The Mysterious Letter – Chapters 16 Thru 18

themysteriousletter

Chapter 16: The Visit

Following a busy day, Brad was just ready to head home and relax. There was only one thing that could get in the way – if his phone rang because of a certain blond. Checking to make sure that he didn’t miss any phone calls, he heads out of the BKR parking lot en route to home.

It was a short drive for Brad each day to get home, and he was thankful for that given the amount of thoughts on his mind. They were all based on one blond pretty girl, and he knew there was no way to get him off of his mind till he knew that she was safe.

He wondered whether she would take the advice and take the steps necessary. It was a thought that consumed his brain over and over. It only took one simple phone call or visit by her and Jason would be gone forever. He had assured her that the worries that clouded her mind were for nothing. So why the hesitation?

He also thought about how he had confessed his love to her. He didn’t mean to do it, but it just came out of the flood gates without warning. He thought that it’d help the situation – give her some comfort, know that she had someone to lean on that truly cared about her for the right reasons. He also probably did it partially for selfish reasons as he had wanted to do that for a long time. Though he worried that he may have scared her away. Perhaps she wouldn’t dare contact him again as a result of being scared of a relationship due to how things had been going. Perhaps she didn’t want to trace the path that her and Brad wrote before.

But part of him hoped that things would go positively and he’d be her ‘knight in shining armor’ as Joey put it, getting the girl of his dreams.

He pulls into his driveway, glad to be home as he shuts the car off. Making sure that he has his wallet and phone, he exits the vehicle with the cars in hand. It was a short walk to the front door, quick unlock and he’d be inside his home. He would be in his safe haven to continue to argue among his own thoughts, debating whether he was doing the right thing right now.

Though as he takes a couple of steps, he hears a rustle behind him among the trees, causing him to freeze immediately. He then looks around his surroundings, waiting for someone to pop out a bush to playfully scare him, or an animal.

“Hello?” He calls out, waiting for a response. He remains in the same spot for a full minute, unsure of what to do. Taking a deep breath, he slowly relaxes himself as he takes another gander around. “Get it together, Keselowski. The cops are spying on you and have your ass. There’s nobody here. Probably just a rabbit.” He then continues his walk towards the front door, only to freeze on the spot once again as he heard a voice.

“Braaadd…” He hears a male voice cal out his name, as he glances around his surroundings. He tried to place an identity on the voice, thinking it may be either Dale or Joey playing a trick on him. It wouldn’t be anything new as they were always playing tricks on each other. “Bra-”

“Who’s there?”

“Somebody that you don’t want to see.” Before Brad could react and find the source of the voice, he feels a pair of arms wrap around him, pulling him back to the ground. With his eyes looking straight up, there was no way to see the identity due to the black mask upon the face above his. However, he knew the identity without a movement – Jason.

“Let me go…”

“I thought I warned you to stay away from someone, Keselowski.” Jason then gives Brad a kick in the gut, which sends a pain through the man below him. Brad doesn’t let the pain result in a sign of weakness, though, wanting to send a message that this behavior wouldn’t last much longer if he had something to say about it.

“You need to stop doing what you’re doing to her – whatever it is.” Brad was certain that it was abuse based on the attacks that he had felt himself now, and was even more certain when another kick met his side.

“Haven’t you heard that you should mind your own business? What goes on between Juliette and I is none of your business.” While Jason was focused on laying down his threats, Brad grabs the guy’s ankle, pulling it, forcing Jason to fall back on his ass on the driveway.

“Help!” Brad knew the officers were somewhere near and would hear the struggle, set to help him. It wasn’t like Brad truthfully needed help, though, as he knew that he could kick Jason’s butt if need be. Beyond that, the man deserved a swift kick in the butt.

“Nobody is going to save you, or her.” Jason then goes to get up, set for his next attack. “She needs to receive what I have to give her, Brad.” The pair then both stand up, facing each other as Brad could only imagine an evil grin on the face beneath the mask. “So why don’t you just leave her alone?”

“And why don’t you learn that you’re an asshole?” Brad then pushes Jason back, creating a gap between them as he watches a pair of officers come running up the driveway.

They immediately put Jason in a pair of handcuffs, taking him away as they tell him his rights and what not. Brad stands there, satisfied. He had done his duty as the knight. He had gotten the bad guy locked in the dungeon, as per the princess’ request. Though, he knew by any standards, that his job wasn’t done yet.

He then grabs the keys, where they landed on the ground, hoping back in the truck as one of the officers come running up the driveway.

“Sir, you need to come with us and give us a sta-” The officer starts.

“I have someone to go see and then I will do as requested,” Brad cuts him off, before turning the truck on and backing out of the driveway. He knew that he needed to see Juliette. He had to tell her the news. He had to make her come with him and tell the rest of the story. He knew the sooner this next step was accomplished, the better it’d make them all feel.

 

Chapter 17: “It’s Done”

Brad pulls up to Juliette’s house, shutting off the truck. He then climbs out, soreness beginning to creep in a little to his back, before closing the door. He then begins the slow walk to her door, still debating how to tell her what happened.

He knew that there would be shock written over her once she heard about Jason attacking him. He knew that she’d feel guilt, and be scared – everything else in between. It was why he was questioning how he should tell her. Should he just come out and say it? Or take it slow? He knew that he would probably need to comfort her in the process, in which he was open to doing. It was something that would be easy to do based on the love that he had for her.

The love he had for her and the confession also plagued his mind. How would that affect her greeting for him at the door? She had taken it oddly earlier, wanting to escape as soon as she could. Would she want to run away this time? Would that make telling her even harder? Why were they even stuck in this situation?

The biggest part would be convincing her to press charges. Without a doubt, he was pressing charges. The son of bitch had attacked him not once, but twice, so that warranted a hefty assault charge. He now had to convince her to press charges – whatever those may be – in hopes that Jason would be gone for a long time. It was what he deserved for hurting her. Any man that decided to hurt a woman deserved to be locked away for as long as they lived, no matter the reason.

Reaching the door to her house, he knocks and awaits for her answer. He waits as precious seconds go by, before he watches the door swing open, spotting a surprised blond on the other side.

“It’s done,” he simply states, feeling the pressure begin to lift instantly off of his shoulders. “Everything – it’s done.” Juliette stares at the man in front of her confused, seeing a bit of strain on his face – no doubt due to a fight. She saw that same strain when he got into the argument on pit road with Denny those years ago. However, there was something else. An odd sense of satisfaction that disturbed her thoughts.

“Brad, you didn’t….” Brad’s jaw drop in shock as he knows where her thoughts are headed. Although, he had to admit – he wished he did.

“I didn’t kill him – no. The cops got there before I could do that.” She then continues to look at him confused, wishing that he would simply tell her what happened.

“The cops? What happened?” Brad takes a deep breath, knowing that this was where he had to be careful in how he told her what happened.

“Jason found out about the letter that you got today – somehow – or he heard the phone conversation. Regardless, he came by my house. He confronted me about the letter. We got into a fight and the guards came over, arresting him. I’m pressing charges for assault.” Juliette felt her world set to crumble beneath her, in a combination of disbelief and satisfaction. She couldn’t believe that Jason had gone after Brad, couldn’t believe how things had turned and couldn’t believe that Jason was truly under charges. Those charges brought satisfaction, though, as she was glad to see him starting to pay for what he had done.

“Brad, I’m so sorry that he attacked you. I’m so sorry that I involved you. I’m sor-”

“Juliette, I didn’t come here to hear your apology or receive an apology. You don’t owe me an apology. You did what you thought was best.” It still didn’t erase the guilt that she felt on her shoulders as she could tell that Brad was sore – possibly back a little, tackled to the ground – and it made her heart cringe. This was supposed to stay between them. This wasn’t supposed to go to anyone else.

“It’s still my fault because I hadn’t involved you, then none of this would’ve happened.” He then places his hands on her shoulders, slowly as to not startle her, as he keeps his eyes locked on hers.

“Then you would’ve been dealt a world of continued harm, and that I cannot take.”

“Then I should’ve done someth-”

“That’s why I’m here.” He then rubs her shoulders, hoping the comfort level was at the maximum level possible. “Come with me to the police station. Tell them what happened. Tell them whatever he has done to you. Press the charges that should’ve been pressed a long time ago. Please do the right thing.” She then takes a couple steps back, knowing that she couldn’t do that. Even with Jason arrested and the cops holding him, the fear of being harmed for saying something still lingered.

“I can’t…”

“He won’t hurt you anymore, Juliette. He won’t hurt you for saying something.”

“I can’t…”

“The police will protect you. I will protect you. Everything is going to be fine. You need to do this. You need to say something so you can let it go.” She keeps her eyes focused on the ground, letting his words radiate through her. It all seemed like the right thing to do, but yet she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

“I can’t do it, Brad. I’m sorry.” She then looks up to face him, seeing the hurt in his eyes. It pained her to see him in pain – physical for what had happened, mental for her response. “It will take too much to tell everything that happened. I don’t think I handle doing that.” Brad shakes his head, understanding. He didn’t know the length of what Jason had done, but he understood that it cut down to her tender core.

“You won’t have to do it alone. I’ll be there with you. I’ll stick by your side the whole time. I’ll hold your hand and help you down the path. Please, Juliette.” She shakes her head no as she continues to back further into the house.

“You don’t understand…” Brad then makes hi way into the house, keeping the distance between the pair small. He wasn’t going to leave till she agreed to come with him. He hadn’t done everything so far for her so that way it could end like this.

“I understand that you’re hurt. I understand that it’s a tough spot for you to be in. I understand that every bit of it hurts. But you can’t escape the hurt unless you do something, and you can do something by coming with me. Please tell the police. With your story and my story combined, he’s done for. He’ll be locked away forever.” She shakes her head no as she knew that it could also swing another way with him escaping, and she’d be at the blunt of the pain if he got loose. She didn’t know if she could handle that.

“What if….I can’t….”

“Don’t question whether or not it will work out. Believe that it will. Believe in the justice system. Believe in me that I will help you.” Brad then slowly holds out his hand, reaching for hers. “I told you that I love you. That means that I will do anything for you. Please…” She then takes a deep breath, eyes focused on the floor. She slowly reaches her hand out, in which Brad grasps tightly. He then pulls her to him, wrapping both arms around her as she buries her head in his neck, the tears slowly beginning to fall.

Nobody knew what she had gone through for the past seven months of her life. Nobody knew of the pain that Jason had brought her. It was bigger than any pain that she had ever experienced or heard of, and just wished that it’d disappear.

If Brad could make that happen, than certainly he would be the best person in the whole wide world. She believed that he could due to his stubbornness, the words that he spoke and the love that he held for her. While she may not be ready to accept the love in return, she knew that love could help break the spell she was under.

 

Chapter 18: Charges

“I can’t do this…” She says as they reach the police station.

“Yes you can,” Brad assures her as he reaches over and grabs her hand. She then turns to look into his eyes and the pair stare at each other. “I believe in you, Juliette. You’re a strong lady and can do this.” She then takes a deep breath, shaking her head yes.

She could do this. She just had to walk in there, say that she wanted to press charges and say what happened. It was that simple. Nothing else to it. she didn’t know where she got the sudden burst of confidence as they kept walking. Was it due to wanting this over? Or was it due to those eyes that had stared into hers, staring deep enough to assure protection?

“Mr. Keselowski, please follow me,” an officer immediately walks up to the pair. He then leads them through the doors to the back part of the police station. Juliette lets out a small shudder as she catches a glance from Jason as he sits in the holding cell. “I’m Officer Bruce Jenkins. I was the officer that was at your hou-”

“I know, I remember,” Brad cuts him off, just wanting to get to the point.

“I am glad that you showed up as without you here and a statement, we can’t process any charges against him. With you here, we plan on perusing a charge of assault for what he did in your driveway to you. There’s also a harassment charge, possibly, if we can connect today to the previous attack and letters.” Brad shakes his head, understanding, as Juliette tries to keep her eyes anywhere but towards Jason. Though any glance that she took towards him, she felt the fear that she had felt moments earlier beginning to slowly creep into her. What if? “Ma’am…” Juliette then looks towards the officer, curious. “I just have a funny suspicion, but are you the woman behind the letters?” Juliette’s jaw drops in shock as she didn’t think that the officer would catch on to what was going on.

“She’s here to also press charges against Jason; it does with why she was sending me letters. We have a past together and she turned to me to lean on when he placed a threat against her.” Juliette knew with the details from Brad laid on the table that she couldn’t turn around and run away from confessing the truth any longer. Beyond that, she knew she had to do something as Jason had crossed the line by going after Brad.

“That’s perfect as that’ll tie things together to complete the puzzle, plus add more reasons for him to be put away.” The thought of Jason being put away was very appealing to Juliette. She just hoped that the pieces fell together as well as Brad and the officer were discussing. “So with that said, Mr. Keselowski, we will get you to come with me and explain what happened in both circumstances, your connection to Juliette and talk about the letters.” He then turns to Juliette, as she tries to subside the nerves that keep biting at her. “Ms. Juliette, what is your last name?” She then clears her throat.

“Juliette Daniels,” she reveals quietly to the officer. The officer then brings over another officer, set to put the pawns in motion.

“Ms. Daniels, I’d like you to meet Officer Sadie Jones,” Officer Jenkins introduces the other officer. “Considering what I believe to be your situation based on what Brad has said, I feel it’d be best if you talk to a female officer about what has been going on. Ms. Jones, the misses is here to also file charges against Mr. Burdett and bring the final connection with the letters.” Sadie shakes her head understanding as she keeps her eyes on Juliette. “Ms. Daniels, if you could explain your side of things, your connection to Mr. Keselowski, and talk about the letters with Officer Jones, that’d be appreciated.”

Juliette shakes her head, yes – and with that, Brad and Juliette each headed a different direction. Brad was set in motion to say what he had to say to Officer Jenkins, in hopes that Juliette would do the same with Officer Jones.

“Whenever you’re ready ma’am,” Sadie instructs as the pair sit at a table in one of the interrogation rooms. “You can start with whatever you want – whether Mr. Burdett, the letters or Mr. Keselowski.” Juliette looks down at the table, trying to order her thoughts. She knew that the letters would be the easiest thing to start with, and no doubt had taken up a lot of the officers’ time over the past couple of weeks.

“I needed to get a hold of someone but do it in a secret fashion,” Juliette starts as she thinks back to when she wrote the first letter. “I didn’t want any trace to be available that connected to me that Jason or, at that thought, most people could tell. I also knew that I needed to tell someone that I would trust no matter what. I chose Brad because I knew I could get the letters to him secretly through the various spaces that we crossed paths, without anybody knowing. I knew that I could trust him and because we used to write letters to each other well dating, he’d recognize my handwriting.” She knew that Brad had kept one of the letters, having seen that frame when she went by to say hi after he had left to drive for Penske. To the officer, her explanation fit as that explained why the letters were carefully placed in certain spots, as Brad told Officer Jenkins a couple weeks ago after the first encounter with Jason.

“And your plan worked, obviously. Mr. Keselowski recognized your writing and knew that it was you – hence why Mr. Burdett pounced for a second time. But your words leave a lot of questions unanswered. Why did you trust Mr. Keselowski? And what message were you trying to send in the letters?” Juliette keeps her eyes focused on the table, knowing the answer clearly to both of those questions. It was why her plan had come together quickly the night that she thought of it. Now explaining that to the officer would be another challenge altogether. Once again, she settled on taking the easier question of the pair.

“Brad and I dated while he racing for JR Motorsports. I was his Public Relations representative and the time we spent together brought forth some flirting. Next thing, he’s asking me on a date and a way we go. We went out for awhile before breaking up.” Juliette felt her heart break as she thought back to the break-up when it happened. “He was young at the time, and felt that he wasn’t ready to settle down yet, and didn’t want to break my heart in the process. I understood and let him go, telling him that when he was ready, I’d be there for him.” Officer Jones makes a note of the explanation, understanding why there was a trust between the two rather quickly.

“However, by the time he was ready to settle down, you had moved on to Mr. Burdett?” Juliette shakes her head yes. Jason spent a good year asking her out before she finally caved and said yes. She knew why she had waited. She was hoping that Brad would come to her during that time. However, she wasn’t going to be lonely forever if he didn’t come around. That was why his confession hurt that much more over the phone the other day because had she heard those words sooner, perhaps she would’ve avoided this whole mess. Was she partly blaming Brad now? She couldn’t, as he was acting as her savior. “It happens, sweetheart. It’s hard to wait for when the time is right for a guy because no girl wants to be lonely for her life. That doesn’t mean that it’s your fault, or the guy’s fault.” Juliette looks up as a smile forms on the officer’s face. “I’ve been through a similar situation myself, dear.”

“If you don’t mind me straying off track a little, it’s hard to hear that Brad still loves and cares about me after what happened. Sometimes I want to blame him, but realize that he has helped me through this. It’s also not his fault as he wasn’t the one that fell for Jason. That was all on me.” The officer then pats Juliette’s hand, as if to comfort her. She knew those feelings that Juliette was experiencing now all too well.

“Whatever happened between you and Jason, it wasn’t your fault. When he asked you out, you thought that he was a darling. You’re the media rep for Earnhardt Jr., right?” Juliette shakes her head yes, hoping that this doesn’t cause a media storm around him because of what happened. However, she knew that it would probably happen based on the fact that it involved the team’s car chief. “So being around Jason – as he’s the car chief, you got to know the sweet side of him, and that’s what you thought you were getting into with dating him, not this other side of him.” The words of the officer made perfect sense to Juliette as that was exactly her thoughts then. She just didn’t know how far from the truth things would go.

“He always seemed like a sweet guy when he was cracking up with the guys on the team. He was also hard working as he was passionate about his job. There as nothing that seemed threatening with him. I honestly thought, a month into the relationship, that I’d found my best match since Brad.” Oh how wrong those thoughts had been at the time.

“..and then things changed as he watched you get more comfortable in your skin around him. That’s typically how these situations go, as the guys wait till the girl’s comfortable before they strike. Now, I know it’s hard, but I need to know the rest of the story. What happened dear?” Taking another deep breath, Juliette knew it was now or never to tell the tale of what she had experienced over the past five months.

Over the next painfully slow 15 minutes, she went through explaining all the details. They talked about how Jason had forced her to have sex before she was wanting to with him – rape. They talked about how Jason was very controlling of the people that she saw and how much time she spent with them. He hated to see her hanging around other guys and outside of her their team circle. Juliette explained that out of fear for her life, she let him run her life. He chose the meals that they ate, the shops that she bought clothes at and what clothes she wore, the amount of hours that she worked and the people that she hung out with. Anytime she strung out of his control, he released his attack, leaving her sore and in pain for days that followed to teach her a lesson.

Once the full story was told, she was released from Officer Jones.

She went straight out to the hallway and straight to Brad, wrapping her arms around him. It was nice to get the relaxing comfort that he offered as it felt good against the cold stains that were left from the pain that she was put through. He was truthfully her rock and helped erase the pain. It was due to his strength that she was able to have the strength to do something about Jason, herself.

The result of their stories brought forth a tirade of charges for Jason. He was charged with assault and harassment towards Keselowski, with multiple charges of domestic violence, abuse, harassment, rape and threats laid against him following Juliette’s confession. No doubt the man was screwed with what had been said.

In the days that followed, she relied on Brad for comfort. She stayed at his house in the guest room, slowly coming out of her shell about what happened. All the while, Brad could feel the pair drawing closer and closer together. No doubt the relationship that he wanted – as Joey predicted – was forming.

Though as they got closer, Juliette felt the need to pull away more. She didn’t know if she was ready for a relationship. She didn’t know if she could handle everything that Brad was set to offer her following what had happened with Jason. To her, it felt as though everything was blossoming too soon and too quickly.

Scared of what might happen, she found herself lost in thoughts while Brad was at brad Keselowski Racing one day. Not knowing what to think of her thoughts any longer, she began to pack her bags, knowing that she couldn’t take it.

The End.
Be sure to read the sequel
themysteriousgirlIt’s going to take you on a journey all its own with regards to Brad and Juliette. I can’t promise that it’ll be pretty, but it’ll definitely be interesting.

I must also warn you that there’s a twist o the sequel as it goes down the “alternate universe” path in some things being a little out of this universe/reality.

 

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The Mysterious Letter – Chapters 11 Thru 15

themysteriousletter

Chapter 11: A Letter

The weekend hadn’t panned out quite like Brad wanted as he had ended up finishing 12th, just outside of the top 10. Not the weekend that you want when you’re trying to put together a championship run. Not the weekend that you want when you just want to keep winning races and certainly not when you want to win the Brickyard 400.

“Brad!” He hears as he walks up to the front door of his house, looking over. He had recognized the voice immediately to be his dear neighbor – Dale Earnhardt Jr. It was great having a best friend as a neighbor as brought forth hang out time and none of those stupid neighbor issues that you hear about. “I was hoping to catch up with you.” Brad then stands there and watches as Dale walks over with an envelope in hand.

Once he reaches him, he holds out the envelope as if to pass it over to Brad. Brad takes it hesistantly and yet also curiously. If it was one of those letters that he had been receiving, why was it in Dale’s hand? Was there a connection that he was missing?

Could the person that was writing the letters be Amy? That’d be crazy as Dale and Amy had a great relationship. Things were going great for the pair of them as all he heard was positives. Plus, the girl that was writing the letters didn’t want her boyfriend to know. Why would Amy send one over with Dale – if it was her?

Could the person be a fiend of Dale’s? That was quite possible as the pair shared a lot of mutual friends. That brought forth a list of names to his mind as to who it could be, but each of them erased like the previous one without any hesitation. There were none of their friends that he could believe would be the person.

Could the person had dropped the letter off at Dale’s house because of the enhanced security around Brad? Now there was a good theory that made somewhat sense.

“I was unpacking my bag and noticed that zipped in the top,” Dale starts, causing Brad to look up. “I hadn’t placed it in there. I didn’t even know the bloody thing existed. It struck my curiosity and then I saw your name so I brought it to you.”

Dale’s explanation brings him back to Amy – but then causes a stall in Brad’s mind. The boyfriend knows and Dale said that it caught him off-guard. If Amy was the girl and Dale was the boyfriend, he would’ve ripped it up, said his piece to Amy and then been attacking Brad. Wait – what if this was the start of an attack? Nah, that couldn’t be it as this person didn’t fit the build of the person who had attacked him earlier in the weekend in the trailer.

As Brad’s eyes land back on the letter, he begins to go through the people that could have access to Dale’s bag without him quite knowing for a couple seconds and whether one of them could be the person.

“Thanks for bringing it to me,” Brad states, not wanting his lack of words to bring on more questions by Dale. He already had Paul, Roger and Joey on his tail about the letters. He didn’t need anybody else to be worried about him. “Maybe it’s a surprise note and person got mixed up. I appreciate you bringing it over.”

“Who knows the reason but figured that your name – give it to you,” Dale says, obvious confusion laced in his voice. The same confusion that had been there from the moment that he had laid his eyes on the letter.

The pair stood there in silence for a couple of moments. Dale waiting for Brad to open the letter to learn more about what it dealt with. Brad waiting for Dale to disappear so he could open the letter by himself. He wasn’t about to open it there, read the style of writing that he was used to and have another set of eyes on his ass.

“Listen, I got to go as I promised Joey that I’d call him so we could go over some things so I’ll talk to you later,” Brad finally breaks the silence, figuring that he had come up with the perfect excuse. “Thanks again, Dale!” Brad then hurries off without another word up to the porch and inside the house, feeling satisfied in his excuse.

As he watches Dale walk back to his house, he can tell with the multiple glances back and such that Dale was caught off-guard by the excuse. Probably not the best way to get out of that situation. Maybe he should’ve opened the letter. Maybe…..that all didn’t matter.

Brad leaned back against the door, noticing a dark colored car up the road in the distance. He was told that his house would be patrolled incase the person came around there again so that explained the car.

Pushing that out of his mind, he rips the top of the letter, just wanting the piece of paper that is inside. He pulls it out, not caring where the envelope lands. He unfolds the blue piece of paper, noticing that this letter is typed. He could tell, though, that it was from the same person as always by how it started off with ‘Bradley Keselowski’ and the style that it was written in.

Bradley Keselowski,

I thought you’d figure this out
You should know without a doubt
I thought that I gave you the right clue
However it doesn’t seem as if you knew
Please try and figure this out soon
Before I sing my final tune

He then folds the note back up, placing it in his pocket as he continues to walk down the hall. He knew that he should tell the cops about this encounter, find out how this person could connect to Dale and give them the letter to join the others, but he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to hold on to the letter and let it play through his mind with the previous letters. The cops had enough letters and knowledge, right?

As he goes to head up the stairs to his bedsroom, his eyes catch one of the framed win photos that he has on the wall. It was from his time at JR Motorsports and came from one of his most memorable wins. The victory lane pictured featured himself, his crew chief, Dale and a girl that he had gotten to be pretty good friends with.

His eyes then glance towards the note in the bottom right corner of the framed picture. It was a note that she had given him after he had won, telling him that one day he’d reach the top and be a true star.

Though it wasn’t the content that drew his eyes to the note. The handwriting was so picture perfect as she knew how to write each curve with perfect style. It was written in a poetic style. She also had chosen to write ‘Bradley’ as she got a kick out of calling him that.

“Julianne!” He lets out as he takes his phone out of his pocket, getting a hold of Joey. He didn’t care that it was the middle of the night. He needed to talk to his best buddy.

 

Chapter 12: Julianne

“What is so important that you’re calling me at 2am?” Joey questions as he walks into Brad’s house after Brad had opened the door. “Do you realize that I need my slee-”

“You’re a grown up, not a boy, and I know the girl,” Brad spits back, causing Joey to freeze instantly. Brad then points to the framed photo on the wall. “Look at the handwriting closely. Julianne Daniels.” Joey walks up to the photo, looking at the handwriting. He noticed the same thing that Brad had only moments earlier – a match. Why hadn’t Brad figured this out a week ago with this photo right in front of him? “That’s why I called you. I needed someone to tell – that wasn’t the cops.” Joey then turns to face Brad as he comes back down the staircase to the main floor.

“But she said it herself that she’s in trouble. Wouldn’t being in trouble lead you to the cops? Plus, they’re already involved due to her boyfriend. You show them the connection, they get boyfriend and boyfriend gets charged for what he did to you. That removes her from damage and boom – we’re done.” Brad shakes his head no as he knew that he couldn’t do that. There was a reason that she hadn’t simply gone to the cops herself. He just needed to figure out that reason. “Don’t you want this dealt with? I just gave you a way! What more do you want? Why are we still standing here?”

“Because I’m not doing tha-”

“Why not?” Brad lets out a sigh as he leans against the wall. He just wished that he could knock some things into his teammate’s mind quicker.

“If it was that easy, she would’ve told the cops herself. Instead, she came to me – in a secret way might I add – and I want to figure out why.” Joey lets out a sigh as he hated when Brad took the hard way in doing things. He just wished that it’d be simple and easy – like anything. “She knew that if she got a hold of me, I’d recognize the handwriting. She also knew that she could trust me, still, for some reason.” Joey then looks over at Brad, now intrigued. Suddenly, he felt like getting some hot chocolate and telling bedtime stories.

“Still? Do tell. What is your history with her?” Brad smiles as he thinks back to the fun times that they had while he was racing for JR Motorsports.

“When I was at JR Motorsports, she was their main public relations person. She handled the PR while I was there. She now works with Mike doing Dale’s PR. We got to be good friends during those couple of years working together.” Joey’s lips widen into a smile, as ‘good friends’ leads to one single thought that Brad is trying to keep quiet.

“So can she tell me the length of your dick?” Brad looks over at Joey surprised as Joey just laughs, knowing that he had hit the nerve. “Keep talking.”

“We have a past, okay? We dated for about two months. It was great and if I wasn’t young and stupid, I should’ve stuck with it with her. However, that wasn’t me…”

“You chea-”

“No, I didn’t cheat on her. If I cheated on her, do you think that she’d trust me right now?” Joey thinks it over as that made sense.

“Fair. So why did you break up?”

“I told her that I wasn’t ready to settle down with just one girl and I didn’t want to string her a long to just break her heart later. She understood but told me that if I ever had feelings, to go back down that path.” Joey crosses his arms, seeing as how it was hard for Julianne to let go of Brad. However, he wondered whether the feeling was mutual. He could tell that Brad cared a lot about her, hence why he was being patient right now with his next step.

“Brad, do you love her? Are those feelings still there?” Brad looks away, knowing the answer to that question so easily. It was why he had remained single. Once he found out that she had a boyfriend, those dreams were crushed. “Oh my. So you do.” Joey then sits down on the stairs, debating what the next step to take is. He knew convincing Brad to tell the police was out, but they had information in hand and should do something. “Do you know her boyfriend?”

“It’s why I haven’t told her how I felt.” Joey was ready for the name to be spit on the table, looking to be surprised by a fellow driver or someone that he knew.

“Can I have a name?” Brad looks at his hand, squeezing it into a fist as the name and face come to mind. It would fit the body build of the person that attacked him, as well as the features that he could tell. He wanted to march his butt down to Hendrick Motorsports first thing in the morning and kick some butt.

“Jason Burdett, the car chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.” Joey looks over at Brad, shocked. He was thinking it would’ve been someone more known or easily recognizable to him.

“How long have they been dating, that you know of?” Brad shrugs his shoulders as he wasn’t sure.

“It all makes sense. He fits the build of the person who attacked me. She’d have access to the garage and he’d be able to keep an eye on her at all times that way. It is why she couldn’t simply just turn a card and tell because he’d be there, eye on her at all times.” Brad thinks it over, now debating what to do. It seemed simple to just go to the police – but would that honestly work? Could he possibly find a way to reach her, to convince her to go and help her, just as she wanted?

“What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking wha-”

“Go to the cops. Explain everything and when they bring her in for questioning, she can tell them the truth and be saved from his bull – whatever he is pulling. Why do you keep questioning that? You should’ve done that hours ago!” Brad shakes his head no as he walks down the hall towards the kitchen. “Seriously?”

“I’m not going to the cops till I talk to her.” Joey then follows Brad down the hall to the kitchen, ready to pick at his teammate’s mind.

“Then why don’t you waltz your ass and see her? It’s not like he can see that as a bad idea. You’re old friends; it’s just old friends reconnecting.” Brad shakes his head no as he reaches in the fridge for a beer. He tosses Joey one, before opening one for himself.

“He knows that she’s writing the letters to me as that’s why he attacked me.” Joey then takes a sip of his beer as he sits back. Now his idea sounded really stupid as Brad seeing Julianne would send whatever thoughts Jason had into full play. Okay, back to Plan A. “She snuck a letter in Dale’s bag tonight so….” Brad smiles as he thinks about the idea that he has in mind.

With the idea in mind, he grabs a stack of blank paper and a pen, sitting down at the dining room table. He then begins to write a letter of his own as Joey stares on, confused. What would he do with the letter?

Brad writes the letter out, before folding it and placing it in an envelope, sealing the envelope. If it was a game of letters, then why not continue the letters? They were the only safe way to keep things hidden….for now.

“Now I just need to give Dale this in the morning and let him give it to Julianne,” Brad reveals with a smile on his face. “Once she reads this, she’ll know that I know. From there, the pair of us will figure out what to do – just like old times.”

“Oh Brad, don’t you know that Prince Charming doesn’t always get his girl?” Joey offers as he could read through Brad’s thoughts. He knew that Brad was thinking long-term reconnecting with the girl of his dreams. Joey just wasn’t sure whether Julianne would be up to the same thoughts.

“We’ll just see what happens, but the knight in shining armor always saves the day. That’s all that matters to me is that she is safe.”

“…and in your bed sheets.” Brad then snatches Joey’s bottle away from him, shaking his head.

“You haven’t even drank this whole bottle and your thoughts have gone wonky.” Joey reaches for the bottom – but is unable to snatch it back. He then crosses his arms.

“I’m just reading your thoughts.”

“Oh, cause you’re psychic now?”

“Because I know how bad of a crush you have on her.” Joey then snatches his beer back, taking another mouthful with a smile on his face. “And you can’t deny it.” Brad then leans back in his chair as he thinks it over. There was no denying how much he missed spending time with her. There was no denying how much he loved staring into her beautiful blue eyes. There was even times that he could be caught looking down at her as she did her job with the 88 team.

“Is it that obvious?” Joey shakes his head yes as Brad lets out a sigh. “Like I said, we’ll see what happens. All that matters to me is that she’s happy.”

“Such cliché talk. Cut the bullshit. Don’t you always do that? Why change now?”

“Because I can’t control her thoughts and I’m not going to make her get with me if she doesn’t want to.”

“Remember – she reached out to you in her time of need.” Joey then sets his empty bottle down as he stands up. “That, my friend, means more than anything else in the world. You mean something to her and I think it’s time that you realize that more than you’re saying here.” Joey then heads towards the door as Brad muses over the thoughts. Perhaps Joey was right, or perhaps she just trusts him as a really good friend and nothing more.

“Thanks Joey. Bye.” Joey waves as he heads out the door, set to go home. Brad finishes off his beer before heading up the stairs and to bed – but not without another glance towards the photo.

 

Chapter 13: Letter Delivery

Making sure to get up earlier than normal, Brad had made his way over to Dale’s house. For him, he thought the process would be easy – slip the letter to Dale, tell him to give it to Julianne and wait for things to play out. There weren’t any snags that would be apparent as it’d answer why Dale ended up with the letter last night and Dale knew that the pair were friends. It also kept the car chief unsuspicious because if he saw the letter trade, he would just think it was notes for work from driver to PR rep. The plan seemed to be dummy proof.

After knocking on the door, Brad watches the door open and holds out the envelope, double checking that it was sealed. Well he was bringing Dale into the middle of things, he didn’t want him to know what was going on….yet. That may be a good idea later should they want to do anything with Jason.

“Hey,” Dale says as he stands there, surprised. It wasn’t normal or regular at all to see Brad there that early.

“Hey,” Brad replies. “Listen, that letter that you gave me last night – thanks. I appreciate it. I know how it got there.”

“Oh really? Who was it from?”

“Julianne. She probably snuck it in your bag or had it close to your stuff, forgetting to ask before passing it along.” Brad then pulls the envelope out from behind his back. “Can you give her this today, please?” Dale takes the envelope, shaking his head yes. Mission accomplished.

“Of course man. But Brad, you know that she’s still with Jason, right?” Brad bites his tongue and stands there frozen. Of course, Dale now thought that Julianne was cheating on Jason with Brad.

“I know. Don’t worry – this isn’t anything like that.” Dale then raises his eyebrows, confused. Couldn’t the pair get a hold of each other another way? Perhaps they could text? E-mail? Phone call? Why letters and why like this?

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, honestly. This is just an extension of what we used to do. She started it back up again as….we haven’t talked in awhile due to both being busy. You got to lay off on her schedule, man.”

“That’s not my fault. You can thank those wonderful sponsors and Mike.” Brad shakes his head, knowing that Dale is telling the truth. However, it worked for a good cover-up for the time being.

“Well, thanks again. I actually got to go. Promised Roger that I’d be there early, for once.” Dale looks on surprised as he knew that Brad wasn’t an early bird from when he drove for him at JRM.

“Gosh, what is happening to you? Growing up?”

“Can’t stay young and stupid, can I?”

“No you can’t….so I’ve learned. Next thing you’ll be bringing home a girl to keep forever.” As Brad thought back to Joey’s words last night, a smile came to his mind. Perhaps he could get his Julianne back in his arms and keep her forever.

“Yeah….we’ll see. Anyways, see ya.”

“Bye Brad.” Dale then closes the door, putting the envelope in his pocket before returning to the kitchen with Amy.

There was a bit of Dale was tempted to peak at the letter, and wondered if whether the suspicions were true about a possible relationship going on in the background. However, that couldn’t be the case. Both Brad and Julianne were his best friends and they weren’t the type of people to do such a thing, for what he knew of them. He also couldn’t dare peak at the letter contents as that’d be a betrayal of trust, which is something he didn’t do to friends.

 

Chapter 14: Letter Delivery Part 2

Sorry for the short chappy before this – I wanted to keep it separate. One of my things when writing stories is I like to keep a scene to a chapter, and not combine two together. Gonna try to go for longer chapters, here on out.

Beyond that, a couple nights ago, I had a random dream in the form of the ending for this story, followed the beginning of the sequel. I wrote out bits of the dream so without a doubt, there’ll be a sequel at some point. Though interestingly, the sequel is a little “alternate universe” with the ideas played forth. More on that, though, when we get there.

“I’ll see you after work,” Jason says as he gets set to leave Julianne’s office. “I suggest you don’t work late tonight.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing what he had in mind.

“I’ll try and get all of my work done in a timely matter to be available to leave at the end of the day,” she states as she holds up the stack of work that sits on her desk.

“Doesn’t Mike do anything?” She then rolls her eyes, having heard that question already before a couple of times.

“He does. He has other responsibilities, such as calling people to discuss their requests – whether interviews, appearances, commercial shoots, photo shoots, etc. I manage going over the requests the first time through to see whether they actually should be discussed, and then finalizing Dale’s schedule so we can follow it on the weekend without issues.”

“You heard what I said – be ready.” She knew by that remark that he hadn’t listened to anything that she said, not that he normally did anyway. He didn’t care about that, but rather their home life away from work. That was where he could have the fun that he wanted. “I’ll see you later, Juli.”

He then heads off down the hall, crossing paths with Dale. The pair nod their heads at each other – Dale curious as to whether Jason knew about the letters between Julianne and Brad, and Jason set to make sure that Julianne’s schedule was kept. However, he couldn’t say much with regards to Julianne in front of Dale as that’d screw up day-to-day and he enjoyed his job.

Dale walks by without a word, stopping at Julianne’s office. He peaks in the door, knocking, causing her to look up from her computer. She motions for him to come in the office as he holds the envelope firmly in his hand.

“Nice job sneaking that letter in my bag,” Dale states as he sets the envelope down on the desk before her. She then looks at him and smiles, glad that the message had gotten delivered accordingly and a message returned. Perhaps it was nice to have their own personal mail carrier – if he didn’t get curious with the messages back and forth.

“Thank you for giving it to him and bringing this one to me,” she says as she stares at the envelope. She was honestly afraid to open it, scared to Brad’s response now that he knew that it was her and perhaps an ideas as to what was going on. It’d mark their first conversation since the split before, and someone finding out more details as to what she was hiding.

“Next time, how about you tell me and I’ll just deliver?” She then chuckles as she looks up from the envelope.

“I guess that would’ve been easier. Sorry.”

“It’s alright. Apology accepted. It just surprised me.”

“It’d surprise me if the roles were reversed.” She then picks up the envelope, slowly ripping it open along the top, not able to take the wait any longer as to waiting to see the contents inside.

Juliette,

I figured it out with your last letter. I know that you’ve been writing me letters. I just wish that you could’ve told me sooner. It’s great to hear from you. There’s so much that I could say, but that’d be a waste of paper.

I’ve figured out what is going on. I know that you’re going through some rough issues. I know that there’s trouble and I can just imagine the trouble. Actually, forget imagine – I know after what he did to me. He’s hurting you. I hate to hear that….

You need to tell someone, besides me. You need to go to the police. You need to seek help that can get him away from you. Telling me in secret what is going on is not enough. You need to seek help from the police and get him arrested. You need to tell them what is going on. Do it for yourself. Do the right thing.

If you’re not ready for that, we need to find a way to discuss things – without him knowing. There’s options. Send a letter home, or call me at the shop. Do it at work so nobody knows. Please – do something to help yourself.

Your friend, always,
Brad Keselowski

She shakes her head as she reads over the note a couple of times, knowing that it was much harder than he had written in words in the note. It wasn’t as simple as going to the police. It wasn’t as simple as finding the quickest escape with what he had told her already when she threatened to leave him. it was why she had seeked this route in hopes of finding help.

It had resulted in more harm being done, and resulted in trouble expanding to include Dale also in the circus. Was it right to put her friends in danger as she tried to help herself? Probably not.

She also saw the option left at the bottom of the letter. It was a good option as perhaps more discussion between the pair would lead to solving the fears that clouded her mind so that way the right hinted thing could be done.

“Everything okay?” Dale asks, snapping Julianne out of her thoughts. She had forgotten that he was still in her office. She looks over the edge of the paper and shakes her head yes. “You seemed lost in thought for a moment.”

“A story that he told reminded me of a moment,” she lies, not wanting to hint any of the details to Dale.

“Julianne, I know the pair of you dated before. This trade of not-”

“I’m not cheating on Jason, Dale. Please. I would never do such a thing.” Dale looks over her, still suspecting possibly otherwise based on how she reacted while reading the letter.

“Are you absolutely certa-”

“Dale, that’s not the type of girl that I am. You should know that by now. Brad and I are just good friends and that’s all we’ll ever be. We tried the relationship and it didn’t work. Some people are meant to be just friends, and that’s us.” Dale shakes his head understanding, though not totally convinced. There was something going on between the pair – but what?

“I trust you. I know that you and Brad aren’t the type to do that.” He then leaves the office, knowing that she has work to do, as he does he.

She sits there, watching him leave, knowing that he can’t be used as an option any longer. She could see that his suspicions were high and if they got back to Jason, that’d spell even more trouble not only for her, but for Brad as well. She just hoped that she hadn’t created enough for Dale to say something to Jason.

Though she didn’t even need to worry about that – as Jason had seen Dale walk in with the envelope and drop it on her desk. He saw her reaction as she read the letter, wishing that he could hear the conversation that followed. He could feel the hairs on his body standing on his end, knowing that there was a clear spot that the letter had been sent from – again.

He knew that it was time to pay another visit to a certain driver.

 

Chapter 15: The Discussion

Knowing that she needed to talk to him, she waited till the afternoon when work died down and she had gotten through the first list that Mike had given her of things to do.

She glanced between the letter and the phone, debating whether it was a good idea. She knew that she had to do something and she knew that her and Brad needed to talk. Was there any other way to make it happen?

She then takes a deep breath, dialing the number to Brad Keselowski Racing. After a quick discussion with the receptionist, she was quickly transferred to his line.

“Hello?” She hears on the other end of the phone, immediately catching her breath to hitch in her throat. She was lost as to what to say.

“Hello Brad,” she states calmly as a smile forms on Brad’s face at the other end. He was glad that she had gotten the message and decided to call.

“Hello Juliette,” he replies. “You got my message?” She twiddles the letter in her hands, having read the letter over a couple of times. She had thought about what Brad said and knew that he was right to say something sooner than later.

“I did get your message. That was a good idea that you had in sending the message through Dale.” Brad smiles as he knew that it would work and wouldn’t look suspicious as it looked as though Dale was giving her a letter for work. What else would it look like?

“Some blond gave me the idea when she sent the first letter.” She then chuckles, glad that the plan that she had off the top of her head had worked. It was the only plan that she could think of once Brad had those officers trailing him, checking all traces surrounding him for a trace of another letter, the author or the attacker.

“What else was I supposed to do, Keselowski?”

“Have you thought about saying something?” She then takes a deep breath, not sure how she wanted to answer the question. She didn’t want to go against his word or do anything to make him mad as she knew that she needed his support. However, was there even a way to say something if she wanted?

“I have….and I just don’t know whether that’s a good idea, Brad.” Brad lets out a sigh, having hoped that the letter would’ve sent a clear enough message for her to do something. What was going on that was serious enough to deter her away from listening? “What if it doesn’t go according to plan?”

“What do you mean, Juliette?” She then lets out a sigh, not wanting to fully describe her situation to Brad about Jason…yet. She knew that she couldn’t tell him everything, or else there’d be more to worry about than what was going on.

“What if it comes back to bite me in the ass?” He began to understand her situation more. Jason was doing something to her – probably abusing her in some way – and threatened to hurt her, or worse, if she said something. That wouldn’t surprise Brad considering what Jason had already done to him for the simple fact that he learned about letters between the pair.

“If you report it to the police, they will arrest Jason and put him away, so therefore he can’t hurt you. They can also offer protective custody so that way he can’t harm you. Juliette, you need to do the right thing before the situation becomes worse.” She knew that would probably help the situation as the police could protect her, and it’d get Jason away from her. Still, though, she couldn’t erase a level of fear that still stung her at her insides.

“Is that a promise?” Brad stares at a photo on his desk as he thinks it over. He truly still loved her. He truly would do anything for her. She was his downfall, the one thing that made him drop everything in a second.

“Yes, because if they fail to do their job, I promise to make sure that you don’t get hurt.” She then smiled, a certain level of pride soaring through her as she was glad that she had sought out Brad to be the person to lean on. “Juliette, I promise you that things will work out. I won’t let anyone hurt you, ever, again. I love you and will do whatever it takes.”

“Brad….”

“No, I mean those words. I was stupid to let you go back then and I am ready to make up for that mistake. I am ready to make you feel safe and protect you. I am ready to be the person for you.” To Juliette, his words felt like a tidal wave that she couldn’t control. Was he truly saying all that directed towards her, for her? Did he truly mean everything that he said? She didn’t know whether she wanted to accept it or brush it away because, perhaps, there was a two-way street here.

“What if things back then happened for a reason?” Brad leans back in his chair, having thought those words over in his head. It took him back to his discussion with Joey in describing the relationship the pair used to have.

“They did happen for a reason, Juliette. They made me realize how much you truly meant to me, and why I shouldn’t screw things up.” He hated to continue blubbering and confessing that he loved her, but he couldn’t hold it back anymore. He had held it back for too long and he didn’t care, even if she was in a relationship. Plus, that relationship was set to be over.

“I need to go….I have things to do. Thanks for being the person to lean on, Brad. Thanks for your help.” He knew by those words that he had said too much and scared her off. He worried that they wouldn’t cross paths again, and perhaps his dreams were shattered. Though worse than that, he wouldn’t be able to help her escape the harm that had come her way – in whatever shape or form that Jason had gone about it. “Bye Brad.”

“Juliette, remember what I said. You need to say something before it’s too late. You need to do the right thing.”

“I will think it over…as well as everything else. Goodbye Brad.” She then hangs up as she leans back in her chair, letting out a long sigh.

Now on top of thinking about saying something and thinking about Jason, she had to deal with Brad’s love confession. He was supposed to help her clear up the confusion that clouded her days – not make more confusion. Why did he have to go and blab all that love for her?

Worse than that, she didn’t know how to respond to his confession. She was scared of love, scared of being in the same type of situation once again. However, the feelings were mutual. She knew that based on the fact that she had consulted in him in her time of need versus any other friend that she could’ve gone to. Why did he seem to always enter her mental picture?

The thought couldn’t consume her, though. She had a bigger issue on the forefront and knew that she’d have to face that issue sooner than later. There was time that she would have to head home and see what Jason had to say for that night. Brad’s advice and the thought of escaping it kept going through her mind. She knew that if she was stuck in the same situation longer, she may run into problems. For that reason, the phone that sat on her desk called her name louder and louder to dial an important number.

The Mysterious Girl – Chapters 26 Thru 29

themysteriousgirl

Chapter 26: Jason

“Can you at least change back to human form?” Dale questions as he sits in the middle of a forest, his left wrist in a hand cuff that was connected to the tree behind him.

He couldn’t believe the span of events that had taken place only moments ago. If they hadn’t happened to himself, he wouldn’t had believed that they had happened. It was like something that you’d see in a horror movie.

He remembered hearing the rummaging outside of the motorcoach, thinking that it was some animal causing trouble. It’d certainly been that – but he didn’t expect this kind of trouble. Perhaps he should’ve maybe expected it after Brad’s reveal.

He remembers hearing clawing at the motorcoach door, seeing as though the animal was trying to enter the motorcoach. It was that moment that realization had hit him as to who it could be, and he remembered finding a bat in hopes of knocking out ‘wolf’. He never got the chance, though, as Jason had made sure to launch himself into the motorcoach, snatching the bat and throwing it to the side. From then on, there was no chance for Dale as he felt the paws wrap around his being, and he was carried out, wolf on two feet, by the man.

Once outside, Jason had swapped usage of paws and instead carried Dale out to the hide out in the mouth. The whole time, Dale kept trying to escape, but knew he was in a bind. There was no way to defeat Jason and the wrong move would result in a tooth in him.

Now he was bound to a tree and stuck with a wolf – stranger than fiction, in his mind. It was also annoying as there was conversation happening since wolfman couldn’t talk for some reason, or so it seemed. Jason hadn’t said a single word since they got out to the hide out.

“Can I have a reason for being kidnapped?” Dale questions, hopeful for some sort of conversation for the sake of his own sanity. However, he also wouldn’t mind knowing a reason.

He heard about the trace deal that Juliette and Brad had going. It was meant to keep Jason away under any costs. It was supposed to solve all problems for them moving forward. So why was Jason here right now? Why was he in Jason’s hands?

His question would go unanswered as rather than focus on Dale, the wolf was focused on sniffing out into the woods. It was as if the wolf was expecting someone to be find them. Was he using Dale to lure out someone? But who?

“So who are you looking for?” Dale asks out loud, not expecting an answer though. He hadn’t heard an answer to this point so why was he to believe that he’d get one now?

It just seemed odd considering the pair had been friends for so long. Dale had believed so much in Jason that he was thinking of hiring the young man to work for JR Motorsports in the forthcoming season. So much for that idea. Now he’d need someone else to crew chief for Regan.

Dale then yanks as hard as he can on the cuff, trying to see if it’d by chance break and he could make some sort of escape. However that wasn’t in the cards that night.

“Damn it Jason!” He lets out as he catches the wolf’s attention. “We’re…were friends! I trusted you and you trusted me! We worked together for a couple of years now! This isn’t how you treat friends!”

“That was all a foul play….” Jason finally says something in a deep husky voice as Dale looks at him confused. He had broken through and gotten the wolf to speak. That was something. Perhaps if he could continue what he was doing.

“Oh really? I doubt that as I could tell that you cared. I can give you many examples. There’s no way of downplaying the friendship that we had together, and with Steve.” The wolf slouches down slightly, going off-guard from his post of sniffing as he glances back. Perhaps Jason felt a little bad for what he was doing…but it had to be done. It was wolf law to not touch another wolf’s bait, and Brad had done that.

“So maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t change what I’m doing tonight.”

“So we kidnap our friends now?”

“Just be glad that I haven’t bitten you yet! I could’ve done that, right?” Dale instantly feels himself go silent as no doubt that was a very true option. He was in the perfect position for that if Jason wanted to go forth. What if that was part of the plan? What if he was waiting for others from his circle?

The thoughts that were swirling through Dale’s mind instantly escaped as he watched a white-silvery colored wolf come flying out from a section of trees, launching himself on to Jason.

Not only was he kidnapped by a wolf, but now he trusted the chance of being saved in another wolf?

When would he wake up from this bad dream and return to reality? This had to be a dream!

 

Chapter 27: Wolf Fight

Upon seeing the brown colored wolf, he pounced without warning. He knew if he got the upperhand, it’d make everything much easier. He then pinned Jason down below him, growling as loud as he could in his face before swiping his paw across the cheek below him. The sharp claws of the paw left a line across the face, but no blood drawn. It seemed he was tougher than Brad would’ve thought or hoped.

“You didn’t need to involve him!” Brad spats as he takes another swipe at Jason, this time drawing blood as a bit of blood trickles from the cheek of the wolf beneath him. It’d only be a matter of time with the blood dripping out that he would be forced back to human form.

“I had to do something to get your attention!” Jason yells back in response as he pushes up harder than Brad was expecting, sending Brad flying back towards a tree behind him. Brad’s back slams off of the tree as he slowly regains his footing on his paws.

The pair of wolves then stand in the woods facing each other, both eyes full of red and anger.

For Jason, it was due to the marking that Brad had placed on Juliette.

For Brad, it was all of Jason’s behavior to this point.

“Why?” Brad questions as he circles around the outer edge of the circular area that they now found themselves in the woods.

“You marked my girl!” Jason yells in response as he walks around in the circle, keeping his eyes on Brad. Both wolves were watching each other, waiting for the opportune time to make a move.

“You hurt her. I had to do whatever it took to protect her!” Brad then begins to pounce slightly, though backs up as he knows that he doesn’t have the upperhand with that planned jump. He had to catch Jason off-guard if he wanted to have enough leverage to pin him again, and make his real attack. The simple swipe of the paw to draw a bit of blood wouldn’t obviously be enough that night. “That doesn’t give you the right to involve Dale!”

“What else did you expect me to do to get you out here for myself?”

“Can’t you just move on?” Jason laughs as he watches Brad closely. If anything, he knew Brad’s flaw in this whole ordeal. While Brad had feelings for Juliette, he didn’t have those.

“You know that’s not possible when you have feelings for a girl.”

“You didn’t have feelings because you hurt her!!” Jason then takes the sitting dog position, getting annoyed of walking around in a circle as he watches Brad.

“You know, she probably would’ve tasted great.”

Those words were all Brad needed to hear as he immediately pounced, jumping up high in the air before landing hard down on Jason, sending him from sitting position to laying down position. With him pinned beneath him, Brad immediately went at biting the other wolf’s ear, tugging on it with every bit of strength that he had. If could’ve went for the nose, that was the original plan but the ear would do fine for now.

Jason lets out a huge yelp as pain centers around the left side of his head, extending down his neck as Brad continues tugging at the fur of the ear. With tug after tug, the pain increased and in a swift motion, the ear would go flying in the air.

“GROSS!” Dale lets out as he watches the ear go flying by him, before glancing back at the pair. Seeing the sight before him now with the ear removed, he immediately glanced away – still wishing that he’d wake up from his nightmare.

The removal of the ear was seemed to be a deafening blow, as it would result in Jason having no ear in human form either. The blood began to seep out, with the cries that escaped Jason’s mouth. Brad also knew that upon changing back to human, it would result in enormous amount of blood loss for Jason, resulting in a good chance at death.

The cries continued as Brad loosened his gasp, seeing the blood that was pouring out. as the cries continued, Jason slowly turned back to human form, laying there on the ground before him. it seemed odd seeing a human with no ear, but yet instead the perfect hole for blood to leak out.

“Your death is within minutes based on that blood,” Brad comments as he creeps down to Jason’s level. “Was it worth it for a chance at a girl? Was it worth it to see me?”

“I….hate….you….” Jason slowly lets out before his body goes limp. Brad then goes in the pocket, grabbing the keys for the cuffs before going over to the tree. He somehow manages to hold them steady in his paws as he unlocks the lock.

“Are you okay?” Dale shakes his head yes as he hears the lock unclick. He then slowly stands up, glancing at Jason with a shivered sigh.

“Is he…dead?” Dale questions as Brad glances over.

“Yeah, pretty much. There’s no way to come back from that, human or werewolf. Come on. We better get out of here.” They then begin to head through the woods, Brad still in his werewolf form. He needed to remain in form to find his way back based on scent, but also would be naked should he changed back.

“Aren’t you going to….become you?”

“Do you want to walk with a pet, or a naked man?” Dale then shivers as he continues walking.

“You can stay as wolfy. Actually, it’s kind of cute. Aww Bad Brad is my little pet now. Does Juliette take you for wal-”

“Don’t push it, Dale.” Dale just grins as he glances down at the werewolf.

“This is just weird, okay? I never thought that I’d ever see you as this, or anybody for that matter.” Dale then pinches himself as Brad glances up.

“You’re not dreaming. This is me. I told you the truth that day.” Dale shakes his head in disbelief.

“So how am I supposed to explain this one to Amy?” Brad stops and lets out a sigh. To anybody, they’d say that Dale was kidnapped by a werewolf due to the wolf being hungry, and Brad had simply saved him. But obviously that wasn’t the truth, and given Amy’s reaction earlier, she would have lots of questions.

“That’s up to you. You can tell her the truth, if you want.” Dale laughs as he shakes his head no,

“Nope, not happening. There’s no way that she’d believe me. I’d be in the looney bin before tomorrow’s race started.” Brad chuckles as he remembers Joey’s reaction when he told him.

“And no, you can’t take me for walks, or hunting, or any of those wolf plans that you have. Don’t even try it.”

“So are you going to go bark up a tree? No wait – you’d pee on a tre-”

“Dale….” Dale shakes his head as they reach the edge of the forest. Brad finds the clothes that he had previously left with Juliette, putting them back on himself. He then slowly turns back in human form, fixing his hair as Dale glances over in surprise.

“Okay that’s just weird how you can just do that.”

“Get used to it, buddy. Wait till you see my vampire girlfriend.” They then continue the rest of the walk back to the motorcoach lot in silence, both mentally preparing themselves for the pack of curious people.

 

Chapter 28: Post Wolf Fight

“We’re back!!” Brad comments as he enters the motorcoach, catching a bunch of surprised glances.

His eyes quickly set on Amy, who was immediately in Dale’s arms and kissing his cheeks. His eyes then shifted to the officer, followed by the pair of shocked teammates and finally….Juliette. With a simple nod of the head, she knew that Brad had found him with Jason and the pair would be having a big talk later.

“Are you oka-” Amy starts as Dale cuts off her words with a kiss on the lips.

“I’m fine,” he assures her as he looks into her eyes. “I’m okay. You don’t need to worry. He didn’t harm me…” Dale then glances back at Brad. “I’m just glad that you found me when you did.” Brad simply smiles, remembering their cover-up story.

“Ms. Reinmen said that you were taken out of here by a wolf?” The officer questions and Dale shakes his head as he keeps his arms wrapped around Amy.

“Yeah, that’s right. He took me to some pack hide-out and praying around me – I guess he wanted me for food for his pack. Luckily, Brad got there and managed to distract him.”

“I have been in the woods before around them so I knew how to get him to run off away from Dale,” Brad offers with a wink towards Dale.

“I’ll have to warn the track about wolves being in the area,” the officer states as he slowly stands up. “Glad to see you weren’t harmed, Mr. Earnhardt. While this will go down as the strangest report ever filed, that’s all that matters. Goodbye.” The officer then leaves without another word, leaving the rest of the group standing there in surprise.

“Do you want a hug, as well?” Dale asks as he glances towards his teammates.

“I’m just…shocked…” Jeff comments as he stands up, giving Dale a quick hug. “But glad you’re alright.”

“I have to agree,” Jimmie adds as he also stands up. “This will be one of those stories that nobody will believe.”

“I barely believe it….but only because it’s coming from you. We better go. It seems someone will want cuddles since she was worried. See you tomorrow.” Jeff and Jimmie then leave, sharing their own shocks and disbeliefs over the story along the way.

As the pair leave, Brad keeps his eyes locked on Dale. He had told Dale that he’d help in telling Amy the truth of the story if he wanted to give her some comfort form the strangeness. He was willing to trust her in learning the information, since Dale trusted her and since the pair had been affected by everything now.

“Thank you…thank you….thank you…” Amy breaks the silence in the room as she walks over to Brad and gives him a hug. “Thank you.”

“Hey, he’s my best friend,” Brad comments as he wraps his arms around her. “I wouldn’t want anything to happen to him.” Amy then backs away as she keeps her eyes on Brad.

“How did you know where to find him and what was going on?” Brad glances at the marks on the wall.

“Claw marks – typical mark of a wolf. Plus, I believed you. I then went to where I figured they’d hang out. I knew waiting for some officers to do something would be too long since they have all this paperwork.” Brad then looks over at Dale, having enough of a time coming up with reasons for this whole thing to be true.

“Well, thank you…” She then walks back over to Dale and sits beside him on the couch, wrapping an arm around him. “I don’t know what I’d do without him. I love him too much.”

“It wasn’t a problem…” He then looks over at Juliette. “We should get going. We both need our sleep due to a race tomorrow. You going to be up for that, Dale?” Dale shakes his ehad yes.

“I’m going to win if you didn’t know already,” Dale comments as Brad simply chuckles.

“We’ll see about that,” Brad replies. “See you tomorrow and oh, if you want to talk…”

“I know.” Brad and Juliette then leave the motorcoach and head back to their own.

They quickly enter and head to the back, lying on the bed as they had planned on earlier.

“Now, do I get to know what really happened?” Juliette wonders as Brad looks over at her.

“Jason’s dead, for starters,” Brad starts as she looks at him surprised. “He took Dale because he wanted to draw me away since he was mad that I marked you since you’re his girl. I bit his ear off in the fight.”

“You have one bad bark there, Mr. Keselowski.” She then pulls him close and kisses his lips. “Nice job tonight…” She then moves back a bit, taking a good look in his eyes. “Thank you…thank you for everything that you’ve done for me. Thank you for saving me from him, for accepting who I am and what you did tonight. You’re truly amazing.” She then leans in and kisses his lips once again. “I can’t wait to have your puppies.”

“Blood sucking puppies – that’d be interesting to see…” She then chuckles at the thought as she could just picture a couple of kids running away, growing fur at night while craving the taste of blood. It seemed like a sick, demented picture, but she knew that she could teach them to behave as she had learned.

It was just another challenge that she was willing to tackle as she was going to do whatever it took to be with the wolf of her dreams

 

Chapter 29: Race Morning

Brad grabbed his firesuit, slipping it on as Juliette sat on the couch in the motorcoach. The pair glanced up as the television returned from commercial, revealing the start of Raceday.

“While we’re here to discuss the race, we do have some house-keeping to do in regards to some breaking news,” they hear John Roberts say as they both glance towards each other, knowing what it was about. Brad’s eyes then return to the television, curiously. “Last night, an individual died in the forest near the motorcoach lot at the speedway.”

“Told you,” Brad states as the pair had debated last night whether Jason would be okay.

“Shut it!” Juliette yells, wanting to hear what the television revealed.

“FOX Sports has learned that individual is the car chief off of the No. 88 National Guard – Jason Burdett,” Roberts continues as Juliette rolls her eyes. “Per the police report, he was attacked by a wolf that was running around the campground last night. Now, police have yet to locate the wolf but speedway officials assure that they have security on the case if he does reappear today.”

“In other words….” Juliette starts with a glance over towards Brad as he puts his hands up.

“I don’t have plans of changing dear,” he offers, knowing where she was going with her point.

“Hendrick Motorsports released a statement this morning saying that they were saddened by the loss and their prayers are with his family,” Roberts adds. “No doubt the No. 88 team will be trying to win this race in his memory.” Juliette and Brad chuckle as they think that over.

“I’m sure Dale will love hearing that one,” Brad comments as she just grins.

“I wonder what the rest of the team knows,” Juliette shares as Brad shrugs his shoulders, sitting down beside her.

“They probably know that he was kidnapped by a wolf and are all playing sympathy – if he said anything at all. He texted me this morning saying that officials were keeping that under the radar. We don’t need Jr Nation up in arms for wolves.”

“Oh no, that’d be bad news. They’d be chasing after you with pitch forks.” She then wraps an arm around him, and kisses his lips lately.

“I’m sure my vampire would save me, right?” She then grins and shakes her head yes.

“I’d suck the blood out of each one of them, just for you, even though I don’t like the taste of it.” Brad then gives her a surprised glance.

“Okay, that’s odd. A vampire that doesn’t like blood?”

“Human blood. Animal blood is a different story…” He then goes to scoot away as she firmly holds on to his hand. “Don’t worry – I don’t want yours. I just want your lips against mine all the time.” She then leans in for another kiss as he keeps her held close.

“Have I told you lately how muc-”

“I don’t need the cliché lines, Keselowski.” He then chuckles as they relax on the couch. “So, are you going to win me a race today?”

“That’s the plan. Do you think I can?” She then raises an eyebrow with a glance his way.

“Have I ever doubted you? 25th is just going to make things a little more challenging.”

“I think we learned that a challenge doesn’t scare me.” He then leans in and kisses her lips once more before standing up. “I’ll see you out on pit road.”

“I’ll be there waiting for those lips, once again.” He then walks out of the hauler, heading to the driver’s meeting.

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

Standing in victory lane, neither of them could believe they were there. Brad hopped off of the car and pulled her close, instantly kissing her lips as she looked into his eyes with a smile. Just like they discussed that morning, he had gone out and captured the race victory in style. There was no way that he was letting some wolf drama keep him out of the championship battle.

“Congratulations!” She lets out after he releases her from the kiss. “I’m so proud of you.”

“I’m glad that you’re here to celebrate with me,” he replies. “Perhaps you’re my lucky charm.” He then kisses her lips quickly once again before turning to do his television interviews.

To the world, they seemed as the perfect couple through the hat dance and gushy love conversation on twitter later that night flying home. However, they were more than that. They were two unique beings coming together to create pure magic. That was a type of magic that Brad had waited for over the years and now that he had it, there was no way that he was letting it go – no matter the reason.

 

THE END

The Mysterious Girl – Chapters 21 Thru 25

themysteriousgirl

Chapter 21: Lurking

Considering that he had gone all the way to Chicago, he knew that he couldn’t leave without doing anything. There was a reason why his anger…followed by his feet had carried him cross the country without any signs of stopping.

Thankfully, he still had his hard card which made access to the garage area easy. There was no way that he could have it taken away as he had not been proven guilty of anything. Oh the naïve behavior by both to drop the charges. If they could be convinced to do that, the rest of this had to be easy….right?

It was nice to have access to the garage, but that didn’t make things easy. He couldn’t sniff out HIS girl and see where she was. That was all gone with the imprinting. He also knew that meant that he couldn’t step within so much distance of her without his strength being drawn away and her noticing a sensation in the mark.

He knew he should’ve gone about the imprinting process himself. He had thought about it and debated as they got closer together, before turning slightly evil. However, that would’ve made making her his prey that much more difficult and he thought that he had things easy.

Keeping himself in the quietest form that he could, he lurked around the garage and kept his eyes out for those that he was curious to see. Even if he couldn’t touch her, he wanted to see her. Beyond that, he wanted to make sure that he had someone staked out so that way they could see each other.

He saw how Brad went about himself, faking the reason to the media and explaining things from his perspective.

“Smooth, real smooth Brad…” were the only words that could slip from his mouth as he watched. Brad would only be smooth for so long, as his smooth lines were going to ware off and result in the end. There was no way that this wolfy was getting away with an imprint.

He also watched as Juliette made her way through the garage and to HIS TEAM and discussed things as if nothing happened. He couldn’t believe his HIS GUYS were simply turning their backs on him and putting full trust in what Brad claimed to have happened. There was no question as to whether maybe Brad had lied, and whether they should take back their car chief.

But that didn’t matter to him. That position was a distraction from the actions that he truly wanted to take and was only accepted to get closer to vampy. He just hoped that they had the worst Chase ever possible.

He then watched as she made her way back down to Brad’s stall and for a second, thought that he had been spotted. A pair of blue eyes glanced his way and landed on him that he had grown used to in the garage and kept their eyes glanced over his way.

This wasn’t part of the plan.

He immediately darted away, hiding behind the first object that he could. He didn’t bother peaking out, but rather focusing on his next spot to continue. Wolfs were tracking animals, good at tracking their pray. He could find his way out of this jam with those instincts as he continued to shift through the garage area.

Once he was out of the garage area, he found a spot to sit. He knew that he wouldn’t be followed as there was practice to be had, which would be required of those blue eyes. They would be buys focusing on the crew and the car that his hiding would work.

He figured that he best use that scenario as a learning experience. If he was going to do any damage this weekend, he had to be more careful. He was going to have to learn to hide out in spots that weren’t visible, and find the best place to track one Mr. Keselowski.

Once the fellow wolf lay in his hands, the plan was simple – shred him and do away with him for what he had done in ruining the plan.

There was only one problem – how do you get a Sprint Cup Series driver all alone?

He knew of the options, whether tracking spots that he’d be, or perhaps luring him in. if he couldn’t lure him with Juliette, there had to be another way that he could possibly do it.

Perhaps blues eyes wasn’t such a bad thought anymore.

 

Chapter 22: Rain

Brad couldn’t figure it out. They had done everything that they had to do during practice to find the sweet spot for the car. They had everything planned as to when they’d go out. Paul was supposed to have the perfect set-up. They were supposed to carry forward the momentum that they had all year.

So why had he qualified 25th for the first race of the Chase?

It was simple – rain. Rain had fallen throughout the season, forcing NASCAR to cancel qualifying and set the field based on practice speeds. Since they hadn’t done any qualifying runs throughout the session, they were set back in 25th.

“Just great…” He muttered to himself as he walks through the garage area, trying to keep his feet dry as he walks with the umbrella in hand. However, it seemed as though luck wasn’t on his side as his foot landed in a deep puddle, resulting in water seeping through his shoes. “Just my luck.”

While he had gotten the girl of his dreams back, it seemed as though everything else was flying apart. He was being bugged by the media for something that wasn’t even in their business as they couldn’t understand the situation that he was in with dropping the charges. He was being bugged by fans over their outage from what happened. Some believed that he purposely got Jason charged to screw with the 88 team, while others called him a pure chicken. Thankfully, there were fans that couldn’t care less, or understood his situation, and still had his back.

If he could combined that with the qualifying and rain, it seemed as though nothing was going right in his world.

Thankfully, that night at the motorcoach would hopefully bring some welcome relief. Juliette had promised to cook dinner and if he remembered right, she was one great cook. A good tasty meal with his favourite girl, along with some cuddles and a possible movie could erase the headache that he was facing.

Besides, he could handle qualifying 25th. It wasn’t about where you started, but where you finished. You could pass easily at Chicagoland with the wide open track and he’d have a fast car that could bring him through the field.

He makes his way into the motorcoach, taking off his wet soaked shoes immediately upon entering, along with the socks. He could only hope that they’d dry out, along with some added heat, by the morning or else that’d be an interesting experience in the car.

He notices Juliette in the kitchen, working at dinner for the night and smiles. This was perfect. This was what he had wanted all along and he was finally glad to have it.

“I’m going to get changed,” he tells her with a quick kiss to the cheek before heading to the bedsroom.

Not even bothering to close the door, he slips off his firesuit and finds a pair of lounge pants and a t-shirt to slip into. There was no need to dress fancy or anything as he wasn’t planning on having any visitors that night or being bugged. A simple night would be better than anything.

He returns shortly after, pulling himself up on the counter as he takes a smell of what Juliette is cooking and lets a smile form on his face. It made had taken them a little longer to get together, but her cooking hadn’t changed in that time. It seemed weird that a vampire could cook better than any other human he knew as it wasn’t like vampires really ate human food anyway. Perhaps their need for good tastey, full-filling blood was what gave them the ability to know the right spices and flavors for dishes. Or, at least that was the only logical explanation that Brad could come up with.

“I could get used to this…” He comments out loud as Juliette looks over with a smile on her face.

“Who says I’m going to cook for you all the time?” She questions as a smirk forms on his face. Now they were truly together, he could have some fun with this…

“I could make it very worth your while and time.” She then rolls her eyes as she turns back to the meat.

“Of course you could, as you’re a ma-”

“Try again…” Juliette takes a deep breath and smiles. She only had to glance at her wrist for a clear reminder.

“Right, you’re a werewolf, which explains this even more. Since you’re a werewolf, you know only a couple things – eating, preying and being fast. That explains you to a key.” Brad then grabs her hand and pulls her over to him.

“And I finally got the prey that I’ve always wanted.” He then kisses her lips once again.

“You better let me go or you’ll be eating burnt stir-fry tonight.” He immediately lets go as a smile forms on her face. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” She then returns back to the pan as they hear a knock on the door.

“Great…” Brad hops off the counter and goes to the door, opening it as he sees Joey standing there. “Now is not a good time…”

“So you’re already got your claws dug into her that quick?” Joey questions as Brad rolls his eyes.

“I’m not like you; I don’t just take the girl straight to bed. Besides, I’m being patient as she requested…” Joey shakes his head, already understanding.

“So why isn’t right now a good time?” Brad crosses his arms as he closes the door a little, keeping the conversation quiet to him and Joey.

“We just got together, officially. We haven’t seen each other for months and we’ve wanted this for years. Now that we’re together, I’d like to spend some time with her….alone.” Joey puts his hands up and backs away a little.

“Understood. Sorry I interrupted you both. Have a good night…” Joey then leaves the motorcoach as Brad shuts the door, returning to the kitchen.

“Who was that?” Juliette asks as Brad hops back up on the counter.

“Joey,” Brad answers as Juliette looks over with a questioning glance. “He wanted to hang out as we normally do.”

“And?” Brad smiles as he keeps his eyes locked on hers.

“I told him that tonight wasn’t a good night as we were spending some time together.” Juliette smiles as she keeps her eyes locked on his.

“That’s sweet…” She then turns her eyes back to the food, figuring that it was just about ready. “But just because I’m in your life doesn’t mean that we have to change everything. Besides, Joey seems like a cool guy and Brittney would make a good girl to hang out with.”

“Skip-Bo date tomorrow night?” Juliette shakes her head in agreement with a smile. That sounded like a great idea as she thought back to all the times that they played skip-Bo before with friends. “I’ll ask Joey tomorrow afternoon.”

 

Chapter 23: Saturday

It seemed the misery of the day before had quickly disappeared in Brad’s mind as he was able to hit the track on Saturday for a pair of practices, and was fast, real fast. He knew if the pieces fell together quickly, he would have a winning car for Sunday afternoon.

He had also been able to talk to Joey, and he was glad that his teammate had easily agreed to come over and play Skip-Bo. It’d been a while since they had gotten a good game in, so it’d be fun to have a good round. If anything, Joey was super glad that Juliette was back and things were going great as it was good to have his fun loving friend back.

“So, are you ready for a fun game night?” He asks as he sits down on the couch, smile plastered on his face.

“Absolutely,” Juliette answers as she sits down beside him. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed these fun crazy nights with you.”

“Well, let’s just say that Joey and Brittney are a little more tamer than Dale’s parties.” She then laughs as she knew that was probably the case.

“Let’s face it – there’s not much that can top of the craziness of a party at Whiskey River.” Brad shakes his head in agreement as he wraps an arm around her.

“So I’ve been thinking. What do you say we get the whole family together at my…our house for Christmas?” She then looks at him surprised as she wasn’t expecting that thought.

“Brad, we just got together. We haven’t even had thanksgiving yet, either. When did you start thinking Christmas?” He then smiles as he keeps his eyes locked on hers.

“Ever since I realized that my girl was back in my life, I’ve been planning my future with her…” He then kisses her lips softly. “Is that a crime?”

“Not at all.” She then lets out a sigh as she knew that’d take something getting used to. She still had her feelings from how things had shaken off before, but she was ready for this future with Brad. She was ready to be with him, but also wanted to take it slow. She wanted to possibly have children down the road – if that was feasible given their situation – and get married. But, she didn’t say that she was ready for all that yet. Though talking about spending the holidays together wasn’t something that made her want to run away as it meant more cuddle time, and more time for them to catch up with each other.

A knock on the door then snaps her out of the thoughts as Brad gets up first and opens it, smiling. He then welcomes the pair in, closing the door behind them.

“Hey,” Joey says with a smile as he walks over to the table.

“Hey Joey,” Juliette replies as she gets up off the couch and sits across from him. The pair had met briefly, but hadn’t had much discussion. She knew that Joey had a bunch of questions that he’d probably want to ask, but could tell that the whole ‘vampire/werewolf’ thing had him nervous.

“You didn’t need to bring your own deck,” Brad comments as he slips in beside Juliette while Brittney sits down with Joey.

“You could cheat,” Joey offers as Brad rolls his eyes.

“There’s no way that you can cheat with the skip-bo deck. Besides, what if you’re trying to cheat?”

“This is why I told him to not bring the deck,” Brittney comments as Juliette just grins.

“Boys – they’re always being pain in the butts, huh?” Juliette questions as Brittney shares a smile with her. Joey hadn’t told Brittney any details, not able to even bring himself to discuss them. It had also been agreed that the secret would stay between Joey, Paul and Dale. They didn’t need to tell anybody else as that’d get weird.

“I think I like you already.” Juliette shares a laugh as Brad wraps an arm around her.

“You girls both like to shop and do your nails and look pretty,” Brad offers as Juliette gives him a glance. The nail polish was actually just a ploy to help hide the truth. “I’m sure you’ll get along great. Besides, maybe she can help with your wedding planning.”

“Wedding planning?” Brittney shakes her head yes as she glances over at Joey.

“We’re getting married this off-season,” she offers as Juliette looks between the pair with a smile.

“Congratulations,” she offers. “It seems Brad left out that important detail.”

“Too caught up in making out and all that?” Joey questions as Brad rolls his eyes.

“Oh Logano, I wouldn’t sit there cracking on the girl…” Brad starts with a wink as Joey looks between them. He had a million different things that he could say, but none of them would make sense in that moment.

“Why not?”

“Because…it may come back to bite you…” Brad watched the shock on Joey’s face and could only laugh as Juliette just shook her head.

“Brad…” She warns with a slight smack on the arm.

“It’s too easy with him,” Brad comments as Joey just rolls his eyes.

“Do I want to know?” Brittney questions, sensing an inside joke between the boys. She knew they had a bunch that they shared together, and also with their other male friends.

“Not really,” Joey offers with a glance Brad’s way. He wasn’t about to bring up vampires. “Can we just start the game?”

“Let’s see if Brad remembers how to count to 12 tonight,” Juliette comments as Brad starts dealing the cards.

They then go through the game, each of them taking their turn and doing a respectful job. It seemed that there was no luck for Joey as he kept getting cards that he could do nothing with and found himself getting frustrated with the piles that sat before him. In contrast, Brad was scoring the lucky breaks, getting cards out one after the other. Those breaks all paid off as he was able to score the victory in round one.

“I win!” He lets out with a smile as he sits back, grinning.

“This game is evil,” Joey comments as he pushes his cards into the center.

“Ahh, what’s wrong Joey?” Joey just rolls his eyes as he takes a couple chips out of bowl.

“The game is all about luck and what cards you get. You got lucky. Congratulations. Just remember if you use all your luck up tonight, I’ll be the one visiting victory lane tomorrow.”

“Just remember who was quicker in practice before you make such bold predictions.”

“Besides, he ahs to welcome me back to the track in style,” Juliette adds as she gives him a kiss on the cheek. “You played a good game, as always.”

“Do I sense some victory presents later?” Brittney teases as both Brad and Juliette glances her way.

“So that’s why Joey is so frustrated….” Brad lets out, not wanting to tackle the question directly. He didn’t know how much Juliette wanted to speak of their inner meanings of the relationship to other people as of right now.

“I don’t need to win to get her affection,” Joey offers as he wraps an arm around her. “I know exactly what to do to get her to cave to me.” He then kisses Brittney’s lips lightly as she looks at him surprised.

“Keep telling yourself that if it makes you happy,” she comments as Brad just grins.

“And who wears the pants in the family?” Juliette questions as Joey rolls his eyes.

“Seriously?” He asks as Juliette shrugs her shoulders.

“You brought that all upon yourself with your comment to Delana.”

“Well, it’s true.” Juliette laughs, but no doubt knows that Joey is right from what she has seen of Kevin and Delana together. That was one person that she couldn’t wait to catch up with either.

“Come on Joey. Play another round. Maybe you’ll get lucky.” Joey lets out a sigh.

“Fine. Let’s do it.”

 

Chapter 24: Wolfman

“And another win for us!” Brad lets out as they finish the fourth round. Brad won the first three games, while Juliette was able to snag the win in the fourth round.

“You got to be cheating – somehow, someway,” Joey complains as Brad laughs.

“Dude – we used your set of cards and my set of cards, and yous till didn’t win.”

“Perhaps you need some practice?” Juliette offers as Joey lets out a sigh.

“Don’t worry baby – you’ll score the big win tomorrow,” Brittney comments as she pats him on the leg. Joey simply smiles as he cuddles up to her, sharing a quick kiss.

“Aren’t they adorable?” Brad shakes his head as he wraps an arm around Juliette.

“We’re two lucky guys with two amazing girls in our lives – finally,” Joey comments and Brad shakes his head with a glance towards Juliette.

“It was worth the wait for what I’ve got right here beside me,” Brad says before sharing a kiss with Juliette.

“I should’ve listened to you from day one and accepted you,” Juliette replies as Brittney looks over with a questioning gaze.

“Say what?” She questions as Juliette looks over at her.

“We dated before while he was at JR Motorsports and I was his PR rep. We dated for a couple of months and it was going great. But, we couldn’t find that compromise together. I wanted something serious, and he was still maturing as they say. Perhaps I could’ve been a little more patient.”

“Or perhaps I should’ve realized that the best thing was in front of me and I needed to show that,” Brad counters as Joey watches the pair with a smile.

“Well, I’m glad that you decided to come back in his life because this guy is a pain in the ass when he’s lonely,” Joey shares as Juleitte laughs.

“I could say something…but I’ll be nice tonight,” she comments with a grin as Brad looks at her surprised. “Listen, boy, I’ve been through everything working with you. Let’s just say that you’re an interesting client, but a stunning lover.”

“It’s getting late and they’re getting a little lovey. Perhaps we should go…” Brittney shakes her head in agreement as the pair stand up.

“Scared to get your ass kicked again?” Brad questions as Joey looks back at him.

“Not at all because I know that you’re cheating,” Joey answers. “Next week – let’s play something else and see what happens.”

“Go Fish? That should be easy enough for you.” Joey then gives him a face as the girls laugh.

“How about twister? Or Crazy Eights?”

“Twister!!” Brittney votes, as shehad played that game a ton of times with her girls and seemed to be the star at winning at it.

“You’re on,” Brad comments. “See you tomorrow.” They all then trade goodbye remarks before Joey and Brittney head out, leaving Brad and Juliette to themselves.

The pair then cleaned up the bowls and cans that were left on the table, along with the cards, before retreating back to the bedsroom. The pair were getting ready for bed when they heard a scream.

“What was that?” Brad questions as he glances out the bedsroom window.

“That sounded like a scream…” Juliette comments as she glances out the window with Brad.

“Hope Joey and Brittney made it back alright.” Brad then takes out his phone, set to text Joey to see if they’re alright when they hear the scream again. the sound instantly causes both Juliette and Brad to perk up as they recognize the female voice immediately.

“Amy!!” They both let out before darting out of the motorcoach – Brad in just his boxers, Juliette in her pajama shirt and jeans. The pair dart across the motorcoach lot, heading straight to Dale’s motorcoach.

Brad makes his way in, finding Amy sitting on the edge of the bed with their pomeranian clutched to her.

“Amy?” Brad questions as Juliette glances around the room. It was obvious to tell that someone had broken in based on the marks….claw marks….

“He’s gone…” Amy lets out as she looks straight at Brad.

“What do you mean? Where’s Dale?”

“Brad, there’s claw marks here…” Juliette lets out, pointing to the marks on the edge of the wood door. Brad’s head instantly whips back, eyes falling on the marks. He knew immediately who they belogned to as he felt his senses perking.

“Werewolf….part man maybe…grabbed….left….” Amy lets out between deep breaths as Brad and Juliette glance towards each other. They both knew the result of this – Jason.

The pair watch as Jeff and Jimmie take their turn running in and with a glance towards each other, know the plan.

“Someone kidnapped Dale,” Brad states. “We’re going to get help. Comfort Amy.”

“What?” Jeff questions.

“Huh?” Jimmie says.

“Someone kidnapped Dale!” Juliette screams. “We’re going to get help!” She then grabs Brad by the arm and drags him out of the room as the pair hurry off, leaving the pair of drivers with Amy.

 

Chapter 25: Kidnapped

The pair exit the motorcoach, before looking towards each other. The look in each other’s eyes said everything.

“There’s only one person that would go near him that would leave claws….” Brad lets out as Juliette takes a deep breath, shaking her head in agreement.

She didn’t want to let the thought of Jason cross her mind. She thought that he was gone, in her past, forever out of her life. Why did he have to reappear now?

Brad pulls her close, wrapping both arms around her as he glances around.

“He’s not going to hurt you, again,” Brad assures her, placing a kiss on top of her head.

“But Dal-” Juliette starts as Brad tips her head up to look at him in the eyes.

“Dale is going to be fine. He’s not going to harm Dale. He kidnapped Dale for a reason.” Juliette takes a step back as she realizes it as well, keeping her eyes locked on Brad.

“Brad, he wants to lure you in….” Brad shakes his head yes as he knew that fact as well.

“He knows that you’re traced. However, that doesn’t stop him from hurting me. If he can get someone that he knows will lure me out, then he can see just me.” It was the only theory that made sense given the current situation that they were faced. Brad knew what Jason wanted and knew that it could happen. If someone was kidnapped, another wolf could easily track the scent as that was one of their strengths.

“We nee-”

“I need to do something. You can’t do anything to help, Juliette. I have to do this.” He knew that she couldn’t go near him based on the trace explanation, so that left everything in Brad’s hands.

“I don’t want you to go alone. What if he hurts you?” Brad looks into Juliette’s eyes.

“Take out your contacts…” She then does as instructed as he gleams into her true silver eyes. “Look into my eyes. You can trust me, Juliette. Everything is going to work out. dale is going to be fine and I am going to be fine.”

“Bu wha-”

“He won’t hurt me, trust me. I have this guy covered easily. You don’t need to worry about me, understood?” She slowly shakes her head yes. “Come…” He then pulls her hand as they run off, heading into a wooded area.

“Is there anyway that you can let me know how things are going?” Brad shakes his head no as he strips off of his shirt first, handing it over to her.

“I need to be total wolf if I’m going to track him down and kick his ass.” Juliette then watches as he slips out his pants, handing everything over to her.

“You’re….What if someone sees you?” Brad glances around as he sees no one around.

“That’s not going to happen. I’ll be gone before anyone notices. I wouldn’t be changing out here if I knew otherwise.” She then sighs as she leans back against a tree. “We can’t let Jeff and Jimmie get suspicious either. Go find an actual officer and report Dale missing. Then tell them that we got separated trying to find someone and….cover for me.” Juliette shakes her head, accepting. If she couldn’t go with him, she would accept that.

“Deal.”

He then closes his eyes, as she carefully watches hair grow out of each body part, covering every inch of previous known skin with fur. She silently wished to herself that he’d do this one nigh and she curl up with him as he looked like a big soft teddy bear right now.

She is then caught off guard as she watches the ears grow into full wolf form, followed by the formation of the face. There was no sweet face anymore that she was used to, but rather that of an animal. If anybody saw him, they’d never guess that he was under there.

The last piece – the claws – come out of the fingers and feet as they officially turn into paws. As she watches the transformation complete, she sees a full wolf before her as her skin starts to crawl slightly.

He then brushes his head against her leg, followed by a brush further up against her body before licking her face. He then stands tall, grabbing something from his discarded jean pocket. She could tell that it was a piece of fabric, probably stolen from Dale’s motorcoach for scent purposes.

He sniffs the fabric, instantly picking up the scent. He then glances around, nose twitching in every direction in search of the scent. Before Juliette can say anything or even flinch slightly, she watches the four paws hit the wood ground beneath them and take off in a hurry. She watches the man that she knew disappear off into the dark.

She could only hope that he found his way back to her later with their friend.

The Mysterious Girl – Chapters 16 Thru 20

themysteriousgirl

Chapter 16: The Imprint

At the request of Edward, the pair of them now sat in Brad’s room, sitting across from each other, gazing into each other’s eyes. Neither of them were 100% sure about the imprinting process, or how things were going to work out, but they knew that they had to give it a shot.

“I believe that we can do this and make it work,” Juliette starts, sensing the nerves from Brad as she reaches over and grasps both of his hands in her own. He wanted to focus, needed to focus – but being this close to her and feeling the heat radiate off of her body after their kiss downstairs and being there together made him want to just pull her close with one thought in mind.

“I believe it will work also – if I only I can focus on that alone,” Brad comments and Juliette lets out a small laugh. She could tell by the way he was gazing into her eyes and licking his lips that he indeed had a thought on his mind in that very moment.

“If this goes well, we will have all the time in the world together to do what you’ve got on your mind, Brad. Focus for this once to be rewarded all the time – when the time is right.” Brad sensed the hesitation in her voice at the thought, and knew what stemmed from. He could understand the tinge of worry that she had diving into another relationship after what happened with Jason, but he wasn’t about to let this opportunity to be with her slip away.

“Are you sure that you’re set with doing this with me after finding out that I’m werewolf? I don’t want to find out later on that your perspective simply changed this day due to what happened with Jason.” She then snaps out of her daze of admiring, in shock that he was bringing that up in that moment.

“I’m absolutely certain. The werewolf doesn’t make the man – the man makes who he is by his actions. I believe that you’re the right person for me, that you truly love me and wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. I hope I am right by those assumptions, am I?” Brad shakes his head yes as he focuses in on her eyes.

“I’ve wanted to be with you, in love, for the longest time. I’d never do anything to risk ruining this with you.” He then leans in and lightly kisses her lips before sitting back in position.

“I believe you – no matter what anybody else may think. If my brother dares to say anything, my opinion is never the same as his and don’t let him chase you away from me.” Brad shakes his head, understanding. He was expecting some talk with Danny in the future, considering how Danny had already given him an interesting discussion at the shop previously.

“Don’t ever think that your brother will change things between us. I can deal with an annoying brother, if you can deal with a couple annoying siblings of my own.” She smiled, having met Brian already. She knew that they couldn’t be that bad.

“I’ve met Brian and he seemed fine. I don’t have a thing to worry about.” Brad begged to differ as he knew that the dynamics were going to be different this time around.

“Don’t forget – you’re a vampire, and they’re werewolves, and we’re dating. That should change things, a little.” She swallows the lump in her throat, knowing that is probably true. However, she wasn’t about to let that chase her away.

“Let them say what they want, Brad. I don’t care what happens outside of us – as long as we’re together.” With the entire basis covered, there was only one question that was left on Brad’s mind.

“Are you ready?” She then shakes her head yes as she takes a careful deep breath. “Then let’s get this over with. Keep looking straight in my eyes no matter what. Don’t move an inch.”

The pair then intently stare into each other’s eyes, set on doing the process as described by Edward and Jacob. As they wait for the stare to become an imprint, they each noticed something intriguing about each other that they hadn’t noticed before.

Juliette began to see the signs of the werewolf coming through, noticing how his eyes dimmed darker in the shadow, as if to warn of a possible change.

In contrast, Brad was intrigued by the silver colored eyes that Juliette had with the contacts removed from her eyes. They shined bright, despite being in shadows, as if to say that they lit the way. Of course, they lit the way for Brad as she was the source of all love. He knew that well some may consider it strange, he could get used to seeing those eyes on a daily basis as they made her look even hotter than the contacts she normally wore.

Seconds ticked by, followed by a couple minutes. The pair wondered to themselves whether something or anything was going to happen, or had happened. What if in some way he had already imprinted her in some past meeting? what if there was no change in movement?

Then it hit her. She felt a wave come over her as she fought to maintain her posture, feeling a jolt through her body as if someone had sent a surge of electricity through. To her, it felt as though an imaginary force was now within her – perhaps that was the deflector for all other werewolves.

She then felt a tingly feeling on her wrist, glancing down moments later to see a very dull, grey-like image etched in. under normal light, there was nothing there. But in the shadows, a slight grey sketch appeared, revealing a werewolf.

With a glance back at Brad and a smile on her face, there was one certainty in that moment – they had done it. She was officially imprinted by a werewolf, and now safe from anybody who wanted to step foot near her.

 

Chapter 17: Post Imprint

“Hello?!?” Edward calls up the stairs as he glances towards the clock.

A whole hour had passed since the pair had gone up the stairs. In that span, nobody had heard anything from the pair and it disturbed Edward. Had something gone wrong? Was he wrong to send them without any advice of any nature? Should he have had Jacob supervise? Was Brad lying when he said that he was a werewolf? Worse, did he actually go after her? Edward debated climbing the stairs and seeing for himself whether they were alright. However, if they were having some intimacy after doing it – feeling it brought them closer together, he didn’t want to be the person to interrupt them.

He knew that everything that they had revealed to each other over the span of the past couple of days had changed their lives forever, and certainly would take adjusting to. For that reason, he was willing to give them the space to possibly talk it out and feel that adjustment.

“Should we go make sure that she’s alright?” Yolanda questions, feeling the same tinge of worry. Based on what they had been told by the ‘experts’, it should’ve been done within the span of minutes. She thought that they’d be gone for 10 minutes and return with happiness due to success.

“I’m going to go se-” Danny starts as he heads towards the stairs, though is stopped by Edward who quickly flashes over, placing his hand across.

“If something was wrong, you would’ve heard a scream,” Edward starts. “Besides, they trust each other so you should trust them both together. They’re probably spending some time getting used to whom they are. I had to get used to Jacob being around once I knew he was a werewolf.”

“She’s my sister! I care about her and I’m going to go see!” Danny didn’t trust Brad one bit, but frankly, he didn’t trust any girl that crossed his sister. He knew how kindhearted and easy trusting that she was. It wouldn’t take much for anybody to take advantage of her, as seen by Jason. Being the big brother, he didn’t want his sister to be taken advantage by yet another werewolf.

“No, you are not! You can just stay right here and wait with the rest of us.”

“Is there a problem down there?” A voice questions as the men look up the stairs, seeing Brad peak out of his bedsroom.

He wanted to spend the quality time that he could with Juliette. Later that night, he’d be leaving for Chicagoland to start off the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. He knew that the weekend would be busy with not only the Chase kicking off, but the media and fan questions surrounding the dropped charges. He knew that once he started off, he wouldn’t get the time that he wanted with Juliette. For that reason, he was cherishing the current time that they had there.

Behind their own precious walls, neither had done anything intimate as Brad was sticking by his word in agreeing to take it slow with Juliette, as she requested. They had just shared stories from growing up as their respective selves, how they came to realize who they were and how they went about dealing with everyday life. Brad explained how he made sure that he didn’t change into a werewolf in front of everybody by using a special drink that was made up for him by a close friend of the family. Juliette explained how the skin cream was developed so vampires wouldn’t be seeked out due to their sparkling tone skin. In a way, they were allowing each other in to truly understand each other. If they ever wanted a future together now, they were going to have to find understanding.

“It seems the worrywart brother is worried that you ate his sister,” Edward mocks Danny’s worry as Danny shoots him a look.

“You can tell pain in the ass that I’m fine!” Juliette yells as she pops her head out of the room with a smile on her face. She could only roll her eyes at her brother’s continued actions. When would he learn?

“See? What did I tell you?” Danny then lets out a sigh.

“I’m her brother,” he starts. “It’s my job to worry. It seems none of you understand that.” He then walks away from the staircase and flops down on the couch. Brad knew that he and Juliette should go downstairs and entertain their guests, but they weren’t up for that at the moment.

“If you get hungry or anything, help yourself to the kitchen,” Brad starts. “We’re going to be awhile.”

“Getting funky up there?” Jacob questions, earning a smack from Yolanda and a glare from both Edward and Danny.

“No – we’re just talking about things. I have a busy weekend ahead and I want to make sure that we have our Barings straightened out.”

“You’re just scared to admit to Dan-”

“Shut up!” Edward cuts off Jacob’s words with a glare, before returning his gaze back up the stairs. “Take all the time that you need, Brad. If you both have any questions, feel free to ask.” Edward then walks away from the staircase, dragging Jacob behind him by the arm.

“Did you seriously have to hit me?” Jacob questions as Edward sits down on the couch.

“Did you seriously have to be so rude and make so many immature comments? Those were totally uncalled for, mister.”

“Besides, she’ll want to take it slow based on what happened with Jason…” Yolanda lets out, knowing her friend really well. She could tell that Juliette was still hurt from what happened, and no doubt that’d play a role in her relationship with Brad. She just hoped that he was patient the whole way through.

 

Chapter 18: That Feeling

Jason glanced around him as he sat near the bush.

He felt different. There was something different about the way he was feeling, but what? Why couldn’t he pinpoint it?

Spying on the house, he saw the people go in and had to wonder who they were. He could tell that they were immediately vampires by the scent, feeling the thirst in his blood boil at the thought of having one for desert.

However, he didn’t care about the majority. There was only one female that he wished to make desert. She was a blond, pretty, stunning female that he had set his eyes on for the past period of months. He had stalked his pray, secured his pray and was playing with set pray. He just wished he would’ve gotten his bite sooner.

Though he wasn’t about to be denied this time as that was why he offered that package deal to her. He didn’t care about the family – just the taste of one. Though once she was gone and if she matched the scent, he may have to break that promise.

The feeling that he wanted and the closeness that he felt was complete bliss about an hour ago. Though now, it was evil. There was like an imaginary barrier with the scent slowly disappearing in the midst of everything. He wondered if those who entered had cast a spell to erase the scent so she couldn’t be tracked.

He also couldn’t believe that there was a werewolf as part of the pack. He thought that her little protective brother would’ve chased away the werewolf. He was even more shocked when he realized that a certain somebody else – Brad – was a werewolf. How did he do such a good job at hiding it? What was his secret? Too bad he hadn’t befriended him before going for his pray.

He wondered if Brad was doing it for the same reasons. Did he want her just for those reasons as well? Let’s face it, her scent was unique and certainly would bring forth the waking of every taste bud in his being.

He couldn’t allow his mind to wander on that any longer. He had to figure out why things were changing, and if he needed to change the plan that he had in mind for Ms. Daniels.

Then he noticed it. He watched as Brad traced his fingers along her wrist, making an outline, before focusing towards smaller details. The details included a pair of small circles, a u motion, followed by some sort of other detail towards the bottom. The outline included pointy tips towards the top….

“He’s a werewolf and he imprinted her….” Jason lets out in a spell of frustration. “He imprinted my JULIETTE!!!”

As the anger grows inside him, he feels the hairs start to grow longer on his legs and arms, lengthening with each passing second and minute. He feels his nose grow out slightly, and a pair of popping noises out of the top of his head.

The anger boiled in him, pushing his body further outward, with the icing on the cake being the tail that stuck out the crack of his butt. He couldn’t control the transformation nor the fact that his self took him a run through the forest in the opposite direction. The anger pushed his wolf self further than it had been pushed before, blasting through the tress at an unseen speed with frustration growls escaping each step of the away.

Unable to pause, unable to slow – purely seeing red, his run took him cross country. He ran across highaways, through trees and neighbourhoods. All of the places that he tried to avoid in fear of a transformation before people – his body carried him without consent. He tried to slow down at parts, but the anger that his PREY was IMPRINTED by another wolf caused him regain the lost speed and keep going.

As the sun rose the next morning, there was no energy to be spent as he collapsed underneath a tree, curling up. With a howl or two, he slowly returned to human form, watching the fur, nose and ears go back away. Glancing at his butt, the tail slipped itself back in his body.

He had no clue where he had gone through that time period. He had no clue why he had done that. He felt like a total lost soul. However, that feeling didn’t last as he glanced up from underneath the tree across the field and only a grin could cross his face.

Chicagoland Speedway lied ahead and with it being Friday, someone would be there. That someone would know that he had messed with the wrong girl by the time the weekend was over.

 

Chapter 19: Chicagoland

“Are you sure you’re ready for this weekend?” Juliette asks as she watches Brad closely from her seat on the couch in the motorcoach. He simply shakes his head yes as he does up the zipper on his suit.

“Just part of the job,” he answers as he heads for the door, though she holds her arm out to stop him.

“Right, we’ll go with that because it’s not like any other driver has been faced with this type of scrutiny before.” She then takes a deep breath. “I just worry about you and what you’re going to face out there. It’s my fault, too.” He then brushes a piece of blond hair out ofher eyes.

“Juliette, its fine. I can handle it. This is a small thing to handle to be with you forever.” He then leans in and lightly kisses her cheek. “I’ll see you after practice. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck, and you may see me before then. I was thinking of heading out to see Dale and the boys. A little reunion.”

“As long as there’s no flirting or kissing involved, it’s fine by me.” She just grins as he heads out of the motorcoach.

While he was playing it cool for her in things being fine, his thoughts told him otherwise. He was about to step into the media conference room and have to face everyone for the first time since the events that happened. What was fine and dandy about that?

He had finally figured out what he was going to say. It sounded like the worst possible thing to say in the situation, but what else was he supposed to say? He couldn’t tell the world the truth. He couldn’t just come out and say that he was a werewolf and Juliette was a vampire and they did what they had to be done to protect her family. There were people that thought he was crazy already. If he said such, he would immediately be sent to the looney bin.

Making his way into the media center, Brad takes his seat and with a deep breath, is set to handle the media questions that come his way.

“Our next media session is with Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford,” Kerry Tharp begins. “Brad comes into the weekend sitting pretty in relative to his championship chances as he is one of your 16 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders. He is also coming off of a win last weekend at Richmond International Speedway. Brad, your thoughts entering this weekend?

“I think we have a good shot to get another win,” Brad comments with a smile. “We’ve been quick all year on the mile and halves and we’d like no other way than to start off the Chase with a win.”

“We’ll now open the floor for questions.” Kerry then points to one of the journalists in the front row.

“Jeff Gordon said yesterday that he would be satisfied with nine second place finishes going into Homestead because he thinks he can win on consistency,” one of the journalists start. “Do you agree?” Brad had heard the comment and certainly it was a fair point to make. However, he knew that for him, the focus was simply on winning.

“Well, you can win a lot of different ways with this format,” he shares. “I don’t think there is one way you can win or one way you can lose. That is definitely one of the ways you can win but not the only way.”

“So you think someone can make it to Homestead and win the title without winning?” Brad then looks at the journalist, wondering what it would take for him to understand the answer. Wasn’t it obvious?

“Absolutely. We could run through all the hypotheticals but there are so many different scenarios it is really a waste of time in my mind. The reality is you can just go out and perform and let it take care of itself.” The microphone is then passed to another journalist in the room, one of which Brad doesn’t recognize from previous weekends. He knew where this was headed.

“Focusing away from the Chase for a minute, there’s been a lot of talk since you dropped the charges against Mr. Jason Burdett,” the female begins. “May I ask why those charges were dropped?” Brad then takes a deep breath as he knew he had to take care in answering the question, per his thoughts.

“It was going to turn into a his word against mine, and I wasn’t willing to sit through that process,” Brad starts. “I’d rather get focused on the Chase and winning a championship, rather than that….or at least, that was my thought at the beginning of the weekend when I dropped the charges. My perspective has changed now, you know. I wished I would’ve left the charges be because he should get served for what he did. There’s no excuse for any of his actions, and I wish I would’ve let them stick. However, I can’t go back on that now so I can just hope for the future that I go about things better.”

“Can you tell us what happened between yourself and Mr. Burdett?” Brad lets out a sigh and shakes his head no. he wasn’t at the liberty to discuss the details as he knew Juleitte wanted the events to simply disappear, as did he. He was set to move forward with his girl in his arms.

“I don’t think that’s information that I need to share. There’s a police report, it states what is believed to have happened and that’s all I have to say on that topic. Can we move on?” He lets out a sigh as the microphone is passed to a regular in the room, knowing that the questions would get back on track.

“Do you have a different approach for the different rounds?” He hears and smiles. It was good to get back to talking about the Chase.

“Well, I think you have four brackets and all four brackets are going to demand something different out of you,” he comments. “So in some ways you have to have a different approach. The first bracket is going to demand consistency. The second bracket we have seen Kansas and Talladega both be wreck-fests so that will demand survival. The third bracket will take you from eight to four and that bracket will demand performance and then the fourth bracket at Homestead will be about staying cool under pressure. You will have to be clutch at Homestead-Miami. I think all four will require something different out of you which is a good thing and part of the experience.”

“And then on her point, while you dropped the charges and share regret on that, the truth is that it looks at one of those wrongfully charged cases. Those can sometimes bring lawsuits. Are you worried about that? I mean, it was those accusations that resulted in Jason being let go from his jo-”

“As with any legal proceeding, there are no comments allowed during the process,” Brad watches as his PR rep buts into the discussion. “So at this time, I would ask that questions of that nature are removed from the media room. At this time, there is nothing spending but that could change and that’s’ why it’s advised that Brad doesn’t comment. Let’s focus on racing, people.”

“Do you feel the situation will affect the racing on track, namely between yourself and Dale since Jason worked for him?” Brad hears and shakes his head no immediately. He had talked to Dale about things and they were still cool. Dale knew the situation with Juliette and Jason, and understood – somewhat – why Brad had gone about his business as he had. There was also shock from Dale when Brad explained the other details – vampire/werewolf, something that he didn’t think Dale would get used to ever based on his reaction. But still, it felt right to tell him due to obvious reasons.

“No,” Brad answers. “Dale and I have talked and everything is still great between us. I look forward to racing him Sunday without any problems.”

 

Chapter 20: Juliette’s Visit

“Uh oh….she’s back…” Steve lets out as Juliette makes her way into the No. 88 garage and up to where the crew chief was standing with his driver. “Come to steal secrets for your boyfriend?”

“He doesn’t need your secrets to beat you, Stevie,” Juliette states with a grin to Steve’s shock.

“Where’s that sweet girl that would do our PR and kiss our asses?”

“She’s up Keselowski’s ass now,” spotter TJ Majors comments, earning some laughs from the group as Juliette smacks him.

“I see you haven’t changed a bit, Mr. Majors. I’m scared to wonder how much trouble Madelynn is going to cause with you teaching her everything.”

“I was just stating the truth, ma’am. Isn’t that what you always told me to do?”

“So have you come to return to your post as media relations manager?” Dale wonders and Juliette shakes her head no. While she had enjoyed the job and the relationship that she had created with the guys, she was ready to sit back and relax for awhile. For now, it was about being there with Brad and sorting out the odds and ends in her life.

“Nope, as I am fine kicking it back with Brad,” she answers as Dale shakes his head understanding. “Besides, Mike and Laura can handle things. They’re pretty smart.”

“So far things have worked out good. I’m just going to miss picking on you every week.” She then smiles as no doubt the teasing would take place throughout the weekend at all hours.

“Don’t worry – I’ll make sure to visit here and there. I can’t just disappear from you guys.”

“Isn’t that what you did?” Steve questions as Juliette lets out a sigh and shakes her head yes. She knew it was possible to be discussed, but she was hoping that they would just let it go. It wasn’t a topic that she wanted to talk about. There was only one person in the group that could know the truth, no matter how close they all were.

“Yeah….” She comments quietly as she looks away, before returning her eyes to them. “I’m sorry. I should’ve given you guys more warning or whatever. It’s just….I needed to get away. I needed to have some time to myself to think and get through everything. I’m sorry.” Steve takes a deep breath as he wraps an arm around her.

“It’s okay – this time. You had a good reason. Just don’t do that again, and come to us if you need anything.”

“And if Brad pulls the same shit, let us kick his ass for you please?” TJ requests as she makes a glance over his way.

“I don’t think we got to worry about that happening.”

“I’m surprised it took you and Brad this long to realize that you should be together,” Dale comments as Juliette shakes her head, agreeing. “I’m going to go see Jimmie. Got a couple questions. Want to come?” She then agrees as she follows him out of the stall.

In truth, Dale wanted to get her away from the others to talk about her ‘vampire’ state and Brad’s ‘werewolf state. He couldn’t believe what Brad was telling him when Brad told him the truth. It just seemed so movie-like. He thought that perhaps Brad was dreaming, making this up because he still didn’t want to face the fact that she had ran away. It didn’t even hit home when he watched the security footage as he almost felt it had been docked, movie made at some point. Could Brad be making these movies a reality to fill the void?

Though with more conversation and a slight transformation by Brad in his office, Dale was fully convinced. He didn’t know what to say – but he was convinced. That shock carried over as he learned more about Jason as he was left without words for Brad. Who knew that his best friend was a werewolf. Who knew that his car chief was a werewolf. Who knew his PR rep was a vampire.

“I know Brad told you everything so that way you’d understand what happened,” Juliette comments as she glances over at him. “I just hope by what I’ve done, I don’t screw things up for you and Brad.”

“How so?” Dale questions as he glances towards her with a curious eye.

“Jason was your car chief. Everybody is going to have questions for you about him disappearing and questions for Rick about whether he should return due to not being found guilty of anything. It’s going to be the talk of the garage and I don’t wa-”

“You need to stop worrying.” Dale then stops and turns to face her as they stand outside of Brad’s stall. “I care about you. Brad cares about you. We can handle whatever the media and fans throw at us in the next couple of weeks if it helps you. There is nothing that nobody, not even Rick, can say that will change my mind. Understood?” She shakes her head, slightly satisfied, slightly still concerned.

“What has Rick said about this?” Dale glance down the garage, remembering the discussion in Rick’s office, before returning his eyes to Juliette.

“HE would’ve preferred the charges going through. However, he believes you because he knows you. he believes what you’re saying is true because I’m backing it up. He believes based on what he has heard from Brad, as well. Therefore, he’s just letting it slide off of his back. Besides, Jason hasn’t even stepped foot near HMS since.”

“Perhaps he’s scared of TJ and his protective self. I’ll see you later, Dale.” Juliette then heads into the stall as Dale continues his walk down the garage.

As the pair separate, Dale casts a glance around the garage area, almost freezing for a second as he thought he saw a familiar face, a face that he didn’t want to see.

Mayday #9 – Chapters 16 Thru 20

Chapter 16: Packing for Daytona

It seemed as though the next couple of weeks passed by rather quickly as they were getting ready to head to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400, which would then followed by the trial that they were all dreading.

Since talking to Regan about things, it’d certainly made things easier for Chase and it made what happened much easier to deal with. No more sleepless nights, no more nightmares, no more scary thoughts – everything was peachy in his life. But that didn’t mean that he was even close to being excited, or feeling fine about the trial to come following Daytona. Telling Regan about what happened was one thing, but having to sit and tell a bunch of people that he didn’t know was another totally. Wasn’t there anyway out of it?

“I’m sorry Mr. Elliott but you’re going to have to walk into that court room and tell them what happened based on the subpoena that they gave you,” the lawyer states as he looks over the piece of paper that Chase had received a couple weeks ago.

“You can call me Chase, and there’s got to be a way out of it,” Chase comments as he looks over at the lawyer. “He’s trying to prove that he was forced to do what he did by Mariella. What does that deal with me?”

“She’s not there to say what happened because of her dying while attacking.” Regan looks over, intrigued by the discussion. He had come over to see how Chase’s packing for Daytona was going. More so, he was intrigued as to what the young man was thinking. He wasn’t expecting the lawyer to be there.

“She died attacking him – the police shot her because she was choking him,” Regan recalls as he thinks back. “Anybody, not just Chase, could state that she did that. The cop that issued the shot. I could even say it because I witnessed it. Why force him to say it?”

“They’re trying to prove how ruthless and heartless she wa-” The lawyer starts as Regan rolls his eyes.

“Again, I could say that based on what happened and the police report could say that. That, along with Dale’s testimony as to what happened, proves that. The end.” The lawyer then takes a deep breath as he sets the piece of paper down.

“Mr. Smith, it wasn’t me who requested that Mr. Elli-”

“You aren’t fighting it, either. If you believe what I’m saying, then why don’t you go down there and fight against him saying something? And if you want a reason – call it psychological. He couldn’t sleep from when that happened in February to the beginning of this month because it was bugging him. Is that enough reason to try and avoid it?” The lawyer slowly shakes his head yes as he pulls out a notepad from his briefcase.

“I’ll make a note to say in the court room that the incident between Mr. Elliott and Ms. Kastona Calantay should be discussed by Mr. Elliott due to psychological reasons, and that if discussion is warranted, it can be handled by a witness.” The lawyer then looks up and over at Chase. “However, you still need to take the stand, by my instruction. He is trying to prove that he was forced by Ms. Kastona Calantay, correct? However, in the behavior that he portrayed with you in leading you away from the team and to the trailer, did he seem as though he was unnerved?” Chase thinks it over, remembering the entire exchange, before shaking his head no.

“He looked as if he knew what he was doing,” Chase comments as the lawyer shakes his head yes.

“That’s why I need you to take to the stand and explain that exchange, in relation to what happened, his behavior and his attitude in your eyes,” the lawyer explains. “That, along with some of the text messages that we were able to retrieve from Ms. Kastona Calantay’s phone, the timing of his hiring with Hendrick Motorsports and how he handled things with Mr. LeTarte will prove that he was acting along with her, not forced by her. Are you okay with telling your part, only in relation to Mr. Roberts, and leaving the rest undiscussed?” Chase takes a deep breath. He knew that he could talk about Randy without a tinge of fear or issue, as that he had grown really comfortable in the time that had passed.

“I can do that.”

“Thank you. now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to pay a visit to the other two and hope they’re prepared for next week. I will see you later. Goodbye Mr. Elli-”

“It’s Chase, and goodbye sir.”

“Bye!” Regan chimes in as the lawyer puts his belongings in his briefcase and heads out. Chase follows, closing the door behind him afterwards as he lets out a sigh. “Glad that he’s gone?” Chase glances down the hall at Regan with a smile.

“You’re amazing – honestly,” Chase comments. “Thank you for sticking up and saying something.”

“That’s what friends are for. Now, are you packed yet?” Chase lets out a laugh and shakes his head no.

“I always pack at the last minute. Haven’t you learned that yet?” Regan shakes his head in disbelief as he heads down the hall.

“When are you going to learn to be prepared?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“Outfits are simple. I’m in my firesuit most of the time anyway. I just need a couple pairs of jeans, my NAPA dress shirts for the sponsor functions, and some t-shirts for when it’s just me. Oh, and my sweater.” Regan then follows Chase to the bedsroom, leaning against the door when they get there.

“So you’re going to wear one pair of underwear all weekend, and one pair of socks? Yuck!” Chase then grabs a pair and chucks it at Regan, who ducks. “Dude, that’s just wrong. Those are nasty. I don’t want to touch something that’s touched your skinny little ass.”

“Least you know that my ass has behaved.” Regan just shakes his head.

“I can see what a nice influence living on Dale’s property has been for you. Where’s the innocent little boy that I used to know?” Chase smiles as he looks up from his suitcase.

“Still innocent.” Regan smiles as he knew that was a true fact. He then walks in the room and sits on the edge of the bed, curiosity sitting in. all of the young boys in the garage always seemed to have someone on their arm. Chase, not quite.

“So when are you going to get a girl?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he rummages through some shirts, looking for a couple.

“When the right one crosses paths with me, whenever that may be. Is it wrong to wait for the right one?” Regan shakes his head no as he lies back on the bed.

“Perhaps Erin would be a good start.” Chase instantly looks up and shakes his head no.

“No…no…no. Myself and Erin are just best friends, nothing else. Are we clear?” Regan shakes his head yes, slowly.

“Don’t get all offended. I meant that in good taste, however I understand the friend zone boundary.” Chase then throws a couple shirts in the bag. “Don’t forget some good pants, dress shirts and such for court.” Chase heads to the closet, going through the variety to choose from.

“Why do we have to do this?”

“Blame the justice system. Innocent till proven guilty.” Chase knew that, but still didn’t want to face the music that was to come, no matter how comforting they were trying to make it.

“I just wish that I could build a time machine and fast forward past it.”

 

Chapter 17: Returning to Daytona

In the eyes of the group, they had returned back to a place that had a package of mixed emotions attached. It was also a place where none of them could wipe the events from February from their minds.

However, they had returned with a positive mindset. None of them were set to let it bug them or the goals at hand in winning the races ahead of them. It was a role of simple concentration and not letting the events plague their minds.

While that was their plan, it wasn’t in the plans of others.

Their fellow drivers hadn’t made any comments, obviously understanding the seriousness of what happened and the pain that it had caused. While there were some who didn’t have the best relationships with each other, it was mutual agreement to not bring it up.

No, it had been the duty of the media members that chose to bring up the discussion, in their stories leading into the weekend. They questioned how the events would play into the thoughts of Dale and Chase. They questioned whether there’d be flashbacks, and whether the drivers would truly have what it took to get through the weekend. Both ignored the stories, not giving it care. They knew to expect it, but also knew to avoid it.

Though, avoiding it could only be done for so long, as the discussions immediately became apparent at the first press conference of the weekend. It was the weekly scheduled media conference that Dale was used to doing each weekend. Spend about 15 to 20 minutes with the media answering their questions. However, this one turned different. It wasn’t a normal racing media member that brought up the question – it was one that was solely there due to the royalty reasons.

With Marie being the Queen and Dale being the King of Pitronia, royal news had their part in following their actions. This weekend and the upcoming trial were receiving more attention than other things – simply due to what happened and how Marie’s sister Mariella had died in the process.

“Sir, how are the events that happened in February affecting you this weekend?” The reporter asked, bringing shock to the room as others hadn’t intended on bringing it up. To most, there was a time and place for that – during the trial period, of course. Dale took a deep breath as he focused on the reporter.

“It is not affecting me as I’m not thinking about it,” Dale answered. “I’m focused on the race this weekend and winning. Nothing else. I’ll worry about that next week.”

“Anymore questions?” The moderator asked as he looks around the room.

Things finished up shortly thereafter with Dale thanking them for their time before leaving.

“They’ll always be someone that brings it up,” Laura comments as they head out of the media center.

“It didn’t matter so we don’t need to discuss,” Dale tells her with a glance her way.

“If you want, I can ask for it not to be discussed for the rest of the weekend.” Dale shakes his head, knowing that wouldn’t be a problem. In his mind, it wasn’t something of thought.

“It’s fine Laura – honestly.” Dale then stops and thinks it over as he glances around, before returning his eyes to Laura. “Actually, do me a favor. Make sure that they don’t ask Chase anything.” Laura shakes her head, understandingly.

“That’s not a problem. I’m going to go work on making sure the transcript is posted and such. You have practice in an hour.” She then heads off, leaving Dale for the rest of the walk alone.

He then continues the walk, leaving his thoughts to his own. He knew that he made the right decision in telling Laura that. Everything had hit Chase the hardest and given the time it took him to come out and tell Regan everything, he didn’t want to even begin to open the door to what happened. He knew that it’d have to open – come trial time – but he was willing to keep it shut as long as he could.

It was also true that indeed – everything had changed. It felt different being in the role of a King as he was in charge of a country. Sure, Marie handled everything for the most part in doing the paperwork and duties. However, there were times that he felt the weight when she’d ask for his opinion. How do you make decisions that affect a whole country of people and their lives? What if you make one wrong choice?

Though beyond that, it seemed that the events of the off-season and February were, for the most part, behind him. There were certainly some frightening moments along the way, but they had subsided and allowed everything to come back to focus. He couldn’t complain with the love that he and Marie had, how much Alyssa was growing each day and how well racing was going.

The positive thoughts flipped to the other side of the garage as well as Chase was in a good mood. Just done the first Xfinity Series practice, he had a fast car and felt that he had a good chance at winning. It seemed as though the perfect weekend was coming together.

“So, do you want to come hang out with us or not?” Darrell asked, snapping Chase out of his thoughts as he glanced towards the fellow driver. “I think it’d be a great idea for you on Sunday.” Chase leans against the car, thinking it over. He had the race later that night and planned on watching the Cup race on Saturday night. For Sunday, there were no plans in mind, but they were staying in Florida, given what was to come.

“I don’t know…” Chase lets out as he looks between the pair.

“Listen, we both know that you need to let loose for awhile and have some fun,” Ryan starts as he leans against the car beside Chase. “Let’s face it – you’re under a lot of stress and worry about the trial and what happened. You’ve had a killer year to date with the flashbacks.” Chase then glances between them.

“It was obvious to us that you weren’t sleeping that well for a couple of months there,” Darrell comments. “We’re your friends – we see everything.”

“You need to do something fun for yourself. You got to let loose. Just come spend a day with us and Kyle (Larson).” Chase thinks it over, knowing that the pair were probably right as it would probably be good to get away for awhile. “Please?”

“What do you have in mind?” Chase questions, curiously, as the pair glance towards each other.

“A trip to Disney to tackle the big scary roller coasters and find out who the biggest chicken is, or a possible trip to just hang out at the beach,” Ryan offers.

“It’s your decision,” Darrell informs him. Darrell had gotten Ryan and Kyle together and discussed the need to do a get away with their good friend as they could tell that he needed it. They all agreed, knowing that it’d be the best thing that they could do given the situation, also agreeing that they’d leave it up to Chase as to where they would go.

“We could even go go-karting.”

“Aren’t you scared of getting your ass kicked?” Chase challenges as Ryan laughs.

“You don’t scare me Elliott,” Ryan answers as he crosses his arms.

“So do you accept my challenge?”

“Go-karting it is – that’s if Bubba is ready to be put in the tire barrier.” Darrell laughs as a smirk forms on his face.

“Oh Ryan, you seem to forget that it was you who ate rubber the last time courtesy of me,” Darrell challenges in response as Chase just smiles.

His friends were right. It’d be good to get away for a day and have some fun.

 

Chapter 18: Royalty….

July 2015

“How much paperwork do you have to shift through each day?” Jason asks as he sits in the motorcoach on the couch before the Sprint Cup race that night playing a video game with Dale.

“Lots,” Marie answers with a sigh as she reads the latest piece that has landed in the stack.

“I told you – hire a secretary or a clerk or whatever they call it,” Dale suggests as he glances over at her, only to receive a stare.

“That won’t be necessary as I can handle this, Dale. We’ve been over thi-”

“You’re working your ass off too hard and it’ll take it’s tol-”

“I know how to balance things, so you don’t need to give me instructions.” She then reads over the piece of paper, signing the bottom before putting it in the stack. “Besides, this is a good balance. I deal with this paperwork while Sharon and Joshua run day-to-day things. I can’t complain and no matter what you both want to say about too much work, I can handle it.” Dale lets out a sigh as the discussion had been had between the pair on multiple occasions since March.

The amount of papers that she seemed to be shifting through just seemed to never end. The variety varied between court judgments that required her ruling due to appeal, to laws that were being appealed and possibly needed to be changing. She had made some significance changes, addressing the unfair laws that her father had put in place to make the country better for her people. For the most part, everything had gone over well.

The paperwork was the only complaint that was shared so far, though. As stated before, they could balance everything without any issues being had. She was able to take a week each month to go spend there – as appointed in the original agreement – and it didn’t seem to bug Dale, either. He was able to handle things at his end with racing and Alyssa in that period without issue, only sharing small thoughts of missing her. However, not seeing her for a week is something that he could deal with given the interesting situation they were dealt.

“So you’re King…” Jason starts, interrupting Dale’s thoughts as he looks over at him. “Do you get to, like, make any decisions?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“I could very well also go through the papers as well and sign off on stuff, but she won’t allow me,” Dale answers as Jason looks between them, surprised.

“He has his race team to run and racing to focus on,” Marie explains. “Besides, I enjoy handling business.”

“I don’t argue with her because why bother? If there’s anything that she’s second-guessing herself or not sure on, she runs it by me for approval. There’s also some things that require both of our approval.”

“But under any circumstance, I could throw him off the throne.” Dale then smiles as he gets up and walks up behind her, wrapping both arms around her neck.

“But you wouldn’t do that, now would you?” She then glances up at him with a smirk on her face.

“Don’t test me, Earnhardt. There’s some da-” He then cuts her words off with a kiss before rubbing her shoulders.

“You know that’s not true. You love me. You can’t go by a day without thinking about me.” Marie smiles as she leans back against him.

“Okay, you caught me. Happy?” She then flips through the paperwork to a binder that she hid at the bottom, pulling it out to the top and flipping it open. “So I’ve been doing some thinking. We talked about getting married and the wedding. We need to focus on dates.” Dale immediately flips her calendar to December and January.

“You have from mid December to mid January to do it – but not too close to Christmas, since during the race season is too hectic.” She shakes her head, understanding, having already sorted that out in her mind. It was why she had circled a date in question on the calendar.

“We talked about waiting till December 2016/January 2017 du-”

“We’re still going to do that, right?” Marie looks up at him before returning her eyes back to the calendar.

“I think we could still do it this year, actually. It gives us five to six months to put everything in order, which is enough time in my mind.” Dale knew that it would be enough time – if she said so – however, wondered whether it was the right decision.

They had been through a lot in the past year so far to date, with the trial still ahead of them the following week. Did they want a wedding truthfully at the end of the year? Or did they want to leave more time, due to trying to work their way through what happened?

While Dale had kept an attitude to everybody that he was over and done with what happened, it was a bit of a lie. There were nights that he’d still call up Rick or Steve to talk to them about various feelings. Some of it was pitty little things that he realized after were ridiculous to even have – while other pieces were true fears. He had at least gotten back used to flying, and thankfully convinced Alyssa that planes were okay as well. Though trust in strangers was something that they were building as if someone were to work up and spook him from behind, you wouldn’t always get the prettiest response possible.

On the flip side, Marie was still balancing her emotions. There was a lot on plate to balance, especially with so many family pieces. She was trying to get the relationship back together with her mother after the distrust that happened. She wanted to trust her mom and have the relationship that they had, but it was so hard with the events that transpired. There’d also be days where she’d be sad that her sister and father were gone, but yet others that she’d be so angry. There were days that she’d be asking herself why she was stuck in such a crazy family, and why things happened. It was why she liked to busy herself in the paperwork, as it was a good distraction from those thoughts for her.

“Should I leave?” Jason asks, seeing the looks between the couple in discussing possible wedding plans.

“No ‘eave – you play!” Alyssa tells him as she continues playing Mario Kart with him.

“Alyssa has final vote,” Dale states with his tongue sticking out before returning his eyes back to Marie. “Are you sure it’s enough time?” She shakes her head yes.

“We can determine within the next two to three weeks how big we want the wedding and who we want there,” she starts. “Then make sure the invites are sent out. Once they are, we can work on loca-”

“I got that covered.” Marie smiled as she knew exactly what her fiancé was thinking – the church that was part of his Western Town. They thought of doing a homey felt wedding with their vows said in that church and the reception held in the Saloon – obviously refitted for reception material. They would do the wedding with their closest friends and family – number to be determined. Then a week later, head to Pitronia and announce the marriage officially to ‘their people’ as that was part of the marriage process in being King and Queen.

“So we just need to determine the final guest list and send out the invites. Once that’s done, it’s all about getting a minister, DJ, catering, determining color theme, followed by dress shopping. The dress shopping is the worst part of it for a bride, but I can promise you that I will handle that quickly. I’m not one of those picky brides.” It sounded as though she had things under control and Dale was set to agree to her plan, however there was one thought that stood in the way and partially also why they had adjusted the date.

“What about you? You’re going to be about five to six months pregnant.” Jason then looks over as his jaw drops in shock.

“You’re pregnant?” He asks, still shocked as Dale eyes look over at Jason before turning back to Marie.

“I’m sorr-” Dale starts.

“It’s fine – Jason can know,” Marie assures him as she looks over at Jason. “About a month pregnant, due in February. We found out about a week ago. Now can you keep it a secret, like Alyssa promised, for a couple months?” Jason shakes his head in agreement, understanding.

Marie hadn’t been feeling like herself and it had Dale worried to bits that she was running herself down with too much work. Truth was, when she made a trip to the doctor to see what was up, she found out she was pregnant.

It was a shock to the pair due to everything else going on their lives, but honestly wasn’t much of a surprise considering how much they loved each other, and spending time together. Both of them were happy for the news, having discussed plans already of expanding their family to two or more children one day.

It was just a small worry between them in making sure they kept things in check, with everything else that had been going on in their lives. Dale had also made her promise to cut back on the amount of work she was doing to make sure that she took care of herself. She promised him that she’d do that, having finally agreed to talk to Sharon about hiring a clerk.

“I be big sister soon!” Alyssa cheers in excitement with a big smile on her face.

“Alyssa, remember…” Dale says as she looks over at her daddy.

“I know daddy – secret. I no tell anyone.” She then looks back towards the game as Jason jut smiles at the pair.

“Congratulations,” he says.

“Thanks,” Marie comments before turning her eyes back to Dale. “I know I’ll be pregnant. However, I can assure you that I can get married while I’m pregnant. I can walk down that aisle in a wedding dress pregnant. I can enjoy the reception. I can even make sure to indulge in the beautiful food.”

“Well that you must do since you’re eating for two,” Dale tells her before kissing her lips again.

“The decision is yours whether what year we marry.”

“Fine – we’ll marry at the end of this year, between Christmas and New Years. Besides, I can’t wait to call you my wife anyway.”

Chapter 19: Go-Karting
July 2015

“I thought he was going to win,” Chase comments as they head out to the go-kart track. “I thought he was far enough ahead.”

“But you thought wrong as that run that Kyle got off four was huge!” Darrell says as the pair talk about the Coke Zero 400. Dale had been leading late in the race, but with a run to the checkered flag, Kyle Busch scored the win by inches.

“Matt was sure locked on to his bumper,” Ryan comments. “It was good.”

“Just as good as you being edged at the line by me?” Chase questions, in referencing to his win on Friday night in the Xfinity Series race. He had edged Ryan Blaney at the line to score the win.

“I don’t even want to talk about that.”

“Awww is Ryan is still upset that he got beat?”

“Do we need to buy you a teddy bear?” Darrell adds, as Ryan flips them both off.

“I thought he still slept with a teddy bear,” Kyle Larson finally chimes in as Ryan gives him a look.

“Nah – it was you that slept with it, per your girlfriend,” Ryan offers as Darrell and Chase laugh, remembering the April Fools prank photo that she sent out with Kyle cuddling a teddy bear.

“Are you ever going to forget that?” The group all shake their head no as they laugh.

“I’ll handle this.” Ryan then walks ahead of the group to the desk, paying the amount required for an afternoon at the go-kart track. The group stands back, waiting patiently, as he returns a couple minuets later. “We’re good to go. There’s nobody else here so looks like we’ve got the place to ourselves for now.”

They then start to head inside when Chase’s phone rings, catching all of their attention.

“Mommy checking on her baby?” Ryan teases as Chase pulls his phone out.

“Uh oh, Chase is in trouble,” Darrell adds as Chase just flips the bird at them both as he looks at the caller ID.

“It’s Dale,” Chase tells them before answering. “Hello?”

“Hey Chase,” Dale starts. “Listen, where are you?” Chase then feels a bit of confusion. Why would Dale be looking for him?

“I’m at the go-kart track with Darrell, Ryan, Dylan and Kyle. Why?” Dale lets out a sigh. He hated to be the barrier of news while Chase was trying to have some fun in the midst of everything. It was news that he already hated enough himself.

“I’ve got something that you should know – not that you should be worried, or anything. Remember how Randy wasn’t supposed to be able to get bail and all that? Well, that was appealed and he got it changed to a million dollars for bail. He also paid said bail so he is out on bail right now, due to be in court tomorrow obviously with us.” Chase slowly takes it in as he stands there with a blank expression on his face of disbelief.

“Are you serious? He is right now loose?” Dale’s thoughts echoed that of Chase when he received the phone call from the lawyer.

“That is correct. Now, he can’t come within 100 feet of any of us. If he does, immediately call police and he’s arrested for breaking terms of bail. Beyond that, he’s free to do whatever he wants.” Chase felt comfortable with that thought as if anything, he could make sure to catch the guy in the act of something. “I don’t want you to worry or anything. I just told you because I was told and felt that you should know. Have fun with the boys and try to stay out of trouble. Call me if you need me. Bye.”

“Bye….” Chase then slowly lowers the phone, hitting hang-up as he continues to stand there in disbelief, letting the thought run through his mind.

How was it fair that Randy could walk the streets after what happened? How was it fair that he could do anything after he helped Mariela with her sick plan?

Chase then shakes his head, knowing that he didn’t want to think about it any longer, as he glances up to be met by four faces staring at him.

“Is everything okay?” Darrell questions as he is the first to step forward, walking up to Chase. He had heard Chase’s end of the conversation and knew the likelihood of what Dale told him. He also knew the effect that everything had on Chase in the weeks that had followed after what happened, based on the lack of hanging out together. “Randy is out on bail, right?” Chase slowly shakes his head yes as he keeps his eyes on Darrell.

“He wasn’t supposed to get bail, but that got appealed and was accepted and he paid the money required,” Chase answers as Darrell shakes his head in disbelief.

“Listen, we don’t have to go go-karting. We could go back to the hotel. As I told you earlier this weekend – we’re going to do whatever you want today. We just want to have a fun day with our friend. We miss hanging out with you.” A small smile forms on Chase’s face. He wasn’t about to let the phone call change his plans for the day. If Randy really did want to see him, then let him come find him. Let him try what he wanted as it would take a simple phone call. Chase knew he also had a bunch of friends with him that had his back, if something should happen.

“I thought you were supposed to be prepared to get your ass kicked today.” Darrell smiles as he knew what the answer meant. He then wraps an arm around Chase and brings him over to the group as they head over to the go-karts.

“Everything okay?” Ryan asks and Chase shakes his head yes.

“He’s ready to kick my ass – for some reason he believes that he can do that,” Darrell offers as a smile forms on Ryan’s face.

“I’m going to kick your ass, too. It’s not hard to do that.”

“I don’t want you going easy on me because you feel bad for me or anything,” Chase offers as he looks between them.

“Sympathy? What’s that?” Ryan questions as he looks over the go-karts. “They say that they’re all supposed to be equal, but a go-kart with the number 22 should be the quickest.”

“For that you’re wrong as number 6 is always a winner,” Darrell offers, sitting in a go-kart.

“Then why didn’t you win on Friday?” Chase asks as he finds the number 9, sitting in it.

“They don’t have a number 42?” Kyle questions as he looks them over.

“These places never have the coolest number around,” Dylan adds.

“Oh just shut up and choose one!” Ryan yells, getting surprised glances from the others.

“Someone is looking for some stress relief…” Darrell offers as Ryan rolls his eyes.

“Try having a sister that doesn’t let you date.”

“Did she chase away Brittany, or whoever that was?” Chase questions with a glance back at Ryan as Dylan and Kyle finally settle on a pair of karts. “Dude, she wasn’t even right for you. She was a total track bunny. You need better taste in woman.”

“When are you going to get a girlfriend?” Ryan asks as Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“I thought he was dating your sister?” Dylan questions, in reference to Erin.

“No comment.”

“We’re just good friends – that’s all,” Chase comments before putting his helmet on.

“20 laps – first across the line wins,” Darrell announces. “No other rules. Contact is acceptable – as long as you don’t flat out drill the other guy. Beyond that, good luck on trying to catch me boys.”

“It’ll be easier than you think.”

Chapter 20: Go-Karting Con’t
July 2015

Once the boys hit the track with the go-karts, it was a full raged war was on with contact from one end to the other. There were a couple spin-outs along with the way, highlighted by Ryan getting point-blankly dumped into the tire barrier by Kyle at about the halfway mark. Needless to say, the boys were following the promise of taking no prisoners.

In the end, though, Ryan found his way back to the front despite being dumped in the tires by Kyle as he made his way back by Kyle – a little retaliation spin, might we add – before passing Chase on the final corner to steal the win.

“You know, it’s not nice to steal the win from the poor sweet kid,” Darrell offered once they had all gotten their helmets off.

“He said not to have any sympathy for him so there ya go,” Ryan rebuttals with a smile on his face.

“I call that highway robbery!” Chase argues. “You had to have taken a short cut somewhere after being dumped by Larson.”

“Speaking of which, what was up with the retaliation?” Kyle questions as Ryan shrugs his shoulders.

“I thought Darrell said there was to be no hard contact and buddy, that initial hit was hard,” Ryan offers.

“And yet somehow made you faster,” Chase comments as Dylan shakes his head in agreement.

“It’s like I knocked off the limiter,” Kyle suggests, catching the attention of everyone.

“These karts have limiters on them?” Kyle shrugs his shoulders as he looks over his go-kart.

“Some places do limiters to make sure that people don’t go faster than their ability.”

“That’d be a good tool for you, Dylan,” Darrell offers with a pat on Dylan’s shoulder.

“I didn’t see you anywhere near the front now did I?” Dylan challenges as Darrell shrugs his shoulders.

“But who has won more races this year? This guy!”

“And who’s leading the points? This guy!” Chase states with a huge smile on his face.

“If only I had a full-time ride to kick both of your asses,” Ryan shares as they head out, done for the day.

They had discussed the possibility of dong another round, but with their stomachs feeling hungry, the group decided it was best to head out for dinner. Making their way to a local fast food place, they all got their burgers and fries before finding a place to sit and eat.

As they sat eating, Darrell kept his eyes locked on Chase with a mix of thoughts on his mind. With everything that had happened, they hadn’t been spending as much time together as they would’ve hoped. Instead, Chase was dealing with whatever was going on and spending time with Regan. On the flip side, that left Darrell having to deal with Ryan and Dylan’s stupidity alone as Kyle was only helpful here and there, thanks to being a father.

“We need to do this more often,” Darrell offers, having missed their hang out times together.

“What happened to getting together at least once a week?” Dylan wonders as Ryan glances over at Kyle.

“Talk to the father of the group,” Ryan suggests as Kyle shrugs his shoulders.

“Fatherhood is awesome,” Kyle comments. “You’ll understand once you have kids.”

“You’re growing up way too fast man,” Darrell shares before looking over the rest of the group. “Okay, for the rest of us, we need to get back to doing this once a week. I don’t care what is going on in your lives, we need to do this.” Darrell’s eyes then lock back to Chase. “Besides, it’s good to get away from the everyday hassles and have some fun.”

“Okay, so what all happened in February?” Dylan blurts out, earning a mix of surprised and angry glances from the others at the table.

“Dylan!” Kyle spits out first as Chase focuses his eyes on his food.

“I’d rather not talk about it, okay?” Chase offers and Dylan simply shakes his head understanding.

“I thought that you’d be okay talking about it,” Dylan tries to offer an apology as Kyle debates smacking him underneath the table. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“Way to ruin the day of fun and distraction!” Kyle finally lets out as he smacks Dylan across the back of the head. The behavior catches Chase’s attention as Darrell lets out a sigh.

“We’ve been doing our own get togethers here and there,” Darrell starts as he glances between the Ganassi duo, before looking back at Chase. “We didn’t want to bug you with everything that you had going on. If you want honesty, I talked to Regan a bit and he said that things were a little tough so I was willing to give you your space, and told the others to do so as well. However, that can only go on for so long. I got together with Ryan first and suggested that we do a fun day together, get back to how things were. He agreed, and we got a hold of dumb and dumber. It seemed even more apparent that we should do it this weekend as we know that tomorrow is start of the stress 101. After our own discussions, we came to you.”

“Even with those two acting like complete knobs, we hope that the day accomplished what we wanted – a day of fun with friends, without having to worry about a thing,” Ryan adds.

“I’m sorry I have a dumb teammate who has to ruin everything with his big mouth,” Kyle offers.

“And I’m sorry that I have the worst curiosity possible,” Dylan adds. The group then goes silent waiting for Chase’s response as he looks between them.

“You guys are the best friends that anybody could ask for,” he starts. “When I’m ready to say what happened, Dylan, I’ll gladly tell you. I’m just not ready yet. However, it’s understandable to be curious considering you’re a close friend. And Kyle, don’t shoot him as despite being a dumbass sometimes, Dylan is a pretty cool guy.”

“The first time those words have been spoken,” Ryan states, earning a look from Dylan as Darrell laughs.

“Thanks for the fun day and no, you haven’t ruined it. It was perfectly what I needed after the past couple of months and yes, especially before tomorrow. Like you’ve already said, we have to get back to doing this. We need to do this for our own sane purposes.”

“We should go mini-golfing next week.”

“Are you sure you’re ready to face the clown windmill again?” Darrell questions as Chase laughs, remembering the last time they went mini-golfing. Ryan fought the clown windmill, shooting approximately 30 times before getting the ball in the hole.

“I am ready to master that wind mill this time,” Ryan states with a smile on his face.

“Who wants to bet it takes him 40 shots this time?”
“I’m aiming for 50!” Chase offers as Dylan shakes his head.

“Nah – I’ll give him 10 this time,” Dylan suggests as they look over at Kyle. “Are you available?”

“Someone has to make sure that you boys stay out of trouble,” Kyle offers, casuing the whole group to laugh.

“Right, because it was you who went swimming in the pond after their precious rainbow golf ball despite all the signs that said no swimming.”

“That rainbow golf ball was special, okay? It’s a special collectable.”

“Only Larson would go golfing with a Jeff Gordon rainbow golfball,” Chase teases as they all share a laugh.

“The best friends that anybody could ask for.” I don’t know about you, but it seems that this would be an interesting group to be have as your best friends haha

I can say that I enjoyed writing this comic relief section of the story. With the trial pending and Randy being loose, I figured we all needed a break. However, that can only last for so long. We have business to get to.

Flight 88 – Chapters 56 Thru 60

Chapter 56: Kidnapped

“Well well, it’s nice to see you again,” Mariela says as she double checks the bindings on Marie’s wrists and ankles to be sure that she can’t escape given anything.

“Where is he?” Marie questions, not caring about her current situation at the moment. The only thing that she cared about was seeing her fiancé.

“He? Who are you asking for?”

“Dale – you big dummy.”

“Now now, be nice to sister or else I may not let your fiancé be okay. Listen, he has a special plan for today so you don’t need to worry about him. You just got to hope that checker-”

“Where is he?” Mariela shrugs his shoulders.

“I can’t give you those details. Just hope that checkered flags are in your future and we won’t have to think about each other anymore.” Marie then looks at Mariela confused as she watches Mariela turn the race on.

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ll see.” Mariela then leaves the room, locking the door behind her before heading to where the other half was.

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

Chase gets done driver introductions and heads over to the car, leaning it against it with the team surrounding.

Nothing felt natural about the current situation that he found himself in. This wasn’t his car; it was his boss’ car. He wasn’t supposed to be running this race; that’s why he had run the race the day before. He hadn’t made any laps in the car so how was he to know what to do come the first laps in the race?

Beyond that, Dale was missing – Marie had now gone missing just moments prior – and yet here they were, set to start the 500 mile race that day, acting as if nothing was wrong. It was supposed to be ‘business as usual’ and ‘try to get the win’. How could they do that while worrying about where Dale and Marie were?

His heart also thought back to Alyssa and how worried she was when he finally told her that he daddy was missing on Saturday. He couldn’t bare to understand the pain and confusion that certainly she was feeling. Adding in the race with Chase running her daddy’s car and having to stay with Megan, the situation felt worse with each second that passed.

“So, are you ready to go?” Chase snaps out of his thoughts as his father walks over to where he is standing. “Nervous?”

“It doesn’t feel right, dad,” Chase reveals as he looks out over the roof of the car at the crowd in the stands. There was no hiding his feelings from his dad as his dad could read him like a book. “I shouldn’t be driving his car. I shouldn’t be standing here right now on pit road where I am.”

“I know it doesn’t feel right, but it’s the situation that we’re dealt. We just have to deal with it the best that we can.”

“That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, dad. I’m not focused on today’s race or winning – I’m focused on wondering where he and Marie are, and whether they’re okay.”

“They’re both going to be fine; just focus on the race today. Everything is going to work out.” Bill then gives him a small pat on the back before walking away, knowing that Chase needed some alone time before the start of the race.

“It’s going to work out. Why wouldn’t it work out? It’s not like anything has gone to plan lately.” He then rolls his eyes as he tries to shift all the thoughts of his mind.

“Listen to me and listen smartly,” he hears as he almost gets into what he calls ‘race zone’, snapping his eyes open to see the new team engineer Randy standing directly beside him. His eyes immediately focus off of Randy to the phone that lays in the young man’s hand, seeing a photo of Dale currently in his kidnapped spot. A cold shiver goes down Chase’s back immediately.

“Ja-” Chase goes to start.

“Don’t call Jason, or anybody, or else I will send word to end the pieces.” Chase takes a deep breath, feeling another shiver down his back as fear creeps in.

“What do you want?”

“You’re going to tell everyone that you need to go to the bathroom and I’m going to volunteer to lead you there. You’re then going to follow me to where I am going to take you without a single word. If you say anything, there will be no Dale, there will be no Marie.” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to clear his mind of fear and everything that is surfacing through it. He wanted to say something. He didn’t want to listen to what Randy had to say. However, every time he thought of saying something, he pictured a dead body at the other end of the spectrum.

“Fine…” Chase then turns around, straightening up as he gets set for their little plan. “How much longer till start time?”

“About 20 minutes till opening ceremonies. Why?”

“I need to run to the bathroom.”

“Uh no, please tell me that Regan didn’t share his stomach flu with you,” Jason chimes in from his spot with a couple of crew members. “You didn’t hang out with him, did you?” Chase shakes his head no, debating whether to break the cover of whatever thing Randy had planned.

“Listen, I’ll take him and make sure that he’s back in time, okay?” Randy offers as Jason shakes his head.

“Okay – hope you’re not catching the bug. Oh, and kill those nerves. No matter how today goes, it’ll be fine.” Chase gives a thumbs up as he heads off with Randy in toe, not letting him stray off.

The entire walk off pit road towards the garage area, a million different thoughts ran through Chase’s mind in what Randy could be thinking or doing next. Why did Randy have that photo? Why did Randy want to lead him away from the team? Why were they going through the garage area? What sick plan did Randy and Mariela have up their sleeve?

“May I ask what you want?” Chase finally breaks the silence as Randy continues to leave the youngster through the garage area. “Where are you taking me?”

“You’ll see very shortly and I suggest you move fast,” Randy answers as Chase looks at back at him confused.

“May I ask why?”

“You’ll see.” Randy then leads him around another couple of corners, before opening the door to a trailer and sending him inside. They then walk through the trailer and at the back, Chase’s jaw drops immediately as he sees Dale sitting there before him.

“Dale!” Chase runs over and wraps both arms around him, glad to see that he is alright.

“Hurry up and swap firesuits – you got about 15 minutes,” Randy instructs before leaving the room and closing the door, standing guard. Chase then looks at Dale confused, totally caught off guard by the comment.

“Pull the suit off, and the shoes, and give them to me,” Dale instructs as Chase sits down beside him, beginning to do so, confusion clearly written over his face.

“What’s going on Dale?” Chase wonders. “Why am I changing out of my stuff?” Dale then looks down, taking a deep breath, not feeling confident in saying the words himself.

“They’re forcing me to run the 500 today and if I don’t win, Mariela is going to kill Marie.” Chase’s jaw drops immediately as he hands his stuff over, watching Dale get into the suit. “Little tight but oh well.”

“You can’t run this race.” Dale then looks over at the young man.

“I hav-”

“You can’t run this race, Dale. I can tell by looking at you how sore you still are from what happened earlier this week and this latter half while you have been kidnapped. You may think that you’re some kind of superman, but you can’t run this race.”

“I hav-”

“You can’t humanly do it!” Dale fixes the suit once again as he looks in the mirror at himself. He could see what Chase was saying by how he felt at the current moment. He knew that it was going to be hell trying to complete this, but what choice did he have?

“I have to – I have no choice. If I don’t go out there, she has Marie – she’ll kill her now.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief as he sits back in the lounge area.

“I….I don’t know what to say, Dale. I guess I wish you the best and hope that it turns out okay.” Dale then looks back at him with smile. “I just wish there was something that we could do to stop this. I wish I would’ve hinted something to Jason when Randy dragged me away. I wish….”

“Chase, don’t beat yourself up over it, okay? It’s not your fault. It’s going to work out, kid. Just be careful with Mariela and try to listen to her as much as possible, no matter how annoying, to minimize what she does.” Chase looks up, fear clearly written on his face in the thought of what Mariela could possibly do to him. “I can promise that your parents will find you as soon as they hear that your ass is missing.”

“Have you seen my mother when she’s mad?” Dale chuckles, shaking his head yes as he remembered one experience where Cindy was right upset and it wasn’t pretty at all.

“See, that’s the spirit. Just be careful kid.” They then watch the lounge door open, seeing both Randy and Mariela standing there.

“Well well, look at you cutie,” Mariela comments, her eyes immediately darting over to Chase. “Aren’t you just adorable?”

“Hurt him and I can promise you that you haven’t seen nothing yet from any of us,” Dale starts as he walks towards the door. “He isn’t part of this at all. Once I’m in the car, let him go and don’t hurt him, please. He doesn’t deserve it.”

“Oh don’t you worry about a thing dear.”

“Good luck Dale,” Chase states. “I believe in you.” Dale gives him the thumbs up before leaving with Randy, helmet in hand. Mariela then closes the door and flops down on the couch beside him, turning on the race.

“I guess we can sit here and watch this together to learn how fate goes,” she comments as Chase curls up in the corner, fear starting to enter more and more based on what he had heard about Mariela’s past stunts with Dale and Marie.

“I guess….”

“Oh don’t worry. I won’t touch you. Like he said, you’re not involved. There’s only one dear that really matters to me at the end of the day, and she has a good view of what’s going on as well.” Chase knew who Mariela met immediately in the form of Marie, however her words didn’t give him any comfort. He just wanted to get out there as soon as possible.

He then looked up at the monitor when he saw Dale and Randy walk towards the car, Dale slipping into the car without being noticed by anybody as Randy did the belts up. Chase shook his head in disbelief as he was certain that someone – anyone – would’ve noticed.

 

Chapter 57: Caught in the Act

The entire time he watched the person dressed in the NAPA Suit walk across the pit road with the helmet securely on, till the time that he watched them climb in the car and get belted in, Steve LeTarte’s eyes never left the subject. There was something that was odd and different. Something that he noticed immediately. How could nobody else had noticed it? How could it had slipped by without a word? He had noticed it. Why hadn’t someone else on the team?

Though while noticing it, he didn’t say a word – out of fear. He knew that if Dale was there, that meant that Mariela had close hands on Marie and Chase. Based on what he had learned so far in the actions of Marie’s deranged sister, he wasn’t about to test the waters. He just hoped that Dale knew what he was getting into by getting in the car, and hoped that he could unravel the second half of the puzzle in the quickest way possible. It was nice to know that Dale was alright, though.

With his new found knowledge, Steve doesn’t let it go to waste as he knew that he had to tell certain people the truth. He figured if these certain people knew, they could help make the rest of the puzzle easier. Steve went directly up to the pit box, climbing the steps and sitting beside Jason, as he had planned to anyway.

“I got something to tell you and don’t say anything on the radio yet about it,” Steve starts as Jason looks over at him confused.

“That Chase is nervous?” Jason questions and Steve shakes his head no. He knew that was the least of their worries now.

“That’s not Chase in the car.” Jason then looks at him surprised, though immediately puts the pieces together as he sits back against his seat.

“Dale is in the car….but why?” Steve shrugs his shoulders as he wasn’t sure yet.

“I don’t know why Mariela wants him in the car, but I know that he’s in the car. I also know for certain now that Randy is our snitch, and that the wicked witch has Marie and Chase. For that reason, just keep going about the day as normal in doing pit stops and adjustments. I’ll unravel the rest of the puzzle.”

“Got it. Thanks for the heads-up.”

“I was surprised that nobody else noticed.” Steve then climbs down the steps, set to find the second person that he knew needed to know the truth.

He was honestly afraid to tell this person, based on the worry that they’d have immediately in hearing these words. However, as a parent, he knew that it was better to tell them the truth than to keep it a secret. Plus, having them on his side in trying to find Marie and Chase could be helpful.

“I got something to tell you,” he says as he walks up behind Cindy and Bill on pit road. Cindy was standing there with camera in hand set to take photos, while Bill had a radio on, set to go back to the transporter and stand up top watching, as he normally would. “Chase isn’t in the car. Dale is and I can guarantee you that by what I saw.” The pair look at him as if he is crazy.

“Are you 100% certain?” Bill questions and Steve slowly shakes his head yes.

“Then where’s Chase? What’s going on?” Steve shrugs his shoulders, as he honestly didn’t have the answers at the current time.

“From what I’m thinking, Mariela wanted him in the car for some reason and made Randy play the classic switcheroo.” Bill immediately wraps his arms around his wife as he keeps his eyes on Steve.

“So you’re saying that right now Mariela has Chase and Marie?” Steve slowly shakes his head yes as Cindy shakes her head in disbelief.

“No…no…Stevie….you can’t be telling me the truth,” she starts as she turns her camera on, going through some of the photos that she had just shot. Though immediately upon watching the driver climb in and how the suit fit, it became reality right in their face.

“Cindy, you need to relax as it’s going to work out,” Bill tells her calmly, continuing to keep his eyes on Steve. “What are we going to do?”

“Find him! We need to find him, Bill. Where the hell is he?” Steve takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm.

“I don’t know where he is, Cindy,” Steve tells her. “I can only suggest that you both start checking any spot that you can think of – get a hold of Regan and see if he can think of something. I’m going to get a hold of an officer and tell him what’s going on, and then I’m going to get Randy to tell me the damn truth.”

“What do we do if we find them?” Bill wonders. “Get security?” Steve shakes his head yes.

“And listen, Cindy, he’s going to be fine. If Dale is in the car, there’s something fishy about the whole dea-”

“She wants him to go out and win the race,” Cindy interrupts Steve’s thoughts, causing both men to look at her confused. “She wants him to win the race. That’s the only reason that she’d put him in that car, and depending how he does probably will affect the future for everybody involved. So in other words, we’ve got 200 laps to find Marie and Chase.”

“It’s going to work out,” Steve tells her once again before heading off down pit road in search of the next person to talk to.

The first security officer he found, he explained the situation so that way they understood. The officer radioed the details through the system, before following Steve down pit road back towards the 88 pit.

Steve walks into the pit, noticing the person that he wants to speak with immediately, as he walks up behind them as they analyze their computer screen.

“So you figured it out, huh?” Randy questions as he turns away from the computer screen to face Steve.

“I know that he’s in the car and I know that you’re the snitch,” Steve answers. “I have two questions for you and I suggest you answer them immediately. Where are Marie and Chase? What the hell plan is Mariela thinking?”

“I don’t know the plan nor their location. I just did as I was instructed to do by her.”

“You had to take Chase to some location to meet up with Dale, before returning. Can I have that location?” Randy just laughs as he turns back to the computer screen, which no doubt doesn’t sit well with Steve. Steve then grabs the engineer by his shoulder, pulling him back and pushing him up against the pit cart, catching the attention of the rest of the team.

“I’m not giving you any information, LeTarte. I’m not allowed to tell you anything. Now can you get your paws off of me? I have a job to do. Can’t you see that?”

“The only job that you have is rotting in hell.” Steve then lets him go as the officer steps in, placing Randy in handcuffs before hauling him away. As Steve watched the pair head down pit road, he could only hope that the officer got the details out of Randy.

Though just in case he didn’t, Steve began his walk towards the Daytona infield, hoping to unravel something himself. He also hoped that possibly Bill and Cindy did, as well.

“Is it true that Dale is in the car?” Steve hears a voice, catching him off-guard.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on bed rest and not moving an inch out of your motorhome?” Steve questions as he looks towards Regan.

“I escaped Megan’s hold when I heard that Dale was in the car. Now, is it true?” Steve shakes his head yes as Regan lets out a long sigh. “So that means that Mariela has Chase. Great, that’s my fault. I should’ve been the lined back-up driver. I should’ve been standing there. I could’ve done something to stop it. I could’ve possibly caught everything in the act!”

“Regan, stop beating yourself up as I’m sure if there was an option, Chase would’ve utilized it.”

“Yeah…..I guess. It’s still not fair. He’s only 18. He doesn’t deserve this! How is this fa-”

“Are you going to keep blubbering or are you going to help me find him?”

“I got no choice but to help now. I feel terrible as it is.” The pair then head off as Steve keeps in constant communication with Bill where he and Cindy is, and in communication with Jason about how the race is going.

 

Chapter 58: 50 to go….

“How many more laps?” Dale asks under caution for Denny Hamlin blowing a motor as Jason checks the scoring monitor.

“52. It’ll be 50 when they put the green back out boss,” Jason answers.

“10-4. What have I said about calling me boss?” Jason rolls his eyes as he sits back.

“Not supposed to. Sorry. I’m just used to that from being car chief with Stevie.”

“I’m not mad. You’re done a good job. This car is really fast and whatever you and Regan hit on yesterday was right.”

“Glad that it’s handling so well for you. Now let’s get up there and get that lead. This is the 500 and you’ve got 50 laps!”

“Dude – your cheerleading isn’t as good as Stevie,” TJ Majors chimes in on the conversation from the spotter stand.

“It’s not bad though,” Dale comments. “It got me pumped up a bit and he’s right – it’s now or never. We can do this.”

“I believe in you and I know this team believes in you,” Jason says, checking to see that they’d line up in 21st for the restart. They had been taking a conservative approach all race, taking care of the car since they had to start from the rear due to an engine change following Saturday’s practice. Now with 50 laps to go, it was time to make the moves that counted and get to the front.

Jason hadn’t brought up the reason for Dale being in the car, nor had he wanted to even discuss it. The details made sense to him in his mind after talking with Steve – Mariela had set it up, and there was probably a must-win scenario over his head. With that said, Jason’s focus for the next 50 laps was going to be on that win. He didn’t want to think about the other possibilities at hand.

He had tried to convince himself to ask how Dale was feeling, but didn’t want to touch that topic either. If there was something over his head, emotions would be on a high. Beyond that, the obvious answer would be that he is sore. Everybody knew that so why bother stating it? It was just better to keep business as usual and hope somehow, someway, things worked out.

Sitting up in the seat, he was set to watch the drama unfold as the green flag waved for the restart.

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

“This is going to be interesting,” Mariela comments from her perch as she glances over at Chase.

“He can still do it,” Chase says as he knew there was enough time for Dale to get to the front.

“You sound so very confident, but we all know that you’re just a sweet little boy who is naïve of reality and admiring a hero.” Chase looks over at her as if she’s crazy.

“I’d have you know that it’s more like watching my boss and knowing how much that he has helped me and what he has done in his career to date. Beyond that, I’m not a sweet little boy as incase you forgot, I’m 18.”

“16, 17, 18, 19…..you’re still in your teens and that means sweet little boy.” Chase rolls his eyes as he was just hoping that he’d find his escape from her soon. So far, things hadn’t been that terrible as she had behaved in keeping her hands away from him. She hadn’t even bothered to tie him up or anything, but yet just keeping an eye on him. It gave Chase some comfort, though also had him nervous of what was to come and where Marie was. “What was that?” Chase then looks around confused as he watches Mariela stand up and glance out the window.

“I didn’t hear anything…” In truth, he had heard the voices outside, though wasn’t sure who they belonged to. Had they found him?

“Oh bullshit! You wish that’s how I treat it!” She then grabs him by a piece of his hair to pull him over to her and force him to look out the window. “Recognize those people?” A smile came to be on Chase’s inside as he certainly recognized the group immediately – Steve LeTarte, Regan Smith and his parents.

“No….no clue who they are. Do you know who they are?” He wasn’t about to give in that it was them in fear that she’d pull some drastic measure in knowing that there was a chance of her being caught soon.

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

“I honestly don’t….” She then gives him a slap across the cheek, cutting off his words.

“I know one of those people is Steve LeTarte, sweetheart, so why don’t you just spill who the other three are?” Chase takes a nervous deep breath as he quickly evaluated his own options.

“Regan Smith and my parents – Bill and Cindy – are the other two. Happy?” Mariela just shakes her head in disgust as they both hear doors open, knowing that the group is coming closer. No doubt someone had given away Chase’s location – and Mariela had a good idea of who to blame.

“Chase?” A female voice calls out as Mariela keeps her eyes on Chase.

“That’d be my mother,” Chase assures her. “Ever wondered what happens when you kidnap someone’s baby?”

“Chase?” Chase just smirks at Mariela, knowing that his captive time was coming to an end in a matter of moments.

“I’m in here, Mom! Watch your step as Mariela is here!” Chase then darts towards the door, set to open it for the group to enter – when a hand grabs his hand and thrusts him back against the couch. “Shit!”

“Stevie! Bill! Come quick!”

“Them being here is actually going to make things worse on you sweetheart,” Mariela says in a teasing tone as she inches closer to him.

“You got that backwards, dear,” Chase comments as he slowly stands up, feeling the pain throughout his body. “I think it’s time that revenge comes your….” Chase feels his voice caught his throat as he notices Mariela’s hand go in her pocket, pulling a knife slowly out.

“You were saying?” Chase backs out away slightly, putting a bit of distance between himself and Mariela as he hopes that the door can be busted open in a hurry.

“That I am ready to listen to what you have to say.”

“That’s more lik-”

“Help!! Someone! Mom! Dad! Steve! Regan!” Panic instantly started to come over Chase as he saw the tip of the knife pointed in his direction. His breathing picking up, eyes locked on the knife, there was only one end that he could see based on the position that she had put him in. “Get in here now!” Stuck in his own panic, Mariela took advantage of the moment, grabbing him and pulling him close to her as the door busted open with the mad foursome standing there. she brought the knife to neck level as Chase closed his eyes, predicting pain coming in his future as his breaths got even quicker.

“Okay….everybody….remain….calm…” Bill tells the group as he holds them behind him as he focuses his eyes on Mariela and his son. “You must be Mariela, I assume, right?” Mariela slowly shakes her head yes. “That’s nice. I’m Bill, his father. Listen, I know that you have some crazy strange plan with Dale and Marie, so how about you just let Chase go and be done with what you have going on here?”

“That cannot happen sir as your son is now part of this mess,” Mariela informs them as Regan takes a couple steps out from behind Bill and closer to the pair.

“You’ve got Dale in the car and you have Marie hidden somewhere – why do you need Chase now?” Regan wonders as he and Bill trade glances, thinking what to do. Regan knew that the officers were on their way here, per the phone call made before entry, however wondered whether they’d make it in time.

“Please……let…..me….go…,” Chase slowly lets out as he tries to keep himself calm in her grasp, though feeling every breath come quicker than the previous.

“If you let the kid go, we’ll let you go as well without doing anything to stop you,” Steve adds as he keeps his arms wrapped around Cindy, trying to give her comfort. “You just have to let him go before the authorities get here.”

“Please…..”

“Stay calm kid,” Regan coaches as he reaches for Chase’s hand, grabbing a firm hold on it.

“They’ll be here soon so I think you should take our suggestion,” Steve continues his pleading.

“None of us will stand in your way as we just want to see Chase make it out of this, alive,” Bill adds.

“Please…” Chase begs once again as he feels the grasp that Mariela has on him tighten.

“Chase…” Steve states calmly as he notices Chase’s panic grow with Mariela’s tighter grasp.

“Please let him go,” Bill begins his side of the begging. Regan goes to say something, though feels vomit coming up his throat, then flying out of his mouth, hitting both Mariela and Chase.

“Yuck!” Mariela yells, not releasing her grasp at all as she holds Chase as tight as she can, while keeping the knife at just about skin touch.

“Regan?” Bill asks as Regan shrugs his shoulders.

“Sorry – I’ve been sick all weekend,” he answers. “I feel much better now.”

“Let him go!” They then hear the voice of a police officer behind them as he makes his way through the group and up to Mariela. “Ma’am, please let the young man go.”

“Why don’t you go to hell?” Mariela offers as the officer draws his gun at her.

“Ma’am, please don’t force us to do something that we’ll both regret.”

“You won’t dare shoot that while I have him.”

“Let…me…go….” Chase says as he tries to focus on taking deep breaths. “Can’t….breathe…”

“Let him go!” The officer yells.

“Can’t…” Everything then seems to freeze as a bullet goes off, coming through the back window and directly into Mariela’s back, forcing her down. As she goes to fall, Chase pushes her arm out of the way, and falls forward the other direction, into Steve’s arms.

“I got you kid,” Steve says as they both sit on the floor together, Chase taking a glance back to see Mariela lying dead on the floor behind him.

“I….couldn’t….breathe,” Chase lets out slowly as Steve rubs his back.

“You’re going to be okay.” Cindy then kneels down to their level, immediately wrapping both arms around Chase and holding him close as she kisses his cheek. “Everything is going to be okay.”

“Marie….”

“We’ve got her. She’s fine. She’s just getting checked out at the care center and then going to Dale’s pit box for the end of the race.” Chase then lets out a sigh as he buries his head in his mom’s neck, feeling his own nerves unravel. “You’re going to be okay, Chase.” Steve then stands up, motioning for Bill to come over as he heads towards the door. “I’m going to tell the team that things are okay.”

“I’ve got him,” Cindy assures Steve before Steve leaves. “I’ve got you and I’m not letting you go.”

“I don’t want you to let me go,” Chase tells his mom as he sits there, panic still set in based on what happen.

“Chase…..”

“Can’t….breathe…panic…sore….Mariela…..”

“Chase?” Bill questions as he turns to them after finishing talking to the officer, seeing Chase trying to calm down while clinging to Cindy.

“We’re going to take him over to the care center and get him checked out,” the officer states, noticing the same thing.

The group then makes their way over to the care center and once in a room, the doctor instructs Chase to wear an oxygen mask to get his breathing back to normal after everything that he had been through as they check him over. The entire time, though, all that Chase can focus his mind on is the panic and fear that went through his mind, forcing his fingers to keep curled around his mother’s hand the entire time.

 

Chapter 59: Daytona 500 Victory?

Steve climbs the steps of the pit box, sitting behind Jason and Marie, as Marie does a quick glance back at him.

“Everything okay?” She asks and Steve shakes his head yes.

“Mariela is dead,” Steve states bluntly, catching the attention of Jason. “Beyond that, Chase is okay. Slight panic attack, stuck in her strangle hold for a bit – but he’ll be okay.” Marie lets out a sigh of relief as she sits back in the seat. “Regan puked on Mariela, too, which was good personal satisfaction. He said he felt better afterwards.” Marie chuckles slightly at the thought as she checks her text messages once again.

“Megan is going to bring Alyssa over when I say too. I haven’t given her the okay yet because I don’t know how Dale will be feeling once this is over.”

“Did you te-” Marie knew where Steve was going with the question. She had killed the worry that filled her fiancé’s heart immediately.

“Jason told him under the caution with 20 to go. Now sssh!” Steve shakes his head in agreement as he checks the monitor seeing that it’s five laps to go. Dale had done well in getting himself in position, having moved up to the fifth spot. Given the strength of the car and how he was climbing through the field, their chances looked solid. Plus, it’s Daytona – anything is possible, right?

Four to go – moved up a couple more spots.

Three to go – set to make the move.

Two to go – running solidly in third.

Final lap – moved up to the runner-up spot as they head towards turn one, on Jimmie’s bumper. The entire team watches in anticipation down the backstretch, waiting for the move. However, Dale doesn’t make the move, keeping himself tucked behind Johnson. He repeats the process through turns three and four, allowing the pair to draw a small gap between themselves and the rest of the field.

Coming down to the tri-oval, the move of the hour is made as Dale tucks out of line, going to the outside with the run. At the start-finish line, no doubt it’s one of the closest finishes ever as everyone looks at each other in disbelief, trying to see which of the Hendrick Motorsports teammates won.

“Scoring monitor?” Spotter TJ Majors asks, not sure from his vantage point, though certain that he saw the nose of the 88 car out front.

“Woohooo!” Steve lets out a scream as he is the first look at the scoring monitor, knowing that the boys had done it again. They had won the Daytona 500. “Go ahead Jason….” Jason smiles as he looks back at Steve and then cues the radio.

“You’re looking at a three-time Daytona 500 Champion baby!” Jason screams on the radio. “Scoring monitor says you got it and NASCAR just released the official call!”

“Wooohooo Way to go everybody!” Dale congratulates the team on the radio as Jason locks eyes with Steve.

“I’m proud of you,” Steve tells him. “I told you that you could do this and you could lead this team to destiny. Have fun this year and don’t forget – I’m watching you.” Steve then gives Jason a pat on the back before heading down the steps of the pit box. As he high-fived the guys on the team, he knew that they’d be fine with the weeks to come in Jason’s hands. He could lead the team to the next level that they needed to be at without failure.

“Way to go Dale!” Jason yells as he puts the radio set back on. “Helluva move that last lap! Helluva drive all race long! You did a spectacular job!”

“I can’t believe that you did that,” TJ comments from his vantage point. “I thought you were crazy for doing this today. Way to go! Way to go! Now, take care of yourself and those girls of yours.”

“It’s why I did what I did today,” Dale says.

“Megan has Alyssa, Marie is up here with me ready for her victory lane kiss and Chase is going to be okay,” Jason reveals on the radio, knowing that the questions had to be on Dale’s mind to ask.

“10-4.” Hearing those words and affirmation that everything was okay was a great feeling. It was better than perhaps winning the race as what mattered at the end of the day was that he could hold both of his girls close, and that Chase made it out fine. Of course, Marie had the surprise of the day to tell him in the fact that Mariela was dead. “I’ll see you in victory lane. Thanks for everything, everybody.”

“10-4. I can’t wait to see that smiling face of yours.”

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

“I can’t believe this…” Marie comments as she stands in victory lane waiting, not taking her eyes off the car as she watches it come towards the entrance to victory lane. “I can’t believe we’re standing in Daytona victory lane again.”

“I can believe it…” Jason lets out as he keeps a close eye was well. He had it planned that he was going to let Marie be the first person to get to him as the pair hadn’t seen each other since earlier in the week.

“I can’t…..after….everything. Can you believe that this will be the first time that I’ve seen him since Wednesday?” Jason shakes his head no, still in disbelief that Mariela was able to keep Dale hidden and out of sight till she chose. He was also in disbelief in how she had planned getting him in the car, but that was all forgotten now. All that mattered was that Dale was okay, Marie was okay, Alyssa was okay, Chase was okay and the wicked witch was dead.

“Go….” Jason gives Marie a slight shove, pushing her towards the car as Dale stops in victory lane. Marie didn’t need to be told though, as her feet were carrying her already over, arms reaching in the car and wrapping Dale in a tight hug, kissing his lips.

“I love you. I missed you so much.”

“I love you too,” Dale replies simply as the pair lock eyes together.

“I missed you so much. I was scared that I wouldn’t see you again.”

“I’m just glad that you’re back in my arms.”

“God I love you so much.” Marie then kisses his lips once again as Jason and the Hendrick PR team work at keeping all the media patient, knowing that the couple needed this time together after their separation period. “It’s over, by the way. The wicked witch is dead. If nobody was around, I’d be doing the dance from Wizard of Oz. It’s over –truthfully this time.”

“Best news…ever….” Marie then kisses his lips again, not wanting to lose touch of them as the pair continue to look at each other in the eyes as a third person joins their small party.

“Glad to see that you’re both okay,” Rick says as the pair smile. “Don’t worry about making the world wait – you both deserve this together.”

“Perhaps we’ll save the affection for later and let the world in on our celebration,” Marie comments as Dale keeps his eyes on her.

“I’m sure there’s also a little girl that badly wants to see her parents later, too. Can’t wait all day here, can we?” The pair shake their head no as Marie backs away.

“Climb out superstar….or should I say, Daytona 500 Champion baby!” Both her and Rick back up, giving Dale the space that he needs. He then climbs out of the car, standing up on the edge and raising his fists in the air as the confetti goes off while screams erupt through the entire victory lane.

Hopping off the car, he does the standard victory lane interview – obviously with some bonus questions added with the media finding out details about everything that had happened over the past week. As he finishes the interview, he feels arms instantly wrap around him, knowing exactly who it is immediately.

“Great job on the car,” Dale says as he turns to face Jason. “You did a spectacular job this week despite everything that was thrown your way. I look forward to working with you all year.”

“Championship?” Jason offers as Dale shakes his head yes.

“We can do it.” Jason’s smile fades as he keeps his eyes on Dale, knowing that everybody has avoided the question that is certainly on everyone’s mind, though afraid to ruin the moment.

“How are you feeling, honestly?” Dale lets out a sigh as he leans back against the car.

“It was tough. It was tough. I’m sore, without a doubt. My back is sore and now I understand why the doctors said on Monday that racing would be a bad idea. I’m wore out. I’m tired, perhaps even a little dehydrated. But I’m going to be fine, Jason. I’m going to be fine and I’ve got my girls to take care of me so that’s all that matters.” Dale then wraps an arm around Marie and pulls her back close to him. “Do you know how spoiled I am to have someone as awesome as this girl right here?”

“Hey, I heard that she was a Queen.”

“She’s my Queen.”

“Well, how about a princess to make the family complete?” They hear as Megan walks closer, holding Alyssa’s hand.

“Daddy!!” Alyssa screams as she runs over, wrapping both arms around Dale. “Mommy!” She then turns to her mom and does the same thing. “You won!” Dale then leans down to her level.

“Of course I won – because I knew there was a special girl who needed a win to make her feel better,” Dale tells her as he pulls Alyssa close and hugs her tightly, not wanting to let go. “I love you, Alyssa. I love you so much.” He then kisses her cheek before standing back up.

“Daddy, I miss you.” Alyssa’s words catch Dale off-guard as he looks back down at her, feeling the emotions all there once again.

“I missed you too, however I promise that things are never going to go wrong again.”

“Daddy, you ‘romise before. You lied.” Marie goes to say something, though Dale stops her.

“Let me handle this, please.” Marie shakes her head as she watches Dale pick up Alyssa with as mile on his face. “Daddy did lie, didn’t he?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Sometimes, certain promises are hard to keep. Daddy tries to keep every promise that he makes for you, but sometimes, the odd promise goes wrong. This time – I know I can keep my promise.” She then looks at him confused.

“Why daddy?” he then smiles as he glances towards Marie.

“Because a certain Mariela is gone. As they say in the Wizard of Oz….”

“Ding dong the witch is dead!” Marie and Jason chant together, bringing forth a smile on Alyssa’s face.

“Now, what do you say you help daddy with celebrating?” Dale offers before carrying her up to the stage.

“Are you okay?” Jason asks as he looks over at Marie, causing her to look back at him confused. “I know everything is great with the win and everybody being okay. But….Mariela was your sister…..There’s got to be some emotions there.” Marie takes a deep breath.

“There is, Jason. I loved her as we grew up together having the time of our lives as twins. However, she turned crazy and sometimes, certain things need to be done. I look back and feel sadness and even sometimes regret on killing my father. I will probably be the same with Mariela. However, I know that I can’t change the circumstance because it had to be done. It had to be done to protect my family.” She then walks away and heads up on stage with Dale and Alyssa.

I couldn’t have him not win after everything 😉 This story isn’t done yet, I can promise you that. We’ll touch on Chase’s emotions in the next chapter, and then we still got to tell a certain daughter that she’s a princess.

 

Chapter 60: Emotions

“Aren’t you glad to be home?” Dale asks as he looks over at Marie while getting Alyssa out of the car.

“I’m glad that NASCAR let you go for go the media tour,” Marie comments as Dale shakes his head in agreement. “I could’ve gotten her out of the car, you know? You don’t need to be a total suck.”

“I’ve missed you both so give me my time please.” Dale then picks Alyssa up, letting her lay her head on his shoulder as she is asleep. “Plus, I’m fine. You don’t need to baby me. I can take care of myself like a big boy.”

“I know – I just worry about you.” They then head towards the house together, Alyssa in hand.

There was no doubt that Dale was sore and tired. It had been a long day in running all 500 miles with his back being sore. The stab wound from the prior week and the surgery had taken it’s toll, but luckily he had made it out on the more positive scale. However, that didn’t mean that he wasn’t in pain at that moment as there was no lie that his back was pretty sore. It was why he was extra glad that NASCAR told him to forget about the post-Daytona 500 victory media tour due to everything that happened. He knew that having some days to rest up would be great.

Though beyond the simple pain, there was also physical exhaustion. He hadn’t gotten much rest under Mariela’s captivity and he could feel it in the final laps that his body was just purely exhausted. It was why post-race, he had downed a couple bottles of water, and stopped for food before flying home.

Being home was perhaps the best cure, though, as there was a special feeling in being back home. Being there with the whole family and knowing that their own personal hell was over was refreshing and relaxing. It was great to know that life would return to normal in the days to follow.

“Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr., should you be carrying your daughter right now?” They hear as they walk through the door and Marie shakes her head, knowing that voice immediately. “You should be taking it easy and you know that mister.”

“It just feels so nice to be home,” Marie comments as Dale laughs. “It wouldn’t be the same without such a comment.”

“Well?” The voice reins again as Dale walks over and immediately pulls his mom into a hug.

“It’s nice to see you,” Dale tells her before kissing her cheek. “Considering I just drove a racecar, I don’t think I need to worry about carrying Alyssa.”

“You should be lying on your ass right now resting after what you’ve been through. Don’t you know that you should take care of yourself?”

“Mom, easy on him…” Kelley comments as she walks over and gives Dale a hug, before carefully slipping Alyssa out of his arms into hers. “Relax. I’ll take her up and tuck her into bed.”

“He should follow you up and go to bed himself,” Brenda says as Kelley looks over at her mom.

“Lay off of him as I’m sure he’s fine and…” Kelley then looks back at her brother. “…will take care of himself.” Kelley then turns and heads up the stairs with Alyssa, set to put her to bed.

“I know I’m being a pain, but can I have another hug?” Dale then chuckles and gives her another hug. Though he tries to pull back, she keeps him held there in her arms.

“Mom…” He starts.

“I’m so glad that you’re okay,” Brenda starts. “I was really worried about you the whole time. I’m glad that you’re okay and I can hold you and yell at you and kiss you.” She then kisses his cheek before pulling back from the hug.

“I’m sorry I worried you as much as I did and regardless, I’m glad to see you, even if you’re complaining. Thanks for caring.” He then walks towards the door before glancing back. “I’m going to see how Chase is. I’ll be back after.”

“That’s fine,” Marie comments as she flops down on the couch. “I’ll be here waiting for you.”

“I promise I won’t keep you waiting long or disappear from you ever….again…,” Dale replies before heading out, closing the door behind him.

He then makes his way over the lake house, knowing that Chase was there. Chase had moved on the property last year after graduating high school and was staying there while driving for JR Motorsports. It was a pretty good arrangement as Chase was close to the shop and behaved so it brought no complaints. It also gave Bill and Cindy some comfort when Chase moved away from home that he would have Dale and Kelley close if he needed anything.

He had talked to Bill earlier, hearing about how Chase was feeling. He heard about what had happened with Mariela through Steve and heard about how the emotions for Chase were all over place. He could understand that, based on his own feelings on what had happened. He couldn’t imagine what could be going through Chase’s mind at his age.

Letting out a sigh, he walks up to the door of the lake house. He wanted to check on Chase for himself to see, and make sure that things were squared away between them. In every other thought, Dale blamed himself for it. It was his fault that Mariela had kidnapped him because Mariela had wanted Dale in the car. It was his fault that nothing was done to stop it as Dale knew about it before anybody else. Why hadn’t he done something or warned someone, somehow?

Dale snaps out of his thoughts as he sees the door open with Bill standing there. Bill and Cindy had flown back with Chase, wanting to be there with him for the time being after what had happened.

“Hey,” Bill says as Dale clears his throat.

“Hey,” Dale starts. “I just came by to see how Chase was doing.”

“Come in.” Dale then comes in the house as Bill closes the door behind him. “He’s still pretty upset about it, honestly. He hasn’t left Cindy’s side since we left Daytona as he doesn’t want her to go anywhere. She got up about two hours ago to go to the bathroom – and he only let her since I stayed with him. He hates the thought right now of being alone. Beyond that, he’s tired and he should honestly get some sleep. He’s tried to go to sleep a couple of times, but keeps waking up about 20, 30 minutes later, crying because of some flashback or something happening because of what happened.” Dale shakes his head in disbelief, looking down at the ground as the guilt of what happens increases more.

“I’m sorry, Bill. I should’ve done something to stop her from getting her hands on him.”

“Dale, I’m not mad at you because I know that you would’ve done something if you could’ve. Don’t put the blame for what happened on your shoulders. It’s not your fault as it was all Mariela’s doing and plan. You couldn’t change what happened, no matter what.” Bill then pulls Dale into a hug as they stand in the hallway together. “Beyond that, I know Chase doesn’t blame you either. He was worried about you and Marie, but when I told him that you were both fine, it helped. Everything is going to be fine. He’ll get through it and you’ll get through your half of the emotions, too. Through it all, though, know that none of this – anything that has happened the last two months – is not your fault. It’s not Marie’s, it’s not yours, it’s not Chase’s – it was Mariela’s fault for these sick, psychotic thoughts that she had going on. Just be glad that everybody is okay and can get through this together.” Dale then looks up at Bill, feeling a couple tears in his eyes as the emotions of the past two months surface on his mind.

“So you’re not ma-”

“I’m not mad, Cindy isn’t mad nor is Chase. It wasn’t your fault.” Bill then lets him go as he points into the living room as Dale peaks in, seeing Chase lying on the couch in his mom’s arms. “Cindy said that when he moved away, she’d never get to hold or cuddle her baby boy again. I told her after today that we were all right when we said that he’d always need his momma.”

“I just hate that he has to go through this. It’s not fair.”

“Life sometimes isn’t fair. We’ve learned that the hard way, haven’t we?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“Everybody keeps saying that he’s going to be okay. I hope they’re right. I….I just worry about him. It isn’t fair!”

“Complaining about it isn’t going to make it better, either.”

“It gets it off my chest.”

“Dale?” They hear as Dale and Bill peak into the room more, seeing a pair of eyes looking at them. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“I came over to see how you were,” Dale comments. “I didn’t want to bother you if you were sleeping.”

“Cindy…” Bill calls as he motions for Cindy to come over to him. He knew that it’d be best to leave the boys to talk between each other as it may help things.

“Go Cindy. I’ve got him.” Cindy then slowly stands up and heads out of the room with Bill as Dale sits down on the couch beside Chase.

“Congratulations on the win,” Chase starts off the conversation after a couple minutes of silence. Neither of them knew which way to take the conversation. Dale wanted to know from Chase himself how he was feeling and what was going through the young man’s mind, but didn’t want to intrude. Chase wanted to know how Dale was feeling and whether he was truly okay, but also didn’t want to bring it up.

“Thanks,” Dale comments. “It wasn’t easy at all, but got the right run at the right time.”

“I saw the finish – I still can’t believe how close and Johnson were.”

“Neither could I.” The pair felt at ease in talking about racing, but the nerves were there as both walked towards the unknowns at hand. “Chase, listen, I’m sorry for what happened.”

“It’s not your fault. You weren’t the one that tried to kill me. You weren’t the person that thought it’d be great idea to strangle me.”

“I left you wi-”

“You didn’t do it by choice; you did it because she forced you. I’m mad at you for what happened. I can’t blame you for what happened.”

“I still feel terrible. I should’ve said something to her when she had Randy kidnap you. I should’ve gotten her to let you go free somewhere while she fulfilled the rest of her plan for me.”

“When Randy told me to follow him, I had no clue what was going to happen. He showed me a picture of you kidnapped and of Marie kidnapped. I thought I was being straight up kidnapped as if they were going on a kidnapping party. I had no clue that you were going to drive. I had no clue what was going to happen. I went to say something to Jason when Randy told me but he stopped me – he said that he’d make sure you were dead. I should’ve said something. Maybe I could’ve stopped the whole day’s events.”

“You can’t play the what if game, Chase. It’ll drive you nuts. It’s driving me nuts thinking what I could’ve done to not have that happen to you.” Chase then takes a deep breath as he looks down at the floor, multiple thoughts swirling through his mind in regards to the past 24 hours.

“Dale, can I ask you something?” Dale then looks over at Chase, intrigued by the question.

“What is it?” Dale keeps his eyes on Chase as he notices a couple tears fall down his cheeks, slipping onto the carpet below.

“Does it get easier over time?” Chase then takes a deep breath, trying to keep the tears in as he lies back against the couch. Given what Dale had gone through the previous couple of months with the plane incident and the incident with Marie’s father, Chase figured that Dale would know from experience in how the days that followed would play out. “Do the memories start to fade and become less apparent?” Dale takes a deep breath, thinking back to how he has dealt with things since the plane incident.

“You never forget what happened as it’s with you everyday moving forward for the rest of your life. You just learn ways to cope with the memories and move forward with your life.” Dale knew it was a touchy subject, given the fact that the emotions were there still for him. There were nights where he wakes up in a cold sweat, relieving the events that happened on the plane, sometimes with a different ending. Even in Daytona, he had nights that he woke up, tears crawling down his face, as his mind flash backed to what happened in Marie’s country of Pitronia with her father.

“How have you learned to deal with them?”

“I still don’t know the perfect answer, honestly.” Chase takes a deep breath, debating how much detail he wanted to say. It was soothing to talk about with Dale as it gave him some comfort.

“Every time I close my eyes, I keep picturing her standing there before me as I am laying by the couch below her after she pushed me.”

“I keep picturing her walking off the plane with the button to strike the bomb off in hand, knowing that my daughter is tied up just below me. I’ve also pictured, over and over, the look on her father’s face, a look of pure evil, when he held the bottle that he wanted to drink.”

“When does it become easier to move on with your life and go about it as if nothing happened?” Dale shrugs his shoulders.

“For me, I don’t think I’m going to go back to that life like it was before. I think from now on, I’m going to keep looking over my shoulder, scared someone is there. I’m going to walk on to planes thinking that I’m walking into a trap.” Chase lets out a sigh as he thinks it over, debating how things would change for him moving forward.

“I just want to be able to close my eyes and not think about her or what happened.”

“It’s hard at first because it’s fresh in your mind, but I will tell you that it does get easier with each passing day as you get more comfortable once again.” Dale then takes a deep breath, remembering how he had made his nightmares at least a little easier to deal with, knowing that Chase deserved the advice to move forward. “Whether then just close your eyes and go to sleep, try to remind yourself before you go to sleep that you’re safe and you have people around you that love you. Remind yourself that she’s gone forever. Remind yourself that you’ve got your parents, I, Kelley – everybody who would anything for you. Assure yourself of how safe you are and it makes it a little easier. It doesn’t cure it as there’s no magical cure for what you’ve been through. However, it makes it easier and with each day as you move beyond what happened, you’ll be able to sleep without thinking about it.”

“I’ll try to remember that. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome and Chase, it’s going to work out. We’re both going to get through this together.” Dale then pulls Chase close to him as a smile forms on Chase’s face, perhaps the first smile that had found his face since his escape. “Alright, now let’s forget about that for a while. Let’s get that off your mind as you don’t want to think about that. I heard that you had a great Daytona Speedweeks in winning the Nationwide Series race. Tell me how that went because I am not pleased at all that I missed it.”