Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 127: Pocono

Friday, July 28

Sarina emerges from the bathroom, brushing her hair, before pulling it up in a pony tail as she glances at herself in the mirror.

“Sarina…” She hears from the bed, noticing a pair of eyes watching her. She silently curses to herself as she walks over.

“Hey babes,” she says as she leans over to him. “How are you feeling?” He shrugs his shoulders before lying back in the bed.

“Sick to my stomach…” She then reaches over rubbing his leg.

“It’ll get better, Chase. You took the gravol, right?” He nods his head.

“Where are you headed?” She knew the discussion was set to come.

“First practice starts in a half hour.” He then flings the blanket off of him and sits up, but she places his hand on his chest. “And where do you think you’re going?”

“I’m coming to support you…” She shakes her head. “That’s why I’m here this weeke-”

“You’re feeling sick to your stomach, and can barely right now. It’s just a practice, Chase. I’ll be back right after Marcus and I am done debriefing about the truck. You need to get your rest and work at feeling better.” He lets out a sigh, knowing that she was right, as he didn’t feel like moving out of the bed. “Besides, your parents will right outsid-”

“What about you? You’re going to walk through the garage area alone?” She shakes her head as she knew that there was no way he’d let that happen, already called in a favor.

“Christopher and I are going to walk there together, and then he’s going to walk back with me – just for peace of mind, okay? I knew you’d be worried about something happening…” He was almost set to put up a fight about staying there, but didn’t have the energy. So he instead sat up, leaned in and kissed her.

“I’ll see you later then. Be careful, but be fast.” She smiles, nodding her head.

“Just take it easy, okay? Maybe if you’re feeling better this afternoon you can come out for the second practice and see your guys, okay?” He nods his head as she puts the blanket back over him. She makes sure he’s all tucked in before leaving the room. “He’s going back to sleep. I’ll see you both after.”

“Good luck,” Bill comments as she simply gives him a quick nod. “Watch the tunnel turn. It seems like it’s the easiest turn, but it’s got some corkiness. Then you’ve got the slipperiness of turn three.”

“Thanks for the tips, Bill,” she replies as she puts her shoes on. She then hears a knock on the door, grabbing her phone off the table and heading out.

“Ready to go?” Christopher questions and Sarina nods her head. The pair then head out towards the garage together. “Is Chase feeling any better?”

“A little bit, but still feeling pretty sick.” Christopher just shook his head.

“That sucks, big time. Hopefully everything subsides quickly for him.” Sarina nods her head in agreement. “You know, I’m glad that you texted and asked me actually. I was worried about you…” Sarina rolls her eyes immediately.

“Not again, Bell-”

“No no, please, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not meaning to start that crap again. Like I said – you and Chase are meant for each other, and everything is right there if you’re happy. I’m going to burst your love bubble.” Sarina smiles, glad that they were over that as she didn’t want to kick his ass today. Admittedly, she was more tired than she thought with all of her energy exhausted on worrying this week. “I just get what Chase is saying. What if something else happens? What if there’s more to the plans here? I feel the safety concerns….”

“I can’t deny that, Christopher. I mean, they haven’t located Allison yet anywhere, and Bethany is playing completely dumb. So with both at large, I can understand the nerves. I mean, Allison could be anywhere.” Christopher then stops dead in his tracks, catching Sarina off-guard.

“There’s a posting that won’t allow her anywhere near the garage area, right?” Sarina nods her head.

“NASCAR talked to track security and made it clear that she isn’t allowed on property and to be arrested immediately if spotted. There’s an arrest warrant out for her.” Christopher then lets out a sigh of relief, before continuing the walk. “You think the hell I’d let that what she did to him go easily?” Christopher shakes his head. “Actually, he could’ve avoided getting the needle.”

“How do you mean?” Sarina takes a deep breath, remembering the conversation.

“No needle, and she would’ve blown the garage up that afternoon on Saturday.” Christopher looks over in shock.

“The crew guys. That’s why he did what he did.” Sarina nods her head.

“Their family, just like our guys are for us. We’d all do anything for each other, right?” Christopher couldn’t help but agree, having grown close to the guys over the past couple years. “The other option was that he sleep with her.”

“So instead of cheating on you and sleeping with her, he accepted a poisonous drug to be inserted into his system?” Sarina nods her head. “Holy, that’s the next level of commitment right there. Have I told you lately that you have a really special guy in him?” It was now Sarina’s turn to look at him in shock.

“I never thought I’d hear those words, Christopher…” He then shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s like everybody says – it’s hard to hate that guy as he’s the perfect sweetheart. Don’t ruin it, okay?” Sarina nods her head as they reach the garage area, going their separate directions.

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

Sarina begins the walk back to the motorcoach, feeling a little out of place as she glanced around side-to-side. She was supposed to head back with Christopher after just completing their second practice, but he was stuck longer due to media. Not wanting to wait around 15 minutes to see Chase, she made the trip herself.

She then hears her phone go off, pulling it out of her pocket and rolling her eyes as she read the number. She knew that she shouldn’t answer the call, but she wanted answers about Allison.

“Bethany?” She questions in a stern voice as she keeps walking.

“Hey sweetheart,” Bethany replies, causing Sarina to roll her eyes. “So I get when you phone about your brother – of course, put that on my shoulders because you can’t accept responsibility for actions, ever. But why the hell are you sending cops to my ass about this random chick, Ally or whatever?” Sarina chuckles, knowing the name mistake was supposed to be the perfect cover.

“Because I know the way you are, Bethany, and the games that you play. Besides, it’s odd that she shows up right after you make that comment to me about someone set to implode my life.” She couldn’t help but feel anger as soon as she thought about that day leaving the court room.

“Well news flash – I’m not behind her actions at all. She’s just some jealous girl who seems to have the hots for your boyfriend. Good luck with her.” Sarina rolls her eyes, knowing that Allison would be dead if they crossed paths.

“Sure, and if you do speak to her – tell her she’s dead to me. See your ass in court.” Sarina then hangs up as she reaches the motorcoach.

She then took the recording of the phone call, sending it over to the investigating officer, with questions about the timing of the call, and whether purposely done as a cover-up.

She then takes a deep breath, calming herself down, trying to forget every second of the conversation, as she heads inside the motorcoach, planting a smile on her face immediately.

“Hey!” She says as she sees Bill lying on the couch, with Chase sitting up on the other, sipping on some soup. “Chicken noodle?”

“Mother’s special homemade,” he replies with a smile as she slips her shoes off. “Nice job out there. Not bad for a rookie.” She then smiles, as she walks by, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge.

“There’s enough if you want some, too,” Cindy says from the kitchen table, catching Sarina off-guard. It was odd seeing the woman who seemed to completely despise her at one time now being this kind.

“Thanks,” she replies. “I’m not hungry right now, but I may warm some up after.”

“I’ll make sure to save you some then.” She then sits down on the couch by Chase as he finishes up his bowl.

“So I take it the advice to get a little more sleep helped?” Chase nods his head.

“Mama’s soup always does the trick when I’m sick, too,” he adds, as Cindy just smiles from the table.

“My dad would always make a special hot chocolate with extra whip topping when I was feeling down to cheer me up,” Sarina offers, as she leans back. “I bet it was just the same usual hot chocolate, but the fact that he said it was ‘special’ made it feel even better.”

“You were close with your dad, right?” Bill questions and Sarina nods her head as she looks over. “Is that where your love for racing came from?” Sarina shakes her head.

“That was my cousin Lindsay, actually. I was so annoyed with the drama at home between my parents and my brother, that she offered to take me away for a weekend to escape it all. That trip took me to Bristol, actually, and I fell in love immediately.”

“That’ll do it,” Chase comments, remembering some of his early trips there with his parents.

“Did you ever get close with your mom?” Bill wonders and Sarina shakes her head. “Bad relationship?”

“Me and my dad just connected immediately it seemed,” she starts. “No matter the topic, I just felt that I could go to him. Whatever was going on, he always knew what to do or say. With my mom, she was a good mother and good on the girly advice. But, I just didn’t have the same comfort with her to really grow close.”

“And you were close with your brother, right?” Cindy asks, causing Sarina to look over and nod her head. “So that’s why you could never get what everybody was saying….”

“Exactly. I mean, I got it and taking a step back, I could see what Chase was saying, Ryan was saying, everybody else was saying. But being close to him, I was blinded by that love and that connection that we had when we were younger. I guess I was longing that I could go back to that…”

“Are you okay?” Chase asks as he wraps an arm around her, and Sarina nods her head.

“If you don’t want to talk about it, you can just tell us,” Cindy offers as Sarina shakes her head.

“I have no issue speaking about it at all, Mrs. Ellio-”

“Just call me Cindy.” Both Sarina and Chase felt surprise wash over them in hearing that comment as they looked over. It wasn’t much, but it was a simple step that she was opening up a little to Sarina more.

“My brother was the last connection that I had to my life the way it was before. I’m not proud of everything that happened then, but I don’t want to forget. I want to remember the memorable moments of my childhood. I want to remember the fun times. I want to remember playing with my brother and my friends. I want to remember my father. I fear that I am going to lose that.”

“I can give you the same piece of advice that I gave Ernie.” Chase pipes up at the mention of the name, remembering the whole surreal experience he had. He hadn’t told anybody about what happened before he woke up. Not because he was afraid they wouldn’t believe him, but because he hadn’t come to full grips with it either. “He lost his son when Casey was only 21 due to cancer. He was worried that people would forget who Casey was. I told him that’ll never happen. Keep telling the stories of those moments, keep telling people what he was like. Go back to those photos and see where they take you back. Maybe even do yourself a little scrapbook. I can tell you that he’s never been forgotten, either.”

“Mom is right,” Chase speaks up, quietly. “I never got to know him, but I’ve heard so many stories from Uncle Ernie, my parents, and other family members. It’s all about telling people…” Sarina nods her head as Chase pulls her close. “If you want, tell me a story a day. If you want, I can help you with a scrapbook. But know, you’ll never lose that, ever. Your daddy is always with you.” He gives the top of her head as he takes a deep breath, remembering the conversation more clearly than ever. If only he had gotten to know Casey, and if only they’d gotten more time together.

“Thank you – both of you,” Sarina says as she stays cuddled with Chase.

Perhaps everything would work out – and maybe, like her father told her, she’d find her happily ever after right here.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 122: The E-Mail

Friday, July 21 – Indianapolis

Sarina walks through the motorcoach lot, smiling as she glances back at Marcus as they reach their direction.

“Thank you once again, Marcus,” she thanks the crew chief as he gives her a hug. “From being there today, to the support on the way home, and leading me out here. I appreciate it.” He simply nods his head.

“You’re welcome,” he assures her. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call.” She nods her head back in response as she looks at her phone once again.

On the flight home, she heard the alert go off, catching her attention. She was used to fans sending e-mails, and casually usually looked through them. With some time to kill, she figured that she’d glance through the latest batch. It was then she came across one in particular, causing her to freeze upon opening.

I thought I’d be nice enough to pass this along to you. This girl was in Chase’s hotel room in Vegas. I’m a fan, and I care, and I don’t want to see you get played.

She remembered the rage, anger and heartbreak that immediately hit her upon looking at the photo of this blond chick sitting in the bed, surrounded by stuff that she knew was his. She had trusted him more than anything – but yet, like everybody else in her life, here he had gone and turned his back on her with this girl.

She had shown the photo to Marcus immediately upon receiving, who was in total disbelief.

“That’s nothing like Chase, though,” she remembered him saying, and had let the thought run through her mind a couple times. But then she remembered – those who seem the best on the outside are typically the ones with the deepest closets.

Upon landing in Indianapolis, she didn’t want to see his face so she called Kyle immediately, asking if she could check in there with them. They immediately accepted – after a couple of questions, of course. By the end of the phone call, she could feel the anger from Kyle in learning the details.

Knocking on the door, she casually glances at her feet as she waits for it to be opened. She hoped she knocked loud enough they heard her, but not too loud that she woke up Brexton.

She immediately glances up as she hears the door open, set to head inside. However, she freezes when she sees Christopher Bell standing there before her. She was even more perplexed when he came forward, closing the door behind him.

“There’s not enough room for you in there with them so Kyle called me afterwards and briefly explained things,” Christopher comments as Sarina rolls her eyes.

“Of course you’d be the one he’d call,” she says as he glances at her.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She crosses her arms as she looks around.

“You were the one that rode my ass for months about being cautious about this whole deal. You were the one that warned me about getting with me and making sure that everything was for the right reasons. You were the one that kept asking me if we could truly overcome what happened and trust each other. You challenged every bit of the relatio-”

“And now I’m ready to put you two back together.” Her jaw drops in surprise.

“You can’t be serious, Bell?!?” Christopher nods his head. “Kyle did tell you everything that happened, right?” Christopher nods his head again. “But yet, you think we should just go forward as the perfect couple when he chea-”

“You don’t have fool’s proof of that.” She then goes to take out her phone and load the photo, when Christopher places his hand on top of hers, holding the same photo she saw earlier. “Sure, she’s lying in his bed in the hotel room with stuff surrounding her. But is he anywhere in sight? Is he kissing, screwing, anything with her?” Sarina shakes her head no.

“It doesn’t mean nothing happened…..” Christopher knew that factoid, and wondered whether he could truly believe what Chase told him earlier.

“That photo fell into my hands earlier toda-” Sarina now wondered just how many people had a copy.

“How?” Christopher pulls out his phone, showing her the e-mail. A “concerned fan” had sent it, knowing that teammates took care of each other.

“I immediately took the photo to Chase, obviously as angry and upset as you are right now. He recognized the girl immediately – Allison is her name.” Sarina just lets out a laugh.

“He knows her name, but yet I’m supposed to believe nothing happened and just go back to usual relationship with him?” Christopher lets out a sigh, remembering a similar reaction.

“Chase told me that she was upset about being eliminated in the rounds, noting the judges as his back-up as there was a dispute right in front of them. If you go to the broadcast, you can see her standing at the table arguing with them for a bit after her elimination, too.” Sarina felt her guard drop a little, relaxing, as she was growing more curious. “He says she then snuck up into his room, and tried to entice him into sleeping with him. He says he didn’t, but rather packed up his stuff, left, and told security at the front desk.”

“So you’re trying to tell me that he was set-up and this was supposed to make me believe that they did and didn’t?” Christopher nods his head.

“Sarina, you know what I think of Chase. You know how many times I tried to convince you otherwise. You know that I am not a fan of you guys being together. But, when he reacted and told me all this, I believed him. Ryan Blaney was there, too, and he believed him as well.” Sarina glances at the photo once again.

“I don’t know….” Christopher wraps an arm around her shoulders.

“He said he’d take a lie detector test. He has people backing up what he’s saying. It’s almost fool proof.” Sarina felt a couple hot tears forming in her eyes. “At least walk down the row and go see him…” Sarina shakes her head no. “Why not?”

“Our relationship has been a question of trust for a long time, and here I stand – not trusting his word when you tell me it.” Sarina then looks at Christopher. “How am I a good girlfriend when I can’t trust the sweetest guy in the garage to treat me right? How am I a good girlfriend when I can’t trust that he wouldn’t do this to me? How am I a good girlfriend when I fall for a crappy photo?”

“You’re a good girlfriend. It was just well planted and well set-up. It was meant to do this. However, you’re both strong. You can fight through this – just like everything else. Go talk to him, please…” She then takes a deep breath as she wipes her eyes.

“Fine. Stick around for 10 minutes. If I don’t come out, head in for the night. If I do come out, it’ll be before then and obviously the conversation went to shit.” Christopher nods his head as he watches her head off.

She wipes her eyes a couple times, not wanting to have a crying face when she walked into the motorcoach. She then fixes her hair, feeling every bit of nerves. She knew it make or break for them here, and truthfully, she didn’t want to see the lather happen.

She reaches the door, knocking, as she fights against pacing back and forth outside. She smiles as she watches it open just a little and he pops his head out.

“You could’ve just let yourself in….” Chase comments as he stands back, opening the door wide enough for her to enter. She then steps inside, watching as he closes it behind her.

“I wasn’t sure after…I didn’t know….I was just uncertain – okay, I’m a bloody mess right now!” She then lets out as she turns around to face him. “I just cried my eyes out on a plane after being sent a bloody photo from some random person of this girl in your hotel room. Then I come to find out that Christopher got it as well, approached you, and heard what you told him. Now my mind is battling against whether you’re telling the truth or whether it’s a lie.” Chase glances down, worried about this exact situation from the moment he saw the photo.

“All I can do is assure you that I would never lie to you, never hurt you, and that I am telling the truth. It is up to you what to do with that information.” She lets out a sigh, remembering those common words from other discussions together.

“Remember when we got back together we said that we’d trust each other no matter what and tell each other everything honestly? I keep remembering that discussion. I keep thinking about every sweet moment that we’ve had together. But yet, I’m still conflicted when I look at the photo. I asked Christopher, and he insisted that we talk together. How am I a good girlfriend if I can’t trust you?” Chase could feel emotions breaking apart around them, feeling tears of his own forming. It was like a break-up discussion almost here.

“Anybody would have questions after seeing a photo like that – especially since I failed to mention what happened before you saw it, either. I just thought it was no big deal and tried to forget about it. I should’ve said something, and I’m sorry. That is just making things worse right now.” He then looks down himself. “So really, I broke the vow of trust and honesty first, so I can’t blame you for your questions, nerves, and accusations.”

“Why didn’t you say anything, by the way?” He then looks up and shrugs his shoulders.

“I just thought she was some crazed girl mad that she hadn’t moved forward in the competition – like some random crazy fan. I didn’t think it was a big deal.” Sarina looks back towards the photo.

“But yet, now everything about our relationship rides on this…” Chase nods his head. “The more I think about what you said, the more I think about what Bethany told me today. We ran into each other as I was leaving the court room after I sent you the text message. She was surprised that you weren’t there. I reminded her that you have a job, which I told you to focus on. She then said, ‘I hope he doesn’t grow bored or annoyed of you and find someone else to play with…’” The comment caught Chase’s attention immediately.

“It’s funny that she says that, and then this photo shows up, don’t you think?” He then snatches the photo, glancing at the attached e-mail. “I’d like to trace this e-mail and see where it lands.” Sarina then crosses her arms.

“What are you thinking, Chase?” Chase looks back at Sarina.

“She sent this chick purposely at me to see if she could make me cheat on you. This wasn’t the first time Allison approached me. She was the one that I mentioned on the phone message that offered some time by the pool, and the odd comments about our relationship. What if I was set-up by Bethany?” Sarina shakes her head.

“Bethany has always just been talk. She’s never done anything…..”

“But what if she did something this once knowing that Chris’ hands were ti-”

“The guard told me that they had an interesting conversation, and possibly warned that I should consider a restraining order against Bethany. Something about how we’d never be happy, she had a plan, and my brother would make it out of jail. He told me that I couldn’t press charges of threats since it wasn’t uttered to me, but a restraining order may be an option for my safety.” Chase then hands her the phone back.

“There you go….” Sarina lets out a sigh as she looks towards the ground.

“And I played right into her hand. I didn’t believe you for that time, exactly as she wanted.” She then glances up at Chase. “We know Chris is doing the trial to test everything about me – the honesty of my life, what happened, and to see how that’d affect me, you, Ryan, Kyle, and my career. This was the first test, Chase. I failed miserably…” He immediately steps towards her, wrapping both arms around her.

“No, you didn’t fail miserably. Sure, you had a couple moments where you wanted to strangle me, maybe even kill me. Sure, you shed some tears. However, you let yourself have the patience to listen to Christopher, and then listen to me. She may have won the battle initially, but you won the war because you figured it out and are still here in my arms.” She then looks up at him.

“What if we can’t always do that?” Chase shakes his head.

“Listen, we are always going to do that. Do you want to know why? Because there’s no way I am ever loosing you, no matter what. It’s going to take everything that she’s got to try because I am going to do whatever I have to do to fight for you, and make this work. I love you too much, and we’ve been through too much to let this go. Like it or not, you’re stuck with me.” She then chuckles as she lays her head against him.

“I don’t think I mind that….” She then looks up, and kisses his lips. “Thank you for dealing with my insecurities, anger, sadness, questions, everything.” He brushes the hair out of her eyes.

“It’s worth it for the fun times that we have together, the love we share, and all the good times that I know are to come.”

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

Saturday, July 22 – Indianapolis

Chase and Sarina lay awake that morning in the motorcoach, with her clutched close to him as he kept his arms wrapped firmly around her.

“Do we have to get up?” Sarina questions as she sees the sun shining through the window. Chase chuckles and shakes his head no.

“I could just not qualify the car and start last on Sunday,” he answers as she chuckles.

“Could you imagine if you didn’t go out to qualify and the reason was because you didn’t want to let me go? Alan would kill me.” Chase chuckles, shaking his head.

“Actually, Alan likes you more than you realize. He says that you help keep me in a good mood on weekends, and easier to deal with at times. He also says I am happier when you’re around so he wants to make sure that doesn’t change. Besides, you already know the crew likes you.” She couldn’t help but shake her head as she remembered the antics of the crew at times.

“I still can’t believe Jacob called me and insisted that I call you because of how upset you were…”

“The guys care about me. What can I say?” She nods her head, knowing that feeling as she had already grown close to all of her guys at KBM, too. “Look at it this way – all I have to do is get up, get my firesuit on, walk out to pit road, qualify the car, and then we can do whatever we want.”

“Oh yeah. Watch you get the pole and then be delayed a half hour due to photos and media.” Chase shakes his head, remembering how practice went.

“That’d be a miracle, actually.” She then lifts her head off of him, looking up at his eyes with surprise.

“Excuse me?”

“You saw how the car was in practic-”

“I don’t give a shit what you thought of the damn car in practice. Where’s the belief that you’re the best damn racecar driver and can get the job done? Where’s the confidence in Alan and the guys making the right adjustments? I mean, they could make the perfect changes and boom – you start up front. Don’t ever give me that type of answer, ever.” Chase knew that she was right as a smile formed on his face.

“Alright, that’s fair. I will make sure to push it 100%, and believe that it’s the best car I’ve ever driven and I can get the job done.” She then smiles, going back to her position with her head against his chest. “But if I am going to do that, I need to get up now so I can grab a shower and get ready…”

“5 minutes?” He was set to protest, though remembered the discussion last night as he kept his arm wrapped around her.

“Deal.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 121: Court

Friday, July 21

Sarina glances at herself in the mirror, fixing her dress once again, before taking a deep breath. She hoped today went smooth as possible as she hated every second that she was spending there.

“Are you okay?” She hears and glances over her shoulder, nodding her head.

“Thanks for coming again, Marcus,” she thanks the crew chief with a smile. “It means a lot to have someone here.” Marcus rubs her shoulders.

“I told you – I’m always here for you, whether at the track or not. Besides, he did poison one of my guys, as well.” Sarina nods her head, remembering the story clearly. “I’m surprised that Chase didn’t com-”

“He wanted to, but I told him not too. He can focus on practice. He doesn’t need to be here to see what’s said.” She then takes another glance at herself in the mirror, before turning to him. “Alright, let’s go.”

The pair made their way down the hall, followed by entering the pair of big brown doors that revealed a court room. Continuing to take a couple deep breaths to keep herself calm, she makes her way to the front, taking her assigned seat behind the prosecutor. Marcus sits beside her, grabbing a hold of her hand, as she gives him a glance. She knew she had gotten lucky when Kyle had partnered them together.

Her eyes then focus forward as she watches her brother enter, surrounded by a pair of guards, and led to his location. She watches as the handcuffs are done, as he takes a glance towards her. She immediately looked away, not wanting to revisit every memory or thought she had. Her eyes then turn to the judge who entered, trying to see whether there was going to be any chance of sympathy, which she hoped was actually not the case.

“Judge Reynolds presiding,” the clerk states as he stands before the judge’s desk.

“Chris Dryer, correct?” Judge Reynolds questions and Chris nods his head yes. “I am going to read each change one by one. You are to state whether you’re guilty or not.” Sarina silently prayed to herself that he just pled guilty to each charge, not wanting to have to deal with months of court. “On the charge of poisoning Joseph Sanjay, how do you plead?”

“That was the random crew member from Bristol,” Sarina whispers as Marcus looks over confused.

“Guilty,” Chris states, giving Sarina hope for the rest of the day.

“On the charge of poisoning Jake Lamont, how do you plead?” Judge Reynolds asks, catching Marcus’ attention. He certainly had a personal vendetta over that one.

“Guilty.” Marcus takes a careful deep breath, pleased with the outcome. He knew the fellow team members would be, as well.

“On the charge of poisoning Peter Ebbs, how do you plead?” Sarina and Marcus both knew the name, having connected with him through Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Guilty.” Sarina couldn’t help but smile as she added the years up in her head, knowing eight years a person equaled 24 in total. It was the sanity that she needed to begin realizing the future she wanted.

“On the charge of poisoning Darrell Wallace Jr., how do you plead?” Marcus looks over at Sarina surprised and Sarina nods in approval, remembering that. He wasn’t that big of a deal, but enough to catch their attention. Everybody did a good job of blowing it off as Bubba just passing out from dehydration.

“Guilty.”

“On the charge of poisoning Ryan Blaney, how do you plead?” Sarina crosses her arms, remembering that one clear as day. She could still picture her and Chase returning to the motorcoach, receiving the concerning text from Erin, and hurrying to the hospital. It was also Ryan’s confession about her brother that got the wheels in motion for today. She then takes a careful breath, quivering a little, knowing that it was also a moment that almost drove her and Chase apart. Her stomach still ached at the thought of their fight.

“Not guilty.” Sarina then looks up shocked, cursing under her breath. What was the big deal now?

“Ryan saw him,” Sarina whispers to Marcus. “He was the one that set the wheels in motion, but yet he feels he can get away with that? Is he fucking serious?”

“Deep breath,” Marcus coaches her, rubbing her shoulder as he keeps his eyes locked on the judge. “He’s probably got a reason for doing it. He knows it will get under your and Chase’s skin. Didn’t you say the reason for him doing this was disagreeing with your life? Didn’t you say he wanted to end what you had grown? Well, this may be an approach. Don’t let him do that…”

“On the charge of poisoning Chase Elliott, how do you plead?” Judge Reynolds asks, catching Sarina and Marcus’ attention, again.

“Not guilty,” Chris states as Sarina looks over at Marcus. She was beginning to put more thought into his theory.

“He wants Ryan and Chase to testify,” she starts. “He wants them to have to come down here and testify, and possibly hope the rekindled emotions drive us all apart again.” Marcus nods his head.

“And what do you say to that?” Marcus replies as a smile forms on Sarina’s face.

“He’s got another coming if he thinks that. There’s no way Chase and I are letting anything come between us now, especially him for that reason. And as far as Ryan, there’s no issue there, either.” Marcus smiles as he had to applaud her attitude and perseverance.

“Thank you,” Judge Reynolds states as he looks over the notes. “Chris Dryer, you have pled guilty to four charges. At eight years a piece, that would give you a total of 32 years in prison with no chance of parole.” The judge then turns to the state attorney. “Are you going to pursue the remaining two charges?” The attorney glances over at Sarina, who simply nods her head. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy with Ryan and Chase’s schedules, though.

“Yes, we are,” she says as the judge makes a note.

“A trial date will be arranged at a future date for the trial to begin. Jury or no jury?” Sarina knew the answer to that already.

“No jury, please, for celebrity reasons. We are trying to keep this as quiet as possible.”

“Your honor, you’re going to give them special treatment because Mr. Elliott, Ms. Dryer, and Mr. Blaney happen to be famous?” Chris’ lawyer questions as Sarina begins fuming under her breath. She knew that Chris had probably instructed him to use her former last name out of spite. She also knew the reason for jury trial, to therefore try and get the story out there more to take a shot at ruining her career. Like Marcus had thought before, there was a method to his madness.

“Motion accepted – there will be a jury elected for the trial,” Judge Reynolds states, resulting in a sigh from Sarina. She knew this wasn’t going to go over well at all, and could only prepare for the shit storm that was set to come.

“Your honor, I also request a psychological evaluation for my client. He is accepting some charges but not others due to a conflict in knowing right from wrong. He also has an established psychological history, as well.”

“That history has been pulled apart and found to be faulty with him faking through those times, including working with corrupt doctors,” the attorney starts as Sarina crosses her arms. She remembered this very discussion with the attorney a couple days ago over the phone. “He has been found insane by clinic, and then managed to find a way out. He even told Mr. Elliott that he knew they found him crazy, but nobody could fix him because that’s who he was.”

“One of the victims admitting the client is crazy?” Chris’ lawyer states. “That should be enou-”

“He was stating against the point – hence playing the perfect rol-”

“It’s heresay regardless, your honor!” Judge Reynolds looks over the notes, before looking back up at both lawyers.

“Motion for psychological evaluation accepted,” Judge Reynolds states as Sarina lets out an aggravated sigh, wishing she could punch some sense into the judge. “That is it for today. Court adjourned!”

Sarina immediately heads for the door, with Marcus right behind her. She just wanted to get away from there as soon as possible, and try to forget everything that happened. She knew with the shit storm coming their way, it was only going to get worse – and she didn’t know whether she could take that.

“Wow Sarina, I’m surprised your sidekick isn’t here with you,” she hears, causing her to freeze immediately. She then glances over, seeing Bethany standing there with a grin on her face.

“My sidekick so happens to have a job that I told him to focus on instead since he didn’t need to deal with my family drama for me,” Sarina states.

“Ah, of course. I just hope he doesn’t grow bored or annoyed of you and find someone else to play with…” Bethany than walks away with a grin on her face as Sarina lets out an aggravated sigh.

“I just want to punch her so har-”

“She’s not worth it,” Marcus interrupts her as he wraps an arm around her. “Besides, you know how much Chase loves you, you know what you have together, and you know you’re doing the right things in your life. She’s just trying to get under her skin. Don’t let her win. We’ve got this.” Sarina wanted to go with Marcus’ words, but every bit of her drew closer towards breaking free and kicking Bethany’s ass.

“Can I just punch her once?” Marcus laughs and shakes his head no.

“Let’s just blow this joint, head to the airport, and get back to Indianapolis. I bet seeing Chase will make everything better.” She smiles in agreement as they head out together.

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

Ryan Blaney walks through the garage, stopping at Chase’s stall as he crosses his arms before his fellow competitor.

“What do you call this ring tone?” Ryan questions as he holds his phone up, with Barney coming from it immediately.

“Aww Blaney, I didn’t realize you still watched that purple dinosaur,” Chase comments with a laugh as Ryan gives him a stern glance immediately.

“Care to do some explaining, Elliott?” Chase just grins and shakes his head no. “You can’t lie even if you tried, buddy. I can see through it….”

“When you go out to dinner, never leave your phone unlocked on the table. And by the way, it wasn’t my handy work.” Ryan then thinks it over, remembering last night, before looking back at Chase with a shocked expression on his face.

“Sarina?” Chase smiles and nods his head. “Damn it. She’s good…..” Chase smiles.

“I told you she’d get you back and she did a nice job at that.” Chase then walks away as Ryan looks back towards his phone.

“Tell her she’s got something coming…” Chase gives him a quick wave before he continues walking, reading the latest text that he had received from Sarina.

“Ryan!” Ryan freezes and goes over at Chase, caught off-guard by the instant serious tone. “Chris plead guilty to poisoning everyone, except us. They’re going through with a trial by jury, so therefore we’ll both have to testify.” Ryan then shakes his head in disgust.

“Lovely….” Chase nods his head in agreement.

“Marcus and Sarina think that Chris is doing it on purpose because he wants people to learn about Sarina’s back story, as well as what happened to us. It’s a plan in hopes that people turn their backs on her, as well as us going against each other.” Ryan then laughs.

“He seriously thinks that’s going to work?” Chase shrugs his shoulders. “Well, I can tell you right now there’s no way that’s working because no matter what, I’ve got your back and I’ve got your Sarina’s back. Besides, I need someone to prank.” Chase laughs.

“I appreciate that, really. You know I have your back too, right?” Ryan nods his head.

“Whatever comes your way, you guys will get through together.” Chase nods his head, hoping Ryan was right about that. They had already been through enough.

“Are you sure about that, Blaney?” Another voice chimes in, catching both of their attention. Chase immediately rolls his eyes as Ryan looks on confused.

“We’ve been through already, Bell,” Chase starts as he walks over to Christopher Bell. “I thought we talked about this. Didn’t you apologize for being an ass already?” Christopher nods his head.

“But I didn’t realize this about you,” Christopher replies as he shoves a photo in Chase’s face. Chase immediately freezes, recognizing it immediately.

“Allison…” Christopher then crosses his arms as Chase looks at the photo. Allison sat on the bed in his room, dressed in her skanky clothes, with a couple of very familiar items of his around. Obviously, she had planted this well before he showed up in the room to pack-up.

“So you know her? This gets better…” Chase then shoves the photo back into Christopher’s arms.

“She was upset about being eliminated in the rounds – you can check with the judges if you don’t believe me. She snuck up to my room and tried to sleep me, but she got nowhere. I packed my shit up, left, and told security at the front desk. Don’t believe me? Call the hotel. I wouldn’t ever dare of cheating on Sarina, ever.” Ryan then walks over, glancing at the photo himself. “I’ll even take a damn lie detector test if you don’t believe me.”

“I believe you,” Ryan comments as he hands the photo back to Christopher. “I mean, that’s a common trick by these girls. We’ve seen it before.” Christopher looks at the photo and back up at Chase.

“I believe you as well, to be honest,” he confesses. “I just hope that Sarina believes you.”

Chase felt confident in his chances, though the slim chance that she wouldn’t admittedly scared him.

He could only sit and wonder about the conversation that was set to come when they reunited together, on top of everything else already.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 119: Reunited Together

New Hampshire – Friday, July 14 – 4:12 am

Chase walks through the infield, glancing at his watch. He couldn’t believe how late he had gotten in, but that’s what you get when weather plays havoc with your flying schedule.

He reaches the motorcoach, taking the key out of his pocket. He types in the lock code, along with inserting the key and turning it – increased security never hurt given the circumstances lately. He lets out a sigh, heading inside, slipping his shoes off immediately. Letting out a yawn, he just wanted to flop down and get some sleep before morning. He knew he had another long day ahead of him.

He makes his way through the motorcoach, and smiles as he enters the bedsroom. He saw Sarina curled up with his pillow tucked close to her. He remembered texting her to let her know he had left Las Vegas, and then texting her once again when plans got delayed.

He sits on the edge of the bed, slipping off his jeans, followed by his t-shirt, trying to do it as quietly as possible to not disturb her.

As he places both on the dresser, he hears her roll over in the bed, immediately glancing her way. Cursing slightly to himself, he hated the thought of possibly waking her up and knew he should’ve just flopped on the couch. He stands there, frozen, hoping that she’d simply fall back asleep with ease.

Feeling that she was settled back in, he climbs into the bed behind her, wrapping an arm around her as his head lands on her pillow.

“Sssh I’m here,” he says quietly. “Close your eyes. Go to sleep. I love you.” He then gives her a light kiss on the cheek, before getting himself settled in for the night. Almost completely settled, he was caught off-guard when she rolled over and locked eyes with his, only lit up by the moonlight through the window. “I didn’t mean to wak-”

“You really think I’m just going to go to sleep when I know you’re on your way and I haven’t seen you for a week?” She questions. “There’s no way that’s ever happening. No matter how hard I tried, there was no way I was going to sleep until I knew you were here with me – even, yes, at like 4 in the morning. That said, I love you as well and glad you made it.” She then leans in, kissing his lips.

“I’m sorry I was so late, and I love you, and I missed you so much. I meant what I said the whole time I was away – nobody can compare to you.” She then smiles, remembering that voice mail very clearly.

“By the way, that song message was the best gift anybody has ever given to me. That really touched me, Chase, so thank you very much. Don’t be surprised if you hear it played again.” He then looks at her surprised.

“You saved it?” She smiles as he just rolls his eyes.

“Don’t worry – it’s our secret. I haven’t played it for anybody. The only other person that knows about it is Kyle and that’s cause he caught me smiling while listening to it over and over at the shop.” He silently curses himself, knowing that Kyle was probably going to tease him about it.

“Great….” He then lets out another yawn as she snuggles herself as close as she can to him.

“Now, it’s your turn to close your eyes. A big week like that, you need your sleep for sure. Alarm is set for an hour and a half before practice. So close those big eyes, and enjoy some sleep…” He wraps his arm tightly around her, easily listening without a single protest.

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

Sleep had come with ease as Sarina now stood on top of the NAPA hauler, taking in the sights of practice. So far, Chase had been pleased with the handling of the No. 24 Chevrolet. They just needed to improve the speed a little bit, and perhaps they could challenge for the win come Sunday.

With just a couple minutes remaining in the practice, she climbs down the stairs, set to take a quick trip to the bathroom before meeting up with him in the garage. She figured they’d hang out together through the XFINITY practice.

“Sarina?” She hears as she gets down off the final step. She glances over, rolling her eyes immediately. “You’re here?”

“What? You think with the trucks being off that I’m going to run off?” She questions in response as Christopher Bell simply shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah, that’s not happening.”

“Why shouldn’t that surprise me to be honest, actually? I should’ve known that you’d want to spend time with Chase. Has he been talking about all the girls that he saw?” Sarina lets out a sigh, shaking her head.

“Unlike you and the majority of the male population, he isn’t turned on by girls walking around in skimpy clothes.” Christopher then looks at her surprised. “Do I need to speak to your girlfriend about this?”

“Nah, I didn’t even watch the coverage because I could care less.” Christopher then carefully crosses his arms, as he glances around, before back at her. “How’s things panning out with your brot-”

“What is there left to pan out, Bell?” He then freezes, knowing he shouldn’t have asked.

“I meant trial, police, investigation-based….” She then lets out a sigh.

“He’s not getting bail, and the trail should be coming up soon. They have enough stuff to convict him so it should go down pretty easily.” Christopher nods his head, satisfied.

“And what about Bethany? I heard that you guys got into it, and she’s off the list.” Sarina wished she never heard that name again, either.

“Let’s just say that she doesn’t agree with how things are going with my brother, okay? She knows her place and knows where she belongs now based on that.”

“Just be careful, okay?” Sarina nods her head. “Alright. I got to go. I’ll see ya later.” Christopher then heads off as Sarina continues down her previous chosen path.

She knew that Christopher meant well with his questions of concern. However, she hoped they’d eventually get to a point when there wouldn’t be a reason to be worried. As she had always wanted, why couldn’t she get the happily ever after normal life everyone else seemed to have?

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

New Hampshire – Sunday, July 16

Chase smiles as he looks down pit road seeing Sarina talking with Kyle and Samantha.

“So, everything has been kept normal now?” Cindy questions and Chase looks back to his mom, nodding his head. “There’s nothing else I need to worry about in regards to you, right?”

“Not a thing, mama,” he answers. “Chris is going to see jail bars for a number of years based on the evidence and the fact that he isn’t pulling any of his previous stunts again. Her cousin is more talk than action, and has been told to keep her distance. You could say that things are finally starting to play out right, and the relationship that I thought we could have together is happening.”

“And no more signs of throwing you into danger?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Mom, we’ve dealt with everything. There’s nothing else that could happen. Besides, as I told you before, you can’t sit here and blame Sarina. It’s not her fault that all of this surrounds her. She’s a great girl. Just give her a chance for me, please.” Cindy lets out a sigh as she looks down towards Sarina.

“I want to believe you, but I can’t help but picture everything that’s happened since you let her in your life. I also know there was instances where she didn’t trust you fully, nor was she 100% honest. To have a relationship, you need that fully without a single question of faith in that. Do you guys truly have that now, Chase?” Chase nods his head as he glances the same direction as his mom.

“We’re able to talk about everything under the sun without a single issue, mama. She has already confessed her feelings about certain things. Like I said, I don’t have a single worry….” He then thought back to the hotel room, remembering Alison. Though he knew that was only because she was mad about not getting her dream opportunity so it was thought quickly out of mind.

He couldn’t think about any of that anymore, though, as the race was the only thing on his mind within a couple minutes of that discussion. Like other weekends, they had shown speed and potential, but were missing the edge needed to really get up there and contend. As a result, he ran around the teens all day, eventually crossing the finish line in 11th. He knew if they were going to be championship contenders, things needed to improve as they couldn’t run like this all summer and then into the playoffs.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 112: McDowell

Tuesday, July 5

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

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

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

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

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

“Have you asked the doctor about tha-”

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

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

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

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

“William Clyde Elliott!” Cindy yells first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 102: “You Need to Come Run the Clash”

Friday, June 30

With a mostly quiet day on deck, Chase was surprised when he found himself up earlier than normal. However, perhaps that was because he had a lot on his mind.

After making a quick note for Sarina, he headed out off on a bike ride, hoping that it would clear his head.

Sarina’s brother had been something of discussion for the young man for awhile now – whether apprehension, fear, concern. As he rode down the hill towards the beach, he wondered why that concern seemed to grow more than he had hoped. Perhaps that was because the theory had continued to wrap around his mind over and over.

He debated with himself whether it was circumstance, or whether there was something to go with based on the discussion with Alan. He even thought about calling Jared to see what he truly had to say about Chris’ possible involvement.

He wondered as to whether Sarina could trust her brother, or perhaps she was letting her love and care for him overshadow what was right before them. Did he completely lie to her face without her knowing?

As he reached the beach, getting off the bike for a bit to dip his toes in the water, he could only let out a sigh. Why did it seem not a single question he asked himself had an answer to it? Why were the simplest things in life becoming so complicated now?

Perhaps it was because the things that Chris said at different times made it even more confusing. If he was set to move forward and regret what happened, why did he rehash the topic with Sarina? If he was glad to have his sister back in his life sincerely, why was he pushing her towards doing something she didn’t want to do?

“They’ve tried to fix me, but they never will.”  “You can change your name, but you can’t leave behind your past.”  “You’re trying to simply leave your family behind, because now you’re wrapped up in your new family. It’s a defensive mechanism in an effort to protect yourself from nothing.”

It seemed each comment that flew out of the guy’s mouth took up Chase’s thoughts, as he tried to dissect what was happening. Maybe it was just his concern and worry – could you blame him? But what if it was something more? He crossed his fingers and toes that wasn’t the case, as he didn’t want to waltz right into another trap.

Getting back on the bike, he had done nothing to clear the thoughts in his mind. However, there was no more time left to worry as he rode back to the track, set for a fun day. A qualifying session, followed by hanging out with Sarina, and then watching the XFINITY race should be make things interesting.

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

Sarina woke up sitting in the bed all alone, surprised by Chase’s note. Normally, he would wake her up and ask if she wanted to come. But yet today, instead, she got left with a note.

Letting out a sigh as she kicked the blankets off the bed, she could only wonder as to why. She grabs a towel before heading into the bathroom, turning on the water.

Standing on the hot water, her mind drifts back to the conversation the day before.

She found herself repeating the words from Christopher in her head over and over, wondering if maybe she had jumped the gun in yelling at him. It wasn’t like Christopher was the only suspicious person, supposedly, so maybe she could’ve given him benefit of the doubt for the warning. Instead, she had put her back up against the wall and flipped out on him. Wasn’t that always her defense mechanism?

She recalled the conversation with her brother, and how he denied the accusations. There was nothing in his words to tell her otherwise so she believed him. However, the comment on families still drew to her thoughts. Why would he release something like that? It kind of went along with the odd comment a week ago. Letting out a sigh, it was probably just him and his regrets for what happened on his part. She knew, whether he admitted it or not, there were some on his side of things.

She recalled the conversation with Chase, and how he paused in hearing a comment from her. He pushed it off as just being focused on a tweet – which was probably the case. However, the pause was certainly at an odd time and made her focus back to the comment.

She begins to wash the soap out of her hair, knowing that at this time she should be enjoying life. She was getting the opportunity she dreamed of, had a great boyfriend, and was in Florida for a vacation. What more could she ask for? However, instead, she found herself caught in her thoughts.

Climbing out of the shower and drying herself off, she knew she had to just let everything go. The key to moving forward was to always not focus on your regrets, but learn from those and focus on the future. Rather than mulling over these thoughts, why wasn’t she focusing on the fun day she was about to have?

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

A glance at the time, and Chase knew he had to be out to pit road soon. With his fingers firmly holding onto Sarina’s hand, the pair made their way out and walked down to where his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet sat. A glance at each other, words didn’t need to be said. It was Daytona qualifying – sometimes you end up well, sometimes you don’t. It didn’t matter end of the day, though, because of the nature of the beast. This was just a formality in laying down laps.

“I’ll be back,” Sarina comments as she gives him a quick kiss before letting go of his hand. He looks on confused, but easily accepts as he knew that she’d do this normally. She had her own life and people to see, and probably had spotted someone. He watches her walk away, immediately rolling his eyes and freezing up a little as he notices her walking in Christopher’s direction. Given their debacle yesterday, he wasn’t too excited about what could happen next.

“I don’t want to talk to you if you’re going to yell at me again,” Christopher comments as he rolls his eyes. She could only take a deep breath, remembering her morning shower thoughts.

“I actually came to apologize,” she starts, causing him to look at her surprised. “I may have snapped on you a little too quickly. Sure, you were wrong to accuse my brother of something, and sure you shouldn’t kept your big mouth shut. But that said, you were just trying to warn me of what others were saying as a friend, teammate watching out for me. I should’ve given you that benefit.” Christopher shakes his head accepting, having wished that apology would’ve went a little different though.

“Like I said, I understood that you’d probably flip on me and be really upset. It’s the nature of the topic, right?” She shakes her head, in agreement.

“I’m not used to people caring about me and doing what’s right, thanks to just how everything has played out. The only person who came close to that was my father, and well…..I’d rather not discuss that. It’s why it took me a while to open up to Chase and accept him and our love together. It’s why I’m still a little hesitant around Kyle, Marcus, and talking about things that are personal. I guess what I’m trying to say as I shouldn’t have let my fears control how I reacted to you.”

“It’s okay. All is forgiven. I just like having you as a teammate, and think you’re a great person. I don’t want you to get screwed over or hurt because of something. Hence why I brought it up so you know what’s being said, and also watch a little.” She shook her head, accepting. It was the same thing that others had mentioned about her brother, too. She got the feeling based on Chase’s quietness at times, too.

“I appreciate that, and I will keep in mind what you said accordingly.” Christopher thanked himself for that as he knew any eyes on Chris were better than none.

The pair of teammates went back and forth for a bit, though all while keeping their eyes on the on-track action. It was no surprise when Chase made the final round of time trials, as he had done that at Daytona and Talladega earlier this year. Crossing her fingers, maybe it’d be nice to walk away with a pole today to put everything else in the rearview for a bit.

The final round seemed like it took forever, watching each car make two laps around the 2.5-mile oval, laying down the best lap that they could. Perhaps it was the anticipation that made it seem longer. Though as the checkered flag waved, there were no sad faces to be seen. Chase hadn’t gotten the pole, but he was set to start second in the race tomorrow night.

“Oops, I think I went a tick slower than I should have,” Chase commented as he walked up to Dale. “I just wanted to make sure you got a pole. You need to come run the Clash next year.” Dale then chuckles, remembering the comment he made about a possible comeback for the non-points show if he got a pole. There was no way to gauge speed and make sure he was slower than Dale to give him a pole, but it was worth a fun little kickback considering the chaos started yesterday.

 

“So you let me have that one?” Dale questions as Chase shrugs his shoulders. “I thought you said you wouldn’t be the guy to let anyone win.”

“That remains true for tomorrow night. Nice job, by the way.”

“Thank you.” Chase then heads down pit road, meeting up with Sarina as he gives her a quick kiss before they head out.

“Hopefully the rain stays away and we can enjoy our date night together.” She smiles as she cuddles up close to him through their walk, both smiling. It seemed every thought from earlier in the morning had escaped them in the simple bliss of spending time together.

The pair went back to the motorcoach, grabbing a bite to each together, before making their way out once again. They crossed the track, climbing up to their seats in the grandstands, set for a fun race that evening.

“I don’t get why you come up here to watch one of these races when you could be anywhere you want,” she comments as she looks over at him.

“It just brings me back to where I started,” Chase replies as he looks over at her. “It reminds me of my beginnings, why I got into this to begin with, and how fun it is. Besides, there’s no bad seat at Daytona to watch a race from.” She couldn’t help but agree with that statement, having tried a couple different spots during February Speedweeks.

“Well, you can always count on me to join you as you always pick good spots to sit.” He smiles as he wraps an arm around the back of her.

“I’m a trained professional, that’s why.” She then simply smiles as he snags a quick kiss as the cars head off pit road.

The pair got to enjoy the first 32 laps of the event from their seats, taking in the thrills with some cheers and some frustrated sighs. Chase found himself cheering for William Byron, impressed with how the young man had began to move forward after starting at the back. He also focused on the other JR Motorsports cars, seeing the same powerfulness in Elliott Sadler as always, placing bets that he’d probably win later on.

“Nah, it’s going to be Willy B!” Sarina had declared instead, causing a smile to form on Chase’s face. He couldn’t deny the youngster was talented.

Unfortunately, the pair did not get to watch the entire race as the skies opened, soaking them both through before they could get to cover and postponing the rest of the race till Saturday morning.

“I’d offer you a coat or something to keep you dry, but I’m just as wet,” Chase comments as they head down the steps together.

“What do you say we head back to the motorcoach, each get something dry and then watch a movie?” She questions, knowing how much of a movie buff he was. She had gotten her hands on “Drone,” which wasn’t supposed to be out for another couple of days. Knowing how much he liked a good action thriller, she hoped that it’d suit his fantasy that night.

“I’d have no problem with that, actually. It’ll feel nice to get out of these wet clothes.” The pair then head through the tunnel together, laughing as their feet sloshed in their shoes from how soaked they had gotten.

“I look like a drowned rat!” Chase chuckles as they continue running together.

“But you’re my cute drowned rat!” Sarina just rolls her eyes as she kicks a puddle of water at him. “Hey!” He then scoops her up in his arms, threatening to drop her in the puddle.

“Chase…no….Chase….” He just laughs as he lowers her a little bit more towards the puddle, though tips her back right side up before letting her go.

The pair continued laughing all the way back to the motorcoach, before entering together. Chase then takes his phone out of his pocket, drying it off as he sets it on the counter. He removes his t-shirt, which was clanged to his body being so wet, as he glances down at the phone and notices the three missed calls and nine text messages – certainly not normal for him.

He picks the phone up, seeing two of the calls came from Ryan Blaney while another came from his crew chief. He then opens the text message, seeing three from Ryan, three from his crew chief, one from Bubba, and two others he wasn’t set to place yet.

He opens the three from Ryan, curious as to why it seemed the young man had completely panicked on him.

“What the heck?” He questions, catching Sarina’s attention as she walks out of the bathroom from ringing out her hair. “Oh shit…” He then hurries past Sarina without a word, slipping off his soaked jeans for a pair of dry ones and grabbing the first t-shirt out of the drawer.

“What’s wrong?” She asks as she could see the panic on his face.

“Ryan was poisoned.” Her jaw drops immediately as she watches Chase grab another pair of running shoes out of the closet.

“I’m coming with you…” She then grabs her flip flops, slipping them on as she grabs the umbrella out of the closet.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 101: Suspicions and Villain?

Thursday, June 29

Christopher Bell takes a deep breath as he sits back, watching the pair hang out together. He knew the promise that he had made Sarina about keeping his distance, but he couldn’t help but wonder right now.

He watches as Chase heads off, set to begin his duties for the day. He then takes a deep breath, making his way over to where she was.

“Sarina!” He lets out, catching her attention as she gives him a quick smile.

“Hey Christopher,” she replies as he shoves his hands in his pocket, nerves building. “I’m surprised to see you down here on an off-week.”

“Figured I’d get to know the guys a little that I am going to work with later on this year.” Sarina shakes her head, having seen the announcement that Christopher was going to run select XFINITY events this season.

“I can’t argue with that logic, especially considering this weekend normally produces a great race.” He glances away, debating whether he should open his mouth or not, before looking back towards her.

“You can yell at me if I’m crossing the line or whatever, but I’m going to say this because I’m damn well worried. How much can you trust your brother? It just seems when there’s been poisoning incidents, he’s either been hard to trace. There was also mention from Jared that he was around then. I’m just wondering if history is repeating itself.” Sarina crosses her arms, looking at Christopher in the eyes, doing everything she could to not punch him then and there.

“So you’re saying that my brother is behind this?” Christopher didn’t know if he could say that exact quite yet.

“I’m saying it could be a possibility. I mean, KBM crew member, followed by JGR crew member, and then Hendrick crew member. You also add in Darrell Wallace, and there’s just some odd connections there, along with what I said already.” Sarina was really resisting the urge to punch him now.

“And for what bloody reason would he be doing this, Bell?” Christopher then put his hands up, defensively.

“Look, I don’t know. Jealousy? Spite? I’m just saying that we should consider all avenues. I mentioned it to Kyle and he said it was nothing. Chase has heard, too, and he said it’s nothing either. I just thought I’d be the polite one to warn you of the thought incase it is reality.” Sarina then takes her sunglasses off, closing the gap between the pair as she looks at Christopher in the eyes.

“What did I tell you a couple weeks ago? Do you remember?” He shakes his head yes.

“To stay out of your life.”

“Then why don’t you start doing that, jackass?” She then puts her sunglasses on, turning around and heading the other direction as she lets out an aggravated sigh.

She made her way through the garage area, trying to shake off the conversation with Christopher. However, as she thought about it more, she couldn’t help but see what was being said. Besides, there was the odd comment that he made before.

Instead of heading into the 24 hauler as she had originally planned, she went and found where her brother was hanging out.

“Can we talk?” She asks him as he looks over and shakes his head yes. “There’s suspicion about you surrounding the poisonings. People are saying that your location has been hard to place at time of events, combined with your questionable past. I don’t want to be an ass, but do you have something to say?” Chris shakes his head no.

“Why would I do such a thing?” He questions. “I told you before that I felt bad for everything that happened during that time, and I didn’t mean it. Why would I go back to those ways?” Sarina felt confident in his answer, as that was she had tried to tell herself when Christopher approached her.

“It’s just you made mention how I can never let my past go and it will always be a part of me.” He shakes his head, remembering the comment.

“I meant that you can’t just change your name and try and forget what happened. It’s something that’s part of who you are, and shapes what you do. Just because you try and forget it, or escape those people, doesn’t mean that it never happened as it may seem. I was trying to get you to think about coming to peace with everything and agreeing to the family reunion, possibly.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that was still never a possibility.

“I told you what I thought about that, so can we not talk about it?” He shakes his head, accepting.

“You asked, I answered. I just wonder whether you’re forgetting your own family because you feel your new adopted family is better since there’s not all this chaos in members who you don’t agree with. I actually asked my psychologist about that one. He said it’s possible, but not true. Who knows…” Chris then walks away, as Sarina looks on confused.

She then shakes her head knowing that had nothing to do with her thought process. Her reason for ignoring the reunion was simple – she didn’t want to involve with the people that twisted her life upside down to begin with, as there were no words they could say to bring her parents back, or forgive themselves for what had happened.

Taking a deep breath, she reminds herself of the advice heard from those around her and decides to put it at the back of her mind, focusing instead on the upcoming day ahead.

The same couldn’t be said for her brother, who was now wondering whether the plan he and Bethany had put together was really going to pay off. If they were being found intriguing now, how were they going to pull off the next couple of rounds?

He then took out his phone, dialing her number, hoping for some reasoning.

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

Chase walks into the trailer, flopping back on the couch as he rolls his eyes.

“Well you look pleased…” Sarina comments, noticing his actions as he looks over at her.

“Media center availability – such fun, huh?” He questions as she looks on confused. “Oh, did you not see the lovely questions that they decided to go with?” She shakes her head no.

He then pulls out his phone, pulling up the transcript before handing it over to her.

YOU ARE SECOND TO DALE ON THE LAST LAP HERE, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
“I am just hoping I have the right push to get around him.”

NO HESITATION TO PASS HIM?
“Absolutely not. I wouldn’t think twice about it if I had an opportunity to pass him. I am not going to let anybody win. Would you?”

“Why would they even ask if you would think of finishing second to someone?” Sarina questions as she hands him his phone back. “I mean, that’s just ridiculous! Everybody knows that every single racecar driver is going to go for the win, no matter who the hell is in front of them and what it means to that person.”

“Thank you,” Chase accepts her comment.

“So why the aggravation?” He then lets out a sigh as he opens up twitter.

“It’s just hearing the question to begin with, as you expressed, and now the local media is turning it into a big deal in how I’m the mean butthead that won’t help my teammate.” She then chuckles as she couldn’t believe it.

“Chase Elliott the villain? What has happened?” He shrugs his shoulders. “To be honest, that’s just ridiculous. I mean, I don’t even get how that happened. That person whoever they are should be banned from media centers for the rest of their life. By the way, is today ridiculous day or what? It goes along the lines of everything else today.” Chase then looks over, confused. “Would you believe that Christopher Bell thinks that I should be worried about my own brother hurting people?”

“Really?” She shakes her head yes.

“He came up to me today and made mention of it, trying to convince me and playing his damn worry card again. You can tell how far that went.” Chase could only imagine the drawback that Christopher got, but wondered if it was really warranted as he had his thoughts about her brother, too.

“I wouldn’t want to be him….”

“Of course, I did talk to my brother. By his answer, I say there’s not a thing to worry about – except the fact that he may be attending the family reunion. He also made mention that I may be avoiding my family because I don’t think of them that way anymore, due to having become a part of this adopted racing family and only thinking of that. Like, I’m using an avoidance measure.”

Chase about opened mouth on the comment as it only added to the theory about her brother being involved. By poisoning people, he could be taking charge against her new adopted family out of jealousy. It went along perfect with him saying that nobody could fix him and his other previous comments.

Shaking his head, he knew that it was probably just his own fear talking based on what had happened in the past. He had to remember that was all gone now, thanks to the great work of the doctors.

“Chase?” She questions, caught off-guard by his silence as he looks over.

“Sorry, just got busy reading a tweet,” he lies, not wanting to say something. He knew that she’d flip on him. It was why he was going to stick to what he had told both Alan and Kyle – concrete evidence before suspicion discussed. “Based on what you’ve been through, I wouldn’t blame you if you are using it as an avoidance measure because I would be doing that, too. However, to be fair, your reasons for not going are logical and you don’t need to defend yourself. If he’s really making you pick sides, then he’s not the sweet caring brother that you need in your life – no matter how you put it in needing each other. Don’t let him upset you, okay?” She shakes her head, accepting.

“And what do I do about ding-a-ling?” Chase had to laugh at her nickname for Christopher.

“The police have leads and interest into everything. Once it’s solved, you can rub it in his face that he was wrong and to stop doing what he’s doing. For now, just try and keep things work related between you guys, and if a problem arises speak to Kyle.” He then sets his phone down, wrapping an arm around her. “I thought we were supposed to be enjoying being in Florida together, getting a chance to soak up the sun rays and have some fun.”

“You’re the one that came in here all sulky because of a dumb reporter….” He then smiles, knowing that was true.

“Well, what do you say we forget about that and your ding-a-ling problem, and we focus on having some fun? I’m going to go run this practice session, and then we should go to the beach.” She smiles, liking that idea.

“Can I bury you in the sand?” He knew he’d hate that with how it would tickle, but it’d be a nice change in pace.

“I don’t see why not.”

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

Chase relaxes back in the trailer, glancing over at Alan as he types up the last bit of notes.

“I thought you’d be long gone to the beach by now,” Alan comments as he notices Chase sitting there.

“Actually, I need to tell you something instead,” Chase says, catching the crew chief’s attention. “Bell approached Chris about all of our concerns in him being involved, by the way. Sarina told me before practice. She said that he mentioned how there’s suspicions, playing the worry card, and wondering if maybe she could look into it.” Alan was hoping something would be said, but obviously didn’t want to be the one to do it because he didn’t want to get in the midst of their relationship. He knew he should buy Christopher a Christmas card now.

“What’d she say?” Chase rolls his eyes, remembering the response.

“She said she talked to her brother, actually. By his answers, though, she’s not worried about anything as she feels he’s innocent and same deal that we’ve said about coincidence.” Alan then closes his laptop, focusing on Chase. The notes could wait as safety was paramount – especially considering there had been talk of a bomb threat around Daytona, with police even investigating it at one point during the day. Like everything else so far, those cops found nothing.

“Coincidence was something we discussed, but you also said there were worries with what he said to you, too.” Chase knew that, as those words continued to haunt him.

“He told me that nobody could fix him, no matter what I did in trying to catch him as they had tried before. It’s the stupidest line, but I guess it makes me question the whole tumor theory and whether it’s a fix or not.” Alan shakes his head, understanding.

“You know, I’ve heard about people in his situation that have changed after having a tumor removed. So it’s not too far fetched. I also get why you’re worried, though, because of what you saw and your own fear speaking. Now, did Sarina mention anything else?” Chase shakes his head yes.

“He told her that she may be avoiding her family reunion because she doesn’t think of them in that way no more, due to having found a new family in racing. I don’t want to sound strange here, Alan, but what if he’s behind the attacks and the reason is he wants to eliminate her new family piece by piece out of jealousy? He’s so fixated on rekindling what they had, the past, not holding a regret against actions made – what if this is out of spite?” Alan knew the theory could be on to something, and was glad he hadn’t changed his thought process.

“Now do you see why I told you to be extra careful?” Chase shakes his head yes. “Promise me that will continue?” He shakes his head yes, once again. “Have you thought about talking to the authorities?”

“I don’t want to say anything right now till we have some sort of proof. I don’t want to throw the trust that Sarina and I have away because of a fear and theory that I have. I’d rather make sure I’m right, first. Besides, they already have him on their list.” Alan knew that, having heard what Jared had told them.

“That’s fair and understandable, and for your sake – I hope he is not the one behind everything.”