Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte, North Carolina
Sarina glances over at Chase as she lets out a sigh.
“Are you okay?” He looks over at her with an eyebrow raised.
“Yeah,” he answers. “Why wouldn’t I be?” She scoots a little closer, laying her head on his arm.
“Because of what happened in California, and the note at the office.” He understood her concerns as he glances down at her eyes. Certainly it was having its effect and was on his mind. But, he wasn’t going to fall for the trap of letting some foolish notes and scares dictate his life.
“I know it’s not ideal, and we didn’t want to deal with this ever again – but I will tell you that I am fine. I believe that we safe together, and everything will work out. We’ve done what we need to, and all we can do is let it work out. There are people in place, and whoever is doing this will be caught.” Sarina wanted to believe his words, knowing that the Hendrick Motorsports security personnel was upping their number of people, and had one to stay with Chase no matter what if needed. However, she couldn’t help but wonder based on the past.
“Can you just promise me, though, that you will be extra careful?” He nods his head yes as he lifts his arm, letting her lay her head on his chest, wrapping the arm around her.
“I promise. I know what to look out for, and I’m not going to be fooled again.” She then glances up at him.
“Fooled?” He lets out a sigh as his eyes close briefly.
“Ricky and Alan both think that it’s Alison that is behind everything, and frankly, that makes sense. She played my weaknesses when we met before at the pageant, and then at Indianapolis. She knew I’d do anything for you and the team, even subjecting myself, because of how much I care about you guys. My vulnerability is my sweetness, I suppo-”
“It’s also why I, and so many love yo-”
“But when you have someone like her, they take advantage of it and make sure to cause as much pain with that as they can. That’s the mark of an evil genius, and a psychopath. Chris wanted to go after you, so he came after me and those friends close to you. Allison wanted to go after me, so she used those I love against me. This time if she comes around, I’m not letting her fool me into doing something stupid this time.” Sarina accepted his position, but just hoped his sign of strength didn’t fool him into something else happening.
“What time are we flying out tonight?” Chase knew that she had to be in Daytona tomorrow for ARCA practice, and that meant leaving to go together. Not wanting to be flying in the morning of the session, they had agreed to leave the night before.
“Whenever you want, really. Once I get done at the shop and you do what you need to do, we’ll pack our bags and go.” She nods her head, accepting.
“Can’t we just stay cuddled like this until later?” He chuckles, but certainly wouldn’t mind that either.
“We don’t get any work done like this, and we need to get work done…”
Wednesday, February 7 – Hendrick Motorsports
Making his way into the shop, Chase knew the responsibilities on tap today before leaving. The first step included checking in with Alan to make sure everything was going accordingly with his notes.
“He’s here….” Chase hears as he makes his way through the shop, catching his attention. He immediately froze, almost set to burst out laughing, in noticing the three crew members together.
“I thought you were kidding,” he comments as the three walk over. As promised yesterday, Jared Erspamer had brought in a big roll of bubble wrap, while Chad Avrit now held some rolls of masking tape in his hand. To cap it off, Jared Seate was even available to film – as stated.
“I was – but the more I thought about it, I think it’s a good idea,” Chad says as he stops just before his driver. “We’ll make sure that we leave your face uncovered so you can see, speak, and oh yeah – kiss the girlfriend.”
“For all we know, Kyle may be a fan of this idea considering….” Jared Seate adds, causing a couple laughs as Chase gives him a complete stare down. “Suddenly I feel like I’m off your good side…”
“So, are we going top to bottom, or bottom to top?” Chase just shakes his head.
“How about none of the above?” Chase suggests, causing a sad look to form on Chase’s face immediately.
“There’s no fun in that,” Chad offers as he looks back at the bubble wrap. “Now what we are supposed to do?” Chase crosses his arms with a smirk as his eyes return to Jared Seate.
“Oh hell no….” Jared immediately protests as Chase laughs.
“Actually, I have a better idea,” Chase then starts as he looks out towards the parking lot. “We have a rookie teammate here. I think he needs to be welcomed in style.” He looks between the three of them. “Are you thinking what I am thinking?”
“I’m on-board – as long as I get to play with the wrap,” Chad declares as the others nod their heads in agreement.
The objective didn’t take long to complete as they were able to wrap William Byron’s Tahoe in a short amount of time, including some special work on the door handles. The four of them then retreated back to their normal duties – with Chase completing his to-do list as required.
As he was finishing up for the day with a photo sent out on twitter, he couldn’t help but laugh in seeing William walk around the shop.
“Alex!” He heard William call out as Alex Bowman glances over at him. “Do you know anything about the bubble wrap?” Alex shakes his head no. “It’s like something Jimmie would do….”
“Jimmie hasn’t been here all day,” Alex comments as Chase just quietly chuckles.
“So then who would bubble wrap my car?” Alex shrugs his shoulders. “You honestly didn’t see anything?”
“Nope, not a thing. Sorry man.” William then continues to make his way through the shop, questioning others – but nobody gave up the secret as Chase just stood aside with his own chuckles. “He’s going to kill you when he finds out….”
“Hey, it wasn’t my idea to bring bubble wrap in today,” Chase says with a smile before heading out.
Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte Airport
With their bags all packed and in hand, Chase and Sarina had made their way to the airport, and were now traveling across the tarmac to the plane. Sarina was set to load the plane, as Chase would go over everything to make sure they were good to travel.
The pair reached the plane in good time, and a simple nod was set to begin things as usual. However, Chase’s feet froze in place as he noticed a wrench sitting by the back wheels, with the engine cover loose. Taking a deep breath, trying to push aside the sudden nerves, he makes his way over and takes off the engine cover.
“Are you kidding me?!?” He questions immediately, seeing oil all over as he shakes his head in disgust.
“What’s wrong?” Sarina wonders, setting the first bag back on the ground as she makes her way over. She then noticed the black liquid all over, followed by the wrench that was beneath. “Well, they made it painfully obvious, like they wanted to get caught….” Chase then notices a piece of paper, picking it up and slowly unfolding it. The same familiar black typewriter typing filled the small piece of white paper.
“Considering this a warning that I can get to you under your skin, and to your skin with a flick of the fingers…” He scrunches up the paper, set to chuck it away, when Sarina grabs his hand. “What are you doing?”
“This is what they want. They want the frustration out of you. They want you to be angry. They want to mess with your head. Remember when you told Kyle that? Take a deep breath, and calm down…” He does as instructed, slowly lowering his hand with the scrunched up paper ball. She uncurls her fingers, taking the paper out of it, dropping it down beside the wrench. “Don’t touch anything else, and let’s call this in. Maybe there are fingerprints on the wrench, or maybe there’s a security camera.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “Chase, talk to me, please….”
“I’m fine, and you’re right. We need to do the right thing here…”
The pair walked back to the airport offices, reporting the incident. It didn’t take long before they were met with an investigating officer, who took down their statement and went to see the plane scene for evidence. With some time to calm down, Chase also took the time to call the Hendrick security personnel to make sure they were aware of what happened – and they promised that they’d look into it, as well. He then made the decision to call his dad, asking for a favor.
About two hours after the incident, they were in the air and off to Daytona, landing down there in quick fashion.
“Thank you,” Chase says as he takes the final bag off the plane.
“Anytime,” Bill replies as he gives him a hug. “Be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “And I know you’re scared, but you have to know it will work out fine. They’ll figure this out, but you can also call me if you need to talk.”
“Yes sir.” Chase then walks away, bags in hand as Bill looks over at Sarina.
“Keep an eye on him. He’s not saying much and he’s trying to act like this is nothing, but you can tell that it is eating at hi-”
“I know, Bill. I can see that it is too without him saying a word. Trust me when I say this – I will do whatever it takes for him. He’s always done that for me, so now it’s my turn to return the favor.” Bill gives her a hug before watching her hurry to catch up with him, as he says a silent prayer that things indeed worked out.
Thursday, February 8 – ARCA Practice – Daytona International Speedway
Once she was done debriefing with the team, Chase walks over and wraps his arms around her shoulders, pulling her back close in his arms.
“Well that’s one way to make an entrance,” she offers, knowing right away it was him by the simple feel, without even a glance down at the arms that now wrapped around her waist.
“I take it that the practice session went well?” He questions and she nods her head. Throughout the three hours, she only had one single complaint near the beginning, but the team made the adjustments accordingly to get the handling where she wanted by herself. Once in the draft later on, there were no issues and the speed was there as she topped it off in the top-10.
“No scratches on the car, and I have to admit that she drives pretty well, too – actually better than last year, if you want to believe it.” Chase hoped that only meant good things as he wasn’t about to relive the Talladega experience once again. He just needed speedweeks to go as smooth as possible – win the clash, win the qualifier, win the 500, and watch her win both of her races. Considering everything going on, anything else to fry his nerves was not on the table.
“I’m glad. A happy driver usually means a good race, so fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly on Saturday.” She then turns around to face him, kissing his lips lightly.
“I can’t wait to see you behind the wheel of the 9.” He smiles, as he had to admit he was over the off-season by any stretch now. It was time to get back to work – and have something for his mind to focus on.
“Seeing those cars on track today, I’m equally excited. Can it be Saturday already?” She chuckles as she wouldn’t mind the same thing, even knowing that she had another practice and qualifying tomorrow.
“Too bad you don’t have a time machine.” He had hoped for the same thing as he takes a deep breath. “Did they call you with any updates?”
“Nope, not a single thing actually.” She then rubs his arms as she keeps her eyes locked on his.
“You know you can talk to me about your fears, right?” He nods his head, accepting. Even still, though, he couldn’t find the words to say. It was one thing to feel it, but another to express it to someone else. “And just like you always told me, it will work out. As long as we have each other, we can do anything and we will get through this. They will find out who’s behind it, find them, and make sure they stay behind bars. They figured out Chris, they figured out Bethany and they did some damage with Allison; they can do the same again.”
“I know…” He then glances down as she keeps her eyes locked on him.
“But?” He takes a deep breath as he intertwines his fingers with hers.
“I just keep wondering what’s going to happen next. I don’t want to get played again, so I keep wondering what the next card they’re going to play is. I keep wondering how I can stay one step ahead so if something happens, I can do what I need to do about it. I also keep wondering what their end game is, and why they’re doing it, and what they want. I just have so many questions that I want answers to.” He then glances back up into her eyes. “Maybe that’s why I can’t wait until Saturday. With racing going on, I won’t have time to think and wonder, and drive myself crazy in the process.”
“Maybe I have a way we can take your mind off of it anyway….” He then looks at her intrigued, with his mind immediately heading for the gutter.
“You can’t always do that to distra-”
“I don’t see you complaining, though.” He chuckles, shaking his head no as she was right – he had no problems with their intimate moments together. “Actually, what if we go out tonight? What if we go to Volusia and watch some dirt racing?” A smile immediately comes to his face, knowing the World of Outlaws were in town, and it’d be nice to see Tony run for a change, along with some others.
“Why are we still standing here?” She laughs back in response, giving him a kiss, before hurrying in the trailer to get changed.