The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 137: Code 918

Friday, November 9 – ISM Raceway

Sarina was standing by the 18 hauler, sipping on a bottle of water, trying to remember the rules of hydration. It was going to be a long day in the desert with both practices, qualifying, and the race all scheduled for one day. She just needed to pace herself accordingly, and do what she needed to do behind the wheel and everything would be set for Miami.

She then glances over towards her left, surprised to see Chase headed back her way. He had told her that he wanted to catch up with Alan and Josh before practice, but yet instead was coming back to her. What was on his mind?

“Would you like to start off your weekend with some good news?” He offers, as she looks back slightly intrigued. “Shelley was arrested trying to come into the garage area this morning.”

“Seriously?” She questions, earning a nod from Chase as he shows her e-mail. “Arrested on allegations and charges of conspiracy to assault, conspiracy of kidnapping, harassment, and conspiracy….of….sexual…” She then glances slowly up at Chase.

“You can say it.” He then takes a deep breath, thinking back to that day at Talladega. “Sexual assault, although I don’t believe that she had anything to do with what happened there personally.” Sarina hoped not as that’d be just another level of sick and disgusting in this mess. “So they told me that they’re going to try and question her as much as they can in hopes of getting her to reveal Alison’s locations, and any future plans. They’re also not publically announcing as they may use her as bait for Alison.”

“And they expect something like to work? I mean, have they not realized already they’re working with a criminal genius?” Chase then gives her a ‘seriously’ glance. “I know you’re going to tell me that she doesn’t deserve that much credit, that she’s just a little wired different in the head and been lucky. However, you do not escape being arrested twice by accident. You do not escape a mental hospital by accident. You do not go on the run for an entire year without being arrested by accident. Let’s face it, Chase – she’s a genius, an evil genius.”

“I know….” Sarina immediately noticed the change in his tone, reaching out for his hand.

“It’s no secret that you were scared of her before; I remember you telling me that. It’s no secret that she twisted your world so much that you couldn’t think straight – and that’s fine as the same would happen to anybody. You can talk to me about it if the feelings are there, again.” He then shakes his head no. “Yes, you ca-”

“I know I can trust you, but I promise those feelings aren’t there. Instead, I’m focused on doing whatever it takes for you, to take care of you and this baby.” She smiles, though makes sure to hold his hand back so it doesn’t reach while keeping her eyes on his. “Take care of yourself today, okay?”

“The same goes for you, too. You don’t need to always be my superman.” Chase knew that, but he also knew he couldn’t just let everything that happened go. He wasn’t about to let this cycle with Alison continue.

“I care about you. That’s why I can’t help but worr-”

“I’m a big girl, Chase. I can take care of myself. You just focus on the number goal one this weekend – winning. You’ve got a good car, a good crew behind you, and we both know that you have the talent to get the job done. Show the world.”  He had to chuckle as her speech was right out of his playbook for her plenty of times.

“Do what you do best. I love you.” He then gives her a kiss, before heading back off into the garage as she lets out a sigh. While he’d constantly worry about her and the baby, she couldn’t help but do the same with his emotions.

The first of the two practices went smoothly, as Sarina was able to time in second quickest – right behind her teammate Harrison – and felt happy with the handling of the truck. The debrief had also gone quickly, with Rudy taking a focus on trying some stuff to see if they could be even faster during the second session.

“Something seems off….” He comments once they’re done, catching her by surprise. “Yeah, something is off..”

“I’m fin-” She starts, having grown used to people with their comments. It seemed everybody was worried about the pregnant lady in the garage.

“No, that’s a lie Sarina.” The conversation got the attention of the teammates who glanced over.

“We can all see it Sarina,” Todd offers, as Sarina feels her stomach do a flip-flop. Was it that obvious that she was pregnant?

“It’s like your demeanor changed as Chase walked away, and then returned to normal for practice, but has changed back again,” Harrison analyzes, as Sarina looks over surprised. Were her young teammates always watching her that intently?

“Ahhh I think our girl is missing her boo right now.” Sarina just rolls her eyes as Harrison chuckles to Todd’s comment. “Are you infected with an Elliott addiction? Do we need to call Chase so he can make you feel better?”  She shakes her head no.

“It’s not that….” Rudy comments, earning a stern glance from Sarina as she was worried that he’d let the truth slip. While she knew she could trust her teammates, she didn’t need anybody else knowing the truth yet – till after next week that was. “What did Chase tell you earlier, anyway? It looked important.”

“Shelley has been arrested,” Sarina confesses, wanting to say anything to take the suspicion off her pregnancy in her mind. To be honest, though, that was still on her mind at this point. “She’s my aunt by the way, but stopped by the motorcoach last night to share some Alison tidbits, as if she knew privileged information. We put out word to the police, and they got her this morning.”

“So does that mean everything is over?” Todd wonders, and Sarina shakes her head no. Until Alison was locked in a maximum security jail cell, she would never admit to it being over.

“They haven’t found Alison yet. They’re thinking of using Shelley as bait to catch her, or at least get information with the slew of charges that they have coming for her.” She then glances down at her lap, with a sigh. “It just drives me insane that my family is so freaking crazy that they continue to torment me. First my brother, then my cousin, and now my own aunt. I thought I left this chaos behind when I started to establish myself, reset my life as I wanted, and yet here we are in the cycle once again.”

“Sarina…..” Rudy says as he wraps an arm around her to comfort her. “It’s not your fault, any of this. You can’t control or decide the decisions that others make. So you better not be blaming yourself one bit for what anybody has done to this point because it is never your fault. I also know, in my heart, that it will work out for both of you because it’s meant to be. You deserve your happy ending, your forever after.”

“Wow, Rudy does have a heart,” Todd comments, earning a slight chuckle from Harrison.

“With every person in my family seeming to have this, though, it worries me,” Sarina confesses as she looks up at the crew chief. “What if I am a bad mother?” The timing of the question brought shock over the room – Rudy with her mentioning that while trying to keep a secret, and the teammates wondering how that fit into her schedule. However, Harrison and Todd knew that question was really not important right now in seeing how upset Sarina appeared.

“I think you’ll make a wonderful mother when the time is right,” Rudy starts. “You have a very sweet heart. You’re always looking out caring for people, whether it’s Chase and what he’s going through, or your cousin Lindsay. You’re also sweet, and adorable with the fans. Look at how you spend time with the children in the garage, speaking at their level, and giving them extra time. Remember how you handled the situation at media day? Those are all examples that prove to me that you, Sarina Ott, will be an amazing mother. I know you’ll show that child the love that it deserves, and I know he or she will be glad to have you as their mother.”

“Thank you Rudy,” she comments as he gives her a squeeze closer. “I can’t believe I am saying this considering we started the year ready to bite each other’s head off, but I have really enjoyed working with you. I’ve enjoyed each weekend together, and I am going to miss your guidance every week. Thank you for the lessons and advice, on and off the track.” Rudy smiles as he had to admit – working with her was certainly making him a little softer at times.

“Marcus told me that you were special, and I sort of half believed hi-”

“I can understand that after working with Christopher and Eri-”

“But he was right, though. I still say that Christopher has more natural talent behind the wheel in what we’ve seen. However, you’re special in every other sense of the way in who you are, the young lady you’ve become, and everything moving forward. I admire your strength sometimes.” He then gives her a quick wink, knowing what that was in relation to, as she just smiles back in response.

“Good luck with those two next year.” Rudy looks over at the pair, before letting out a long sigh.

“I am going to have my hands full….”

Sarina climbs from the truck, smile firmly planted on her face as she walks over to where Rudy was standing. The changes had worked as they were able to gain speed over the session, giving her even more confidence heading into the night, despite once again being second to Harrison.

“I think we can beat him toni-” She starts, as she grabs a cold bottle of water from the cooler.

“There was a bomb found in the Cup Series garage,” Rudy cuts her off, which causes her to drop the bottle of water immediately, spilling it all down herself as she had loosened the cap.

“A…bomb….” Rudy slowly nods his head as he places a hand on her shoulder.

“It was foun-”

“You don’t need to tell me where it was found because we know who obviously planted it and why!” Rudy then reaches out, placing his other hand on her other shoulder. “Rudy….”

“You need to stay here wit-”

“Spit it out!” He then takes a deep breath, glancing over at the crew members, who scurry back to work rather than staring. “Rudy!”

“The timer is set to a full two hours. They haven’t found a way to deactivate it yet.” Sarina takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm as possible. The fact that there was a timer and they were still looking for a way to turn it off, it meant that it hadn’t gone off to cause any damage.

“So why are we still standing here? Isn’t the obvious to just clear the gara-”

“There’s a camera above with a note. Do something different than normal, and she’ll set it off earlier than scheduled.” Sarina takes a calming deep breath, resisting the urge to run right away as she knew Rudy would grab her anyway. Besides, risking tripping while pregnant wasn’t in the cards, either. “Alan texted me as soon as he found out and told me to keep you here so Chase isn’t worrying about you while trying to focus on practice like normal as they try and figure it out.”

“So we’re just going to pretend nothing is ticking in the garage stall right now?” Rudy slowly nods his head yes.

“They figure they’ll follow the instructions of the note for the duration of practice. If no answer is figured out by the end, they’re going to work with NASCAR on some sort of plan.” Sarina then glances towards the garage area, trying to maintain her composure. “Sarina….”

“Rudy, I’m scared….” A couple tears roll down her cheeks as Rudy pulls her closer, rubbing her back. “I can’t do this. I can’t los-”

“They’re going to figure something out, sweetheart. Everything is going to be okay…”

Chase knew what the note said – follow everything accordingly, or else it’d be activated earlier than scheduled. That meant it was left up to the experts to figure out the defuse process before then while he was supposed to practice as if nothing was going on.

Thankfully, the session had gone smoother than he expected as Alan and the guys had brought a real fast No. 9 Chevrolet, which made his job easy. Despite obviously being distracted, he had managed to post the third quickest lap.

With the session done, he tried to focus on the debrief in the garage stall with the engineers and team, though couldn’t help but glance up from the computer to see what the timer said. Taking a deep breath, time was running short quickly and having heard nothing from the bomb squad wasn’t encouraging.

“What the hell?!?” Tom Gray lets out as the laptop screen goes blank. “Josh!”

“I didn’t do it this time!” Josh confesses, raising both hands in the air innocently.

“I had just about finished putting everything in and it went off. Seriously?!?”

The screen then comes back on, but does not include the notes as Tom originally intended. Instead, it was a blank white screen with typed text in the middle.

“Chase….” Tom slowly says as he backs away from the computer. He knew the IT department would be intrigued and confused to hear what happened today. However, given the familiar ticking sound, the answer to the problem was also obvious.

“Did this just pop up?” Chase asks, and Tom nods his head.

“I was trying to do my not-”

“Please….” Tom takes the sign immediately, backing away to leave the driver with the message that was left on the screen. “Of course you’d do this to me, Alison.”

He then clicks the ‘accept’ box at the bottom of the note, which loaded a map on the screen. He follows the lines, figuring out what each picture meant, trying to figure out everything as quick as possible. He didn’t need to look up to figure out time was running out quickly.

“Bomb squad just called,” Alan states as he walks over with his phone in hand. “I have a series of deactivation instructions. There’s certain wires that need to be cut, and a code that needs to be entered. We only get one chance at the cod-”

“918,” Chase cuts him off immediately. “Look at the bottom of the map. She has that number written in tiny letters at the bottom. It’s got to be the code, and it makes sense. My car number, and then Sarina’s truck number.”

“We only get one chance at thi-”

“We have two chances.” Alan then looks over at him confused. “We have two chances to save all of our lives. I just need to do what she wants.”

“Hell no.” Chase was confused as he looked over at Alan. “That’s what she wants, Chase. Think about it. It’s the same thing that she did to you before. She’s manipulating your feelings, triggering your fears so that she gets what she wan-”

“It’s better than us being dead, though.” Alan knew that, but he also didn’t feel any comfort in having Chase anywhere close to her.

“I’m sticking with the first plan.” Chase shakes his head, feeling all kinds of worry as he watched the crew chief climb up onto the box, reaching the bomb on top. “Read me the instructions, please…”

“I don’t feel comforta-”

“Start reading!” Chase takes a deep breath as he picks up the phone.

“Cut the red wire, followed by the blue wire.” Snatching the wire cutters from his pocket, Alan follows both instructions as requested. “You’re going to cut the orange wire, and then will have 10 seconds to enter the three digit code.”

“Everyone hold your breath.” Alan then snaps the wire, followed by quickly punching in the three-digit code – 9 1 8. Everybody stands frozen around the garage stall, glancing up as they wait to see the result. “Breathe…” Alan then holds up the box, hearing not a single sound from it as he slowly sets it down on the pit cart.

“Nice job.” Chase gives him a quick hug, before Alan carries it out to the officers awaiting outside of the stall. Chase then leans back against the pit cart, letting out a long sigh of relief before taking out his phone to text Sarina.

“Can I go back to my not-” Tom starts and Chase shakes his head no.

“You’re getting a new laptop,” Chase tells him. “Alison just took procession of your screen. Do you think we’re going to let you continue to use that?” Tom slowly shakes his head no. “The police are taking that into evidence, as well. We’ll get you a new lapt-”

“He can use mine,” Josh instructs, opening it up immediately and typing in his password.

“Report the incident to Hendrick’s IT department. Security being compromised is no joke.” Tom nods his head in agreement, having already filed a phone call, as he watches his driver leave the garage stall.

“That was too close to comfort,” Tom offers as Josh takes a step back to let Tom get to work.

“She needs to be caught before it’s too late because I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse from here on out,” Josh comments, causing a glance of fear in return from Tom. “She’s getting impatient and upping her game each weekend. She also knows how to kill-”

“We don’t need a reminder, Josh.” Josh then grabs his checklist off the pit box, ready to get back to work.

Unfortunately, these incidents were becoming a part of the job, and he knew that they couldn’t use the incident as an excuse for not winning Sunday.

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story — Chapter 66: Zombie 150

Thursday, April 12 – Nashville, Tennessee

Bill sat by the bed as quiet as could be, just waiting for something, anything out of Chase. He knew he would be waking up soon, and could only imagine what would be on his mind.

He didn’t have much longer to think about what to say, as eyes were slowly opening before him.

“Where am I?” Chase’s first words were as he pulled against the restraints that bound his wrists.

“Easy…..,”Bill encourages as he places a hand on each of Chase’s, staring him straight in the eyes. “You’re in the hospital. Take a deep breath and calm down, you’ll be ok.” Chase tried to focus on his father’s words, but the restraints didn’t feel comfortable.

“Can you get these removed, please? Why the hell are they even on me?” Alan sneaks out of the room as Bill keeps his eyes on Chase.

“Panic attack. In case you woke up freaking ou-”

“Sarina!” It was like everything that happened came to him that minute. “Dad, please….”

“She’s okay. The bullet just glazed the shoulder. Some stitches, no internal damage, and a bandage, and she’s good to go. Kyle and Sam are with her. She’s okay….” Chase nods his head. That was all that mattered as he had done everything for her.

“Alison?” Bill takes a deep breath, knowing this wouldn’t go well.

“She got away.” Chase was ready to curse up a storm, cry, anything as that meant the games weren’t over yet. “They told me when you woke up, they wanted to check you ov-”

“I’m fine, Dad. I just want to see Sarina.” Bill understood, but felt more comfortable following the doctor’s instructions.

“Let them check you out, please. There may be something you haven’t noticed. Also, I would accept the preventative STD medicine because you never know, right? A test wouldn’t hurt anyone, either. Isn’t peace of mind meaningful? They also want to give you a tetanus shot due to what happened, and they ordered a rape ki-”

“She didn’t rape me-“

“She still sexual assaulted you, molested you – everything possible without actually raping you. There are still a lot of effects. You don’t need to pretend it doesn’t bother you.” Chase glances away from his dad, feeling the familiar hot tears. “Chase, talk to me, please….”

“All that matters is Sarina is oka-”

“You may have accepted her offer, done what you believed was right, but you don’t need to suffer alone.” Chase takes a deep breath as the doctor comes in.

“I’m fine…”He then holds up his hands as high as he can. “Can we get this over with, please?”

The entire process didn’t take long, but it was still longer than Chase would’ve preferred. The constant prodding, pokes from needles certainly weren’t well received. However, eventually he was left to the condition they didn’t want to him leave yet, but he could go see Sarina.

It wasn’t a long walk to her room, but it may have as well been. It also didn’t hurt that reaching her room, he stood frozen in the doorway, thankful she was okay, but also disgusted at what had happened due to Alison’s intensions for him. Taking a deep breath, he gets his wits about him as he watches both Kyle and Sam exit together. He then slowly makes his way in, sitting beside her bed in the chair.

“Chase……” Sarina says quietly, reaching her hand out to touch his. “I’m okay, trust me.” He pulls the pink diamond ring from his pocket, slipping it on her finger slowly. “Say something….”

“I’m glad you’re okay,” he says quietly, before kissing her hand. “You never should’ve been put in that situation.” She knew he blamed himself, just like the last time. Except now it probably felt 10 times worse.

“Chase, it is not your fault, none of this. You don’t need to shoulder the blame, just like you told me about my brother. Don’t do that to yourself.” He takes a deep breath, slowly nodding his head. ”I saw what she did. I know she did more beyond that. You don’t need to be strong for me, Chase. You can tell me how you feel.”

“Disgusted, sick, violated, angry, upset – I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept picturing it over and over.” He then glances down at her hand. “I broke our commitment to us, and I think that hurts more than ever.”

“I’m not mad at you. I know why you did it. There is no telling what she would have done otherwise. So I actually thank you for being willing to suffer through that for my sake. I love you, Chase.” She then leans over, kissing his cheek lightly. His breath hitched at the first simple thought of her touch, but calmed in how tenderness and light she was. He even stayed relaxed when she went in for a second kiss, this time on the lips. “It doesn’t change how I feel about you. If anything, I thank you and am proud of your strength. We are going to be okay. You will get through this.”

“Thank you…..” He then looks up, smiling a little as he looks into her eyes.

“Now, can we cuddle already?” He nods his head, climbing up in the bed beside her. “Whenever you want to talk, I’m here for you.”

“I just want to hold you….” She had no reservations about that, allowing him to wrap his arms around her, laying her head against his chest. “I heard the news about your XFINITY debut. I’m proud of you. You absolutely deserve that opportunity.”

Friday, April 13 – Bristol Motor Speedway

Chase walks into the garage, ready for a weekend of fun. Anything to rid of the thoughts of the past week was welcome in his books. He also wasn’t about to take for granted that Sarina was back with him, too.

“Should you be here?” Kenny Francis asks as he watches the pair walk into the garage. Chase just glances over at Sarina a little surprised before looking back towards the crew chief.

“I’m fine, Kenny,” Chase says as Kenny just nods.

“What about you?” Jordan wonders as he walks over to them.

“My shoulder is sore but I am fine,” Sarina says. “It’ll heal eventually but I am ready for this weekend.” She then gives Chase a little kiss on the cheek. “Have fun.” She then heads out, ready to find her crew.

“First run in 15 minutes,” Kenny says before walking away to find Josh. Jordan, meanwhile, had his eyes locked on driver with secret in hand.

“Are you okay?” Jordan asks as he wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders.

“I said I was fi-” Chase starts, almost annoyed. Jordan was making this harder than necessary.

“You don’t need to hide it with me…..” Chase lets out a sigh as he leans back against the car.

“It’s better today than yesterday, okay? With knowing she is back, she is okay, and we are going to be fine – it helps. But I would be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me at all. I still feel sick thinking about it, but I accepted the deal so I’ll deal with it. And before you start, I know it is not my fault as it is Alison’s for manipulating me based on my emotions, but I still need to convince myself of that.” Jordan nods his head accepting, as he leans back beside him.

“Well, I’m always here for you.” Chase takes a deep breath, debating if he should say something.

“You know, it affected me more than I realized. I thought having Sarina back would make me feel better instantly. But when she went to kiss me, I pulled back. I was almost scared to feel her touch. How is that fair? I love her, I know I am safe with her – but I couldn’t almost stand her touch and that was a simple kiss. What if I do the same when she wants more?”

“Give it time, you’ll come around. It’s all part of the feeling of disgust, betrayal. You’ll grow comfortable again.” Chase glances out of the garage.

“I just wish they’d catch her already. I think that’s what bothers me the most is the fact she is still out there, lingering, and could do something agai-”

“You can’t let her get into your head like that. She isn’t going to get another chance.” Chase lets out a sigh.

“I wish I could believe you….” Chase then fixes his shoes once more before climbing in the car.

The Cup practice went smoothly, as he and Kenny found common ground quickly. Despite wishing they had more speed being 26th on the board, he couldn’t complain too much about the handling being that it was just a little snug.

He then spent the K&N practice atop the hauler, eyes focused on his girl. While she had kept assuring him that morning she was fine, he couldn’t help but be nervous. Sure, the bullet had just glazed her skin – but that was a bullet regardless how you said it. What if she was more sore than she was willing to admit? Thankfully, though, her thoughts were more accurate than his, as she ended the session second on the charts behind Harrison.

The rest of the day went smoothly, as Cup qualifying saw no issues with a solid top-20 effort. Of course, the evening was made sweeter by Sarina winning the K&N pole.

“Are you okay?” Chase asks her as they head back to the motorcoach following photos.

“Is that even a question after watching me win the pole?” She questions and he just chuckles, before turning back serious.

“I mean it…” She glances over, clutching his hand.

“I’m okay, trust me. I may need some ice tonight but I am fine to run 150 laps tomorrow. I just need you to change the bandage.” He nods his head, accepting. That wasn’t a bad compromise.

Saturday, April 14 – Bristol Motor Speedway

It was no lie – last night was longer than Chase hoped for, unable to sleep with thoughts swirling in every direction. Sarina offered as much comfort as she could, and eventually he was able to get to sleep.

“We could get Justin to run the car,” Kenny suggested after hearing details.

“I’ll be fine,” Chase assured him. “Besides, we need to get more time together.” Chase then climbs in the car, getting the belts all tight.

“Is he always like this?” Jordan just nods his head.

“He will use racing as his distraction until he is ready to tell us,” Jordan comments. “He’ll be fine…” Jordan then kneels down, ready to stick to business as usual.

The pre-practice worries didn’t last long, as the speed was there immediately, with Chase timing in 10th and second quickest in the two sessions. It was also nice to have time to not think about Alison, but rather focus on the car and adjustments. The post-practice breakdown was filled with so much fun, it went longer than anticipated – with Josh being the one to realize the XFINITY race had finished, and the K&N race was ready to go.

Knowing he wanted to see her before the green, Chase hurried out to the grid as everyone was getting ready to go.

“I just want to pop in and say good luck,” he says, catching her attention.

“How come you haven’t changed yet?” She wonders, surprised.

“I was having fun with the guys….” She smiles as it was actually nice to see him having fun with a good distraction. “Go kick some ass, okay? I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Not even caring that he was still in his firesuit, he made his way up on top of the pit box, ready to take in the action. The race started off well with Sarina leading the first 50 laps. Unfortunately, she would get a little too tight, fading back to third by the checkered.

Standing on pit road post-race, she couldn’t help but be disappointed. But there was no sad faces in knowing she got beat by her besties, Todd and Harrison. She even chuckled when Todd offered to share his sword with her, if he got to keep the trophy and zombie.

“You can use it on someone,” he said with a slight chuckle.

“Yeah, that’d be perfect,” she replies, noticing how Chase tensed up a little. “Are you okay?” He nods his head as he takes a deep breath. She then wraps both her arms around him, leaning her head against his chest. “We are going to be okay, Chase. We have each other, always.”

 

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 56: “Someone doesn’t look happy.”

Friday March 23, 2018 – Martinsville Speedway

Lindsay walks up the small hill up onto the track, stopping, and glancing around.

“It’s even smaller in person it seems,” she comments, causing a chuckle from Sarina, before they head down into the infield. “How do they fit everything in here?”

“They don’t,” Sarina answers, causing a puzzled look from Lindsay. “The truck haulers don’t stay down here all race weekend. They’re here today for the truck practice, and they will be in the morning when they unload tomorrow for tech – but then they go back outside before letting the Cup guys unload and take up space.” Lindsay glances at her, shaking her head in surprise.

“I don’t want to be in charge of coordinating that mess.” Sarina just chuckles once again. “By the way, how’s Chase?” Sarina bites her lip as she would’ve preferred to not talk about Alison. “You don’t have to say anyth-”

“Given the situation, it’s as best as it can be. You can’t deny being a little worried because of Alison’s history, but time to calm down and his focus is looking forward.” Lindsay nods her head sympathically. “By the way, I’m sorry I didn’t say anythin-”

“Are you seriously apologizing for comforting your fiancé? I mean, given any news of magnitude, it’d welcome the response that you had. I have no hard feelings – same way you had none when I interrupted you guys.” Sarina rolls her eyes, before leading her to where the team was hanging out before the practice, introducing her to the different crew members who hadn’t gotten a chance to meet her yet.

“It’s almost like a family rather than a team….” Sarina nods her head as she glances back from the hauler door.

“Do you see what I mean now? These guys, Kyle, Sam, Ricky, and obviously Chas-”

“You don’t need to explain. I get it, and I’m happy for you. You have your racing family, and I have my dancing family; it’s our escape from reality, right?” Sarina nods her head once again.

“Give me 10 minutes – or less for that matter. I just need to get changed…” Sarina heads inside, hearing her phone buzz. She pulls it out, reading the text from Chase as she lets out a long sigh. “Of course…” She quickly texts him back with the best message that she can muster, before continuing up to the lounge.

Chase reads the response, smiling a little as much as he could given the situation, before placing his phone back in his pocket. Taking a deep breath, he knew procrastination would get them nowhere as he takes the quiet walk up to the doors.

“Thank you,” Chase says as he glances over at Josh and Alan.

“Sarina was busy, and you shouldn’t have to do this alon-” Alan offers.

“I have my parents.” It was no secret that Cindy and Bill had shown up for their own curiosity, too.

“I know, but having your friends also is helpful. Besides, you’re forgetting that you weren’t the only target of Chris’ attacks.” Chase sighs, not needing a reminder of a court room doors.

“It also gave me something to do today,” Josh adds, earning a light chuckle from both Chase and Alan.

“If you’re desperate for work during your suspension, I can gladly help you there,” Alan adds and Josh shakes his head no.

The group quietly takes their seats together, as Chase takes a deep breath. They were only there to hear a couple words from a judge, but it felt like the whole world rested on what he had to say.

He stands up as the judge enters, focusing his eyes forward, not allowing himself to begin to even wander towards the left. He didn’t want to see Chris, or really Shelley for that matter either. If it was up to him, he would leave all of this – and Alison – behind as quickly as possible.

Taking his seat, he feels a hand on his shoulder, glancing behind with a small smile towards his parents, before focusing his eyes the same direction as before.

“As requested by Shelley Dryer, the entire case pertaining to Chris Dryer was reviewed – with a focus on whether a psychological evaluation is valid and the surrounding steps,” the judge states as he focuses his eyes forward. “The purpose of this was review was to determine whether the sentencing regulations were fairly according to the charges and happenings of events.

“It is no secret that the amount of documents to review was lengthy, from Mr. Dryer’s own testimony, to victim testimony, victim impact statements, hospital and medical records, along with previous psychological evaluations. I thank all parties involved for your patience over the past couple of weeks.

“After reviewing everything extensively, I have reached my reasoning and it is final as of today in this court room. All parties are expected to accept the reasoning within reason, and not act out or against it.

“Following a review of Mr. Dryer’s court documents, I will allow him to be submitted for psychological evaluation by a psychiatrist of this court’s choosing. That psychiatrist works for the legal system here in California, and is an independent from all parties involved in this matter.”

Chase immediately saw the red flags with this situation. There was only a 5% chance of this door opening per the lawyer, but yet this judge was going to do that anyway. If it was opened this far to even allow for an evaluation – that could mean being forced further and a possible release. Alison was enough to deal with, but both her and Chris? That’d be mission impossible.

Furthermore, he wasn’t about to have confidence in the court’s mental institution policy given Alison’s escape, either. Who was to say that Chris wouldn’t follow her route?

“Following Mr. Dryer’s session, I will consult with the psychiatrist about his findings,” the judge continues. “If Mr. Dryer is found mentally unstable, he will be submitted  to the mental institution for rehab. At the completion of the rehab, a trial will be held to determine whether his sentence is reduced. If he is found stable, then there will be no change in the given amount of events.” The judge closes the file as he looks towards Chris. “Do you understand the findings today?”

“Yes sir,” Chris states as a small smile forms on his face.

“Does the defense have any requests or questions?” The lawyer shakes her head no. “Does the prosecution have any requests or questions?”

“Recently, Ms. Alison Reynolds escaped your mental institution after being found mentally unstable in relation to her charges connected to Mr. Elliott and others,” the lawyer begins, causing Chase to smile. He was glad he wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure there. “Can we make sure that this time the court system actually upholds their end of the bargain and watches Mr. Dryer to make sure he doesn’t escape like Ms. Reynolds?”

“I will make sure extra security is in place for that matter,” the judge answers, which earned a simple nod from Chase. As long as they were aware and did something about it so nothing happened, he could sleep at night. Now he just hoped that the psychiatrist saw what they saw before. “Is there any other requests? If not, court is adjourned for today.”

Chase slowly gets up, ignoring the glance his way from Shelley, as he heads out through the door.

“Chase….” Alan says as he follows him, earning a glance back. “Are you okay?” Chase nods his head.

“At least they’re using security better this time, right?” He questions as he lets out a sigh. “I can’t believe that for a third time, Chris may just find his way out of jail on a psychological loophole. I mean, sure, he’s probably a little crazy, but you can’t tell me that’s the sole reason for what he did. He even uttered the words of revenge against Sarina, Alan.”

“I know, I was there….” Chase lets out a sigh as he leans back against the wall, taking a deep breath.

“I told Sarina and I’ve told you that I’m not going to let Alison run my life, but here I am….” Alan places a hand on his shoulder.

“Anybody in your shoes would have the same reaction. If the shoe was on my foot, hell, I’d be freaking out right now. Give yourself some credit as you’re doing a good job, but also recognize that it’s not going to be all peaches and talk if you need to.” Chase nods his head as he glances over at Alan.

“I just can’t get the words of revenge out of my head, Alan. He said that he would do whatever it took to make sure Sarina understood that he wasn’t happy for what happened then. He was set on tearing her life apart, piece by piece, not caring who was in the way. How can someone who says that be allowed a third chance? How can someone who knows how to sneak around the system – and told me damn well so – be allowed a chance to do so?” Alan nods his head, sympathizing with his driver.

“I don’t know bud. All I can tell you is they will figure it out before he has a chance to get to you guys, and Alison is going to be found as soon as possible. The whole country is looking for her so she can’t hid-”

“She hid in plain sight for three mon-”

“Trust me, Chase – they will find her. Have I ever let you down before?” Chase raises his eyebrows.

“There was that one time when you promised me that perfect adjustment and it flipped the car’s handling right the wron-”

“I’m serious, Elliott!” Chase chuckles and shakes his head no.

“I believe you, okay. We’re going to be okay…..”

With having finished the second session of the day, Sarina was relaxing up in the lounge, discussing the approach for the final practice to come. She had kept her phone close, knowing that there was an update coming.

After pretty much finalizing everything, she reaches over, and unlocks the phone, noticing a new text message. Slightly caught off-guard that it had come from Josh – Chase was supposed to send the update, she opens it. It was long and lengthy, but certainly detailed as he hadn’t left out a single detail for her about what the judge had to say.

“Someone doesn’t look happy,” Todd offers as Sarina glances up from her phone. “What did Chase do now?”

“Please tell me that he wasn’t too mad after the snake pran-” Harrison goes to add, noticing the change in her demeanor.

“That doesn’t even freaking matter right now!” She lets out, causing everybody’s jaw to drop. She then takes a calming deep breath as she closes her eyes for a second, before glancing around. “Sorry….”

“Seriously, what did Chase do now?” Todd questions once again as he knew there were few things that made Sarina having an outburst – especially after starting anger management classes.

“Chase didn’t do anything.” That caused the teammates’ jaws to drop once again.

“Chris?” Lindsay wonders and Sarina nods her head. “You got to be kidding me…..”

“They have allowed him to have another evaluation,” Sarina informs her. “Then from there, if he is found mentally unstable, he will be submitted  to the mental institution for rehab. At the completion of the rehab, a trial will be held to determine whether his sentence is reduced. If he is found stable, then there will be no change.”

“They aren’t going to find anythi-” Harrison starts.

“You can’t be so sure of that, Harrison. He’s tricked them before – twice. What’s stopping him from doing that again? Furthermore, Alison was able to escape so how comforting is to know that he will be there even with extra security? Sometimes I wish I grew up in a different family!!” She then glances over at Lindsay. “Sorr-”

“Oh hell no, don’t apologize,” Lindsay tells her. “I wish we could knock out half of the family at times, too. Shelley was normally the smart one. How is it that she can’t get our reasoning for this and brings on this situation?” Sarina shakes her head in disgust.

“I don’t know….” Sarina comments with a sigh. Rudy quietly motions for the teammates to follow him, leading them out of the lounge, before closing the door shut. “My brother is such a mixed bag of feelings. I am able to put anything and everything in the past and focus forward – except for him. That is one thing that I keep toying with back and forth. As angry as I am for what he did and as much as I just want to forget, I can’t.”

“That’s human, though.” Lindsay scoots closer, placing a hand on her leg. “That’s a human reaction, Sarina. Sure, you have all of these negative thoughts with your brother – but we also have all these positive perspectives. I mean, how many good memories do we have from when we are kids? That’s why at times, it can be hard to understand what went wrong and how this happened – and bring that mixture you’re thinking about…” Sarina glances over at Lindsay.

“With that said, do you think what he did is because of being a little crazy?” Lindsay shrugs her shoulders.

“Drugs can have quite the effect on a person, right? But at the same time, certain things that he said and did don’t fit the case. So I think maybe there’s a bit – but he can’t sit here and blame it all on being crazy.” Sarina nods her head, accepting.

“Thank you….” Lindsay smiles a little as she looks at her.

“It’s going to be okay, regardless. You have the right foundation around you, and justice always wins out in the end.”  Sarina nods her head once again.

“I keep trying to believe that, even though this keeps going to shit….”

“If there was a night that we needed a good time and a distraction….” Sarina starts as Chase wraps an arm around her.

“That’s if I can keep my eyes off of you long enough,” he comments, kissing her lips.

“Will you two just get a room?” Ryan questions as he looks over at them over Lindsay’s shoulder. “Wait – that feels odd with me saying that to you instead…” Chase chuckles back in response. “But seriously!”

“Just wait, we’ll be saying the same for you two soon.” He then gives Sarina a wink as she lets out a tiny chuckle.

They head inside the concert venue after showing their passes, heading straight to the VIP section.

“Thank you for doing this!” Sarina lets out, before squealing a little as the boys just laugh.

“Careful, you may lose your girl to him tonight,” Ryan teases as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“If I knew it made her this happy, I would’ve done it sooner,” Chase offers as Ryan just shakes his head.

“Okay Romeo….”

Everybody was all set to enjoy the show together, when Cole Swindell called the boys up to the stage.

“Did you know about this?” Lindsay wonders and Sarina shakes her head no. “Can Chase even sing?”

“Oh he can sing when he wants….” Sarina answers, still remembering the phone message she saved that he left her. Thinking back to their trip to Amsterdam, she couldn’t help but smile at the upcoming off-weekend and the plans they were making. The girls watched on Cole did a shout-out with the boys, including a selfie of them together. “Can’t believe he’d do that without me…”

“So is he cut off tonight?” Sarina smacks her back in response as Lindsay bursts out laughing.

“Say, is Sarina Ott in the house?” They hear Cole say, causing a surprised glance on both girls’ faces. “Actually, let’s bring both of you girls down here.” The girls look at each other, squealing, before quickly making their way to the stage steps. Glancing at each other once again, trying to compose themselves, they walk up on to the stage. “So the boys tell me that you’re a fan….”

“Hell yeah!” Sarina immediately lets out.

“Well, someone asked me if I’d sing a special song for you. He said that you may know it…” She glances back at Chase, who just gives her a wink back in return.

Baby, it just took one look at you
For me to change my one drink order to two
Like we already knew each other
Like we been talking all night
About a minute into our first dance
We got blindsided by your friends
All in a hurry like you had to go
Didn’t they know you can’t leave someone
Girl, you can’t leave someone

In the middle of a dance floor all alone
In the middle of an old school country song
Right when I was just about to lean on in
Why’d you have to go then?
Baby, in the middle of the glow of the neon light
It shoulda, coulda, woulda been the night of our lives
Girl, it ain’t right, no
How you gonna leave me right in the middle of a memory?

We were gonna dance till they shut it down
People’d be staring while I spin you ’round
Thinking we were so in love, yeah
They wouldn’t know we hadn’t even hooked up
I’d get your number and I’d give you mine
And we’d be hanging out tomorrow night
But now I don’t know where you are
I’m under these lights right here in the dark

In the middle of a dance floor all alone
In the middle of an old school country song
Right when I was just about to lean on in
Why’d you have to go then?
Baby, in the middle of the glow of the neon light
It shoulda, coulda, woulda been the night of our lives
Girl, it ain’t right, no
How you gonna leave me right in the middle of a memory?

Yeah, it’s like you walked right out in the middle of a movie
Tore the back half out of a book
And no, you’ll never know, girl, what you did to me
It ain’t right saying goodbye

In the middle of a dance floor all alone
In the middle of what could’ve been our song
Right when I was just about to lean on in
Why’d you have to go then?
Baby, in the middle of the glow of the neon light
It shoulda, coulda, woulda been the night of our lives
But, girl, it ain’t right, no
How you gonna leave me right in the middle of a memory?
In the middle of a memory
In the middle of a memory

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 54: Snake…

Tuesday March 20, 2018 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

Sarina makes her way through the shop, set to head up the stairs to the offices. She knew that getting briefed on yesterday’s wide spread company meeting was first on the docket as she hated to miss it, followed by a discussion with Rudy ahead of this weekend. it was time for Martinsville, and she wasn’t leaving anything on the table.

“Well, look who chose to make an appearance today…” She hears and immediately rolls her eyes as she watches Harrison Burton pop out of one of the offices.

“Sarina is actually here?” She hears from the same office, with Todd Gilliland popping out. “Oh my gosh, the princess is here in flesh. What shall we do, Harrison?”

“I don’t know Todd. I mean, what do you do with someone who chooses when they just feel like randomly coming in?” Todd shrugs his shoulders as Sarina rolls her eyes.

“I mean, who really misses the shop meeting ahead of a race weekend? I’d never missed one of those even with exams.”

“I even skipped a doctor’s appointment so I could be here for a meeting.”

“I even skipped a fun outing with friends so I could be here for a mee-”

“Are you guys done yet?” She cuts them off as she glances between them in surprise. “I mean, yeah, I missed the meeting yesterday, but I damn well would’ve rather been here at that meeting than sitting in a court room staring a crazy woman’s ass and hear her sick excuses for how she went after my boyfriend for months.” The smiles leave their faces immediately as they glance between each other, before glancing at her. She could only take a deep breath and glance down towards the floor. “I didn’t mean for that to come out so harshly, but you guys were going a little too fa-”

“We didn’t mean anything by it, Sarina,” Harrison starts. “We knew where you were. Kyle mentioned it. We were just having some fun, just kidding about it – nothing meant.”  Todd places a hand on her shoulder.

“We should’ve been a little more sensitive to the subject,” Todd adds as she glances back at the boys.

“It’s okay, I get it,” she assures them. “I guess I’m just a little on edge about it.” She then goes into her office, which the boys easily follow. “I don’t want to get into specifics, but the way she talked about what she did, and why she did, and her thought process – it honestly made me want to puke. It took every part of me to be strong for him because you could just tell that it made his skin crawl.” Harrison looks at her surprised.

“You mean it got a reaction out of Chase?” He questions and she nods her head. “Okay, I can’t say that I know Chase as well as anybody – but to get a reaction out of him, that takes quite a bit…” She just continues to nod her head.

“He didn’t say anything, or really do anything – but you could just see it in reaction to her words. I even tried to reach out to that layer afterwards and he wouldn’t say much.” She then lets out a long sigh as she flops back in the chair. “I’ve said too mu-”

“Hey, you need to get it out there and vent. We can both promise you that anything you say to us won’t go any further than this office, okay?” She nods her head accepting as she glances up at the pair. “Just also promise that you’ll do the right things to handle this, whether talking to someone, or whatever you need.” She lets out a chuckle as she peeks at her phone.

“I’m used to this by now, Harrison. You don’t need to give me the rookie involvement speech. Besides, aren’t I supposed to be giving you tips, rookie?” He then looks on surprised as she sticks out her tongue playfully. “For the record, did I miss much yesterday?”

“Kyle spouted off his usual advice, reminded us to play nice after your stunt last year with Christopher, and said that he expects to hear tick tock on Monday,” Todd informs her as she just smiles back in response.

“I don’t see why we can’t make that happen, right?” She offers and the boys nod their head in response.

“Now, let’s improve the mood a little….” She then glances at him confused, as she notices his glance over at Harrison. Harrison leaves the office as she still looks on worried.

“Do I want to know what you boys are planning?” He wasn’t too sure how to respond, so he just smiled.

“Let’s just say that you may enjoy or freak out at the surprise…” Harrison walks back in the office with the Rattler 250 snake on his shoulders as he walks over and sits on the corner of her desk.

“I can’t keep him, but he was allowed to come spend some time with me to meet everyone,” Harrison starts as Sarina admires the snake as it looks over at her. “My parents made me swear to not step within a 1000 feet of their house while he’s in town, so we’re stuck here together. What do you think?”

“He’s certainly a beauty,” she comments. “Congratulations, by the way.” He simply nods his head back in response.

“Thank you.” A smirk then forms on her face as she takes out her phone.

“Say, how long do you have him for?”

“The whole day…” Sarina chuckles as she brings up a familiar phone number.

“Care to have some fun in cheering up someone els-”

“You’re texting Chase, aren’t you?” She nods her head as he just laughs. “Text away…”

****

It was later in the afternoon when Chase was done the meetings at Hendrick Motorsports and able to make his escape. He still wasn’t sure why Sarina wanted to see him over at Kyle Busch Motorsports on ‘special reasons’ in the office, but he wanted to believe that it was the right intensions.

After clearing special permissions downstairs, he makes his way immediately up to the office level of the shop, walking down the hallway as he stops a familiar door. He glances in, smiling immediately as he sees her.

“If someone is busy, I can come back lat-” he starts, causing her to glance up immediately.

“Get your ass in here!” She instructs immediately while sending a quick text to Harrison. He makes his way inside and over to her side of the desk, kissing her lips. “I was wondering when you’d show up.”

“Given Sunday’s frustrations, the meeting took a little longer than anticipated. We also addressed the hole in the wall.” She then lets out a sigh, not wanting to think about Alison right now. “What’s wron-”

“Just tell me the conversation went smoo-”

“We all talked just touched upon being thankful, and the fact that she wasn’t able to get bail and shows all signs of crazy. Oh, and Rick had already arranged for the repair to be made – no questions asked.” She lets out a sigh, thankful for that.

“And how’s Alan?” Chase knew there wasn’t much to say as he sat on the corner of her desk.

“Alan is Alan. He’s focused as ever on making things better for our race tea-”

“You know what I mea-”

“He didn’t show any signs at all.” He then reaches out and places a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure you’re okay?” She then takes a deep breath as she glances up into his brown eyes.

“I’m worried, okay? I saw the way you looked at her when she talked about her thoughts. I felt that skin crawl, the shudder, the way that she made you feel. It worries me about how you’re feeling and whether you’re okay like you make it seem to be…”

“All I can do is tell you how I feel, and my reaction, right? All I can do is try and be as truthful as I can be with you, and trust me when I say this – I am okay. Sure, she evokes these sick feelings with me and sure, I wish I could never of heard those words. But I am okay in knowing that she can’t hurt me, you, or anybody ever again.” He then leans in and lightly kisses her lips. “I love you.”

“I love you, too – and I hope you still love me after this.” He then glances at her confused as she points towards the doorway. Harrison then walks in with the snake affixed around his neck, smile firmly planted.

“Are you kidding me?!?” Both Harrison and Sarina laugh as they watch him squirm, hiding behind her.

“Say hello to my little friend…” Harrison teases as Chase glances down at Sarina.

“This is why you wanted me to come over?” He questions and she just laughs harder.

“I thought you could make a new friend…” She comments and he immediately shakes his head no. “The way I look at it is this – you lost the original bet when I qualified better than you. You also lost the second bet when Bubba beat Chand-”

“Chandler got wrecked on the second lap not of his doi-”

“Bubba still beat him, even if he broke. So that’s two losses to me.” He rolls his eyes as she spins her chair around to face him. “You could make friends with the snake to honor your loss.”

“Friends with the snake?” She nods her head. “Should I just go ahead and tell Harrison once again that you chose Bubba Pollard over both he and Raphael, your own teammates? But yet you want him to help you today?”

“Is he serious?” Harrison questions and Sarina slowly shrugs her shoulders. “Wow, thanks for the love. Come on Snakey, you don’t deserve to make friends with people like that…” Harrison turns and leaves as Sarina looks back at Chase.

“Happy?” She questions and he nods his head yes.

“Besides, I told you that I would honor the bet in style,” he answers, kissing her lips lightly. “I told you that I’d spoil you without any regard. If you’re a good girl, maybe I’ll take you up on that tonight.”

“You can’t tease and not deliver, Chase…” He smirks as he stands up and walks away to the doorway, glancing back.

“Don’t be late..” He heads out down the hall as a smirk forms on her face, hoping that she could get through what she needed to do that afternoon as soon as possible.

****

Wednesday March 21, 2018

With the sun shining in through the window on her, Chase glances over with a smile on his face. He brushes a piece out of hair out of her eyes, glancing at her in pure amazement.

“Are you just going to stare?” She questions as he smiles.

“I thought I did enough for you last night,” he offers and she just laughs as she rolls over. “Admit it. That was much better than trying to make me be friends with the snake.”

“The look on your face when Harrison brought that snake into the office was priceless…” He rolls his eyes as he reaches for his phone off the nightstand. “Chase, can we just stay here all day?”

“You wish for that every day except when it’s race da-”

“Do you blame me?” He laughs, shaking his head no. “You can’t have something that you have to do today…” He glances at his schedule, before looking over at her.

“What if I told you that I did?” She then gives him a pouting face immediately as he smiles.

“You’re not supposed to smile. You’re supposed to feel bad and cancel your plans…” He chuckles as he goes into his text messages. “Ah, actually, I better go into the shop and see Rudy. I promised that we’d have another chat before this weekend.”

“Anything wrong?” She shakes her head no. “I bet you’d rather be working with Marcus still…”

“There’s some days that I would rather work with Marcus because I can’t even begin to describe the friendship and understanding there. He did so much for me, right? I mean, he’s one of the reasons we were able to find what we needed together as he always offered advice. Rudy – he isn’t that type from what I’ve gathered so far. However, I don’t just want to throw him to the curb like you’re impl-”

“I never said those wor-”

“I just want to try and see where it goes, you know? I mean, he’s smart and certainly I can learn a lot from him as we’ve seen some of the improvements already in just a couple events together. So frustrating as it may be at times to change what I know and followed, I’m willing to open this door.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“Rudy reminds me a lot of Ricky in a way, too. Smart about the approach, willing to teach, knows what you need to hear as a young driver, tips – it should work out well for you, I believe. I just – Ah of course…” She then looks at him confused as he reads over the text message. “Alison’s lawyer filed an insanity plea so she will be evaluated by a court official.”

“Are you honestly surprised given what she said on Monday?” Chase shakes his head no as he moves on to another message. “Chase….”

“It doesn’t change my thoughts. As long as she’s away – whether jail or a mental institution, she can’t do anything and that’s all I care about. I’m not giving her the power to mess wit-”

“But if she does, you will tell me and let me help you for once, right?” He glances over, and nods his head immediately.

“Of course….” He leans in and kisses her lips. “Have you heard anything about Chris?” She shakes her head no as she grabs her phone. “That judge is certainly taking his time with everything…”

“I thought you said that was a good thing.” He nods his head as he looks back to his phone.

“It is. It means that he’ll come out with a very clear, concise, correct decision and that will be leave to Chris where he is.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 161: Concerns….

Friday, October 27 – Martinsville Speedway

Christopher Bell kept a keen eye on his teammates – there were a slew of them this week as Kyle Busch decided to enter four trucks, giving each of the kid’s a shot at glory. It was either going to work out really well, or really ugly as he knew they all wanted to win badly.

“Where’s Sarina?” Harrison Burton asks, catching Christopher’s attention. He points to the trailer, where she stood on top watching the Cup practice session. Harrison went to leave the group, possibly go get her, when Christopher grabbed his arm.

“Just leave her,” Christopher instructs as he lets out a sigh. “She’s watching her boyfriend.” Harrison figured that, but knew that they should have all of them together for a practice debrief. The session had gone better than expected, with all four trucks in the top-10, including both Christopher and Harrison in the top-five.

“And that’s an excuse for missing our meeting?” Christopher lets out a sigh, all ready wanting to strangle his teammates.

“No, but there’s other reasons. There’s other stuff going on that you guys don’t understand. She’s been quiet and that’s not like her around me. So I think it’s best that we give her some space.” Harrsion and Todd both glanced to where she was as Todd crossed his arms.

“What if we go tease her and loosen her up a bit?” Todd suggests as Christopher could only let out another sigh. “Or not. Look, I think we all have great trucks for tomorrow and I think it’s going to be a great day.”

“Just both of you just be smart about it. It’s not a long race – but it’s not super short, either. You have time to make moves so be patient.”

The group continued to share words through the rest of the Cup practice, with Christopher’s eyes leaving the fold at times as he glanced up at the hauler to see whether her demeanor had changed.

Once their discussion was over, the group separated and Christopher made his way down through the Cup stalls. He knew he shouldn’t be concerned – maybe he was over reacting, maybe it was none of his business – but he couldn’t help but worry about his teammate.

He stands by the No. 24 garage stall, watching as Chase breaks down the session with Alan and Josh. He waited until the group separated.

He could see the serious look on Chase’s face – wondering if the practice had gone according to plan. Chase had shown speed, but Christopher also knew of his struggles at the paperclip. Maybe this was a bad time…

Against his own judgment, though, he made his way up through the stall over to the driver in question.

“Hey,” Christopher says, catching Chase’s attention out of his daze.

“Hey,” Chase simply replies, caught off guard a bit to see Christopher standing there. His mind immediately wandered to the possibilities about Sarina. “Is everything okay?”

“Don’t worry, your girl is fine. She was actually on top of the KBM hauler watching your practice.” Chase smiles, not surprised as that was her normal spot if she wasn’t on top of the NAPA hauler. “Look, I don’t want to come across at the wrong time or interrupt something important, but I have to ask – is everything okay?” Chase crosses his arms, caught off-guard by the question.

“Why are you asking?” Christopher takes a deep breath, hoping his observations weren’t off.

“Sarina just seems quieter than normal, almost in a moody state at times – if you don’t mind me saying. I’m just concerned.” Chase was used to Christopher being concerned, and sometimes knew to accuse of overstepping boundaries. This weekend, though, he knew the thoughts were valid via conversations prior to arriving at the track.

“She hasn’t won a race this year and she hasn’t run as well as she thought. Plus, there’s the pressure to succeed because everybody wins in KBM equipment. It’s eating at her some as she and I talked about that this week. Now combined with the fact we’re at a short track where she’s expected to do well, and knows that she could win, she’s really entering this serious focused mode, set for nothing less than success. You understand where she’s coming from, right?” Christopher nods his head, remembering a couple moments like that of his own last year.

“Did you give her the common it’s okay for rookies to struggle, she’s done a great job, and to just have fun with it because if it’s meant to be it’ll happen?” Chase smiles, having said those exact things.

“But for her, combine that with the other crap. She can’t get her mind off the lack of sentence for Bethany, or literally nothing at all for Allison. It also doesn’t help that the process for a restraining order is a little ridiculous. Then on top of that, we don’t know where things stand with her brother. How long will be behind bars? Will he be found guilty of poisoning me and Ryan? She’s got a lot on her mind.” Christopher was glad that his observations weren’t too far off.

“I just gave her some space, let her think and do her own thing. I hope that’s right…” Chase nods his head. There wasn’t much else you could do in Christopher’s shoes.

“Yeah, that’s all you can do. I’m trying my hardest to give her advice, as well as Marcus and Kyle. We’ve all agreed that we just need to take it day by day, step by step, and try to make this weekend fun.” Christopher glances at the speed chart, shedding a smile as he sees Kyle at the top of the charts.

“You’re not too bad….” Chase glances behind him, seeing that he finished the practice in the top-five.

“Anybody can knock off one quick lap around this place. It’s all about getting that rhythm to be there all race long.” Christopher puts a hand on Chase’s shoulder, catching him off-guard.

“You will figure it out, and as much as I love my boss – I do hope that you get a win soon. Good luck.” Christopher then turns on his heels, leaving the stall as Chase lets out a sigh.

Crossing his fingers, he knew both he and Sarina needed a good weekend to turn things around.

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

Saturday, October 28

Chase rubs Sarina’s shoulders as they stand on pit road, waiting for the truck qualifying session to begin. It was quiet day for Chase as there was a practice scheduled later on, but time trials weren’t until Sunday. With that in mind, his number one focus was going to be her.

“Are you okay?” He questions and she nods her head. “Are you sure?” She then glances over her shoulder at him.

“You’re being extra caring, as well as Marcus and Kyle,” she starts. “Is this the way you’re going to be the rest of the year because of Dega?” Chase lets out a sigh as he stops rubbing her shoulders, turning her around to face him directly.

“This has nothing to do with tha-”

“Then why are you guys all being overbearing?” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to find the words.

“We’re concerned about you, okay? Everybody can see that you’re not in your perfect happy place, and we get it. We’re all racers so we get the pressure, the focus, and everything else you’re thinking about. I also understand your thoughts about your brother, Bethany, Allison, because those match mine. Because we care, we’re looking out for you.” She then rolls her eyes as she looks back towards the track.

“Well, I’d prefer if you just leave it alone, please. I’d like to focus this weekend, okay?” He nods his head, accepting.

“That’s fine.” He then grabs her hand, catching her attention. “But know that I love you, I care about you, and I’d do anything for you. If you need someone to vent to, or a shoulder to cry on – anything, just let me know. Stop running…” Her eyes freeze immediately as she catches the meaning behind those words, glancing down at their fingers interlocked together.

“Since I was 13, the only person I could depend on was myself – five years where I could not trust a single person in my life. It’s hard at times to realize that I can do that now. It’s hard to open up, to tell you, to explain.” She looks up into his eyes. “I love you, too, and I care so much about you. That’s why I want to do everything right for us. But sometimes, how do you open that door when it’s been shut for so long?”

“You believe, you trust, and you put faith in the person on the other side. I’ve never let you down, ever, and I don’t ever plan too. You need to believe that, no matter what…” She nods her head, accepting. She then takes a deep breath, trying to clear her mind as she leans in for a kiss. “Go get ‘em!”

“That’s the plan….” She then walks away as he stands there, running his hands through his short hair.

“I feel like we’re going in circles sometimes….” But he also knew the reason for it, respected that, understood that, and was willing to be patient.

They had made so much progress over the past two years that he couldn’t ignore, giving him fuel and belief for the future. They had gone from her not willing to open her heart at all, to being able to fully open up at times with love knowing no boundaries.

This minor moment was simply because of everything going on, which he understood that being mentally taxing – he found himself lost in the thoughts at times, too. He knew once they got through what was ahead, and things being able to stable out, everything else would fall into place too without anymore worries.

For now, his eyes focused on the track as he watched her lay down two impressive qualifying runs, setting herself up to start fifth later on that day.

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

Chase sat on the pit box, watching the action around the paperclip closely. It had been an exciting race so far, as Sarina had kept herself up in the top five throughout the first stage, and was doing so as the laps closed down in the second. He watches as the checkered flag flies, seeing her cross the line in third once again.

So far, so good….

Pulling off pit road in fourth, she kept herself right up there, immediately moving into third behind Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton. His eyes were so focused on her No. 18 Toyota Tundra, that he was surprised when he heard the curse words begin to fly in constant fashion out of Kyle’s mouth. An immediate glance towards the corner told him why, though, as he saw the No. 4 truck of Bell turned around backwards.

“Would you believe that Matt says that bullshit was unintentional?” Kyle questions out loud as Chase shakes his head. He then watched the replay on the big screen, even more surprised. Matt basically just drove in there, spinning Christopher around. “Unintentional – yeah right. Meanwhile, your crew chief had just told you to pick him apart. That just goes over nicely….”

“Bell has time – he will get back up there,” Chase offers, not knowing what much else to say as Kyle put his headset back on. “Well, this is interesting….”

“Don’t let a truck struggling to make a pass in front of you get you bogged down in return,” Kyle then advises Sarina over the radio. Chase had been listening all day, intrigued by the advice he was giving, also eating some of it up himself. Kyle knew his way around Martinsville, and anyway he could be better he was going to use it. “And I don’t care what you do with the 88 (Matt) here. You can wreck the shit out of him.”

“Oh lawdy….” Chase knew that Kyle was venting frustration, but he also knew that wasn’t necessary here on the radio.

There was still over 70 laps left. Sarina just needed to be smart here restarting second, keep herself in position, and do her thing – and maybe it’d come together. But filling her head with other unnecessary banter wasn’t going to help things.

Chase’s eyes were locked on the paperclip over the next several laps, watching as the laps continued to tick down with Matt Crafton leading over Sarina easily. He watched as the gap didn’t seem to close, despite Sarina locking down solid laps, one after the other, after the other.

With 15 laps to go, the game changed as a caution flew for a spun truck near the back of the pack. Chase ran his hands over his face, taking a deep breath, knowing shit was about to crazy here.

“Be careful about pinching him because he’s racing for a championship, ” Kyle advises Sarina about Matt. “He’ll probably wreck you…” Chase could understand where Kyle was coming from. After seeing Matt’s aggressive style against Christopher earlier and everybody knowing that a win here locked you into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, everybody was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.

His eyes are immediately locked on the frontstretch, watching the green flag fly with 10 laps to go. Crossing his fingers, he watches Matt and Sarina dive into turn one. She gives him room, running her line, hitting the gas up off the corner to stay even with him down the backstretch. He stand up on the pit box, watching them go around the corner side-by-side, again Sarina picking up the gas, this time getting the run off.

With nine to go, he watched as the No. 18 truck scurried ahead, getting clear of Crafton, before slipping down in front of him through the next set of corners.

Chase could feel his stomach flip flopping, butterflies swirling. His fingers instantly crossed themselves, followed by toes looking to do the same. He found himself nervous to watch, afraid of a late caution or Matt coming back, but wanting to watch as this was Martinsville – everybody liked watching a good short track race.

Each time she passed by start-finish, he clicked off another lap in his head, just wanting it to be over. 2 to go….white flag…..

As she came around with the black and white flag flying, it was almost disbelief came over him as he watched her drive underneath it first. It was over….

“WOOOHOOOO!” She lets out the biggest scream over the radio immediately as Chase pumps a fist in the air. He and Kyle immediately catch each other, sharing a hug before they both pat Marcus on the shoulders.

“Way to go!” Marcus says over the radio in response.

“Spectacular driving at the end!” Kyle adds. The group hurries down the steps, eyes focused on the frontstretch as the No. 18 truck comes around. “Burn ‘em down….”

They watch as the epic burnout as they make their way across pit road, sharing high-fives with various crew members along the way. Chase beams in total glory as he watches her come to a stop, climb out, dancing on the back of the truck, fist pumping in the air. She then jumps off, climbing the fence, as the crew hurries to join her.

“You’re coming too!” Kyle lets out as he motions for Chase to hop the wall with him. Chase couldn’t deny being happy for her as he joined the fray, pausing to stand on top of the wall and take a couple photos on his phone himself.

Sarina hops off the fence, feeling a bit of vomit rise, immediately bending over and letting it come up, falling into the cracks of the safer barrier. She feels a pair of hands on her shoulders, half-expecting them to be Chase, but is caught off-guard when it’s Kyle.

“Are you okay?” He questions as she looks back, smile still firmly planted on her face.

“Just got a little over excited, overwhelmed,” she answers as she wipes her mouth off. “I can’t believe this….”

“Believe it, embrace it, and enjoy it. You’re a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winner. You get to take home a clock!” She immediately grins even more, pulling Kyle into a tight hug.

“Thank you for the opportunity!”

After letting herself calm a bit more, she moves the truck to the official victory lane location on the frontstretch before the stage, climbing out once again with her arms up in the air. She didn’t care how many times she had to do this – she would do it all night if she needed to.

She then hops off the truck and feels a very familiar set of arms immediately wrap around her from behind, kissing her lips immediately.

“I’m so proud of you!!” Chase lets out as he spins her around. “You did an absolutely amazing job. That was spectacular. I don’t know you made that move on the outside on the restart, but wow. You’re amazing!” She just smiles back in return, still in disbelief, a couple tears trickling down the cheeks in the process.

“Thank you for believing in me,” she tells him. “Thank you for the chance with your late model team, and thank you for believing in me. Thank you for being there, giving advice, letting me lean on you, and for being you. I love you so much….” She then kisses his lips one more time, before turning around, set to face the world with her comments. “Finally!!”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 88: “Good luck with that, jackass!”

Thursday, June 1

Sarina walks into the garage, placing her helmet and gloves on the dash of the truck. She then noticed her teammates and their crew chiefs standing around, concerned. She then grabs her phone out of her pocket, walking over to join them.

“What’s going on?” She questions her crew chief Marcus Richmond.

“Another crew member has been poisoned,” Marcus tells her, causing her jaw drop to immediately. “One of our guys, actually – Jake. He’s going to be okay, so you don’t have to worry. But it just caught us off-guard.” She shakes her head in obvious agreement.

“First Bristol, then one of Chase’s guys and now Jake,” Harrison Burton says as he finds himself puzzled by the events.

“When did this happen?” She wonders as she glances amongst the group.

“Earlier today while we were going through tech, he seemed a little off and sure enough, that was it,” Marcus explains. “He said he had some food and he had a couple drinks while we were working before then so who knows as that could’ve been the cause.”

“You guys cleaned out the cooler incase, right?” Todd Gilliland wonders as he looks over the bottle of Gatorade that he had grabbed and Marcus shakes his head yes.

“So you’re late getting here,” Christopher Bell comments, in reference to Sarina’s late arrival. “Where have you been? Hanging out with the boy?” Sarina just rolls her eyes, getting annoyed of Christopher’s comments.

“I’ve been here since early this morning, just doing some sponsor things and other commitments – you can ask Marcus,” she states in a stern tone. “And as far as your comments with regards to Chase, he’s not even here today. He has his own commitments, you know?”

“We don’t need to get defensive,” Marcus comments, noticing the change in Sarina’s behavior as she focuses her eyes on Christopher.

“I’m sorry. It’s just Christopher can’t seem to keep his nose out of his business lately. Ever since Chase and I had that fight, he’s been riding my ass about everything. I thought you had a girlfriend, Bell.” Todd and Harrison look between their teammates with their own look of shock as Marcus could only roll his eyes.

“So I’m in trouble for caring about your well-being now?” Christopher asks as she just laughs.

“Caring?” She repeats. “Dude, you’re always accusing his ass of something when you feel something is off. Like today with whether we were busy today. There was also the trouble in paradise comment at fan day. Oh, and the best was the catch me off-guard in shop for discussion. It’s one thing to care, it’s another thing to be an annoying little brat who just annoys me!” Marcus could only look on in shock as he hadn’t heard of anything going on, nor did he feel like being a babysitter today.

“Well I’m sorry for offending you with my way of caring, Ms. Princess. I’ll be sure to keep my paws away from your little crown. Hope I kick your ass this weekend.” Christopher then turns and heads towards his garage stall as she just rolls her eyes.

“Good luck with that, jackass.”  She then turns and heads over to her truck, taking a glance inside to make sure things were how she wanted.

“Good luck with them,” Harrison says as he gives Marcus a quick pat on the back. “We’ll see you later…”

“Yeah, thanks,” Marcus replies as he watches Harrison and Todd head off together. He could only let out a sigh, knowing that it was going to be interesting with Sarina and Christopher at odds. The boss’ reaction would be priceless at this time.

“Ready for practice, Marcus?” Sarina questions as she turns to face her crew chief. He immediately heads over to her direction, working at putting what happened aside.

“You know, you and Christopher need to work out whatever is going on. We can’t be having that crap.” She then rolls her eyes as she turns away from him. This was why she hated having teammates sometimes.

“So I’m just supposed to let go what he said, Marcus? Yeah, that sounds right. Until he learns his boundaries, he can kiss my ass. Now, we have a practice to focus on, right?” He lets out a sigh, shaking his head yes.

He knew he could argue more with her, but knew that wouldn’t get him anywhere, given how stubborn she was per Kyle and Chase. That was something that would be left up for her to either deal with, or Kyle since he knew how to handle behavior like that.

The practice ended up going better than they could’ve originally imagined as she topped both practice sessions on the afternoon. She also felt comfortable with the truck’s handling, feeling that she’d be good over the course of a long run through the entire stage lengths.

Wrapping up the day and putting her helmet back away, she couldn’t help but smile at the prospects for Friday.

Once she was done for the day, she headed into the motorcoach lot and walked to where Chase’s motorcoach was parked. She brought up the password in her phone, while pulling the key out of her small purse. She punched the password in, before unlocking the door and heading inside.

She walks in, tossing her purse on the small table as she goes to the fridge and pulls herself out a drink. She then walks over, flopping back on the couch as she looks at her phone. She could only count the hours till he landed in Dover, Delaware and would join her there.

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

Chase unlocks the door and heads inside, slipping his shoes off. A smile immediately forms on his face as he sees her sprawled out on the couch, sleeping. He walks by quietly, setting dinner on the small island table. He heads back to the couch, kneeling down to her level. He then lightly kisses her lips as he runs a hand through her hair. As if on call immediately, she sits up, sending him flying backwards as he falls back on his ass.

“Ouch!” He lets out immediately as she sits up, reaching for the first thing she could – the remote.

“Get up and walk any closer and I’ll throw this at your face!” She yells as he sits up slowly, putting his hands in the air. “Oh….” She then sets down the remote as he laughs.

“Who did you think I was?” He questions as she shrugs her shoulders.

“Are you okay?” He stands up, brushing off his jeans, shaking his head yes.

“My ass is a little sore, but I’ll be fine. It’s nice to see you, too.” She just smiles as she reaches out for his hand, pulling him back close to her.

“Now that I know it’s you, I wouldn’t mind that kiss again.” He smiles as he kisses her lips once again, before picking her up in his arms. “Woah….”

“I brought you dinner.” He then carries her over to the table, sitting her down on the bench on one side, before taking his place on the other side.

“Thank you. Maybe I’ll give your butt there a little rub after to make it feel better.” He laughs as he opens the bag.

“That’s certainly one way to get a greeting from your girlfriend….” She chuckles herself as she takes her dinner from him.

The pair focused on their food. She talked a little bit about how practice went. She also told him about Jake being poisoned earlier in the day, and how he was going to be okay. He talked about the sponsor appearance he had to go to. He also mentioned the crew lunch with the guys. It was more or less small talk for dinner, till they got near the end of their meals.

“So I pissed off Christopher today,” Sarina reveals quietly, catching Chase’s attention.

“Bell?” He asks and she shakes her head yes. He rolls his eyes, remembering their last conversation about him. He had been a little pushy from what Chase could recall. “What happened?”

“Well, I showed up later to the garage than he, Harrison and Todd did because I had that appearance with Toyota and the interview to film for that local TV station. So he made the comment of my late arrival, asking where I’d been and whether I was hanging out with you, basically implying it was your fault that I was late.” Chase could only shake his head as he heard that.

“Of course…..”

“So I told him that I’d been there since the morning, doing commitments and told him to talk to Marcus if he didn’t believe me. Then I added that you weren’t even here today, and that ‘you have your own commitments’.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. It seemed reasonable so far. He had to admire her tactic of response.

“That’s fair…”

“So then Marcus goes that I don’t need to be so defensive towards Christopher as obviously, he has no idea about what happened previously so he didn’t get the true meaning behind the tone of his voice. That’s when I said that I was sorry, but Christopher can’t keep his nose out of my business. I told Marcus and basically everybody there that since we had our little fight, Christopher’s been on my ass about our relationship and then told Bell that I thought he had his own girlfriend.” Chase couldn’t help but laugh, even if perhaps she had taken her response a little too far.

“Well, they say if someone is bugging you that you should make them aware. You were just telling him how he was bugging you since things happened. What’s wrong with that?” Sarina rolls her eyes, remembering the comments from Marcus and Christopher afterwards.

“Well then he said, ‘So I’m in trouble for caring?’. I basically flipped on him, saying that it wasn’t fair that he was always accusing of you shit from one end to the other and that there’s a difference between caring and what he was doing. I basically told him that he was an annoying little brat who just annoys me.” Chase’s jaw drops in shock, but he couldn’t help but cheer inside. He knew how annoyed he had made her.

“Please tell me that Marcus backed you up….” She then laughs.

“Marcus didn’t say a bloody word, or bother to take anybody’s side. He’s rather more concerned about team morale, but more on that later.” Chase was ready to eat the rest of his dinner, but couldn’t with what was on tap to be said.

“There’s more?” She shakes her head yes. “Oh boy…..”

“Well after my comment, he apologized for offending the ‘princess’ and that he’d keep his paws away from my crown. Then he said he hoped to kick my ass this weekend. That’s when I told him, ‘Good luck with that, jackass.’” Chase laughs as he couldn’t believe what he had missed earlier that day.

“Can’t blame you…..”

“Well then after he left, Marcus suggested that Christopher and I talk about whatever we got going on and work that out as we can’t have that crap going on. That’s when I turned to Marcus and basically said, ‘So I’m just supposed to let go what happened?’ He didn’t say anymore as we focused towards practice, but I could tell that he was a little ticked.” She then looks down at the table, before looking back up across at Chase. “Did I do anything wrong?”

“You stood up for yourself. Christopher is just going to keep being an ass if you don’t say anything. If he gets it through his brain that you’re annoyed, he’ll let it go maybe. That’s all you were doing. Did you take the wrong approach? Perhaps as some of the comments weren’t needed, but he also didn’t need to make the princess comment. Anybody that knows you knows better than that as you’re no perfect princess.” She shakes her head, accepting. It felt better that Chase had her back, even if she knew a possible lecture from Kyle was coming in the future.

“Thanks. I appreciate the support.” He then reaches across the table, grabbing her hand and holding it.

“I’ve always got your back, just like I know you have mine. Oh, and if Kyle says something, just explain what is going on. He’ll understand and perhaps say something to Christopher, too.”

“Kyle understanding? Do you realize how many people would laugh if they heard you say that after this past weekend?” He shakes his head yes.

“Dale is bringing him a snickers on Friday.” She then laughs with a shake of her head.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 84: Fan Day!

 

Friday, May 27 – Coke 600 Weekend

 

Sarina goes through the halls of Kyle Busch Motorsports, smiling as she sees the crowd of people through the next set of doors. It was going to be a busy day.

“All those people here to see you?” Chris asks as he follows his sister through the halls. She looks back and shakes her head yes.

“Well, not entirely as Christopher, Harrison, Todd and Samantha are also signing autographs too,” she answers. “But I’d think that I’ve gained some fans of my own.”

“I don’t get why people wouldn’t be your fan as you’re awesome,” her cousin Bethany comments as she goes through the final set of doors. She then takes her seat at the table between Todd and Christopher, looking at the hero cards. “Is it insane the feeling of seeing your face on those cards?” Sarina laughs and shakes her head no.

“It’s surreal sometimes when I’m signing them…” She then sits back, set for the doors to open shortly as she glances over at Todd. “I’m surprised your little video star isn’t here.”

“We thought about it, but it’d probably be too long of a day as he gets anxious and excited easily,” Todd comments, referring to the dog that they used for their announcement. “I’m surprised how late you were getting here.”

“Let’s just say it’s been a bit of a long morning getting ready,” she replies, causing a curious glance from Christopher Bell.

“Trouble in paradise, again?” He questions and she rolls her eyes immediately. She wished she could smack him sometimes.

“Chase and I are perfectly fine for your information, Bell. It’s just my hair wouldn’t co-operate and then one of his crew guys was poisoned yesterday. Thankfully he’ll be alright.”

“I heard about that actually,” Harrison comments as he glances over at the group. “Crazy though as first Bristol, now Charlotte. You’d think NASCAR and security would be watching things more closely.”

“That’s what I said to Chase,” Sarina comments. “But as Alan pointed out to him, they can’t very well sometimes tell as it may look like one thing and be something else, right? We just got to be careful.”

“No drinks from strangers, no weird foods – all those things that my mother goes on about anyway.” He then glances over to where his mom was standing off on the side with some others. “I just hope she didn’t hear me.”

“It’s okay to be mommy’s little boy still, Harrison,” Todd teases as Harrison just rolls his eyes.

“Chase is and everybody thinks that’s adorable,” Christopher adds, earning a glance from Sarina. “What?”

“I’ll bite my tongue for now, again,” she replies as the line starts moving, marking the official start of the autograph session.

Off to the side, Bethany and Chris watch Sarina sign autograph after each other, taking a few photos with some of the fans.

“Where’d you go yesterday, by the way?” Bethany questions, causing Chris to look at her curiously.

“What do you mean?” He asks as she rolls her eyes.

“We got separated. Where’d you go?” He thinks back to yesterday in the pits and smiles.

“I went and checked out the fan fair. You should head over there when we’re at the track tomorrow. There’s a lot of fun activities to do.” She looks at him surprised as he keeps the same glance back at her. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that I was heading over that way. I figured you were concentrated on watching Chase practice.”

“I actually had my eyes on someone else….” She then smiles, thinking back to the young man that she had noticed talking with Chase the week prior.

“You got a crush on someone….” The smile immediately escapes her lips as she looks over. “Yeah, I know that look.”

“Don’t say anything to them though, okay? I mean, that’s Chase’s best friend.” Chris shakes his head, agreeing.

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

Chase gets done his set of autographs for the day, followed by a quick Q&A and thanking the fans for their support. He then heads off through the door into the halls of Hendrick Motorsports, loosening the collar on his shirt.

“You’re like your father in so many ways…” He hears, spinning around surprised by the voice. He hadn’t expected his parents to be there.

“What are you doing here?” He questions his mother as he gives her a hug.

“Can’t I come check on my boy, or are you too much of a superstar now?” He then laughs as he continues walking through the shop to the back door. “So, how are you?”

“I’m doing alright. How are you?”

“I’m good.” He then opens the back door, heading out behind the shop to where he had parked. “How’s Jared?” Chase stops, knowing that was the next spot to visit before heading home. He promised Jared that he’d come and say hi.

“From what I’ve been told by Alan and Greg, he’s going to be fine. They just have him take it easy for now due to how sick he was feeling. I think they even mentioned releasing him on Saturday, but no work this weekend.” Cindy smiles as it was nice to hear that he would be okay.

“Promise me that you’ll be careful? This whole deal has me worried.” Chase stops and turns back to face his mom.

“I’m always careful, mom. You don’t have to worry, okay?” She then lets out a sigh, knowing that was impossible.

“Between this incident and Sarina’s brother – which I still don’t get how you handle that, it’s hard to just let go.” He shook his head, understanding.

“If it makes you feel better, I haven’t let my guard down with regards to Chris. I tolerate enough to keep Sarina happy, but it’s not like I totally trust him nor probably will ever. I know what happened, and can’t say that I’m fully comfortable.” Cindy shakes her head, accepting that. It gave her comfort knowing he had the same worries that she had.

“And what about Sarina?” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing the topic would come up.

“I love her. We’re great together. I can’t see myself with anyone else sometimes. Trusting her – we’re working on building that back up. We’re as honest as we can with each other, and that helps with each passing day.” Cindy could only wonder whether there was complete honesty in reality.

“You need to stop growing up so quickly. But I trust your judgment and as long as you’re careful, I’ll believe you.”

“Always careful. I’ll see you later…” He then gives her another hug, followed by a quick kiss, before heading out to make the short trip to the hospital to check on Jared.

As he drove over, he listened the tunes and found himself thinking everything over. He couldn’t get his worries expressed to Alan or their conversation out of his mind. He couldn’t get the recent events with two poisonings out of the blue and ignore that. Everything felt like it was falling in place for him and Sarina, and truly back to where they wanted to be together, but around them was a like a storm brewing. He just hoped that they could survive this round together.