why I feel this trip is coming at the perfect time, too.”

“Are you sure you guys should be going away at this time?” Cindy questions, catching his attention. “You guys are knee-deep in legal messes with the trials, and we just got through everything that happened. If that was me, I would be wanting to relax and lay low for once.” Chase knew it was simply his mother’s worry speaking.

“Actually, I’m the exact opposite,” Chase informs her. “I’m open to having that perfect distraction, something else to think about for a week without a single thought. It’s a way to clear my mind of everything and just be free for once since it all started, you know? Plus, it’s almost like a reset for both Sarina and myself – Ryan, too – in regards to racing because we’re just escaping everything.” Cindy understood where he was coming from, but still felt nervous about everything.

“But are you absolutely certain that you’ll be safe, careful and nothing will happen?” Chase nods his head, remembering extra discussion spent with Ryan.

“Ryan and I have put certain things in place with where we’re going, and we’re always going to be watching our backs. Mom, you don’t need to worry – we’ll be fine.”

“You’ll call every day, though?” Chase could only smile as he walks over, giving her a hug.

“If it makes you feel better, then I will make sure to call…” He then puts his shoes on. “Practice is in a half hour. I better head to the trailer before Alan sends a search party.”

“I’ll come,” Bill comments, chuckling.

“I got to go catch up with Ingrid and a couple others so I’ll meet back up with you later, okay?” Cindy says and Bill nods his head, accepting.

Chase quickly pops in the back, letting Sarina know that he was heading out for practice. She promised that she’d come out for the second session, once she got a shower and some breakfast this time around –  but made sure to wish him the best of luck.

He then heads out, beginning the short walk to the garage area with his father.

“You know your mother was just pushing you because she worries, right?” Bill asks and Chase nods his head.

“Hence why I tried to be assuring and gave in to the promise,” Chase answers as Bill smiles. They then round the corner, as Bill finds himself back on a thought for a week ago.

“Chase, when you told me what happened with Casey, why did you just want to keep it between us? Why not tell your mother?” Chase thinks it over, debating the best way to express the reasons.

“It was almost surreal, and sometimes I find myself questioning whether it really happened, or it was just my imagination; maybe it was my conscious speaking to me. It took a lot to bring myself to tell you, yet alone anyone else. I just don’t feel comfortable talking about it more, or having everybody knowing.” Bill nods his head, accepting and understanding.

“That’s fine…” Chase then pauses, looking towards his father.

“I mean, is that okay with you? If you really want to tell her, then I guess you cou-”

“No, it’s fine this time, really. I get it. You wanted to say it out in the open to one person to test what you were thinking, but not tell everybody because of the doubts. It’s okay the way it is. I just asked because you normally share everything with both of us.” Chase nods his head, knowing that was always the case – there was no secrets with his parents.

“I appreciate that, really.” He then heads into the hauler, set to change into his firesuit, as Bill remains outside, waiting. It was time to focus on what was to come that day….

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

Leaning against the NAPA Chevrolet, Chase was pleased with how the first practice had gone, having ended up 11th on the board. It was certainly not near the top where he wanted to be, but the car felt pretty good so they were certainly making process. With another hour of practice to come, he believed that they could get the last little details ironed out.

“Well, well, the princess shows her face,” Chase hears, glancing towards Josh as he points back towards the other end of the stall. Chase smiles as he watches Sarina walk over.

“Nice of you to finally come out and say hi,” Chase comments as Sarina rolls her eyes.

“Not everybody is a sweet dear morning person like you,” she replies as Chase just smiles.

“I could’ve made you get up this morning….” She then lets out an aggravated sigh as she leans back against the car beside him. “You seem grumpier than normal, though…”

“Why would that surprise you? I mean, you were here Wednesday right?” Chase lets out a sigh, having believed that was the last thought on her mind after the day they spent away from the track yesterday. Besides, normally, a couple days removed, you began to put things in perspective and move forward.

“What is it going to take to get you out of that funk?” She shrugs her shoulders. “We talked about this Wednesday night. You did what you needed to do. It’s not your fault that they made a mistake. You’ve still got Canadian Tire Motors-”

“I have no road course experience, Ell-”

“Hey, I won there. Now that has to say something as I’m no road course expert, right?” Sarina just rolls her eyes. “Besides, Christopher won there before. He can give you some advice…”

“That’s if I can catch the guy to begin with!” Chase wraps an arm around her shoulders. He could understand where she was coming from in having to live up to the results of all-star teammates.

“What did we talk about Wednesday, too? Some drivers, it takes time for them to come into their own before their hit everything out of the park. I mean, Christopher will even tell you that based on last year. So why are we sitting here comparing ourselves again? What are we supposed to focus on?” She lets out a sigh, still annoyed.

“Focusing on bettering ourselves, improving with each run out there, and doing the best that we can.” He nods his head as he squeezes her shoulder.

“Just do that at CTMP and do that at Chicagoland, and where the chips fall, they fall. If you make the playoffs, it’s a bonus for you as a rookie. If you don’t, then focus on making the most out of the last seven races so you can come back stronger next year.” She wanted to believe in those words, but there were doubts about her future – as always.

“What if I’m not back at KBM next year?” Chase then looks at her, surprised.

“Kyle and Samantha adore you. I see no reason that they’d drop you based on the solid performances that you’ve put together this year, Sarina.” She rolls her eyes.

“Right, and what about the sponsor? What if they don’t retur-”

“They love you, as well. Why do you think they brag about you constantly? Why do you think they sponsored your late model program?” He takes a deep breath, trying to resist the urge of flipping out on her. It frustrated him to no end to see this self-doubt. “For once, believe in yourself, please. Believe in yourself. Believe in everything around you. Believe in what you’ve worked for, earned, and the fact that it’s not going to be stripped away this time. It’s going to pay off…” His words hit home, hitting her doubts right in the middle – she was afraid due to having seen everything continually fall apart in her life, one piece at a time.

“You really believe that?” He nods his head.

“Absolutely without a doubt.” She smiles as she leans in, and kisses his cheek.

“You’re amazing. Thank you…” He smiles as he keeps her held close.

“No, you’re amazing. I’m just blessed with the fact that you finally accepted my offer.” She laughs, remembering how many times she turned down his request.

“I don’t know what I was thinking then….” He could only smile, glad that they were at this point where they could joke about that now. With her, it was baby steps in the relationship, and he was glad to continue taking those each day.

“I don’t know what you were thinking accepting the offer, though,” Nick O’Dell chimes in, receiving a middle finger from Chase, causing laughs throughout the stall. “I mean, can you really handle this guy? He’s quite the character…”

“You should hear what she tells me at night when you’re sleeping,” Chase comments, causing a couple surprised glances from everybody.

“Now now, no bedsroom tal-”

“I didn’t mean that one bit!” He then laughs, realizing how his comment came across. “I totally didn’t mean it that way. Oh my gosh…” His cheeks immediately go a bright shade of red as laughter erupts around them.

“So what are we missing at night, guys?” Josh questions as he leans over the roof, peeping in between them, with a glance either way.

“That I’m the most amazing, perfect, sweet guy that she’s ever met,” Chase brags as the guys begin rolling their eyes and laughing. “What?”

“Please Sarina, do us all a favor – do not fill his head with these stories. I’ll have to get Jordan to get a bigger helmet for his head if you do that.”  A couple guys laugh as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Relax Josh – he keeps assuring me that I’m lying and he’s just some ordinary guy,” Sarina says as Chase receives a couple surprised glances.

“I’m just an ordinary guy who appreciates the opportunity he gets to go fast every week,” he comments.

“Down to earth, sweet, amazing – actually, Sarina may be onto something,” Alan says from his perch. “I guess that’s why we put up with you. But guess what? It’s time to say goodbye to the girl and get your ass ready to go make some more laps. We have a job to do, right?” Chase gives him a thumbs up, before looking over at Sarina.

“See you after practice?” She nods her head, snagging a kiss, before walking out of the stall to go on top of the hauler.

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

Chase climbs out of the car following qualifying, smiling. Fourth wasn’t too shabby at all. It was better than they practiced all day, and he could certainly do a lot from there tomorrow night.

“Nice job!” Sarina says as she gives him a big hug. “Now, want to hear some even bigger news?” Chase then looks at her surprised, intrigued what could be more important in this moment. “They arrested Bethany in Florida. She’s being transported back up to Indiana as we speak.”

“Really?” He questions and Sarina nods her head, showing him the message from the detective. “Step 3 in our plan to take back our lives is complete.”

“But can they make the charges stick?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, not sure. He knew that depended on what Allison had to say.

“We’ll see…” He then pulls her close to him. “But for now, we’re not going to worry about Bethany, Chris, or Allison. We’re going to enjoy this darling weekend, taking in the XFINITY race together, enjoying another movie together, before having a thrilling race night tomorrow. And then we’re off on a world vacation…”

“I can’t wait!”