The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 75: KC Masterpiece 400

Saturday, May 12 – Kansas Speedway

Sarina could only shake her head as she sat on the pit box, seeing the performance that Chase, Alan, and the guys were putting together. It seemed no matter what adjustment Alan went with, it wasn’t improving the handling of the No. 9 car like Chase would’ve hoped, leaving them stuck in running in the teens, barely on the lead lap, all night.

When it came to the final 10 laps and Alan made the strategy call to stay out for track position and Sarina saw he was restarting fifth, she just crossed her fingers – hoping they’d make something out of the crappy night. Instead, the fade began immediately, and after being blocked in by Ricky on the last lap, that sealed his fate for a 12th-place finish.

“Ugh….” was all Sarina could say as she shook her head in disgust watching. She was hoping he would’ve at least had a decent finish to go along with her win.

“Oh boy,” she then hears Alan say, catching her attention as he points to the monitor. That was when she saw Chase make contact with Ricky’s back bumper on the cool down lap.

“I don’t blame him actually,” she comments and the crew chief simply nods his head in agreement. She knew if it was her and someone slid up across her nose like Ricky did on the last lap, they would’ve been seeing what the grass was like in the infield.

“I don’t either, but he’s an idiot as you can tell.” Sarina nodded her head in agreement, now feeling her own anger boil over a little in watching Ricky run into the side of the 9 car.

“What a jackass!” She then climbs down the steps, ready for a long quiet ride home.

She makes her way out to pit road, expecting for Chase to climb out, the usual post-race debrief, thoughts of a positive future, and for them to head out and leave this weekend behind. Instead, she was admittedly taken back when she watched him quickly climb out and make his way down pit road to where Ricky was.

“What was that?” Chase questions as he catches Ricky’s attention.

“I got loose off the corner,” Ricky answers. “I was clear – simple as that. You didn’t need to wreck me after the flag.” Chase could almost laugh in his face in response to that based on the contact.

“Oh really? What do you call slamming me in the door? Don’t do it again, or you’re going for a ride….”

Chase then turns and walks away, done with the conversation, considering it wasn’t getting through to Ricky from what he could tell anyway.

“What are your thoughts on the night?” A reporter asks as he makes his way back to the No. 9 Chevrolet and his team.

“Just scratching and clawing to run mediocre,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.” He then walks over to where Alan is standing, catching the crew chief’s eyes. “We have a lot of work to do. No matter what you did tonight, we got nowhere. Some adjustments made it a little bit, but it was nowhere near close. I don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s not working man.”

“I know,” Alan replies as he crosses his arms back in response. “I know. We’re all working as hard as we can to figure out what we need to do to get better. We’ll get ther-”

“We’re further off now than we were a month ago. That should say something, right?” Chase then walks away without another word, not even caring whether Sarina or anybody was with him.

“He’s frustrated…” Alan takes a deep breath. “But he is right. We absolutely stunk tonight.” Sarina didn’t want to make too much light of the situation, but there was one bright side.

“You ran better than Jimmie, though….”  Alan rolls his eyes back in response. “You know as well as I do that all of that frustration isn’t from tonight, either.”

“I know…” Alan glances over at Sarina. “That’s why I didn’t snap back at him in return. That’s why I just let it go. He’s right to a degree, though, but we’ll figure it out. You go take care of him, and I’ll get my ass to work.”

Sarina makes her way into the motorcoach, taking a deep breath as she sees the pedal car by the door. They had so much fun that morning with Brexton, letting him play on it, share laughs together. Now that seemed like a mile away.

She quietly makes sure that she has everything together, knowing that he wouldn’t want to stick around after the night he had. She could hear the shower and almost wanted to go and offer comfort right away, be there as Alan said to take care of him, but instead sat down on the couch, pulling out her phone.

“Are you ready to go?” She hears about 10 minutes later. She could see by wet shaggy hair that he had gotten himself a shower. Her eyes immediately drew to the backpack that he was wearing, with everything as needed as packed, as predicted.

“Yeah,” she replies as she puts her phone in her pocket. “If you’re ready to get out of her-”

“Let’s go…” She quietly stands up, walking out of the motorcoach behind him, only glancing back to shut and lock the door. Her eyes keep on him as they make their way to the rental car, ready for the short trek to the airport.

While other times they’d hold hands or share details on the night, it was pure silence and lack of touch the whole walk. Even the drive over to the airport didn’t contain a single drop of discussion.

They got out of the rental car and she took the keys back into the place as he made his way to the plane, beginning to go through his own little checklist before take-off. It wasn’t long before she had joined him, standing back, letting him do his thing.

“Any issues taking the keys back?” He questions and she shakes her head no. “Alright. Well, it’s ready to go…”

“Okay,” she replies, before reaching out for his hand. “Hey, I love you….” He then glances back into her eyes, giving her a simple nod in return. “I know tonight was frustrating as shi-”

“Let’s just not talk about it, please?” She then lets out a long sigh, but nods her head in return.

“As long as you’re ready to go and in the right frame of mind, then alright…” He knew of her dangers of flying, and even in a pissed off state, he wasn’t about to jeopardize things for her.

“If I wasn’t, I would let you know immediately. I would never fly myself if I didn’t feel I could concentrate fully and let everything else go. That’s why I didn’t fly after we left the court room, remember?” She nods her head back in response. “We’ll be fine…”

Like everything else to that point, the flight was just as quiet as the walk back to the motorcoach, and the trip over to the airport. Though it had done the trick that was warranted. The quietness, serenity, focusing on something else, had given Chase the time to put everything in perspective.

It wasn’t the night he wanted on track. He didn’t want to have to deal with the haunting thoughts of Alison. He didn’t want to have to deal with what came in the future for her. There was the factor of Sarina’s infidelity.

Though, no matter what, things could be worse, and they would find their way through, somehow.

It wasn’t long before they were landed in Charlotte, key turned off, ready to get out and head home as per any other race day.

“You know some people run, or paint, or workout to make themselves feel better?” He starts, catching Sarina’s attention. “Everybody has something that helps them relax and forget for awhile. For you, I know that’s just purely racing once again – am I right?” She slowly nods her head yes. “Flying is that for me. When I’m in the air focused on what I need to be doing, admiring the view, it relaxes me. It allows me to think about everything and figure out what is bugging me the most.” He then reaches over, placing his hand on hers. “I’m sorry for how I acted earlier, by the way. I was a total jackass.”

“Chase, I understand,” she starts. “I’m the same way when I have a bad day. Okay, maybe you took it to the extreme, but I’ve done the same thing. We’ll both highly competitive people. That’s all that was coming out. Oh, and Ricky deserved it anyway.”

“I would’ve told him off more but I was worried that I would smack him with how I was feeling.” She actually wanted to smile as it would’ve nice to see that for those who questioned his passion. “It was more than just tonight, though. This whole month has been driving me crazy. I want to forget Alison, and not remember a single thing that she said, but that’s all I can think about…”

“She’s locked away, Chase. She can’t hurt you again.” He wanted to believe that, but a look into Sarina’s eyes said otherwise.

“She’s still coming between us. I know the baby is a touchy subjec-”

“Whether she’s pregnant with your kid, or not, it doesn’t change anything, though. I will love you, care about you, an want to be with you no matter what comes of that because I know it wasn’t your doing on purp-”

“I accepted the dea-”

“She put you in a box based on your vulnerability, and that’s using someone, and that’s unfair and not your fault. I’m not one bit mad at you, okay? And no matter what happens, I’ve come to grips with it. We’ll deal with it.” He nods his head, accepting, as he glances down at her hands together.

“I just wish I could forget the feeling. It’s just every time you reach out to me, I remember her against me…” He then closes his eyes, taking a shaky deep breath. “I remember how I felt in her body against mine, her lips attacking mine, her hand touching me, the motions. I know in my heart it didn’t mean anything. I know in my brain that reasoning says it doesn’t mean anything. But I can’t stop myself from shivering at the thought of you touching me and that instant flashback.”

“It’s going to take time, Chase. It’s instant reflex. It’ll take time but you’ll convince yourself, and whatever part of it that it needs to be convinced that things are okay, and we’re okay, and we can do that. And Chase, I’m willing to be patient. You’re worth every single second that I have to wait.” She then leans in, lightly brushing her lips against his. “She messed with you for months. You don’t just forget that overnight.”

“Thank you…” She smiles a little, before giving him another little kiss. “I love you.”

“I’ll always love you, Clyde. You’re stuck with me, whether you like it or not.”

Wednesday, May 16 – Catwalk for a Cause

Sarina looks at herself in the mirror once again, twirling around as she tries to look at herself at the same time.

“I hope it’s okay,” she tells herself as she glances at the necklace.

“Oh wow….” she hears and instantly freezes as she recognized the voice immediately – Sherry Pollex. It was Sherry that had picked out the dress for her to wear from the boutique since she couldn’t make it over to go through some of the selections, and it was her event.

“Is that a good wow?” The person simply laughs in response as she walks over, fixing Sarina’s hair.

“That’s an absolutely amazing wow, sweetheart. My oh my, I must say that I was right about this dress. It is absolutely beautiful on you, Sarina. The guys aren’t going to know what hit them tonight. They’re going to be like, ‘Are you sure that’s the same girl that kicked our ass Friday?’” Sarina chuckles in response as she glances back towards the necklace.

“I don’t wear jewelry much, but the little girl that you have me walking with – Jessica – she told me that I should wear a necklace tonight. I let her pick one out and she chose this.” Sherry takes a closer look, immediately smiling.

“It’s perfect. I’m glad that you were able to come tonight, by the way. When I mentioned to her that you would be her fashion partner, she was over the moon excited.” Sarina smiles as she glances over, seeing Jessica playing with some of the other kids.

“I am honored that you asked me to come, actually. I mean, what you and Martin have done here is absolutely amazing. Raising money for children’s cancer while featuring the kids – it’s perfect.” Sherry smiles as she wraps an arm around Sarina’s shoulders.

“I could’ve never imagined it’d grow this big though…” Sarina glances over at her with a smile.

“That’s because you’re amazing, inspiring, strong, beautiful – and did I mention inspiring?” Sherry just smiles back in response.

“Just make sure to have fun tonight, okay?” Sarina nods her head in response.

She then watches as the show begins with introductions, followed by the first set of drivers heading down the walkway together. She had to chuckle at Kyle and Samantha with their warrior as Kyle’s dance moves were certainly on point tonight.

“Think we can do better than my boss?” She asks Jessica, who simply nods her head back in return.

They then take their turn down the catwalk together, doing the Soulja Boy dance once they had reached the end. They then spin around and head back, smiles affixed on their face. She even managed to kick it up a notch the second trip down, mastering the Hoedown Throwdown, which Jessica had picked in being a big Hanna Montana fan.

“Look like you have some dancing competition,” Aric Almirola comments to Kyle as he gives Sarina a high-five as she walks by.

“Where do you think she learned her dance moves from? Her boss of course!” Kyle replies as Sarina just laughs in response.

“But yet who out-danced you at the Christmas party?” She asks back as Kyle lets out a sigh. “It’s okay to admit defeat, Kyle…”

“And that’s why you’re both wrapping up the show together,” Martin states as he points towards the catwalk. Their separate walks down with their stars had caught everyone’s attention that they wanted a return trip. “We need someone to do something while we get all the kids together….”

“We got this, don’t we?” Kyle replies and Sarina nods her head in response. “I got the song…”

Sarina could only worry about the song that he had told the DJ to play, though instantly relaxed as they headed together.

“Teach me how to dougie…” She sang along as she did the dance, even a little more stylish than Kyle to his surprise. “You’re welcome….”

They all then stand back and smile in watching all the kids together with Sherry and Martin on the stage.

Once sharing some thoughts around, everybody separated and headed their own ways, set to get ready for the after-party which Cole Swindell had offered to perform a couple extra songs at.

“You got one up on me tonight,” Kyle comments as she smiles back in response. “I was surprised.”

“I’m certainly not surprised,” Sarina hears and instantly smiles in immediately as her eyes catch a pair of brown ones staring right back at her.

“Well how nice of you to join us Mr. Elliott,” she replies back in response, giving him a kiss immediately. Chase had been gone all-day, traveling up to Michigan to travel the Air Force base as part of a promotion with Michigan International Speedway. He told her that he would try to get back to see her on stage, and the whole show in general, but wasn’t sure if he’d make it.

“I got here just as you were heading out for the first trip down the runaway. I don’t know what was better – souja boy or hoedown throwdown. But I will say the dougie took the cake at the end.” He then twirls her around. “And you look absolutely stunning as always.”

“Got any moves of your own?” Kyle questions as Sarina chuckles back in response. “Oh so he does? He’s been holding out on us?”

“This white boy can’t dance,” Chase answers as Sarina now chuckles even louder.

“Your girlfriend’s response says otherwise.” Sarina just gives him a wink, as Samantha wraps an arm around Kyle.

“Come on; let’s leave the love birds alone,” Samantha says as she tugs Kyle away from them. “Sarina sees enough of you at work…”

“I think you should’ve busted a move for him,” Sarina comments as Chase shakes his head no. “Oh, but you do know how to dance. What do you call that line dancing boy?”

“What happens on vacation remains our secret,” he replies, as he snags another kiss. “Besides, you can’t tell all of my secrets or we’d have none.”

“I’m glad you’re here…” She then takes him by the hand, and the pair head to the after party, mingling with everyone and sharing jokes.

Sarina even caught herself looking over at him a couple times, smiling, as it was nice to see this side and getting back to the fun they were used to after everything that happened. She also didn’t complain one bit when he pulled her close, wrapping both arms around her, and swaying with her as Cole Swindell performed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 184: “I see you’re sporting some new jewelry…”

Tuesday, December 6 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

Although it had been a rough weekend on her own account down in Florida, a smile was on her face.

She stood back, admiring the trophy sitting on the back of Kyle’s late model from the Snowball Derby, daydreaming of her own moment down the road.

Her heart was also filled with memories from the past 10 days with Lindsay, with both girls promising that they’d see each other in person at least once a month, while taking on the phone – via voice or text – once a day. There was a renewed hope in seeing the amazement of reconnection.

Though the fondest memories of the weekend took her back to the beach. Closing her eyes, tracing her fingers around the snowball hung from her neck, the smile began even larger. Between the meal they shared, to the sweet flirting, topped off with emotional discussion. It was nice to reconnect to those times before, and build that understanding. As she pictured them reading the notes together, sharing every thought, she knew she was blessed because their trust was at an all-time high.

“Sarina?” A voice catches her attention, causing her eyes to open immediately as she looks towards the source. For a moment, she had forgotten that she was standing there in the middle of the shop. “Are you okay?”

“Things couldn’t be better if I tried, Kyle,” she offers, smile still firmly planted there as he walks over. “Everything is just beyond perfect. I have my best friend in the whole world back, and it’s like we didn’t even lose a minute. But I also have the sweetest boyfriend in the world, ever. I can’t even begin to describe him, how much I love him, and how much I trust him. I could never tell anybody how I really felt – but yet with him, it just pours out unexpectedly.” Kyle couldn’t help but be happy for her, knowing that Chase was a great guy, as his eyes catch a bit of a shine from her fingers.

“I see you’re sporting some new jewelry…” She nods her head, releasing her hand from the ball that she held in her hand, letting it fall to its proper spot around her neck.

“Chase gave it to me Saturday night before our anniversary. The snowball is really where we kicked our relationship into high gear. Before then, we were just good friends, with him trying to peel back my layers but I being so scared to even dare to accept that. When we were down in Florida, I accepted the offer to drive for him, and finally let him see how I truly felt. It kicked started a winter of us growing closer together, and the start of everything else…” Her voice trails off as her mind flashes back to the plane crash. If only she would’ve handled that differently.

“Sarina?” She takes a deep breath, looking back over at Kyle. “You spaced out again…”

“I was just thinking. If I would’ve said one thing – the truth, we wouldn’t had ended up where we did eventually. We could’ve ended everything when it started, and not had our big fight.” Kyle had heard a few details about that experience, but knew enough to see where she was coming from.

“You were afraid, worried, scared, upset, and tormented in your thoughts. Chase forgave you for those reasons, and rightfully so. You can’t dwell and focus on that. Focus on the future. Look at what you’ve guys have done together. Look at the love and adoration that you share.” She smiles, nodding her head. “And by the way, the necklace looks good on you.”

“It would’ve looked better if I was standing in victory lane wearing it with a trophy.” He chuckles, glancing over to where the trophy sat right now.

“I actually prefer where it is right now. But, I know that I am going to have to deal with you for years to come down there, and I know you’ll probably steal some from me.” She laughs, nodding her head. She hoped that played out right.

“We may also both have to deal with Chase. It seems sending him down there, and then hanging out with Ricky all weekend without a car bugged him. He said he wasn’t letting that happen again.” Kyle had to smile, knowing that was something right out of his own book.

“As much as I don’t mind him, and actually appreciate him because of how happy he makes you, you know that we can’t be letting him and Ricky steal the glory, right?” She chuckles, nodding her head.

“I told him that I wouldn’t make it easy on him. Besides, I know all of Ricky’s tricks.”

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

Tuesday, December 6 – Clutch Studios North Carolina

With having arrived on the set early, Chase retreated to a spot, opening the scrapbook to where he had left off yesterday.

Since receiving the book, he had been taking time to read a couple pages at a time, opening the envelope on each of her notes, cherishing her confessions about that time. He found himself chuckling at some of the photos, and surprised to see others included in the project. He had found out from her that it took awhile to get everything together, including having to ask his parents, Ricky and the crew for some of them.

He shivers a little as his eyes immediately lie on the image of the crashed plane. He remembered that day – they were flying to Speedfest, which was supposed to be her first official race as a driver for Chase Elliott Motorsports. Taking a deep breath, he immediately shakes every ill feeling he could manage – but unable to do so. The envelope laid there, daunting as ever, as he knew it held emotions beyond those comprehendible.

“Maybe I should do this one later,” he thought to himself as he reached to turn the page.

However, his hand never reached the bottom corner to turn it – but instead resting on top of the blue envelope. Taking a deep breath, he opens it slowly, noticing the piece of paper immediately. He carefully slips it out, unfolding it, following his breathing pattern.

His eyes glanced up, making sure that everyone was still busy getting things ready, before turning them back down to the page.

“I remember waking up in the plane after it crashed. All I could feel was pain – everywhere. There was so much pain that I couldn’t believe it at first. You know that I don’t say thank you that much, but I thanked God that day more times than I could count. I also swore that I would never fly again – so much for that promise, huh?

“My eyes finally glanced over to you. I didn’t want to look at first, fearing the worst, but I knew that I had to. I mean, what if you needed my help? What if I hadn’t helped you? That was a regret that I could never carry, considering how sweet you are always for me. The moment I looked over, saw your chest rise and fall, I breathed a sigh of relief – you were breathing, no blood, and it looked calm. I could deal with that until help arrived.

“I then was set to begin on getting some help, because frankly we couldn’t stay there all day. But, I’d never sat upfront in an airplane. I didn’t know anything, from the difference between those switches or how to control the radios. Truthfully, it’s insane how easily you can make it work. I applaud you because I don’t think I’d ever be able to remember all of that and do it so smoothly like you do every time. I thank you for that, though, because it makes my fear a little easier to handle.”

“Chase?” A voice interrupts his attention span and he immediately closes the book without a single thought, before looking up. “We’re ready for you.”

“Perfect,” he answers, slipping the piece of paper back inside the envelope carefully.

“What’s that?” He understood Morgan’s curiosity, but rather not share it with anyone. He knew that Sarina made it especially for him, with confessions nobody should know.

“It’s a scrapbook that Sarina made for me for my birthday. It includes a lot of our special moments together.” She then reaches to touch it, but he places his hand over hers. “I’d rather nobody else look inside, Morgan. This is between us. There are things in here that nobody should find out.”

“I understand. If you want, you can go take it out and throw it back in your truck so that way nobody glances by accident.” He nods his head, accepting. That certainly made him feel more comfortable.

After putting the book where it belonged, he came back inside, taking his spot before the screen. Just like the day before, he began to follow the series of poses as laid out by the staff. Some of them confused the heck out of him, but it was just part of the job and he knew they’d make sense later.

“These are looking amazing,” the one member comments after an hour of different photos. “You’re a natural.” Chase laughs, knowing that was far from the truth as he hated every single moment.

“Just trying to get this done as quickly and easily as possible,” he offers.

“Let me review them all and then you may be able to go home.” Chase accepts as he relaxes, glad to catch a break.

“Bathroom trip allowed?” He gets a nod in return as he heads off.

The photographer clicks through the photos, reviewing each of them to make sure everything was done accordingly per the specifications of what he needed.

“Can you go back one, please?” The photographer hears, looking over his shoulder surprised. But as soon as he saw the source, he followed the instruction as requested. “Damn….”

“Is that your favorite?” He asks and Sarina nods her head, taking out a small piece of paper. She wrote her e-mail on it, handing it to him. “Do you seriously want tha-”

“I’ll pay you, if you want, but yes I do.” The photographer smiles as he takes the slip of paper.

“No charge for you.” He makes a note on the piece of paper.

“He looks like he’s taking a crap in that,” Morgan offers as she looks at the image over their shoulders. “I mean, I get it once it goes on the advertisements, but it looks he’s crapping there by himself.” Sarina couldn’t help but chuckle as she focused on the detail that caused her to stop.

“Those eyes, though. You can see right into them, right into his soul, and every part that I love about him. They are eyes of charm, peace, determination, and love. They’re everything to me. All the photos may be perfect for what you need, but that is an image that gives you a glimpse to something you rarely are able to capture.”  Morgan looks back at the image, slightly confused, but captivated by Sarina’s reason, as she tries to see the same thing for herself.

“Do you see what she’s saying?” The photographer nods his head, glancing at Sarina.

“We mentioned her and asked about how Florida was to break the ice with it being a long day just before we shot that photo,” the photographer explains. “It explains why he’s filled with those feelings because we had her on his mind. Now when I need to get that perfect eye shot, I know what to do.” Sarina wasn’t quite sure if she agreed with the tactic for the future, but that didn’t matter – as long as she had the image as soon as possible. “When he comes back, you can tell him we’re done images for the day. I have everything they wanted. See you tomorrow for round three with Mountain Dew?”

Tuesday, December 6 – Whiskey River Charlotte

“Are you sure that I look okay?” Sarina asks as they get out of the car after parking.

“Absolutely,” Chase answers as he takes her hand with his own.

“I mean, when I saw this dress in the catalogue with Emma, I told her that it’d be perfect for winter gatherings. But now that I’m wearing it, I feel like I’m wearing an oversized sweater.” Chase takes another glance over her, shaking his head no.

“I think it looks great. I think it’s the perfect short black dress, with a winter shade of touch. Besides, laying on the thickness allows that lovely ball around your neck to shine even more.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that he was just trying to flatter her.

“And are you sure it’s perfect for this party?” He nods his head, remembering what Amy had said that about the dress code.

“That’s why I am dressed up a little…” She lets out a sigh as they reach the front door.

“I am just worried about someone saying something. I mean, you watch, the first person who sees me will say that I am just wearing a long swea-”

“Sarina, you look absolutely amazing. Every single person will tell you that tonight. But if they do say otherwise, I will kick their asses for you. Come on, let’s have some fun tonight…” She puts on a smile, knowing that she couldn’t worry about it any longer, entering with Chase close behind.

As expected, the night turned entertaining immediately as everybody knew when Dale threw a party, it was always top-shelf with everything that you’d expect. She found herself lost in Cole Swindell singing “Middle of a Memory,” relating to how she had held back originally from Chase. She then was right in the middle of the floor with her fellow girls, singing “Sweet Home Alabama” with Kid Rock as loud as she could.

“I bet you can’t stay on the bull for more than 20 seconds,” she hears Ryan say to Chase and immediately rolls her eyes. She knew how that was going to end up immediately.

“Have you ever rode a bull anyway?” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. asks and Chase shakes his head no.

“Oh please accept my bet then, because I am going to win…” Chase rolls his eyes as he begins to make his way over to where it was.

“Do you realize what you started?” Sarina asks Ryan, who just laughs in response as she hurries after him. “Chase!” He stops, turning around to face her. “Be careful.”

“I promise,” he offers, giving her a kiss. “Besides, it’s just a toy bull. What’s there to it?”

“This is going to be good,” Ryan comments, rubbing his hands together, as Sarina takes out her phone. If he was going to embarrass himself, she wanted proof.

https://twitter.com/NASCARonNBC/status/938821728503025665

To her surprise, he took it naturally and rode with ease, following the rhythm for longer than she anticipated, and Ryan had said to begin with. But like everybody else, he eventually fell off.

“What were you saying again, Mr. Blaney?” He offers as Ryan just rolls his eyes.

“Nice job,” Ryan admitted, as his eyes glance over towards Sarina. “You should try.”

“I’m wearing a dress, Ryan,” she states candidly as he crosses his arms.

“Excuses will get you nowhe-”

“Ryan, she’s wearing a dress and heels,” Chase cuts him off. “It’ll show off everything. We’re not doing that.” Ryan glances over her, thinking it over, smirk still firmly placed.

“That dress isn’t going to fly up,” he replies as Chase crosses his arms.

“You don’t know tha-”

“Look at the material and how it settles. Besides, she has something on underneath if it does. I think she’s just scar-”

“Rya-”

“Oh stop protecting her!” Sarina then moves between the pair, glancing between them.

“Will both of you shut up?” She asks. “I’ll do it. Besides, I have to beat Chase’s time.” She then gives Chase a wink as Chase looks over paranoid. She then walks over, slipping off the heels and smoothing out the dress one last time.

Like Chase, she started off strong, holding on tight with her right hand as her left hand raised in the air. She focused on the bull, focusing her mind on her torso, fighting against the twists as she tried to keep her center of gravity middle without a change. Thrown left, thrown right, she returned herself each time as they hit the minute and a half mark. As another 15 seconds past, the bull began more twisting, going quicker to the right than she anticipated, sending her off onto her head as she did a flip over.

She stands up, smoothing out the dress once again, thankful that nothing showed, before walking out of the circle. She sits down, putting her heels back on, as the boys look at her with shock.

“Just because a girl is in a dress doesn’t mean that she can’t hang with the boys,” she tells Ryan as she looks over his way. “I can kick your ass anytime.” She then stands up, going over to Chase, giving him a kiss on the cheek. “Maybe I can ride a different type of bull later…”

“I’d like that very much,” he replies with a smirk of his own before she walks off to go back to her girls.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 178: “Just hope you don’t vomit after going around in circles.”

Wednesday, November 29 – Wynn Las Vegas

After returning to the lobby dressed in his firesuit, Chase rejoined his fellow drivers, climbing inside a limo van. According to NASCAR, this was their ride to where the NASCAR Victory Lap would begin.

“I saw you saying goodbye to the girls,” Ryan comments, catching Chase’s attention as he glances over.

“Yeah, they’re off to Florida,” Chase replies. “I told her that she didn’t need to come back tomorrow night, but she kept insisting.” Ryan could only smile in response.

“She cares about you, man. She wants to be here to support you and celebrate the season. Take it as a compliment.” Chase knew that Ryan was right in his words, and he was glad. It was amazing to see how much things had grown since they met.

“Remember when I dragged your ass out to the track because I was afraid to talk to her?” Ryan laughs, remembering that.

“Aren’t you glad that I went down and sparked that conversation for you?” Chase nods his head, remembering how angry he was at first. But strangely, it worked out better than he could’ve expected. “Look, I’m glad that it worked out for you. I mean, you deserve it and she does too. I really can’t wait to see where you guys go from here.”

“I see the sky as the limit, to be honest. I mean, we both love each other so much, will do anything for each other, and truly trust each other.” He then glances out the window, taking a deep breath. He knew there was still one hitch in all of this, though. “I just hope that we don’t repeat the past events.”

“Chase, that’s not going to happen. Bethany and Chris are locked away for years, and out of your lives. Allison – she’s dealt with via a single piece of paper. You don’t have to worr-”

“What if something else pops up? I don’t think I can take her running away again, Ryan. I can’t describe how heartbroken and upset I was. it hurt me more than I realize to stand in front of her, cut her out of my life once, and then watch her run and turn her back on me. I can’t do that.” Ryan understood as he remembered the emotions, having helped them reconnect the second time.

“You guys were both young and there was so much going on. We’re not going to repeat those events, and Chase, even if you do, you both have learned. Like you said, you guys would do anything for each other and trust each other. If something happens, she knows that she can come to you this time.” Chase nods his head, accepting, believing Ryan’s words.

“Thank you.” They then stop as they pull up to where they’re getting out as a yawn escapes his lips.

“You can’t be tired…” Chase looks over at Ryan with a ‘really’ glance, which was met with a chuckle. “I thought you would’ve gotten enough sleep up on the rooftop.”

“You’d think, but I’m still feeling it.” Ryan wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders with a sly smile.

“Chase, let’s face it – you’re hungover. Just hope you don’t vomit after going around in circles.” Chase made a face as Ryan got out with a laugh, waving to the crowd as he headed to the tent where they were directed too.

Thankfully, things went smoothly as Chase went through the introductions with ease, and was able to do his donuts without anything escaping. Actually, it was better than smooth as the donuts were some of the best he had ever done, put together in perfect circles in the intersection. He also was able to avoid the motor issues and blown tires that seemed to plague his fellow competitors, shaking his head at some of the ridiculousness that ensued.

Once reaching the ‘official finish line,’ he took his walk up the make shift red carpet, taking his seat on the stage beside Ryan. Silently thinking to himself, he just hoped that the tell-all didn’t involve secrets that needed to remain hidden.

“Want a glass?” Ryan questions as Brad Keselowski was going around getting drinks for everyone. Chase shakes his head no, and Ryan could only chuckle back quietly in response. “Please tell me that you’re not done drinking over one night….”

“Probably not,” Chase confesses, before all focus turns forward with the questions starting to fly from Kim Coon and Rutledge Wood.

He had to chuckle at the thought of all the drivers being fine with Ryan babysitting their kids. Yes, Ryan was a great guy, but it was clear that they didn’t know some of his secrets. But still reaping for a nap, he kept himself quiet as he waited for the next shoe to drop.

He was then caught off-guard when Kyle confessed that he sucked at gift giving. How could he not even buy a gift for his own brother? That didn’t seem right based on things that he had learned through Sarina in how kind hearted the guy could be, combined with surprises for fans. Least he had Sam to keep him out of trouble.

He laughed as they teased Ryan about his hair – which he had to admit fit Ryan perfectly. He actually couldn’t imagine his friend without the long hair now as it just seemed to suit his style perfectly.

“You had some long hair for awhile there Chase,” Rutledge comments, catching his attention. “Any thought of bringing it back?”

“Maybe; we’ll have to see,” Chase replies with a smile. While it had grown a little frustrating to handle in the summer, from being out of control to sweaty, looking back he actually enjoyed it being a little longer than it was now. it looked pretty good, and how could he argue with Sarina loved to run her hands through the curls? Maybe that would be a good plan for 2018.

Obviously with attention paid on him, it was no surprise when Kim brought up things at Martinsville with him and Denny. He didn’t even bother to glance down towards Denny as Denny rambled on about how things weren’t his fault. He bit his tongue a little, remembering his own words – let the talking on track do the work, and just race him like he needs to be raced.

He felt caught off-guard when Denny mentioned how Phoenix would change the game moving forward – clearly, he hadn’t learned a single thing. letting out a sigh, next year was going to be interesting.

But he couldn’t consume his mind with Denny. If he did that, he wouldn’t focus on making the most of the time off, or making sure his own ducks were in a row for success next year. It was time to just focus on his team, and make sure they would come out of the gate swinging.

“Here’s one that the fans want to know,” he continued to listen to the hosts ramble off questions from the fans. “Who do you guys think will be the next Most Popular Driver?” Chase then froze a little as a series of fingers pointed towards him. it was one thing for the fans to say so on twitter, another for the media to imply that, but now his fellow peers?

“I think he could possibly beat his dad’s record,” Kyle comments out loud, catching Chase off-guard even more. Was this really happening? “How many does he got, anyway?”

“16.” It was easy to know the mark as his dad took pride in those awards, and everybody also seemed to remind him when they got a chance.

“How old are you?” Was this question really being asked? Kyle should know his age and what he was allowed, as he had heard the stories of last night.

“Legal….” Kyle chuckles a little in response. He should’ve expected a response like that in return.

“No, I need to know how old…” Chase was slightly confused, but figured he’d go along with it. Given Kyle’s behavior so far that day, sometimes playing nice and sometimes picking on them, he could only wonder where he was going with this.

“22.” He watches as Kyle quickly appears to be adding some numbers together, sitting there curiously.

“You got enough time.” Chase knew that he was probably right, putting the math together himself to equal being 38 if he won 16 straight awards. Maybe there was something to be said here.

“Really? That means a lot man coming from you…” Kyle glances back with a smile and a nod, and Chase could only smile back in response. It was clear that a good level of respect had grown amongst the pair over the year, with balancing the relationship.

“Man, if I was Dale, I would’ve ran at least one more year – if not two – to beat the record.” Chase could only chuckle as Kyle went back to his ways.

*********

Wednesday, November 29 – Pennscola, Florida

Sarina walks out to the infield of the track, joining the circle of drivers that had formed, with both crew chief Marcus Richmond and Lindsay standing over her shoulder.

“So how does this work?” Lindsay wonders as Sarina glances back.

“They call us up by the ordered we registered and we pull a number,” Sarina begins. “Whatever we pull is where we go out Friday night. Hopefully we draw a low number.” Lindsay looked at her a little confused. Normally, going out later in the session would be the key to setting the quick time – or at least that’s what she remembered from her days interested in racing. “Down here, you wanna go out early versus late because of the humidity in the air. It gets like dewy the later you go, making for a slick surface. Oh, and by the way, you’re drawing Kyle’s number.”

“What?” Lindsay thought she was just there to support her friend. Now she had to pull the qualifying draw number for one of the top contenders?

“No pressure,” Marcus comments, patting her shoulder with a smile. “Relax. Even if you pull some high number – like 50, he won’t be mad. It’s luck of the draw, right?” Lindsay nods her head, accepting, but couldn’t help but begin to feel the nerves.

“I can’t believe how many people are here,” Lindsay says as she watches the crowd gather. “This is just a qualifying draw, but yet there’s like 100s of people here.”

“That’s how big this event is,” Sarina explains. “People are invested in every single little thing about it. There’s 54 drivers here alone. This is the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 of short track racing. I want this as bad as I wanted to win a truck race this year.” Lindsay looks over surprised but is simply met back with a smile.

“So everybody here is like a top dog short track late model racer?” Both Sarina and Marcus nod their heads yes in return.

“I can point out 20 people quickly that have won either a big event or championship without thinking hard,” Sarina offers. “Take Bubba Pollard. He’s won every since big event around the country. But yet, in 14 tries, he has yet to win this race. He’s a favourite based on testing. You’ve also got the likes of Augie Grill, Jeff Choquette – both drivers have been racing for years. Fellow NASCAR up and coming drivers Chase Purdy, Brandon McReynolds, Harrison Burton – they’re all here, too. Chase wasn’t joking when he said this is the biggest race and it’s a who’s who field.” Lindsay shakes her head in disbelief as drivers begin to pull their numbers.

“I can’t believe you forgot your own teammate Cole Rouse,” Marcus muses as Sarina gives him a glance. “What? He has won some big events this year.”

“I’m pretty sure she’ll get to hear enough about Cole hanging with us.”

“Sarina Ott!” The announcer states, breaking up their conversation. Sarina walks over, taking a deep breath as she reaches her hand deep in the bag. She swirls her hand around, feeling the balls, finally pulling one out. She hands it over to the announcer, scared to look at it. “14.”

“Beautiful,” she comments as she walks back over, giving Marcus a high-five.

“Kyle Busch!” Sarina then spins around, facing the announcer.

“Kyle isn’t here due to his NASCAR commitments. My cousin Lindsay is going to pick on his behalf.” The announcer nods his head accepting as Lindsay walks up. She reaches her hand in the bag, picking the top ball, handing it over. “10 for Busch!”

“Hell yeah!” Sarina gives Lindsay a big hug, as they trade a round of high-fives with Marcus. “So far, so good. Now let’s just keep this rolling….”

*********

Wednesday, November 29 – The Chelsea

Dressed casual in a pair of jeans and t-shirt, Chase was ready to get in, follow his responsibilities, and get out of there. another yawn escaped his lips, and he knew that he was ready for bed. Besides, he wanted to spend some time talking to Sarina on the phone and didn’t want to go too late. He’d feel guilty if he kept her up with practice on the horizon.

He made his way to the Chevrolet VIP fan section, sharing hellos with the fans. He had to admit – some of them had some good stories to share, and the conversation wasn’t that bad after all. He went through a series of autographs and photos, before heading out, getting set for the next stop of the night.

He could only chuckle at the hilarity ensuing already on stage with Kyle sharing stories alongside Erik Jones. Strangely, as weird as some of those got, he could actually see them happening.

“Least we’re not the only ones that get people drunk off their ass,” Ricky comments as he walks over to Chase. Chase chuckles as he listens to Kyle recall a story from the last time he was in Vegas with Erik, having to save his ass after Erik was stumbling over, really drunk in a club. “Dude, you better be coming out tonight…..”

“Man, I don’t know,” Chase states as he lets out a sigh. He knew as soon as he said the words that he wasn’t going, he’d get a series of protesting from Ricky, and Ricky would probably get others on his case, too. But, he promised himself he’d stick to his guns. “You look like you’ve already been in the drinks.”

“I could go get you one…” Chase shakes his head no. “So you’re seriously not coming to party with us? Man, I thought you said you had a ball last night. You need to join us…”

“I’m still tired, and I want to call Sarina before it’s too la-”

“You could come see us afterwards, Chasey. You know your girl would want you to have fun.” He rolls his eyes, having expected this.

“Ricky, I’m fine. I’d rather have a quiet night..” Ricky then went to say something, but was pulled away as it was his turn to be on Ryan’s show. “Thank you…”

Chase relaxed back, listening to the fun ensuing on stage, almost bursting out laughing a couple times. Poor Ryan and Kim having to deal with drunken Ricky and drunken Brad at the same time. He had to wonder how Ryan was showing so much patience, and what was in Ryan’s glass based on that factor.

Taking a deep breath, it was finally his turn to make his way out to the stage, and have his turn on the show with Kyle Larson joining him. Hopefully it went smoothly as envisioned.

“Did you get your nap in?” Ryan asks as they sit down and Chase shakes his head no.

“No, I need one badly…” Chase answers and Ryan nods, knowing what that meant already for later. Letting out a sigh, he had hoped to have the whole gang united again.

Chase sat and listened as Kyle Larson talked about Owen and Santa, followed by a couple questions thrown his way from Kim. Thankfully, she kept it quick and simple without divulging too much.

“Alright, next round of guests…” Ryan states after 10 minutes of conversation, causing a shocked expression to form immediately on Chase’s face. He was called out here for just 10 minutes? He could’ve really caught up on sleep and relaxation otherwise.

“That’s it?” He questions, still surprised and Ryan nods his head. Ryan had wished to keep him longer, knowing the fun that could be had, but knew the regulations set in by both Kim and Chuck with everybody on tap to be on it.

“That’s it. Are you mad?” Chase shakes his head no, actually partly thankful. Maybe he could have that peaceful long night he desired.

“I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed.” Ryan gives him a ‘really’ glance, remembering the conversation from last night.

“That’s the worst thing you could say to me.” Chase knew that Ryan had caught the reference right away, and was playing right into his hand. But, he also knew that things were cool and it was just purely joking here.

“I’m sorry, man….” Chase could tell that Ryan was holding in a laugh as he sat there.

“Get off my show man!” Chase smiles back in response as he stands up, set to head off stage.

“I mean, I will. I was leaving anyway….” Ryan was about to say something in relation to the night, but instead simply let him walk off. While he wished he could have the full party group again for another night, he respected his friend’s decision to call it early.

Besides, he knew a good phone conversation with Sarina tonight would be the right ticket after their discussion earlier.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 177: “He’s going to kill us when he wakes up…”

Tuesday, November 28 – Caesar’s Palace

The shots went down one after another, as Chase knew that tomorrow was going to probably go on forever based on how he was feeling. Certainly, as predicted, the singing of tunes happened, as he joined in a couple rounds of songs with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

For being typically the sober one, Sarina had gotten into her fair share of drinks and it was showing. She could barely stand up straight in her boots, leaning on Lindsay for support.

“I’m going to take this girl back to the hotel,” Lindsay says partway through the night.

“I should come…” Chase says as he breaks free from his friends.

“No, you enjoy your birthday. I’ve got her. She wouldn’t want you to cut your night short for her. You only turn 22 once.” Part of him cared about Sarina too much to care, but the alcohol overcame the thought as he accepted the offer, giving her a kiss and letting the girls leave together.

“Are you up for a game of beer pong?” Ryan wonders as Chase shakes his head no, leaning back against the bar.

“I couldn’t throw the damn ball straight no matter what,” he answers as Ryan could only laugh.

“You are totally drunk….” Chase nods his head, knowing there was no denying that.

“You aren’t far behind me. Couple more, and I bet you won’t walk a straight line.” Ryan just smiles as he sips on his glass.

“You just enjoy your drink while I go kick Kyle’s ass at a game of beer pong – without your help. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. That’s so disappointing. Not even gonna help a brother out after all this birthday planning?” Chase lets out a sigh as he stands up.

“Alright, fine. I’m in for a game. Besides, we could totally take Ricky and Kyle.” Ryan smiles as he grabs the plastic cups, taking to the table that they had set up in the middle of the room.

Needless to say, it went as badly as Chase should’ve expected, balls missing glasses, and more liquid flowing down his throat. As they finished up, he knew the limit had hit him.

“I need a nap…” He lets out as he heads back to the bar, going behind and climbing in the corner.

“Chase?” Ryan asks as he follows, glancing behind and looking on surprise. “Well, we did give you lots….”

“Did he pass out?” Kyle Larson questions, catching Ryan’s attention. Ryan simply nods his head, yes. He wasn’t looking forward to taking him back to the hotel. “Damn.”

“I told you he wouldn’t make it,” Ricky comments as he joins the pair, grabbing another glass off of the bar. “Least he found somewhere comfortable first.”

“Please tell me one of you got photo evidence,” Austin chimes in as Ryan holds up his phone with a smile.

“Anybody willing to help me get him back to the hotel?” Ryan wonders, ready for his request to fall on deaf ears. He had the place to the morning, with the staff accepting that the gifts could be picked up and delivered to his room then. Perhaps leaving him there was a better option.

“You know, I have a better idea…” Kyle comments as a smile forms on his face. Ryan immediately shakes his head no.

“Please tell me that the elevator isn’t far from here,” Ricky adds, catching on to the idea.

“We’re not taking him up to the roof and leaving him there,” Ryan declares as Kyle lets out a big boo.

“Why do you have to ruin all of our fun? I mean, come on. It’s the perfect prank, Ryan. You know he would be on-board if you would’ve passed out first.” Ryan knew that Chase could chime right with the pranks, but still felt bad about this idea.

“We weren’t going to leave him totally,” Kyle adds. “We’ll stay up there, share stories, sleep ourselves even. It’s nice enough out.” Ryan knew there was no way he was winning this fight because he had no energy left himself. Those drinks had come many and without many breaks inbetween.

“Alright, fine,” Ryan reluctantly gives in, which was met by a series of cheers. “But please be careful, don’t drop him, and let’s try to be smart here.”

“That’s why I got this tool already,” Austin offers, rolling a dolly over behind the bar. Ryan could only shake his head as he watched the crop go to work on their plan.

It didn’t take long to get their buddy on the dolly, followed by quietly snuck through the halls to the elevator with a trip to the top of the tallest tower – 29th floor on The Palace Tower. It didn’t take them long to find the keys to the rooftop patio, which surprisingly was left unlocked. They rolled the dolly out, with Ryan throwing a blanket over Chase before taking a seat.

“Was that so bad?” Austin questions as he gets comfy in a corner with a pillow that he had snagged on the way.

“He’s going to kill us when he wakes up…” Ryan muses as he lets out a yawn himself.

Glancing over the city, he couldn’t admit that the view was amazing as he snapped a photo on his phone before closing his eyes.

***********

Wednesday, November 28– Caesar’s Palace

His head was pounding, his vision felt blurry, and his stomach flip flopped more than he could count over the spawn of 10 minutes. He glanced around, seeing bright blue sky everywhere he looked, immediately burying his head underneath the blanket that laid on his body.

“Good morning sleeping beauty,” Ryan comments as Chase peaks out from underneath the blanket. “How are you feeling?”

“I could kill you all for last night,” Chase replies, causing a series of chuckles to go off around him. Feeling as though he could handle the bright light, he lifts the blanket off of his face and looks over towards the group. “Where the heck am I?”

“On the roof of Caesar’s Palace…” Chase looks at him, confused, though seeing the wheels underneath him, he could only let out a sigh. That’s when pieces of the night came flooding back all together – he never should’ve taken that nap.

“You guys are jackasses!” A series of laughs escape around him.

“We should’ve left him guessing about the events for a bit longer,” Austin suggests as Ryan quickly flips him the bird. “Well well, we are feeling quite peachy this morning aren’t we?”

“Do you want to go flying off the roof?” Ryan threatens as Austin looks on surprised.

“Easy Ryan….” Kyle Larson offers, rolling a bottle of Tylenol and water over to Ryan and Chase. “Take those, and relax. We’re all hungover. That was one rough night.”

“That was totally your fault,” Chase comments as he glances over at Ryan, taking two of the Tylenol. He hoped it managed to settled the thumping in his head before the Luncheon. “Shit. What time is it?”

“We’ve got two hours before we have to be at the Wynn all dressed and fancy,” Ryan answers with a glance at his phone. “Your phone is down on the bar, by the way.” Chase didn’t know if he wanted to face that right now. He knew there’d probably a couple missed calls from Sarina.

“Sarin-”

“I texted her what we did. She actually sent me back LMAO and let her know how it played out.” Chase simply rolls his eyes.

“She had a gift that was supposed to be between me and her for later on that night…” A couple evil grins form as Chase immediately regretted his words.

“I’m sure she’ll offer that gift another time for you,” Ricky comments as Chase nods his head, accepting. However, something about her words made him think it was something else. Regardless, he still didn’t know how he would ever thank her enough for the guitar.

“Wait? You’ve done the dirty?” Austin questions, a little shocked as Chase glances over his way.

“He’s a grown adult…” Austin knew that, but a smile formed on his face.

“I didn’t realize that he had a naughty side to him, though.” Chase rolls his eyes. “Just make sure you don’t get her pregnant. Kyle isn’t the easiest to deal with when he’s mad.”

“Trust me – he’s already gave me fair warning about that,” Chase offers, remembering Kyle’s words already. “I have a feeling I’d lose my manhood in that situation.” He then slowly stands up, and walks around the roof top a bit, glancing over the city. “As much as I’m willing to kick all of your asses right now for this, thank you for a great birthday party. We won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.”

“Shall we meet again next year?” Ricky questions and Chase smiles, knowing the thought process already.

“Here’s to all of us making the playoffs, with one of us – preferably myself – celebrating the championship. Then we can really set off a birthday extravaganza.”

“Here here!” The group chants together as Ryan glances amongst them.

How would they ever top this party?

Following a mandatory group selfie together – per Ryan’s request, they made their way down from the patio, taking the elevator back to ground level. They stopped by the party room, picking up any belongings that they had left behind, including Chase’s phone. Ryan informed him that all the gifts would be delivered to his hotel room, complimentary of the great party planning, which Chase easily accepted.

Adorning a set of shades as the Tylenol was just beginning to work, the group takes the short ride back to the Wynn and separates to head to their respective rooms. In just a couple hours, another crazy day in the midst of their stardom lives was set to begin.

Pulling his key card from his jeans, Chase inserts it and unlocks the door to his hotel room, walking inside as he slips the door closed behind him. He smiles as he sees both Lindsay and Sarina doing each other’s hair in anticipation for the luncheon.

“How are you feeling?” Lindsay wonders as Chase walks by them.

“Just peachy,” he comments as he flops back on the bed. “I feel like curling in these blankets, getting comfy, and forgetting about the rest of today.”

“Can I join you, please?” Sarina asks as Chase looks over at her intrigued.

“So you finally got into some good stuff last night, and look what happened….” She just rolls her eyes.

“You don’t look to be doing much better, and you have a full day of activities to follow. This should be fun.” Chase nods his head, knowing that it was going to be one of those never ending days once it began.

“Those donuts are going to be the death of me…” Letting out a sigh, he knew sleep wasn’t an option. So he stood up, grabbing a dress shirt and pair of black pants, he headed for the bathroom for a necessary shower. It wasn’t long before every stink of last night was washed away, and he emerged from there about a half hour later all dressed and perfected for the first responsibility at hand.

“You look absolutely stunning….” He smiles as he watches her walk over to the mirror, taking another look over her outfit. He walks over, placing his hands around her waist, kissing her cheek.

“You look even better than I do. You look perfectly charming.” She smiles, satisfied that the simple orange dress had fit nicely. It wasn’t beyond stylish, but formal enough for a casual awards luncheon. It also didn’t hurt that it showed a bit of skin, in the form of her leg and the slit in the chest.

“It doesn’t cut too low up top?” He shakes his head no, immediately.

“Nobody can see anything.” He then gives her another kiss, before running his hands through her hair. “By the way, what was your birthday surprise for me?” She smiles as she spins around to face him.

“We have to head out to the Luncheon so I can’t show you right now. I want to have some time to talk and show. I guess it will have to wait until Thursday night or Friday.” He hated the aspect of waiting, but he was willing to do it as he knew it’d be worth it based on her first gift.

“The guys automatically thought it was something naughty by the way…” A grin immediately forms on her face.

“Well that is always in the cards for you, that’s not what I have for you in the form of a birthday surprise. Are you sure you’re okay with waiting?” He nods his head, accepting.

“I’ll be too busy to have time, anyway.” His phone then goes off, and he grabs it off the charger, seeing a text message from Morgan. He sends her one back quickly, stating that they’d be down to the lobby in five minutes. “Are you ready?”

“Yep, ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Lindsay?” Chase questions, seeing she had chosen a simple blue gown that went to just below the knee.

“Ready to go,” Lindsay answers as she grabs her purse off of the table.

The group head out of the hotel room, set to begin the day – even if not quite feeling 100% yet.

Wednesday, November 28– Wynn Las Vegas

While the Luncheon was only two and a half hours long, it seemed much longer with the drawn out awards and speeches being given by each recipient. Admittedly, it was no surprise to see Dale honored with the Chevrolet Lifetime Achievement Award, and everybody could agree that both Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex were rightfully deserving of the Myers Brothers Award.

Thankfully, the Tylenol had kicked into overdrive by the time Chase had to sit down for his media availability, answering a series of questions for a good 15 minutes for the variety of reporters. From reflections on the year, to his thoughts moving forward – there was lots to be desired. There were even a couple who asked how he celebrated his birthday, which he downplayed in saying he just got together with a couple friends last night.

Once his responsibility was filled, he caught up with Sarina and Lindsay, who had changed out of their gowns during the interview period. Without a single word spoken, everybody knew what now consisted of.

“You know that you don’t have to come tomorrow nig-” Chase starts as he wraps his arms around Sarina.

“What have I told you already about that?” She cuts him off, as he lets out a sigh. “Listen, I love you and I want to be here to support you.”

“I know, but you don’t need to stress about it. I mean, it’s not like you’re missing my championship celebration.” Noticing the look on her face, he immediately stops, staring into her blue eyes instead. “I don’t want to argue before you leave. So I will tell you that I love you, hope you draw a good number tonight, and have a good safe practice tomorrow. Promise me to stay out of trouble and be safe.”

“I promise that, as long as you promise to stay out of trouble with the guys.” He chuckles, seeing the group not far behind him.

“Trust me, I don’t think I have the energy to do another night like that.” She chuckles back in response.

“I love you. Have fun and give me a shout tonight when you get in.”

“I love you, too.” He then gives her a kiss. “Safe trip. Lindsay, keep her out of trouble and watch out for her. Have fun!”

“I’ll do my best,” Lindsay offers as the pair quickly hug.

Without another word, the girls headed off to the exit to catch their ride to the airport, while Chase headed up to his room to change.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 176: “Are you ready for a marathon?”

Tuesday, November 28 – Charlotte Airport

“Are you sure you have everything?” Chase questions as they load the small airplane with the bags. Knowing there was three of them, he just hoped there was enough room for everything.

“It’s all in the bag,” Lindsay states as she hands him her suitcase so he can place where warranted.

“Banquet dress, heels, make-up, change of clothes, dress for Myers Brothe-” Sarina starts to ramble off the list that she had probably repeated 20 times already that morning while packing and organizing.

“Firesuit and helmet?” Chase asks and she lets out a sigh. She had taken care of that already on Monday.

“Loaded in the hauler so I don’t have to worry in going back and forth. Do you have your suits and outfits?” He nods his head, having double checked his bag a couple times over. “Then why are we still standing here?”

“Are you ready for a marathon of a week?” Lindsay just smiles as she gets up in her seat, followed by the pair taking the front seats. “First stop – Dawsonville, Georgia.”

Tuesday, November 28 – Dawsonville, Georgia

After landing at the local airport, the group hopped in the Tahoe and made the short drive to his parent’s house. A glance at the time, and so far they hadn’t fallen off schedule. An hour spent here, back on the plane right after, and they’d make it to Las Vegas in good time.

Knocking on the door, he couldn’t help but smile as he watched the door swing open before him, seeing his parents standing there.

“I was beginning to wonder if you would stop by,” Cindy comments as the group heads inside.

“I can’t break a promise to my Mama,” Chase replies as Sarina just glances at Lindsay, who simply chuckles back in return. “I don’t care what you girls say. You can pick on me all you want. I’ll always be Mama’s little boy.”

“Can you stop getting older then?” He laughs back in response as he gives her a kiss. “I just wanted to be able to wish you happy birthday in person.”

“I know….” Lindsay was caught off-guard in the fact that there was no true gift, simple trade of words in this stop, considering how much it added to the schedule. But, it was nice to see the love being Chase and his mom, too. It reminded her of what she had with her father.

“Now, do you promise to behave once you get to Las Vegas?” He just smirks back in return.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…” Sarina rambles off, earning a stern glance from Cindy. “I mea-”

“Relax Mama, we’re going to have a ton of fun, but behave as always,” he tells her with a wink towards Sarina, who could only shake her head in return. They walk through the house, reaching the kitchen, and an immediate smile forms on Chase’s face as he sees the cake.

“Now since I won’t see you later…” Cindy starts as she grabs the lighter out of the drawer. “Oh what am I saying? It’s your birthday! You can break the desert rules!” He chuckles as she lights the candle on top of the cake. “Happy Birthday to you…”

“Happy Birthday to you,” Lindsay, Sarina and Bill all join in as Chase smiles at the group.

Following the singing, he pauses to make a wish, before blowing out the candle on top of the cake.

“What’d you wish for?” Lindsay wonders as he glances over.

“If I tell you, it won’t come true,” he answers with a smile. He then dips his finger in the icing, leaving a trace as he runs his finger across the top.

“Chase!” Cindy lets out as he licks the icing off of his finger.

“That is so good….” He then pulls the candle out, wiping the icing off of it and eating that, too. “I’ve always loved your cakes, and they just seem to get better with time.”

“Is that German Chocolate?” Lindsay wonders and Cindy nods her head. “Oh man…”

“Just purely amazing, right?” Chase questions and Lindsay agrees.

“Well, you kids can take the cake with you – as long as you let your Dad cut a piece to eat later,” Cindy tells them as Chase couldn’t help but smile. He knew it’d make a good snack later midway through the day. “And Chase, you can’t just lick all of the icing off yourself and leave the girls the rest.”

“That is so tempting…”

Tuesday, November 28 – Las Vegas, Nevada

After landing in Las Vegas, the group followed Chase through the first step of the day – quick stop at the stage to give a quick run trough. Once that was settled, they met up with Morgan, set for the details of the day.

“Morgan, this is Sarina’s cousin Lindsay – who I asked for the ticket for,” Chase introduces Lindsay to his PR rep. “Lindsay, this Morgan. You can blame her for my chaotic schedule.” Lindsay chuckles as Morgan just rolls her eyes.

“The request was not a problem at all,” Morgan states as she shakes Lindsay’s hand. “And I could proudly add more responsibilities for you next year if you don’t think it’s enough, Chase.” Chase glances at her, surprised, shaking his head immediately. “Please tell me you brought every outfit and everything you need.”

“Double and triple checked while packing.” She nods her, accepting.

“Alright. Ready to head to the fan square for the autograph session?” He accepts.

“You go on and tackle that, while us girls explore Las Vegas a little,” Sarina offers, catching Chase by surprise. “Then once you’re done, we can show you the hot spots and have some birthday fun.”

“I even got a couple spots that I can show her to see if they’d work out later,” Lindsay adds, as Sarina keeps her eyes locked on Chase’s. She knew Lindsay’s plan was already out of the window, but didn’t mind the extra suggestion to help cover for what was going on.

“I’ll call when I am on my way back, okay?” He asks and she nods her head, accepting, giving him a quick kiss. “Love you…” He then heads off with Morgan as Sarina immediately turns to Lindsay.

“So where do you want to head firs-” Lindsay starts.

“Caesar’s Palace,” Sarina cuts her off as they head out of the Wynn hotel. “I couldn’t tell Chase, but he’s getting a surprise birthday party courtesy of some close friends. Ryan put the plan in motion, but I need to go over there to help make sure things are in order.”

“So Chase has no idea what is going on?” Sarina shakes her head no as they climb in the cab, instructing the driver where to go. “How do you plan to get him over there?”

“That’s not my problem. Ricky is taking care of that.” Sarina just hoped that Ricky didn’t resort to revealing the surprise in the process. “Ryan and I have been going back and forth for a couple weeks now. It’s absolutely killed me to not just blurt it out and tell Chase.”

“So you don’t keep secrets at all?” Sarina lets out a sigh as she glances out the window.

“The last time I kept a secret from him, it almost cost me everything.” She thinks it over, taking a deep breath. She hadn’t talked to anybody about this except for Chase and Marcus. It was different telling a family member, though. “When I first recognized Chris in the photo of they wanted for attempting to kill us, I didn’t say anything. That went on for months. He found out who it was virtue of the investigation, and literally flipped on me. He yelled at me, threw me out, told me he never wanted to see me ever again.” Lindsay looks over, surprised, as she never would’ve expected that with how close the pair appeared.

“So how’d you make up?” Sarina smiles, remembering the countless messages back and forth before she went out to see him at his parents.

“He slowly began to understand why I did it – out of fear, out of my own panic, so many dumb reasons now that I think back. He also understood that it was hard for me trust, too. He slowly began to open the door with a few messages back in return to mine reaching out for him. Then one of his crew members tipped me off that he was looking to forgive and move forward, wanting to see me, missing me – just because he cared so much about him. I surprised him one night at his parents, and we were able to talk things out. Since then, we have promised to always keep an open book policy and not ever do that, again.” Lindsay nods her head, accepting. That was why Chase was so afraid of Sarina’s reaction when he reunited them together, because it was probably one of the first secrets that he had kept himself.

“Well from what I’ve seen in just five days, you both deserve each other a ton. Everything you fought through was certainly worth it for someone like him.” Sarina smiles as she looks back over at Lindsay.

“I don’t take a single day for granted, and for everything that he has done for me, I want to make sure that I blow him out of the water with both his birthday present and anniversary gift.” Lindsay could understand the reasoning behind that, now full of intrigue.

“Can you tell me what it is?” Sarina laughs, shaking her head no.

The girls reach Caesar’s Palace, paying and thanking the driver for the ride, before heading inside. They immediately make their way through the front foray, following the directions that Ryan had texted to her about getting to where they were set for the party.

Sarina enters the room, instantly smiling as she sees the array of decorations and the way the room was laid out. She knew it was perfect as Ryan spun around, raising a pair of bottles in the air.

“Ready for a night to remember?” He questions, though immediately freezes as his eyes catch those of Sarina’s friend. He had heard about Chase’s successful reuniting of cousins together as he sets the bottles down on the bar, making his way over. “You must be Lindsay…”

“How do you know my name?” Lindsay asks, a little concerned as Ryan smiles.

“Chase may have told me about his family reunion plan, and let me know on Friday how successful the first step was. He mentioned your name, and so I put two and two together.” He holds his hand out, smile not fading from his face.  “Ryan Blaney.” Lindsay simply shakes his hand in response.

“Nice to meet you.” He then turns back around, heading over to the bar, as he sits up on the counter.

“So I think I have the perfect 22nd birthday party planned here. What do you say, Sarina?” Sarina nods her head, accepting, as she walks around the room. “I just need to blow a couple more balloons, set a couple more things, and we’ll be ready to roll tonight.”

“It’s beyond perfect, Ryan.” Ryan could only smile as he relaxed back on the counter.

“I know my best friend well….” Sarina knew that as she placed a box behind the counter with the other presents that were hidden there. “Do I get a clue as to what you got him for his birthday?” Sarina shakes her head no as she walks away.

“I didn’t get anyth-” Lindsay starts as she catches Sarina’s glance.

“Don’t even worry about it,” Sarina cuts her off. “Now, let’s get this all set to go…”

“I promised her I’d call…” Chase comments as they reach Caesar’s Palace.

“Relax, she’s probably lost in the glitz and glam that is Sin City,” Ricky offers as he gives Chase a pat on the shoulder. “We’ll share a drink with Kyle, and then I will let you go see your lady.” Chase rolls his eyes, reluctantly agreeing. He just hoped he didn’t regret this later.

He follows Ricky through the door, glancing around as they head inside as he had never made his way to Caesar’s Palace, despite spending a good bit of time in Las Vegas a couple times. Not sure where they were going, he continues to reluctantly follow his friend as they reach a pair of double black doors.

“In there?” He questions and Ricky nods his head as he glances back.

“The best drinks in Las Vegas are kept in the most secret locations man,” Ricky answers, so far giving himself tons of brownie points. It hadn’t been easy, but he was succeeding in keeping it a surprise while perfectly leading Chase to the spot. He pulls on the door, holding it wide open. “After you….”

“It’s like pitch black in there, and I’ve never been here. Are you sure I should go in first?” Ricky knew this was getting far-fetched, but he had to get him in there one way or another.

“Trust me. Have I ever let you down before?” Chase shakes his head no as he enters the room.

In an instant as soon as he entered through the doors, the lights immediately flicked on and a smile filled his face as he recognized many of those before him immediately.

“Surprise!” The entire group  – consisting of crew members, fellow drivers, and of course Sarina and Lindsay, screamed back in return.

Chase glances around the room, filled with surprise, as he was in absolutely amazement. A normally sophisticated room for fancy dinners had been changed to your perfect country bar, filled with a dance floor, tables, and a bar for everyone to enjoy. His eyes glanced through the crowd, noticing the outfits to fit the theme to a perfect tee.

“Happy Birthday!” A voice catches his attention, followed by the clicking of a pair of boots directly towards him. “I love you.” A kiss brushes across his lips as a series of cheers escape from the variety of people in the room. That was all in the background for him, as he couldn’t take his eyes off of the lady before him right now. From the white tank top, to the nice loose fitting brown jacket, matched perfectly with a pair of boots that showed off the tone of her legs. His eyes even found their way to her pair of white daisy duke shorts, which enhanced the curves that he loved.

“I love you, too,” he replies, wrapping his arms around her, not caring that the room was filled with others. “Was this your doing?” She shakes her head no as she glances towards the crowd of people. Emerging from the dress, adorning a pair of blue jeans and cowboy boots of his own, Ryan stands before everybody, taking the cowboy hat and smiling. “Holy crap, you’re wearing cowboy boots….”

“Just for you brother,” Ryan replies as he makes his way over, giving Chase a hug. “Happy Birthday, bud. You deserve a night of fun in Las Vegas!” He then makes his way back across the room, releasing a cannon that shoots confetti all over. “Now, don’t we have a birthday to celebrate?”

From there on, the drinks began to flow along the tunes pumping throughout the room. Everybody began dancing together, enjoying each other’s company, and wishing Chase a happy birthday as they made their way around the room.

The only time the dancing and drinks stopped was midway through the night, as to sing happy birthday to Chase and allow him to cut the cowboy hat shaped cake – with Ryan flicking a bit of icing at his face in the process. Chase could only laugh in response.

They then sat around the bar, with Chase sitting up on the counter, opening the variety of gifts that were left behind the bar. From gift cards to some Georgia Bulldog collectables, to even a couple books on conspiracy theories, it seemed there was a bit of everything from everybody.

“I purposely left this gift to last,” Ryan announces as he reaches and picks up the rather large size boxed, placing it on the bar.

“We figure you could open Sarina’s gift last,” Kyle adds as Chase simply smiles back in return. He carefully tears through the wrapping paper, continually asking himself what it could be, as he reaches a black guitar case. He wasn’t one to play music of his own, so it caught him off-guard that she got him a guitar.

“We know you can sing, but play?” Chase shoots Ryan a look and Ryan could only smirk in return. “You’re going to be singing by the time I pour your last drink, boy. I got lots of Jack around here.”

“Doesn’t he have to do 22 shots for his birthday at one point?” Austin Dillon questions and Ryan smiles, holding up a series of glasses. Chase could only let out a sigh, knowing that tomorrow was going to be rough.

Though right now, he was focused on the gift that was sitting before him. He unlocks the case, opening it carefully to not knock it off, smiling immediately as he recognizes the guitar.

“Oh man….” Ryan states, recognizing it as well as Chase carefully picks it up, taking a closer glance at it.

His eyes catch Sarina’s immediately as he motions for her to come up closer, before looking back at the guitar, seeing the signature and note inscribed on it.

“Our first ever concert together was Eric Church,” Sarina starts. “I also know how much you adore his music. After a couple strings pulled, I managed to get a hold of him and asked if he’d be willing to part with one of his guitars for a very special fan. When I mentioned your name and the story behind it, he didn’t hesitate.

“It’s absolutely perfect!” He lets out, leaning down from his spot atop the bar to kiss her lips. “I love you so much. This is just…amazing. I don’t even have words.” She could only smile back in response, glad that her planning had paid off.

“I have another gift for you later – just between us.” He then raises his eyes brows intrigued as she smiles.

“Now, how about those shots?” Ryan asks as he begins to line up the glasses across the bar. Sarina just smiles back in response, giving him a wink as she backs away.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 167: The Teammate Tangle

Friday, November 10 – Phoenix Raceway

After a nice week away, it was just like clockwork as they were back to the daily grind at Phoenix Raceway. So far, the day hadn’t gone that bad. Sarina was fourth in the lone truck practice session, while Chase led the Cup session.

“So I take it those adjustments worked?” Alan questions afterwards as Chase nods his head.

“That was worth taking the time to do,” he comments as Alan glances over the notes, before setting them aside.

“We should qualify well later on today. Then I say we tweak on the car a little more tomorrow, and we’ll be fine for Sunday. We’re going to get this right.” Chase believed in the crew chief’s words as it was now or never to win that weekend.

“We’ve missed out on a couple different opportunities to win these last couple of months. I don’t see why we can’t win this weekend. I mean, I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t make the final four.” Alan could understand that, based on their performance, but he wasn’t quite that far down the radar.

“I wouldn’t say disappointed as we’ve done a lot better this year than we did last year, and we’re starting to find our groove here at the end of the year. If anything, it makes me look that much more forward to next year – not that I’m writing off this season, yet.” Chase understood where the crew chief was coming from, but felt thinking of next year was pointless right now.

“Let’s just stay focused on the task at hand, and get the job done – deal?” Alan nods his head, accepting, but his eyes don’t leave his driver one bit through the whole conversation.

“You’re quieter than normal…” Chase looks over surprised. “I just noticed that you got something else on your mind. Would I be right?” Chase just smiles back in return. It should be obvious what’s going on.

“Well, you do realize my trip got cut short because we had to go to Florida, right?” Alan nods his head, having heard about that minor detail. It was the next stage in the trial against Sarina’s brother Chris for everything that had happened. It was Chris’ turn to testify against the charges laid in his favor. “To be honest, he was smart with what he said. He stated enough words that it would make you believe there’s doubt that he poisoned me and Ryan. Now if the jury sees that, and doesn’t consider the other evidence enough, you know what happens.”

“But okay, let’s say they find him not guilty on those two charges. There are five other counts of poisoning that he pled guilty to, along with two other minor charges. Isn’t that worth enough time in jail?” Chase nods his head, having already done the math as he tried convince Sarina things were going to work out in their favor.

“He’ll be away for at least 60 years, if not 80, depending how the judge sees fit – which is great as you’re right, that is ample time. The problem lies in the fact of parole and making sure that he can’t sneak out under psychological insanity. Both terms need to be clear as day so he can’t sneak around them, or that chance of him doing something again is always there.” Alan could understand the theory behind that, and one look into Chase’s eyes said everything he needed to know.

“And that worries you, right?” Chase looks up at Alan and nods his head.

“It’s not the easiest thing to say, Alan, but he scares the bloody crap out of me. There’s twice now that he almost has gone too far – the plane crash, and the pois-”

“Don’t remind me of Daytona, please…” Alan didn’t need a reminder of what he saw that day, and the panic that set in once he found Chase up in the hauler. He was fine moving forward without any reminders. However, he understood how that played with Chase’s thoughts right now. “I absolutely understand the fear, and trust me – it’s not something to joke about, or realize that it’s not coming from a good place. You have every reason to feel the way that you do. I hope for your sake, and Sarina’s, that it plays out the way you want. I know what it would mean to finally have that peace of mind.” Chase laughs a little. “What?”

“Peace of mind? Please, I don’t think I’m going to get that. It seems Allison is great at showing up at the loveliest of times.” Alan nods his head, having seen her appearance at Texas.

“Well, at least you’ll be one step closer to that if you manage to get Chris where you need to.” Chase could live with that statement. “That makes me wonder. Exploring her family and finding more people that have connections to her, Chris, and Bethany. Do you worry about uncovering something that doesn’t need to be?” Chase shakes his head no right away.

“The potential of closing that chapter for her, and helping her deal with those feelings by finding something, outweighs that entirely. By the way, we are getting closer to the first piece of the puzzle.” Alan looks over surprised.

“Really?” Chase nods his head, remembering the text message he received.

“I think I’ll have it unwrapped and really down that road by Christmas.” Alan smiles, knowing exactly what Chase had in mind already. But still, a tinge of fear was there in knowing what had happened so far.

“Just be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

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

Following qualifying, Christopher Bell made his way down pit road to where Sarina’s pit was, patiently waiting as she discussed things over with Marcus Richmond. He then smiled as he caught her attention, with her walking over right away.

“Hey,” he simply says. “Nice job.” She then crosses her arms, with a smile of her own. Truthfully, she wished it was role reversal but instead, he got the pole with her second.

“I should be telling you nice job there,” she comments as he simply smiles back in return. “We’ve got a pair of good trucks.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, actually. Look, I stopped on my way down here because I just wanted to check on you. Are you okay?” She then looks at him confused.

“Why would I need someone to chec-”

“Yesterday, your brother, and everything that happened.” She then takes a deep breath, as she glances away from Christopher for a moment.

“I was actually trying to put that out of mind, truthfully.” He then glances down at the ground. “But hey, it’s okay. I’m still pissed and upset at what he did. All I care is that he gets locked away so he can’t do it again. He said what he had to say and now we’ll see what happens. If the courts do their job, I won’t have anything to worry about.”

“Do you think they will?” He didn’t mean to press the issue too far, but he couldn’t help but ask. He knew while she wanted to avoid, getting her to talk about it some would help.

“I think so. It’s clear as day that he was behind the other attacks, and he has a past history with Chase. If you add that together, no matter what freaking story he tries to con up to cover the last two, a little kid could put together that he was responsible. I don’t see there being any problems.” She then flashes trademark smile. “Hence why I am focused on this weekend, tonight, and kicking your ass.”

“Oh really?” She nods her head as he could only look back with a grin. “Well, we’ll just have to see what happens tonight. By the way, I’m not going to take it easy on you just because you’re my teammate and having a rough stretch…”

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Good luck tonight.”

“Right back at ‘cha.” He then heads off to his pole award photos, while she makes her way up pit road, knowing Cup qualifying was next on the docket.

“Uh oh, someone looks like he’s got something serious on the mind…” Ryan comments as he watches Chase walk by him following the qualifying runs. The session had gone decently, with Chase ending up qualifying fourth. The fun factor was the front row being made up of Ryan and Denny. “Thinking about if you should wreck Hamlin on Lap 1?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no.

“Chase wreck someone on purpose? That’d never happen,” a new voice chimes in as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. walks over to the pair. “Sorry, but I don’t see you doing that ever…”

“Never say never. Danica did tell us she’d never date another driver, and she’s been with you for a couple of years.” Chase grins between them, impressed with those words. “She also said she’d never be one to hang around the dirt tracks and oh wait, isn’t she doing that now?”

“So are you really going to wreck Denny on the first lap?” Chase laughs, enjoying the suspicions about his plans for Sunday.

“I don’t have any plans to wreck Denny on the first lap or at all,” Chase reveals. “I’m actually going to be solely focused on winning so I can be part of the Championship 4. And for your knowledge, Mr. Blaney, Sunday’s race is not even what I am thinking about.” Ryan then looks at him puzzled, but immediately has his suspicions.

“Are you thinking about Chris?” He wonders, though knew if that was the topic at hand they should walk away from Ricky now.

“I heard he had the trial on Thurs-” Ricky starts, having seen something about it in his twitter feed.

“It’s not about Chris, either,” Chase cuts him off, even though he had thought about it a little since his conversation with Alan earlier. He figured he might as well tell the pair, anyway. It’s not like they could spoil the surprise and maybe they’d have advice. “So I’m trying to find Sarina’s family – real family that she ran away from. She had six uncles and an aunt. I had someone looking into the information and he’s located the majority of those people, and they check out to be decent. Now it’s figuring out the best way to reach out to them.”

“What if you just call them one day?” Ryan suggests, not seeing the big deal in this process.

“They may not answer the phone so I say you just show up on their front door,” Ricky adds as Chase rolls his eyes. This wasn’t quite the advice he was looking for.

“What if they’re crazy and attack him?” Chase then looks at Ryan full of complete shock, with Ryan just shrugging his shoulders in response. “What? It could happen.”

“Good point. Bring security with you…” Chase rolls his eyes as he couldn’t believe he had enlisted these two.

“Joshua suggested that the first person we reach out to be someone that Sarina really knew well, trusted, and liked,” Chase continues. “But she doesn’t talk much about her family – except her dad here and there. How do I find out that person?” Ryan and Ricky were caught off-guard by the question, but knew there had to be a solution eventually.

“How about you tell her about what you’re doing?” Ricky questions and Chase shakes his head immediately. He wasn’t ready to ruin the surprise, yet.

“That’d ruin the surprise.” Ricky almost felt like smacking himself in the head.

“What if you bring up some stories, and see if she’ll complement with some of her own?” Ryan suggests. “Or maybe ask about family vacations, and tell a memorable story of your own. Just try to bring it out in casual conversation.”

“Or you could talk to people that have known her longer than you have and see if they know,” Ricky adds. Chase nods his head, accepting the advice. It was certainly somewhere to start.

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

He knew those concerns could be worried about later, as for now, he had a truck race to focus on. Seeing how strong she was through practice and qualifying, there were some high hopes entering the evening.

Chase watched as she pulled ahead early, leading a chunk of the laps, before Christopher got back around her for the top spot, leading the rest of the way in the opening stage. The second stage went smoothly, as well, with Christopher leading the whole thing as she ended up second.

Chase watched the slew of pit stops, small fist pump in the air as the teammates came off pit road together 1-2. Could this go any better?

The start of the third stage worked out perfectly, as she pulled ahead, taking the top spot. A smile formed on his face as he watched her pull further away from Christopher and the rest of the field, destined for smooth sailing from here on out.

Of course, none of these races come that easily as the caution would fly with 27 laps to go for a truck slowing. Marcus immediately made the call for Sarina to stay out, sighting the importance of track position, lack of tire fall off, and having enough fuel to make it to the end.

The ensuing restart did not go smoothly, as a move by Austin Cindric, followed by a block from Ben Rhodes, saw Ben spin around and hit the inside barrier hard, before collecting Matt Crafton in the process.

“Are you kidding me?!?” Chase says out loud, disbelief forming between the late race incident to the fact the pair had collided in their battle for the final transfer spot in that way.

“Same thing that Carl and Joey did last year,” Kyle comments from his vantage point, referring to the wreck at Homestead while battling for the championship. “Ben never should’ve blocked.”  Chase nods his head in agreement.

“He had to know that would happen as soon as he went down. But, does Austin make that move stick with enough room if they get to turn one? We’d probably see a repeat of Kenseth and Bowman here last year.” Kyle smiles, as he thinks back to Martinsville a couple weeks ago.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Both were desperate to make a statement and get to the next round.” Chase couldn’t help but agree, and began to wonder if the same type of move would be what it would take to transfer tomorrow.

After a lengthy clean-up – including a red flag, everything was set to go for another attempt at the restart. This time, the green lasted a little longer as they were able to at least make a lap – but it didn’t take long for the caution, either. Six-wide through the dog leg on the backstretch resulted in contact in turn three, and several torn up trucks.

“That definitely wasn’t going to work,” Kyle comments after seeing the replay, shaking his head in surprise. “Ridiculous…”

“Are we ever going to finish this race?” Chase wonders, glancing at the lap count. Through the chaos, Sarina had managed to hold the lead with Christopher in second. There wasn’t much left now…

The restart came with 10 laps to go, and all eyes locked on the action in seeing Sarina and Christopher battle alongside each other for the lead. Both Chase and Kyle felt like they were going to jump out of their skin and nerves as they saw both trucks get a little sideways, followed by a little bit of bumping.

Neither driver lifted through the whole process, and finally with five laps to go, everything came to a head. Sarina got loose underneath Christopher off of turn four, truck spinning around, and backing into the outside wall, followed by Christopher slapping the wall with the right side of his truck. The wreck wasn’t over there, yet, as Justin Haley was left nowhere to go, hitting just behind the driver’s door of Sarina’s truck as it rolled across the track.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!?” Kyle asked out loud, standing up in complete disbelief as he looked at the pair of torn up trucks. “They led all the laps to this point…”

Chase had his fair share of anger over the contact, almost set to give Christopher a piece of his mind, but that didn’t matter in that very moment as he sat there, eyes closed, waiting for the familiar words over the radio.

“I’m okay,” he hears after a bit, taking a deep breath to calm his own nerves.

He watches as she climbs out of the truck, taking a breather for a moment as she lays her head on the roof. Chase could feel each part inside of him ripping apart, concern filled in thinking about the pain that she could be in.

He felt somewhat relieved in watching her climb out the rest of the way, followed by walking with the official to the ambulance for the trip back to the care center.

Making his way down the steps and set to join her, he could only wonder as to what’s to come.

The Bruises – Chapters 26 Thru 30

thebruises

Chapter 26: Home Sweet Home

Post-Bristol – Dale Jr.’s House – Saturday Night

The discussion with the detectives went on for hours as they wanted to know everything. It seemed they never ran out of questions no matter what Dale said. However, he was now glad to be home. It meant that he could have some relaxation from everything. He had said his goodbyes to Tony, promising to get in touch that week.

He walked inside the house, closing the door behind him, glad to be done everything that needed to be done. With the announcement of the charges, his post-win media schedule had been cleared to avoid doing any publicity so close to everything. They would do a meeting mid-week to discuss what to do moving forward and then proceed.

As he slipped his shoes off, he heard footsteps coming towards him, knowing who they were once he saw the fluffy pink bunny slippers.

“You’re home!” Dale heard before he could look up to address the person before him, recognizing the voice to be Kelley’s. After speaking with her on the phone, she agreed to stay there with Angelica till he got home so that way Rick and Linda could go home. She mainly did it, though, so she could see him first thing when he made it there. Before he could move an inch from his position, the owner of the pink bunny slippers wrapped her arms around him, wanting to just be close to him. Since hearing the news, she had been worried. She knew that it couldn’t be too bad due to not noticing anything before, but had a tinge of worry on her mind. “I’ll leave you two be to talk. Don’t be a stranger tomorrow.” Kelley knew by how the pair were reacting that they needed their space.

“I’ll make sure to come and see you,” Dale told his sister before giving her a quick hug, the other set of arms still wrapped around him. He watched his sister leave, focusing his eyes down at the teenager that stood there, not willing to remove her arms from around him. Well he wanted to scream due to the pain he felt in his back and her pushing on it, he didn’t have the courage to say a word at that point. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was thinking. He had already heard from Steve and Rick both that she was worried about him.

“I’m just glad you’re okay Dad,” Angelica finally squeaked out, not wanting to let her dad go. He lightly rubbed her back, moving slowly into the front room as he knew that there’d be some questions she’d ask.

“I’m just so happy to see you.” They then sat on the couch, facing each other, Dale ready to face whatever was on her mind. She was a 15-year-old teenager now and probably not short of questions. “Did Steve tell you about Lind-”

“He told me that she is going away a couple days due to being scared.” Dale shook his head yes at those words, not sure if he was ready to tell her Lindsay’s secret. Was she too young for that? Seeing the heartbreak on her dad’s face, she grabbed both of his hands, wanting to find someway to give him comfort. She just wanted everything to be fine again.

“Okay. She’s worried that Jeff may get some people who don’t like her to come after her. She knew some bad people when she was younger and moved to North Carolina to get away from them. She’s scared that Jeff will tell them everything as to where she is so she wants to hide out till we get Jeff put in jail for a long time.” He looked up at Angelica’s eyes, curious of her reaction, not wanting to dive into anymore details about Lindsay’s past. That would have to wait till Lindsay was back home with them as that was her place to decide whether Angelica should know.

“Okay.” Angelica then looked down, wanting to tell her dad how she really felt, but also scared of what he would say and the affect on him. “When I heard the news, I’ll admit – I was in total shock.” She looked up, curious as to what he would say or do as a result of her words. All he did was nod his head in agreement that he was listening, not sure yet what to say. “I didn’t want to believe it that someone had hurt you because I’ve been around you and I haven’t seen anything that would make me believe it. But I knew it had to be true because you wouldn’t lie like that and it worried me. I didn’t know how you were or where you were or anything. That’s why I’m just glad that you’re home.”

“I’m glad to be home with you, too, and I’m sorry I worried you so much.” She knew her next question would test the waters of what could be said, but she had to know. She had to answer the worry questions in her mind.

“What did he do to you exactly, Dad?” Looking down as she saw no reaction on his face, she immediately regretted even asking the question.

“He slapped me, he hit with a belt across the back, he shoved me against the dresser one night – a couple different things over the course of the past two years. That’s why I didn’t want you here at first. I didn’t want you to come near what was going on. I only kept it a secret for this long because I was scared, scared that Jeff would hurt you or Lindsay. Tony finally convinced me to do the right thing. I want you to know, though, that he will never, ever, touch you because he is going away for a very long time.” He then tilted her head up towards his eyes, wanting to see those blue eyes he loved so much. “I would never let him touch you ever.” Feeling the pain on his back really begin to bug him, he stood up, knowing that he needed to go upstairs, relax and go to sleep, while getting the fabric that glazed the wounds off. “Anyways, it’s late and we’re both tired so why don’t we get some sleep? We can talk about more in the morning. I’m willing to tell you whatever you want to know. I don’t mind telling you.” He then pulled her close, giving her a kiss on the forehead. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She then looked up at him, smiling. “Can I ask one more question before bed?”

“Go ahead. What is it that you want to ask? I told you I’ll tell you everything. I don’t want you to worr-”

“How bad does it hurt? I could see you biting your tongue as we were sitting there. How bad does it hurt? What exactly is bugging you? You’ve done tons for me so I want to do tons for you.” He smiled at her courage, loving the fact he could see that Earnhardt fire right inside of her.

“My back is really sore, to be honest, because that’s where he did the most of the pain. There’s multiple marks across my back from nights with him.” She shook her head, now understanding everything. That’s why nobody knew as he always had a shirt on. Even if they were going swimming – he had a top on.

“How long will it take them to heal?”

“A couple weeks probably. Don’t know for sure.” She then hugged him, carefully not touching his back as she wrapped her arms around his waist.

“I love you and good night.”

“Good night Angelica. See you in the morning.” They both then headed up the stairs, separating at the top as they headed into their rooms. Once Dale was in his room with the door closed, he quickly snatched the shirt off of his back as quick as he could, slightly relaxing. “It’s over. It’s done. You’re safe and the girls are safe.” He then flopped down on the bed, belly first, knowing that he was exhausted and just wanting sleep. A slight glance at the clock showed it was 4 in the morning. “I hope Kelley and mom weren’t expecting me too early.”

 

Chapter 27: Sleepless Nights

Post-Bristol – Dale Jr.’s House – Tuesday Night

“You know you like it,” he heard growled against his ear, feeling another thrust up his rectum, pain filling his entire body.

Dale woke up, tears streaming down his face, glancing at the clock. 3:28 am. For the third straight night in a row, he couldn’t sleep as he envisioned everything that had happened in his mind. How was this possible? How could he ever move forward? He sat up, wiping the tears off, just wanting to go back to a peaceful sleep. He way overtired and needed his rest. Everybody could tell. It was why Rick had said to take some days off and try to relax.

One bedsroom over, Angelica rolled over her in bed, hearing the tears that came from the room beside her. Her dad thought that she was asleep and didn’t know of these nights. However, she had woken up each night. She wanted to go comfort him, but wondered if that would cross the line.

“You can’t keep doing this Dad,” she commented aloud as she picked her phone up off the nightstand, holding it in her hands. She knew of one person who cared for Dale more than most. She knew by how Tony had been around that he must be important.

“Fuck me,” she heard from the room over, hearing the bedsroom door crack. She knew that he was going to find some Tylenol for the pain or a glass of water to calm his thoughts. She had gotten used to these sounds. It was affecting her, not getting her own sleep. With going back to school and having homework on top of racing, she knew she couldn’t keep doing this. “Why can’t I just forget?” She shook her head, eyes focused on the number before her.

“Because you know it goes deeper than that….” She hit the number, knowing she’d have to whisper, but knowing that Dale needed him. She hated to call Tony in the middle of the night, but what else was she supposed to do?

“Hello?” She heard a panicked voice on the other end. “Angelica? Are you oka-”

“I’m fine Tony,” she started calmly. As she sat on the bed, she heard the footsteps of her dad outside of the door and into the bathroom.

“Then what’s going on?” As she heard the sound of vomit coming upstream into the toilet, she cringed slightly, knowing she definately had made the right move.

“Tony, you need to come over now please.”

“Why? What’s wron-”

“Dad hasn’t been able to sleep since coming back from Bristol.” As she sat there, she heard the cries, she heard the vomit, just wanting to run and hug him. But was that the right thing to do?

“I’m on my way.” She slowly opened her bedsroom door, catching her father’s eyes as she looked down towards the kitchen. The signature crystal blue was no longer found as it was replaced with a navy color – hurt, pain.

“Okay. See ya soon.” She then hung up on Tony, setting her phone down before slowly making her way to the bathroom. She knew it’d be a little bit before Tony showed up so she had to do something. She walked in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, looking at her father who sat there on the floor crying. She didn’t know what to do. She felt so afraid and so much pain in seeing him like this. “Tony is on his way over.”

“You called him?” Dale asked as he felt a hand rub his back lightly.

“You need him Dad,” she replied. “You can’t keep doing this every night.” She then scootched onto the floor beside him, continuing to rub his back as he looked towards her. It was enough for him to be going through what he was going through. But to know that his daughter knew was another fright in itself.

“You need to go back to be-”

“I’m not moving till Tony gets here.” He looked towards her, pulling her close into a hug, loving the comforting feeling of her just being there.

“Thank you.”

“I love you, Daddy. I hate to see you like this.” He looked down, letting himself vomit some more as he had yet to shake the memories. She then stood up, wetting a wash cloth, before sitting back down and wiping his face, trying to do something to help. He let her as tears filled his eyes, now knowing that she knew exactly how he felt. What was going to happen now? “The start of the trial is Thursday so you got two more days so you need to keep it together.” The start of the trial meant hearing Jeff’s plead. They expected him to plead guilty considering the evidence. If he did, it meant sentencing and gone away for all time. If he plead not guilty, then it would be a long process in telling what happened. That was something Dale didn’t want to face.

“I know and I’m trying, sweetie.” As they sat there, he felt the ability to confess that bit of emotion as there wasn’t anything to hide anymore.

“I know you are and you’re strong willed and you’re great. But you can’t do it alone and if Lindsay can’t be here for you, then I know Tony will take care of you.” He looked towards her, curious by those words. How did she know about Tony’s caring side for him?

“How do you know this, if I may ask?”

“I saw the way he was with you at Bristol so that’s enough to say a good guess. I take it by your reaction that I’m right.” He then smiled as he pulled her close, glad to be having a talk like this. It was starting to get his mind off of what he couldn’t minutes ago.

“Yeah, you’re right.” She looked up, seeing that smile, glad that she could bring some comfort to her dad. She just hoped that Tony could add more and things would end officially on Thursday.

 

Chapter 28: Tony

Post-Bristol – Dale Jr.’s House – Tuesday Night

Angelica opened the door, glancing at the big lock as it was officially 3am in the morning. Now she really felt bad for calling for Tony so late, but it had to be done.

“Hey princess,” he said before giving her a hug. He then slipped off his shoes and hung up his jacket. “Where is he?”

“In his bedsroom,” she said as they headed up the stairs. She had gotten him to calm down and led him back to his room before Tony had shown up. “Thanks for coming, by the way. I really appreci-”

“I’d do anything for him, Angelica.” He really meant those words. There was no lying now with the feelings that he had for Dale.

“I’ll leave you two be.” She then went into her bedsroom, closing the door as she knew the boys needed their privacy.

Tony walked into Dale’s bedsroom, sitting on the bed as he set his eyes on the man before him. He could see the tears streaming down Dale’s face, he could see the hurt in his eyes. It all the more ate at Tony as he wondered why he hadn’t kicked Jeff’s ass before their plan took full force.

“You didn’t have to come,” Dale let out as he looked at the person before him. How could Tony always be there like this for him? “It’s not fair for me to wake you out of bed.” Tony shook his head as he climbed up further in the bed, closing the gap that was between them.

“It is when you can’t sleep and I care about you,” Tony commented as their eyes met. When they did, Tony was reminded back to a couple weeks ago when he had busted in that night. He was reminded of the pleading eyes that just wanted to be held and comforted. Would it always be this way? “I care about you a lot and would do anything for you so don’t even start that shit on me.” Seeing no movement in Dale, he continued his crawl up the bed so the pair were sitting beside each other.

“I just want the feelings to go away. I just want to forget everything that happened. I want to move on.” Tony knew those feelings all to well as he hoped that everybody could do that with what had happened. He knew it was only becoming harder with the fact that Lindsay had ran.

“And you will as soon as Jeff is locked away for good.” Dale looked towards Tony at those words, having his own fears about Thursday.

“And what if he doesn’t get locked away? What if he ge-”

“That damn well won’t happen as we have loads of proof for what he’s done!” Seeing the tears on Dale’s face, Tony did the only thing next that he knew – he pulled Dale close, holding him. He wanted to help him forget the one thing that made him mad the worst.

“I can’t help but think about him getting off. You have to realize that can happen.” Tony then lifted his gaze, meeting Dale’s as he only had one set of words for that.

“If for some reason that asshole gets off, he will be met by me before he can do anything to you.” Dale then pulled himself in even closer to Tony, loving the safe and secure feeling that came over him.

“Why does it hurt so much? Why can’t I just forget it? Why does it continue to bug me?” Tony knew the answer to that as there was no questions about it after the confessions that had come out.

“Because you let it go for way too long. But that doesn’t matter now.” Tony lifted Dale’s shirt slightly, wincing at the marks across the young man’s back, but knew that it would help to have the fabric not touching it as he pulled the shirt off. Once the shirt was off, Dale cuddled back close to Tony, laying down in his arms as he felt the lack of sleep catching up with him.

“Thank you…..I can’t ever than-”

“Stop as you don’t need to say it. Just close your eyes and go to sleep.” Dale did as instructed, exhaustion taking over his body as he was asleep instantly. Tony laid there not moving, letting Dale lay against him, as he got his phone out of his pocket. There was one other person that needed his comfort in this house.

Tony: Angelica, are you okay?

Angelica: Yeah, I’m fine Tony.

Tony: You know if you need someone to talk to that you can always talk to me. I’m here for both of you. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now. You don’t have to think about that alone.

Angelica: Thanks Tony. ‘Appreciate that. Just worried about Dad. Worried about how he is feeling and all. Worried about the pain and his feelings. Scared for him, too. Also just want Lindsay to come home. I can’t believe she ran. It’s just not fair.

Tony: I hear ya but you don’t need to worry. Dale will be fine. He will heal over time. He just needs to have the comfort and love. Lindsay will come home. It will work out. Jeff won’t see the light of day. Just stay strong and believe. You’ll have the life that you dream of. I can promise you that.

Angelica: Luv ya. So sweet. Ill let you sleep – need mine.

Tony: Okay. Nite. See ya in the morning.

Angelica: Night Tony.

 

Chapter 29: Trial

Post-Bristol – Court House – Thursday Afternoon

Dale sat there in between Tony and Rick, eyes focused forward. Today was the big day. Today they would learn the fate that they all questioned. Dale just wanted things over and done with after everything that had happened. He wanted to never go through the events again. There was no way this couldn’t be the end.

As his thoughts ran through his mind, he kept Tony’s hand close to his, clutching it in his tightly. Since Tony came over late Tuesday night, he hadn’t left. He called Stewart-Haas and told them that he had some things to take care of, agreeing to be there for his friend. While Dale thought he was done with crazy relationships following things with Jimmie, he was slowly finding himself falling for Tony. He had wanted to say something – but was scared. He still loved Lindsay and he didn’t want to change that. However, the comfort he felt with Tony – it was different. It was special and it had helped a ton.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Rick whispered as he turned towards Angelica. Angelica had begged them to come. She wanted to know herself that things were over, too. She knew she couldn’t go to school and sit through the day with worry. She also knew that staying home wouldn’t work either. After much protesting, they all had agreed to let her go so there she sat beside Rick. She knew it was a tough time for Dale and that Tony could offer the comfort he so deserved. In that respect, she had turned to the one person that she had depended so much on the last couple years of her life to help her out.

“I’m fine Rick,” she replied as she glanced towards the back of the room after hearing the door open. They had kept it as a closed court session, only certain people allowed to be there. Seeing the person, even if hid underneath her hood, she smiled. She recognized that face anywhere and was glad that she was there. “Look behind you but don’t say a word, Rick.” Rick took a quick glance towards the direction as he watched the women sit down in a seat at the back of the room.

“Court is now in session!” They all heard announced, turning their gaze up towards to the front. “Mr. Jeff Gordon, do you understand the charges that you are facing?”

“My client would like to follow a request with regards to one of them,” Gordon’s lawyer spoke up, causing concern to rise in Dale’s throat. What were they going to try to pull? “The charges against my client with regards to Mr. Earnhardt – there are no problems.”

“Then what is the problem?” The judge then asked, which was a question that many of them wanted to spit out. “The charges put forth with regards to Lindsay MacKenzie?” The lawyer then shook his head yes as he opened up a folder.

“Mrs. Lindsay MacKenzie has yet to file a statement with regards to the charges. She also has not officially stated that she is filing charges against my client.” Seeing the eyes of the Judge switch to the other side of the room, there was a small bit of tension.

“Is this true? Has Ms. MacKenzie done the necessary work required?” Angelica then took a glance towards the back of the room, feeling the need for an unveil soon.

“No she hasn’t,” Blake Johnson, the lawyer representing Dale and Lindsay, finally spoke. “She has officially taken to hiding as a result of some threats that Mr. Gordon has levied against her. She has stated her reasoning due to the safety of her family. I have an official telephone record of our conversation, which states her warrant to press charges. I can pla-”

“That’s not enou-” The judge started as Angelica smiled at the sight of the hood being put down.

“I am here and present and pressing those charges,” Lindsay then spoke, hood removed. Instantly, everybody turned to the back of the room, mixed of emotions. Dale’s was a full smile as he was glad that she had come back home. “I hope you rot in hell for what you did, Jeff.”

“Your honor!” Gordon’s lawyer Miley Williams protested against the outburst.

“Charges stay in place per Ms. MacKenzie’s words, but Ms. McKenzie must keep her mouth shut now,” the judge then spoke as Lindsay sat back down, eyes fixed on Dale. They locked eyes for a moment and she knew there was no way of running away now.

“There are still a problem – Lindsay McKenzie is not her real name!” The judge then turned back towards Blake as Dale looked down. Were they ready for the secret to be revealed there?

“Is this true Mr. Johnson?” The judge asked as Blake cleared his throat.

“She had her name legally changed over eight years ago and can show proof of that,” Mr. Johnson clarified as the judge motioned for the proof to be shown. Lindsay then stood up, walking to the front of the room, handing Blake her wallet. “Here it is.” Blake handed it to the bailiff who took it up to the judge, who looked it over.

“This checks out. Thank you Ms. McKenzie. Anymore protests before your client puts in his plead?”

“No sir,” Miley Williams said as Lindsay sat beside Dale on the bench.

“I missed you,” she whispered giving him a quick kiss before turning her eyes back towards to the front.

“So we’re going to go through these one by one…..” The judge started as he looked down at his sheet. “I’d rather do them at once but cannot do that legally. I am going to mention each type of charge and end your plead. Some of these have multiple accounts, by the way. On the charge of physical and mental abuse towards Dale Earnhardt Jr, how do you plead?”

“Guilty,” Jeff stated as he looked down. He knew by the length of proof that Tony had there was no way to get out of it.

“On the charge of assault towards Dale Earnhardt Jr., how do you plead?” Dale kept his eyes focused on the ground, body still sore from what had taken place, pain filling him. He knew part of it was mentally in thinking back to some of the nights.

“Assault? No no, that’s not guilty. I may have slapped in and pushed him, but that’s not assu-”

“That defines assault. Assault is when you cause bodily harm to another individual, whether with or without a weapon. Do you change your plead, Mr. Gordon?”

“Yes, I change my plead then. Sorry. Guilty.” Tony held Dale’s hand tighter, knowing what was left to come in the list of charges that still laid ahead of them.

“On the charge of threatening bodily harm towards Dale Earnhardt Jr., how do you plead?”

“Guilty.”

“On the charge of rape towards Dale Earnhardt Jr., how do you plead?” Hearing the words, both Lindsay and Tony took each of Dale’s hands and held them. They could see the hurt in his eyes at the words being mentioned and the thought of tears that threatened to fall.

“Not guilty.” Tony then looked up stunned at Jeff’s words. Didn’t Jeff know he was guilty by the video content that was already recorded?

“On the charge of rape towards Lindsay McKenzie, how do you plead?”

“Guilty.” Lindsay locked eyes with Tony at the conflicting pleads that they had heard. Why was he saying he was guilty to one but not the other?

“On the charge of threatening Lindsay McKenzie, how do you plead?”

“Not guilty.” Lindsay looked towards Jeff, surprised by those words. Was it a ploy for her to tell the story?

“On the charge of threatening Angelica Jami-”

“She just completed the process of getting her name legally changed to Angelica Earnhardt,” Blake Johnson interrupted as Angelica smiled at the thought. It was a long process that involved DNA tests to confirm everything, but she was glad it was done. It felt right to have the Earnhardt last name.

“Okay then,” the judge commented before making a change to his notes. “On the charge of threatening Angelica Earnhardt, how do you plead?”

“Guilty.” Jeff then looked towards the young 15 year old with a smile on her face as she turned away. She didn’t want to look towards him after what he had done to Dale and Lindsay.

“To recap, you have plead guilty to abuse, assault and threatening Dale Earnhardt Jr., raping Lindsay McKenzie and threatening Angelica Earnhardt. Adding the sentences together for the multiple accounts, you are to sentenced to life in jail without chance of parole. With that said, Mr. Johnson, do you want to prosecute the defendant on the other charges?” Blake looked towards Dale and Lindsay, looking for answer. Both shook their head no, knowing the emotions of going through talking about some of the nights would be too much on them both.

“No your honor,” Blake Johnson replied. “Although I do have a request about Mr. Gordon’s time in jail.”

“And what is that?” The judge asked as Lindsay held her breath. This was the moment of truth on whether she could stay there or have to run for the safety of those she loved.

“Due to the status of the threats that Mr. Gordon has levied against my clients, I request no touch with the outside world. I don’t think it’d be right to chance those secrets getting out. The secrets that he holds against Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lindsay McKenzie and Angelica Earnhardt could put them in danger if released.”

“Motion accepted. Any mail that Mr. Gordon wants to send out will be screened before leaving. Is that all?”

“Yes.”

“Court ajourned!” Dale then let out a long sigh of relief as he looked towards Lindsay, kissing her, as they both watched Jeff go away with the officer.

“It’s over finally,” Tony whispered as he gave Dale a quick hug before standing up. He knew that the pair would want some time to spend together alone after Lindsay’s escape.

“Thank you for everything,” Dale said as he stood up with Tony, pulling him into a hug. Even though he didn’t want to admit his feelings out loud, he wanted Tony to know how much he thanked him for everything. If it wasn’t for Tony stepping in, this could be still going on.

“You don’t have to thank me, Dale. I did it because I care about you. You’re my best friend and I hated to see you going through that.”

“Thank you for taking care of him the last couple of months,” Lindsay then interrupted them, wrapping her arms tightly around Tony. There were no words to describe how thankful she was for what Tony had done. “It means the world to me, to us.”

“Like I said – you don’t need to thank me,” Tony replied as he smiled. They all then walked out of the court house, finally relieved. As Tony stood back and watched Dale, Lindsay and Angelica talk, he couldn’t help but smile. They were a happy family again and there was no one around to ruin it. That’s all that mattered at that point.

 

Chapter 30: My Thoughts For Him

Monday Afternoon – 1 month down the road after the trial (end of September) – Tony Stewart’s office

To everybody’s surprise, life pretty much returned to normal for everyone.

Dale was dealing with his emotions slowly, getting through them one step at a time. He hadn’t had to worry about Jeff so he was feeling much better. Lindsay and Dale’s relationship was back to where it was before and she was convinced once again that her secret was safe.

For Angelica, life had returned to as normal as a 15-year-old girl racing could have her life. She was racing quarter midgets for Kasey Kahne’s team and doing well, finishing top five each week with some wins. She was also doing well in school and was lined up for her first ARCA start at Toledo Speedway in a month.

So with everything returned to somewhat normal, why was Tony sitting in his office stuck in deep thought about everything? It was also no surprise that the two people who knew the most about everything – Danica and Ricky – were sitting across from him. Yes, somehow Ricky managed to sneak past security at SHR again. Tony was beginning to think he should hire him and be done with it.

“So what is on your mind since you called us here?” Ricky asked, finally breaking the silence. Tony had texted the pair an hour ago asking for them to come over to talk. They showed up 40 minutes later and had been sitting there in silence the past 20 minutes, only saying hi to each other and asking how they all were. “Jeff escape jail? Was one of those secrets revealed? You need to tel-”

“It’s not what you’re thinking Ricky,” Tony cut him off, not even wanting to think about that happening. That’d just be a nightmare.

“Then what is it?” Danica asked as she stood up, walking around the big desk to be right beside Tony. She had used this tactic many times before and each time it had worked to her advantage as he would spill everything. “You’re with friends. We won’t tell anybody.” Tony took a deep breath, knowing it wouldn’t be easy to tell them.

“With the time that I spent with Dale, I developed a lot of feelings for him. Guys, I don’t how to say this but I love him. I love him a lot and I miss cuddling with him. I miss those sweet nights together.” Ricky looked towards the man before him, confused. What had broken off what they had going?

“Then why did you run away when the trial was over?” Ricky asked, catching Tony’s eyes. “Why did you leave him there and not say a word about this?” Tony looked down, remembering that day. That day wasn’t about him. It was about Dale and ending his nightmare. It was about Dale returning back into the arms of the person he loved the most.

“I wanted to just let him and Lindsay be because I felt that was right,” Tony started. “I never though I had fallen this hard for the guy.”

“Then why don’t you tell him?” Danica then asked as she walked back over to Ricky. “I finally broke down and admitted that I like this guy.” Tony knew it wasn’t that easy as there were other things to consider.

“What about Lindsay? What about that relationship that they have?” Danica shook her head as Tony’s questioning, remembering what Tony had told them the one day.

“What about her being okay with you and Dale cuddling that night?” Ricky smiled as he remembered how Tony’s face lit up when he talked about spending that time with Dale.

“She said it was fine and left you two be,” Ricky then added. “You had a different special look to you with your smile when you spoke about that. You need him, Tony.” Tony looked down, knowing that the pair was right.

“Yeah, I really do need him more than I think I realize,” Tony let slip out of his mouth as he felt a pair of hands on his shoulders. He glanced up, to see that both Ricky and Danica were standing behind him now.

“Then go tell him that.”

“The worst he can say is no and you don’t have to sit here questioning it everyday,” Danica added as she remembered the times she sat in her office thinking about Ricky before she started dating him. “Take a chance. Let yourself fight for what you want. We know that you are always willing to pick a fight so go after it. I bet you’ll find something you weren’t ever expecting.” She then smiled as she got Ricky to follow her out of the office, closing the door behind her.

Turning to Ricky, she pulled out her phone, showing him a text. Dale had been texting her the last couple of weeks wondering what Tony was up to and how he was doing.

It was true – Dale also missed Tony and wondered if he’d ever get those late night cuddles that meant so much to him back.

“All he has to do is listen to us,” Danica commented as she put her phone back in her pocket.

“He will – his heart won’t let him not,” Ricky replied as he remembered when Danica confessed her love for him. He wanted to deny it – not wanting to get involved so soon after her marriage. However, he couldn’t deny his heart in having what it so desired.