Monday January 28 – Hendrick Motorsports – 29 weeks pregnant
As the day continued, Chase followed the requests given to him by the staff, from the poses needed by the car in the firesuit, to the video that they wanted to film. If he kept nailing it scene after scene, it’d be over and he’d be finally done this marathon day.
“But our relationship really has been pretty simple,” he hears once he is done the last scene. He recognized the voice without having to look up to see who was walking through the shop. He also knew the words sounded familiar. “As I’ve told a lot of people, I kind of let him do his thing and he lets me do mine, and we really just go about our business that way.” Chase then begins to chuckling, knowing why those words sounded familiar.
“It’s true, though,” he finally comments, stopping Alan in his place. “I let you do your job of taking care of the car and everything there, and you let me do my job behind the wheel.” Alan then gives him a glance. “Okay, so you look out for me maybe more than other crew chiefs at times with your concerns. But for the most part, you go about your business and let me handle things at my own pace.”
“This gets better, though…” Alan then looks back down at his phone, as Chase lets out a sigh. He knew where this was going right away. “Our friendship has grown, I think, over the past couple of years. We’re by no means best friends. I think he would tell you the same thing.” Alan then glances back up at Chase from his phone. “Really?”
“Well, I am right in some aspects. It’s not like we hang out away from the trac-”
“I took a bullet for you, I stood by your side despite everything, and I was there to stand up to the worst of it without a single fear unlike some people. I also held your hand through the worst par-”
“You don’t need to remin-”
“It seems I do because frankly, I valued our friendship more than these words imply.” Chase then lets out a sigh, while rolling his eyes at the same time. Were they really having this conversation right now?
“I value our friendship. I don’t think I need to tell you that. I’ve told you time and time again how much you mean to me, and how much I love working with you. I also told you how much this whole team means to me, and we’re family. Do you remember that?” Alan slowly nods his head, though points to his phone at the same time. “I didn’t mean to disvalue our friendship. I just meant that you’re not my bestie-hang out person. I don’t go traveling with you, I don’t spend late nights chit chatting about music or sports with you, and I don’t hang out with you away from the track. We’re just not chummy like you’d expect best friends to me. That’s all I meant by those words, Alan.”
“You’re not just covering your tracks here, are you?” Chase shakes his head no as he walks right up to the crew chief.
“Trust me. I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me, and I will forever be grateful for that and our friendship more than I could even explain to anybody. You have a special spot in my life, Alan. If you didn’t, I wouldn’t have asked you to be part of the wedding party.” Alan smiles, as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.
“I’m glad, because I was beginning to worry for a minute.” Chase then glances down at the transcript as it read on the crew chief’s phone.
“How about we stop reading into each other’s comments for the media and focus on what we have together?” Alan was surprised by the comment. “I read your transcript, too. I appreciated the compliments, while applauding your patience about the Alison situation.”
“I just checked in as I wanted to see where your head was at considering we haven’t spoken much lately. I mean, when you’re talking to other crew chiefs and driving their cars before mine, it’s a little hurtful.” Chase had to chuckle a little at Alan’s comments.
“Aww poor Alan. If it makes you feel better, while I think Sarina will be successful with Dave as he’s smart, you’re much better to work with.” Alan nodded, easily accepting the compliment.
“I am glad that you got the chance behind the wheel, though, and it went smoothly. Let’s just hope that you don’t do anything stupid before the season, okay? Otherwise, I may take the crew guys up on the bubble wrap offer this time around.” Chase could only roll his eyes.
“Please tell me that they’re behaving….” Alan began chuckling in response.
“Are they ever behaved, Chase?”
Wednesday, January 30 – Charlotte Convention Center – 29 weeks pregnant
Chase stood there, once again going through the motions just like a couple days ago. It was another production day, this time for NASCAR, with a total of 20 different things to accomplish from 9a to 5p that day.
“Turn to the left a little,” the photographer instructs, which Chase easily does.
“I am going to be blind if they keep this up,” he says to himself as the flash goes off what seems like a dozen times once again.
After what seemed an eternity, including a review of the images by the photographer and his staff, Chase was let loose and done that step on the tour through the production studios.
“Thank you once again,” the photographer says, earning a simple nod from Chase.
“We’ve got the GIF section next in five minutes,” his PR rep Morgan Overstreet informs him, which is met with another nod.
“That should be fun,” he comments with an amused tone, knowing the actions that they had them do seemed so random at times. However, having seen some of the results the last couple of years, it made sense so he might as well have fun with it.
He then takes out his phone, noticing a couple new text messages. He instantly replies back to Sarina with a quick ‘I love you’ and the fact things were going smoothly so far, having seen her wishes for a good day. He then opens the next message, a bit of shock appearing on his face.
“How long is 204 months?” He questions, catching Morgan by surprise.
“17 I think,” she answers as he gives yet another nod in return. “Now, kick my ass if I’m intruding, but why would you ask such a random question?”
“You’re going to find out any way – actually, I’m surprised you haven’t yet.” His comment was met with even more confusion by her. “Sasha Krause and Steve Lane both pled guilty to robbery with a deadly weapon. They were sentenced today to 17 years in prison.”
“That explains this e-mail that I haven’t opened yet then…” She then glances back at her phone, opening the e-mail as she reads it over. “Okay. We’ll keep standard procedure in place should anybody question about it or anything.”
“Thank you.” Chase was used to the serious tone of response from her, knowing that she was focused on her job. Meanwhile, he was focused on the actual amount of time. They weren’t the pair that he was concerned about as he could’ve cared less about the time they got in prison. His worries still surrounded Carter.
“This mentions that they haven’t caught the third party yet, Carter Williams.” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances over at her.
“Sasha and Steve offered everything that they knew, but yet not a single thing panned out. They have a search warrant out for him cross-country so according to them, it’s only a matter of time.” Morgan had to roll her eyes at the comment.
“Meanwhile, that’s what they told us about Alison.” Chase glances down, nodding his head with a sigh. He didn’t need the reminder that Alison and Carter were connected along the lines. “Chase, I can assure you that history is not going to repeat itself as they’ve learned their lessons. However, if it makes you feel safer, I can arrange for security through Hendrick Motorsports for you.”
“I’d appreciate that, actually. Not for my sake – but for Sarina and the baby.” Morgan understood where his concern was, making a note to make the necessary phone calls later.
“I’ll connect with JR Motorsports and we’ll make it happen. I have to make up for my part-”
“Stop blaming yourself for that Hooters shoot and what happened at Richmond, okay? She fooled me and I should’ve known better than anyone. Live and learn….”
However, as they made their way down the hall towards the destination, they both knew it was easier said than done.
Wednesday, January 30 – JR Motorsports – 29 weeks pregnant
Once he was done the last thing for production day (team Chevy), he made the short trip up to JR Motorsports. The plan for the day was while he was doing his media blitz, Sarina was going to attend the necessary meetings at JR Motorsports, including reviewing data from the Atlanta test.
He was surprised when he got there that rather than meeting him at the door as she would in the past, he got a text to head up inside to the offices. While it’d been awhile since he’d be summoned to the conference room, he remembered where it was and was up there sooner than the group expected.
“Hey,” he says as he wraps his arms around Sarina’s shoulders, leaning over the chair to give her a kiss. “Did you have a good day?”
“Data from the test looks good, and I learned some things through the rest of the meetings so sure,” she comments with a smile on her face. “How about you?”
“NASCAR, Fox, NBC, and Chevrolet are happy so that’s what matters.” He then takes a seat in the chair beside her, knowing by the glances of the faces in the room that he’d been called up there for a reason. “Do I want to know why we’re here together?”
“We were getting ready to show this to Sarina, but figured that you deserved to see it as well,” Kelley starts, earning a questioning glance from both. “I’ve also made sure that Jesse and Morgan have been made aware of it, too.”
Kelley then reaches into the folder that sat on the center of the table, pulling out a couple pieces of paper. She then slid them over to Chase and Sarina, before taking a step back from the table.
“I thought we talked about this already….” Chase starts, knowing what it pertained it to already.
“Certainly I told Sarina that in that moment, I wasn’t going to worry about her comments as the reporter went over the line,” Kelley begins. “I also told her that I understood where she was coming from and there’d be no anger shed on the incident. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t review, and learn moving forward. She actually spent some time with our PR department to learn strategies for future similar incidents.” Chase then looks over at Sarina a little worried, not even caring about the content on the paper.
“Do I want to know?” Sarina nods her head as she takes a deep breath, one eye on Chase, one eye on Kelley.
“Honestly, like I said, it was a learning experience,” Sarina comments. “I learned ways to ward off the questions, shuffle them away, and also deter the interviewer from proceeding that path. There was also strategies worked in controlling my anger, which is a great review of my anger management classes that I took.” Chase wasn’t buying everything that she was saying, wondering if it was smart cover while Kelley stood before them.
“Seriously?” She nods her head, as he keeps his eyes locked on hers, trying to see through the possible bullshit. “I’m still not going to rea-”
“I think that you shou-” Kelley suggests as Chase fully turns back to her, placing the paper back on the table.
“The media is going to write whatever the media wants to write. They’ve done that since everything has began with Sarina, dating back to Chris. They did the same thing when Alison started going after me, through the process, and then through the whole trial experience. They continued to write stuff when she escaped, as well as when Sarina announced her pregnancy. I’ve seen it all, Kelley. I’ve become immune to the point that I don’t care.”
“I’m not surprised by the content either, though,” Sarina comments, catching both of their attention as she had began to read the article. “They state that there’s been questions about the relationship since the pair got together, validating that claim with everything that happened, as well as the kiss with Erin and Chase. They then state that a marriage between the pair came to a surprise of some as it was obviously doubts would be in the air surrounding Alison.” She then glances over at Chase. “It’s not a lie, though. I did doubt your claims about her pregnancy.”
“Don’t worry – I remember,” Chase quietly says, eyes focused back down on the table. He remembered walking into the hotel room at Dover, and the full fight that broke out between the pair of them with the secret that he had kept from her. He remembered watching her walking out of the door, followed by the immediate tears down his cheeks. Taking a deep breath, it was heavy reminder of why they had to make sure to trust each other no matter what – and he was breaking that with the Carter secret right now.
“Chase….” She then reaches over squeezing his hand, as he slowly glances up at her. “I still feel terrible for tha-”
“I know, and I don’t hold it against you. Like I told you then, and I will tell you again, I understood why you had your reservations with what was going on.” He then takes another deep breath, hoping she had the same understanding when the Carter news did find its way out. “What else does the article say?”
“It goes on to say that Sarina was offended by the reporter questioning her about the incident as part of her media availability, including calling out the reporter. It then quotes what I said about what happened…”
“So again, I’m not surprised by the content.” He then turns his eyes back to Kelley, glad they had a distraction from his own thoughts. “Why are we having this discussion, Kelley?”
“I just wanted you both to be aware of what’s out there, and why this balance that we strive for is important, please,” Kelley tells them. “That said, even though I may be stern and sound bitchy in this moment, you do realize that I care a lot about you, and I want to see you both succeed and have the best lives possible. Just please make my life a little easier.”
“Considering you’ve been willing to work with us on everything, absolutely,” Sarina offers in return as both her and Chase nod their heads accepting.
“Thank you, and I’m sorry if I came across wrongly here….” Kelley then picks up the folder, leaving the room.
“I’m sorry…” Chase wraps his arms around her shoulders, pulling her close to him.
“You don’t ever need to apologize to me,” Chase tells her, giving her another kiss. “Let’s just forget, learn from it, and move forward.”
He then takes a deep breath, finding himself right back at the thoughts of Carter. How could he move forward with that lurking?