The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 39: Can-Am Duels

Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 1 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina and Chase walk through the pits together, carefully.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” She questions as she wraps an arm around his waist. He glances over, nodding his head.

“I’m fine for tonight – trust me,” he answers, giving her a quick kiss. She wanted to believe him, but her mind kept wandering to just that morning, those fears and concerns, and knowing how quickly he had gotten comfortable in their bed during her practice.

“As long as you’re confident and know that you’ll be fin-”

“I know what I can handle, and this is nothing.” She nods her head in return as they glance around once again. “Let’s go sit up on Johnson’s pit box.” She simply nods her head once again, accepting, as they make their way down pit road.

“Mind if I join you?” They hear, caught off-guard, as they glance between each other, before looking back at Lindsay.

“I thought you’d be on Ryan’s pit box,” Chase offers as Lindsay shrugs her shoulders.

“I don’t know if I’m comfortable there. Ryan never mentioned anything, and I don’t know the guys yet, and I don’t know what I’d sa-”

“It’s fine.” She instantly looks relieved, catching up to join them as Chase looks over at Sarina. “Remind me later to give the rookie a lesson.” Sarina can only chuckle in response as they reach Byron’s pit.

It didn’t take them long to get comfortable on the pit box in their choice of seating, following a round of hellos from the crew.

Their eyes were immediately drawn to the action on the track, as the field came to take the green flag. Immediately, Bowman pulled to the right after taking the green, letting the field go past him.

“What the heck?” Sarina questions as she looks over at Chase concerned. He could only smirk back in response. “By design to protect the pole?”

“And the fact the car isn’t set-up yet for drafting due to the impound and Greg’s plan,” Chase answers and Sarina could only smile. It now made sense why Chase hadn’t been able to qualify right up there with his teammates. They had gone for a more ‘qualifying’ set-up, versus sticking to their race package like Chase and Alan had. “Personally, I would’ve preferred to get as much learning as I could before Sunday, but that’s their style….”

“Yours makes me more nervous at the same time as I agree with it.” He chuckles as he wraps an arm around her.

It didn’t take long for the first caution to fly, though, as it’d be Jimmie Johnson blowing a tire on Lap 9, taking Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola out with him.

“Jimmie’s luck sucks down here,” Chase comments with a sigh.

The troubles for the Hendrick Motorsports teammates continued, with William Byron going around on Lap 38, tapping the outside wall, after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had sidedrafted with him.

“You guys can stay here until race’s end as we can’t remove equipment until then,” Darian Grubb tells them and Chase simply nods his head back in return.

“That sucked,” he comments. “Hate to see that for you guys.” Darian packs up his stuff, before glancing back at Chase once again.

“It proves one thing – watch your left rear quarter as always.” Chase nods his head in agreement, remembering the old adage rule at Daytona – make sure you’re square when bump drafting and never get someone in the left rear as it makes them unstable immediately.

Their eyes remained focused on the rest of the action, feeling a little bit of dread at points in seeing the field simply run single file entering the closing stages. Chase watched closely in seeing if anybody was getting any runs, where a move could be made, studying the laps just in case his Duel fell into the same predicament later on that night.

It seemed the race was going to end with a bore, but Ryan Blaney popped out of line with four to go, set to make a move on Joey Logano for the lead.

“Come on Ryan!” All three shouted together, though felt paused immediately when another wreck happened.

“How do you do this every week?” Lindsay questions as Sarina just chuckles, rubbing her shoulders. “I could always watch before as a fan – not one freak out. But yet here I am on the verge of heart failure.”

“Ask Chase,” Sarina starts as she looks over at him. “I may be a driver, but I can freak out with the best of them.” Chase nods his head as he gets comfortable.

“Ryan should have this no problem,” he summarizes, catching the pair off-guard.

“No problem?” Chase nods as he looks over at the girls.

“Look at the moves he made all race long. Look at the moves he made in the Clash. He knows what’s he’s doing and he will beat Joey. Besides, he’s got a friend…”

As predicted, Darrell Wallace Jr. pushed Ryan on the restart, getting him out front. There were moves made as they came back around, but it was not enough as Ryan was able to come across with the first Duel win.

“That was awesome!” Lindsay lets out as she shares a high-five with Sarina.

“Girl, you need to get to victory lane!” Sarina instructs as they begin to make their way down off of the pit box.

“Are you sure about that?” Sarina immediately nods her head. “I mean, Ryan hasn’t told anyone that we’re together at all, and I don’t even know what to call us. Are you sure he’d want me there? I mean, I don’t even know what to do! Maybe I should jus-”

“Take her to victory lane, Sarina!” Chase instructs, knowing that Ryan would love having Lindsay there with him. He then wraps an arm around Sarina, pulling her close. “I love you, and don’t worry – I’ll be careful.”

“You better.” She then kisses his lips as the pair separate with Chase heading up pit road as the girls ran off to victory lane together.

Sarina carefully snuck Lindsay in, keeping her in the back corner as Ryan did his assortment of interviews. As soon as the final one was done, Sarina gave her a push forwards towards Ryan, standing back and smiling as Lindsay took the bait.

“Congratulations,” Lindsay says simply as Ryan looks over, smiling cheek to cheek.

“How was that show?” He questions as he pulls her close.

“That was great, beyond amazing. I just wasn’t sure if I should be here.” Ryan then looks at her shocked.

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else – well, except my team. But they don’t get one of these…” Ryan then kisses her lips as the flashbulbs go off behind them immediately. “Thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for inviting me, and thank Sarina and Chase for convincing me to come to victory lane…” Ryan looks over to where Sarina had remained hidden, giving her a wave, before focusing his eyes back on Lindsay.

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

Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 2 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina climbs the usual steps, taking her seat as she glances between the boys, flashing a trademark smile. It then immediately fades as she looks down, crossing her fingers together, closing her eyes, just hopeful that everything went smooth as possible.

“Hey, are you okay?” Alan questions as he glances back at her. She simply nods her head back in response. “You don’t need to be nervous.”

“It’s Daytona,” she tells him. “Whether you like it or not, I’m always nervous at Daytona because anything and everything can happen. Given this morning, you could say I may be on a little edge..” Alan nods sympathically as he reaches back for her hand, giving it a squeeze.

“You know I wouldn’t give your boy a bad car to work with, so you know he’ll be fine that way. But, I do understand that worry. Just try and focus on the good and remember that if he feels confident that he’s okay, the-”

“Everything will work out as planned.” She then takes a deep breath. “I keep reminding myself of that, Alan. Thank you.” He simply smiles as he lets her hand go, focusing back on his job at hand.

The race started off smoothly as Chase put himself in position at the front of the field. That didn’t allow Sarina to relax, though, as she felt every bit of heart-pumping action eating at her core. She almost let out the first yell of the evening in watching Erik’s slide Chase’s bumper, getting him loose with Jones going around for a spin.

“Did he touch you?” Alan questions on the radio as Sarina works at calming herself back down with a couple deep breathes, glad that they’re still in one piece.

“No, he was sideways the whole frigging time,” Chase answers, knowing his bumper had not made any contact with Jones to trigger the incident.

Alan brought him down pit road, choosing to go with fuel only, before sending him back out. of course, the jubilation was shortly lived as they were penalized for the crew going over the wall too soon. Knowing they were restarting at the back, Alan called him back down to put four tires on it.

If Sarina felt her heart was going to come out of her chest before, then she couldn’t describe her current stage of emotions as she felt even more freaked out in watching Chase dice his way up through the pack, using whatever lane would move. Remarkably, whether due to tires or just a strong car, she watched him move back up into the runner-up spot at Lap 25, just seven laps after the incident.

She felt like she was going to jump out of her seat two laps later when he pulled underneath Denny, sliding by him and back up for the lead.

“Oh my gosh….” She lets out, trying to keep herself calm as possible, despite the drastic blocking before her. It was nice to see Chase in the lead, but she knew that this was just beginning now.

Her nerves got her break through the middle portion of the event as once again, they ran single file like they had done the previous Duel. However, as the laps counted down – 10 to go, eight to go, six to go – her heart began to pound harder and harder, knowing that everybody was planning their move. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, she hoped Chase could pull the bocks necessary.

With two laps to go, the move came as Kevin Harvick broke out of line, set to make a run. However, at the same time, the lines broke apart behind him, slowing the lanes, with Chase making the moves necessary.

“Come on babes….” She says quietly as they come to the white flag.

Eddie D’Hondt perfected his job on the radio, giving him the necessary information, as she watched him hold the gap perfectly, leading the field back around for the win. Immediately, high-fives and hugs filled the pit box as everybody joined in complete excitement for the victory.

“Was that worth the nerves?” Alan questions as he gives her a hug.

“I’ll handle it any day if that’s the reward,” she answers.

It wasn’t long before the whole team was in victory lane, fists pumped in the air with pride for the win. After standing up on top for photos, Chase hops down, immediately wrapping his arms around Sarina and giving her a kiss, before going through his post-race interviews.

That was followed by photos on stage, which culminated with Chase and Sarina taking one of their own together.

“You were absolutely amazing out there,” she starts as she glances into his eyes. “I mean, for the man that says he has to practice and get better at plate racing, that was beyond spectacular. I say you, Ryan, Ricky, Brad, Joey, Denny and Kevin are the only ones that can make moves like that. I can’t wait until Sunday!” Chase leans in for another kiss.

“Alan built one great hot rod,” Chase states, before the pair take a photo together. They then look back over, as she rubs his side.

“Tell me the truth, please…” He takes a deep breath, squinting a touch as he lets it out.

“It’s tender, a little sore – but I’m fine. It’s nothing that I haven’t handled before, and it’s actually not as bad as last year.” She nods her head, accepting, before leaning her head against him. He immediately wraps his arms around her, just holding her. “I know I scared you this morning. Trust me, nobody knows that more than me. I’ve stated my fears of Allison before, but I can tell you right now that what she’s done has upped the game big time. I can’t stop looking over my shoulder, can’t stop wondering, can’t stop thinking, trying to figure what she’ll do next. So I get it, Sarina, and it’s okay to be afraid…”

“I’m not afraid, Chase.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “I know how strong you are because of what you’ve done for me, whether being there, or dealing with my brother’s crap. I know the type of character you are. I know that no matter what she throws your way, you’re going to be okay because you’re stronger than I can put into words. Right now, though, I am thankful…” She then gives him another kiss.

“Me too.”  He then lets out a sigh as he rests his head on top of hers, thinking things through. He wanted to stand tall and believe in those words that she was saying, but how could he do that when his world was constantly flipped upside down? The little fear that he had told Kyle, Ricky and his dad in the past about – that had grown to the point that he didn’t know if he could keep it under control.

“You’re still here?!?” They hear, glancing down to see Ryan and Lindsay standing there together. it was clearly obvious that the pair had gotten changed, and Lindsay’s hair being messed up a little had a smirk on Sarina’s face immediately.

“I’m about to head to the media center for post-race intervie-” Chase starts, knowing that he couldn’t stay there forever in her arms, despite not wanting to move a single inch.

“Not yet!” Ryan and Lindsay then come up and join them on stage with a smile of their own.

“Group photo!” The girls let out together as they both wrap their arms around the guys.

“Dude, you’re wearing one of my shirts?” Chase questions as he looks over at Ryan, seeing the shirt that he had changed into.

“I’m your number one fan now!” Ryan lets out as he wraps his arms around him, causing a series of laughs.

Thursday, February 15 –Daytona International Speedway

With everything in the books for the day, everybody had met back together in Ryan’s motorcoach for some fun and they were joined by Darrell Wallace Jr., as well. Being the good friend, Wallace had brought both boys a beer to toast their wins.

“If you need more ice, don’t hesitate to ask,” Ryan offers as he hands Chase a bag, getting a simple nod in return. Whether Chase wanted to admit it or not, Ryan knew that he was probably feeling a bit of pain in his ribs and didn’t want to leave his friend hanging.

“How are you feeling, though?” Chase questions, catching Ryan’s attention. It was nice to see the concern go one way, but really, it was more warranted the other way. In Chase’s mind, Ryan never should’ve gotten stuck in the middle of this.

“I’m sore in spots where I’m blue or purple, but I’m fine. Nothing a win can’t cure.” Chase chuckles as he watches Ryan get comfortable across from him.

“So I heard back from the investigator, by the way. She says that the paperwork I received detailing everything – Allison was able to get access through Chris’ lawyer as he would’ve had it. They’re currently looking to track down that lawyer and get him to fess up and talk. They’ve also put a search out for Allison. Now, how is she getting the access to these places? Nobody knows…” Ryan nods his head, accepting. He glances over, seeing both girls joking with Bubba as they played a round of Mario Kart, before looking back at Chase.

“What’s your reaction?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances down for a second, before back over at Ryan.

“I don’t kno-”

“You have to have some reaction, Chase.” Chase takes a deep breath.

“I just hate that you’re involved, okay? I hate that you were there with me today and had to go through this. I hate that once again, a friend of mine has gotten hurt because of this. You went through enough last year with Chris drugging you; you didn’t need to go throu-”

“I wouldn’t change a thing, though.” Chase then looks over at him confused and puzzled.

“Are you serious right now?” Ryan nods his head.

“If I’m not there, you’re going through this alone. I would never want to have someone in a position to wake up on a beach after crashing a plane alone. Besides, what if things had been worse? What if you seriously needed someone to help you? I would’ve wanted to be there, Chase.” Chase almost wanted to smile in Ryan’s reaction.

“That means a lot coming from you. Thank you.” Ryan smiles back in return as he glances over at the other three.

“We’re always going to be friends and we’re always going to be there for each other, right?” He then turns back to Chase. “I’m here for you through this, thick and thin. Until she’s arrested and behind bars for her life, or dead, I’m going to be here by your side whether you are willing to accept that or not. And Chase, it’s okay to worry, or be afraid, or wond-”

“I kno-”

“Just don’t keep it bottled up, or it’ll drive you insane, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“Can you boys please come kick their girl’s asses?” Darrell breaks up their discussion. “I’m getting my ass handed to me here!” They both laugh as they glance at each other, before joining them to take a crack at it.

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 38: “Are you sure we went the right way?”

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina heard her phone go off for what seemed like the hundredth time, and was almost set to chuck it across the room.

“What time is it?” She wondered, half-asleep, as she reached over for her phone. Seeing that there were eight missed text messages from Lindsay, she couldn’t help but feel concerned as she opened them. “What the hell?”

She calls Chase’s number twice, before hitting Ryan’s twice afterwards. She then resorts back to Chase’s number, dialing it over and over as she gets out of the bed, throwing a sweater and pair of pants on quickly. She makes her way out of the motorcoach, continuing to hit the number, as she makes her way down a couple more.

She knocks on the door, panic slowly building, as she was getting no answer, or sign of return from him.

“Sarina?” Bill questions as he opens the door, confused.

“Have you seen Chase or Ryan?” She questions and Bill shakes his head no, now intrigued. “He was supposed to fly down to Miami, pick Lindsay up, and bring her here. But I haven’t seen him, or Ryan, and Lindsay hasn’t been picked up yet.” Bill felt concern forming as he goes back in his motorcoach, grabbing his phone, looking for any messages or missed calls.

“Have you trie-”

“I’ve been calling his number over, and over, and Ryan’s too!” Bill didn’t want to panic because who knew, it may be a simple issue like he left late due to a problem, or there was still a problem at the airport. However, that thought was also accompanied by the reason he had come down there early.

“Stay here with Cindy and explain to her what’s going on, and I’ll be back. It’s probably nothing, but I’ll go by the airport and see if he’s there…” Sarina takes a calm deep breath, nodding her head as Bill walks over up to her. He wraps an arm around her shoulders. “He’s going to be okay, relax…” He then heads off as Sarina enters the motorcoach, ready to see Cindy.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Beach

The pair had been walking for what seemed forever, but it seemed to be leading them nowhere. They had passed by a couple buildings, but there weren’t open so there was no way to find people there.

“Are you sure we went the right way?” Ryan questions as he stops to take a small break. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he glances around.

“The sun always rises in the east, and sets in the west,” he recalls a saying that he learned during pilot training. “The track is west of the beach, so therefore if we walk away from the sun, we should find the track.” Ryan looks over a little concerned by the theory, as he glances around.

“Meanwhile, we’ve been walking for a while and found nothing!” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks over at Ryan.

“I didn’t say it was a short walk, did I?” Ryan shakes his head. “Besides, are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m not the one bitching that my side hur-”

“You’re also not in perfect shape, either..” Ryan knew that Chase was right as he tries to stretch a little.

“I’m not a big swimmer, man. That was probably the most I’ve gone, and will go, swimming in my life. I’m just sore everywhere.” He then stretches a little bit more before continuing to walk. “But standing around isn’t going to get us anywhere, so we better keep going…”

“Yeah.” Chase then continues walking behind him.

“Are you good to keep walking?” Chase nods his head as he catches up alongside.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Airport

Bill walks down the airport tarmac, surprised by the sight before him as there was no plane, bags, or anything to be found. It was clear that Chase wasn’t there, having taken off, now somewhere between here and Miami.

“Where are you?” He questions as he looks at his phone once again. He had followed Sarina’s lead, also dialing Chase’s number a couple of times, demanding an answer.

He goes to where the plane was parked and was almost set to walk away with no signs of anything, but stopped when he noticed an envelope. He walks over, picking it up, and quickly ripping it open. Before even reading the contents, he figured what was coming.

“You should be more careful as you know I’m always watching,” he reads, letting out an aggravated sigh.

Taking a deep breath, he pulls his phone back out, calling the phone number that Chase had given him for the investigator. His heart was panicking, but he had to do what was right. He just didn’t know how he’d tell Cindy and Sarina what he found.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona, Florida

“Now which way do we go?” Ryan questions as they seemed to be getting closer to where some hopeful civilization would be.

“This way,” Chase answers as he leads them down a path. Ryan almost wasn’t set to listen, given where they’d gotten so far, but he also didn’t have a single clue. “That hotel there – that’s where the crew guys are staying!”

“Wouldn’t they be gone already?” Chase knew that was a possibility, but whether they were there or not, he didn’t care. It was someone that could help them out.

They continue walking, both of them feeling some pain as those clothes clung tight being soaked, walking up to the edge of the Marriott property.

“Chase?” They hear, catching them by surprise. They could only wonder what crew member and team this person was fun, but it was nice to finally find someone who recognized them. They watch as the person immediately heads over their direction, and every reflex relaxed immediately. “We’re just about to come to the track. What the hell are you doing here? And why are you both soaked?”

“Crashed the plane in the beach,” Chase states, causing Jordan’s jaw to drop immediately. “We were going to pick up Lindsay and ran into a bit of a probl-”

“A bit of a problem? Are you serious? This is no little problem! I mean, I don’t know if you realize, but you’re both damn lucky to be simply standing here based on what you’re telling me. I mean, how lucky can one gu-”

“Look, can I call Sarina and my dad, please? They’re going to be worr-”

“Come with me….” Jordan gets the pair of them to follow him up to the hotel, causing some glances from a couple of the other crew members.

It didn’t take Jordan long to explain what was happening, causing more shocked glances from the various crew members. But in their true fashion, they each stepped in to help immediately. They led both boys inside, and back up to the floor they were staying on. They went down to the crew chief’s suite, with Alan letting them in immediately.

“Get out of your wet clothes,” Alan instructs as he goes into the closet. He didn’t have much, but threw a pair of pants and shirt at each of them. “Anything is better than being soaked.”

The pair nod their heads as they follow the instructions, getting changed quickly. Once changed, the crew members had already figured out their plan of action. Josh was set on making sure both of them were comfortable laying in Alan’s bed, having seen the signs of being sore. Alan had taken the action of calling Sarina, followed by calling Bill, while Jordan took the liberty of phoning it in to the investigator.

“Sarina, Cindy, and Bill are on their way over,” Alan states as he glances over the pair. “You both need to get checked out so they can take you. Ryan, if you want, we can call Roger, anybody you nee-”

“I’m fine,” Ryan cuts him off as Alan simply nods his head.

“Do we really need to get checked out?” Chase questions and Alan gives him a glare.

“You’re in pain right now as I can see that,” Alan starts. “You just crashed a plane into the water and want to go on as if nothing happened? Not happening, buddy.” Chase lets out a sigh as he rubs his side a little.

“I already know what they’re going to sa-”

“You’re not getting out of this – no ifs, ands, or buts.” Chase lets out a sigh as he tries to get comfortable.

“Yes sir.”

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

“I’m just glad that you’re okay,” Sarina comments as she cuddles up to him in their bed together.

It hadn’t taken long in the morning for the pair to be reunited, with shock being the number one item of discussion. Although he hadn’t been wanting to get checked out, it didn’t take as long as anticipated either.

Thankfully, he hadn’t actually broken any ribs, but rather just bruised a couple. While it’d take three to four weeks to heal, thankfully a bit of asprin and ice was helping right now. Other than that, some bruises in a couple other spots and rest to heal the tiredness and he’d be good to go.

Ryan had gotten luckier, only having some questionable bruises in spots, and needing some rest as clearly it had taken its toll.

After they were released, the pair returned to the track and their respective tracks. Bill had gone and picked up Lindsay so Ryan and Lindsay were able to spend their time together, while Sarina and Chase had each other.

“I don’t think you realize how luc-” Sarina goes to continue.

“Trust me, I know how lucky I was,” he cuts her off as he runs his fingers through her hair. “Jump any later than I did, or if we weren’t over the water, and we would’ve been in trouble. I get it. I haven’t lost sight on that – especially considering it’s my fault.” Sarina then looks at him confused. “I was running late, and didn’t bother to look everything over. The note was right – I should’ve been more carefu-”

“You couldn’t kno-”

“I should’ve known that it was possible, because of the notes, because of the threats, because of the way the notes have gone. When something like that is going on, you need to be more careful than usual, and I should’ve been. It’s my own fault, and worst of all, I feel terrible for Ryan.” She then lays her head against his chest as she debates what to say next. How was she supposed to make him feel better about this?

“Ryan isn’t mad at you, and you can’t beat yourself up over it. Like you always tell me – learn and more on. Next time, it’ll serve as a reminder to be careful. Be thankful you’re alright and focus on the future.” She then glances up in his eyes. “Besides, don’t you have a race – are you even running the Duel now?” He nods his head.

“This is a whole new package. I learned a lot in the Clash, but I need to figure out some other things. Alan needs the data for the car, too. I’m running it.” She nods her head, accepting, swallowing the lump in her throat as she lays her head back against him.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful, okay?”

“I’ll do my best.” He then kisses the top of her head as he goes back to running his fingers through her hair. “I’m sorry I scared you this morning.”

“It’s not your fault. All that matters to me is that you’re okay.” He shifts a little, getting comfortable.

“I’ll be okay…” She then glances at the clock, and lets out a sigh. “Go practice. I’ll be here when you come back – I promise. I’m probably going to go to sleep for a bit anyway.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call your pare-”

“I’m a big boy, Sarina. I can take care of myself.” She then kisses his lips, before slowly standing up and reaching for her firesuit off of the dresser. She gets changed, snagging another kiss before starting to head out. “Sarina?” She ten glances back. “Can you get me another bag of ice?”

“I thought you said you could take care of yourself. Maybe I should call your pare-”

“Once you get the ice and I put it there, I’ll probably fall asleep shortly after. If I need them, though, I’ll call.” She lets out a sigh, nodding her head. It didn’t take her long to grab the ice, giving it to him and making sure that he was nice and comfortable. “Thank you.”

“Be careful. I love you.” He grabs her hand with his, pulling her close, and kissing her lips.

“I love you, too, and it’s you that needs to be careful. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” She takes a deep breath, slowly turning on her heels and heading out.

She hated to leave him like this, but she knew she couldn’t give up the first practice of the year, either.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 37: Media Day

When people want to play the game of mixing words and things like that, you turn us into robots. We can’t say the things that we want to say or do the things we want to do because it gets us in trouble or gets us in a bad light. It’s really unfortunate.” – Kyle Busch

Wednesday, February 14 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina lets out a long stretch and sigh, before glancing over at the empty spot beside her in bed.

It was the day of love, but it was like that had disappeared with yet another day of work on the horizon. She actually wished he would’ve woken up before he left.

She then slowly gets up, making her way to the kitchen half-asleep, knowing that she’d have to go in a bit herself. Letting out a sigh, a day of photos and talking to the media just seemed perfect.

As she reaches the kitchen, a smile immediately blossoms on her face as she walks over to the small dining room table. She sees the dozen pink roses lying there, along with box of chocolates and a card. She picks up the card, quickly opening it as she leans back against the desk.

“I love you no matter and always,” she reads out loud. “You’ll always be my girl, no matter what anybody says. Have some fun today, ignore the hatred that you’re going to receive, and just be you. I’ll see you later…”

She then picks up the roses, smelling them as she gets out a make-shift to vase to put them. As she gets them settled, she was caught off-guard by a knock at the door. She was a little taken back, but wondered if it was possibly either her PR rep thinking she’d be running late, or maybe even Chase’s parents.

She makes her way over, slowly opening the door, relaxing as she sees her boss’ face immediately.

“I was wondering when we’d actually see each other after last night,” Kyle states as he enters the motorcoach. Sarina could feel the lump foaming in her throat as she closed the door behind them, slowly following him to the living room area.

“Kyle, I can explai-” She starts, hoping that she could somehow muster her way out of this.

“You don’t need to explain yourself.” She then looks at him confused. “Anybody knows that you didn’t know anything about it. Considering that Chase sent out a tweet supporting your statement, and the fact that his sponsors haven’t said anything, why are you thinking that?” She felt relieved immediately, but taken back by his words at first.

“I just thought that I’d be in shit considering the messages I’ve gotten back in return.” Kyle had to chuckle as he had read through a bunch of them last night before falling asleep.

“And you don’t think I’ve gotten worse? Do I need to show you what I received when I wrecked Dale?” She lets out a sigh, shaking her head no. Perhaps Kyle showing up was actually the best thing. “I like the personality and spark that you have. It’s one of those reasons why I felt you were perfect for KBM, beyond your talent. I thought Chase would’ve pushed for you to stay in the Hendrick/GMS family, but I can see watching you how he felt that you were perfect under my wing, too. I actually stopped by because I wanted to offer my hand in support, in case you thought I was mad at you.” She smiles back in return as it was nice to actually here, even if originally implied.

“I just don’t know how to handle everybody today after what was said…” Kyle crosses his arms as an idea comes to mind immediately, with a twinkle. “Oh no….”

“I’ve done it, but it’d be perfect…..”

Chase had been busy all morning, going through the required stages of the media day. From the radio interviews, to the TV interviews, to now sitting before a bunch of people talking his butt off.

Didn’t they have anything else to talk about, though? It was just about first win and the prospect of being the next most popular driver. Why did they want to make a big deal out of it?

“Your tweet last night in relation to Sarina surprised some people,” a media member speaks up, catching his attention. “We haven’t seen you speak out much about things…”

“I speak out when necessary, answer questions as they’re asked, and go about my business,” Chase offers. “But last night, it was clear that a lot of people took her comment the wrong way. Nobody associated with me, or myself, had any ill-feelings, but you could see yourself the comments. I just wanted to show my support.” He just hoped they left it at that.

“What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?” He smiles, shrugging his shoulders.

“I can’t tell you that, man. She’s around here somewhere and may hear my answer. That’d ruin the surprise.”

Sarina was also busy doing her rounds at the same time, and found herself before the same people later on. Taking a deep breath, she couldn’t wait for the fun to begin. She trusted Kyle’s judgment in doing this.

“What are your thoughts going into this weekend?” One reporter asks and she just smiles.

“Everything’s great,” she answers, noticing Kyle watching out of the corner of her eye.

“What is your reaction to the backlash from last night?” Another wonders.

“Everything’s great.”

“What about your relationship with Chase Elliott?”

“Everything’s great.”

“What about Valentine’s Day? Chase mentioned a possible surprise….”

“Everything’s great.” Kyle couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched the reactions on their faces.

“Is that all your going to say today?” She then glances over, and nods her head.

“It seems that when you guys get to know me, it’s gets twisted or torn apart. I’m the girl who’s probably crazy, maybe even insane, and can’t crack a simple joke, right? That’s sarcasm, if you don’t get that, because I am not those things. But I am sick of people twisting things on their face.”

“Does that mean all of your answers are going to dry from now on?” One of them wonders and she shrugs her shoulders.

“We’ll just have to see what happens, right?” She questions as she sits back in the chair. “If I have to be honest, though, I was taken back by the responses last night to the tweet that those clearly directed to got right away. I mean, I’ve talked with those girls before at races and we have no problems. Secondly, obviously I’m excited for this weekend to get back racing and get back behind the wheel. Hopefully I can snag myself a win and start off the year well. As for your other question, Chase and I – well, everything’s just great.”

Kyle also took his time before the media, seeing as though things had been taken care of accordingly – even if some people didn’t appreciate their tactic used.

“What is your take on the situation with Sarina’s tweet?” Busch was asked about halfway through.

“Everything’s great, right?” He offers, causing a series of chuckles. “My take is simple. When people want to play the game of mixing words and things like that, you turn us into robots. We can’t say the things that we want to say or do the things we want to do because it gets us in trouble or gets us in a bad light. It’s really unfortunate.”

Despite starting after he had started, she was officially done for the day and was now doing the liberty o standing back watching him finish up the last couple of photos.

“I can’t believe you’re not down here for Valentine’s Day sucking up to Ryan,” she says on the phone, having dialed up Lindsay. She wanted to make sure her cousin was still coming as promised.

“I couldn’t get out of doing this dance recital no matter how hard I tried,” Lindsay confesses as Sarina lets out a long sigh. “Besides, it’s not like Ryan and I aren’t close yet…” It was now her turn to chuckle.

“You don’t need to keep lying to me and Chase….” It was clear that chemistry was growing as she had on good information from Chase that Ryan had been texting Lindsay.

“I’m being serious! But okay, let’s talk to you now. It must suck working on the one day where you two could truly spend to yourselves, cherishing that special love….” Sarina couldn’t find herself to agree, though, by the sight before her right now.

“There are certainly perks to this job…” She licks her lips with every thought that comes to her mind, as he lets out a quick blink her way. “I have an excuse to just stand here, stare, and not be creepy.”

“Do I want to know what you’re doing right now?” Sarina almost chuckled, as she kept her eyes locked on Chase’s.

“I’m just watching him do the photo shoot for Fox. Needless to say, we’re going to be spoiled as they are doing quite the job…” It was Lindsay’s turn to chuckle as Sarina watched as he shifted positions.

“Are you sure you want to share that with the whole world?” Sarina knew the answer that should be offered, but she didn’t need to be one of those girls.

“They can look, but at the end of the day, we both know where his heart lies….”

Once they were done their photos together, they headed back to the motorcoach.

Chase goes in before her, retreating to the back as he finds a pair of good pants and a polo shirt, heading into the bathroom without saying a single word.

Sarina makes her way in, shutting the door behind her, as she comes up through. She finds herself frozen at the table, caught off-guard. She had put the card and flowers up, and eaten the chocolate, before she left, with nothing there. However, now a big box laid there with her name on it.

She slowly opens the box and her jaw dropped immediately as she saw the dress inside. She slowly pulls it out, holding it up as she glances it over.

“Do you like it?” She hears as her eyes turn his direction, seeing him peaking out of the bathroom.

“It’s stunning…” She lets out as she lays it back on the table. He makes his way over to her, just wearing his pants right now, as he wraps his arms around her.

“After you left, I got my mom to sneak back in and set this here for you. I love you, and I want to spend this day properly with you. I’m taking you out to dinner tonight. Why don’t you get that on and show me just how beautiful you are?” He then kisses her lips, before letting go and retreating back to the bathroom.

It didn’t take her long to get dressed before they headed out together to dinner.

It went successful together, as they were able to get some quality time together, with even more gifts shared. He bought her an 18 and 9 charm to go on her bracelet with the heart-shaped locket, while she had treated him to a box of chocolates, along with a couple new magazine subscriptions and new Georgia Bulldog sweater.

Of course, the night ended off in true fashion, too, as he eventually helped her take off the dress carefully later on.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

With the night going later on than intended, Chase had later than he wanted, and was shocked when the alarm went off at 4am, knowing he had to go pick up Lindsay from the airport for Sarina. It also didn’t hurt that it had gone off a half hour later than he wanted, either. Perhaps he had hit snooze twice.

He carefully sneaks out of the bed without disturbing her, quickly texting Ryan in the process. Ryan had asked to come as he wanted to see Lindsay.

“So she landed in Miami because it was cheaper?” Ryan questions and Chase nods his head yes as they pull into the parking lot. “So we’re going to fly down there, pick her up, and come back?”

“That’s the plan,” Chase answers as he parks the car. “Are you excited to see your girl?”

“I would’ve honestly preferred a couple more hours sleep…” Chase couldn’t help but agree as the pair made their way to the plane.

Glancing at the time, seeing that they were running late, he could only shake his head. Knowing the plane had been locked up, he was confident in no issues, forgoing the usual checklist.

Though now in the air for awhile, he was beginning to regret it as he saw something wrong on the dials.

“We need to land ASAP,” he tells Ryan, who looks over a little concerned. Ryan knew there was reason to be worried if Chase was saying that. “Either we turn around, or we land up here on the sand. But this…” He points to a couple of the dials. “…just doesn’t seem right.”

“Do what you feel right,” Ryan instructs as he unintentionally makes sure the belts are done up tight as they can. “I trust you. Just let me know if I can help.”

One eye on the dials, one eye on the sky, he tries to get himself turned around to head back to the original airport. Though as he turns, a big sound can be heard, causing both of the young men to jump out of their skin.

“Hold on tight!” Chase instructs, keeping both hands locked on the steering wheel as he pulls at the wheel as hard as he can. “Damn it, come on!” Despite the efforts, it wasn’t long before water was in their full view as Ryan closed his eyes, counting his blessings.

“Oh shi-” Ryan starts as he sees the beach water below him straight ahead.

“Abort!” Chase reaches over, knocking Ryan’s belts loose before knocking his own. “Go down belted in and we’re drowning. You know what to do…”

“Are you sure?” Ryan didn’t get a chance to hear an answer as he watches his friend jump, heading straight for the water away from the plane. A deep breath, and Ryan followed suit, barely making it out following him.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Beach – 7am

Chase takes a deep breath, glancing around him. Considering how high he had jumped from, he actually didn’t feel that bad right now. But why did things feel odd?

He closes his eyes, trying to remember the past couple of hours. He remembered the jump into the water. He remembered working hard as swimming to shore as the plane went down behind him. He remembered making it to shore. As he opens his eyes, exhaustion was all he could think of as he glances around.

“Chase?!?” He hears his name called and the missing link instantly comes to him.

“Ryan?!?” He yells back in return as he glances down the beach. He saw his friend lying on the beach and couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief. He makes his way slowly down, flopping back down beside him. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, absolutely. I’m tired as hell, but I’m okay….” Chase nods his head as he glances around.

“I’m okay, too.” Ryan couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief.

“When you jumped, I didn’t know what to think….” Chase looks out to the water, before looking over at Ryan.

“Instincts just took over. I don’t know what went through my mind.” He then glances around the beach, seeing it was still bare – which seemed odd despite the early hour. “If you’re willing to do some traveling, we should go find civilization.” Ryan nods his head in agreement, as he slowly goes to stand up.

“Oh man…” Chase looks over concerned. “Sore, everywhere…” Chase watches Ryan get up, before getting up himself. He froze immediately, hands reaching down to his side.

“I knew he jinxed it!” Ryan then looks over confused. “Ricky mentioned in all this jokingly that I hadn’t hurt my ribs when this started. I recognize that pain – not as bad, but damn…” Ryan almost felt like getting the pair to sit back down, but knew that wasn’t an option.

“Are you sure you’re up for a hike?” Chase nods his head as he begins to head down the beach.

“If we’re racing tonight, we need to find the track…” Ryan couldn’t argue with him as he knew no matter how sore they both were, racing wasn’t out of the question.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 17: “Oh, so you think I can’t drive in the snow?”

Wednesday January 17, 2018 – North Carolina

In the week that followed, it seemed everything cooled down to back to normal.

Sarina was back to feeling herself without any issues, solely focused on the upcoming race season. She was spending her days at Kyle Busch Motorsports, going through seat fittings, photo shoots, and even a commercial shoot for Toyota. In her world, the upcoming race season was her sole focus.

Maybe she was using it as a distraction, or maybe not. She hadn’t thought about Shelley any longer, not wanting to give her the fuel to fire as Chase told her. What was the point in wasting energy to just get all frustrated all over again? Truthfully, she hadn’t found herself reflecting on emotions, feeling everything was settled after the discussion that night with Chase. He had brought up plenty of solid points, and anytime she felt bothered by a point again, she just took a deep breath and reminded her of the discussion.

Just because she was chilled about it, it didn’t mean that Chase was, as well. He had been keeping an extra eye on her, asking her at times how she was doing and reminding her they could talk anytime. In his mind, he could only wonder if maybe they had left something untouched. He also had called Tom, and put an end to finding anymore family connections until further notice. He wanted to let things cool down, and then allow Sarina to evaluate their options forward. They had gotten lucky with Lindsay, but what if this was a sign of things to come?

Scrolling randomly through twitter that afternoon, his eyes go from his phone to the hallway in surprise as he watches her come down the stairs.

“Where do you think you’re going?” He questions, catching her attention as she looks at him, surprised. She wasn’t aware that she had to answer him.

“I have business to take care of,” she answers, having planned to make the usual trip up to Kyle Busch Motorsports. There was supposed to be a pair of meetings today, all centered around finalizing plans for the year across the board.

“You’re not going out.” She crosses her arms as she walks into the front room, standing right directly in front of him.

“And why is that, Chase?” He glances up, pointing outside, before looking back to his phone. “Oh, so you think that I can’t drive in the snow?” Overnight, they had gotten about four inches of snow, which was rare for the area, but they’d gotten used to it happening at least once or twice a winter. With it being rare, there was an advisory posted about not traveling due to the road conditions.

“They advised against any unnecess-”

“I grew up in Michigan. We got much more snow than this – six, seven inches –but yet we still went out and did business as usual. This isn’t anything new for me, Chase. I’ll be fine.” Chase then glances away from his phone, looking up at her.

“I just care about yo-”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll drive carefully, and come home if I feel that it’s not safe enough. I’ll also text you when I get there so you know I arrived safely. Can I please go out?” He lets out a sigh, nodding his head.

“Love you, and be safe.” She leans down, kissing his lips with a smile, before heading for the door.

“Love you, too.” She then heads out the door as Chase gets comfortable on the couch.

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

Chase was fixing himself a snack in the kitchen a couple hours later – having received the text from Sarina, when he heard a knock on the door.

“I thought they cancelled today,” he comments out loud as he makes his way to the door, opening it, expecting a repair man. Instead, he was caught off-guard in seeing Ryan standing there. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d stop by and see my best friend since it’s been awhile,” Ryan offers as Chase shrugs his shoulders, letting Ryan easily come inside.

“Didn’t you see the weather advis-”

“I can handle driving in the snow, thank you very much. Actually, I went and helped a couple stuck friends out and then came by to say hello. Now, is that a crime?” Chase shakes his head no as he heads back to the kitchen.

“Help yourself if you want a drink. I was just getting myself a snack.” Ryan nods his head as he opens the fridge, grabbing a can of Pepsi. As he shuts the door, he notices a hole in the wall.

“What happened?” Chase follows the direction as Ryan’s eyes, and lets out a sigh. He was hoping to have that fixed and forgotten already. It wasn’t a topic that he wanted to discuss with everyone.

“It’s a hole in the wall.” Ryan rolls his eyes, almost willing to smack Chase at that moment.

“I’m aware of what it is, dumbass. How did it happen?” Chase crosses his arms, knowing that this discussion wouldn’t be ending anytime soon.

“Sarina got overwhelmed with emotion and punched the wall before breaking down with tears. I came home from the Texas test to a hole in the wall. I haven’t gotten it fixed yet for a bunch of reasons, from my own to the repairman. Anyways, he was supposed to come today but cancelled due to the weather. Now, are we going to play a game or no-”

“So you’re just going to cut off conversation just like that? I mean, there’s got to be more than simply overwhelmed and punching a wall. That’s not something that just happens.” Chase glances down at the counter, feeling every bit of frustration, before returning his gaze to Ryan.

“Remember how I told you that she was going to reach out to Shelley, again? Well, she called her and the conversation went terrible. Needless to say, it brought up a bunch of emotions and by herself, it just swirled every emotion that she had and it happened before she realized it. We spent that night talking it through, talking about all of her feelings, finding some peace with it.” Ryan crosses his arms as he walks over to get a closer look, before turning around to face Chase.

“And just like that, it’s forgotten?” Chase nods his head, as it hadn’t been discussed – except when it would be fixed – since that night. “There’s a hole, in the wall. That’s also a pretty big hole. It’s not just something that you can brush over, Chase.”

“What are you trying to get at, Ryan?” Ryan takes a deep breath as he walks over, leaning over the counter, eyes locked on him.

“Emotional instability, anger management. Don’t you think it’s worth talking about?”

“She’s not her brother, Ryan. She’s not craz-”

“I didn’t say that, did I? We’ve discussed before that she isn’t the best at handling her emotions. We talked about how it took patience and prodding from you. If she can do this in that overwhelmed unsure state, not sure what to do, maybe you need to talk to a professional.” Chase glances down at the counter, nodding his head.

“I’ve thought about bringing that up to her…..”

“Hey, anger management is not a bad thing. I mean, look at Tony! He’s a damn great guy, but he had a helluva time handling his anger and it took a trip to Anger Management Counseling from NASCAR to do something about it. We’ve seen signs of this before, Chase. Look at how she reacted when Christopher and her got together at Phoenix, and how much you had to hold her back.” Chase nods his head, remembering that night, as he takes a deep breath.

“When I came in the door and saw the hole in the wall, my mind immediately began swirling and all I cared about was that she was okay. Then when she told me, I can tell you right now that I had a lot of different thoughts and yes, what you’re saying crossed my mind. I’ve thought about it and ways to bring it up to her. I’ve debated if it’s even necessary or whether I’m over worrying. I’ve debated if I’m just trying to brush it off with everything else that happened lately. Now hearing it from you, maybe I should talk to her.” Ryan nods his head, accepting, as he keeps his eyes on Chase.

“I just feel that you should do something before something else happens and there is another outcome.” Chase then looks at him confused.

“She’s not suicid-”

“I wasn’t implying that, but hey, you never know depending on the situation if bad enough, right? I just don’t want her to get overwhelmed, emotional, or you guys to get into a figh-”

“That’s not going to happ-”

“Never say never. You guys could disagree on something.” Chase lets out a sigh, not looking forward to that happening. They weren’t the best at fights, considering she had ran away twice before, and he had pushed her away one other time. He hoped that if they got into a big enough fight, they had both learned their lessons. “I just don’t want you to get hur-”

“She wouldn’t hurt me, Ryan.” Ryan then looks at him with a face of surprise.

“Do I need to remind you of some past situations? She has hurt you in the past, Chase. It’s why you’re scared to talk to her about certain things, and why you don’t want to face the fact that a fight is possible.” Chase nods his head, knowing that Ryan knew him straight through. Why was he so easy to read? “I’m talking this time physically, thou-”

“She wouldn-”

“How do you know that 100% for sure, Chase? She could get overwhelmed, emotional, and just do it without realizing – same as the wall. I’m just trying to look out for you. Promise me you’ll think about it.” Chase looks up from the counter, nodding his head.

“Now, I thought you came over for some fun…” Ryan smiles as he follows his best friend to the living room, both set for a couple video games. “Thank you, by the way. I needed that lecture.”

“That’s why you have me. See, it was a good idea that I stopped by to say hi.” Chase turns the game on, sitting back on the couch as he hands Ryan a controller.

“As long as you tell me about how things are going with Lindsay. I know you guys have talked – thanks to Lindsay telling Sarina.” Ryan rolls his eyes as he takes a sip of his drink.

“I’d rather not discuss the detai-”

“Oh come on!”

“Besides, we didn’t talk about anything important. It was just small talk.” Chase then looks over at Ryan, a combination of intrigue and surprise.

“When you’re saying not discussing and then say that, I know something is up….” Ryan smiles a little as Chase smacks his arm. “Tell me!”

“We were complimenting each other on our favorite qualities, while playing 21 questions to get to know each other. I ten asked if she could get Speedweeks off work.” Chase could only shake his head in response.

“Make sure you close the blinds.” It was now Ryan’s turn to smack him as Chase just laughs. “You know it’s true…”

“The odd thing? I don’t feel immediate set to do that with her. Instead, I want to get to know her – every ounce of her personality, likes, dislikes, behaviors – and really see who she is.” Chase looks over at Ryan surprised.

“Are you finally growing up, or have you finally found true love?” Ryan shrugs his shoulders. “But, I am glad that you’re being careful. I wouldn’t want Sarina to kick your…..” Chase’s voice trails off as Ryan looks over.

“You can say it.” Chase shakes his head no. “Oh come on. We both know that she’d be mad if I messed with her cousin. She already warned me, remember?”

“Maybe I should talk to her for your sake.” Ryan then looks over a little confused.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You don’t have the best track record, and I don’t want you getting your ass kicked over the smallest disagreement – even if you both eventually make up.” Ryan nods his head, accepting.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 15: “You May Have Opened Pandora’s Box”

Wednesday, January 10 – Goodyear Tire Test – Texas Motor Speedway

Chase Elliott walked into the garage at Texas Motor Speedway, ready for a second day of testing. Letting out a sigh, he took a quick glance at his phone, scrolling through some tweets before shutting it back off.

“You’re quieter than normal….” He hears catching his attention as Ryan makes his way over. “Like seriously, really quieter than normal.” Chase chuckles, as the comment didn’t surprise him.

“Well you’re the second person to mention something after Alan so it must be true,” Chase replies, referring to the morning discussion they had together with Josh Kirk. While Alan made the comment, Chase simply passed it off as being no big deal, not really wanting to get into the details.

“There’s a reason, right?” Chase nods his head as he glances back towards his phone. “Quietness with you normally means it’s a Sarina issue. Please don’t tell me you guys are fighting again.” Chase then looks back up with total surprise written on his face. “No?”

“We’re not doing that again, ever. We got past all that and have each other’s back no matter what, even if we disagree a little.” Ryan then crosses his arms, now feeling a little confused. “I told you what happened with Shelley before I flew out. Well, Sarina and I got into a discussion about that last night and she’s thinking about reaching out to Shelley again.”

“Now I am really confused. Why would you enable somebody who says what she said?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“That’s what I said. However, she says that she feels Shelley was just venting because it was first meeting since all broke down and there was a lot of frustration and anger there; the venting wasn’t meant to be directed either, according to Sarina. She mentioned how Shelley even pulled back a little when I said something. So she thinks if she reaches out again, with that out of the way, maybe it will go smoother. Maybe with that off her chest and some understanding, they can connected as we intended.” Ryan nods his head, accepting.

“But you’re skeptical, and worried….” Chase nods his head back in response. “I can’t blame you based on what you told me and how Sarina reacts to instances of this nature. Like you, I would’ve left it alone, but I can see how she wants that connection, too. In one way, you may have opened Pandora’s box with welcoming family again.” Chase almost felt the need to scream, remembering Ricky’s words while in Florida. However, a quick thought and there was no regrets.

“You wouldn’t had met Lindsay if I hadn’t done that, though. I don’t feel bad about this because her and Lindsay after connected and you can’t know unless you try and we were all willing. What if the next person is as good as Lindsay? And you can’t tell me that you’re upset now…” Ryan tries to glance away, cheeks going a little red. “Can I just guess that Sarina is right and you have a serious crush on her?”

“Great, you’re going to probably tease me about it now after you tell Bubba since I did that to you…” Chase chuckles, knowing that was more than likely to happen as revenge someway was always nice.

“Has Lindsay given you anything back in return?” Ryan smirks a little, as Chase just rolls his eyes. “I don’t wann-”

“No, we didn’t do that! My name is not you.” Chase then looks over surprised as Ryan smiles. “If the shoe fits, you better wear it…” Chase lets out a sigh. “You’re not saying anything because you can’t. You know it’s true.”

“I didn’t jump immediately, though. I waited and made sure I did this right – unlike some of your decisions.” Ryan rolls his eyes, but he knew that Chase was right about that.

“She has shown some signs back, and is good at responding to text messages. She even mentioned wanting to hang out some more, and possibly attend some races this season. I call that progress.” Chase could accept that, especially since Lindsay insisted she wanted nothing to do with Ryan.

“Just don’t screw it up because Sarina will have your head.” Ryan then crosses his arms.

“Same way that Kyle has yours?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Kyle didn’t say a single word about that. Actually, he and Samantha have been the most supportive of everybody. Sam will do anything to make it easier on Sarina.” Ryan smiles, not surprised.

“She’s been there…”

“I know. But you don’t realize everything that happens until you experience that yourself.”

“I understand.”

“Are we going to just stand around and talk, or can I have some data please?” A voice reigns through the garage as Chase glances back over at Alan.

“Coming!” He replies back, before he turns back to Ryan. “Duty calls.”

“Have some fun today,” Ryan offers before heading back down to his stall as Chase turns, set to begin making laps for the day.

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

Wednesday, January 10 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Sarina takes a deep breath, slowly dialing the number – stopping as she goes to dial the eighth number and taking another breath. Was she doing the right thing? Was this really a good idea? Or maybe it was best to leave this alone? But with another breath, the final digits went in, along with a finger to the call button.

“Hello?” She hears after a couple of rings, causing her breath to hitch in her throat all over again. Where had her voice gone? “Hello?

“Hello,” she finally finds the words. “It’s Sarina Ott calling.” She wondered if maybe it would’ve been better to use Chelsy – but no, she was set on her decisions for what happened and if people wanted to be a part of her life, that was part of getting used to.

“Oh. I didn’t think I’d be hearing from you after Sunday….” Sarina wondered now if it was a good thing or not that she called. She wondered if Shelley had been glad to run her off – not wanting to open this chapter due to past anger, or whether this was the intentions she hoped for. “But, it is nice to hear from you actually.”

“Really?” She was caught off-guard by the comment, thinking it would take a longer conversation to get somewhere.

“Absolutely, because frankly, I wasn’t done with my complaints actually. Truthfully, I have a lot more that I could say to you. I heard the explanation from your boyfriend and how he decided to cut me off for his own reasons, but there were some loop holes here. There were things that could’ve been done differently, changed, and you know that. So why are you hiding behind a superstar now?” Sarina almost had to laugh at the accusation. While the conversation wasn’t going her way, at least she was getting some entertaining out of it.

“You think I’m hiding behind Chase? Wow, that’s a surprise – especially if you know who I am and what I am like. I don’t hide behind people. I don’t hide thin-”

“You’re hiding behind a fake nam-”

“The FBI and police set that in motion after the murd-”

“You could’ve said no-”

“I was under the age of 18, and not allowed a legal say in the matter. Do you really think I wanted to have my life shipped around the country? Do you really think I wanted to pick up and move on all by myself while trying to grieve for my parents? Do you really think I wanted to be alone and not near my family, and those who loved me? Get a little real, Shelley!” Then again, she could wonder if even some body parts were real on Shelley.

“So because of all this, it’d make great sense if you were hiding behind Chas-”

“But I’m not. Like I was saying, I don’t hide behind things; I take action. I never paused ever, but rather kept fighting for myself, my life, my dreams, everything. You don’t know have the tale of what it took to get to where I am and choices that I had to make in those years. You don’t know how much I fought with my emotions. You’re saying that I’m hiding behind Chase? No, I’m not. He’s actually the best damn thing to happen to me because he made me face the emotions that I didn’t want to and pull me even further forward into my own person. But go ahead and believe what you want…”

“You know, sometimes I regret what I say to you because I do feel bad for what happened – but then sometimes, I can’t even face that fact. I look at the damage done, and how the story had to eventually come out after the worst happened to your brother. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because like you said, you fought for yourself.” Sarina closes her eyes, taking a deep breath, almost set to just hit the hang up button. But, she couldn’t bring herself to do that.

“You were around when my brother started slipping and saw the signs. I know you even talked with my father about that and you even made suggestions of ways to help him. You saw the efforts being put in by my father before that night. Heck, my father died because he was fighting for my brother and trying to help him. But no, nothing then wor-”

“That doesn’t mean you giv-”

“The system took over and tried to help because frankly, how do you expect a grieving 15-year-old to take care of her drug addicted, crazy brother?” She then takes a deep breath, glad to get that off of her chest. While she was focused on herself, she did remember times where she would worry about her brother during those days, wondering if he actually got the right help and find a way to get his life on track. “Heck, even after he almost killed me and almost killed Chase twice I tried to help him. He got brain surgery for a brain tumor, and spent multiple months with a psychologist. I took time out of my own life to live with him – putting everything on pause, just so I could try and find that sweet damn boy that I loved. But no, nothing happened because bringing me closer put thousands of people in dang-”

“Little over the to-”

“He drugged Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, a crew member for me, a crew member for Chase, another Joe Gibbs Racing crew member. He also drugged Chase to the point that it almost went too far.” Her breath hitches as she remembers the nerves of worry in hearing the phone call, followed by the request to go see him afterwards a couple days later. She shakes her head, not wanting to face those emotions right now. “He then conspired with our sweet dear cousin Bethany and another girl that he met Alison to try and force Chase to sleep with Alison so he would cheat on me. In the following events, Alison would drug Chase and planted a bomb in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage, which was detonated. If that bomb had gone off any sooner, it would’ve killed a bunch of crew members – basically Chase’s whole group, along with teams. But no, don’t tell me that I’m going over the top. Just sit back and say that I didn’t do anything. There’s a damn good reason why I finally said I was done trying and made sure he didn’t have a hope of getting out.” She also knew that she’d be making a call to her lawyer to make sure Shelley wasn’t trying to help Chris get a release.

“I knew your brother pulled a bunch of stunts, but I didn’t realize it went that deep. I also didn’t realize what you did for him, either. I’m sorry to say that you did nothing. That was actually uncalled for.” It was nice to hear an apology, but it didn’t make Sarina feel any better. She actually wished she would’ve followed Chase’s advice.

“That sounds like everything that you’ve said since I called you to begin with. You know, I was taken back by what you said on Saturday, but I was ready to ignore it. I was ready to chalk it up to being frustrated, angry, venting and not directing it. I was ready to try and see if we could find some common ground and maybe be a family again with Lindsay. Chase encouraged me not to call you because he said it’d just bring more pain. He was damn right.” She takes a couple deep breathes, eyes closed, leaning back against the wall, holding back every bit of anger and sadness that threatened to just explode.

“I read the story and I heard the details. With how it came out, it just appeared that you had done nothing, letting him spiral out of control, and then locking him away if nothing happened once it broke. But I can see that you tried. I also can understand why you would want to walk away and never look back. But, is it really fair to him if he has a mental disorder to be sitting in a jail cell? Maybe you just haven’t gotten the right help ye-”

“They’ll just take me to a hospital and say I’m crazy, try to help me, and then I’ll be back out again, easy as everything. Those are the words that he said to Chase when they were in California at the top of the grandstands before he pushed him. Those words haunt both me and Chase to this damn day because we fell right into that trap – well, at least I did completely. Does that sound like somebody who should be given a third, fourth, fifth chance? He knows how to manipulate the system and if you were to dare try and push for him again, you’re just enabling him.” She hated to bring up her most inner thoughts like that, but she had to make sure that Shelley knew to stay away.

“Again, I didn’t realize he had said words of that nature, nor did I realize the tricks that he could pull. Maybe I should’ve based on the stipulations and turns surrounding psychological evaluation. But damn it, Sarina. He’s family. You don’t ever turn your back on family, but clearly that has been lost on you for a long time. I guess you weren’t taught that.” Now it was Sarina’s turn to laugh. Did this girl have a hearing problem, or an understanding problem? Maybe she was forgetful, too.

“I told you my reasons for why what happened, happened. I didn’t mean to do that how it happened, but it wasn’t my damn choice. I also told you my reasons surrounding my brother, and they’re not changing no matter what you have to say to me. Now, since you want to keep going in this repetitive circle, I have this to say to you – goodbye. I should’ve listened…”

Her finger goes to the hang up button, as she takes a deep breath, feeling a couple tears trickle down her cheek.

“Fuck!” She screams before pounding a fist against her leg as the tears begin to fall. “Why did you do that, Sarina?!?” She then stands up, clenching her fist tighter. “You should’ve known. You should be smarter.” She then feels a shaky breath escape as more tears run down her cheeks. “Damn it, Chris! You ruined everything in my life!”

Without a bit of self control, her fist goes up, and straight into the wall ahead of her, with a big hole remaining. She then closes her eyes, feeling every emotion swirl, as the tears come down harder, followed by her legs giving out as she turns and slides down the wall.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 12: His and Her Surprise

Saturday, January 6 – Costa Rico

Another day spent in the sun resulted in more fun for everybody. Chase and Ryan both attempted surfing and water skiing on the water, while the girls took in a couple of the local shopping spots. Sarina found some things that she thought were beautiful, including a bird charm that she got to add to her bracelet.

Reunited all together later on as the afternoon drew later, everybody relaxed together in the chairs, telling stories and sharing a couple games. With Sarina focused on her card, Chase sent a nod in the direction of Lindsay and Ryan while mouthing thank you.

“Can’t believe you beat us again,” Ryan comments as the game finishes with Sarina taking the win.

“I told you that you can’t beat her,” Chase adds with a smile of his own.

“Well, this has been fun, but you’re both going to have excuse us.” Ryan then glances over at Lindsay with a wink. “I believe we have an adventure of our own tonight.”

“Oh we do?” Lindsay fakes and Ryan nods his head, accepting.

“I promised you that animal tour because you wanted to see those monkeys. You talked about the images and I told you that I’d show you where they stayed and we would explore. Considering we’re leaving tomorrow, there’s no time like the present.” She smiles, remembering how they talked about it when Chase had asked for a favor that morning.

“Well then we better head off. I hope you both enjoy your evening together.” Chase simply offers a smile as Sarina just sits back with a smirk.

“Same goes to you both,” she comments as Lindsay and Ryan get up, leaving the table. “I told you that it was just a matter of time.” Chase laughs, remembering their initial discussion. Even with this being a perfect set-up and both Lindsay and Ryan being in on the plan, you didn’t have to be blind to not see the signs.

“I guess I’m just used to Ryan bragging about the girl he is with and why he likes them so much,” Chase replies and Sarina can only smile in return.

“The love that someone is quiet about is the one that means the most because he’s afraid of falling too deep, and what could come of something so simple I should know that better than anyone, remember.” Chase nods his head, remembering that experience.

“I’m just glad that I got you over your fears.” She then grabs the deck of cards, beginning to shuffle it, as he places his hands on top of hers. “You can put those down. We aren’t playing another game.”

“Scared to get beat by me again?” He laughs, and shakes his head no. “You know I’ll win…”

“Of course, but I have a better plan in mind. Let’s go do some exploring of our own.” She then looks at him a little surprised. “Trust me.”

“Oh no – don’t tell me that you chased them away for some big surprise.” Chase’s jaw drops immediately as soon as the words escape her mouth. “I mea-”

“I’m just so typical that you figured it out just like that. Lovely.” She then stands up, slowly making her way over behind his chair, wrapping her arms around him.

“That’s fine that I figured it out. It doesn’t ruin a single thing because I have no idea what you have in mind.” He smiles as he looks up at her, his excitement for his own surprise building.

“Well why don’t we stop delaying the wait?” She nods her head in agreement as he stands up. He then bends down before her. “Get on my back.”

“Chase, I can walk mysel-”

“You’re supposed to be taking it eas-”

“I told you to not cater to me! I’m fin-”

“I know that you would be, but I want to be the gentleman here.” He then glances back over his shoulder at her. “Let your king deliver the queen to her kingdom.” She then chuckles a little.

“Only because you worded it that way…” She then does as instructed and he carries her across the beach, through a small forest, before reaching an open area. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Absolutely. Besides, we’re almost here…” He pushes some branches aside, before walking through. Sarina’s jaw drops immediately as she sees the waterfall off in the distance, with a picnic set-up in front, complete with blanket and basket. He then sets her down nicely, before sitting beside her on the blanket. “You absolutely loved it out here yesterday. I thought it was the perfect place to end our adventure.”

“This is beyond anything that I could imagine.” He then smiles as he opens the picnic basket up, pulling out two perfectly prepared plates. “And you made my favorite on top of that.”

“Absolutely.” He then places the plate down before her nicely, before taking her hand with his. “I know the past week has been tough on you, physically and mentally. I know you’ve been through a lot of emotions, and stuff, and trust me – I’ve been there right beside you dealing with my own. If I could, I wish I could just take every bit of that pain away and stuff it – but I can’t do that. So I figured the next best thing was to treat you to a special night together.” She then smiles, bringing his hand up to her mouth and kissing it.

“This is just lovely…” She then watches the birds fly around, with a parrot landing on his shoulder. “And for the record, I still think we should get a pet parrot. They seem to absolutely love you.” He then chuckles as he glances over his shoulder at the bird.

“You’re not going to change my mind no matter how hard you try…” She nods her head, accepting. Truthfully, that didn’t matter to her because all that mattered was being able to spend time with him.

“I can do you one step better, though. I know we’re going home tomorrow – which means we’ll be home on Monday. I also know how much you love your dawgs. So I figured you deserved a special treat and got you tickets for the game.” He then looks at her, surprised.

“Seriously?” She nods her head, pulling out her phone and showing him the confirmation e-mail. “How did you manage that?”

“It took some wrangling, but I found some that were available and you deserve it. Going through this, I know I couldn’t have done it with anyone else by my side. You know me inside and out, you’re beyond caring, and you would do anything that you could for me. You’ve shuffled your own vacation plans, catered to everything, and put up with my whining. You deserve something special of your own.” He then just shakes his head in disbelief.

“I don’t know if I should shout woohoo or hug you or kiss you or just sit here stunned.” She then laughs as she watches the birds continue to circle them.

“Don’t shout. I don’t want you to scare my friends away.” He then chuckles accepting that as he watches two more come and sit down on his shoulders.

“Seriously, I need to know your secret…”

“I guess they find me as charming as you do.” She just rolls her eyes as she focuses on eating dinner. “Thank you. You didn’t have to do that by any means, but thank you.”

“How could I let the number one dawgs fan miss that game? I better hear some barking when it’s over.” He nods his head in agreement.

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

Sunday, January 7 – Upstate New York

Sarina rubs her hands together, glancing once again to make sure the heater was on in the car before glancing out to the roads.

“Are you sure that you have it turned right up?” She asks Lindsay and Lindsay simply nods her head in response. They had landed in New York not long ago, taking Lindsay’s car from there to go off on their next adventure.

“Trust me – I know how to work my car,” Lindsay answers as she focuses on the road. “I can’t believe I’ve got two racecar drivers in the car and yet here I am driving.” Chase then looks at the navigation on his phone once again.

“Turn left up here,” he instructs and she does as requested. “By the way, I offered to drive.” Lindsay nods her head, remembering.

“That would’ve made one of us trusted with navigation and I don’t trust myself, nor do I trust Sarina. I can’t tell you how many times we got lost on our adventures.” Sarina laughs, remembering some of the strange situations that they got into.

“Then again, we never would’ve found that mall, or that other go-kart track otherwise,” Sarina offers. “We just got purposely lost to find the city’s crown jewels.” Lindsay rolls her eyes as Sarina simply smiles. “I can’t believe we love Costa Rica to come home to this freezing cold. This is ridiculous! How is it possible for it to be this flipping cold anyway?”

“You should be used to this. We used to build snowmen in this weather.” Sarina remembered that, but couldn’t even imagine how that was possible as she could barely feel her fingers as it was.

“She’s gotten too used to summers down south,” Chase offers with a smirk of his own as she just shoots him the bird. “You’re just mad that I’m not shivering like you are.” Chase glances back at his phone, pulling up the address. He then looks at the house numbers, smiling as they reach 306. “Stop here. 306 is her address.” Lindsay slows down, turning into the small driveway.

“So this is where Aunt Shelley moved to,” Lindsay comments as she turns the key off. “I always thought she would have a mansion to live in. She was always Ms. Super Upscale Perfect Princess.”

“Uncle Mike was a little rowdy with my Dad, and it would always be Shelley yelling at them for being crazy,” Sarina offers as Chase just shakes his head. “So, are we going to just sit in the freezing cold all day?”

“I was just waiting for your cue to go ring the doorbell,” Chase replies. Sarina takes a deep breath as she debates the possibilities of what could happen. She pictured everything going wrong and almost wanted to turn away and run. But, a glance at Lindsay told her otherwise.

“Let’s go…” The three of them get out of the car and walk up to the door with a knock.

After what seemed forever – but was more like three minutes, the door slowly opens. All of them immediately catch the eyes of the brown-haired heavyset female before them as her eyes pass over the three before her.

“Chelsy?” The female questions, catching everyone off-guard as Sarina slowly nods her head.

“My name is now Sari-” Sarina starts, quietly and slowly.

“I’m well aware of the name change. Don’t you think I keep up with the news, especially when it involves my own damn family?” Chase shoots a look at Lindsay in relation to their meeting, and Lindsay just rolls her eyes. Sarina, meanwhile, almost felt frozen on the spot and not just by the cold. She could feel the anger coming off of Shelley and only wondered what was next.

“Some people may not have read it – hence my words.” Sarina was almost set to take the careful approach, but that escaped her as her eyes locked with Shelley’s.

“Look, since you read the news, you obviously know why I moved away back all those years, why I left no trace and why I changed my name. I’m trying to reconnect with family – take me and Lindsay. We just got reconnected about a month and a half ago, and it was like no time had passed. I remember how special you were, how sweet you were, and I wanted to be able to see you again.” Shelley crosses her arms as she takes a glance towards the blond.

“I thought you were familiar, but saying the name Lindsay puts it in right in place. And don’t worry sweetheart, I know who you are and how you’re Sarina’s perfect little boyfriend.” Chase was caught off-guard in the wording, wondering whether she was serious or sarcastic.

“It’s nice to see you again,” Lindsay quietly comments, not wanting to intrude too far to interrupt the spell with Shelley.

“Likewise,” Shelley replies as she focuses her eyes back to Sarina. “Why do you want to reunite now after all these years?” Sarina takes a deep breath, before a slight glance towards Chase.

“Because of him,” she offers as Shelley’s eyes go back to Chase. “I was angry and upset, focused on solely myself and couldn’t care about a single thing. but he made my emotions come out in the open and realize so many different things. He made me realize what I was doing by shutting everything off like it never happened. He heard me missing my family and past stories, so he began the search. He found Lindsay, before finding you.” Shelley crosses her arms as she keeps her eyes locked on Chase.

“And why did you just so happen to find me next?” Chase takes a deep breath, not expected to be put on the spot.

“You’re just the next name that came up in the search, per Lindsay’s recommendation of where to start and what my contact was finding,” he tells her, recalling all of the conversations in his mind. He hoped Lindsay wasn’t mad for him throwing her under the bus.

“Well I’m glad that you found me,” Shelley comments as she looks back to Sarina. “I almost reached out to myself after everything that happened, but I held back some restraint. Now with you on my doorstep, it seems easy to do what I have to say next. How could you be such a heartless bitch?” Everybody’s jaws drop as Chase protectively wraps both arms around Sarina over her shoulders.

“Excuse me?” Sarina questions as Shelley keeps a stern glance on her.

“When your father died and the family was a complete mess, how could you just run off without a trace and leave us wondering with more questions?” Sarina takes a deep breath, not expecting these accusations one bit.

“I didn’t have a choice. The police were forcing me, Chris and my mom to do that. They came and swept us out before I even got a chance. I only have pieces of that time due to Lindsay saving them. I got no chance to take anything except a small brown box with a couple things.” Sarina glances down, taking a deep breath. “If I had a choice, I would’ve stayed and faced what came with it. I would’ve faced the possibility of what could’ve happened next, and I would’ve stood by the family in you, Mike, Lindsay – everybody in that matter. I don’t like what happened just as much you do. It made me a horrible person for a long time, someone that I can’t believe looking back now at tim-”

“It also ruined your brother completely, clearly. I mean, for him to do what he did, that had to be back on that situation and it not being handled correctly and it changing him. They said he went after Chase and you due to spite and jealousy, among his other crazed reasons. No shit! I would have that if I had watched my family be ripped apart, and then tried to put it back together just for some other guy to come in and take all the pieces to the puzzle.” Sarina’s eyes remained focused on the ground, unable to face every fact that was being spewed in her direction, as Chase wraps his arms around her tighter.

“Don’t you think you’re a little out of line?” Chase questions. “I mean, it wasn’t Sarina’s fault that the protection program forced that on her. It wasn’t Sarina’s fault that her brother did what he did. It was his choice to go after us, and it was his choice to not take advantage of the second change he was given. For you to stand here and accuse Sarina like this is rude.”

“But of course, it’s her fault for just giving up on him,” Shelley offered. “It’s her fault for just letting them lock him away instead of trying to help him psycholog-”

“We both tried, hence why I said second chance. The first time he went after me, I let it go and was willing to give him a chance to get the help he needed. Why do you think he had brain surgery? Why do you think he went to counseling? Despite that, he didn’t take advantage – but rather tricked us into believing everything would be fine, and did it again. Worst of all, he involved other people like my friends. Sarina did what she could in her power, and she certainly has shared regret in not being able to make things right again. But damn Shelley, it ends there. Chris’ actions were Chris’ responsibility.” Sarina swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat, feeling every emotion ripping at her from the inside.

“Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re not – I don’t know. I guess it’s just anger over what happened coming out, even if maybe not directed in the right way. But you have to understand my reasons.” Chase shakes his head no as he keeps his arms firmly placed around Sarina.

“Nothing gives you a right to act like you just did.” Shelley nods her head, accepting.

“If you say so. Maybe we should just end this discussion here.” Shelley then backs up, closing the door before them as Chase glances down at Sarina.

“Come on….” He leads her way with Lindsay in toe, keeping his arms wrapped around her. “It’s okay. Don’t listen to a single thing that she said. None of this is ever your fault. Do you hear me?” Sarina just lightly nods her head as they climb in the car.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 11: “I’m touched, really. You would do that for me?”

Thursday, January 4 – Secrets Papacayo, Costa Rico

With Lindsay on the premises, it was another day of the boys cutting loose and having some fun of their own. After starting off the day off with a good long mountain bike ride and taking in the sights, they ventured to renting some motor bikes and going on some of the other trails.

After some laughs and thrills along the way, the pair headed back to the beach.

“So what’s your plan for tonight?” Chase wonders, catching Ryan’s attention.

“Who says I have a plan?” Ryan asks and Chase just shrugs his shoulders. “Look, I can tell that Sarina wants to set Lindsay and I up toge-”

“We could see the chemistry radiating off you both at the banquet party – well, she could at least.” Ryan looks over surprised, earning a simple nod from Chase. “That’s when she came up with a possible double blind date scenario, however your idea for tonight is just that much better in her eyes.”

“I know that you and Sarina need some alone time to discuss things, so I was simply offering Lindsay a good time to keep her busy for awhile to give you that.” Chase stops, placing his hand on his chest.

“I’m touched, really. You would do that for me?” Ryan stops, and laughs.

“That coming from the guy that dragged my ass out to the trac-”

“That’s growing real old real quick, Ryan.” Ryan just chuckles. “I appreciate it though. But you hanging out with a girl without any reason of your own?”

“Look, Lindsay is a great girl and she’s really nice. But a future? Building to that relationship you’re both teasing? I don’t know if I see that myself, so no – I don’t have any secret plans or anything. Given that she’s never been here, I may take her to see those exotic birds and check out some of the night life. Isn’t that one other beach supposed to a little lively at night?” Chase nods his head, remembering their initial planning discussions.

“We’re still on for the exotic bird tour tomorrow, right?” Ryan wasn’t quite sure on the idea, but knew how much it meant to do something for the girls, so he reluctantly accepted.

The pair make it back to the beach, seeing where the girls had easily chosen to relax for the day.

“Oh great, trouble is back,” Sarina comments, earning a chuckle from Lindsay. “So you’re both alive?”

“We were careful and I took care of your sweetheart here to make sure he didn’t fall on his head,” Ryan offers as Sarina just smiles.

“Strangely, I can’t say the same for him all the way around,” Chase adds, as Ryan shows them a small scrape on his knee. “Everything okay here?”

“Nothing to complain about the sunny weather, warm temperatures, lemonade, beach and catching up,” Sarina tells him as he glances over at Lindsay with a quick smile. It was nice to see Sarina have someone she could just ramble on with, especially at this time. “Samantha called. She met up with the doctor, gave her everything that we had on file, and said there were no problems. Her doctor is going to go over it all, put together some possible answers, and then we should meet up after we get back to Charlotte.”

“Just tell me the day and time, and I’ll make sure that I am there.” She then gives him a glance.

“When we get back, both of us should be focu-”

“The number one priority is getting you better, first. Then we can worry about everything else.” She then lets out a long sigh.

“I’m going to be fine, Chase. We’ve been over that a couple times now, right? So we can stop worrying and focus on everything else because before we both know it, Daytona will be here.” Chase almost said something back in response, but knew why she was being stubborn – continuing to avoid the topic, and frankly, he still didn’t know if he was ready despite venting to Samantha.

“I’m still coming wit-”

“You don’t nee-”

“I know, but I want to be there to support you, and understand why this happened. Isn’t that allowed? I’m sure anywhere from a half hour to an hour away from the shop will go unnoticed.” She then lets out a sigh, as it was her turn to realize she wasn’t going to win this argument. Secretly, though, she was glad that he would be there as she wasn’t sure of her own emotions.

“Fine.” He then smiles, glad that they had found some common ground.

“I’m surprised that he won that argument with a compromise,” Lindsay whispers to Ryan, who just chuckles.

“Let’s just say that he knows the way to her heart just like that,” he offers back in return. Sarina just watched the pair, giving Chase a wink, but Chase could only roll his eyes back in response after the discussion with Ryan.

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

Thursday, January 4

Following a nice supper together, Chase and Sarina were sitting on a bench just outside where they were staying, glancing up at the clear sky of stars.

“So Ryan divulge any plans with Lindsay for tonight?” Sarina breaks the silence after awhile and Chase shakes his head no. “That’s a shock. Normally, he is always coming up some clever plan.” Chase glances over at her.

“The only plan he had for tonight was allowing us some time alone,” he states, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “How are you feeling?” She then lets out a sigh, having grown annoyed of the question. It seemed he asked her every couple of hours now-a-days.

“The usual – sore, crampy, and still the usual blood. Like everything else, my body doesn’t want to give me the easy way out and just do the quick drop.” Chase rubs her shoulder, honestly not surprised. It never seemed anything went easy in their lives, right?

“The doctor mentioned a possibility of your body not doing it all by itself, possibly needing drugs or the procedu-”

“Suction curettage. Just because I was emotional that night, I was listening to what Dr. Adams was saying. If I’m still having these issues on Monday, I’ll bring it up at the appointment with Samantha.” She then closes her eyes, laying her head on Chase, as everything just flashes through together. “You know, they say miscarriages are emotional because you’re losing a life, a piece of you and the person who means everything to you. I didn’t even know that was there – but the thought and feeling of that just tears me apart. How do you even move forward?”

“You try to find the best answers to what happened, and put those solutions in place going forward to try and not repeat the same mista-”

“Oh great…” Chase then freezes as she lifts her head off of him, and looks into his eyes. “So that’s what this is?”

“Well, we weren’t trying for you to get pregnant – we were actually hoping to avoid that with the measures in place. So it was a mistake that happened.” She then rolls her eyes, going to pull further away, as he grabs her hand. “But it’s not the type of mistake that you can be angry at, though. It’s not the type of mistake that warrants despair. Heck, maybe the word ‘mistake’ is the wrong choice to say all the way around. I don’t know…”

“It’s like you’re implying that I did something wrong….” Chase shakes his head no, immediately, while mentally slapping himself. Why was this so hard?

“You absolutely did nothing wrong. It wasn’t your fault one way or another. We had no idea that you were pregnant because we were doing everything to prevent it – obviously something slipped up. But even still, this happening wasn’t something that you did. It’s not your fault that your body went through this, or say something happened along the way by accident. You couldn’t have known…” She relaxes a little, sitting back down on the bench with him.

“So the solution to moving forward is  figuring out what happened and what went wrong, and making sur-”

“Trying to not repeat the same course of actions. Like always, it’s about learning from your mistakes so you can make yourself better moving forward. Maybe we need a different form of birth control, or maybe I am using the wrong brand of condoms. Then maybe when it comes to having a baby together, maybe you need to take certain vitamins or something to carry the baby full term, or maybe something else. That’s why Samantha is looking into this.” Sarina smiles as she thinks to how Samantha was that night, all the way till even her phone call today.

“She’s amazing, Chase. I mean, I know a lot of people say this wife or girlfriend is amazing and special, but Sam is just something else. To go through everything that she went through so her and Kyle could have Brexton, and then to do all of this for us, it just surprises me so much.” Chase nods his head in agreement, as he hadn’t expected Samantha to join him at the hospital that night.

“I don’t know if I’d be in this place where I am about what happened if it wasn’t for her, to be honest. She just knows the perfect response to say when you tell her something.” Sarina glances at him a little confused. “As much as this has affected you, I can admit that my emotions have been scattered.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Chase lets out a sigh as he pulls her back close to him.

“You were dealing with enough yourself, from the pains to the emotions; I didn’t want to further push you. I wanted to be strong for you, knowing that you need that.” She then glances up at him.

“You know, you don’t always have to be my perfect knight in shining armor, Chase. I can take care of you. You can bring your emotions to me as much as I bring mine to you, and we can bounce that back and forth. That’s what makes us a great team.” He nods his head, accepting. Under any other situation, he probably would’ve done that. But this was one of those cases where he was fighting each battle piece by piece. “So what did you tell her?”

“Last night, we talked about how we haven’t discussed a lot of emotions, like we are now.” She just lets out a sigh with an eye roll.

“She probably thinks I’m a coward or not stron-”

“Absolutely not. Sarina, not one single person who has seen what you’re going through and how you’re handling it believes that you’re not strong. Look at everything you’ve been through to this point in your life. You’re the strongest woman that I know.” She then glances back up into his brown eyes.

“Says the guy that won’t tell me how he feels because he’s worried about my emo-”

“Because this is one of those situations that take time, but you’re still strong. You’re braving each day with a smile on your face, trying to do things despite the pain you’re in, and having as much fun as you can. If you weren’t strong, you’d still be curled up inside right now with s self-pity.” She smiles a little. “And for the record, Sam didn’t say anything like that at all. She said to me that as we both wrap our arms around everything, with time, the discussion will happen when the time is right. Pushing it too soon just makes it worse. She also told me just to make sure we didn’t avoid it forever – which I told her that I could never do that because I could never run from you. I know the feeling, and I don’t want to see that happen again.”

“Chase, I am still so sorry for doing that to you – twice at that. The worst thing you can do with a problem is run from it because it just makes it worse, and I did that to you twice.” He takes a deep breath as he keeps her held close.

“It’s okay. I understand. You didn’t know what to do, so you thought you were doing the right thing. I’m not mad. Actually, it makes me appreciate small moments like these that much more.” She then glances back at him, kissing his lips lightly.

“You’re truly special.” He smiles, wiping her hair out of her face.

“That goes both ways, and I wouldn’t want to imagine my life any differently than this – well, maybe without the pain.”

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

Friday, January 12

“Look at the colors!!” Sarina comments as she looks over the parrot that had just sat on Chase’s shoulder.

They were walking through one of the exotic bird tours, checking out the different types of birds that called Puerto Rico their home. Throughout this whole tour, though, the birds were used to the humans and would casually come close, sometimes sitting right down on the people.

“That red and blue is just perfect,” Lindsay adds, snapping a photo as Sarina just stands there in awe.

“He’s even more beautiful than the green one – sorry Ryan,” Sarina comments as Ryan glances at the parrot still on his shoulder.

“I feel like Captain Jack Sparrow – minus the ship and rum,” he offers as Chase chuckles, which caused his bird to fly off.

“Are you okay?” He double checks with Sarina and she nods her head, accepting. She was appreciative of everybody just taking their time slowly so that way she didn’t overstrain herself.

“I just wish I could get a bird to land on me like you keep doing,” she replies as he places his hands on her shoulders.

“Take a deep breath, count to five, and just relax….” He moves his hands down, rubbing her arms, before wrapping his arms around her. “Just breathe, relax, and chill. They can feel your nerves and when you’re tense. If you keep yourself nice and relaxed, it’s comforting to them and they will come see you.”

“Someone was paying attention at the beginning,” Lindsay comments, remembering the speech given to them when they paid for the tour.

“There’s one!” Sarina lets out, causing the bird to immediately fly away. “Damn it!” Chase keeps his arms wrapped around her, now beginning to rub her stomach.

“Just relax, stay quiet, and don’t move…” Chase coaches her as she tries to focus on his words, ignoring the temptation as the birds fluttered around them. Eventually, one of the birds slowly flies down, landing right on her head, followed by another on her shoulder. “Ssssh…”

“That’s just perfection!” Lindsay comments, taking a couple photos of them with the birds. “Cutest couple we know, with two of the world’s most majestic creatures. Perfect keepsake from the trip.”

“I want a copy of that,” Sarina says after taking a look at the image. “That just felt so amazing…” She then glances over her shoulder back at Chase. “Do you think we could get a pet parrot?”

“I’d be scared of Ryan teaching it bad words,” Chase replies as Ryan just flips him the bird. “See what I mean?”

“Thank you for this today.” She then kisses his lips as they finish up the tour. “Thank you for this perfect vacation, seeing the birds – just everything.” She then looks over at Ryan and Lindsay. “And thank you for both coming, and what you did, too.”

“I was beginning to think my efforts of planning were being forgotten,” Ryan comments. “You know, they almost forewent the trip. I convinced them to still go despite everything.”

“Really?” Lindsay questions and Ryan nods his head yes with a smile. “Well I guess I owe you a thank you, too.”

“See how he’s trying to reward himself with compliments?” Sarina whispers to Chase and Chase nods his head, having caught it too. “He likes her…”

“We’re in trouble,” Chase adds, causing Sarina to laugh back in response.

“What’s so funny?” Ryan then asks and Chase just shrugs his shoulders. “Oh come on, I know you’re both picking on me…”

“Let them,” Lindsay comments, catching everyone off-guard. “They’re just jealous of you sometimes.”

“Oh boy, we’ve created a monster,” Sarina offers, earning a laugh from Chase.

“Please don’t feed his ego,” Chase adds, giving Sarina a wink.