The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 183: Productions Days

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?

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 178: A Driver’s Edge

Thursday, January 24 – NASCAR Hall of Fame – 28 weeks pregnant

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay today?” Chase asks as they walk into the NASCAR Hall of Fame today. She just gave him a simple nod.

“You don’t need to fret over the smallest thing,” Sarina answers as she fixes her t-shirt. “Besides, I should be here to support the team.” Chase knew the happenings of the day, with JR Motorsports and GMS Racing announcing a joint driver development program. With Sarina being one of the young drivers at JRM, she was automatically part of the program.

“Dale said you didn’t need to com-”

“I know, but I want to be here to support my team. I am still able to do things, Chase. You don’t need to worry.” They then stop as they reach the doorway to the room the announcement was in. “Just promise me that you’ll be here on time to pick me up.”

“Absolutely.” He then leans in for a kiss. “I love you. Have fun. I’ll see you later.”

“I love you too.” She then slowly lets his hand go, watching as he walks back out the same way that he had come.

While she had originally believed that he was going to stay for the announcement, there was a change in plans as he was going to stop in at Hendrick Motorsports before they headed to Georgia. He figured a nice short conversation with Alan would be a good idea after having seen yesterday’s comments.

Sarina then takes a deep breath, making her way over to where her teammates stood, along with the ownership group. Except for Sam and Adam, she was familiar with the others pretty well. She was actually looking forward to working with Zane at JR Motorsports, while having a small snicker for John Hunter Nemechek. She had to admit – she was still glad that Cole tackled him at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park that year.

“Sarina, you came!?!” Kelley lets out being the first one to notice her of the group, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “By the way, you’re looking absolutely amazing. Please tell me that everything is going smoothly…”

“There hasn’t been any issues thus far,” Sarina lies, not wanting to get into the details of the gestational diabetes, or rehash what happened while she was stranded.

“You got my message that you didn’t need to come, right?” Dale reminds her, and she nods her head. She had read the message twice on her phone, as well as hearing it while she had stopped at JRM earlier in the week.

“That doesn’t mean that I can’t make the choice to be here and support my teammates. Just like I told Chase, I’m very capable of doing things still.” Dale fully understood that, having grown used to the same type of lectures from Amy when he got her to relax while pregnant with Isla. That didn’t mean he was changing his stance right now.

“Just make sure that you take it as easy as possible today, okay?” She nods her head, accepting, as that had been her plan already.

She then watches as Dale and Mike go out, beginning the stages of the announcement in speaking of the details of the program.

She actually liked the concept, as it was nice to see drivers have a clear cut path to get from late models to the XFINITY Series. She almost wished that would’ve been in place, still wondering if she had tackled trucks a little earlier than she should’ve. However, she wasn’t holding any regrets as everything had worked out as it was supposed to.

She then joins his teammates by the showcar that they had there for the announcement with the program logo, taking the image together. Glancing left and right, it was nice to see the talent that she was surrounded by. It gave her assurance that she was on the right track if she was being recognized and accepted with this group.

With the announcement of the way, it was time for the various people involved, from Dale, Mike and Kelley, to each of the drivers, to take time and answer questions for the media. Although her teammates were standing around, she was parked in a chair per the demand from Dale to stay off of her feet and take care of herself.

“How is your pregnancy going?” She heard one of the first questions as a group of media members gathered around her.

“It’s going great actually,” she comments. “I don’t have any complaints as of right now.” Just like with Kelley, she didn’t want to dive into details. That wouldn’t be the best image to have splashed all over the world, as it’d just get more people on her case with nerves. It was bad enough with Chase watching every small thing at times.

“How far along are you?” She expected the question, knowing that there were some non-discussed points to cover that day.

“28 weeks. I’m due in March, so obviously I will be missing the first couple races of the schedule as I stated last November. I am thankful that Elliott  agreed to come back and run those events until I am ready to take the reins of his ride. I can’t thank him enough, and look forward to seeing him win a couple races. He’s been a great mentor in the times that we’ve already talked about the upcoming season – both him and Justin, actually.” She knew she didn’t need to go initially that in-depth with her thoughts, but she knew she might as well cover it as she knew the questions would eventually venture down that path. She was glad that Kelley dropped the press release about Elliott Sadler’s return so she could fully comment on everything.

“Was there ever the thought of having the baby early so that way you didn’t miss any races?” She almost began chuckling immediately upon hearing the question. Was this guy serious?

“Absolutely not. My pure focus right now is on this baby, and I plan on doing whatever I can to make sure that the pregnancy goes smoothly and full-term. As I stated, this wasn’t something that came about easy, and there were a lot of mixed emotions, but it felt meant to be and I plan to live it out fully. So right now, my baby comes first. The racing will come second and when the time is right this year.” That didn’t mean that she wasn’t craving to be back in the seat sooner, or jealous that Chase had snagged her test at Atlanta.

“How long after you have the baby do you plan on getting back in the car?” If it was up her, it’d be immediately for that very reason as thought above.

“I will obviously be following the doctor’s advice on where I am healed enough to be able to handle everything that comes with the job. That could take a week, or maybe two weeks. It just depends on how my body is after giving birth.” Were they ever going to get to talk about the upcoming season or the new program as announced?

“Can we see your wedding ring?” She then holds her hand out, proudly displaying the ring that was on her finger. She had no shame in proudly displaying the marriage. “How was the wedding?”

“It was absolutely amazing. It was everything that I dreamed of, and more. From the special gifts from Cindy, to the dress, to the actual ceremony. Actually, the ceremony was my favourite part in being able to finally call Chase my husband. His vows were absolutely beautiful, and it’s a moment that I can never forget.” She still found herself repeating the vows in her head.

“How did you come to the decision to take his name, as I understand you want to be called Sarina Elliott from now on?” She smiles as it was even nice to hear the media mention it. Maybe there was a bright side to when they’d annoy her this season.

“It was a mutual decision, to be honest. He totally left it up to me as to what I wanted to do, and I told him that I accepted his name fully because I want to show the commitment that we have together as a family.” She also couldn’t wait to display that when they learned the baby’s name down the road.

“So with that out of the way this off-season, what are your thoughts on the upcoming season?” She then glanced directly at that media member, giving him the biggest smile she could manage.

“Finally we get to talk about racing….” She then takes a deep breath, divulging into all of her thoughts.

She then spent the next several minutes, answering every question that they had about the upcoming XFINITY Series season. It was nice to get into the groove of answering questions about her expectations, working with Dave Elenz, how the truck experience would help her, and how she was preparing for what was to come.

“Alan mentioned yesterday that Chase was still sore, but healing accordingly and would be ready for Daytona,” a media member then began, bringing an eye roll from Sarina. Were they really getting back to personal questions once again? “Do you have anything to add to that?”

“Alan spoke to the truth, as I’d expect him to do,” she began. “Chase is certainly sore as it’s only been two weeks removed since the gunshot. However, it is healing like the doctors would hope and therapy is right around the corner.” She also knew the test was right around the corner to see where things stood, too, but bit her tongue as she was going to let the parties that be – Kelley, Dale and Chase – reveal that.

“The big story, though, had to be Alison finally being arrested – and as released by the courts, she’ll be spending her time in maximum security so they do not risk another incident. I’m sure that was a relief for you, with everything that happened, that is finally over.” She takes a deep breath, remembering Chase warning her about this possibly coming up as they had with Alan just a couple days ago.

“It’s certainly a relief to know that she can’t hurt Chase, myself, or anybody for that matter ever again. It’s certainly a relief to see justice had played out and run its course. Obviously that’d be my answer to that so yes, I am thankful. I’m glad that now we can properly focus on moving forward together, focusing on our future and our family without having to wonder what’s next.” She purposely hadn’t used the words ‘it’s over’ as it was far from that, with her knowing the emotions for both her and Chase. It wouldn’t be truly over until they both worked through the emotions that connected to it.

“Would you be willing to speak about what happened?” She shakes her head no, immediately. There was no way that she was about to tell the world her feelings and emotions in connection to what happened. Besides, they didn’t deserve that just so they could make a couple extra dollars off some juicy headlines and stories.

“I can assure that we’re never going to get to that point, okay? Some things should remain private, and that’s included.”

“It’s been already been made publi-” She honestly wished they would’ve been able to implement the publicity ban as they requested.

“So you know everything. I don’t need to add anything else to make your heart feel more content.” She then runs her hands through her hair, beginning to feel a bit of frustration. Perhaps Chase and Dale were right that this wasn’t the best idea after all. However, she couldn’t run from them forever.

“When everything came out about Alison’s actions with Chase, did you have any doub-”

“Seriously?” Forget biting her tongue anymore as no deep breath was going to cut her off right now. “You’re wondering if I doubted him when he told me what happened, when she sexually assaulted him. Are you serious? I mean, I get it when fans send me messages like that because they can be dense, but am I really hearing this from a professional media member?”

“You seem to be a little offended, making me wond-”

“I’m not acting offended because I was; I’m acting offended because you think I would’ve doubted him. I trust him fully with my life. I married him. I wouldn’t ever think of doubting him in a moment like that. Besides, do you not realize that he went through that to protect me? Alison had me tied up, kidnapped, and the only way I would remain safe to his knowledge was if he listened to her every single word and instructions. He did that to protect me. He went through what she dealt for me. So no, I would never ever second guess him.”

“I think she’s answered enough questions for today,” a new voice enters, accompanied by arms wrapping around her shoulders. “To be honest, I can also state that you all certainly crossed the line in bringing that up. There’s something called respect. Come on Sarina…”

Sarina easily stood up, accepting the gesture given to her, following Kelley out of the room and down the hall. Kelley stopped at one of the smaller rooms, entering inside and leading Sarina to a chair.

“Are you okay?” She asks as she hands Sarina a bottle of water.

“Yeah,” Sarina answers as she sips on the water. She couldn’t even bother to glance up at her new boss. “I screwed up, didn’t I?” She then slowly looks up at Kelley, feeling like she was in the principal’s office. “I gave them exactly what they wanted. I went off and vented and yell-”

“Pregnancy hormones probably didn’t help with that.” Sarina had to chuckle at Kelley’s thought as possibly she was right. However, she also knew the anger that she felt in hearing that question, too.

“Hormones or not, I probably would’ve done the same thing. I was doing so good in maintaining my composure despite their questions, giving them the usual stance of not wanting to talk about it. Then she questioned the sexual assault, and I just lost it Kelley.” Kelley slowly nods her head, having overheard it which caused her to come over.

“I can’t fault you for what you did, though. I can probably say in the same shoes that I would’ve wanted to do the same thing for L.W., or even Dale. You were protecting the one that you loved, and standing up for him. You can’t fault someone for doing that.” Sarina began to wonder if Kelley was giving her the easy road just because of the pregnancy.

“But that’s still not what I should’ve don-”

“Oh it’s absolutely the opposite of what you should’ve done, and I can’t deny that I am not happy with you.” Sarina lets out a sigh, having expected that eventually. “That’s why I pulled you away before it got worse. Moving forward, we’ll work together in better ways to handle situations like that so we don’t give them the high strung reaction that they’re looking for.”

“I’m sorry…” Kelley knelt down to her level, placing her hand underneath Sarina’s chin and slowly lifting it up.

“I know you are, I can see that on your face. Stop beating yourself up, okay? You’re not in trouble because like I said, I understand. I’ll handle what comes from it this time, and we’ll work towards making it better moving forward. That’s it, okay?” Kelley then fully stands up. “For now, I say that we forget that happened and focused on the positives – like your pregnancy, and the upcoming season. Let’s just pretend that didn’t even happen.”

“Can we honestly do that?” Kelley then leans back against the wall, nodding her head.

“Absolutely, as you can start by telling me how your off-season has been spending time with Chase. What have you guys been up to? What’s been the most adorable thing that daddy-to-be has done for you?”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 171: Flashbacks and Surprises

Monday, January 14 – Charlotte, North Carolina – 27 weeks pregnant

Sarina lays there, taking a deep breath as she watches him sleep peacefully, not wanting to disturb a single moment. She knew there was no way that she was going to take moments like these for granted after the worry that she was feeling exactly a week ago. She couldn’t thank her lucky stars enough that he was okay, and knew she’d probably never stop thanking Morgan and Christopher for what they did.

“Normally I am the one staring at you,” she hears, which breaks her concentration immediately. She could only smile back in response, remembering those times she woke up to the same thing.

“I think I’m beginning to understand why you laid there like that some mornings,” she offers, earning back a smirk in response.

“Ah, it’s so nice of you to admire my beauty…” She then chuckles, rolling her eyes as she half-expected a smart ass comment like that in response.

“Actually, I’m just glad that we get to spend this time together, like this.” He then reaches out, clutching her hand with his.

“When we married each other, I promised you that I’d be here for you. I vowed to hold you, cuddle you, listen to you, take care of you, and keep you safe. I vowed to make sure that you didn’t endure the same pain that we have endured ever again, and I vowed to be yours forever and always – till death do us part. I don’t break my promises, sweetheart.” She knew that, knowing she could trust him no matter what with how much their trust in each other had grown from the first day they met.

“I know, and I’m glad that I get to call you my husband.” A cheesy smile then forms across her face immediately. “Husband. That’s as much fun to say as it is to say Sarina Elliott.”

“Just like Abigail Elliott, it seems that Sarina Elliott has a nice ring to it as well.” He then brings her hand to his lips. “I meant what I said, so you don’t have to worry about me going anywhere. I wasn’t going to marry you and just leave you like that.” He then gives her a light kiss, before letting it go slowly.

“I would’ve probably smacked you if you did that to me.” He then chuckles.

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise.” He then goes to move slightly, letting out a small groan as he feels a sharp pain in his shoulder.

“Easy Chase…” She then reaches over, rubbing it lightly. “Relax, and take it easy. It’s only been a week. Don’t push it and not heal accordingly.”

“I just wish the nagging pain would go away.” He then sits up, grabbing the bottle of water and pain killers off of the nightstand. He then takes a couple, followed by a sip of the water.

“On a brighter note, I heard that chicks dig scars. You’ll have something to impress the ladies.” He then looks over at her, shaking his head.

“I don’t need to be impressing any ladies as I have the woman that I’ve wanted right here beside me.” She smiles back in response, as it didn’t hurt to hear that repeated multiple times a day.

“Well, how about this?” She then slips down the edge of her pajama shirt, revealing the scar that remained on her shoulder. “Even if yours is going to be a little bigger, we’re going to match now.”

Chase slowly nods his head, taking a deep breath as he tries to keep calm with the thoughts coming back to him immediately. There was no way he could forget what happened that day.

“I hope you enjoy the present I left for him, as well as what you’re going to receive,” he hears Alison say, as she brings her body against his, pinning him against the closest wall as he stood there blindfolded. “Let’s give her a show…” She then brings her lips to meet his once again, pushing against him, reaching into his boxers to stroke him slowly. “You’re so hard, baby.”

“Alison Reynolds!” A voice reigns through the place, which immediately causes Alison to back off of being against him. He could hear the wheels of the chair that Sarina was tied to rolling, followed by a gunshot being let off.

“Oh fuck!” Sarina let out immediately.

“What is going on?” His voice reign out, staying frozen in the same spot, still blindfolded. He feels arms wrap around him – recognizing them immediately to belong to Alan. He could feel them beginning to untie the mask. “What happened?!?”

“Chase….” He hears, snapping him out of his thoughts. He was now sitting up in the bed, breathing heavily, feeling a sudden panic on the flashback. “Chase?” He feels Sarina’s arms wrap around him immediately. “Talk to me, please. Say somet-”

“I’m okay,” he cuts her off, taking a couple deep breaths as he tries to get everything back under control and block out those feelings. “I’m okay.” He then finally turns to look into her eyes. “I’m fine.”

“I’m sorry….” She knew immediately what had happened and where she had transported him back to immediately in seeing him freeze up sitting there. Once again, she hadn’t been careful enough in knowing how sensitive his feelings still were about everything that happened. “I’m sorry, Chase. I shouldn’t had mentioned a single thing abou-”

“It’s fine, it’s not your fault.” He then takes a couple more deep breathes, before snatching the water off of the night table to have a couple of sips. “You couldn’t had known that it was going to cause me to do that.”

“I still should’ve been more careful in knowing that you’re still coming to grips with everything that happened. We’ve talked about this before.” He nods his head, remembering the night they were laying together and she made a comment exactly like something Alison said. It caused him to freeze up then, and flashback to that trail of events with her.

“I’m not mad at you, Sarina. It’s okay.” He then looks over at her, now calm, taking her hand once again with his. “I promise that I’m not mad or upset. If I’m going to move forward, I need to face everything that comes with it – and that includes dealing with flashbacks like that. You didn’t mean anything wrong as you are right with your comment.” He then looks back down at the bed spread, taking a deep breath. “That week with Alison was the worst of everything that she managed to do during the time that she was loose – well, and poisoning me so I was knocked out and she could have her way. But that week, every single emotion that you can think of has resulted from what happened. I’ve ranged from sadness, to betrayal, to disgust, to anger, to guilt, to being so sick to my stomach that I puked every single thing up.”

“Chase, it’s not your fault. You don’t need to live with that forev-”

“I know it’s my fault, but I do have to live with what happened forever. It’s not just going to go away. It happened, it affected me, and I have to deal with it accordingly like I have been. It’s coming, slowly, but there will be moments like that – and it’s not your fault, okay?” She slowly nods her head. “Out of everything that she did that week, that single moment where I was blinded, heard the gun shot, followed by your scream, is the scariest thing. I honestly thought the worst had happened. I thought she had popped off some shot at you, or threw you right in direct line of fire to save her own ass. I was fearing that when Alan got it off of me, that you were going to be gon-”

“That didn’t happen, though. I was okay. It just briefly brushed my shoulder.” He takes a deep breath, knowing that as the mark on her shoulder indicated that simple reminder.

“I know. But in that moment, I didn’t know that. The flashback took me back to that fear. It reminded me of how afraid I was. It reminded me of how guilty I felt at that time because I had let Alison continue this tirade, and led everything to that happening with the plan. I know factually that I am not guilty of what happened, but in that moment, that was the emotion. The scar took me back to that moment, hence why I froze up.”

“I’m sorr-”

“I told you, Sarina, it’s not your fault. Part of me moving forward is facing every bit of what happened. It’s about figuring out what I’m dealing with, why I am dealing with it, and how I can overcome it. I need to do that for me.” He then takes a deep breath, sipping on the water once again. “Actually, in a way, this has helped me because here I am openly talking about the emotions to you for a change. That’s progress. That’s a step in the direction. Those are things that I need to do to move forward.”

“Well, whenever you want to openly talk about your emotions, or anything, please know that you can turn to me whenever you want.” She then lightly kisses his lips, as he takes a deep breath. That simple reminder emphasized guilt in what he was doing right now in keeping the Carter secret from her. However, he remembered the reasons that he told Christopher and knew his actions were justified – right?

“That goes both ways. I’m always here for you, and for this princess as well.” He then kiss her lips in return, before kissing her stomach afterwards. “Do you realize that she was kicking around 3am?”

“While I was sleeping? Seriously?” Chase nods his head, remembering.

“I woke up in the middle of the night due to a bit of pain. I shifted myself over a bit, before getting set to close my eyes. I brought my hand over to your stomach, and she was kicking up a small storm. I rubbed your stomach lightly, and she finally calmed down.” Sarina could only let out a sigh as she looks over at him to meet his eyes.

“She woke up to make sure that her daddy was okay. Look at this – you’re both already looking out for each other. What am I going to do when she comes?” He already knew where those thoughts in her head were going.

“Don’t worry – I got enough love to spread around to both of you as you’re the ladies of my life, and I promise to take care of you both.” He then kisses her lips once again, content on keeping that promise in hearing that Carter had been caught soon.

“Aren’t we going home?” Sarina asks, as she looks out the Tahoe windows confused.

They had just got done lunch, and they were supposed to be heading home from what she knew. However, Chase was taking a different route then she remembered.

“I figured we stopped in and check on how Lindsay and Evelyn are doing,” Chase answers with a smile. He knew it was a better than telling her the truth.

“Actually, I think that’s a good idea. We could use some baby love right about now.” Chase lets out a small sigh of relief, glad that she bought what he was saying.

“I figured you and Lindsay can spend time with Evelyn, while I check out Ryan’s new puppy.” That was actually the plan as he knew the ladies would be busy once he got there, just not in the way that Sarina was probably thinking.

They pull up to the Blaney household, with both of them getting out of the Tahoe together. They walk up to the front door, with Chase opening it without even knocking.

“I told Ryan ahead of time that we were coming,” Chase informs her as she glances at him confused. “Go on inside. I don’t want you catching a cold.”

Sarina then enters the house as instructed, going around the corner as her jaws drops.

“Surprise!!” The bunch of ladies in the room let out as she enters, seeing the teddy bear cake in the center of the room. She then glances up, seeing the banner ‘Baby Elliott,’ along with the several other directions.

“Oh my gosh!” She lets out, clearly surprised by the surprise of the baby shower. On top of the decorations, she was surprised by everybody who had shown up to celebrate with her.

“The only ones that couldn’t be here were Kaitlyn (Sweet) and Morgan as they’re in Oklahome for the Chili Bowl, as well as Emma whose at home with the baby,” Lindsay says after a bunch of the girls get done giving her hugs. “However, we knew that we wanted to do something for you and the baby. We also knew that it’d be a good pick me up after everything that has happened.”

“This is amazing….”

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, the ladies played a variety of different baby games. Who could put the diaper on the doll the quickest? Who could guess the correct size of her stomach right now? Guess the baby food, where you try a baby food from unmarked jar and guess the contents. They also played bobbing for nipples, which was a fun take on bobbing for apples.

They then sat around the living room together, handing over the gifts that they’d bought for Sarina and the baby. She was thankful for the car seat from Cindy, as well as the diaper bag from Erin that matched the nursery. She knew Abigail would be stylish in the outfits that Samantha had bought, each gender neutral as nobody in the room (except Cindy) knew the baby’s gender yet. On top of that, she couldn’t complain about the diapers, bottles, and gift cards that had been purchased by the other ladies in the room.

“So since Kyle already went through the liberty of buying a go-kart for the baby, we knew that a firesuit was necessary as well,” Samantha says after they had done the rest of the gifts.

“She got a hold of me, and wanted to know the exact design of the firesuit that you are getting for JR Motorsports,” Kelley continues. “I offered the different designs to her, so she could order them accordingly. I then called her a couple weeks later, saying that your baby couldn’t just show you love so we needed to add some more.”

Samantha then hands over the big box, which Sarina easily rips open. She then chuckles as she begins to go through the contents, seeing that they had gotten her baby firesuits that would match each of the suits her and Chase would wear this season.

“Your baby will be the most stylish baby this season,” Kelley says as Sarina checks them out. “We got them in newborn, three month, six month, and 12 month, so each size this upcoming season you’ll be prepared for.”

“This is amazing and completely adorable,” Sarina replies. She then places them back in the box, before offering each of the ladies a hug. “Thank you everybody so much for the gifts. They all mean a lot to me.” She then rubs her stomach, taking a deep breath. “Hopefully this little one co-operates and shows up in a timely, yet healthy fashion for mommy and daddy.”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 114: Indianapolis Double

Monday, September 10 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Can you believe it? It finally stopped raining!” Sarina lets out as she takes her seat atop of the GMS Racing pit box behind Chad Norris.

“Miracles actually do happen,” the crew chief mused with a nod in her direction.

From drop of the green flag, Chase ran up front throughout the race, showing the potential of the No. 23 Chevrolet underneath him. Chad Norris also pulled the perfect strategy, bringing Chase to pit road near the end of stage. As a result, he would start first for the third and final stage after the leaders pitted.

The strength of the car shined through as he led the field around the speedway, holding a pretty wheel with sights set on winning.

However, the package NASCAR chose for  the XFINITY Series allowed for runs to be created if you drafted together with teammates. The JR Motorsports played that to perfection on a late-race restart as Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick got a run on him together, passing him to take the leadwith 18 laps to go.

“Ugh…” was all Sarina could say, knowing that it’d be tough to make it up in the final laps.

He wasn’t able to, as predicted, ultimately crossing the finish line with a fourth-place finish.

“I hated that for you,” she comments as she rests her head on his shoulder. “But on a brighter note, I am going to have a pair of badass teammates next year.” Chase chuckles as he couldn’t be upset in seeing the success for Justin and Tyler, either.

“Careful how loud you say that,” he offered, with a quick kiss.  “One down, one to go.”

Sarina once again climbs the step of the pit box, this time in very familiar territory on top of the No. 9 pit box. She took her usual seat behind Alan, catching the crew chief’s attention.

“I guess congratulations are in order,” Alan offers with a smile, as he holds his arms out for a hug. She then accepts it, graciously.

“Thank you,” she replies, before getting comfortable in her spot once again. She was admittedly nervous discussing the baby topic with Alan based on his thoughts as Chase expressed yesterday.

“I wish you and Chase the best – I really do, and I want to see it work out for you both because of course I want the best for you guys. You deserve it after everything you’ve been through these past couple years. Just promise me you’ll be smart, and careful.” She nods her head, accepting, knowing exactly what he was talking about.

“I know what I’m doing Alan.”

With pace laps beginning, Alan was set to focus on his job at hand, while she got comfortable knowing it was going to be a long afternoon.

From drop of the green flag, Chase showed that he had a solid car as he kept himself just inside the top-10 until the second competition caution, when he was scored eighth. Alan would make a strategy call with the yellow flags close together, electing to put just two tires on the NAPA Chevrolet. This would allow them to jump up to third for the restart.

The discussion on the radio through the caution turned interesting, though, with a couple comments from both in a side skirt that was flared out on someone else’s car after contact. While normally that would be something concerning, it seemed to be giving them an advantage.

“I can put it back if it helps that much,” Chase joked on the radio, causing a couple chuckles from Alan and Sarina.

“Let’s just focus on our race,” Alan offered. “We’re doing a great job so far, bud.”

The two tire called proved to be a little tougher than imagined, but Chase was able to hold on to score a seventh-place finish to end stage one.

“I am going to pit you here – setting us up for later,” Alan tells him as he brings him down pit road at the end of the stage. With several others staying out, it drop Chase back to the 20th position for the restart. Sarina took a deep breath, not sure if it was butterflies or baby jitters swirling in the stomach right now.

The plan worked by the crew chief as they stayed out through the stage while others pitted, gaining track position in the process, crossing the finish line with a second-place finish.

Alan would bring him down pit road, wanting to put new tires on to start the run to the checkered, which dropped him back to ninth. The strategy worked as even with a green flag pit cycle, Chase would make his way up to fifth. The caution then came out with 18 to go, as Alan debated what to do next. Track position was nice, but tires seemed critical.

“Bring it in….” Alan finally decided as Sarina let out a sigh of her own. Personally, she felt they had a better chance by staying out.

Restarting 14th, Chase would gain four spots before the next yellow flag came out with seven laps to go. The final restart with three laps to go would not go accordingly with Clint Bowyer spinning his tires, backing up the line, causing Chase to lose valuable ground. he’d ultimately cross the finish line with a 15th-place finish.

“I shouldn’t have brought you down pit road that late in the race,” Alan comments as they meet up together after the race. Both of them, along with Sarina, were wanting to get out of Indianapolis as soon as possible, but that wasn’t happening as Chase needed to do playoff photos.

“I still agree with the call,” Chase offers, catching the crew chief’s attention. “I think we would’ve lost a lot of ground with tires being so important. If Bowyer doesn’t spin the tires, we finish inside the top-10 about seventh or eighth, where I’d finish without new tires. It was a gamble either way, and I’d rather try so we know than wonder.”

“I was happy with the performance.” Chase nods his head in agreement as he reaches down, rubbing the back of legs. “You had a busy day…”

“I just want to go home, just put my legs up, and relax..” He then lets out a small yawn, as he continues rubbing the back of his legs. “My calves are sore.”

“Did you drink enough?” Chase wasn’t sure on the answer to the question, but he felt he had. “Well, at least Sarina can take care of you. Oh wait, you already took care of her in good fashion.” Chase then gives Alan a glance as Alan begins chuckling.

“Am I supposed to expect these jokes for the next seven months?” Alan thinks it over, before nodding his head. “As long as you don’t say anythi-”

“I may not agree with every bit of your plan, but I won’t spoil the party. Are you sure that Kyle and Samantha won’t say anything?” Chase knew that for certain based on their conversations the past two days, especially with Sam.

“They’re both totally on-board.” Alan was surprised to hear that, given the risks involved.

“I thought Samantha would’ve said something given her experience.” Chase had expected that, as well, however she seemed to be the strongest one in Sarina’s corner of them all – or it seemed. Sarina had hinted otherwise based on what she had discussed with Samantha without Chase.

“Samantha is on the fence, but says she’ll do whatever we need to support us with our decisions.” Alan smiles as he puts a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“I promise to follow through with that, as well, even if I want to smack sense into you both sometimes.”

“Thank you everybody,” the photographer says once the last photo is taken of the three Hendrick Motorsports teammates together.

“We need a selfie for social media and then you can go,” the one PR rep states, as she hands a phone over to Alex.

“Get in here guys!” Alex says as he sets it up, ready to take the image of the three of them together.

“I’m good…” Chase comments, earning a glance from Alex and Jimmie.

“What? Are you afraid the trophy is going to bite you or something?” Chase then gives it a glance over, before looking back up at his teammates.

“I’m not touching it.” Jimmie just rolls his eyes as he looks over at him.

“Scared of the jinx?” Jimmie questions, earning a nod from Chase. It was one of the oldest tales in racing – don’t touch the trophy before you get it, or you’ll jinx yourself. Chase had always followed that rule, and even ready to drop suspicions away, he wasn’t going to break that today. “Well, I don’t believe in those crazy suspicions. As a matter of fact, I believe you should become friends with it so it comes home with you.” Jimmie then leans right on it, giving Chase a smirk before looking back at Alex. “Make it work, kid.”

“Say cheese!” Alex lets out as he gets it centered so they were all in the frame with the trophy.

Tuesday, September 11 – JR Motorsports

“Are you nervous?” Chase questions as he holds the door open for her, following Sarina inside.

“A little,” Sarina answers as she glances back at him, taking his hand before heading towards the office doors. Sarina had called ahead of time, saying she wanted to stop by. Kelley had told her to make her way through, no need to stop at the desk, as she’d be in her office. “You’ve got some great memories here.”

“Lots of fun times, actually. I wouldn’t change the decision to drive for Dale and Kelley.” He then squeezes her hand, catching a gaze from her eyes. “I know you’ll make your own memories here, too.”

They make their way down the short hallway, knocking on Kelley’s office door. She motions for them to come in, surprised when she sees Chase with Sarina.

“Chase, I wasn’t expecting you,” Kelley says, giving them both a hug before taking her usual seat back behind her desk. “So did you bring a new bargaining partner?” Sarina chuckles as she takes a seat across from Kelley.

“I figured he should be here when I told you the news,” Sarina starts, catching Kelley’s interest immediately. What would Sarina have to share that she’d want Chase to be there for her?

“Well Dale can’t be here today due to NBC and sponsor commitments, so please go ahead…” Sarina takes a nervous deep breath, debating how to tell Kelley the news.

“I want to say yes to the deal, and agree to drive for you next season as it’s a spectacular oppor-”

“Please tell me you didn’t go to Mike Beam for her, Chase…” Chase puts his hands up defensively immediately, knowing that he didn’t want to be Kelley’s bad side.

“I haven’t done a single bit of negotiating for her,” he confesses. “I always believed that she’d stay with KBM and move on to JGR next.” Kelley knew that was a possibility, but also knew the dynamics at play over there – hence the move for William a couple years ago.

“Please continue, Sarina,” Kelley instructs as Sarina takes another shaky breath.

“As I was saying, everything about it is perfect as I can’t find any argument against it,” Sarina continues. “Under any other circumstances, I would’ve come here and said yes without another discussion. However, I have a unique situation. I am pregnant.” Kelley’s jaw drops immediately as she glances between the pair.

“Seriously?” Sarina nods her head as Chase places a hand on her shoulder. “How far along are you?”

“Two months..” Kelley’s deadpan surprise look remained as she glanced between the pair once again. “I just found out this past weekend at Indianapolis. It’s strange what you can uncover during a rain delay, huh?” Chase almost wanted to chuckle already imagining another couple having baby news in a couple weeks as a result of the boredom. “I am in due early in March. I wanted to come and talk to you about this today because I believed you had a right to know before you decided or announced anything. I’ve thought about this, and I was thinking that once I have the baby in March, if you are willing, I would like to begin driving for your team then.”

“So in other words, you’re going to miss about three or four races and then planned to step in as if nothing happened?” Sarina slowly nods her head, the nerves growing in hearing Kelley’s tone.

“The playoff format allows for her to do so…” Chase offers, trying to ease Kelley’s heavy presence.

“I am still in shock that you’re pregnant – and you got her pregnant,” Kelley comments as she tries to process everything they just told her.

“I was taking birth control, he was using condoms – it still happened,” Sarina confesses as Kelley’s shock hit a new level. “And trust me, if you do agree to all of this, I won’t be marching in your office next year mid-season saying oh surprise I’m pregnant again.” Sarina then glances down, taking a deep breath. “I just can’t give up this baby because it wouldn’t feel right after everything that we’ve gone through.” She then slowly glances back up at Kelley. “But at the same time, I don’t want to let go of this opportunity because it’s everything.”

“If you came to any other plain old car owner with news like this, you’d probably get a strip torn off your ass and sent back out the door for messing with plans.” Sarina felt every nerve tingle, but also wanted to argue that after her own discussion with Kyle and Samantha. “However, we’re family. I’ve known Chase for a very long time, and my happiness for him soon to be a father is bursting at the seams. I remember the days he’d spend here playing with Wyatt while waiting in between meetings or sponsor commitments, and he was great with him. I know he’ll make a great father – just like you’ll make a great mother. I’ve believed in you since day one when Chase started bringing you around. I’ve watched you grow as a driver. So given the circumstances, how well I know you both, I’ll work with your so-called plan.”  Sarina smiles as it was a big relief off of her back to have someone else committed to everyone. It was also nice in hearing Kelley’s sentiments as it further solidified her decision to join JRM for 2019.

“Maybe Elliott will drive the first couple of races,” Chase suggests as Kelley nods her head in agreement, already having made a note to ask him. “Oh, the other thing – we’re not revealing she’s pregnant till after the season.”

“I am going to finish the year at KBM as committed with a focus on that championship,” Sarina adds, catching Kelley’s surprise glance once again.

“Are you sure you can handle that while carrying a baby?” Kelley questions and Sarina nods her head. “Well, I hope you come away as the champion as you’d certainly deserve it for all of your effort.” She then takes a deep breath, glancing over her calendar. “That said, I won’t say anything to anybody else within the company – other than Dale, that is – until you’re ready to do so. We’ll reveal you’re driving for us as originally scheduled in a couple weeks, and then handle the fall-out when you announce the pregnancy.”

“Thank you….” She then glances at Chase, knowing where their next stop would take them. “Now let’s just hope that Cindy and Bill are as accepting.” Kelley then looks up from her notes.

“Expecting grandparents better be a happy reaction. Actually, I expect Cindy to smother you with love.” Sarina had to chuckle at the thought considering where their relationship started.

“What about the plan, though?” Chase questions, having his own nerves in revealing that to his parents after Alan’s reaction.

“All I can say is good luck on that one,” Kelley offers. “I can already sense their fears perking up because they understand the dangers of racing having grown up around it just like me. However, if you explain your motives, you may get Bill on your side at least.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 52: Back to the Grind

With a successful test out of the way, along with a great banquet, everything was seamlessly falling into place. That’s why with a deep breath, Dale knew it was time to return back to the daily grind of details. With Marie focused on last minute wedding hiccups and running a country, he was set to get back to his responsibilities.

As he walked through the doors of JR Motorsports, immediately crew members who had missed seeing their boss over the past couple of months greeted him with either a simple hello, what’s up, handshake, or half-hug. Each time, Dale simply smiled in return, accepting the greeting, enjoying every single moment more being back at the shop.

“And what do you think you’re doing here?” A female voice then rung through the halls and Dale stopped, letting out a chuckle. It wouldn’t be a proper welcome back without Kelley having a comment of her own.

“I put you fully in charge while I was focused on getting better,” he starts, coming face-to-face with her in the hallway. “I’m feeling pretty good. We had the test at Darlington and that went over well. There’s nothing else lingering. I’m ready to get back at it.”  Kelley was grateful to see that as her brother had freaked her out beyond anything. However, that didn’t mean she approved the visit.

“What about the wedding, Christmas, and your Pitronia responsibilities?” Dale lets out a sigh, knowing that she meant well. However, he was a grown adult and could balance it all.

“Everything is set to go for the wedding as planned. There’s nothing else that I need to worry about in regards to that – you can ask Marie. As far as Christmas, I have been doing my shopping – yes, including you – and that’s coming together easily. Now Pitronia – let’s be serious. You know that Marie doesn’t let me get my hands too dirty with that as she feels that’s her responsibility. But, I haven’t been throwing off what I need to do there, either. I am fine, Kelley. I can handle this.” She takes a deep breath, nodding, slowly accepting.

“You do realize that I’m just riding your ass because I care, right?” Dale nods his head.

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Besides, the guys do like seeing me every once and awhile.” She glances towards the shop floor, having seen the greetings that were shared for Dale as he had made his way to where they were.

“I know. It’s nice to see you back, actually. Maybe now you can handle some of the crap on your desk.” She then turns around, walking away, as he looks at her confused and intrigued. It didn’t take long for him to reach his office, making his way inside and sitting down. In doing so, the stack of papers immediately caught his attention as he picked up a couple to read them over.

“Are you kidding me?” Kelley glances in the doorway, simply smiling in return.

“You said you were ready to be back in the fold. Welcome back!” She then walks away as he lets out a sigh.

He couldn’t try and push it off, nor argue what was happening. Besides, it was nice to be back. So as he picked up the first piece of paper, reading it over, followed by a signature, there was a smile on his face.

Who knew paperwork could be so fun some days?

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

Dale returns home that night, instantly smiling as he is greeted at the door by a pair of arms wrapped around his legs, glancing up at him with a bigger smile than he could muster.

“You’re home!!” Alyssa lets out as he picks her up into his arms.

“Did you miss me?” He questions and she nods her head. Perhaps she had become spoiled in having her parents both home everyday over the past couple months. “I missed you, too.”

“Mommy say you need lots of work.” Dale nods his head, knowing that Marie was certainly right in those words as it seemed that stack of papers would never end.

“Yes, there was lots of work to do today. But what matters is I got it all done and I’m home, ready for dinner with you, followed by some play time.” She immediately throws both arms up in the air, excited for their evening to come together.

“Yay!” He then gives her a kiss, before putting her down, as she takes off to the kitchen to tell her mom.

“Dada….” He hears and feels his heart swell even more, as he notices the waddling little girl making her way out of the kitchen. Now eight months, Elsa was beginning to walk, taking a couple steps at a time, before sitting down, and trying once again. It was actually unbelievable to see how quickly she was growing up. It felt just like yesterday that she was born.

“Hey princess,” he says as she finally reaches him, kneeling down to her level and wrapping his arms around her.

“Dada….” He smiles as he looks into her eyes, which matched his sparking blues in every which way imaginable.

“Have you been a good girl today for Mama?” He watches as she looks towards the kitchen, before sitting down in the hall.

“Mama….” He took that response as a yes, as he let out a chuckle.

“I think we should both go see Mama together.” He then scoops her up in his arms, carrying her to the kitchen. He freezes immediately as he reaches the doorway, taking the sweet smells. “Holy moly, that smells amazing…..”

“I’m glad,” Marie replies as she walks over, giving him a quick kiss, followed by one for Elsa. “Hopefully it tastes just as good.” Dale smiles as he watches her walk back over to the stove.

“Your cooking is never short of amazing,” he compliments her as she just smiles. “I see you have two perfect angels today.”

“Angels? That’s so funny….” She then turns around to face him. “That one there in your hands is becoming quite the little handful. It seems she can reach new heights now, and that means trying to get her hands on whatever she can. Don’t ever take your eye off of her as she at one point was trying to eat Gus’ food, followed by a remote, followed by grabbing a ball she’s not allowed, and then she reached up for some paperwork. Do you realize that I have to send something with teeth marks in it now?” Dale chuckles, remembering some of those previous experiences when Alyssa was smaller.

“She just wanted to add her own precious touch.” Dale then tickles Elsa’s belly, causing her to let out a big laugh in his arms. “This little girl being bad? I could never see that….”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. In some ways, she’s finding more things than Alyssa ever did.” He then looks at Elsa surprised.

“Elsa took my homework and chewed it!” Alyssa states as she holds up a piece of paper.

“See what I mean?” Marie questions as Dale just shakes his head.

“I guess she didn’t like math, huh?” Dale asks and Alyssa shakes her head no. “But do you like math?” IT was just learning how to count, and beginning to add one and one together, but it was a start.

“I love it!” Alyssa lets out, followed by grabbing a book out of her bag. “And my book, too. We reading about turtles!” Dale looks it over, impressed, before handing it back to her.

“Guess we’re reading that before bed now?” She nods her head. “Okay!”

“Look at us…” Marie lets out as she leans back against the counter. “Two beautiful budding little girls, focused on every little cranny of their lives. Could you have pictured this?” Dale smiles as he shakes his head no, remembering their starting times together.

“I’m just glad that I have the opportunity to raise a family with you,” Dale tells her, giving her a kiss on the cheek, as she nods her head, accepting. “I’ll never forget….”

“Me neither….” He then takes a calming deep breath, as he looks back to the little girl in his arms.

“I’m going to go get this one cleaned up – including that stinky in her diaper, so we’re ready for dinner.” Marie nods her head accepting, smiling as she watches Dale leave the kitchen.

They both knew that a day couldn’t pass by without them saying thank you a couple times.

Moving Forward – Chapter 45: The Bet

TJ switches the light off, sitting back on his stool.

He watches as Dale walks around the room, taking steps in all different directions as he reads different signs, and cites different things. TJ’s eyes fall to the feet on the floor, watching for any tipsy movement or misplacement that leads to an almost trip. However, everything comes with ease around the entire room for a span of 10 minutes, before Dale makes his way over to the switch and hits it.

“$20 please?” Dale questions as he looks over at TJ, who sits there stunned.

“I’ll gladly give you that $20 because I am so damn happy that you are making such great progress,” TJ answers as he reaches into his pocket and places a bill on the bench. “Honestly, it warms my heart to see that. I mean, I admit – I was really worried there for awhile bud. But to see you do that, and not one slip up, that was amazing.” Dale smiles as he walks back over, sitting beside him.

“My goal all along was to go through these exercises and keep getting better just so that way I could walk down that aisle in January and be happy, seeing life straight as I married her. Now, I’m ready to go back to racing with the test at Darlington, and ready for the upcoming season.” TJ smiles as it was great to hear positivity, rather than being served and scared of the future.

“What about nerves?” Dale knew that was a topic as he glances outwards into the room.

“They’re there, for sure. I mean, there’s always the question of whether you’re exactly who you are and where you need to be to win races. Certainly walking into Darlington I’ll feel that. But I’m confident, and I’m happy.” TJ just kept smiling as it all sounded great.

“So, this wedding in January. I know you have this book of official announcement crap for after the wedding – but what about the wedding? We’re doing it here on the property but traditional or not?” Dale knew the question was going to be asked, having heard it already from a few people.

“Standard, typical wedding procedure is all that you need to know.” TJ shakes his head, easily accepting. He was worried there’d be something strange popping up due to this king-queen business.

“So you just need to know that book stuff for when you go back to Pitronia and announce?” Dale shakes his head yes. “And what about her name? Is she officially becoming Marie Earnhardt, which by the way sounds nice?” Dale knew how it rang together, having sung it a couple times in his mind as he counted down the days till January.

“Queen Marie-Anne Belle Kastona Earnhardt. There is no dropping names in the traditional sense.” TJ looked over perplexed, knowing he was missing something. “But she did drop Calantay to remove any trace of her father from herself, and future generations.”

“Say the name again, please.” Dale rolls his eyes.

“Queen Marie-Anne Belle Kastona Earnhardt.” TJ just shakes his head as he glances towards the glass on the counter.

“How the hell do you remember that?” Dale smiles as he looks at his best friend.

“Marie-Ann is her full name. Belle was her middle name off of her cousin. Kastona was her mother’s last name. It’s very easy.” TJ shook his head as he thought it over.

“And you, sir, would be King Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr.?” Dale looks away as he thinks it over. There was a bit more than that.

“While for the sake of my life here, I will not be taking the name, I will officially have the Kastona name in the Pitronia records.” TJ then looks over, confused. “Country tradition, buddy. That’s just how it goes, and I respect their wishes.”

“So that means that Alyssa becomes prince-”

“She’s already princess, being Marie’s daughter. So therefore she’s Princess Alyssa Kastona Earnhardt, with her future husband to add his last name to the end.” TJ then glances up, thinking it over with a smile.

“So that’d be Alysssa Kastona Earnhardt Gordo-”

“Hey now, what did I say about that?” TJ laughs, remembering how Dale had wanted to avoid the thought of his daughter dating, and any prediction that Leo and Alyssa would get together.

“So then it should be Alyssa Kastona Earnhardt Har-”

“TJ Majors!” Dale then gives him a punch as TJ immediately looks over, surprised, rubbing his arm.

“Ouch!”

“Well then damn well listen to me. I told you – my girl ain’t dating no boy, nor getting married, nor any hokey pokey.” TJ laughs as he watches Dale walk away from him.

“You keep telling yourself that but it’s going to happen. I tried the same with Madeline and she kissed a boy in school.” Dale then spins around shocked.

“Grade 2 and kissing?” TJ shakes his head yes. “Holy shit.”

“That was my reaction, before wanting to call the school and demand an answer.” Dale shakes his head.

“I’m going to need those guards sooner than I originally thought.” TJ then laughs as he follows Dale up the stairs.

“So how about Elsa then?” Dale then looks over at TJ.

“She’s only 11 months….”

“Elsa Kastona Earnhardt Busch marries Brexton Kastona Earnhardt Busch, or just Brexton Earnhardt Busch?” Dale rolls his eyes.

“You had the name placement right first, and that’s no way ever happening. Do you want a cause a riot amongst the fans?” TJ thinks it over as he smiles widely.

“Can we please, please, please prank them?” Dale just rolls his eyes again. “Is that a no?”

“Keep it up, TJ. I’ll be sure to send the boys to your house to pick up Madeline for a date.” TJ’s smile immediately disappears as Dale looks back with a grin. “Two can play this game, buddy.”

“And to think you guys have gone from drunken stumbers and stupid antics with video games, to setting each other’s kids up with boys,” they hear and glance towards the kitchen, seeing Kelley standing there beside Marie. “My oh my how times have changed.”

“Hey Kelley, is Wyatt available for a playdate?” Dale questions with a glance at TJ, who immediately returns it with a death stare.

“Oh there is no way you boys are getting me involved in your antics.”

“It’d be no surprise to see them officially be related though,” Marie comments as Kelley glances over at her.

“Don’t encourage them,” Kelley states. “They got enough ideas of their own. They don’t need our help. They need us to keep them out of trouble.”

“Yeah, that’s impossible with this guy,” TJ says as he points to Dale. “Hence why you’re still involved in his life because there’s no way he can avoid it.”

“Listen here Mr. Innocent, you’ve done your fair share too,” Dale replies as Marie shakes her head.

“I’ll tell you all about their antics later,” Kelley whispers as Marie smiles. She knew there was some good stories to be told.

Moving Forward – Chapter 39: Her Worries

Even with the process in place for Dale, it didn’t leave Marie off the hook. She still had to take care of the usual country responsibilities, as well as finalize details surrounding the wedding.

It was why that afternoon she was in the church at the back of the property finalizing wedding decorations and the male plan with some of her girls.

“Marie, what about this?” Stacey questions as she glances through the book they were given by the decorating company. It contained different flowers, among other things, and now the girls were trying to find the perfect blue flower to go with everything. “Marie?”

“Huh?” She then looks over at the book, glancing over the shade of blue that it was as she thought about everything else chosen, including her dress. “Yeah, that’ll work actually.”

“Am I wrong by saying you’re distracted today?” Marie couldn’t deny that as she just wanted to run back to the house and hold him close in her arms.

“Listen, I’m fine…honestly.” Stacey then raises her eyesbrows curiously at her.

“I know when something is off, Marie-Ann. You can’t lie to me.” Marie lets out a sigh as she stands up and walks away from Stacey.

“Alright, so there’s something on my mind. Can we just not talk about it and focus on what we need to do today?” Kelley glances over from her spot, intrigued by Marie’s reaction.

“Does this deal with Dale at all?” She wonders, the instinctive protective sister coming out, as Marie returns her gaze. “So I am right.”

“Is it wrong that I’m worried about him?” She questions. “Is it wrong that he’s all I can think about? Is it wrong that I’m wishing I could be there by his side every single moment, with my arms wrapped around him? Is it wrong that I’m worried things aren’t going to work out? I know the doctor keeps saying it’ll be fine, but what if it’s not? He doesn’t deserve this after everything. He doesn’t deserve it after what he’s been through, espically due to me.” She then glances down as she lets out a sigh, not wanting to be so direct with her words.

“Marie, it wasn’t your fau-” Stacey starts.

“It was my family though who caused the pain – Mariela and my sperm donor,” Marie spits back, unable to call her father a father after everything. “I brought those people into his life. I put him at their mercy by not handling them myself first. I went about falling in love, when I knew that’d put them at their mercy due to no acceptance. That’s why I blame myself at times, Stacey. Sure, you can say that it wasn’t my fault nor did I cause the pain directly, but that’s the connection. Same with Chase, and even the thoughts that Rega-”

“Marie, you can’t keep doing this to yourself,” Kelley cuts her off. “I get where you’re coming from. However, it’s still not your fault with that said. It’s their fault – Mariela and your father – for not accepting your wishes, and letting you live your life. And he will make it through this, one way or another. It may take some time, it may be painful, but he’ll be fine. And if for some reason it doesn’t work out as well as you want, there will be a way that it’ll still be fine.”

“And as far as worrying your heart out about him, that’s alright also,” Stacey continues. “That just means that you truly love him, and am truly meant to be with him. That just proves right there we’re standing here for the right reasons.” Marie couldn’t help but smile as the advice may have been small, it was starting to have an effect on her. She knew she was blessed to have Stacey in her life from childhood, and have Kelley as someone to speak to as Dale’s sister.

“What about postponing the wedding if it’s too much right now?” Sherry suggests as she glances up from the book she was viewing. Marie immediately shakes her head no as she sits back down between Stacey and Sherry.

“I suggested that to Dale already – twice, and he told me there was no way he was waiting any longer to marry me,” Marie answers as Kelley couldn’t help but be surprised; she never expected her brother to be so set on marriage. However, it certainly made her feel good to see the feeling was mutual between them.

“Well, what about you let us girls handle the plans and you go focus on that man of yours? I mean, you trust us that we will decide the right decorations, food, place setting and everything. We know your tastes and the general idea that you’re looking for. We also know who shouldn’t be sitting beside who, and who should be with who from our various encounters. That way your heart is not going crazy right now like it is.” Marie thought about it, though shook her head no again. She knew that wouldn’t work, either.

“Besides the fact that Dale isn’t supposed to worry about anything and just focus on himself and the kids, the rest of the world around him isn’t supposed to change. Mickey said keeping the regular behavior that’s there will help – from Alyssa going to school, Elsa’s daycare schedule, and my own. If I was to screw this wedding planning, that’d mess up the schedule and perhaps throw in some worries we don’t need.” She then takes a deep breath as she picks a book up. “I can do this girls, don’t worry. There may be some tough moments, but I can do this. We will get the planning done, amongst my thoughts, and everything will be perfect for January.”