Moving Forward – Chapter 16: Post Labor

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February 2016 – Wednesday

After waiting awhile and giving them some privacy for a bit, Dale allowed the rest of the family to come in to meeting the new littlest member of the family.

“This is your little sister Elsa,” Dale tells Alyssa as she walks over to look at the baby in Dale’s arms.

“She was in there?” Alyssa asks, pointing to Marie’s stomach as Dale shakes his head yes. “She look too big that, Daddy.” Dale couldn’t help but laugh, as he thought how kids could say the craziest things. “Mommy belly shrink now?”

“Yes sweetheart,” Marie offers from her spot on the bed as she looks over at them, still feeling tired from giving birth. “What do you think of your sister?” Alyssa looks back over at the little girl in Dale’s arms as a big smile forms on her face.

“She cute!” Alyssa then leans against Dale as she continues to eye the newest addition to the family. “Can I hold her, daddy?” Dale smiles and shakes his head yes.

“I have to help you hold her though, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “We’ll get Aunt Kelley to hold her so you can get comfy on my lap, and then we can hold her together.” Dale then hands Elsa over to Kelley as Kelley looks at her with a smile.

“I think Alyssa described you perfectly, sweetie – you’re certainly cute,” Kelley comments. “You’re also the perfect combination of the pair, it seems.” She then watches as Alyssa gets comfortable on Dale’s lap, before carefully handing the baby over to them.

“I think it’s safe to say that I have the most adorable family,” Marie comments with a smile as she watches them. Kelley then snaps a photo on her phone, knowing that it’ll definitely be a moment to save forever.

“I being extra careful, mommy, unlike my dollies,” Alyssa shares as Marie laughs with a smile. They had told her when Marie was pregnant that she had be more careful holding baby Elsa than she treats her baby dollies when playing with them.

“I can see that. You’re being a good big sister.”

With the baby born, the parents began spreading word to family members first, followed by close friends. they figured that later that night they’d officially reveal to the world that the littlest edition had been added to complete their family circle.

In spreading the news to close friends, which included telling Greg Ives and Chase Elliott the news. Dale had chose to spread the news to close friends by sending them a photo of him and Marie together with both their daughters, as taken by Kelley.

“They certainly make an adorable family,” Elliott Sadler comments as he looks at the photo on Greg’s phone after practice. “Looks like I was right in saying that Dale would be able to get here by Thursday for the Duels.” Everybody shakes their head in agreement, as the team had to admit it’d be nice to have their driver there for the rest of the weekend.

“When is he flying out, and are they all coming?” Travis wonders from his perspective. In the end, it didn’t matter as to the specifics, but it didn’t hurt to have an idea.

“Dale texted me saying that he’s flying out Thursday morning,” Greg reveals. “Marie and Elsa are at the hospital over night. If they’re released by the morning than they’re coming. If not, they’ll fly out once they’re relea-”

“Elsa is going to make her first appearance at the track only a couple days old?” Elliott cuts him off, surprised by the dating of everything.

“That’s what they tell me. The doctor seems find with the baby flying out once she is released, and they want to keep the family together and close.” Greg glances down at his notes for a quick second, getting lost in his own thought. He knew the reason for doing this, beyond the simple facts laid out on paper. There was no doubt that the past year still played on everybody’s thoughts, and having everybody close would give comfort in the midst of that. Besides, Daytona wasn’t the most comfortable topic at times by itself anyway. “I’m not going to dive into specifics, Elliott, but he has his reaso-”

“You don’t need to say anymore.” Greg gives him a nod of approval. “Oh, and as far as Alyssa, she’s flying out on Thursday morning, as well. She’s enjoying spending time with her new sister, but she also can’t wait o get to the track and see her track friends.” Everybody knew those friends included not only those around her age, ranging from Leo to Lydia, but also included fellow drivers, like Chase and Ryan. “Speaking of which, Elliott, Dale was wondering if you’d watch her during the Duels while he’s racing. Chase had the honor last year, but obviously he has his hands full this year.”

“I wouldn’t mind at all.” Greg relays the message back to Dale via text.

It seemed that everything was falling into the place as the crew chief had planned it out prior to the weekend and beyond. Now it was just about getting everything to fall together once they hit the race track.

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Lost, Dazed & Confused – Chapter 4

Ryan lets out a sigh as he lays back in the bed, a couple days later, recalling the conversation with Devon. It certainly wasn’t a conversation that he had enjoyed having, nor wanted to continue to think about.

 

He thought they were truly moving forward beyond what happened. He thought that each day, things would get easier. But yet, here they were, sitting perplexed based on one simple small detail.

 

He knew throughout his life he had thought about having a family of his own. Mixed in with reaching his dreams in racing was finding a true love, and having a family to call his own, a little life to inspire like the children out there that he wasn’t even near close with. He had found that person, and even started to think about a future, ranging from the wedding to the family. Wouldn’t it be perfect to have two children, a girl and a boy, to call their own?

 

He remembered hearing the detail, though, that she wouldn’t be able to. He remembered the sadness that formed immediately. He remembered wanting to cry his eyes out to no end in that room with Elliott. He remembered the anger, feeling like he wanted to do something in return for what had happened.

 

However, he had started to move forward, becoming more and more open to adoption. What if they were able to help a child that lonely? What if they were able to help a child that was thrown to the side? It seemed more reasonable, and along the lines of things that he would do.

 

That was the line of thinking since the trail of events. However now following the discussion with Devon, he was back on the trail of thought.

 

He had put off the idea totally to her, out of fear more than anything. He didn’t want to chance losing her. He didn’t know what he’d do if he lost her. He wasn’t about to take a chance at that as he wanted things to remain the same.

 

Though in the same breath, he understood the optimism that she felt in wanting to explore the options. He also understood her reasoning, having the same thoughts himself. He wondered what could be if they followed through with any piece that she had shared. What if it was possible?

 

Letting out a sigh, he glances at the list of contacts in his phone, debating whether he should talk to someone, and to whom he should talk to. This wasn’t something that he wanted to discuss with everyone.

 

Though finally, he knew that he wasn’t going to get anywhere by just laying there so he hit the call button, holding no regrets. Elliott already knew the details of what had happened, having been there when the news was spread. It wouldn’t be as difficult.

 

“So now you don’t know what to do, right?” Elliott asks after Ryan is done telling him about the full discussion that he had with Devon.

 

“I’m conflicted on what to do,” Ryan answers as Elliott lets out a sigh.

 

“Scared of what could happen, but finding it hard to escape the thought? You’re worried about taking a chance, but you’re wanting to take a chance because you want that opportunity?” Those words by Elliott exactly described what Ryan was thinking, whether he was going to admit it or not. “Can I offer you a piece of advice?”

 

“That’s why I called you.”

 

“Devon is sort of stuck in a dilemma right now. She’s doing what she can, based on the situation that she’s in. As they say, you give what you give cause they make you trapped inside a place that won’t take you. She feels stuck right now, with no way out. She doesn’t know whether to accept it or try to do something about it. Been in those shoes before?” Ryan couldn’t help but agree with his teammate’s sentiments. It was starting to be put in perspective.

 

“Yeah, I can. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was told that I couldn’t race anymore. Rather than simply accepting it, I fought for a way to do it.” Elliott smiled at his end, knowing that he was starting to get through to him.

 

“Exactly, and look where you are now. Devon is in that same similar situation now, trying to find a way. She’s found options that could possibly work. Why are you to sit there and shut them down immediately?”

 

“I’m scar-”

 

“I understand, but with change and uncharted territories comes fear. Go and talk to your parents. I bet they were afraid when you went about what you did. Did they stop you?” Ryan lets out a sigh, knowing that he couldn’t deny it. “The rest of that saying that I just told you goes as follows – and they want you to be what they make you. It’s already over and done. That’s what you’re doing to Devon right now. You’re forcing her in a box. How do you think that makes her feel?”

 

“So I should just ignore my feelings?” Elliott knew that wouldn’t be fair, and wouldn’t make any progress. He wanted to find a balance, but also find comfort for everyone. He knew making him just listen to her wouldn’t be fair. He didn’t want Ryan to just suppress the emotions for sake of argument. But, he was finding some progress, whether in the intended fashion or not.

 

“No, but does that mean you should just ignore Devon’s feelings for your sake?” Ryan couldn’t help but let out another sigh. Why did Elliott always do this to him?

 

“So what the hell am I supposed to do?” Elliott couldn’t help but laugh at his end.

 

“Be open to the opportunity, check into it before making a simple judgment. She listened to what you had to say, now give her a chance. Give her a chance to change your mind, or perhaps answer the questions as to why it wouldn’t work. What harm would there be in seeing a specialist and talking about this with him?” Ryan knew that wouldn’t hurt anything, even if it meant entertaining the idea in Devon’s mind. He just hated that it felt like they were taking a step forward.

 

“I guess we could do that.”

 

“Guess?” Ryan then takes a deep breath.

 

“Okay, we should do that. I mean, what is the worse that could happen?”

 

Always By Your Side – Chapter 14: Ryan’s Plan

Despite the stresses of having to deal with everything that would occur with the trial and the continuing questions of why, Devon was able to get through the process of having to be on the stand and tell her story. There were tears, and even moments where she felt like she was going to puke. However, she got the whole story out, showcasing the type of man her father was.

 

It seemed to pay off in the long-run for her, as her father was found guilty in each of the charges laid his way. Given the length of his sentence, he’d be stuck in jail for the rest of his life – with no chance at parole. It seemed small considering what he had done to her and how it’d affect things moving forward in the future, but it was something. At least he couldn’t hurt her or anybody ever again.

 

With everything that was going on, it was understandable by Chad Norris, Jack Roush and the team with how Ryan had finished up the season with no top-10s in the final 10 races. Still, there were some strong runs with a couple of top-15s that gave Chad and the team hope going into 2016.

 

Despite not being as strong as they would’ve hoped to end off the year, Ryan still managed to finish 10th in points, which allowed the couple to go to the banquet together and celebrate the season. It was a memorable night filled with laughs with the team, along with laughs with the teammates. Devon knew there was no way that she could ever forget the memories formed with Ryan’s teammates, and knew that they’d continue to be friends moving forward, even if Elliott was off to JR Motorsports next season.

 

“You better keep in touch with us,” she had told him at the end of the night.

 

“You don’t have to bet against that,” he assured her with a hug. “I’m proud of you and Ryan for how you both handled everything. I know there are still going to be some tough days moving forward, but remember that you’re strong and can get through this. Also, feel free to phone me whenever.”

 

“Thank you…thank you…thank you so much.”

 

Following the banquet, the pair made the decision that they had to get away for awhile and returned back to Ryan’s childhood home with his parents in Bakersfield, California for Thanksgiving and some quality time.

 

After not having a family to spend the holidays with for the past several years, Devon found herself caught in the emotions of being able to have a special time with Ryan and his family. She got caught in telling stories, sharing laughs, and enjoying the quality time. Sure, things may be messed up with her family, but she knew that she had found a family with Ryan and that’s all that mattered. It was nice to finally feel accepted for who she was, and purely that alone.

 

Following Thanksgiving, Ryan told his parents that he wanted to do something special for Devon and sought their advice on how to go about doing it.

 

“I’m ready to propose, and I think I have a plan in mind, but am not totally certain whether it’ll work,” he had explained to his parents following dinner.

 

“Do you at least have the ring?” His mother questioned and he shook his head yes, pulling the small box out of his pocket to show his parent the ring. They immediately smiled in approval as they looked it over – it was simple, ruby red in color – perfect for the pair.

 

“So what is your idea, son?” His father asked as Ryan took a deep breath, thinking it over.

 

“I was thinking of taking her to the park…..” He started, detailing the thoughts that had filled his mind. As he explained his idea, his parents both looked on with a smile, as a couple tears filled his mother’s eyes.

 

“I can’t believe I’m saying this but my baby is growing up,” his mother stated when he was done, simply approving of the idea without a single issue.

 

A couple days later, Ryan was set to put the plan in motion. He got Devon to start the day as normal, going through their normal morning routine without a change. They played a couple of games, had their normal meals, watched some movies and discussed things over. To anybody else that had an eye on them, they’d think that it was just another day in paradise.

 

Following dinner, Ryan retreated to the kitchen to help his parents with the dishes as Devon relaxed on the couch. Even though it was months since everything had taken place, she would still get sore at times with her body still healing. As she got comfortable on the couch, she heard a knock at the door.

 

“Can you get that?” Ryan questions as he peaks out of the kitchen. Devon simply shakes her head yes as she stands up. She walks to the door, slowly opening it, as she stares at the man surprised. The man stood there dressed in black from head to toe in a suit.

 

“I’m looking for Ms. Aspray,” the man stated as Devon looked on even more confused.

 

“That’d be me…” She slowly lets out as the man smiles, opening up an envelope.

 

“Aww, you are as beautiful as described by your boyfriend.” He then hands the envelope over to her, continuing to smile. “Mr. Reed has arranged for you and him to go on horse carriage ride through the main park this evening under the stars. If you could please dress appropriately – something warm, but a little fancy – we will be on our way.” She smiles, shaking her head in response, disbelief falling over her.

 

“Okay. Can I have 5-10 minut-”

 

“Take your time, dear.” She smiles before heading to the kitchen, glancing over at Ryan’s parents.

 

“Where’s Ryan?” They pointed to the stairs, both smiling in return as they knew the plan that their son had in mind.

 

“Go on and get ready,” Ryan’s father instructs as Devon turns around and heads up the stairs. She goes into the bedsroom, set to find something to wear when she notices a box on the bed.

 

“That’s strange….”

 

She then walks over slowly, noticing a red envelope sitting on top, one that matched the envelope that she held in her hand from earlier. She slowly slips the envelope off of the box, opening it as she takes out the small slip of paper.

 

I knew from the moment that I saw you that you were amazing, and meant to be my Cinderella. You may have your scars and some may say that they ruin your beauty, but you’ll always be a princess in my eyes. – Ryan

 

She smiles, wiping a couple of stray tears from her eyes before setting the note down on the bed. She then slowly opens the box, immediately smiling as she notices the blue length of the dress. She carefully removes it from the box, noticing the blue glimmer matches that of Cinderella, but was shorter in length as it’d only go the knees.

 

“Would you like some help with the dress?” She hears and immediately spins around surprised as she sees Ryan’s mom standing there. She slowly shakes her head yes, still in a state of disbelief by the trail of events thus far.

 

She then slips into the dress, followed by Ryan’s mom doing up the zipper in the back.

 

“You look like a princess sweetheart,” his mom states as Devon turns around to face her.

 

“You knew about this, didn’t you?” She questions and his mom simply shrugs her shoulders.

 

“Who do you think helped Ryan make sure to get the right size and style for you?” Devon laughs as she twirls around, glancing in the mirror. She feels a couple stray tears roll down her cheeks as she notices a reflection of eyes in the mirror. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

 

“I just never thought through everything that I could ever be this happy, or this pretty. I just…” She then looks down, taking a deep breath in an effort to calm herself.

 

“Devon, you’ve always been pretty. You just needed to find someone that appreciated you. Now, let’s go get this hair done up a little nicer.” Devon shakes her head yes.

Making Memories for a Lifetime – Chapters 26 Thru 30

makingmemoriesforalifetime

Chapter 26: Home Sweet Home

“Are you busy?” Angelica asks as she looks in the bedsroom after eating breakfast.

“No,” Lindsay answers as she looks up to see Angelica standing there. “Come in.” Angelica then walks into the room and sits on the edge of the bed as Lindsay scoots her legs out of the way. Angelica shakes her head as she looks over at her dad.

“Still sleeping? Somethings don’t change.” Lindsay laughs lightly as she sets her plate down on the night table.

“I figured I’d let him sleep in since Tony said he’d take Chelsea to school before going in to the shop for a bit. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Angelica shrugs her shoulders as she looks over at the person who had become more of a mother in her life over the last five years.

“I slept all last night and woke up with Kyle this morning to have breakfast and couldn’t get back to sleep.” Lindsay smiles as she thinks as to how close Kyle and Angelica have gotten.

“So he went to the shop this morning?” Angelica shakes her head yes. “Well then looks like it’s just us till sleeping beauty graces us with his presence.” Lindsay then looks down, as she thinks back to the day before and the sadness that she feels in losing the baby. Angelica notices the change, scooting closer as she closes the gap between them. “I’m so sorry Ang….” Angelica pulls Lindsay close, simply holding her. “I know how much the baby meant to you. I just wish things could be different.”

“I wish they could be too, but we can’t change them. I’m not mad at you so stop beating yourself up over it. It’ll be fine.” Angelica then rubs Lindsay’s back as she holds back her own tears. Well she spoke the words, she didn’t know if they were true as nobody could predict what could happen in the future. “You did what you could and that’s all that matters. So just relax and let yourself move forward.” Lindsay takes a careful deep breath.

“I wish it was that easy, Ang. I just keep kicking myself in the gut over it.” Lindsay then reaches up and wipes her own tears away as they hear a noise from the far end of the bed. “Uh oh….we woke the bear.” Angelica laughs as she watches her dad open his eyes and look at them. “Good morning. Feeling better?” Dale lets out a groan as he sits up, surprised to see Angelica sitting there.

“Headache is still there,” he comments as he rubs his eyes. Angelica then reaches over to the night table, tossing him the Tylenol bottle followed by a bottle of water.

“Before you ask,” Angelica tells him as he looks at her confused.

“Thanks.” He then takes a couple before sitting it down on the night table on his side of the bed. “Shouldn’t you be resting?” Angelica rolls her eyes.

“Kyle left to go to the shop for a couple of hours and I couldn’t get back to sleep so I thought I’d come see Lindsay.”

“Tony gone to the shop for a bit too?” Lindsay shakes her head yes.

“He took Chelsea to school and said he was going for a half day,” Lindsay tells him as Dale slowly sits up.

“He could’ve went for the full day,” Dale comments. “I can take care of you both.”

“You should also concentrate on resting yourself so stop fretting about us girls. We’re fine.”

“That’s why we left you sleeping,” Angelica adds as Lindsay shakes her head.

“Do you want me to go get you some breakfast?” Lindsay then asks and Dale shakes his head no. “No? You’re honestly turning down food?”

“I can get it myself,” he tells her as he gets out of bed. “You’re supposed to be relaxing.” Lindsay then rolls her eyes.

“Are you going to be like this all week?” Dale shakes his head yes as he slips on a pair of pants as Lindsay looks over at Angelica. “Save me.” Angelica laughs as she then watches Lindsay let out a slight groan. “Stupid pains.” Even though things were mostly over with regards to losing the baby yesterday, the doctor had told her there’d be some small pains in the couple of days to follow with a little bit more blood to still come. If the pains didn’t stop by mid-week, she was supposed to check in with her doctor.

“That’s why you should listen to me.”

“I’m fine.” She then lies back, not wanting to argue with him as he goes to leave the room. “It’s actually good for someone to get up and move around after what has happened, too.” Dale then looks back at her surprised. “I’m just saying!”

“I didn’t say you had to stay there all day, now did I? I just want you to be taking care of yourself.”

“And I am doing that sweetheart. Go get yourself your breakfast.”

“He’s just acting like he is because he cares about you,” Angelica comments as Dale leaves the room. “Cut him a little slack. He loves you so it causes him to sometimes go overboard. I should know.” Lindsay then smiles.

“I know, but it’s just frustrating at times,” she comments as Angelica smiles.

“I hear ya. I’m going to go grab a quick shower.” Angelica then heads out of the room as Lindsay lies there, thinking. She wanted to move forward without anymore thought, but couldn’t help being heartbroken about losing the baby or the possibility of not being able to have a second child of her own.

 

Chapter 27: Breaking Point

Everybody has their breaking point, even the strongest person we know. True strength is being willing to admit you’re in pain. It’s easier to not say anything at all.

 

Tony let out a sigh as he put the wet clothes in the dryer. It was Wednesday and the week was slowly going by.

Lindsay’s pains had subsided and she was doing better. The emotional pain was still there and it was evident to everybody. That was why Dale had dedicated to being by her side. With having received the news he’d miss at least two weeks of racing due to the concussion suffered as a result of the Daytona wreck, there was no problem in doing that. Rick had said he’d handle everything in finding a replacement driver for the two races while Kelley held down the fort at JR Motorsports.

Angelica was focused on following her doctor orders to take it easy and not push boundaries. She’d do what she could during the day, but would also relax when she had to. As a result of things with her, Kyle was only going into Stewart-Haas Racing for half days, taking Chelsea to school in the morning for Lindsay and Dale. Angelica and Kyle had their own emotions to handle too, with her fighting the cancer and the baby.

Tony was Tony. Focused on his responsibilities at SHR, picking Chelsea up from school and taking care of the bunch. That’s why he was in the middle of doing laundry when he heard the doorbell ring.

“I’ve got it!” He yelled as he hurried up the stairs. He figured it was probably Rick checking on Angelica and Dale or one of their family members. Either way, he was surprised when he opened the door and saw Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Elliott Sadler standing there. “Hey guys. Come in.” They each walked in and Tony closed the door behind him.

“We came to see how everybody was,” Kevin said as he slipped his shoes off.

“Nothing much has changed. Linday is upset and a little sore, Dale is taking care of her and doing what he has to do, Angelica is trying to be careful and taking care of her emotions and Kyle is, well, Kyle.”

“And how are you?” Tony then looks over at Kevin as he walks into the kitchen to check on dinner.

“I’m fine. Why would I be otherwise? I’m just holding down the fort.”

“Are you sure you don’t have too much responsibility on your shoulders?” After Kevin had seen Tony at the shop earlier that day, he saw some things that had him curious. That’s why he called up two of his best friends and they all headed over to see Tony and how he was.

“No, I can handle it here and Gene & Zippy have my back at the shop.”

“I just don’t want you to drain yourself out, Tony.” Tony takes a deep breath as he pushes all of his emotions to the side. He knew that Kevin was right to be worried based on everything, but that didn’t matter at that point.

“I’ll deal with it like I have always have, Kevin.” Kevin then rolls his eyes, knowing what that means with Tony.

“And how is that? Pushing it aside, not worrying about it and not caring for yourself?” Tony then pulls the chicken strips out of the oven, feeling his anger beginning to boil with Kevin.

“I have to do what has to be done. I can handle it so why don’t you just leave? If you’ve come here to hassle me about things, I don’t want to hear it!”

“Tony, we care about you and you need to see what I am saying.” Tony rolls his eyes.

“Leave Harvick. Leave before I do something that you’re going to regret me doing. I don’t need this right now.” By those words, Kevin knew he had hit the right button with Tony and the others knew it as well. “I already got enough going on.”

“Then why don’t you open up and let someone help take care of you too?” Matt then wonders out loud as Elliott walks over to Tony.

“We’re here to help you, not make you upset,” Elliott adds as Matt joins him.

“Please Tony.”

“Don’t stress yourself out.”

“Sometimes it gets to the best of us,” Kevin adds as he sees the pair of drivers are getting through to him.

“I….I don’t know what to….,” Tony voice cracks as he slips the oven mitts off, leaning against the counter to face them.

“Let it all out,” Matt tells him once again. “Tell us everything.”

“We won’t judge you,” Kevin adds as Tony shakes his head.

“There’s too much there for me even to know where to start!” Tony says as the tears start to roll down his cheeks. Kevin then pulls Tony close to him, wrapping both arms around him as Tony lets the tears loose.

“Let it go, Tony.”

“I’m upset over Lindsay and losing the baby and that she can’t have another baby……I’m so sick and worried that Angelica isn’t going to make it.”

“Everything will work out fine, Tony.”

“Kevin is right as we’re all here for all of you,” Elliott assures him.

“Why don’t we go talk and you get some rest well Elliott and Matt take care of things?” Kevin suggests, knowing Tony needs a break.

“We’ve got this,” Matt assures him as Kevin leads Tony out of the kitchen.

“I’ll get the food ready; you get the drinks,” Elliott instructs and Matt shakes his head approving. “We’ll take it up to them since they’re all having their moments.”

 

Chapter 28: A Much Needed Conversation

Per Kevin’s recommendation, Dale made his way out to the garage, quietly closing the door behind him to not startle the person he knew was in there. He smiled as he watched the person that he had grown to love working on his favourite hot rod, perfecting some more tweaks and the usual maintenance routine.

Dale sat back, watching without a single word for a while, only moving when he saw Tony coming out from underneath the car and looking up at him surprised.

“When did you get out here?” Tony asks curiously as he thought that he was alone. That evening per Kevin’s recommendations, he got his emotions out and spent some time relaxing. Kevin had told him after dinner to go spend his time doing something to get away as things were a-okay on the home front. “And shouldn’t be inside relaxing?” Dale rolls his eyes, seeing exactly what Kevin had talked to him about.

“Will you please stop worrying about me for a minute and worry about yourself?” Dale asks, a surprised expression showing up on Tony’s face by those words. Dale then looks down, taking a deep breath, knowing this has to be done.

“Let me guess – Kevin talked to you?” Dale shakes his head as he looks up at Tony. “Figures.” Tony then wipes his hands off on a rag and throws it up on the toolbox.

“Tony, he had a reason to talk to me and a reason that we both should be concerned with. Why didn’t you tell me how you were feeling through everything?”

“Because that’s now how I do things, Dale!” Tony then slams his fist against the toolbox, the same frustration he had earlier when things broke in front of Kevin coming back to him. Dale then stands up and walks over to where Tony is. Tony turns away and faces the wall, taking a careful deep breath. Dale then rubs Tony’s back. “Jus-”

“Let me know how you’re feeling, please.” Tony shakes his head as he bites back the tears, not willing to go through confessing it all again. “I love you and I care about you and I hate to see you hurting like this.” Tony then turns to face Dale, tears on his face as Dale shakes his head, knowing they’ve both waited too long for this moment with everything.

“When I was a kid, I’d always hide away everything, putting it to the backburner, not letting it get to me as I put the best face on that I could and kept moving.” Dale pulls Tony close to him, wrapping both arms around him.

“That’s not good for you to do, Tony. No matter what is going on, you have to understand that you can come to me and pour your emotions on me.” Dale then rubs Tony’s back as the pair of them stand there simply hugging each other. “Don’t ever feel the need to hide it again. It broke my heart when Kev came and told me. It’s been hard on us all and it will be for the next bit, but if we stick together, we can all get through it.” Dale then takes a deep back and looks at Tony in the eyes. “But that takes co-operation on your part in telling me and Lindsay when you’re hurting.” Tony then pulls Dale back close to him, holding him tightly as he buries his head in Dale’s neck. “We’re all upset about Lindsay. It kills me to hear that news.”

“I still remember the conversation you two were having the other day while I was outside with Chelsea. That’s why when I learned the news, I just couldn’t believe it.” Dale shakes his head understanding.

“I was shocked also, but I know there’s nothing that I can do. I can just hold her and be thankful for the fact that we have Angelica and we have Chelsea. And Angelica will be fine. She’s a strong girl and things are going to work out. I know it hurts to watch her go through it and I worry about her, too. Don’t let yourself worry about that alone.” Tony shakes his head understanding, not moving an inch from his current position close to Dale. “And I’ll be fine so don’t even start to worry about me buster.” Tony then shakes his head as he takes a careful shaky deep breath.

“I can’t help but worry about you because of how much you mean to me. I don’t know what I’d do without you, Dale.” Tony then kisses Dale’s cheek and Dale smiles.

“I’m not going anywhere so don’t worry about me.” Dale then moves his head so his lips meet with Tony’s and they share one of the most passionate kisses that they had shared in a long time. Tony separates, smiling, though feeling the worry still in his heart.

“I keep replaying that afternoon at Amber’s over and over in my head.” Tony then moves his hand to where the scar lies on Dale’s chest beneath his shirt. “That day I realized I could’ve lost you and I didn’t keep my promise of protecting you and it scared me worse than anything. That’s why I can’t help but put my own emotions aside and take care of you.” Dale pulls Tony back close to him, knowing more tears of coming from Tony’s eyes shortly based on his shaky breath.

“That afternoon has never left my mind either. But you can’t keep your promise to me if you’re not taking care of yourself also and letting me help with that.” Tony shakes his head understanding.

“I know you’re right.” Dale then looks into Tony’s eyes once again.

“Then please don’t do this to me again Smoke.” Tony knows by the look on Dale’s face that he can’t disappoint the person that he loves the most.

“Promise.”

“Thank you.” Dale then kisses Tony’s lips once again and smiles. “I’ve missed our kisses.”

“I’ve missed our long nights out here playing on the cars.” Dale then realizes himself from Tony’s grasp, grabbing a wrench from the toolbox with a smile on his face. “That’s not what I meant, Dale.” Dale then sets the wrench back down in the toolbox.

“Are you saying that Smoke is missing something else? Will he give me a clue?” Tony then laughs as he pulls Dale close to him, kissing his lips once again. As he continues to push his lips against Dale’s, he pushes him back against the Camaro that sits in the garage and on the hood. “God damn….” Dale then runs his hands underneath Tony’s shirt, knowing that this was the perfect medicine to heal the wounds. “I forgot all about this.” Tony laughs as he runs his hands underneath Dale’s shirt, slipping it off as he kisses Dale’s shoulder. “You’re not patient tonight either.” Dale then follows suit slipping Tony’s shirt off. “I love you.” Tony then traces his finger tip along the scar that lies where the bullet hit.

“I’m not losing you!” Angelica yells as she grabs hold of her dad’s hand. “If we go down, we go down together.” Dale then shakes his head, taking a deep breath.

“No, we don’t. It’s my fault for dating her. It’s my fault for bringing her into our lives. Just go, now.”

“Two for one? Yay!” Amber comments with a laugh. She then pulls back the trigger, smile crossing her face. “I only dated you because of you were.”

“I don’t care about that now,” Dale tells her as he looks up at her. “Just don’t kill our daughter.”

“Duck!” Tony yells as he swings a broom handle, hitting Amber square in the head, knocking her down. though as she goes down, her hand pulls back the trigger, sending a bullet off, hitting Dale.

“Dad!” Angelica yells as Dale falls back, Angelica wrapping her arms around him. She then kneels down, immediately placing pressure on the wound.

“Dale?” Tony says as he runs down the steps, joining Angelica.

“No no….don’t do this to us. We need you damn it!”

“Stay with us, buddy.”

“I lov…” Dale lets out as his eyes slowly close.

Tony snaps his mind out of the flashback, holding back the tears in his eyes, thankful for each day that passes by that Dale is still there with him.

“I love you too, more than you’ll know,” Tony replies as he kisses Dale’s cheek.

“Let your mind escape what you’re thinking,” Dale whispers in Tony’s ear before nibbling on it a little. “Let your mind have the night that we need together to get back that passion we originally had for each other.” Tony then smiles, loving the feeling of Dale’s teeth on his ear.

“God I’ve missed this more than you’ll know.” Dale then smiles as he continues to nibble on Tony’s ear, glad to have his Smoke back. He just hoped that Tony kept to his promise from here on out.

 

Chapter 29: Leaving for Phoenix

“I’m going to miss you this weekend,” Tony says as he pulls Dale close to him, kissing his lips. It was Thursday night and Tony was ready to head off to Phoenix with Kyle for the weekend’s race. Dale had stated that he’d stay home with Lindsay and Angelica based on everything that had happened the past week.

“I’m going to miss you also,” Dale says as he kisses Tony back.

“Take care of them and take care of yourself. I’ll keep an eye on Kyle.” Dale shakes his head understanding.

“You have my word, but also, take care of yourself too.”

“I will. I’ll keep my promise to you. I love you.” Tony pulls Dale back close to him. “Oh, who’d Rick get to drive your car this weekend?” Dale smiles at the thought.

“Burton’s son Harrison.” Tony shakes his head, understanding it to be Jeff Burton’s son Harrison. He knew Harrison was into his second year of Nationwide Series racing, having won rookie of the year the previous season. It seemed like a perfect fit since he was the current points leader. “It’s a fine choice by me since we know he’ll be clean.”

“He’s a lot like his dad which is a good thing. I’m glad that Rick could work something out.” Dale shakes his head agreeing as Lindsay walks over.

“Shouldn’t you and Kyle be gone already?” Lindsay wonders out loud as Tony laughs.

“I’m waiting on the kid,” he comments, pointing upstairs. He knew that Kyle was upstairs with Angelica and there was no secret that goodbye could take a while.

“Well why don’t you march your ass up there and tell him you’re waiting? He should know that it’s time to leave.”

“We have time so I’m not worried, Lindsay.” She rolls her eyes as Tony wraps an arm around her. “Plus, it gives me time to spend more time with you and Dale.” He then kisses Lindsay’s lips. “I’ll miss you this weekend.”

“You going to pull the same routine on her as you did with me?” Dale asks crossing his arms.

“And what was that routine?” Lindsay asks as she faces Tony, kissing his lips back.

“Total make-out session, sappy words and promises. Nothing like the Tony that you’re used to.” Lindsay laughs as she wraps both arms around Tony’s waist.

“I don’t have a problem with that at all. As a matter of fact, if they’re busy doing what they’re doing, then why are we just standing there?” She then reaches up, kissing Tony’s lips once again with more passion behind the kiss.

“Should I go get Kyle?” Tony shakes his head no as he pulls Dale close to him and Lindsay. “Why’s that?”

“Because I need my kiss-” Tony starts, though is cut off when Lindsay kisses his lips once again as Dale smiles. They then separate, only for Dale to take Tony’s lips over with his own.

“So you want some love before you go?” Dale asks as Tony looks at him with pleading eyes. “Shall we princess?” Dale then wraps both arms around Tony, slipping his hands underneath Tony’s shirt. “He is asking for it.”

“Only cause it was suggested.” They both then laugh as Dale slips off Tony’s shirt, before Lindsay’s returns her lips to Tony’s. “Damn I feel so spoiled. How did I get this lucky?”

“Woah…okay….” Kyle interrupts as he walks down the stairs, looking at them. Angelica, who is following him, shakes her head laughing.

“So that’s what happens when we’re not home,” she comments as Kyle laughs.

“We just wanted to say goodbye the right way,” Lindsay says as she looks up at the pair.

“Satisfying your needs so you can survive the weekend Tony?” Tony slips his shirt back on while facing her shocked.

“You can admit it in front of us,” Kyle adds as Tony rolls his eyes. “He’s chicken now.”

“Guys…” Lindsay warns as she faces them. She then pulls Kyle into a hug. “Be careful this weekend.”

“I’ll keep my eye on him,” Tony says as he looks over at Kyle.

“You also be careful too,” Angelica comments before hugging Tony.

“I will.”

“Good.” She then lets go, letting Tony return to Lindsay’s arms.

“Remember her words,” Lindsay instructs and Tony shakes his head.

“Good luck Kyle,” Dale says as he and Kyle face each other. Everybody then trades goodbye and Tony and Kyle head out to catch their ride.

“Have fun this weekend you two!” Dale then closes the door, turning back to Angelica.

“You take it easy this weekend,” he tells her and she rolls her eyes.

“Listen to your father,” Lindsay adds before walking past her to go find Chelsea. Dale then pulls Angelica into a hug.

“I’m only telling you that because I worry about you.” He then kisses her forehead. “I don’t need to repeat last weekend.” He then lets her go. “Oh, did Kyle tell you about the fact that he won’t be home till Wednesday night?” Angelica shakes her head yes.

“Something about some appearance that he has to do,” Angelica replies and Dale shakes his head, remembering what Tony had told him already.

“Sponsorship appearances,” Dale says. “Tony told me about the schedule already.”

“Well don’t let it worry you. Kyle said that he has someone special coming over to make sure I’m behaving next week.” Dale then looks at Angelica, curiously. “He didn’t tell me who though. Guess it’ll be a surprise for us both.”

“I guess. I trust his judgment so I wouldn’t worry about it. Oh, I am coming with you on Wednesday, okay?” Angelica shook her head, understanding. She had her first appointment for the beginning of the chemo in hopes to get rid of the rest of cancer that day. “Rick said that he’d probably come by and see you, too.”

“Okay. That’s fine.”

“Remember what I said.” Dale then heads off to go see what Lindsay and Chelsea were up to.

“How can I forget when you’re saying that everytime you see me?” She then rolls her eyes, heading back upstairs. She just wanted to be through it and done with it so she could move on and start enjoying the life she knew once again. Not being at the track this weekend with Kyle was going to be torture.

 

Chapter 30: Phoenix

“I don’t know…it’s loose…it’s tight…..it’s just a mess,” Tony comments as he sits on one of the tires in the garage area. Steve Addington comes and sits beside him, seeing the frustration in his voice.

“You’re going to need to be more exact,” Steve says in a calm voice as Tony rolls his eyes.

“Haven’t I given you enough feedback this practice for you to fix it?” Immediately as the words leave his mouth, he looks over at his crew chief and then looks away, shaking his head. He knew by his behavior that everything was getting to him again. He had to get it out of his mind for the next three days. He had to focus on the task at hand and winning the race. That was goal and that was what his mind had to focus towards. “Fuck, I’m sorry. It’s just frustrating.” Tony then runs his hands through his hair, as he thinks back to the discussion he had earlier that week with Dale. It had helped some, but not totally. The emotions were there and he knew they wouldn’t disappear overnight. “That last run it was loose in one, but tight in three. It felt better the run before that, though. So work with that somehow. Let’s just try and get it to where I can qualify in the top 10.” Steve shakes his head, understanding. “Oh, and sorry if I about bit your head off at all this practice. I just have a lot on my mind.” Steve then rubs Tony’s back as he looks down.

“I know and you don’t worry. I’ll figure it out. You just try and keep yourself in check this weekend.” Steve then stands up and heads to where the crew is, ready to talk adjustments. Tony watches as Steve talks with the crew guys and then heads off to go find one of their teammates.

“You okay?” Tony hears and looks up to see Kevin standing there.

“Yeah I’ll be fine,” Tony says as he sits back a bit as Kevin sits on the tire beside him.

“Want to talk?” Tony shakes his head no, knowing that he didn’t want to go into details with Kevin ,even if he was his best friend.

“Not right now.”

“Tony, remember what we talked about earlier this week….” Tony then lets out a frustrated sigh as he looks away from Kevin.

“I remember and know that you’re right, but I don’t want to talk about it with you right now.”

“You’re just making it worst.”

“I can’t make it better so why even try? It won’t be fine till everything is fine!” Kevin then rubs Tony’s back a little as he knows that Tony is starting to open up to him once again.

“It’s going to take some time for that, but it will be Tony.” Tony shakes his head, knowing otherwise. He saw the look on Lindsay’s face when she received the news. It was heart wrenching and that was something that you couldn’t fix.

“You don’t understand, Kevin.”

“Tr-”

“How would you like it if Delana was told that she could never ever have a baby no matter how much she wanted another one? Let that soak in and then come see me!” Tony then stands up and heads off as Kevin sits there, shaking his head. He knew it was going to be a long weekend.

Kevin looks down the garage area and sees Kyle standing there talking with his crew chief Ron Malec as they debrief how the car was in practice. He could only hope that things stayed on track with him this weekend.

“So I’ve got where it you want it?” Ron asks and Kyle shakes his head.

“Best I have ever had a car here,” Kyle answers as they look at the speed chart and see that Kyle was second in practice to Carl.

“So you think I should leave it for qualifying?” Kyle shakes his head as he looks back at Ron.

“I just don’t see how you can make it any better. I have no complaints.”

“Then we’ll leave it as it is.” Kyle shakes his head in agreement as he watches Matt join them.

“Nice lap there,” Matt comments and Kyle smiles.

“Thanks,” Kyle answers. “We’re still cool for Tuesday right?” Matt shakes his head, remembering the deal that they had made since Kyle was going to be away at an appearance. “Good to hear. I haven’t told her that you’re coming though. It should be a good surprise. I hope it lightens her mood.”

“I hope it does too as I care about her, Kyle. Maybe I’ll bring Kaylin and Grace with me for some laughs.” Kyle smiles, knowing how much Angelica loved Matt’s little girls. It was one of the reasons why Angelica wanted to have a daughter of her own one day. “Keep up the good work this weekend. I’m sure if you’re able to win that’ll help too.”

“That’s the plan.”

“Good because I may spoil it.”

“Now you wouldn’t do that would you?” Matt laughs as Ron walks away to the crew. “That’d be mean. I thought you wanted me to win.”

“I do, but I want myself to win more. Nice to see you smiling, Kyle.” Matt then heads off as Kyle leans back against the pit box. He was happy about how the car was – it was perfect. But it didn’t change what was going on at home, as he let out a sigh, knowing that getting through the weekend without worrying about her would be a challenge.

Always By Your Side – Chapters 6 Thru 10

Chapter 6

The time we’ve lost
Can’t get back
The life we had
Won’t be ours again

The following weeks brought forth time in the court room with Devon taking the stand on a couple occasions, saying her side of the story in what happened. It was the worst experience that she could describe, especially watching her families eyes pour on her, some believing her and some shaming her. The worst feeling was having her father in the court room, staring at her, giving her the same look that instilled a fear on her instantly.

She then sat as she watched her father answer in response to the accusations, denying every bit of it. He then reflected each question asked by the prosecuting attorney, answering with his answers. There were some answers that left a bit of hope, while others left questions as to whether he’d be found guilty.

After a time that seemed to last forever, they finally found the end of the trial and were set to hear the verdict that the judge and jury had to offer.

“Before we begin dishing the verdict, the defense brought up a reason to have the case thrown out of court,” the judge starts, causing both Ryan and Devon to sit there with a look of surprise on their faces. “There is a time period that you are allowed to file charges in. These actions happened from the age of 11 to 14 for Ms. Aspray. Given that she is currently 20 years old, that would put the events happening nine to six years ago.”

Devon felt her breath hitch in her throat as she watched the judge shift through a stack of papers, realizing this was something the officer had warned her of when she filed the complaint originally. Perhaps she should’ve said something sooner. Perhaps that would be a regret that she’d carry with her forever.

“On the charges that do not deal with a murder or have sexual actions, the deadline for charges is five years,” the judge continues as Devon instantly looks to the floor, knowing what this means. “As a result, Mr. William Aspray cannot be charged on any of these counts. Therefore, I will have throw the court case out.”

Devon felt the tears trickle down her eyes, knowing that meant everything that she had done over the past couple of months was worth nothing. Her father would continue to walk freely, living the life that he had. Given her mom’s reaction, that would mean continuing to spend time together without any changes. Combined with the heavy negativity from her family, Devon felt she was back on the island that haunted her when she ran away at the age of 14.

“Ms. Aspray, I do believe your account of the events that happened and do sympathize with you,” the judge continued to Devon’s surprise as she glances up. “I can offer counseling programs that will help you in moving forward. Also, to help in preventing future occurrences between yourself and Mr. Aspray, I will be placing a restraining order against him.

“Mr. Aspray, you are not allowed 100 meters within Devon Aspray, or anybody that is close with her. As of right now, for example, that’d include her boyfriend Mr. Ryan Reed. Court adjourned!”

Devon and Ryan then left the court room quietly without a word as Ryan kept her held close, arm wrapped firmly around her. They thanked the lawyer for his work and attempt, in which he simply apologized at the result.

Knowing that she needed to get away from there and not wanting to have her face any of the crazed family, Ryan ushered her outside to the car and helped her in, before driving off.

“I know that you’re disappointed in the outcome,” Ryan starts a couple minutes into the drive as he reaches over and grabs her hand firmly with his. “But, I want you to be proud of yourself. Be proud of yourself for standing up to him and showing him that you weren’t going to accept what he did. Be proud of yourself for how you handled the situation. Be proud that despite the court case falling his way, he knows he isn’t winning you over anymore as you’re starting to face up to what he did.”

Devon could only quietly shake her head in agreement as she let herself come to terms with what was said. She knew Ryan was right in his words, but it didn’t help. It didn’t erase the pain that she felt. It didn’t give her the closure and reasons that she desired. More importantly, she didn’t get to see him pay for what he did.

“Thank you for being there with me the whole way,” she finally breaks her silence as she looks over at him. He then glances over at her with a quick smile before returning his eyes on the road.

“I told you that I’d be with you the whole way, and I meant it,” he replies. “I love you, Devon. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Part of that involves supporting you in everyway that you need to be supported, whether in this situation or other stuff. Just like you support me when I’m racing or help me when I don’t realize that I’ve hit a low.” She smiles as she checks the time.

“That reminds me – we should have lunch soon.” He then smiles, knowing that she was right.

With the trial behind them, the pair headed to the track that weekend for the event at Richmond. Ryan loved short track racing and had some of his best races on the smallest of tracks, even with the Daytona win in his corner. He was set on having a good night of racing to help both of their moods on how things had gone lately.

Though as he headed to his car for the first practice on Thursday, he wasn’t expecting the media swarm that surrounded him, mics pointed in all directions, blubbering questions.

“Is it true that your girlfriend Devon Aspray was abused?” “Is it true that you attended the trial with her?” “Her father was found not guilty. Do you still believe the accusations?”

Known as a calm guy, he was actually set to lash out and tell them all to mind their own business and screw off. However, before he could get the words out, he felt someone break into the circle that surrounded them.

“Ryan will not be answering any of your questions surrounding this legal matter,” Amanda began immediately in a loud enough voice for them all to hear. “Roush Fenway Racing, in conjunction with Ryan, will release a statement following practice with regards to the situation. Beyond the statement, there will be no more questions addressed. Now if you excuse us, I think Ryan has a job to do today. Thank you.”

She then wrapped her arms around Ryan’s shoulders, leading him out of the circle and immediately to his garage stall. The media members followed, though respected the space that Amanda asked for, standing at the barrier to the stall watching closely.

“Thank you Amanda,” he tells her immediately as he looks back at her once they had reached his car.

“It’s just part of my job but you’re welcome,” she replies. “I’ll release a statement from you following practice, confirming that there was a court case and a situation surrounding your girlfriend. I will then state that you’re asking for privacy in the matter as it is a personal situation that you’d like to keep private. Beyond that, there will nothing else said.”

Ryan shook his head, knowing that he had to agree to something being stated. While he wished that things had stayed out of the lime light, he knew that wasn’t possible. When you were a NASCAR driver, there were no secrets – whether about yourself, or those close to you.

Following practice, Amanda released the statement as she said she was going to while Ryan retreated back to the hotel room to catch back up with Devon. He could tell immediately when he walked in the room that she had heard about the media’s questioning, and seen the statement that was released.

“How’d they find out?” She could only say as he sat down beside her.

“Court case files are public unless there’s a public ban,” he starts. “They also saw us leaving together, and put together the pieces.” He then gives her a light kiss on the cheek. “But, you don’t have to worry about it. Amanda has it handled as they aren’t going to say much else and if anyone tries, she’ll cut their hands off.” Devon wished that would give her all the comfort that she needed surrounding the situation. However, it didn’t make the task of heading o the track with him on Friday night any easier.

“Everybody is going to look at me differently when I show up tomorr-”

“Who cares what they have to say, okay? I’ve got you and will protect you from whatever they say or try to do. Just ignore it and remember that you’re there to be with me and focus on that alone. There is nothing else that matters.” He then gives her another light kiss.

“What if your guys think differ-”

“Trust me, the guys won’t think any differently of you. Actually, they were concerned and asked how you were doing and where you were once they heard about things. If anything, I think you’ll be for a couple extra hugs.”

“Oh boy…”

“Just promise me that you’ll save the best hug for me?” She then looks over at him with a smile.

“You don’t have to worry about a thing because you’re the only man that gets this with his hug.” She then leaned closer to him and kissed his lips lightly.

Chapter 7

This world will never be
What I expected

The boys had come over for the afternoon, meeting up at Ryan’s motorcoach to play a couple of video games. A couple games, followed by dinner later that evening sounded like a good idea. Shelby and Devon had gone out to grab some food, agreeing to make the boys dinner.

“So, can we trust your ladies to cook?” Chris Buescher asks, jokingly as Ryan shakes his head yes.

“I taught Devon what she knows,” Ryan answers as the boys look over surprised. “What? She said that she didn’t know a lot of dishes, but wanted to learn some things. I agreed to teach her some of my favourite dishes and she’s been catching on pretty good.”

“I heard that Shelby is a great cook,” Elliott Sadler offers and Darrell shakes his head with certainty.

“Are you sure you brag about that to get lucky?” Chris teases as Darrell gives him a smack, causing the others to laugh.

“You can ask Ryan (Blaney),” Darrell tells him. “He will attest to the fact that she can cook. She has made us both some great meals.”

The boys continued playing, till they heard Darrell’s phone go off. Darrell immediately pauses the game, answering the call.

“Hello?” He says, catching the attention of the others. “Shelby?…..Shelby, what’s wrong?…Shelby, take a deep breath and talk to me.” The others look at each other confused, feeling a tinge of worry based on Darrell’s voice. Ryan could only feel his own worry and curiousity grow as Darrell glanced over in his direction, trying to understand what Shelby was telling him. “Okay. I’ll tell him and I’ll see you when you get here…..Okay. Shelby, it’s going to be okay. It’ll work out. Just trust what they’re saying….Okay. I love you. Bye.” Darrell then hangs up as his eyes never leave Ryan.

“What’s going on?” Chris breaks the silence that fills the room as Darrell continues to stare at Ryan, unable to figure out the best way to break the news that Shelby had told him.

“Ryan, I don’t know how to say this….I can’t even believe it myself. Shelby says that some older guy showed up and took Devon.” Ryan immediately begins shaking his head, not wanting to believe it, though immediately knowing who probably did it by the description.

“No…no….no this isn’t happening!” He lets out as Elliott immediately moves over to where Ryan is sitting, wrapping an arm around him to pull the young driver close.

“Shelby wouldn’t lie,” Elliott says quietly. “Listen to me, they’re going to find her and she’s going to be alright. We know who did this. They’ll find her. Everything will be fine…” Elliott then looks over at Darrell, taking a deep breath. The news was hard for all of them to accept, but he knew that more details had to be said. “What did Shelby tell you?” Darrell takes a careful deep breath.

“She said that they headed out of the store that they went to for some clothes shopping and were set to head over to the grocery store,” he starts quietly. “They were in the parking lot and someone came up behind Devon, giving her a shove and pushing her down, knocking her ou-”

“No…no….,” Ryan says as he hears the details as Elliott rubs his back, motioning for Darrell to continue.

“She said that she yelled but there was no one around. She went to go after the guy, and he pushed her back and she fell over. She went to back up and do something, but he shoved Devon into a car and took off with her. She then called the police right away, giving them the details and the license plate number.”

“Did they match that to her father’s license?” Chris wonders and Darrell shakes his head yes, remembering the other details.

“The officer is bringing Shelby back to the motorcoach now,” he starts. “She said they want to speak with Ryan and ask him for anything that he may know. They’re already searching for the vehicle, and checking known addresses for her father.”

“Why did this happen?” Ryan lets out as tears creep down his face, with Elliott continuing to rub his back and keep him calm.

“They’re going to find her and she’s going to be okay,” Elliott tells him once again as Ryan looks up at him.

“You don’t know that for su-”

“You need to believe that in your heart, Ryan. She’s a strong girl. She was able to fight against him before. She was able to do what she needed to do then. She can fight through this and will be okay. You need calm down and believe in your girl.”

“Elliott is right,” Darrell adds. “If she’s anything like you’ve told us, she’s going to be okay and things are going to work out. Just keep your fingers crossed and believe in her.”

“It’s not easy…” Ryan lets out as he takes a couple deep breathes in an effort to calm himself down.

“I know it’s not easy,” Elliott says. “That’s why we’re going to be here by your side the whole way. You’re not going to go through this worrying alone, okay?” He then looks over at Chris. “Darrell is going to want to comfort Shelby. This is going to get out in the medi-”

“I know where you’re going with this,” Chris cuts him off. “I’ll call Jack and then call Amanda.” Elliott shakes his head as he watches Chris walk off.

He knew as soon as the police put out that they were searching for Devon, her father and the vehicle, it’d immediately be connected to Ryan. There would be millions of questions thrown the young man’s direction in the garage area that he didn’t need to be dealing with this at this time. He also knew that Ryan was going to have a hard enough time processing the news and handling it till they found Devon, and that’d mean that probably Trevor or Ricky should run the XFINITY race on Saturday night in his place. Truthfully, this was the least of his worries – but it might as well be taken care of as he was set on taking care of Ryan, while Darrell took care of Shelby when she got there.

He just hoped that things did indeed work out.

Chapter 8

Now and again we try
To just stay alive

Devon tried to move her arms – but found her wrists bound with chains to the wall behind her. She then tried to move her legs, but found her ankles had been tied down with chains, as well. No matter how she tried to move, she was unable to move her body.

She could only let out a sigh, as she glanced around at her surroundings. The room was well-lit, and it looked as though all that was in the room was a bed that she currently chained to. She could easily nickname this place the torture chamber and move forward.

She was surprised that she was not in any pain for the time being, besides a bit of headache. She remembered being pushed and seeing the pavement before her eyes, so perhaps that led to the headache. She probably hit the pavement and was knocked out, giving her kidnapper easy leeway to take her away.

Shelby was her concern at that moment, though. Shelby was with her. They had gone shopping together. Where was Shelby? How was Shelby? What happened to Shelby after she was knocked out? She was pretty sure who kidnapped her, and knew that Shelby didn’t deserve to get mixed up with him as it was not her fault at all.

“You’re awake….” She hears and immediately feels her body stiffen at the sound of his voice. It was the voice that had haunted her through her teenage years. It was the voice that belonged to her fath – Winston Aspray.

“Where am I?” She questions, looking around franticly.

“Does that matter right now, dear?” She wanted to spit at him for the dear comment, as there was no relationship of that matter between them.

“Where’s Shelby?” She had to get her concern for her friend out of the way before moving forward.

“I left her in the parking lot all by herself. Don’t worry – I didn’t touch her. She’s perfectly fine. Besides, she wasn’t a bad girl.” Devon had to laugh at the comment. How was she a bad girl? She was doing her own thing with Ryan, not bothering to deal with her parents. She had only told the police the truth. Wasn’t she taught to tell the truth? It wasn’t her fault that they let him go.

“I only told the police the truth, father. Isn’t that what you taught me to do?” She knew that she was in a trap that she couldn’t escape. She was chained down and at his mercy. If this was going to be her lat moments, she might as well aggravate him and have a bit of fun with it.

“But you lied, Devon. You told them that it was abuse.” She could only shake her head at his response.

“Right – because abuse, according to the dictionary, means someone that beats you and hits you, causing you physical harm. Isn’t that what you did?”

“It wasn’t abuse. It was punishment for your bad behavior. You needed to be taught to be a good girl.” She then shakes her head in disbelief. She knew truthfully in her heart that her father was crazy for sure now. How could her mom and family not see that?

“I think you took that a bit too far, if you ask my opinion.” She then glanced around the room. The end seemed near more than he wanted to admit it. However, he had to remain to faithful. If Shelby was alright, she would’ve reported it. Everybody knew that it’d be him that kidnapped her. With that said, there was probably a search going on for her and Winston at this very time. She simply kept her heart committed on the fact that she’d be found soon. “I just can’t wait for you to pay now for what you’ve done. They couldn’t put you away for you, but they can now.”

“Nobody is going to find you now, dear.” She partially believed those words, seeing hope dampen with each second, minute and hour that passed by. She could only guess what time it was.

“So, what are you going to do to me?” If she was going to be stuck there, she might as well learn what he had planned for her, knowing that it wouldn’t be pleasant.

“It’s time for you to learn your lesson, just like you should’ve before.” She watches as he goes over to a table, analyzing his tools of the trade before turning back to her. “Let’s see – you were a bit of a slu-”

“I didn’t sleep with a whole bunch of guys!” She may have played a couple love games and dated about 15-20 guys in the span of three years, but she hadn’t slept with them all. There were only five guys that got that honor before Ryan.

“Sweetheart, I heard about your stories. You had your fair share of men. That’s a naughty girl.” She could only wonder how her father would punish her for that behavior. “Then there was lying to the police and causing them a headache, as well as my stay in jail. Combine that with you running away, and sweetheart, you’re in for a whole hamper of pain.” She could already feel the tears coming to her eyes at the thought of what he could possibly do to her between now and when help arrived.

“Dad, I know that I was wrong. I’m sorry for being a bad girl. Can I make it up to you?” She knew that she had to try the caring card as she was running out of options.

“Good try, sweetheart.” He then walks over, turning a wheel that was down by the bottom of the bed, which made her legs spread out in opposite directions. She felt a scream escape her lips as it felt like her insides tearing, each muscle one by one. “That’s it. Feel the burn. Learn your lesson.”

“I’ve learned my lesson. I promise to be a good little girl.” She was only met with a crimson laugh in response as he walked over to her legs, running his hands up them.

“This is only the start of your lesson, princess.” In one forceful move, he rips her pants, removing them from her body as they fall to her ankles. A bunch of images immediately flash through her mind, panic beginning to set in, as the bottom half of her body is bared with no secrets before him.

“What are you doing?!?!?” He then runs his hand lightly up her leg once again, laughing in the process.

“Teaching you a lesson that you will never forget no matter what happens.” Before she could even say a word, he forced a pair of his fingers through her opening, grabbing her insides and yanking at them, before letting go and moving his fingers in an up and down motion. Screams erupted from her lips, tears fell down her cheeks as she pulled against the restraints, hoping for a miracle release.

“Stop it! Stop it!” He then takes the belt that sat by the edge of the bed, whipping it across, smacking her in the lips. She felt the contact, letting out another scream, as blood began to drip down from her lip.

“No baby girl, I will not stop it. You need this so you know how to be a good girl from now on.” He then removes his fingers from her slit. “It’s okay, though. I can teach you in a better way.”

“No…no….that won’t be necessary…..” He then shakes his head as he reaches down to his feet.

“It is necessary. You’ve been a bad, bad girl Devon.” He then picks up the knife that he had previously placed by his feet, bringing it up to her body. He then pushes the knife into her slit, moving it back and forth as screams once again erupt from her. She couldn’t bare the pain and she could see the blood that was already leaking from her with each motion.

She wanted to give in, simply close her eyes and welcome to the quiet darkness. It seemed so pleasant as she wouldn’t have to experience the pain, or deal with future flashbacks. But she couldn’t let herself give in to what she was doing. She had to bare it all as now, she had to do everything in her power to make it through this, and be alive when help got there.

She just hoped that help arrived soon.

Chapter 9

Maybe we’ll turn it all around
‘Cause it’s not too late

Ryan sat in the waiting room at the hospital, tapping his foot against the floor, leaning forward in the seat that he had sat down in an hour earlier. His hands were shaking and he couldn’t help but look towards the doors that he knew led to the one person who filled every bit of concern in his heart.

After running the race that afternoon, he had been informed from Seth that they had found Devon and taken her to the local hospital with injuries. It was from that moment that the worry kicked into overdrive with nerves taking over him, just simply praying that she was alright.

His teammates had been a big help after the race, helping him get out of there quickly and to the hospital. Upon arriving, the nurse had taken them to a private waiting room, only telling them that the doctor would be in with details as soon as possible.

Since then, they had sat in the waiting room, waiting for details on how Devon was doing. Elliott had taken residence beside Ryan rubbing his back, being a shoulder to lean on. Chris had designated himself as the coffee run person, unable to keep himself still.

Darrell and Shelby, meanwhile, sat across from Ryan, quiet as ever in disbelief as to the train of events. Shelby wouldn’t admit it, but she felt regret in what had happened, wishing that she could’ve done something to stop Devon’s father.

“Mr. Reed?” Ryan hears and glances up at the doctor, shaking his head. The doctor sits down beside him, glancing around at the others in the room. “I’m going to have your ask your friends to leav-”

“They can hear what you have to say,” Ryan cuts the doctor off. He wanted his friends to be there with him as he didn’t know if he could handle the news alone. Based on the tone of the doctor’s voice, it wasn’t pretty.

“Given the context of what happened and your girlfriend’s condition, I would advise for them to leave. This right now stems to being a matter that only other-halves and family should hear.” Ryan felt a lump form in his throat, once again saying a prayer to himself that she was okay.

“With all due respect, sir, it’s fine if they hear the details. I can’t handle this by myself. I need my friends here for support.” The doctor then let out a sigh as he opened the folder.

“I understand, sir.” The doctor then looks over his notes, debating where to start.

“Perhaps everybody should leave except one of us,” Elliott suggests, glancing over at the other three in the room. “If the doctor believes the content is too strong, then maybe he is right on something.” He could tell by the doctor’s tone that the next couple of minutes wouldn’t be pretty.

“I can assure you that she’s going to be okay,” the doctor informs the group. “It’s just waiting for everything to heal, and the context of what happened.” Ryan glanced away, taking a deep breath to calm himself down. It was nice to hear that she would be okay. However, the worry wouldn’t leave in hearing the doctor’s words. What had happened?

“Come on guys…” Shelby instructs as she stands up first, reaching out for Darrell and Chris. The pair simply accepted her hands, following her lead to the door. She then glances back as she reaches the door. “You’re the oldest, most mature and have been taking care of him since we found out. If any of us should stay, it’s you.” Elliott shakes his head, understanding and accepting; he then watches the group leave.

“I am going to warn you that there are details in here that are graphic and may be hard to hear from your perspective, Mr. Reed. As you know, Ms. Aspray was kidnapped by her maternal father and put through a ringer of abuse. Now, it’s going to take time for her to heal, but she’s going to be okay.” Ryan shakes his head, accepting, as Elliott rubs his back.

“Just keep telling yourself that she’ll be okay,” Elliott reminds him as Ryan tells himself that a couple of time. “What should we know about her condition, sir?”

“I’m going to start with the worst part and work our way towards the less gruesome,” the doctor advises as Ryan feels his breath hitch in his throat. “During the attack, Mr. Aspray used a knife and penetrated her vagina, as if to what looks like simulate sex but in a violent matter.” Ryan knew what the doctor was saying without details – a form of rape – and he just wanted to go over to the closest garbage can and puke at the thought of that happening.

“Easy Ry….” Elliott felt like throwing up himself, though reminded himself to remain calm and strong for his friend as he sat there by Ryan’s side. He was the only person that could be there for Ryan right now, and knew that his young teammate couldn’t go through this alone.

“The resulting penetration resulted in a loss of blood. The police were able to locate her and have her transported to here without much loss, though. We gave her one blood transfusion upon arrival, for safe measure, but everything looks to be okay moving forward. We also gave her the required stitching, which should heal accordingly and fall out on its own. Now, there is one concern that we have to discuss….”

“Pregnancy…” Ryan said the word before the doctor even began, knowing that any damage down there would obviously affect the chance of a pregnancy in the future. Beyond wanting to simply throw up every bit of what was inside of him, he wanted to punch her father a million times over for what he had done and ruining his daughter’s future. The hesitation in the doctor’s voice told him what was to come without hearing the words.

“There will be a lot of scar tissue left over with the healing,” the doctor explains. “As a result, if she would get pregnant in the future, she may not be able to carry the baby full-term as baby could get implanted in fallopian tube because there was to much scar tissue to find it’s way to the uterus.” Ryan felt his heart break upon hearing the words. In growing closer with her, he had dreams of a possible family together as he always enjoyed spending time with other kids. Now, in the flash of one moment, the dream was shattered.

“Ryan, remember, she’s going to be okay – that’s the main thing,” Elliott reminds him, seeing the heartbreak on Ryan’s face and a couple of stray tears. “Be thankful for that. You can always look into other options when the time comes.” Ryan shakes his head, knowing that his teammate was right. He had heard about surrogates, and there always the possibility of adoption. He was always looking to help others with his story – perhaps this could be another way of helping others, too.

“There is also the possibility of permanent nerve damage to her upper legs and the area. We won’t know for sure till we get her up walking and moving in a couple of days. Along the lines of the lower body and her legs, her leg muscles are extremely sore as her legs were restrained in the air and stretched apart to obviously set up for the vaginal attack.”

“Excuse me….” Ryan says before getting up and moving away from the group over to the small garbage pail, kneeling over and throwing up. Elliott takes a deep breath as he stands up, walking over and rubbing Ryan’s back.

“It’s okay,” Elliott tells him quietly as he pulls him into a hug and rubs his back. “It’s okay. I know it’s hard to hear this and I know it’s hard to realize what she went through. But, be thankful that she’s going to be okay. Be thankful, kiddo.”

“I just can’t believe it….” Elliott shakes his head understanding as he glance back over the doctor.

“Is there a lot more that you have to tell us? I think it’d be best if he got to go see Devon and see how she is.” The doctor glances over his notes, before returning his eyes to the pair of men.

“Just a couple more small details, nothing major,” the doctor tells them as Ryan takes a deep breath. He then grabs a Kleenex, quickly wiping his mouth off and the couple of stray tears. With another deep breath, he returns to his previous seat, ready for the final details. The sooner he got to see Devon, the better. Elliott then rejoins him. “There are marks across her face and chest, as a result of being whipped with a belt. There are also marks on her wrists and ankles due to the restraints. They should heal in due times as there was no bruises that were serious. Beyond that, there’s nothing else that I have to say. Is there any questions?” The pair shake their heads no. “You may go see her then. She’s in the second room on your right.”

“Thank you,” Elliott thanks him as the doctor stands up and heads to the exit.

“If you have any further questions or need to speak with me, just ask for me at the desk.” Elliott shakes his head understanding as the doctor leaves.

“Are you ready to go see her?” Ryan shakes his head yes as he stands up.

“Yeah, I’m ready,” he tells Elliott with a glance his way.

“Okay,” Elliott replies as he stands up with him. “Before we go in there, though, I need you to listen to me.” Ryan then stops and looks back at Elliott. “I want you to know that myself, Chris, Darrell and Shelby will be by both of your sides as you work your through this. You aren’t going to go through this alone. We all have your backs, and are here for support. Don’t be afraid to talk to any of us.” Ryan shakes his head, understanding.

“I appreciate that – a lot. Tha-”

“And I want you to make sure that you take care of yourself. Just because Devon is going through what she’s going through, don’t throw your health aside. Check your levels, keep up on your meals and do what you need to do. Shortly after seeing her, I suggest you check, okay?” Ryan shakes his head yes. “Okay. Let’s go.”

The pair then head out of the small waiting room and walk over to where her door was. Elliott gives Ryan a small motion to go inside, before continuing to walk down the hall and meet up with the rest of the gang. He figured that he’d fill them in with a couple pieces as to what happened while giving Ryan and Devon some time alone.

Chapter 10: First Visit

Ryan takes a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves down as he opens the door. He walks in, slowly shutting it behind him as he takes another deep breath. The doctor said that she was going to be okay. Why was he so worried?

He then moves his feet across the floor slowly, closing the gap between where he stood and her bed. He could see that she was awake, eyes focused on the ceiling above her. He wondered if she had heard him. He wondered if she was ignoring him. He wondered what her first words or reaction to him in the room would be. He didn’t even know what he was going to do himself.

As he reaches the bed, he immediately reaches out, resting his hand on her hand. She then catches his eyes and he sees the tears in them immediately. Without a thought or a moment to spare, he immediately pulls her into a hug and wraps his arm around her. He rubs her back as she buries her head in his neck, letting some of the tears that she had previously held back fall.

“You’re going to be okay,” he tells her. “You’re going to be okay. I’ve got you and I’m not letting you go. Your father also won’t have another opportunity to touch you ever again. You’re going to be okay.” He then gives her a quick kiss on the forehead before allowing her to bury her head back in his neck. “I love you. Nothing will ever change that. You still mean the world to me, Devon.”

The pair remained like that for the next five minutes, unable to move. Ryan didn’t want to let her go as he wanted to show her how much he loved her, and wanted to be there for her. Devon didn’t want to let go as she felt safe in his arms and didn’t want to be lonely again. It also gave her the chance to let everything out that she had been holding in.

Ryan finally let her go as she laid back in the bed and he sat down in the chair that was there. Even though he was no longer holding her in his arms, he kept a firm grasp on her hand, giving her that security that she craved right now.

“How are you?” He finally asks, having wanted to ask since arriving but not wanting to break the initial emotional embrace.

“Really sore,” she answers as she bites her tongue, taking a deep breath. “The doctor said that he was running morphine through the IV but it’d take time to work. My legs are so sore, Ry, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much they hurt.”

“The main thing is you’re going to be okay. It’ll get better with time.” He then takes his other hand and runs his slowly up and down her legs. At first at the touch, she tensed up – a flashback of how her father started by stroking her legs first – but relaxed in reminding herself that it was Ryan and he would never do that to her. “Does this feel good?”

“Yeah, it does…” She wanted to explain the initial tensing, and perhaps the apprehension for some touches. However, she couldn’t bring herself to spill the details of what had happened. How could she ever talk about that?

“Sssh, it’s okay. You can relax. I’m not going anywhere.” She wanted to believe that and the majority of her heart did. However, the one small detail from the doctor still played tricks on her mind.

“Even if I can’t have your baby?” Ryan felt a sting in his heart in hearing those words. It had stung hearing the words from the doctor that she probably wouldn’t be able to carry a baby full-term due to the damage. It even more stung in hearing the words from her. However, despite that, he felt no urge to run away.

“That doesn’t change a thing, Devon. Nothing will change how I feel about you. I still love you now as much as I love you before. I’m not going anywhere. It just means that we’ll have to look at other options.” Devon shook her head, knowing that he was right.

She never saw herself becoming a mother and having a family of her own – probably due to her own childhood. For her, it was all about just getting away from her parents and trying to find a way to move forward. That was something that she hoped that she could do now as she reminded herself that her father would be locked away for a long time.

Now moving forward, she still wasn’t sure whether she wanted to be a mother. Perhaps there was apprehension due to her childhood and fear of doing something wrong. Perhaps there was apprehension as she still growing comfortable in being in love and having a family of her own. Either way, she knew that wasn’t something that she had to decide in that moment.

For now, all that mattered was that she was going to be okay and she had Ryan by her side to help her each step of the way. Her eyes return back to meet his as a smile forms on her face. No doubt she was in a pain and no doubt the recovery would take time, both physically and mentally. However even with how scared she was in possibly reliving the details in having to tell her story, she felt confident that she was going to get through this.

“Ryan, can I ask you something?” She breaks the silence and he shakes his head yes. “Do I have to tell you what happened?” Ryan heard the quietness and fear in her voice, and hated it. She was always the strong woman in his eyes, there to help him ways and independent with her actions. Now to hear the fear laced in his voice, it didn’t sit easily.

“You don’t have to tell me,” he starts. He was curious as to the details, but didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable as that’d be unfair. He also had to admit that he was scared to hear the details, based on what he knew from the doctor. Could he stomach it? “However, if you ever do want to tell me, I will be right here by your side ready to listen and hear you out. It doesn’t matter to me either way.”

“I love you so much.” He then leans in and lightly kisses her lips with a smile on his face.

“I love you, too. I will always love you.”

Always By Your Side – Chapter 13: Why?

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“Do you want anything?” Elliott asks as he glances towards the pair sitting on the couch together.

“I’m okay right now,” Ryan answers first as he keeps his arms wrapped around Devon, holding her close.

Returning home after the sentence hearing, Ryan was determined to offer whatever comfort that she needed in hopes of easing the pain that still continued to bug her, whether physical or mental. Devon wasn’t about to question that herself, wanting to feel Ryan close to her. She wanted to feel safe, escape the fears that flooded her mind, and find someway to move forward.

“Devon?” Elliott wonders as he glances towards her, his heart breaking as he watched the scene before him. There were no words that could possibly describe what Devon had been through, and was currently feeling now.

“No thank you,” she says quietly as she lays her head against Ryan’s chest. “I just want to know why.”

“Wh-“ Ryan starts as he looks up at him.

“Why did he do it? Why did he plead not guilty to a couple of charges? Why does he want to prolong this? Why does he want me to get on the stand?” Tears filled Devon’s eyes with each comment, slowly creeping down her cheeks. Ryan simply rubbed her back, wishing that he could wipe away the tears with some answer.

“I don’t know, Devon. I don’t know….” Ryan glanced towards his elder teammate for an explanation. It seemed to be the term of course. Elliott was there to help and offer advice, while the others simply offered comfort in having a presence. They also took care of other small things – laundry, shopping, etc.

“Some people in this world are just not nice and feel the need to harm others,” Elliott states as he kneels down by the couch. “I know it hurts and sucks and we all wish that we could make it disappear. I also know that no explanation will help make it right for you, either. But you have to know that you will be okay, you’ll find a way to get stronger and through this, and we’ll all be here with you the whole way, okay?” She shakes her head yes slowly.

“I love you, and I’m never letting you go,” Ryan whispers, kissing the top of her head.

“I love you too,” Devon quietly whispers in response. “And I’m sorry….”

“It’s not your fault. I’m not mad at you and you have nothing to apologize for. It’s okay.” Devon then glances up into Ryan’s’ eyes, knowing that she meant her apology for good reason.

“But I mean, I can’t give you what you want. I can’t do that.” Ryan knew immediately what she was referencing, and couldn’t but have some sadness. However, he wasn’t about to let that show, and knew they’d move forward.

“Like we talked about, we’ll find another way to have children if we want the-”

“I can’t love you like I did!” Ryan takes a deep breath, rubbing her back. He knew what her father had done would have affects on that, and there would be a period of time – like now – where they wouldn’t be intimate with each other as a result.

“We’ll work through the pain, and work back to that in time. It’s okay. I’m not mad at you. I’m willing to be patient and wait till you’re ready to talk and then move forward. It’s fine, Devon.” He continues to rub her back as he holds her close to him. “I love you.” He then gives her another kiss on the head as her eyes close.

“Sleep will do her well right now,” Elliott comments as he stands up. “Ryan, you’re doing the right things. Don’t beat yourself up. Just keep doing what you’re doing and it’ll be okay. Also, you know if you need to talk, just ask okay?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“Thank you….thank you,” Ryan starts as he looks back down at Devon. “Thank you for doing this and being here, even with the fact that you’re leaving Roush at the end of the year.”

“Just because we won’t be teammates next year doesn’t mean anything changes between us. It just means that we won’t be working together. But we’ll still be friends as it doesn’t change the friendship we have or how much I care for you both, okay?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“Thank yo-”

“Stop thanking me and relax with your girlfriend. I’m going to go see how Chris and Darrell are, let them know that you guys are just relaxing, and work on things for dinner.”

“Okay.” Elliott then leaves the area, heading into the kitchen with the other two. “Things are alright, guys. They’re just relaxing quietly. It’s been a long day.”

“I just don’t understand….” Chris comments, causing the boys to look his way. “How could someone do that?” Darrell shrugs his shoulder as Elliott takes a deep breath.

Always By Your Side – Chapter 12: Court Session

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Devon wanted to move forward, but that was proving harder than she thought it’d be.

Each day, she was simply reminded of what happened by one glance down towards her crotch and legs. She faced nightmares at night still. She still couldn’t fully open up to Ryan as much as she wanted, fears of what happened still filling her mind as she tried to move forward.

Though as the cold of November hit, she hoped that she could start to move forward as she walked into the court room. Taking a deep breath, clutching onto Ryan’s hand harder, she made her way to the front and took a seat. It was the first day of the trial. Her father was set to face the line of charges that’d be coming his way as a result of the attack.

Through the entire process, she was set on keeping her eyes directly pointed at the judge.

She didn’t want to face her father – she didn’t need anymore reminders of him as that was already almost too much to bare.

She didn’t want to glance to the left and see any image of her mother. It was her mother that didn’t believe her story nor want to talk to her. It was her mother that told her that she was lying and nothing of this was wrong. Her mother had only promoted the issue so why pursue that further?

Truthfully, that’s how she felt about the majority of the people in the room – her supposed family. Here were the people that didn’t believe her when she spoke up about the abuse from her father. Now they wanted to stand up and support her? It was too little, too late for that in her mind.

In her mind, the only people in the room that mattered – Ryan, Elliott, Chris and Darrell. As the teammates had done, they had stuck by Ryan and Devon’s side in the months that followed the attack, supporting her and offering whatever she needed. If Ryan needed something from the store but Devon didn’t want to be left alone, the boys would grab it for them. They’d also offer a shoulder to cry on, or someone vent to for either if needed, as well. She knew that she couldn’t thank them all enough for what they’d done.

“I’m going to name the charges one by one for Mr. Aspray,” the judge starts, grabbing everyone’s attention. “Mr. Winston Aspray, I want to hear the word ‘guilty’ or the word ‘non-guilty’ from you after each one and nothing else. Please just enter your plead and we will then go from there. I ask that everybody else in the court room remain quiet and keep your opinions to yourself throughout the process. Anyone that speaks out will be escorted out of the court room as I will not put up with that in my court room.” Devon takes another deep breath, trying to calm herself in knowing what was coming, as Ryan keeps a tight hold on her hand. “Mr. Aspray, on the charge of harassment, how do you plead?”

“Guilty, your honor,” Winston Aspray states as a smile crosses Ryan’s face. For the first time, he had heard Devon’s father admit to doing something wrong within his actions. Perhaps he was starting to see the light and would make the process as easy as possible for them moving forward.

“On the charge of kidnapping, how do you plead?” Devon could only shiver at the thought as flashbacks of being stuck in his arms, chained to the table flooded through her thoughts. Closing her eyes, taking a deep breath, she tries to coach them to disappear and think back to the positive thoughts in knowing that she was safe with Ryan now.

“Not guilty.” Ryan could only roll his eyes in hearing the plead. They had spoken to the lawyer a couple days prior to the hearing. If Winston pled not guilty to enough of the charges, it would mean that Devon would have to take the stand in the trial and tell what happened to her. Seeing the emotional toll that things had already taken on Devon, Ryan wasn’t too keen on putting her in that position moving forward.

“How do you plead to the charge of attempted murder?” The charge got a questioning glance from the teammates as they hadn’t heard about that being on the docket. However, a quick group of whispers assured that it was added virtue of the fact hat Devon could’ve bled out as a result of the cuts.

“Guilty.” Ryan then glanced at Elliott confused in the mix pleads as Elliott shrugs his shoulders. Elliott had given up trying to explain the actions of this man.

“How do you plead to the charge of rape?” The entire court room gasped and looked on in shock in hearing the charge. They knew that Winston had kidnapped his daughter and hurt her in someway, but didn’t know the extent of what had happened – till now.

“Not guilty.” As he spoke the words, a grin formed on his face in knowing what he had done. He hadn’t raped his daughter; he had simply taught her a lesson. Perhaps he took it too far and almost killed her and perhaps bugged her too much, but he was only doing the duty of a good parent in teaching his child a lesson. In no way shape or form was that rape or kidnapping.

“How do you plead on the charge of assault?” Ryan crosses his arms, knowing the way that this should fall – despite the surprise in pleads of not guilty to rape and kidnapping.

“Guilty.” Ryan just wanted to go up there and scream. Was there was a reason for not pleading guilty to the other two? Did he purposely want to put his daughter through the torture of telling her story?

“How do you plead to the charge of child abuse?” While the statue of limitations indicated that this could not be dealt with previously, it was brought back up as it may be added to extend his jail stay, if the severity of the rest of the charges was enough.

“Not guilty, your honor.” The judge makes a note, loking over the charges before glancing back up.

“Thank you for your time today. Given the guilty pleads, you will not be receiving bail. The court will work at planning a date to begin sessions in regards to the other charges. Lawyers, I will be in contact with you both on future court proceedings. Court adjourned!”