The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 132: A Freezing Halloween

Tuesday, October 30 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Ryan and Darrell had been standing at the end of the haunted house for a bit now, tapping their feet, now almost impatient as they waited for Chase to make his way through.

“Where is he?” Ryan questions with a sigh, even trying to take a peak back through the exit he should’ve used.

“It’s Chase we’re talking about,” Darrell starts. “He gets afraid by the smallest little scare…” Ryan lets out a sigh, knowing that was true. Hence why they always avoided scary movies.

“That’s why he has a dinosaur to protect him.” Darrell had to chuckle in response, though also noticed a bit of hesitation in his friend’s voice.

“What are you thinking?” Ryan wanted to shrug it off, but couldn’t virtue of his own previous experiences.

“Alison.” Darrell freezes immediately as he looks over surprised.

“You don’t thin-”

“She’s stalked him secretly before, she’s done everything imaginable. I wouldn’t put it past her to know that we’re here tonight.” Ryan then takes one more peak. “Screw it, I’m going looking.”

“Are you serious?” Ryan then makes his way through the exit, set to follow the halls back up through. “Wait for me!”

The pair make their way through the halls, ultimately catching the characters off guard who were questioning them going the wrong way.

“We lost something,” Ryan quickly pawned it off each time. “The manager said we could look through.” Each character simply nodded their head accepting, before retreating back to their hiding spot. Clearly, it hadn’t been the first time.

They had been going for awhile, before they noticed a wall slightly off, almost a secret door open.

“You don’t think, do you?” Darrell questions, and even before he was finished, Ryan was opening it the rest of the way.

“Shit!” The only words to escape Ryan’s mouth as he ran over right away, trying to find the break-open latch.

Stuck in a tall glass tube, they saw their best friend – with his dinosaur unfortunately deflated, shivering as cold ice and water came down over top of his head.

“Here it is!” Darrell then opens it immediately, which releases cold ice water on them right away.

“Chase?!?” Ryan questions as he gives him a pull out of the center, getting a shivering response.

“So…cold…” Chase managed quietly, shivering before them as he tried to wipe any bit of water away.

“Go get help!” Darrell gives a simple nod, pulling out his phone to dial 9-1-1 while running off to find someone. He wouldn’t mind that dead doll popping out for a change now. “Get your wet clothes off…” Ryan then helps pull the costume that Chase was wearing off, before throwing a roll of paper towel.

“How’d you know?” Ryan knew him standing there shivering with nothing on wouldn’t help, as he stripped out of his own costume next.

“You were taking too long.” He then hands him over the beast costume. “You need to get war-”

“What about yo-”

“I’m not the one that was just standing in ice water for who knows how long!” Chase easily instructs, slipping on the pants, before Ryan helps him out with the shirt. “Better?”

“Still…freezing…” Ryan could tell by the shivering that his legs were still really cold.

“Try dancing around.”  Chase tried to move around as much as he could, as Ryan tried to find anything that would help. “Damn it, hurry Bubba!”

“Wrap this around your legs,” a new voice chimes in, causing both to look over as Christopher Bell was standing there, dressed as Chef Boyardi, handing off the apron.

“Thank you,” Chase simply replied before doing as instructed.  “What are you doing here?”

“We came to check out the haunted house – just like you probably did,” Morgan Kemenah comments as Ryan could only chuckle at her cardboard noodle costume. “Keep wiggling your toes, keep moving your legs. That’ll get the blood flowing and help warm you up with the layers.”

“Put these gloves on and rub your legs too,” Christopher adds, handing over the oven mitts that went with his costume. “The friction should help.”

After what seemed like an eternity, the manager arrived over to them with some paramedics in toe. Despite assurances from Chase that he would be fine once he got some more warmth, he was sent with them to go get checked out at the hospital.

“You go with him,” Christopher instructs as he looks over at Ryan. “We’ll go pick up Sarina.”

“Okay,” Ryan replies, accepting. He would’ve preferred to tell Sarina himself, but also knew it’d be strange in sticking Chase and Christopher together. “Hey Christopher, be careful in telling her the news. Make sure that she knows he’s alright.”

“I got thi-”

“I mean it, Christopher. Make sure that she knows he’s alright and she doesn’t panic or freak or anything. Just make sure that she stays calm, please…” The repeated comments initially caught both Morgan and Christopher off-guard, but Christopher gave a nod of approval.

“I promise Ryan, I’ll be careful.”

It didn’t take Christopher long to reach where he had parked, with both him and Morgan set to head back to the Elliott household.

“Ryan repeated that a couple more time than necessary,” Morgan comments as she puts her belt on. “It’s almost like there’s a hidden mess-”

“Sarina is pregnant,” Christopher cuts her off, earning a surprised glance in return from Morgan. “I wanted to say something the other week myself to her about it, but I noticed that her firesuit was looking a little tighter around the stomach area.” He then pauses, realizing how that probably sounded saying it out loud. There was also a time that I stopped by to see her, that Chase had his hands resting very suspiciously there.”

“You’re going to need to warn him about that if they’re trying to keep it secret…” Christopher nods his head as they head out to the house. “And Christopher, I know what you were thinking. I’m not worried.” She then reaches over, placing her hand on top of his as it rested on the shifter. “I know you love me, and I love you with everything. I know that we have nothing to worry about with you doing something with her, or vise versa. So if you’re worried about that looking comment, it’s fine. You guys spend lots of time together as friends so it’s bound to happen.”

“I love you.” He then turns to her, giving her a kiss, before focusing his eyes on the road.

Tuesday, October 30 – Carolina Medical Center

Sarina walks into the room, walking over to Chase and wrapping both arms around him immediately.

“Are you okay?” She questions, earning a nod in response. “Are you sure?”

“I told them that I was fine there,” he answers. “But with these nice warm blankets, I am toasty right now. Every bit of feeling, warmth, whatever is back in my legs.” She then kisses his lips, feeling the blankets as she does so.

“Those are nice and toasty. Do you think we can get some for the trailer?” He smiles back in response.

“Anything for you, as always.” He then leans in for another kiss, which she obviously accepts.

“Did they say anything?” Christopher asks Ryan as the couple embraces.

“They’ve given him their seal of approval,” Ryan answers. “There doesn’t look to be any longing effects or anything, so I think we got there in the nick of time for that. They’re just keeping him for a couple hours to make sure nothing develops.”

“I got what you were saying when you repeated it twice…” Ryan then looks over, a bit of horror and surprise mixed together. “Relax, I won’t say anything, I promise.”

“They’re doing whatever they can to keep it a secret until the banquet.” Christopher looks back over at the pair cuddled up together.

“Well, just warn him about hand placement in the garage area. I mentioned to Morgan that I saw something suspicious a week ago, and combined with your repeated messages, I figured it out.” Ryan knew he would have to pass along the message in a timely fashion. “So that announcement about next yea-”

“Stay tuned. She’s going back racing once she has the baby in the new year.” Christopher smiles as he was looking forward to competing against her once again. “She’s like 15 weeks along.”

“Really?” Ryan nods his head. “So she was pregnant at Talladega. That’s why she was crying afterwards.” Ryan nods his head once again. “Well, I hope for the best as they deserve it.”

“Hey Christopher!” Chase says, getting his attention, before throwing the apron and gloves back at him. “The chef needs his apron and oven mitts if he’s going to get any baking done. But thank you, once again.”

“I’m glad that I could help,” Christopher replies. He then glances over at Ryan with a comment of his own in the mixing, as Ryan rolls his eyes. With a look back at the couple, he couldn’t hold it in. “I heard you were doing some baking of your own. Congrats on the bun in the oven.”

“You figured it out?!?” Chase questions, earning nods around the room.  “Thanks…”

“And be careful on your cuddles. I almost figured it out without Ryan’s help..” Chase looks over at Sarina, giving her a wink.

“I’ll try, but man, I can’t wait for this little baby to be here..” He then places his hand on her stomach as he had been doing so many times recently. “I still say it’s a little girl.”

“I don’t care, as long as he or she is healthy,” Sarina comments, placing her hand on top of his.

Wednesday, October 31 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Chase fixes the outfit once again on Max, taking a step back and giving himself a nod of approval.

“You look good Max,” he says, before giving the dog a treat for co-operating as he dressed him up.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Sarina questions from upstairs, earning the millionth eye roll of the day. “I mean, I think you should be relaxing.”

“I could say the same thing for you.” She then lets out a sigh, growing very tired of his repeated remarks.

“Meanwhile, I wasn’t the one in a hospital just last night because a crazy chick had attempted to freeze me alive while holding a gun to my face.” While Alison’s other attacks had left him with after thoughts for days, surprisingly he was moving forward very smoothly after last night’s events. It just further enhanced his rules about not entering haunted houses anymore, though.

“She also killed my dinosaur, remember…” He checked over his own appearance in the mirror. He had managed to get his hands on another Mario costume, though wasn’t able to find the one with Yoshi in time. “I think that’s a good thing, though. Max didn’t like the dinosaur.”

“Did the costume fit Max, by the way?” While he had spent the morning relaxing per Sarina’s orders, she ran to the store to grab his new costume, something for herself, and managed to get an outfit for the dog in the process.

“He looks great. Now, can I finally see your costume?” She then makes her way out of the bathroom, down the stairs, and stopping at the bottom with a smile.

“A Mario needs his Peach to save…” A smirk forms on his face immediately, as he wraps his arms around her, picking her up.

“No Bowser would ever kidnap this Peach.” He then kisses her lips, before slowly setting her back down on the ground.

“You may be my Georgia peach, but I am your Peach tonight.” He then gives her a wink in return, as she just chuckles with a smirk of her own. “I almost want this Halloween night to be at the end to see what you’re thinking.”

“I don’t know if you can handle all of this sexiness.” She then grabs the straps of the overalls, pulling him close.

“I’ve handled them before, and I plan to handle them again accordingly…” She then slowly kisses his lips, as she backs him against the wall. “I don’t know if you can handle everything that I want to give you.”

“I’m not complaining, ever….” A bark from Max cut their fun off as they both knew it meant someone was at the door. “You should’ve dressed Max up as Yoshi.”

“I looked but they were out of Yoshi dog costumes.”

They had been having a smooth evening, handing out candies to the various kids that stopped by. Although they had critiqued some of the outfits for going too far to themselves, they had to admire others as there were some cute princesses and monsters.

In-between handing out the candy, the pair were naturally spending their time in the living room, playing either Mario Kart or Super Mario Brothers. It was Max’s bark that alerted them to pause and hand out the candy, accordingly.

“Beat ya again!” Sarina lets out, having crossed the finish line first.

“That stupid shell,” Chase commented, as he had been leading until a green shell she threw hit him.

They then heard Max’s familiar bark, glancing at each other before both getting up and going to the door. Chase reached the door knob first, opening it, before having to look down at who was there.

“Here to save the day!” Brexton let out, before a classic superhero pose. Both Chase and Sarina chuckled in response.

“Is that so?” Sarina questions, earning a nod from Brexton. She then scoops him up in her arms.

“But whose going to save Brexton from Tickle Monster Mario?” Chase asks, before beginning to tickle him as Sarina kept a hold on him. The giggles immediately escaped from the little boy.

“Daddy…Mommy,” he lets out in between chuckles.

“Let him go!” Samantha and Kyle appear from their hiding spots, both dressed in superhero costumes as well. Chase stops immediately, as Sarina puts him down.

“My princess!” Brexton then gives Sarina a big hug, which she easily accepts.

“I think you lost your princess for the night now,” Kyle comments, earning a shrug of the shoulders from Chase. HE actually thought it was adorable in seeing the bond that Sarina had formed with Brexton this year, and it had him ready for moments like these with their own child one day.

“So I heard that you lost Yoshi last night,” Samantha adds, earning a nod from Chase as Kyle simply gives her a glance. “I’m glad you’re alright.”

“Just thankful that Ryan came looking when he did,” Chase says, before looking back over at Sarina and Brexton with a smile. “Say, what do you say for a treat?”

“Trick or Treat!” Brexton lets out, before going back outside to grab his bag off of the porch.

“That’s a lot of candy!” Chase then drops a couple chocolate bars in as he looks up with a smile.

“Thank you.” Brexton then gives him a hug, as well.

“Ready to go visit more houses?” Samantha asks and Brexton nods his head.

“Have fun!” Chase tells him, as Sarina offers one more hug for him before watching the Busch family leave together.  They stood on the porch together, with Chase wrapping an arm around Sarina’s back. “That’ll be us in a couple years. Are you ready?”

“I’m in charge of the costumes, right?” She questions, earning a chuckle from Chase.

“Do I trust you?” She then gives him a playful punch, which just increases the chuckling.

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 131: First Data 500

Saturday, October 27 – Martinsville Speedway

Starting off the truck series race, Sarina was able to run up front throughout the event, remaining in the top-two through the top two stages. However, as had been the case many weeks this year, a bad pit final pit stop lost her crucial track position, as she would restart back in 12th. She wasn’t able to get back to the top-five, ultimately ending up seventh.

“It was a good day,” she tells the media after the race. “Our goal was to earn points and get to the next round of the championship, and we earned a good bit today. We just had got behind on the pit stop, and it’s hard to pass so I couldn’t make it back up. We’ll stay focused and try to do the same at Texas next week, as well as ISM. That’s all we can do.”

“Did you feel tire wear was not an issue today and is that a problem?” One of the media members ask her.

“No practice, no rubber laid down, maybe that’s the problem – I don’t know. either way, it’s just a strange weekend. I mean, if the tires wore more, then maybe you could pass. But whether tires, or the motors just not getting the horsepower down, I don’t know but it was tougher than normal.”

She then watches Chase walk over, wrapping an arm around her.

“You did good considering everything,” Chase offers, giving her a quick kiss. “I’m proud of you as always.”

“I fought as hard as I could,” she comments, leaning on him a little. “I mean, I’m actually tired. That little track can take a lot out of you.” He then chuckles, ironic considering she was a bucket of energy earlier.

“Just imagine running 500 laps here…” She shakes her head no.

“I don’t think I could do that right now.” He then glances over. “And no, you don’t get the right to scold me now. I got what you were saying earlier.”

“It doesn’t look like you listened…” She just rolls her eyes.

“I am going to get changed. I need to go find my sweater.” The cold temperatures hadn’t let up, and he could tell that was bothering her.

“Stop by my hauler and grab my jacket. You can thank me later. Then maybe after qualifying, we can head home and sit by the fire with some hot chocolate.” He then gives her another kiss. “I am going to hang out here as qualifying is soon.”

“Do what you do best!” She then heads to the garage area, ready to get out of her sweaty firesuit.

Chase climbs out of the car, in a combination of disgusted and angry, in glancing up the board. How were they only 21st quickest? He then lets out a sigh as he looks over at Alan, knowing they’d be there for a good long debrief session. So much for that fire and hot chocolate.

He watches as the reporters walk over, letting out a sigh. Of course they’d want to get his thoughts on a crappy qualifying effort.

“What did you need during that round?” They ask, as if that answer wasn’t obvious enough.

“To go a lot faster,” he tells them.” It just wasn’t…” He then bites his tongue, not wanting to reveal where their struggles were “….didn’t do a real good job, just a lot of work to do.”

“What is the biggest challenge coming from the back of the pack?” He almost wanted to chuckle at the questions.

“Not getting lapped.” He then walks away, done with the interview, as he catches a glance from Sarina.

“You guys will get it working on Sunday and have a good ru-” She starts, almost rehearsed perfectly.

“Something is on your mind other than that,” he comments and she just lets out a sigh.

“I thought I saw Shelley in the garage area. I thought I saw her by my hauler, but yet next time I looked nobody was there. I think it was just coincidence, really, as it could’ve been anybody.”  He then places his hands on hers, looking into her eyes.

“But it was enough of something to get you spooked.” She then lets out a sigh.

“Do you blame me right now, though?” He shakes his head no.

“If it makes you feel more comfortable, we can ask for them to keep an eye out.” She almost wanted to welcome that, but also wouldn’t mind seeing Shelley again to chew her out.

“I can handle Shelley. I can take care of myself…”

With the crappy qualifying effort in the books, Chase made his way back to the hauler, meeting up in the lounge with Alan, Josh, and Tom to go everything once again. They had to find speed, and they had to find something that night if they wanted to do decent tomorrow.

Not having the motorcoach at the track, and not wanting to stick around elsewhere, Sarina had easily accepted the offer to head back with them. As the boys discussed everything, going over every note possible twice, she had curled up in the corner on the couch.

Between the coldness of the weekend, finally finding some warmth, and the tiredness of the race, it wasn’t long before her eyes were closed as the group glanced over at one point to see her asleep.

The meeting would go longer than usual, as Chase expected though, however the group believed they had figured out the best package to put under the car for tomorrow. Josh and Tom filtered out of the room first, ready to round up the crew to go out to dinner, leaving Alan and Chase.

“Do you want to come to dinner with us?” Alan questions as he puts everything away. Chase takes one glance over at Sarina, shaking his head no.

“I owe her a nice fire and hot chocolate,” he answers, earning a smile back from the crew chief.

“Is the pregnancy going smoothly so far, though?” Chase nods his head back in response.

“Dr. Grayson hasn’t seen anything that has her worried, and everything she’s had so far – leg cramps, morning sickness, it’s all per the course and easily handled. Although, I wish she’d listen to me and take it easy.” Alan could only chuckle at that attempt from what he saw.

“Sarina? Take it easy? That’s doesn’t come lightly.” Chase knew that, as well, but he wasn’t going to give up on his reminders for her.

“It just seems that she has this extra burst of energy as she wants to really finalize the last bit of wedding plans, combined with starting the nursery, and talking about other things. I keep telling her to slow down, but did that get me anywhere?” Alan shakes his head as he could already see Sarina protesting in his mind.

“I remember when Shannon was pregnant with the boys. She was the same way through the whole second trimester when we were expecting John, but yet it happened a little later with Austin. It’s totally normal for her to be experiencing that so don’t feel too caught off-guard. If anything, take advantage of it as you know there won’t be time between the wedding, and the final months of the pregnancy.” He then picks up his backpack, double checking everything was inside. “Make sure to lock up. I’ll see you tomorrow, and Chase, don’t hesitate to ask for advice – on any topic.”

“I’ll remember that.” Alan then leaves as Chase glances over at Sarina. As much as he was set to get out of there and get home for the night – thank you for a small flight, he also felt guilty in thinking about waking her up. A couple extra hours longer wouldn’t hurt anyone as he curled up alongside her underneath the blanket. “I love you….”

“I can’t believe you let me sleep,” Sarina comments as she sits before the fire on the couch.

She had ended up staying asleep for a half hour longer, before waking up and glancing over at Chase slightly confused. Though once awake, the pair headed out – grabbing her another Martinsville hot dog, before boarding the short flight home. Once they landed, they stopped for dinner before coming home.

“You were tired and I didn’t want to disturb you,” he tells her from the kitchen. “It doesn’t bother me.”

“You could’ve woke me up…” He then comes into the living room, sitting on the couch with her.

“I still feel that letting you sleep was the better decision. But now, I owe you something….” He then hands her a hot chocolate, complete with whip cream, before holding one for himself. “Hot chocolate and cuddles.”

“Nightmare before Christmas, as well?” He then lets out a sigh, knowing that she had bugging him about watching that movie for a whole week now.

“Fine…” She just grins in response as she puts it on, before cuddling up with him underneath the blanket.

Sunday, October 28 – Martinsville Speedway

Starting back in 21st, Chase began to make his way forward from the drop of the green flag, finishing 11th in the first stage. He would then move up to seventh in the second stage. Through the final stage, he tried to continue to move forward in fifth, though hit a brick wall with not being able to pass, ending up seventh.

“Top-10 after starting deep in the field has to feel good….” The media starts after the race and he simply nods his head.

“Yeah, it was just really bad, really poor execution on our qualifying effort and better in the race, but not near where we needed to be,” he replies. “So, I’m sure we are in a hole and probably going to have to win one of these next two races.”

“Do you feel in a way that you survived this, though?” Chase shakes his head no immediately.

“No, I need to win. I mean playing the points game is nice, but I need another sticker.”

He then walks away once done the interviews, catching up with the team as Alan glances over at him.

“I’m confident about next week after Kansas,” he tries to find a positive. “So I think we can get it done next week and then we don’t have anything to worry about.”

“I don’t mind that theory,” Alan comments. “And then when we make the Championship 4, we won’t have to worry about Joey.” Chase then looks over a bit surprised.

“Martin is that mad?” Alan nods his head in response.

“Quote unquote – ‘he may have won the race, but he isn’t winning the damn war.’ Does that sound familiar?” Chase nods his head, remembering his comments a year ago in relation to Denny.

“Truthfully, it couldn’t happen to a better person.” Alan chuckles a little. “I’m sorry, but Joey ranks low on the list – not as low as Denny, but he’s still an ass.”

“Can Matt Kenseth tackle his ass again?” Sarina questions, earning a couple chuckles from them. “I just don’t see Martin doing anything. He’s too nice in nature.” Alan then gives her a side-eye glance.

“Everybody said that about Chase, and we saw what happened at Phoenix,” he reminds her as Sarina smiles widely in return.

“That’s my favorite memory from that track!”

Tuesday, October 30 – Charlotte, North Carolina

“Are you sure that you don’t want to come?” Chase questions as he tries to get in the costume. Glancing in the mirror once again, he just shook his head.

“My legs are still sore…” Sarina offers, trying to get as comfortable as she could. She had been dealing with leg cramps all day, to the point that she had left KBM early.

“Okay, would you rather me stay home and take care of you?” Certainly cuddling Chase was the most comfortable thing, but she couldn’t ruin his night. Besides, Ryan and others were expecting him and they couldn’t let curiosity grow.

“I will be fine here. Besides, Lindsay is coming over as she doesn’t want to go.” Chase then pops his head into the room, trying to hide the bottom part of the costume.

“Then who is going to his beauty?” He knew that Ryan was dressing up ‘The Beast’ per a bet that Ryan lost to Darrell. He would’ve preferred that over this disaster, however a lost game to Ryan on Fortnite and a costume pick was in order.

“Dylan Smith according to Lindsay.” Chase had to chuckle as perhaps he wouldn’t look like the most ridiculous person there. “Can I see your costume, please?”

“I guess, although I’d rather have a princess to have to rescue.” She then looks on intrigued, though immediately breaks out laughing when he comes into full view, with Yoshi fully blown up. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. I’m sure that’s what everybody will be doing tonight.”

“I’m sorry but you look adorable…” He just rolls his eyes in response. “If you’re a good boy tonight, maybe you can have a princess to rescue when you get home.” He then walks over to the bed.

“Your offer almost makes me want to stay home…” He then leans in and kisses her lips, obviously with Yoshi’s head getting in the way.

“Your dinosaur likes kisses, too…” He just rolls his eyes, prancing out of the room as she just keeps on laughing.

Tuesday, October 30 – Whiskey River

There was no shortage of laughs throughout the night, as fans and friends chuckled alike at the costumes worn. Chase couldn’t get over how ridiculous Ryan and Dylan looked together, but the same could be said about his dinosaur.

“I have an idea….” Ryan comments as they leave later on that night.

“Is this a good idea?” Darrell questions, as Ryan glances over at him.

“Aren’t all my ideas good?” Chase had to laugh as he took in the costume that he was wearing. “Hey now, everybody complimented your precious dinosaur.”

“Careful, or he’ll stick his tongue out at you…” Chase then gives Yoshi a whack in the head.

“Nope, it doesn’t work like the video game,” he comments, pouting a little. “So what’s your bright idea this time around?”

“That,” Ryan states, pointing to the haunted house down the street. “Let’s do it.”

“Are you serious?” Darrell asks and Ryan nods his head.

“Scared of a Haunted House?” Darrell shakes his head no, as he looks over at Chase.

“He may be…..” Chase had to admit that he wasn’t the biggest fan of haunted houses, and he also didn’t want to stay out much later as he wanted to get back to the girls. However, he wasn’t backing down in front of his friends.

“I’m in,” Chase finally states, sending a quick text to Sarina that they’d be later than originally expected.

“Get ready to pee your pants!” Ryan states as they walk up, ready to pay and head inside.

It wasn’t long before they were inside that the screams began, with the first coming from Ryan as he practically jumped out of skin courtesy of a clown. The screams only continued as they made their way through the various sections of the house, only to be followed by others laughing at them in return.

As they rounded a corner, they got separated virtue of the different halls and each taking a different route. The rules of the game were simple – first one through wins, last one through has to buy the others dinner another night.

As Chase was set to round one of the corners, having avoided most of the frights so far, he feels a tug on the shoulder. He goes to reach back and pull the hand off, though feels something cold instead.

“I wouldn’t do that if I was you,” he hears in a whisper, recognizing the voice immediately. “I’ve been following you all night, Mr. Elliott, and I’m glad that you came to see me. Scream for help and I’ll kill you. Is that clear?”

“Wouldn’t that end your games?” He questions, not even taking the opportunity to look back at her.

“That’d just begin another round with your sweetheart, and others of course….” He didn’t doubt that she’d do something like that, knowing her crazy reach stemmed large. “Come with me…..” Taking a deep breath, knowing his options were limited, he listens, following her through the black curtain.

Alison’s options were small and limited with her surroundings, but she had managed to find the perfect fun for them to have together.

“Ice water is a beautiful thing, dear…” She muses quietly in his ear, giving him a slight nudge in the back.

“What do you have in mind?” He questions, unfortunately following the instruction to enter the tank that was there. He could only hope that someone got curious soon, especially Ryan and Darrell in knowing how much longer he had been in mind.

“If you’re frozen solid, how can you ward off my advances?”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 47: Stratosphere 200

Friday March 2, 2018 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Bill walks into the hauler, smiling as he sees Chase walk out of the lounge, all set for practice shortly. He knew Sarina wasn’t there, having seen her head off as she was going to do a morning shopping run. That was welcomed by him, given the topic at hand.

“Well?” Bill questions, catching Chase off-guard. “Engagement ring. Did you get one?” Chase lets out a sigh, remembering their discussion a couple nights ago about buying the perfect ring, and spots to go look. He had also rambled off some proposal ideas, getting his dad’s thoughts on which way to go. Bill’s only advice in return was to be you, don’t try to do it too big, and make it special. It wasn’t much advice, but it helped narrow down the selection.

“I may have,” he teases as Bill gives him a glance. Chase pulls out his phone, unlocking it and going into his photos. He brings up a photo of a ring, showing his dad with a small smile. “It’s hidden righ-”

“Don’t tell me somewhere she’ll look easily.” Chase shakes his head no as Bill glances over the photo.

“She doesn’t go through my bags and I buried it in the bottom of one in a secret pocket for safe keeping.” Bill hands the phone back over with a smile.

“It’s really nice. Good job…” Chase smiles back, as he glances over the photo. He had gone with something simple, knowing that she wasn’t big for jewelry, but something that he knew would make a statement. “I can’t believe that my son is about to enga-”

“Just hold the thought because it isn’t happening overnight.” Bill crosses his arms, now confused. He thought a decision had been made and set in stone. “There’s a lot going on righ-”

“I thought we both decided that you aren’t letting Allison run your life anym-”

“I’m talking about Shelley and Chris. It’s no secret the thought of Chris being one step towards freedom, even just moved from jail to a mental institution, has her unraveled.” Bill nods his head, having heard the discussion last night from the pair of them about the series of text messages. He immediately made sure the right phone calls had been made to the lawyers, while Cindy vowed to do whatever it took to protect her baby.

“So now you’re going to let Shelley and Chris run your life? Chase, there’s always going to be something going on. Welcome to the life that you live, and the fact you’re both involved in this business. If you’re asking for a calm moment, you’re going to be waiting a long time.” Chase knew that, but in his mind, this was different than the normal circumstances.

“She’s afraid of engagement and marriage. I don’t want to set her off more than she is. That’s why I was thinking maybe I should wait until after this gets resolved.” Bill looks on shocked, shaking his head immediately.

“These court cases can take anywhere from a month, to six months, to a year. Do you really want to put it off that long? And besides, what if something else comes up after this?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks back towards the photo again. He couldn’t wait to slip the ring on her finger, but it didn’t seal the deal in his mind.

“Then it happens. This doesn’t make or break the relationship for me, Dad. As long as we’re together, we can trust each other, and can see each other all the time, I don’t have any problems. I know everybody else wants to push the theory and say we should be engaged, but it doesn’t matter to me. I love her, and she loves me. If we’re both happy together, what does it matter?”

“You’re right, absolutely right. But remember what we talked about as well…” Chase nods his head, having been running everybody’s advice multiple times through his mind whenever he got a moment of uncertainty.

“I’ll see you after. I got to go to see Alan. Practice is soon.” Bill nods as Chase heads off, set for practice.

Once in the garage, Alan laid down the plan for the session, which was pretty simple. Start off with a run in qualifying trim, followed by doing a second semi-long race run. He was also set to jam-pack everything together in the 45 minutes they had, as a result of having to sit out the final 15 minutes due to a penalty after failing tech a couple times last weekend.

While last weekend at Atlanta brought frustration throughout the weekend, things started out much smoother as he was happier with the handling of the car through both runs and felt they were only a couple minor adjustments from being right there. Ultimately, he finished the session in ninth.

After a quick debrief with Alan and team, he was set to head out of the garage, knowing the next commitment of the day. He smiles as he comes out of the garage, seeing Sarina standing there.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” He questions, knowing she went on a quick shopping trip. She nods her head, giving him a kiss.

“Not a single problem at all, thankfully,” she answers as she wraps her arms around him. “Why can’t we just stay here like this?” He chuckles as he brushes her hair back.

“Because we both have commitments that we’re supposed to attend to…” She makes a face, followed by a sigh.

“Do you think NASCAR would be mad if I skipped the autograph session?”

“Do you think Las Vegas would be mad if I skipped the Q&A?” They both chuckle, heading out to the garage area together. “Don’t hold up my fans too long signing there. I don’t want them to miss my awesome answers.”

“Oh boy….” He just laughs back in return as they reach the stage. “Don’t take up all their time so they can come say hi at least. I love you.” She then kisses his lips, before heading off to the tent for the autograph session.

Once both of them were done their commitments, they made up before heading back out to pit road. The day didn’t stop there, with both of their qualifying sessions set to take place back-to-back.

“Care to make a wager?” She questions, catching his attention as he looks on curiously. “I bet that I’ll qualify better than you will.” He chuckles as he wasn’t surprised by the idea.

“You were better in practice, and it’s clear that the KBM trucks are where to be, compared to where I would like to be myself,” he answers as she crosses her arms.

“Are you saying that you don’t think you can qualify better? Are you giving on yourself?” He knew that she wasn’t going to let this go easily.

“What’s the stakes?” She thinks it over, a smirk easily forming on her face.

“The loser has to spoil the winner tonight after the truck race.” He knew no matter what, they both won in this scenario as it was clear where that’d lead to.

“It’s a deal.” They then share a kiss before she heads up pit road to meet up with Rudy and the team. Chase just crossed his fingers that Alan got the car tuned up as good as he thought they could.

It was no surprise when he saw her make it to the second round of qualifying, and he knew it’d be no surprise if she got the pole. As much as he wanted to win the bet, he’d have no issues in watching her lead the field to green later on that night.

“So Bubba, explain to me why my boy isn’t engaged yet….” Ryan comments as the pair walk up on Chase, and Chase can only roll his eyes.

“Bubba, explain to me why Ryan won’t tell you anything about Lindsay,” Chase counters as Ryan looks over shocked. “Yeah, that’s right, two can play this game. I know how close you two are whether you want to admit it or not.”

“Is that why he’s been missing our adventures?” Darrell questions and Chase smiles, nodding his head.

“It seems that he’s been texting his girl and talking to her on the phone as much as possible. I’m actually surprised that she’s not here this weekend.” He could see the bit of sadness on Ryan’s face in that mention immediately. “Another dance recital?”

“Yeah,” Ryan says quietly. “But she’ll be at the next two races.” Chase smirks as he glances over at Darrell, giving him a wink. “I saw that!”

“Like I said, two can play this game,” Chase comments as Ryan wraps his arm around his shoulders.

“So how about you answer my question?” Chase just smiles back in response as he pulls his phone out. He loads the same photo that he had shown his dad earlier, causing both jaws to drop in return.

“That’s beautiful!” Darrell lets out as Ryan keeps his eyes on Chase.

“So you did ask her?” Ryan questions and Chase shakes his head no.

“I bought the ring,” he starts. “Now it’s figuring out the best way to go about asking and do it.”

“Well, do it!” Darrell instructs as Chase lets out a sigh, taking his phone back.

“I will – when the time is right.” Both of the boys just nod their heads in return, before glancing at each other.

“Bachelor Party Planning Committee!” They both let out as Chase lets out a sigh.

“The last time I let you guys plan a party was my birthday party here in November, and I woke up on the rooftop,” he recalls as Ryan laughs at the memory.

“Admit it – you had fun, though,” Ryan comments and Chase couldn’t deny that as he smiles. “Look, I don’t want to make a sequel to the Hangover because, well, I’d have my ass kicked by both Lindsay and Sarina if I did tha-”

“Cindy, too,” Darrell adds, and Ryan nods his head in agreement.

“So I promise we’ll go a little crazy, but not that crazy…” Chase rolls his eyes. He didn’t even want to know what they were planning. He then focuses back on truck qualifying session rounds out, seeing that she had ended up fifth quickest on the board.

“Got my work cut out for me,” he comments, catching a glance from his friends. “Sarina and I made a bet, and whoever qualifies worse has to spoil the other.” The pair smirk back in return as Chase shakes his head. “I know, it’ll probably me spoiling her.”

“I don’t think you’ll be complaining,” Ryan offers as Chase resisted the urge to smack him as Darrell laughed. “Oh, we didn’t just come down here to pick on you. Do you recall the text message I sent? Are you coming with us tonig-”

“I’m not missing Sarina’s rac-”

“It’s after the race is over. Come on….” Chase lets out a sigh as he flat out wanted to say no, but hated to let down his friends.

“You know that I’m not into the same sty-”

“Come be nice and give it a try, for your best buddies.” Chase lets out another sigh, finally nodding his head in agreement to go as Darrell lets out a big cheer. “Now, go get yourself a good qualifying spot. You can start in second – right behind me.”

“Hey, what about me?” Darrell questions as the boys head off, leading to a simple shrug back in return from Ryan. “I see how this goes….”

While he was able to lay down a better lap than he originally believed in, he ended up sixth – which certainly marked a good way to start off the weekend, but not as strong as Sarina.

“I beat you!” She lets out as she walks over to him after the session.

“Guess I have to spoil you,” he offers, wrapping his arms around her. “Hopefully I’m spoiling a winner.” He then kisses her lips lightly. “It just won’t be tonight after the truck race.”

“Why not?” She felt an immediate wave of confusion as Chase glances down pit road, before turning back to her.

“We’re going out after the race.” She looks on now surprised. “Ryan and Darrell welcomed us to go see Saving Alexandra.” She was now back confused.

“When did you start to like screamo-rock?” He shakes his head.

“I haven’t, okay? Look, they’ve been bugging me for weeks about this and I couldn’t say no. they want me to give it a chance and come have some fun since we don’t hang out as muc-”

“I’m sorr-”

“I don’t regret a single moment that we’ve spent together, as I’d rather spend as much time as possible with you.” She smiles back in return. “They’re also friends with the band, too. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Absolutely not. If spending my night watching a group totally rock out and hang with those two means that I get to spend hundreds of nights with you, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” He smiles back in return, kissing her lips. “I just hope they don’t mind us being a little later than anticipated.”

“I’ll accept any yelling that they tell us in response, while sending Lindsay after Ryan.” Sarina just chuckles back in response as they head back to the garage area. A quick snack, and they knew it’d be time for the truck race.

Sarina stood on pit road, leaning back against the truck, arms crossed, frustration laced.

There was no denying that she had a quick truck and was able to run up front, actually winning the first stage. She also kept herself in contention through the second with a top-five. Although she started the last stage well, it all fell apart as a truck that was certainly supposed to finish in the top-five crossed the line in 12th after a pair of poor executed restarts.

Chase walks over, simply wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close.

“That sucked,” she states clearly as she looks into his eyes and he simply nods his head back in return, sympathizing with her frustration.

“You had a good tru-” he starts and she lets out a sigh.

“I had a good truck, I ran up front all night, but oh no I fucked up and finished 12th. That’s just great, right? On a night where I should’ve easily walked away with a top-five finish, I fuck up a pair of restarts and finish 12th. What do you call that shit?” Chase understood it was her frustration showing through as he rubs her shoulders.

“Take a deep breath, count to 10….” She tries to follow his advice as she just shakes her head.

“I just can’t believe that I did tha-”

“You’re still lear-”

“That was last yea-”

“You’re still learning, and there’s going to be tough lessons. Why does Kyle make it look so easy? Why can Johnny and Brett just go execute like it’s nothing? Simple – they’re both experienced. They have tons of laps under their belt, been in those situations before, and know how to work the truck draft to their advantage. You will get better with practice.” She rolls her eyes. “Sarina…..”

“It’s just annoying to watch good finishes just get thrown away like that!” He nods his head, accepting, as he continually rubs her shoulders.

“I know, I’ve been there. But take the good away from the night. You were able to run up front, have the speed, and you learned what you can and cannot do on a late-race restart. Now moving forward when you come back here, or go to Michigan, or Pocono, you will know what to do.” She lets out a sigh, slowly nodding her head.

“I just hate giving away finishes like that…”

“I know. Hey, here’s another bright side. You’ve got a couple wee-”

“I’d rather be racing every weekend.” He lets out a sigh, knowing how she felt about that, and could already see her escaping to run some late model events during these weekends. However, selfishly, he wanted her at the track with him.

“But your next race is at Martinsville. We both know how well you run there.” A smile forms on her face as she thinks back to her first career victory.

“You wouldn’t mind if we got another clock, would you?” He chuckles, shaking his head no.

“Everybody can use three grandfather clocks in their house – maybe even four.” She laughs back in response.

“I wouldn’t mind the added décor.” She then leans in, lightly kissing his lips. “Thank you.”

“How about we go get you changed, and get out of here?” She nods her head, accepting, as they head off.

As planned, they both headed to the concert with Ryan and Darrell as discussed. While it was clear that both Ryan and Darrell had the time of their lives, Chase couldn’t honestly see himself falling for that style of music. They were good, but he’d rather stick with his country.

But it all didn’t matter, as his arms stayed wrapped around Sarina’s shoulders all night as she leaned back in his arms, both of them satisfied with each other’s company.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 39: Can-Am Duels

Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 1 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina and Chase walk through the pits together, carefully.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” She questions as she wraps an arm around his waist. He glances over, nodding his head.

“I’m fine for tonight – trust me,” he answers, giving her a quick kiss. She wanted to believe him, but her mind kept wandering to just that morning, those fears and concerns, and knowing how quickly he had gotten comfortable in their bed during her practice.

“As long as you’re confident and know that you’ll be fin-”

“I know what I can handle, and this is nothing.” She nods her head in return as they glance around once again. “Let’s go sit up on Johnson’s pit box.” She simply nods her head once again, accepting, as they make their way down pit road.

“Mind if I join you?” They hear, caught off-guard, as they glance between each other, before looking back at Lindsay.

“I thought you’d be on Ryan’s pit box,” Chase offers as Lindsay shrugs her shoulders.

“I don’t know if I’m comfortable there. Ryan never mentioned anything, and I don’t know the guys yet, and I don’t know what I’d sa-”

“It’s fine.” She instantly looks relieved, catching up to join them as Chase looks over at Sarina. “Remind me later to give the rookie a lesson.” Sarina can only chuckle in response as they reach Byron’s pit.

It didn’t take them long to get comfortable on the pit box in their choice of seating, following a round of hellos from the crew.

Their eyes were immediately drawn to the action on the track, as the field came to take the green flag. Immediately, Bowman pulled to the right after taking the green, letting the field go past him.

“What the heck?” Sarina questions as she looks over at Chase concerned. He could only smirk back in response. “By design to protect the pole?”

“And the fact the car isn’t set-up yet for drafting due to the impound and Greg’s plan,” Chase answers and Sarina could only smile. It now made sense why Chase hadn’t been able to qualify right up there with his teammates. They had gone for a more ‘qualifying’ set-up, versus sticking to their race package like Chase and Alan had. “Personally, I would’ve preferred to get as much learning as I could before Sunday, but that’s their style….”

“Yours makes me more nervous at the same time as I agree with it.” He chuckles as he wraps an arm around her.

It didn’t take long for the first caution to fly, though, as it’d be Jimmie Johnson blowing a tire on Lap 9, taking Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola out with him.

“Jimmie’s luck sucks down here,” Chase comments with a sigh.

The troubles for the Hendrick Motorsports teammates continued, with William Byron going around on Lap 38, tapping the outside wall, after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had sidedrafted with him.

“You guys can stay here until race’s end as we can’t remove equipment until then,” Darian Grubb tells them and Chase simply nods his head back in return.

“That sucked,” he comments. “Hate to see that for you guys.” Darian packs up his stuff, before glancing back at Chase once again.

“It proves one thing – watch your left rear quarter as always.” Chase nods his head in agreement, remembering the old adage rule at Daytona – make sure you’re square when bump drafting and never get someone in the left rear as it makes them unstable immediately.

Their eyes remained focused on the rest of the action, feeling a little bit of dread at points in seeing the field simply run single file entering the closing stages. Chase watched closely in seeing if anybody was getting any runs, where a move could be made, studying the laps just in case his Duel fell into the same predicament later on that night.

It seemed the race was going to end with a bore, but Ryan Blaney popped out of line with four to go, set to make a move on Joey Logano for the lead.

“Come on Ryan!” All three shouted together, though felt paused immediately when another wreck happened.

“How do you do this every week?” Lindsay questions as Sarina just chuckles, rubbing her shoulders. “I could always watch before as a fan – not one freak out. But yet here I am on the verge of heart failure.”

“Ask Chase,” Sarina starts as she looks over at him. “I may be a driver, but I can freak out with the best of them.” Chase nods his head as he gets comfortable.

“Ryan should have this no problem,” he summarizes, catching the pair off-guard.

“No problem?” Chase nods as he looks over at the girls.

“Look at the moves he made all race long. Look at the moves he made in the Clash. He knows what’s he’s doing and he will beat Joey. Besides, he’s got a friend…”

As predicted, Darrell Wallace Jr. pushed Ryan on the restart, getting him out front. There were moves made as they came back around, but it was not enough as Ryan was able to come across with the first Duel win.

“That was awesome!” Lindsay lets out as she shares a high-five with Sarina.

“Girl, you need to get to victory lane!” Sarina instructs as they begin to make their way down off of the pit box.

“Are you sure about that?” Sarina immediately nods her head. “I mean, Ryan hasn’t told anyone that we’re together at all, and I don’t even know what to call us. Are you sure he’d want me there? I mean, I don’t even know what to do! Maybe I should jus-”

“Take her to victory lane, Sarina!” Chase instructs, knowing that Ryan would love having Lindsay there with him. He then wraps an arm around Sarina, pulling her close. “I love you, and don’t worry – I’ll be careful.”

“You better.” She then kisses his lips as the pair separate with Chase heading up pit road as the girls ran off to victory lane together.

Sarina carefully snuck Lindsay in, keeping her in the back corner as Ryan did his assortment of interviews. As soon as the final one was done, Sarina gave her a push forwards towards Ryan, standing back and smiling as Lindsay took the bait.

“Congratulations,” Lindsay says simply as Ryan looks over, smiling cheek to cheek.

“How was that show?” He questions as he pulls her close.

“That was great, beyond amazing. I just wasn’t sure if I should be here.” Ryan then looks at her shocked.

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else – well, except my team. But they don’t get one of these…” Ryan then kisses her lips as the flashbulbs go off behind them immediately. “Thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for inviting me, and thank Sarina and Chase for convincing me to come to victory lane…” Ryan looks over to where Sarina had remained hidden, giving her a wave, before focusing his eyes back on Lindsay.

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

Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 2 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina climbs the usual steps, taking her seat as she glances between the boys, flashing a trademark smile. It then immediately fades as she looks down, crossing her fingers together, closing her eyes, just hopeful that everything went smooth as possible.

“Hey, are you okay?” Alan questions as he glances back at her. She simply nods her head back in response. “You don’t need to be nervous.”

“It’s Daytona,” she tells him. “Whether you like it or not, I’m always nervous at Daytona because anything and everything can happen. Given this morning, you could say I may be on a little edge..” Alan nods sympathically as he reaches back for her hand, giving it a squeeze.

“You know I wouldn’t give your boy a bad car to work with, so you know he’ll be fine that way. But, I do understand that worry. Just try and focus on the good and remember that if he feels confident that he’s okay, the-”

“Everything will work out as planned.” She then takes a deep breath. “I keep reminding myself of that, Alan. Thank you.” He simply smiles as he lets her hand go, focusing back on his job at hand.

The race started off smoothly as Chase put himself in position at the front of the field. That didn’t allow Sarina to relax, though, as she felt every bit of heart-pumping action eating at her core. She almost let out the first yell of the evening in watching Erik’s slide Chase’s bumper, getting him loose with Jones going around for a spin.

“Did he touch you?” Alan questions on the radio as Sarina works at calming herself back down with a couple deep breathes, glad that they’re still in one piece.

“No, he was sideways the whole frigging time,” Chase answers, knowing his bumper had not made any contact with Jones to trigger the incident.

Alan brought him down pit road, choosing to go with fuel only, before sending him back out. of course, the jubilation was shortly lived as they were penalized for the crew going over the wall too soon. Knowing they were restarting at the back, Alan called him back down to put four tires on it.

If Sarina felt her heart was going to come out of her chest before, then she couldn’t describe her current stage of emotions as she felt even more freaked out in watching Chase dice his way up through the pack, using whatever lane would move. Remarkably, whether due to tires or just a strong car, she watched him move back up into the runner-up spot at Lap 25, just seven laps after the incident.

She felt like she was going to jump out of her seat two laps later when he pulled underneath Denny, sliding by him and back up for the lead.

“Oh my gosh….” She lets out, trying to keep herself calm as possible, despite the drastic blocking before her. It was nice to see Chase in the lead, but she knew that this was just beginning now.

Her nerves got her break through the middle portion of the event as once again, they ran single file like they had done the previous Duel. However, as the laps counted down – 10 to go, eight to go, six to go – her heart began to pound harder and harder, knowing that everybody was planning their move. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, she hoped Chase could pull the bocks necessary.

With two laps to go, the move came as Kevin Harvick broke out of line, set to make a run. However, at the same time, the lines broke apart behind him, slowing the lanes, with Chase making the moves necessary.

“Come on babes….” She says quietly as they come to the white flag.

Eddie D’Hondt perfected his job on the radio, giving him the necessary information, as she watched him hold the gap perfectly, leading the field back around for the win. Immediately, high-fives and hugs filled the pit box as everybody joined in complete excitement for the victory.

“Was that worth the nerves?” Alan questions as he gives her a hug.

“I’ll handle it any day if that’s the reward,” she answers.

It wasn’t long before the whole team was in victory lane, fists pumped in the air with pride for the win. After standing up on top for photos, Chase hops down, immediately wrapping his arms around Sarina and giving her a kiss, before going through his post-race interviews.

That was followed by photos on stage, which culminated with Chase and Sarina taking one of their own together.

“You were absolutely amazing out there,” she starts as she glances into his eyes. “I mean, for the man that says he has to practice and get better at plate racing, that was beyond spectacular. I say you, Ryan, Ricky, Brad, Joey, Denny and Kevin are the only ones that can make moves like that. I can’t wait until Sunday!” Chase leans in for another kiss.

“Alan built one great hot rod,” Chase states, before the pair take a photo together. They then look back over, as she rubs his side.

“Tell me the truth, please…” He takes a deep breath, squinting a touch as he lets it out.

“It’s tender, a little sore – but I’m fine. It’s nothing that I haven’t handled before, and it’s actually not as bad as last year.” She nods her head, accepting, before leaning her head against him. He immediately wraps his arms around her, just holding her. “I know I scared you this morning. Trust me, nobody knows that more than me. I’ve stated my fears of Allison before, but I can tell you right now that what she’s done has upped the game big time. I can’t stop looking over my shoulder, can’t stop wondering, can’t stop thinking, trying to figure what she’ll do next. So I get it, Sarina, and it’s okay to be afraid…”

“I’m not afraid, Chase.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “I know how strong you are because of what you’ve done for me, whether being there, or dealing with my brother’s crap. I know the type of character you are. I know that no matter what she throws your way, you’re going to be okay because you’re stronger than I can put into words. Right now, though, I am thankful…” She then gives him another kiss.

“Me too.”  He then lets out a sigh as he rests his head on top of hers, thinking things through. He wanted to stand tall and believe in those words that she was saying, but how could he do that when his world was constantly flipped upside down? The little fear that he had told Kyle, Ricky and his dad in the past about – that had grown to the point that he didn’t know if he could keep it under control.

“You’re still here?!?” They hear, glancing down to see Ryan and Lindsay standing there together. it was clearly obvious that the pair had gotten changed, and Lindsay’s hair being messed up a little had a smirk on Sarina’s face immediately.

“I’m about to head to the media center for post-race intervie-” Chase starts, knowing that he couldn’t stay there forever in her arms, despite not wanting to move a single inch.

“Not yet!” Ryan and Lindsay then come up and join them on stage with a smile of their own.

“Group photo!” The girls let out together as they both wrap their arms around the guys.

“Dude, you’re wearing one of my shirts?” Chase questions as he looks over at Ryan, seeing the shirt that he had changed into.

“I’m your number one fan now!” Ryan lets out as he wraps his arms around him, causing a series of laughs.

Thursday, February 15 –Daytona International Speedway

With everything in the books for the day, everybody had met back together in Ryan’s motorcoach for some fun and they were joined by Darrell Wallace Jr., as well. Being the good friend, Wallace had brought both boys a beer to toast their wins.

“If you need more ice, don’t hesitate to ask,” Ryan offers as he hands Chase a bag, getting a simple nod in return. Whether Chase wanted to admit it or not, Ryan knew that he was probably feeling a bit of pain in his ribs and didn’t want to leave his friend hanging.

“How are you feeling, though?” Chase questions, catching Ryan’s attention. It was nice to see the concern go one way, but really, it was more warranted the other way. In Chase’s mind, Ryan never should’ve gotten stuck in the middle of this.

“I’m sore in spots where I’m blue or purple, but I’m fine. Nothing a win can’t cure.” Chase chuckles as he watches Ryan get comfortable across from him.

“So I heard back from the investigator, by the way. She says that the paperwork I received detailing everything – Allison was able to get access through Chris’ lawyer as he would’ve had it. They’re currently looking to track down that lawyer and get him to fess up and talk. They’ve also put a search out for Allison. Now, how is she getting the access to these places? Nobody knows…” Ryan nods his head, accepting. He glances over, seeing both girls joking with Bubba as they played a round of Mario Kart, before looking back at Chase.

“What’s your reaction?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances down for a second, before back over at Ryan.

“I don’t kno-”

“You have to have some reaction, Chase.” Chase takes a deep breath.

“I just hate that you’re involved, okay? I hate that you were there with me today and had to go through this. I hate that once again, a friend of mine has gotten hurt because of this. You went through enough last year with Chris drugging you; you didn’t need to go throu-”

“I wouldn’t change a thing, though.” Chase then looks over at him confused and puzzled.

“Are you serious right now?” Ryan nods his head.

“If I’m not there, you’re going through this alone. I would never want to have someone in a position to wake up on a beach after crashing a plane alone. Besides, what if things had been worse? What if you seriously needed someone to help you? I would’ve wanted to be there, Chase.” Chase almost wanted to smile in Ryan’s reaction.

“That means a lot coming from you. Thank you.” Ryan smiles back in return as he glances over at the other three.

“We’re always going to be friends and we’re always going to be there for each other, right?” He then turns back to Chase. “I’m here for you through this, thick and thin. Until she’s arrested and behind bars for her life, or dead, I’m going to be here by your side whether you are willing to accept that or not. And Chase, it’s okay to worry, or be afraid, or wond-”

“I kno-”

“Just don’t keep it bottled up, or it’ll drive you insane, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“Can you boys please come kick their girl’s asses?” Darrell breaks up their discussion. “I’m getting my ass handed to me here!” They both laugh as they glance at each other, before joining them to take a crack at it.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 110: Slowly Healing

Sunday, July 2

From the initial time he opened his eyes on Sunday, from the sight of the sunrise out of the hospital window, through the morning and afternoon, it was a repetitive cycle. He’d roughly wake up, say a couple words, comment on the pain with the doctors giving him what they felt was necessary, followed by more sleep.

He felt weaker than he could even describe and he knew his body was fighting against whatever he drank that day in the trailer. With that, the sleep was very welcome as he knew he had to take care of himself.

He found himself wanting to request Sarina in a couple instances when he woke up, but he stayed away from the topic for now. He knew that request would come with resistance and an argument, something that wasn’t worth having based on how he was feeling. He just hoped that the time apart wouldn’t kill their chances at a future as he still believed in them, despite what happened.

As the sun began to sat on Sunday, he finally found some more energy to stay awake longer, entertaining some light conversation with the occupants of the room. He spoke roughly of how he was feeling, while getting caught up on some things that he missed. Ryan left out that he was texting Sarina for the time being, knowing that Cindy would freak and wanting to avoid that.

“Alan….,” he comments the crew chief’s name aloud as they sit there. “Is Alan and Greg here? Or did they fly back to North Carolina yet?”

“The crew guys refused to leave till they knew for certain that you’d be okay,” Ryan starts. “They’re staying at the local hotel, and have been spending the days down the hall in the waiting room. That’s where Darrell keeps going down every couple hours.” Bill remembers when he took the walk down there, suggesting to them that they fly back and they’d get Chase to face time when he was up to it. However, the entire team shook their heads no as they wanted to make sure their driver was okay.

“Dude, none of us leaving till you’re okay to leave,” Darrell adds. Chase hated to mess up everybody’s schedules, but appreciated their support. Though he knew he owed Alan and Greg a visit now, too.

“Mom, Dad, you guys have been sitting here constantly all day and now night,” he starts. “Why don’t you go get something to eat? Darrell and Ryan can go with you and get something, too. I feel up to seeing the team for a bit. Send Alan and Greg first….” The boys accept easily, though reluctantly could be seen on the parent’s faces.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Cindy questions and Chase shakes his head yes as he looks over at her.

“You need to take care of yourself, too,” he answers as he lays his head back against the pillow.

“Come on….” Darrell stands up first, beginning the effort of leading them both out of the room. Bill goes next, followed by Cindy as Ryan watches closely. He sees them exit the room, giving Darrell a quick nod before focusing his eyes on Chase.

“Sarina came to check on you but your mo-” He starts as soon as they left the room.

“I heard everything,” Chase cuts him off, remembering the argument clearly as Ryan looks on shocked.

“I’ve been texting her updates ever since so she knows how you’re doing because she’s worried. I just felt it was best to listen to Cindy’s request for now.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Thank you. Please keep doing that…”

“Anything you want me to tell her, specifically?” Chase debated giving her a message aimed towards his hope for the future, but didn’t want her to take that as a welcome to show up just yet. So he shook his head no. “Alright. I’ll go get Alan and Greg for you.” Ryan then leaves the room, heading to where the crew continued to sit.

Chase glanced around the room, letting out a sigh. It was odd to be by himself for the first time since everything happened.

He glances up at the monitor, seeing all the numbers that flashed across the screen. He could only hope that those numbers meant something good, and he was continuing to get better. His eyes then glanced down at his arm, seeing where the IV was, followed by a shudder. He wished he didn’t have to deal with that, but he couldn’t deny that whatever they were giving him was working.

Laying his head back against the pillow, he lets out a sigh. He knew he was thankful. Thankful that it wasn’t more serious.  Thankful that he was awake and feeling decent, considering. Thankful that Alan had found him when he did. Thankful that he could see the future, and strength was coming back.

“One day at a time,” he reminds himself, knowing that he couldn’t rush it. The thought of missing Kentucky pained him as he was looking forward to racing there, being one of the more fun ovals on the schedule. It was his goal to be healed by then. However, pushing to be ready and not fully letting his body do what it needed wouldn’t help him. Besides, he was meant to be thankful.

He hears the door open and immediately smiles, watching the two crew members smile in response. He could see the worry written all over Alan’s face, obviously struggling with everything in being the one to see how bad it was. He knew how close they had grown already in a year and a half, and wouldn’t expect anything else.

“Gosh, this is a sight that I’m glad to be seeing,” Alan comments as he walks over to the bed. He immediately goes in for a hug, which Chase easily accepts, knowing how frantic everything was in the hauler that night.

“You don’t look too bad,” Greg comments as he remains at the bottom of the bed, eyes focused on the young man.

“All the hard ass training that you put me through is certainly helping in trying to fight this off,” he replies as Greg smiles. He had no doubt that everything would be fine based on how strong Chase was.

“So, how are you feeling?” Alan questions as Chase looks back towards the crew chief.

“Still a little sore and still somewhat sick, but a lot better than I was. It’s coming, slowly….” Alan shakes his head, accepting. That’s all that mattered to him.

“That’s good. I’m glad, really. You scared me….” Alan didn’t mean to come straight out and admit it, but there was no denying what he felt.

“It scared the crap out of me, too. It’s the worst I’ve probably ever felt.” Alan could understand that after what he saw.

“Well then make sure you take your time, focus on healing, and let your body do what it needs to do,” Greg advises and Chase knew that for certain.

“Trust me – I’m not going far the next couple of days,” he tells them. “I know how hard everything is fighting. I can feel the weakness at times. I’ve been letting myself sleep as I need it. But, I had to see you guys. I mean, I had to say thank you. Thank you for being there, and doing what needed to be done.”

“We love ya, kid,” Alan says. “I would do it all over in a heartbeat. Just promise me that we’re going to damn well win a race finally.” Chase laughs and rolls his eyes. It was certainly getting frustrated not having broken through for their first Cup Series win yet.

“I promise that I’m going to try as hard as I can do that just for you.” He then lets out a yawn, laying his head back against the pillow. He knew he should give in and accept the sleep, but he didn’t want to yet. He had slept most of the day away already, and there were a bunch of guys who deserved some time. “Greg, can you go get the guys? I want to say hi before I go back to sleep.” Greg easily accepts as he leaves the room.

“Greg kept telling me that you were going to be okay. I wanted to believe him so easily, but man, I was worried. I didn’t know what to think with how much pain you were in….” Chase looks over at Alan.

“Trust me, that’s the worst pain that I’ve ever felt. It felt like my guts were being ripped out of me. It was torture.” He then looks at the crew chief in the eyes as he places a hand on his shoulder. “But I’m going to be okay, and we’re going to fulfill that promise.”

“I have no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.” The door then cracks open, followed by a series of crew members making their way in. “Get ready for craziness….”

“I’m used to these guys.” Chase then glances over at the guys, with a quick wave.

“Easy boys. Let’s make this short and sweet as someone needs his beauty sleep.”

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

Sarina sits on the beach, reading the latest text message from Ryan, letting out a slight smile. It wasn’t much of an update, but it was something.

Ryan had simply told her that Chase knew about her being delivered updates, and the fact that he was doing better more and more throughout the day. He also told her that they were going to try and get him up on Monday, followed by some quick tests, to make sure things were panning out right.

She could only hope those tests and everything continued to go smoothly, followed by some interaction to follow with him. It was nice to see he was okay with the updates as that represented hope, but didn’t mean the same as being able to see him.

“We’re flying out soon,” she hears behind her, glancing to see Kyle standing there.

“I’m not going home yet,” she tells him as he lets out a sigh. “I’m not going home till I get a chance to see Chase.” Kyle knew he had to tread lightly as he took a couple more steps, before sitting beside her.

“What makes you certain that’s going to happen?” She then hands over her phone, letting him see the latest update from Ryan. “Okay….”

“He is okay with me receiving updates. That means that there’s something still there in the mark of feelings. If I’m patient, like he was with me before, I feel that we can do this together.” Kyle wanted to believe her words, though also feared worse as he could see everything changing based on the last string of events. Trust was a big deal with Chase, and she hadn’t trusted his judgment on Chris, or took it seriously, and now was in the hospital. What if that laid on his mind?

“And what if that doesn’t happen? I know things are crazy right now with your brother’s arrest and this, but there’s responsibilities for this weekend….” She knew that she had to be at the shop at least one day before the upcoming race.

“I was going to come by on Tuesday before we all headed out to Kentucky together. I need another day down here, not just because of Kyle, but because of my brother. I need to go check in to see where they are on things. I want to see him locked up and pay for what happened as he blew his second chance totally, and I need to make sure that’s right on course for happening.” Kyle easily accepted that. He didn’t want to see Chris ever again, either.

“That’s fine.” He then glances out to the water, before looking back at her. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I know how Kurt and I argue at times, and sure he’s done some stupid shit over the years, too. But I can’t imagine having something happen like what you’re going through. But I want you to know that I have your back, this changes nothing about our agreement, and you can always come see me for advice.” She looks over, with a slight smile.

“Thank you, Kyle.” He then gives her a pat on the shoulder before standing up.

“And Sarina, for what it’s worth, I hope you’re right about your future with Chase. I’ll see you later.”

She then gives him a quick wave before he heads off. She then lets out a sigh as she looks out to the water once again, letting every thought of her life flow through her mind. It didn’t matter what she did, she always found herself in some predicament.

“When am I getting my happily ever after, daddy? You always said I was your little princess and everything would come together. I wanna know when. I can’t keep doing this…”

She then wipes the tear off of her face as she continues to stare outwards, almost blankly.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 109: “Chase?”

Sunday, July 2 – 4:30 AM

Where was he? Why was it so dark? Why couldn’t he open his eyes? Was he trapped somewhere? Did the help that was supposed to arrive not come? Why did he feel like something was pushed down on him? Why was it so hard to open his eyes?

Why did he have all these questions?

He could feel pain throughout his body, sometimes feeling like he was on fire in parts. It wasn’t as bad as earlier, but he would’ve preferred someone just to tear the guts out of his stomach if they wanted to hurt and burn this badly.

He then could hear beeping – realizing the machines that were probably around him. Maybe he was in a hospital – or maybe he was being monitored for torture purchases. What if he was now the toy of Chris’ sick imagination?

“Cindy, I care about your son….” He recognized that voice. He knew he had heard that voice throughout his days and nights. It was a voice that he had grown to love, and wanted to hear for the rest of his life. It was a voice he had been missing throughout the past day.

“If you would’ve done something, we never would’ve been here. Did you ever think about that?” He also recognized that voice, as well. He heard that voice throughout his entire life to this date, and it had helped in growing….

“Mom?” He tries to speak, though can’t find the ability to do so. It had to do with what was pushing against his face and down his throat. Maybe this is what it felt like to have a tube down your throat as they described.

He still couldn’t see any lights nor find the energy against the pain he was in to open his eyes, but he was able to put together both of the voices.

His mother and Sarina.

Why should it surprise him that those are the first two voices that he hears upon waking up?

“I’ve thought about that constantly since hearing the news,” he hears. “I realize it and it’s the biggest regret ever. I don’t know how to ever be fully forgiven or made up for it. I don’t know if there’s any coming bac-” He could hear the pleading, the emotions in her voice. He knew she didn’t mean it; he understood her approach. Hence why he was waiting for her…he thought…or perhaps he wasn’t. But for some reason, he could remember sitting somewhere waiting for her before being engulfed in pain.

“There isn’t,” he hears in response. “Listen sweetheart, you’re done. I’ve been respectful and held back enough to let you stray and have fun. But that stops now. I can’t handle this and you can’t keep doing this to Chase. It’s unfair of you to take advantage of his sweetness, forgiveness. So why don’t you turn on your heels and march your ass out of this room?” He didn’t want Sarina to leave. He wanted to hug her, tell her he missed her, tell her that they’d be okay, and go back to what they had. He missed the fun times already with her. He felt the stung tears from their fight earlier that morning. He had to wake up and get back to her, and tell his mother otherwise. Why was it so hard to open his eyes?

“Cindy….” He hears a male voice, recognizing it right away.

“He still cares about me and I care about him,” Sarina starts. “None of this changes that. We agreed to that in sticking together no matter what happened with Chri-” Why did it feel like his arms weighed 500 pounds? Why couldn’t he just pick one up, reach out for her, and pull her as close as possible?

“That was before your brother tried to kill him!” Cindy yells. “Now get out!” He tried to yell no, initially forgetting the tube was there. Though a slight cough to himself and he instantly stopped. That was more pain than he knew he could handle. He had to find another approach and right away.

“He would want me to be here, so I have a right to be here.” He wanted her there. He wanted to cuddle her. He wanted to hug her. He wanted to assure her that he understood her position, and what happened. He wanted to assure her that they could build towards the future they wanted. He wanted to go back to goofing around in the stands like they were before the XFINITY race got rained out.

“Bill and I in charge of the situation in being the parents, so what I say goes. Get out of here before I call security!” He had wake up before she left. He had to wake up somehow….

“Come on….” He hears Ryan’s voice, feeling as though he should give up at the same time. Maybe some more sleep and relaxation would make this whole waking up idea that much easier. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to face the world. At least his best friend had his back.

“I don’t want to see her ever again….” He hears his mother’s voice, and perhaps saving his energy would be worth it so he could deal with the arguments to come in the days ahead.

“Just take a deep breath, relax, and focus on what’s important,” Bill comments. Hearing the concern his dad’s voice hit a nerve as he hadn’t ever heard worry in his father  before. Normally, his mother was full of worry while his father held down the fort. To hear the worry hit a nerve and he knew this was a serious straw…

He takes a mental deep breath, knowing that he had to find some way to wake up. As he sends the signal through himself, his eyes flicker open, though closing back shut as soon as the lights hit them. His fingers then twitch, as he tries to find the ability to fight against the white light and open the eyes.

“Guys….” Darrell comments. Obviously his efforts were paying off.

“He’s waking up,” Sarina starts and he knew he had to wake up before she left for good. He had to see her….

He forces his eyes open, immediately trying to turn his head towards the door and see her, though there was no sight. So much for the efforts….

“Chase?” Cindy questions as he feels a tight grip on his hand. He tried to channel that grip as he forced himself to open his eyes, staring at the ceiling, adjusting to light as he tried to keep himself calm. He was going to be okay. He just needed to work through this and then get his girl later….

“Easy kid….” He hears his father’s voice as he fully wakes up, the pain engulfing him at the same time as he struggles a little against it. He could feel the need to let a cuss word escape his mouth, wanting to let out the anger in what happened, in Sarina being kicked out, and the pain all together. “Hey now, no talking. There’s a tube there, bud….” He wished he could rip the tube out as it was getting annoying.

“You’re awake….” He looks over at her mother, giving her an assurance glance, before doing the same for his father. He then returns the grip to her hand. If he couldn’t have his girl, then his parents were the next best of thing as he knew there was no way he wanted to be alone right now. “You’re going to be okay….” He wanted to relax and give assurance, but the pain continued to grow as he moved his hand to stomach, feeling as though if he rubbed lightly it’d disappear.

“Pain?” He shakes his head yes as much as he could with the tube there, clinching his eyes together. He couldn’t do this again. there was no way he could let himself suffer through the amount of pain that he experienced earlier that night in the hauler.

“I got the doctor,” Darrell announces as Chase hears a furry of footsteps, followed by a big white light shined in his eyes. He immediately closes them, feeling blinded.

“Good reaction time,” the doctor comments. “And your vitals look strong. That’s a good sign.” He was glad that was good, but his focus was solely on the pain. “Any twitching since he’s woken up?” The group in the room shakes their heads no. “That’s good. Any pain Chase?” Chase shakes his head yes, pointing to his stomach, as he tries to relax in the bed. “Chest pain?” He shakes his head no.

His eyes follow the doctor as he walks over, changing IV bags and such, and he could only hope that something to take away the pain was among those.

“Another round of antidotes, half dosage of the anti-epileptic as we may not be out of the woods yet, and morphine to help the pain,” the doctor states, in which the nurse behind him records it down on the chart. Chase just keeps his eyes on the doctor, watching as the doctor looks back towards him. “Since you have no chest pain, we can try and get rid of that nagging tube…” He shakes his head yes.

“Are you sure it’s not too early?” Cindy questions, feeling a bit of nervousness in seeing how much pain Chase was experiencing based on his behavior.

“If it is, we can always re-insert, but I believe he is ready for this step.” The doctor then looks straight at Chase. “I want you to take a deep breath, as deep as you can manage, and hold it.” Chase does as instructed, followed by feeling a scratching sensation along his throat as he watches the tube come up.  He then immediately breaks into a coughing fit as he tries to find his compose. “Easy, deep breath and let the coughs out. It’s part of the process…” He does as instructed, trying to ignore the pain in his stomach to focus.

“Fuck….” He lets out in the midst of the pain as the doctor gives him a stern glance. “Sorry….”

“It’s okay,” the doctor replies. “I want you to limit your amount of talking, focus on your breathing, and try to get some more rest. Your body is doing a good job fighting it, but don’t fight against it.” He shakes his head, accepting.

While it was nice to be awake and see the wonderful faces, he had to admit that sleep felt like a good idea right now.

“You’re okay,” Bill rubs his arm as Chase gets back comfy under the blankets, eyes slowly drifting closed. He tried to fight against it, wanting to say a couple things, but his body was tired beyond anything he could imagine.

“Sarina…” He whispers as he closes his eyes, falling back asleep about a half hour later.

Ryan stands in the doorway, eyes focused on his best friend, glancing down at his phone. He heard the whisper and a glance towards Darrell and he knew the text that should be sent. Perhaps things were going to work out.

Though Ryan stopped himself from sending it, knowing that he wouldn’t fully let her to come till he was awake and the request was made consciously so Cindy couldn’t argue against it this time.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 107: The Waiting Game

Saturday, July 1

Alan walks into the waiting room with the team in toe. He stops as he sees Bill and Cindy there, taking a glance back at the team with a nod, before continuing to move forward.

The team recognizes the gesture immediately, each taking a respective seat as they give Alan and the parents their distance. They were each worried about their driver, but knew the worry of a parent went further than that. They weren’t about to breach the rules of respect.

“Hey,” Alan says quietly, catching their attention. “Any update?” Bill shakes his head no as he rubs Cindy’s shoulders, who sat in the chair by him.

“They said they brought him in and took him to a room, and for us to wait here for when they had something to say,” Bill replies as Alan could only shake his head. Typically a motion like that meant it was severe.

“I’m sure they’ll have something to tell you soon. I can tell you that we caught it relatively quickly, so that’s always a good thing. Greg mentioned that he was pretty sure he’d be okay.” Bill shakes his head, accepting, but knew he nor Cindy would be relaxed till they saw that for themselves.

“How’d it happen? i mean, I thought Chris was the cause and he was arrested today.” Alan hated to bring up the explanation, and knew once thought about, Chase would probably kick himself in the ass for drinking the bottle.

“Chase normally brings a drink with him outta the motorcoach and sticks it in the trailer fridge till he wants it. The bottle he grabbed was something that he brought out Friday.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief, knowing what that meant.

“So is there enough evidence to keep Chris locked up this time?” Cindy questions, having growing frustrated with him and wanting to give Chris a piece of her own mind. The timing also couldn’t have come any worse, either, given that she had just started to warm up to Sarina some.

“I don’t know,” Alan comments. “Chase was waiting to hear from Sarina on some sor-”

“He still has a thing for her?” Alan stops immediately, having grown used to Cindy’s complaints. In his mind, he wished that she could separate the thoughts of Chris and Sarina from each other.

“Yeah, he does. He was hanging in the lounge, putting off leaving, in hopes of some message in return.” Cindy could only roll her eyes, but wasn’t about to worry about that right now. There were bigger fish to fry, anyway. “Listen, if you guys need anything, we’re all here for you. We’ll give you the space you need, but the second you need something just ask. We care about him and believe me – he’s going to be okay.”

“Thanks Alan,” Bill says as he gives the crew chief a quick hug before Alan heads over to where the team was sitting, taking a seat of his own.

It felt like forever as they sat there waiting for an update of any kind from the doctors in how Chase was doing. They watched as a female entered the room about 15 minutes later, but with no update in hand. Instead, she held a clipboard that she requested be filled out with the necessary information.

Given the emotions of the parents, Greg Morin took the board and sat down, filling out each question step-by-step. With being the team’s pit crew coach, he had gotten to know everybody’s health strengths and weaknesses so he could help them become better through training. It also didn’t hurt that he was keen on keeping files on hand, committed to giving the boys the best care possible should the worst situation happen.

The room then stirred when they saw the door open, with Ryan Blaney entering with Darrell, Erin and Emma in toe.

“You didn’t need to come,” Alan states as he looks towards the young driver. “You should be resting…”

“He stayed all Friday night for me, Alan,” Ryan comments as he takes a seat beside the crew chief. “I owe it back to him to do the same. Besides, I’m worried and I couldn’t relax no matter how hard I tried. You can ask the girls.” Alan shook his head, understanding, knowing how close Ryan and Chase were as friends.

“Why hasn’t there been an update yet?” Josh Kirk ponders as Greg glances up from his chosen position.

“Because they’re focused on giving him the best care that they can and reason that us worrying a little longer is okay as long as he turns out fine,” Greg comments, having gotten used to protocol through the years. “Just relax. He’ll be fine…” Josh hoped those words were the truth as he could only wonder as to what was going on behind the closed doors down the hall.

“I hate waiting….” Alan lets out as he flips his phone in his hands, having been using it constantly with being put in charge of updates. Dale, Jimmie, Rick and a few others all had requested that they be updated as soon as news surfaced on how Chase was doing. Every once and awhile, the phone would go off with one of them, or someone new, asking if there was any news. Alan continued to send out the usual greeting of nothing yet.

“I wouldn’t tell you that he’d be fine if I didn’t believe it,” Greg assures the crew chief as Alan glances over, shaking his head understanding. He trusted Greg’s judgment, but it was one of those the worry wouldn’t be cured till the words were spoken and he saw it for himself.

The room then goes quiet for the next half hour, followed by them watching closely as the doors open once again with a doctor making his way in, holding a clipboard in his hand. Greg gave a nod to Alan, knowing that an update was right there before them – finally.

“Is every one of you here for Mr. Elliott?” The doctor questions and they shake their heads yes. “Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, do you mind if they hear the update that I am about to give?” Bill shakes his head no, as he knew the news would get back to the team immediately anyway.

“They’re like family to Chase – they deserve to know,” Bill reasons as he continues his duty of rubbing Cindy’s shoulders, trying to keep her calm.

“To start off, my name is Dr. Blakely Hanken, and I am in charge of the poison control for the Daytona area, but better known as a toxicology expert. If you have any questions as to the job, I’m sure Mr. Blaney can help you out. By the way, are you feeling better?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“It’s subsiding more and more,” Ryan comments. “I just wish I wasn’t back here once again.” The doctor shakes his head, understandly.

“I didn’t want to see you on these conditions, either,” Dr Hanken replies, before looking back to Bill and Cindy. “Well I’m not supposed to tell you for certain yet or not due to possible complications and such, I can assure you that I’m more than certain your son will be okay.” Cindy felt her nerves twitch on the thought of complications, but tried to stick with believing the words that the doctor was telling her about being okay.

“Can we go see him, please?” Cindy asks, almost begging. She knew seeing him would be the quickest way to ease worries.

“I would like to explain how he is doing first, and then most certainly you may.” Cindy lets out a sigh of relief, glad that she was going to get her wish. She just hoped it came as quick as possible. “We did confirm that there was poison in the drink through testing, and the same type as Mr. Blaney had digested on Friday. However, Mr. Elliott’s symptoms were stronger as a result of a stronger stream being used.” Bill felt his anger boiling, knew that it had been the perfect set-up by Chris in knowing Chase’s common theme of behavior.

“Not surprised, to be honest,” Greg whispers to Alan as they listen in. “It had to be a pretty strong dosage for him to be like he was.” Alan shakes his head, in agreement, though wishes they could just get to the bottom of how Chase was doing.

“We immediately started him on two antidotes, counter-acting the effects immediately to try and ease the symptoms, as well as any other damage that could occur. We also gave him a dosage of an anti-epileptic medicine as a result of the twitching that he was going through. So far, the treatment is working as we’ve seen his heart rate steady out. However, it will take some time to fully work.” Greg knew the process, having seen it previously. He was glad that everything was stabilizing, though, as that meant that things were turning out alright.

“What do you mean by possible ‘other damage’?” Bill questions, now feeling the same worry that Cindy had in the word ‘complications’.

“Brain damage and muscle damage are among the two biggest things to watch for,” Dr. Hanken answers. “With any poisoning, it’s a risk of happening. Thankfully, Mr. Blaney had a low dosage and a quick action against it that he had nothing. With Mr. Elliott, the risk is a little higher based on the higher concentrate of the stream and bigger dosage. We believe that we caught it quick enough to prevent that, but we won’t know until we get into the full healing process.” Bill knew that meant they were going to be in a waiting game, and knew the patience for both him – but especially Cindy – would wear thin through the progress.

“And how long till we know for sure?” Dr. Hanken knew there was no answer to that question just yet.

“That varies depending on how he accepts the treatment and how his body heals. We’ll just have to wait and see. I wish I could snap my fingers and have an answer, but it doesn’t work like that. Now with the dosage, we did give him a sedative because he was quite agitated by the pain and motions it was putting him through. As a result, he is sleeping right now but should be waking up in the next two to four hours. Once he wakes up, we can begin to take steps towards finding everything out that you’re asking me about.” Bill shakes his head, understanding. He could only hope they were calm through it all.

“Can we go see him while he sleeps, though?” Cindy questions and Dr. Hanken shakes his head yes.

“I’m going to also warn you before you go in that he is on a ventilator right now,” Dr. Hanken adds, causing a shocked expression from both the parents. “With the fact that he was experiencing chest pain and stating it was difficult to breathe at times, we did that for precautionary reasons. Once he shows signs that the treatment is working and everything is returning to normal, we can remove and go from there.” Bill continues rubbing Cindy’s shoulders as she just shakes her head in disbelief. “For right now, let’s try and keep the visitor number at around four at a time maximum, please.”

“Bill and Cindy, you guys go ahead,” Alan instructs. “Ryan and Bubba, you guys can go to. We’ll hang back here and then once we wakes up, we can take turns. He needs you guys…”

“Okay,” Bill simply replies as he and Cindy stand up together.

“I’ll come out with an update here and there,” Darrell adds as he and Ryan go to follow the parents.

With each step, Cindy took a deep breath, reminding herself of the words that he’d be okay, everything was starting to work step-by-step, and the ventilator was for precautionary reasons. Though while her brain kept repeating it, her heart felt like it had sank as she thought the words over, and glanced in the room at him.

“Remember – he’s going to be okay,” Bill whispers, rubbing her shoulder once again as they walk into the room together, followed by Ryan and Darrell. Bill knew he had to be the strong one, despite feeling a need to crave to the same worries, having already seen how Cindy had reacted. He leads her to the chair by his bed, helping her sit down. “Remember that…”

“I just can’t believe this,” she says quietly as she wraps her fingers around his hand, bending down and kissing it. “I just can’t….”