Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 186: “How am I supposed to even get this on?”

Friday, December 8 – Kyle Busch Motorsports – Christmas Party

“Oh it’s happening…” Kyle muses with a laugh of his own.

“Seriously?” Chase questions as he peeks out from behind. “I am not wearing that, Kyle.” Kyle just grins as he rubs his hands together.

“I don’t have any other options, and the rules are that you must wear what I supply.” Chase just grins back in response.

“I am not one of your employees, Mr. Busch.” Kyle nods his head, knowing that quite well.

“But you did agree to the terms by being Ms. Ott’s date for the night. Now, why don’t you show us how it looks?” Chase glances back at the box, shaking his head. This was the last time he agreed to anything Kyle-related without getting the terms first.

“How am I supposed to even get this on?”

“Kyle, it better not be that bad….” Sarina comments as Kyle glances over at her with a smile.

“Don’t worry – you’re going to enjoy it,” he offers as she looks back a little confused. “Trust me.”

“You’re scaring me…”

“Why can’t we choose your outfit?” Christopher wonders and Sarina nods her head in agreement.

“Because I am the boss,” Kyle answers as they both roll their eyes. “Besides, it’s more fun this way….”

“April Fool’s Day. Call me.” Sarina laughs, but certainly knew that was on the cards right now.

“This is ridiculous,” Chase comments as he pops out from behind the curtain, resulting in instant laughter from both Sarina and Christopher. “How am I even supposed to walk in this thing?”

“Very carefully,” Kyle says as he tries to control his own laughter. “I think it looks great.”

“It’s fitting,” Christopher adds, continuing to chuckle. There Chase stood before them, dressed an elf, but inside an inflatable snowglobe.

“Now you’re really inside of her globe…” Kyle then stands up and walks away as Chase lets out a sigh.

“When are you planning the April Fools, prank?” Chase wonders as Christopher just smiles.

“We going to have to start planning early March because he’s doomed now,” Christopher answers. “But you look good…”

“No, I look ridiculous…” Sarina shakes her head as she watches Christopher walk away, before wrapping an arm around him.

“Least you’re not the only ridiculous-looking person tonight,” she adds as he glances over at her.

“You make anything look good, though.” He then kisses her lips, lightly.

“So admit it – did you have fun tonight?” Sarina asks as they walk into their bedsroom later on that night.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Chase answers with a smile as she glances over his way.

“I still can’t believe you sat on Santa Kyle’s lap…” Chase chuckles, knowing he had caught everyone off-guard. “What did you ask for Christmas?”

“I can’t tell you, or else my Christmas wish may not come true.” She then pouts. “You could tell me what you asked for…”

“Not happening. Good try.” He then sits on the edge of the bed, shaking his head as he looks over the costume.

“I can’t believe I’m still wearing this elf outfit. I told Kyle I was done with it and set to change back, but he insisted that I keep it.” Sarina grins as she walks over, standing before him.

“That’s because I asked him to let you keep it…” He looks at her surprised. “I think you look absolutely adorable.”

“Seriously?” She nods her head as she runs her hands up his legs.

“It brings out every feature of these legs that I love, how toned they are and fit…” She then lightly kisses his cheek. “And it’s soft and cuddly, which I know will be perfect for cuddling you. Besides, you’ll always be little elf.”

“When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound that bad…” She nods her head in agreement. “Maybe I’ll just have to help you out with your dress…”

“See, maybe this isn’t so bad…..”

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

Saturday, December 9

“Ugh!!!!” Sarina lets out an aggravated sigh as she looks in the mirror. She was beyond furious as she tried to get her hair to go up in the perfect pony tail. “This is getting annoying. This is why I never dress up!” Chase then glances in the bathroom, a little caught off-guard.

“Is it right to ask if everything is okay?” He wonders as she looks over at him.

“The curls didn’t set right so my hair turned into disaster. Then I tried to put it up nicely and it just won’t go that way. I mean, I look like there’s a hornet’s nest on my head and we have to be down there in an hour. What do you think of the question now, Chase?” Chase took a deep breath, debating what to do immediately.

“I think no matter what you look beaut-”

“Not helping!” She then closes the door, debating what to do next.

“Okay…” Chase walks down the stairs, finding his cell phone as he glances through the numbers. There had to be someone that could help her out. “Emma? Hey, it’s Chase. Can you come over here like right now? Sarina is having a girl’s dressing crisis.”

It didn’t take long for Emma Blaney to show up, giving Chase a quick hug before making her way upstairs.

“Oh my…” She comments once Sarina opens the bathroom door, noticing the hair disaster that was there. “I can see why Chase said this was a crisis.”

“No shit!” Sarina says as she looks back in the mirror. “I’ve tried everything, Emma. I just wanted to look beautiful tonight since hey, it’s my banquet, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this year. But damn – look at this disas-”

“I can fix it. We can make it look great.” Emma glances over again, thinking about it. “I have an idea….” After taking some fabric, cutting it one way, shaping another, and then going through the hair – it took a good half hour, but Emma felt satisfied when she was done. “What do you think?”

“Well, that fixes the hair….” Sarina then lets out a sigh, though. “I just don’t know if that looks proper.”

“I think it looks good, actually. It complements your dress perfectly.” Sarina spins around to face Emma.

“Really?” Emma nods her head. “I hope it looks alright.”

“Trust me, you’ll look beautiful tonight. Now come on, let’s go…” The girls then head down the stairs together and Chase looks over, smiling immediately. Emma was the perfect person to call.

The pair went to the truck series banquet that night with ease, enjoying the nice dinner and ceremony that entailed. Once it was over, they went to the after-party being hosted by Kyle Busch Motorsports to celebrate the year that was, taking in the dancing and jokes to be had.

Midway through the night, Sarina makes her way out to the terrace, overlooking Charlotte. It wasn’t long after she went out there that she felt a pair of arms wrap around her.

“Are you okay?” She hears and nods her head, immediately. “What are you thinking about?”

“Everything,” she offers as she leans back in his arms. “From what we’ve been through together, to the success I had on track, to what I’ve fought through.” She takes a deep breath, spinning around in his arms to face him. “I’m thankful and blessed beyond belief, Chase. I could never have imagined everything going this well. I mean, sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe it.”

“You deserve it, and more….” She smiles as she wraps her arms around him in return.

“That goes for you, too. Any guy that can deal with everything I have to offer deserves the world at the palm of their hand.” She then leans in, kissing his lips. “I love you, Chase. I will always love you.”

“I love you, too, and I tell you what – next year, this party will be all about you.” She then chuckles as she looks back in the room at the fun being had.

“Nah, next year we’ll be having two parties at the end of the season. I can’t wait for the world to see what I see, in how talented you are.” Chase just smiles back in return.

“Here’s to a great 2018 to come…”

THE END

Stay tuned for “The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story” as the sequel to this story.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 185: Christmas Cheer!

Friday, December 8 – Hendrick Motorsports

The next two days were for the most part quiet. Chase finished up the production shoots he needed to do ahead of 2017, while getting in some reading time to check a couple more pages off in the book. Sarina, meanwhile, focused her energy into planning how the Christmas decorating was going to go once they go to the cabin.

But once Friday hit, that was all put on the back burner as it was going to be another busy day for them both.

“I still can’t believe I’m here with you…” Sarina muses as Chase parks in the back parking lot.

“What do you mean?” He questions with a glance towards her.

“I drive for Kyle, but yet I’m here on Hendrick proper-”

“Kyle lets me stop by your shop to see you, and he did invite me to your Christmas party. We also spend a lot of time in each other’s haulers on race weekends. I don’t see how this is any different.” She lets out a sigh as they both get out of the car together.

“It’s like I’m stepping on NASCAR sacred ground. Hendrick Motorsports is one of those always been here, top teams no matter what, and damn Chase, its surreal for someone like me who never imagined that she’d have a chance to be here in this sport. Plus, I am breaking every single rule that they say about competition and how you’re not supposed to be on your competitor’s turf because they will say you’re spying.” Chase laughs, remembering how both Christopher and Kyle had teased him about that numerous times.

“Trust me – it’s fine. It’s not like the boys will be doing anything of the secret variety. Well, except picking on you…” She rolls her eyes as she follows him through the back door.

As she enters, her jaw drops immediately as she was amazed at the space, organization, how clean it was, how professional everyone looked. She just shakes her head, glancing around in amazement, as she follows Chase to where they were headed.

“Hey!” Alan notices them immediately, walking over and giving each of them a hug. “It’s nice to see that you could make it today.”

“And miss seeing you? That’d be evil,” Sarina comments as Alan simply smiles back in return. Sarina had always kept a special admiration for the crew chief. It wasn’t lost on her that he had saved Chase’s ass in a big way twice now, and one of those times was partially her fault to begin with. She never took for granted what he was able to do for his driver.

“Well I’m glad you’re not a Grinch…” Chase then wraps an arm around her, smiling.

“Actually, she’s like one of those crazy elfs,” he starts. “She can’t wait to decorate as she was blabbing my ear off in Florida about how she can’t wait to get a tree, and make it look pretty, and then make the cabin look absolutely insane Christmas-y with lots of decorations.” Alan crosses his arms as he looks between the pair.

“Cabin, huh?” Alan questions. “Are we off to Colorado next week?” Chase smiles, nodding his head, which only caused the crew chief to take a careful deep breath. He knew what the trip would entail. “Just promise me, and swear to me that you’ll be careful. With your luck, I don’t want to be getting a phone call that you went tumbling down the mountain and broke a leg, or a foot, or worse.”

“I’ll be careful – like always. I’m a seasoned pro.” Alan rolls his eyes, knowing how that went.

“Hey Jared, your favorite female is looking for you,” Jordan Allen then chimes in from his perch. “She’s hear to fulfill her promise.” Sarina just rolls her eyes, watching as Jared makes his way over to the group.

“Haven’t you learned, Jordan? We found a truce,” Jared Seate begins with a smile towards Sarina. “She actually admitted that she likes me, and I was part of the reason why she was able to get back with Chase. So rather than planning my funeral, you can kiss my ass because I have a new friend now.” Sarina laughs as Jordan rolls his eyes, walking away.

“I wasn’t quite that sweet about it,” Sarina confesses as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“Okay, so maybe not. But admit – you like me…” Sarina could only roll her eyes back now as Jared looks at her surprised. “Then I guess I should’ve just not called you that night.” Sarina closes her eyes, thinking back to the beginning of the year and remembering how upset and angry she was. Taking a deep breath, Jared had a good point as she probably would’ve waited longer without his message. However, he could never know that.

“I appreciate you reaching out and for what you did. But, like Chase told you, he knew I’d reach out eventually. I could never go on without him.” Chase smiles, wrapping an arm around her to keep her held close to him.

“You guys are too sappy for your own good,” Alan offers, before walking away. “Can we get these games started?” Sarina then glances over at Chase confused.

“Games?” She questions and all he could do was simply nod his head in return. “Why didn’t you warn me?”

“I didn’t want to scare you off,” he replies, giving her a quick kiss. “Besides, these are fun games.” They all circle around Eddie, who has a list of the games for the day in his hand, eying the group with pride.  This was going to get interesting. “Who made you game commissioner?”

“I get the first two games, before we get the whole shop together,” Eddie offers. “I was given the list, so that makes me the boss. If you have any objections, all I have to say is bah-humbug.” Chase chuckles as he crosses his arms. “I am going to split you into four teams of three, as the first event is a relay race.”

“Oh lawdy….” Josh Kirk muses, knowing that this wasn’t going to go pretty, considering they all attempted to trip each other last year.

“Why can’t we choose our teammates?” Jared Seate wonders, earning a glance from Eddie.

“Because that’d be too easy,” Eddie replies, shuffling a bunch of names around in a hat. “I’m going to pull our names. First three are team one, next three are team two, and well, you get the damn idea.” Eddie reaches his hand in the bucket, pulling out three pieces of paper. “Team A – Josh, Chad, and Sarina.” Jared rolls his eyes immediately, as Chase silently curses to himself. “Team B – Jordan, Jared Seate, and Alan.” Jared’s eyes roll immediately.

“I get the worse team? Really?”

“Hey now!” Alan lets out, looking obviously offended.

“I can run, you know?” Jordan adds as Jared only rolls his eyes.

“Ah, the Christmas spirit is alive and well,” Eddie comments as he reaches his hand back in. “Team C – Jared Erspamer, John, and myself. That means the final team will be Nick, Travis and Chase.”

“You would obviously get the two best runners on your team, superstar.” Chase sticks his tongue out as they get all lined up ready to go.

“Rules are simple. Grab the Christmas tree, run to the other end of the shop, and run back without losing a single jingle bell.  If you drop a bell, you must stop, pick it up, and put it back on. Each team member must do one run. First team to complete and not lose their balls will be the winner.”

“Wait – some of us don’t have balls,” Jared cracks, earning a smack across the forehead from Alan. “Hey!”

“No, we just have them on our chest, and if you stare – you’ll find out how painful it hurts to twist your own,” Sarina offers back, causing a couple shocked glances.

“I like our new teammate,” Josh comments, earning a nod of agreement from Chad.

The relay started off smooth, but it wasn’t long before the balls were bouncing off trees, across the floor. Chase knew his team was out of it when he had to chase a ball halfway across the shop, dropping some more along the way. Sarina watched as Josh and Chad perfected the art, and she was able to get from the start to the other end without losing a single ball. However, on the trip back, one of them bounced off. She was able to quickly pick it up and put it back on – but it was too late. Eddie crossed the line with his tree perfectly in tack seconds ahead of her, handing his team the win.

“I feel like shit,” Sarina comments as makes her way over to Josh and Chad. “You guys were perfect, and I blew it. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Chad Avrit assures her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “You did your best, and that’s what matters. We’re here to have fun, right?”

“Besides, I was more entertained watching Chase run after balls all over,” Josh Kirk adds, causing a chuckle to escape her lips.

“That was amusing…” She offers as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Now it’s time for everybody’s favorite race – two to tangle,” Eddie announces, causing Sarina to look over confused. “The rules are simple – you will be divided into teams of two. You are to tie a left shoe lace to your partner’s right shoe lace, and each wear a hand-cuff. You must hop, run, whatever you can to stop one – where you must decorate five cookies together. Then you go to stage two, where you decorate the Christmas tree. And then you can go to stage three, where you have to untangle the lights for outside. If you can do all that, and make it to the finish first, you win. But the pair that comes in dead last must remained hand-cuffed together all day long – yes, including dinner.”

“He’s joking, right?” Sarina questions and Josh shakes his head no, glancing over at Jordan.

“His mistake last year ended up resulting in us tied together all day long,” Josh reveals as Sarina looks over shocked. “When it comes to these games, we don’t kid around. This gets a little interesting….”

“Seriously?” Chase nods his head as he crosses his arms. He hoped he got a good partner that would allow him to complete the course with ease. However, if for some reason that failed, he wanted someone that he wouldn’t murder by day’s end.

“So here we go….” Eddie says, reaching his hand into the bag of names. “Team A will consist of Jordan and Nick.” A couple cheers escaped, as nobody wanted to be stuck with Jordan again this year for another mistake. “Team B will consist of Travis and Jared Seate.” Sarina said a quick thank you to herself as she was worried about being stuck with Jared. “Team C will consist of John and myself.”

“I would laugh if we ended up together,” Chase whispers to Sarina as she just smiles in return.

“Team D will consist of Sarina and Alan.” Chase let out a quiet sigh, as Sarina smiled. If she was going to be stuck to someone, it might as well be Alan as at least she knew him pretty well. Actually, he was probably the best person of the group to do this with – except for Chase, obviously. “Team E will Jared Erspamer and Chase, making Team F consisting of Josh and Chad.” Chase walks over to Jared, affixing a cuff to himself, before holding it out for him, as he takes a deep breath.

“Listen, I’m going to make sure to not screw this up,” Chase starts, catching Jared Erspamer’s attention. “I still feel rotten and terrible about what happened in Ma-”

“It’s not your fault that Chris poisio-” Jared interrupts him, but Chase shakes his head.

“He was after me and Sarina. He never should’ve touched you guys, or any of her guys, or Ryan, or Bubba. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it.” Chase takes a deep breath. “Anyways, I owe you something – redemption. So let’s get ourselves a win, alright?”

“Just don’t be throwing the balls across the shop….” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing he would probably hear about that for weeks now.

As expected, the game turned intriguing right away with tons of laughs throughout as crew members tripped, items got dropped, and a couple cookies got eaten in the process. Despite Chase and Jared’s best effort together, it wasn’t their turn to pick up the crown. Instead the honor went to Sarina and Alan, who seemed to perfect their partnership immediately. The bottom of the pile – well, that honor went to Chase.

“Last in both games….” Jared Seate comments as he shakes his head. “Is this really happening?”

“I hate those damn balls,” Chase says as he places the last one of the lost balls on the table. He then glances at his partner with a sigh. “I’m sorry….”

“It’s my fault, too,” Jared Erspamer replies. “Looks like we’re stuck together….”

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

Friday, December 8 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

“Are you glad to be finally free of your partner in crime?” Sarina asks, having chuckled the whole way from Hendrick Motorsports to Kyle Busch Motorsports. It was hilarious watching Chase and Jared try to play some of the other games, and of course eating did not go smoothly, as predicted.

“Did you have fun at my expense, at least?” Chase wonders and Sarina nods her head. “Now I don’t know. Maybe I would’ve preferred to stay connected to my partner than be here…” Sarina laughs as they reach the door.

“I just hope Kyle didn’t go too crazy this year.” They then walk inside, meeting face-to-face immediately with Kyle, who was sitting on a big green couch with an evil grin on his face.

“My oh my, you guys have arrived…” Kyle muses as Chase looks at him with odd curiousity.

“This is somewhat creepy…” Chase comments as Sarina chuckles.

“You haven’t seen nothing yet,” she offers, giving Chase an immediate look of fear.

“I am not wearing this damn thing!” They hear yelled from behind the curtain and Kyle breaks out laughing.

“Come show off your new sweater, Bell,” Kyle requests as Christopher lets out a sigh.

“This is evil. I know we were bad this year and annoyed you, but this is ridiculous.” Christopher then emerges from behind the curtain, wearing a red sweater with a big bell attached to the back, including a string to be rung. “Ring my bell so I feel swell? How the hell did you come up with that?”

“I almost wrote ring my bell so I don’t go to hell – but I thought that was a little over the top.” Chase looks at Sarina, feeling even more fear and anxiety over what was planned now. What had he gotten himself into? “Now, my next victim – I mean sweet dear individual. Take this package and place it on.” Sarina takes the bag, glancing at Chase with a tinge of her own fear, before retreating behind the curtain. “After she is changed, I have something special for you.”

“It wouldn’t have to deal with base, would it?” Chase wonders, trying to rhyme every word he could in his head.

“I don’t play rhyme gam-” Kyle starts.

“Are you kidding me, Kyle?” Sarina interrupts them as she puts on the sweater. “I seriously tell you about that, and you make a sweater out of it?” Kyle smiles even more, causing confusion to be written over Chase’s face.

“Isn’t it adorable?” Sarina had other thoughts than that, including being set to land a punch on someone’s face. “Please, oh please, come share your prize…”

“I could kill you right now, Kyle!” Kyle chuckles as she emerges from the curtain. Kyle had gotten a navy blue sweater, which now had an enlarged snowglobe sticking out the front of it, with a picture of Chase inside of it. “Like, really?”

“What do you think, Elliott?” Chase shakes his head in disbelief. This was getting ridiculous. “Oh, and if you press the button right underneath it, there are some fake snow falling acti-”

“Are you doing this to get coal in your stocking this year?” Kyle looks over, surprised, as Sarina sticks her tongue out.

“Oh Sarina, I’ve been a good little boy all year long. Santa is going to make sure to treat me well. Besides, I thought it was adorable.” Sarina sits down beside Christopher, shaking her head.

“Want to meet me on April Fool’s Day?” Christopher laughs, but couldn’t help but agree.

“Mr. Elliott, are you ready for your package?” Chase looks on with fear on his face, but takes the bag gracefully. “I hope I got the right size.”

“Can I run away now?” Chase asks and Sarina shakes her head no.

“If I have to play along with this snow globe and deal with Mr. Seate teasing me all day, then you can handle wearing that for at least 15 minutes of jokes,” Sarina answers as Chase lets out a sigh.

“Figures…” He then retreats behind the curtain, opening up the box. “There is no way that this is happening!”

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

Tuesday, December 6 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 6 – Clutch Studios North Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 6 – Whiskey River Charlotte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Excuses will get you nowhe-”

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

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

“You don’t know tha-”

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

“Rya-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 183: Their Special Night

Saturday, December 2 – 5 Flags Speedway – Pennsacola, Florida

“So you asked Lindsay…” Chase starts, as he wraps his arms around Sarina.

“I’m driving – as long as you trust me,” Sarina states as they reach the rental car. Chase pulls out the keys, placing them in her hand as she looks back with a big smile.

“I’ll always trust you. I know that you won’t let me down…” He then walks around the car, climbing into the passenger seat, while Sarina flicks the keys around on her finger before getting in.

It was a good 20 minute drive, but there were no regrets once they reached their destination. Chase looked over at her, smile firmly planted, before climbing out of the car. He watched as she grabbed a picnic basket, along with a small box, before leading him down to the beach.

Pulling out a blanket, she lays it out underneath the moonlight, with them both taking a seat.

“This is nice,” Chase offers as she reaches back into the box.

“Burgers and fries, okay?” She questions and he nods his head. She pulls out a pair of burgers, along with a fry, handing him his burger. “When I went to the bathroom, I actually went to get food.”

“Sneaky…” She just smiles as they both dig in.

“Anybody can go to a fancy restaurant for their anniversary. But, let’s face it – that’s not us. We’re just two simple, laidback, feisty at times, fierce racecar drivers who can get the job done. With a little country, and a back road to escape on, our lives are complete…” Chase smiles, nodding his head. She obviously read him to a perfect t.

“But let’s face it, we have the most chaotic lives, ever. Our schedules almost consume us sometimes – but because of our love, we can handle it and know the other person is always there. Speaking of which, what is your schedule for December?” She looks at him, confused.

“I have a banque-”

“…which I am coming to, no ifs ands or buts. I can’t let you down after you attended my banquet.” She laughs, nodding her head accepting. She just hoped she had picked out the right dress for the occasion. “Before that, I have production shoots for the week that we get back, and Dale’s retirement party. By the way, you’re invited..”

“I got a text message already from Dale.” He wasn’t surprised by that, to be honest. “Don’t your parents have an anniversary?”

“December 12. Oh, the Hendrick Motorsports Christmas Afternoon Get Together is the Friday before the banquet. It goes from like noon to 6. Rick told me that you’re invited whether you like it or not, and the crew guys have begged me to make sure you come.” She laughs, not believing his team at times.

“For their pleasure, I will attend – as long as you promise to attend the Kyle Busch Motorsports Christmas Party that night. Oh, and you have to wear an ugly sweater – as picked out by Kyle.” Chase gives her a concerned look as she breaks out laughing. “Yeah, I’m not looking forward to what he picks for me and Christopher, either.”

“Oh come on. You have to know that Sam is the one behind it…” Sarina shakes her head no. “Seriously?”

“Christopher told me about last year’s deal. It was ridiculous. Needless to say, be prepared to be embarrassed…” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing this was going to be interesting.

“So after that, your schedule is clear?” She nods her head as a big smile forms on her face. “Great. We’re spending Christmas at my parents house – purely by tradition. But before then, we’re going to Colorado for some skiing and snowboarding.” It didn’t surprise her, as that played into a gift for later. But, she did have a couple concerns.

“You’re serious?” Chase nods his head, yes. “I haven’t ever done either of those.” A big smile forms on his face.

“Looks like I get to teach you how to snowboard this winter…” She was still a little concerned, fearing that this would go affray. She also still had one big other concerning question.

“I also wanted to put up a tree this year, and decorate for the holidays.” Chase was caught off-guard as he had never seen that from her before. But, he could see that more of her fun side was coming out.

“Well, you can decorated the cabin as it could use some Christmas cheer. We’ll go cut down a tree, and get some ornaments, and make it look amazing. Then you can get some decorations for the outside and make it look good.” She smiles, glad that he was on-board. She just hoped she didn’t scare him off with all of her crazy plans for decorating the small space. “Now, about my surprise….”

“I suppose you can finally have it…” She then reaches into the small box, wrapping her hands around it, taking a deep breath. “I love you with every part of me. Sometimes, it’s even hard to find the words to say to you to describe that love. I don’t know what I’d do without you, and I can’t even begin to describe how you complete me. I never thought I could love like this – until I met you. Love wasn’t something I believed in, but you obviously changed that.” He smiles as he watches her.

“You taught me a lot of things, too. I thought love and relationships were supposed to be perfect without a single hurdle. I guess that’s because I grew up with that image due to my parents, making sure everything was just perfect for me. But, you showed me that flaws are okay. You don’t need to be perfect because those flaws can teach you the most valuable lessons about yourself. So thank you…” She was surprised by his confession, but had noticed it with how he wasn’t always critiquing over the top about every little thing he did now.

“I fought with myself for days, a couple months really, debating what to get you for your birthday. I wanted that perfect gift that meant something special to you. I wanted that special gift that showed how much I love you. Then I remembered something my dad told me – anybody can go to the store and buy a gift, but something that comes from the heart can mean so much more.” He watches her closely, waiting for her hands to begin to lift whatever was in the box.

“The guitar meant the world to me. it’s perfect, actually. My favorite artist, but also a reminder of how we met to always hold onto.” She smiles, glad that he had seen it like she wanted him, too. She just hoped the same happened here.

“Well, this is a little closer to the heart, actually…” She then lifts the book out of the box, placing it down in front of him. “You told me that I should do a scrapbook of my family memories – whatever photos and stories – so that way I could hold onto everything, and not be afraid of losing it anymore. The book that I have of my father, now complete with the images from Lindsay, it helped me so much.” She then takes a deep breath, releasing the book into his hands. “I wanted to give you something so no matter what happe-”

“You’re scaring me…” She then looks at him confused. “Is there something wrong?” She shakes her head no, even more confused. “Your words, they make me think that something is wrong. Like, there’s some danger, or we’re going to get pulled apart, or you’re dying…”

“I can promise you that’s not why I am doing this, Chase. Trust me, we’re going to get to spend a lot of time together – enough that I may finally drive you crazy.” He laughs, smile coming back. “But I wanted to give you something so you could always hold onto our relationship. I wanted to give you a reminder of the special memories, moments, and what we mean to each other. Then at times when you’re feeling a little lost, lonely, or skeptical – like say last week, you can look through.”  His smile simply grew as he looked it over, before opening to the first page.

“That’s the sweetest gesture, ever. I mean, I was so confused and worried, and curious, and now I’m just….” He flips the page again, laughing at the memory, before meeting her eyes with his own. “Thank you. I don’t even know how to describe my feelings. This is just perfect.”

“See why I wanted to wait till we had some time?” He nods his head, accepting.

“Now, I want to look through this, and trust me – I want to do that with you by my side. But, I have something for you for our anniversary.” She then looks at him surprised as he reaches in his pocket, pulling out a small box.

“Chase, you didn’t have to….” He looks back up at her, eyes focused on hers.

“No, I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. You deserve something special for our anniversary.” He then hands the box over, as she looks at it intently. “Go ahead…” She slowly opens the box, smiling immediately as the white ball comes into view. It was a necklace with a snowball at the end of it. “We officially got together after the Snowball. I figured you could use a reminder of that with you, always, close to your heart.”

“It’s adorable. I don’t wear much jewelry – never wore an-”

“You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to just to make me happ-”

“No Chase, I want to wear it. I want to be able to hold that moment close to me, and have you always with me right there by my heart.” He smiles, slowly moving over to her, taking it out of the box. He undoes it, placing it around her neck, doing it up, before kissing her cheek. “Thank you…”

“I’ll always love you, no matter what. You’re always going to be my girl.” He then sits down right beside her, arm wrapped around her as he pulls the scrapbook close to them. “So, what all did you put in here?”

“Everything that I could think of. Every single special moment that is engraved in my mind. Every single sweet reason why I love you so much. I wanted you to know it all, and have it all.” He smiles as he flips it open, gazing over the photos from Hickory. “I remember when I got you to admit that you were crushing on me. You looked to be caught between frustrated at Ryan and Darrell, but you also seemed relieved to get it off your chest…” Chase reads over the note that she had included with some photos from the weekend.

“You have never written a love letter to me before – well, except for a certain text message, but this is just beyond adorable…” He smiles as he glances back over the note. Taking a deep breath, he begins to read it out loud. “I loved you as well, but I was afraid to admit it. I was told then to guard my feelings because you never know what could strike. I didn’t want to suggest the feelings strongly in return, so that’s why I didn’t tell you back, instead assuring that you were a cool guy. I thought maybe it was enough to keep the door open.”

“I thought if I ever got through my crazy emotions and finally open up, I would be able to tell you back in return what you wanted to hear, what we both knew in that moment. Truthfully, I often wonder if I would’ve done that without you pushing me in the days that followed because if I am being honest, I didn’t open up until you peeled back the layers..”

“I’m glad that I did because I don’t regret a single mome-”

“Oh come on, Chase. Admit that you regret crashing the plane, or falling down the grandstands, or being poisoned. You, Mr. Perfectionist, always pulling every situation apart, can’t have no regrets.” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing that she was right. it was no lie that situations had fluttered through his mind multiple times.

“My regret is that I didn’t protect you more. My regret is that I didn’t stop Chris sooner and trust my gut instincts. My regret, and don’t take this the wrong way because I don’t hold it against you for the reasons that you told me then, is that I didn’t learn who was behind this sooner so we could’ve maybe stopped the forthcoming chapters. So yes, I do have regrets.” She glances down, as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “But I don’t regret a moment that I’ve spent with you, helping you handle your emotions, working through your problems, earning your trust, and especially don’t regret kissing those soft lips of yours.” She then laughs.

“Yours are just as wonderful, for the record.” She then leans in and steals a kiss as they stay close together.

“Now, what else is in here?” He then flips the page as curiosity blossoms, while she keeps her eyes focused between his, and those darling lips. One more lick across those and it may be game over. “Waterbowl, of course. I promised myself that I was running it because I wanted to have some fun and get away from the pressure, but I was also set on seeing you again.” She nods her head, remembering how he walked over immediately.

“Your cheeks that day gave you away.” He looks over surprised that she remembered that small detail. “Like I said in the previous note, I always had that crush on you, too.” The cheeks then go that shade of red they did that day as she opens the envelope on the page, pulling out the small piece of paper. “I remember you walking over to me, and how I picked on you immediately. I remember how you asked about a lack of phone call, and I blamed it on racing. But truthfully, I was doing everything that I could to avoid you; I didn’t want to be faced with showing my true colors or emotions. I also didn’t want you to find me out either, so hence the well-time excuse about the car. If I’m being honest, I maybe did work a little too har-”

“I told you! Gosh, doesn’t it feel great to admit it finally?” She smiles, nodding her head. “And doesn’t it feel great to spend a night away from the track rather than so focused on the set-up it’s driving you insane?” She nods her head, once again.

“You learned that the hard way, per Ricky…” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that he used to have his own flaws, too. “See, I think that’s what bounds us together. We both have that same drive and determination. We’ll do whatever it takes to win.” She then looks back to the book, turning the page once again, as Chase focuses his eyes back on the pages, watching her open another envelope that rested beneath the photo of them standing together pre-race. “I remember this conversation so clearly for two reasons. The offer to drive a car prepared by a guy like Ricky was a dream come true, and I realized that my career was coming together before my eyes. I realized all of my hard work was paying off beyond anything. There was also the offer to join you at Michigan. I remember accepting, because once again, I was drawn to you, wanting to spend time, despite knowing that I could never tell you how I fel-”

“See, I knew that. I knew you were afraid to admit it to me by those beautiful blue eyes, and how they’d turn a shade darker when I glanced into them then.” She looks over, surprised. “That’s why I offered you the way I did – like an opportunity to talk to people, and see an event behind the scenes. If I had came out and said it otherwise, you probably would’ve ran for the hills before I could finish even speaking.” She knew that he was right – like always, as she focused her eyes back on his, again. She wanted to see if she could read those baby browns like he read hers.

“What do my eyes do now?” He meets her gaze, smile appearing immediately as he brings himself right close to her, noses brushing against each other.

“Sparkle, dance with excitement, and come out to be the purest blue that I could’ve imagined. I could possibly call it a royal blue, full of happiness, knowing that you’re the Queen of my world now.” She didn’t know what happened, but she brought her lips to his once again, going for one of their longest kisses she could ever remember, while their eyes locked on each other. She slowly pulls back, fighting for her breath as Chase takes a deep breath of her own. “Sarina…”

“Can we forget about the book for tonight? I mean, I want to go through it, I want to break down all of these emotions together, bu-”

“You don’t need to say another thing. I’ll grab the blanket and garbage, if you could grab the jewelry box and book.” She nods her head, accepting, as they both stand up. Grabbing what they needed to as instructed, she failed to find any words as she followed him back to the rental car. She stands back, resisting the urge to grab him right there as he opens the trunk, and they place everything in. He closes it, before looking back to her.

“I don’t know what has come over me….” She was caught off-guard by the emotions, and he knew that as he pulled her close to him in a quick sweep, arms wrapped around her hips.

“You don’t need to describe these feelings because trust me, I’m drawn as close to you as you are to me right now. this is just made me realize how much more I love you, and how grateful I am for you, and how much I want you to see that, tonight.” She smiles, glad the message was loud and clear.

“Then why are we still standing here?” His smile matches her as they both climb in the car, and make the quick drive back to the hotel.

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

Sunday, December 3 – Snowball Derby – 5 Flags Speedway

Sarina leans back against the car, shaking her head. They had been so strong in practice, and had a decent car through the first half. But as the race got into the second part, she began to lose the handle, slipping back and ending up 12th at the checkered.

“I’m sorry,” Marcus offers as he pats her shoulder. “I should’ve went further with that adjustment.” She nods her head, accepting.

“We’re a team – we win and lose together,” she tells him. “I’m pissed, I’m frustrated, and I damn well want to win this damn race. But I can’t be mad at you for your effort. Thank you.”

She then glances towards victory lane, smiling as she watches Kyle celebrate with the team. If she couldn’t win, it was nice to see the boss notch down another victory. However, it wasn’t lost on her that once again, the opportunity had slipped right out from under her grasp.

“You’re going to get yourself a snowball eventually,” Chase states as he hands her a bottle of water.

“I know that, but it will mean as much as this snowball right here,” she offers, hand reaching up to clasp the necklace in her hand as he smiles.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 182: “Why is Kyle kicking Chase’s ass now?”

Saturday, December 2 – 5 Flags Speedway – Pennsacola, Florida

“We never got to my surprise last night…” Chase comments as he wraps an arm around Sarina during their walk to the track together.

After practice was over, the pair along with Ricky and Lindsay retreated to the stands, taking in the modified and street stock main events. They then stopped in the local Hooters later on that night, treating themselves to some wings for dinner. Unexpectedly, it went later than anticipated with stories being shared by everyone, ranging from Ricky’s tales of a younger Chase to Lindsay and Sarina crazy adventures. Before they knew, they got back to the hotel at 2am.

“Tonight – I promise,” Sarina assures him, giving him a kiss. “I want to make sure to have time to talk you about it.” He looks at her, growing even more intrigued with each passing day. “Besides, I talked to Lindsay. She wants to have an early night so she’s going back to the hotel once were done here today, giving us the evening to spend to ourselves since it’s our anniversary…” Chase’s smile widened as he kept her held close to her.

“Sometimes, I can’t believe that we made it two years – but I wouldn’t trade a single moment,” he comments as she looks at him, a little surprised.

“Not a single moment? Because I can damn well tell you there’s a couple that I would.” Chase nods his head, knowing what the list consisted already.

“I wouldn’t. Those events helped us grow into the people that we are today. We took the lessons learned from those experiences, grew from it, and that’s what makes us amazing.”

“You know, I am glad that we have the suite for tonight by this talk,” Lindsay interrupts them, catching their attention. When booking the hotel room, Chase had done the liberty of getting them a suite so Lindsay could have her own personal space and they could explore in the main area, if warranted. “Just make sure you follow the number one rule…”

“Be quiet?” Chase offers and Lindsay rolls her eyes, shaking her head no.

“Well, actually, yeah because I don’t need those mental images of my cousin. But I meant the other golden rule. The Chase saves his ass from being kicked by Kyle Busch rule.”

“Why is Kyle kicking Chase’s ass now?” A voice joins the conversation as Ricky catches up with them.

“I’ll let you handle that one…” Sarina offers, as she wraps an arm around Lindsay’s shoulders. “Come on..” The girls head off, leaving the guys to themselves as Chase’s cheeks go bright red.

“Well?” Ricky asks again as Chase avoids eye contact. “Oh, okay. You don’t need to say anything else.” Chase looks over, surprised.

“Great, now you know everythin-” Chase starts as Ricky laughs.

“How old are you now? Even if you hadn’t said a single word, I’m sure that I can figure out that you, a grown adult, madly in love with a sweet girl, would be having sex. So Kyle threatened you if you get her pregnant?” Chase nods his head, remembering the conversation quite clear. “Well, I can’t blame him because of her line of work. But, I do have to wonder. Do you want kids one day?”

“I haven’t thought about it, honestly.” Ricky understood, as it seemed there were only certain things in this world that Chase remained focused on.

“I think you’d make a great dad, for what’s it is worth. Sarina is also sweet enough to be a great mother, too.” Chase glances away, taking a deep breath.

“Would she be willing to do it with the childhood that she had? What if she’s afraid of repeating that for her child?” Ricky looks over confused.

“Have you guys talked abo-”

“No, I’m just thinking based on what I know…” Ricky wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulder.

“Look, you can’t just go ahead and think that. I mean, for all you know and how sweet she is with Brexton, she will be willing to have children one day. Perhaps maybe she doesn’t want to have her own child, but rather adopt. The only way to know is communication. You need to ask her. Promise me you’ll do that when the time is right.” Chase nods his head, knowing he would for sure. Their communication had certainly improved over the years.

“Ricky, can you promise me now that we won’t be down here next year without a car? This is killing me.” Ricky laughs and nods his head, accepting.

“I’m always available to work with you.” Chase glances over with a smile.

“Let me guess – Dad pays well?” Ricky gives him a ‘really’ glance. “Oh, so I need to look into a raise for you…”

“Well, you’re a superstar now so that should come with an upgrade. But honestly, you were the easiest driver that I’ve ever worked with. Well, except Sarina. She may have been a little better.” Now it was Chase’s turn to give the surprised look as Ricky laughs. The pair then watched the practice together, glancing at the stop watch throughout, followed by a look at the final speed chart once it was over. Kyle ended up sixth, with Sarina in ninth and Cole Rouse in 10th.

“Your suggestion worked….” Ricky looks over a little surprised as Chase gives him a wink. “Marcus wouldn’t try it for the qualifying session – set on his wa-”

“He’s smart, and he knows his driver. Besides, us crew chiefs are stubborn sometimes.” Chase laughs, remembering some of the arguments through the years.

“But once he saw the lap she laid down, he thought he’d give it a try to see if it got them anywhere. After all, we’ve won this thing before – twice.” Ricky nods his head, accepting.

“It should’ve been three times. Have you forgiven me for the tungsten mistake?” Chase looks over, keeping as serious face as he can, shaking his head no. “Really?”

“You realize what you cost me that day, right? I mean, you don’t cost a man a Snowball Derby win and get forgiven.” Ricky lets out a sigh, having expected that, as a small smile forms on Chase’s face. “Well, your reaction wasn’t quite what I expected because of course I forgive. If I didn’t forgive you, why would I still be your friend?”

“Because I work for cheap?” Chase rolls his eyes as they heads towards pit road together.

“Remind me about that raise next year, if we keep our promise.” Ricky looks over, a grin of his own forming.

“There’s no way we’re coming down here without a racecar. I don’t care what happens – even if you win the damn championship. I’m putting the pieces together mid-summer, getting you in at least one event before, and we’re going to get that third trophy.”

The pair made their way to pit road, standing back as Sarina debriefed with her teammates and the crew chiefs. Smiles on their faces, confidence was there heading into Sunday.

Sarina emerges from the group first, walking over to where Chase was standing, glancing at Ricky with a smile.

“Thanks for the suggestion,” Sarina offers and Ricky simply nods his head.

“I was always good at setting up your calls, your Majesty,” Ricky comments, catching both Chase and Lindsay off-guard as Sarina laughs. “Well, you’re my king since you’re the boss, right? That makes her my Queen. We always had fun together.”

“I still wish we would’ve won the snake for Chase.” Ricky laughs as Chase makes a gross face immediately.

“I’m going to have look into when that race is…” Sarina glances between the pair, intrigued, as Chase just gives her a wink.

“I knew you couldn’t go without a late model for long.” Chase just smiles as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “I need to go get changed, and then we can go up to the stands, okay?” He nods his head, accepting, kissing her cheek.

“We’re going up to the stands?” Lindsay wonders and Chase looks over at her with a nod.

“I always watch the Snowflake for the stands – ask Ricky,” he answers as Lindsay crosses her arms.

“You’re a Cup Series driver. Heck, wait no – you’re a damn superstar actually. Trust me, I’ve seen the video from Martinsville and the Texas billboard.” Chase just rolls his eyes – he was never going to live that down. “Anyways, how do you expect to blend in up there, surrounded by people? You’re going to get mobbed.”

“Just watch and learn…” He then goes to follow Sarina back to the trailer as Lindsay looks over towards Ricky.

“He isn’t joking, is he?” Ricky shakes his head no.

“He does this a lot actually,” Ricky offers. “Truck races, XFINITY races, and even late model events. He finds a quiet spot to sit and focuses on the race. There may be the odd fan or two that recognizes him, but we keep it quiet with a photo and an autograph, and it’s just like any other day.” Ricky glances to see if they’re headed back yet. “Look, Chase is a simple guy. He’s still the same kid that I met all those years ago. Stardom and power isn’t something that has gone to his head one bit. He’s just an ordinary guy, enjoying life, doing ordinary things.”

“As Sarina said – sweet southern Georgia peach.” Ricky nods his head. “For the record, you don’t have to worry. I don’t have any concerns about him and Sarina being together. I’ve seen everything to know that they’re good for each other. Frankly, it wouldn’t even be my place to judge as I haven’t seen Sarina in six years; I’m still getting to know my best friend once again.” Ricky accepted, keeping an eye out for Sarina and Chase.

“What about your words to Chase last night about family? How serious is this supposed possible danger if we re-connect certain people?” Lindsay takes a deep breath, thinking it over, remembering some of the memories.

“It’s not as bad as what Chris and Bethany have pulled already; they’re the worst of it, for what I know. It’s just the others aren’t supposedly squeaky clean. If they really meant anything, we all know that Sarina is Chelsy, thanks to the trial and media coverage; they would’ve been here already. I just put the warning because I don’t want those semi ones to watch for coming out.” Ricky nods his head, accepting. “Are you worried or something?”

“Like I told you – I will do anything to protect that kid. He may be 22 now, but to me, he’s still that little scrappy teenager that I babysat for multiple weekends.” Lindsay could understand that as she follows Ricky’s lead in the direction of his eyes.

“But yet, you don’t want him to realize you’re like that. That’s why you’re making sure they’re not coming back as we talk about this, right?” Ricky smiles.

“He’s an adult now, Lindsay. He’s plenty capable of taking care of himself. I know that, and I want to respect that. But at the same time, it’s hard to take the hands off completely when I sniff something that may seem off.” Ricky thinks it over, taking a deep breath. “When Chris pulled the whole behavior switch thing, a small part of him believed something was off. He even mentioned something to me about that. But, he ignored that and trusted the other side, wanting to believe him for the sake of Sarina and the relationship. Look at what happened. What if he doesn’t trust his instincts next time and something happens again? We can’t risk that.” Lindsay once again understood Ricky’s place as she focused her eyes back on the older man.

“You don’t have to worry about that from what I know of my family. However, if there comes a time where you are wondering and afraid, you can always ask me. I understand because trust me, I don’t want to see Sarina go through anything else.” A small smile forms on Ricky’s face.

“Thank you.” The pair both smile as they watch Chase and Sarina come back to them – Sarina now adorning a t-shirt and jeans. “I see Chase passed off his sense of style to you…”

“These classic NASCAR t-shirts look amazing,” Sarina offers as she looks over at Chase. “We saw you both talking…..”

“We were just sharing a couple more small stories – nothing to worry about,” Lindsay comments with a wink towards Ricky as they all head towards the grandstands together.

“Since Lindsay is going to be hanging around, I better get to know her more,” Ricky adds, causing Sarina to look over at Lindsay with excitement.

“Really?” Sarina questions as Lindsay lets out a sigh. She wished it was so simple.

“I’m going to try and make it out to some of your races and hang with you more next year,” Lindsay tells her as Sarina could only smile back in return.

The group made their way over to the grandstand side, scanning the stands, before Chase led them down to the far right, climbing the series of steps. Just a couple rows from the top, he moves down the row, seeing a series of seats for a group of four, with them sitting down together. He gives a quick nod to someone behind them, before focusing his eyes on the track.

“We’re surrounded by some NASCAR crew members, and a couple other drivers actually,” Ricky offers Lindsay as she glances around. It just seemed like any other night at a local short track. Nobody was staring and gawking at having Chase right in the midst of the crowd. “Like he said – he can do this with ease.”

“That’s insane,” Lindsay comments. “But hey, this whole weekend has been insane from the beginning…”

The group watched the Snowflake 100 together, impressed by the racing action they saw. Chase even made some quick comments throughout about how the groove was coming in, pointing out a couple things to Sarina to take note of for tomorrow.

With the race in the books, the group separated. Ricky agreed to give Lindsay a ride back to her hotel so she wouldn’t get lost – and make sure she grabbed a bite to eat on the way, too.

With her headed back early, it left Chase and Sarina to follow through with their plan.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 181: “Did you guys have fun last night?”

Friday, December 1 – Wynn Las Vegas

Chase opens his eyes, smiling as he feels the warmth of Sarina’s body next to his, as he keeps his arms around her closely. He takes a deep breath, kissing her bare shoulder, not wanting to move though he needed they had to do so, soon.

A grin forms on his face as he sees her dress carefully laid on the back of the chair, with his dress shirt and jacket on the desk. He almost laughed noticing that his pants got thrown on the floor, desperation coming to Sarina by that time to not even care about discarding properly.

For every bit of emotion that he had experienced just one night ago, the reminder of the heartbreak he had felt, fear of a repeat, this was the assurance that he needed so it certainly didn’t happen once again.

He glanced over at the other bed, seeing Lindsay buried in the blankets, wondering when she got back as she obviously didn’t interrupt them. He reminded himself to say thanks to Ryan for showing her a good time, hoping it panned out well for both of them.

Another glance at the time, he knew that he couldn’t put off getting up any longer as he carefully unwraps his arms from her, slipping out of the bed.

“Chase?” She questions, obviously his movement not going unnoticed. “Where are you going?”

“It’s 8,” he answers, catching a glance from her blue eyes. “I’m going to get a shower. Coming?” She smiles, nodding her head as she gets up, keeping the one sheet wrapped around her as they head to the bathroom.

Once the water was warmed up, the pair climbed in together, getting all cleaned up, with Chase even helping her with her hair and back. Once they were both clean, they emerge, towels wrapped around them, looking for their clothes.

“Lindsay!” Sarina calls, knowing that she needed to get ready too.

“Did you guys have fun last night?” Lindsay questions, peeking out from underneath her blankets. “The evidence says so…” Sarina knew the clothes were enough of a clue, but the carefully discarded item in the trash certainly convinced, too.

“It was special. Did you have fun?” Lindsay smiles, nodding her head.

“Ryan is a great guy. We had a good night together.” She glances out the window, smile widening on her face. “I needed that, you know? I’ve been so caught up with work, trying to bury my emotions and everything that has gone on. Last night, I got a chance to just release, and have fun. Are we going to see Ryan before we go? I want to thank him.” Sarina glanced over towards Chase, and Chase immediately pulls out his phone.

“I just sent you his number,” Chase declares. “He won’t mind. You can text him as I have no clue where he is this morning.” Lindsay accepts, as she climbs out of the bed, heading to the bathroom for her shower. “What if your cousin starts dating my best friend?”

“I think they’d be great together,” Sarina offers as she gets dressed. “I just don’t know how they can handle each other’s schedules. She’s not about to give up her dancing for any guy, and that takes a lot of time.” Chase nods his head, accepting. He wanted to see his best friend happy, having seen that his luck with girls hadn’t played out well so far – despite being charming.

“Well, they can play it by ear, but for the record, I wouldn’t mind it. Lindsay seems like a great girl from what I’ve seen this week.” Sarina smiles, glad that it had gone smoothly as Chase probably would’ve hoped – if not even better than that. “By the way, Tom got back to me. He knows exactly where Samantha and Shelly are – both moved to Indianapolis, actually. So that could be an off-season starter activity.”

“That sounds great, Chase. I can’t say enough for what you’re doing, by the way. It means more than words could even describe, or relate to. Heck, it means more than the simple gifts that I got you.” He glances over with a smile as he fixes his jeans.

“So, do I get to see my surprise now? I mean, I worked for it…” She laughs, but shakes her head no.

“I told you – I want to be able to talk about it.” He nods his head, accepting.

It didn’t take long for everyone to get ready, and get everything packed up for the trip to Florida. They had everything that they’d need for the next couple of days, with the various birthday gifts and other stuff all set together to be returned back to North Carolina – another favor Ryan had arranged prior.

Thankfully, the traffic was much calmer that morning and they reached airport with ease, climbing on the board the airplane.

“Everybody buckled in?” Chase questions, and both girls nod their heads yes. He then reaches over, squeezing Sarina’s hand as they eye each other. “Deep breaths, stay calm – it’ll be over before you know it.”

“Never soon enough,” she answers as she takes a deep breath, trying to relax as they head towards the runaway.

Things continue to go smoothly, with the flight from Las Vegas to Florida going accordingly, landing in timely matter so they arrived at the track with still an hour before the first practice hit the track.

“So how close did you cut it?” Marcus wonders as Sarina rolls her eyes, still frustrated about that last night.

“I got there at like 6:30, and ended up meeting  halfway down the carpet while he was doing an interview with NBC,” Sarina answers. “Traffic was just a nightmare once we got to Las Vegas.”

“Do you believe that she changed in the limo?” Chase questions, catching Marcus off-guard.

“That takes talent as I saw the photos and you looked good,” Marcus comments, causing a smile to form on her face. “Thankfully, after you left last night, I was able to find some things in the notes that just seemed a little off. I think I have a solution for your corner entry problem. Oh, and Kyle has got us all new tires to run the first session.”

“Four Hoosiers is better than diamonds any day,” she offers as Marcus laughs. “That’s truly a girl’s best friend, am I right?” Marcus nods his head.

“Are you the usual faces quick?” Chase asks, having missed checking the time sheet.

“What else would you expect?” Marcus questions. “Bubba Pollard is quickest. Are you surprised?” Chase shakes his head no. Bubba was always an interesting talking point, considering he almost signed Sarina to a contract before Chase signed her. Sometimes, he wonders how that would’ve changed things.

“It’s just a matter of whether he finally breaks through this year…” Marcus nods his head, in agreement, knowing how Bubba’s luck worked down there. “Lindsay, I am going to go stand in my usual spot. You can either hang here, or come along with me.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be my tour guide?” Lindsay questions, catching Chase off-guard as he smiles. She wasn’t forgetful at all as he remembered her words to her.

“That was about Sunday’s race, but I can do the same today, too,” he answers. He then walks over to Sarina, seeing her emerged dressed in her suit and gloves. “Good luck. Stay safe, stay focused, and work at making sure it handles for when it counts.  You know your way around here…” He then gives her a kiss, before walking away so she could focus.

As the first practice of day started, Chase made his way down to the middle of turns one and two, stopwatch in hand, eyes focused on the middle of the corner.

“Do you always watch practice down here?” Lindsay wonders and Chase nods his head.

“The way the car handles in the corner is what matters at the end of the day,” Chase offers. “Anybody can make it work on the straightaways and have speed. But what happens when you have to turn left? You need to have a good corner entry, being able to roll the center if you want to keep that momentum. The quick cars down here – the 26 of Bubba Pollard, the 15 of Christian Eckes, Sarina, Kyle, Cole, 12 of Harrison Burton, and Raphael Lessard – watch their corner say versus someone else.” She watches the first couple cars go through, noticing his finger hitting the stopwatch on a couple, one eye on the number, another on the track.

“So this is your normal spot, no matter what?” He glances over, nodding his head.

“If I was racing, I would come down here and do this for the Snowflake practice to see where the line was really working so I could try for myself. When I owned Sarina’s car, I would come down here and then pass a long a couple notes to her and Ricky Turner.” Lindsay crosses her arms, watching the series of cars go by.

“Why don’t you own her car this weekend if you guys were masters down here?” He lets out a sigh, knowing like everybody else, she just didn’t get it.

“You can’t just throw a one-race deal together and come down here and kick ass. You need to have a team that has chemistry and experience, and having worked on your set-up. There’s been no time for me to do a late model program this year properly, so therefore it’s folded right now. If I had a program, you would have no teacher right now because skipping this race isn’t easy.” She was a little confused as she continued to watch the session.

“So why not ask Kyle to drive one of his?” He laughs, shaking his head. “What?”

“It’s not that easy. They’re heavily supported by Toyota and I’m heavily backed by Chevrolet. Besides, I haven’t worked with his guys at all. I wouldn’t feel comfortable.” She nods her head, accepting.

After all the struggles yesterday, it was pleasant surprise to see Kyle, Cole and Sarina in the top-10 at the end of the session, sitting second, seventh and 10th respectively. It was no surprise that once again Bubba Pollard topped the charts.

“Did Chase Elliott get a new girlfriend?” Chase hears as he and Lindsay make their way through the pits. He glances towards the direction, rolling his eyes immediately.

“For your information, Sarina and I are still happily together,” he offers. “This is Sarina’s cousin Lindsay. I’m giving her an introduction to short track racing.” Bubba glances her over, before looking towards Chase. “Don’t even think it.”

“Relax, I’ve always respected boundaries. You do realize that I still care about her, right?” Chase pauses, nodding his head. “Alright, that’s all.”

“Let’s go…” Lindsay simply follows Chase without another word, glancing back one quick time, before focusing forward. “Bubba Pollard flirted with Sarina quite a bit, and even talked a little smack on the idea of her driving for me. He has good intentions as I can believe that he cares, but sometimes I wonder…”

“I think that’s a bit of jealousy and over-protectedness speaking, which is no problem at all,” Lindsay comments as Chase looks over at her.

“Do you realize that I have a damn good reason to watch and wonder?” Chase questions and Lindsay nods her head. She had heard the back story about Chase and Sarina’s relationship. “I trust her and I love her. But damn, I don’t take chances with people. Look at where that got us.”

“You don’t need to justify yourself for me, Chase. Actually, it’s comforting to hear that someone has her back no matter what. She hasn’t always had that, and sometimes I wondered about whether she felt truly loved. So, thank you.”

They joked about it on pit road together, while quickly debriefing the session and watching some of the Snowflake practice. Though before they knew it, it was time for the second and final practice session of the day.

Once again, Chase retreated back to his familiar corner, eyes focused on the middle of the corner.

“Cut deeper….” He says to himself, arms crossed as he watches her. He shakes his head as he glances at the speed chart. “She needs to be cutting it like Kyle is…”

“Sounds like you guys need to tighten it a little for her to do so,” Chase hears, smiling, as he looks over and sees Ricky Turner, same posture as he is. “I’m surprised you’re not down here driving something.”

“I’m surprised you’re not down here with someone.” Ricky looks over at Chase with a grin.

“I told you – I only come down here with my buddy, or I guess his girlfriend.” Chase laughs as it was nice to see Ricky for a change. “That’s the same thing we fought at Cordele that time. She pinches it, making it seem that it may be loose, when really if you tighten it and tell her to not pinch as much, you’ll be golden.”

“I’ll throw a suggestion Marcus’ way.” Ricky nods his head, accepting. “It feels weird being down here together without the car.” He then notices Lindsay watching them a little confused. “Lindsay, this is Ricky Turner. You can thank this man for all of my short track success, followed by your cousin’s. Ricky, this is Lindsay – Sarina’s cousin. Don’t worry, she checks out..”

“Oh, so now there’s a disclaimer?” Lindsay questions, caught off-guard by Chase’s comment.

“He was heavily involved and saw how things can go from one feeling to another like that,” Chase answers. “I figured it was only fair to give him assurance. He trusts my judgment and if I say that you’re cool, then he won’t bother you.” Ricky glances down, remembering the instance at Cordele, and the fear that ran through him when he was made aware that Chris had snuck onto the grounds, pushing Chase. He immediately worried that he would have to tell Cindy and Bill the worst news.

“I’ve known Chase for a long time now,” Ricky adds with a smile. “I treat him like my own kid at times. I will lecture him, offer advice, and protect him.” Lindsay slowly nodded her head as she glanced out at the track.

“I understand,” she offers. “I should expect it with a family as mes-”

“Lindsa-” Chase starts, not wanting to get into this discussion.

“No, Chase, let me just say it. It should be expected. I mean, of course there’s nerves because you’ve got a brother that’s gone completely off his axis, with a cousin that will back up every single move. You have a mother that couldn’t give a damn about her children, just getting that fix – which obviously passed along to one of her children. Then you have a father trying to do his job as an officer, but not wanting to prosecute his own family and actually protects them because he loves them. Am I right?” Chase takes a deep breath, nodding his head.

“That sounds right, but listen – it doesn’t define what I think of you or Sari-”

“You don’t need to explain that, Chase. But I understand when it comes to family or someone new – there’s that fear of a repeat. What if this person you welcome is one of those? I get it, and I understand. Your fear is easily understandable. It’s just never been forced in my face before.” He could understand that, as Lindsay hadn’t heard about anything until he showed up at her door that day.

“Thank you for understa-”

“Don’t ever forget that fear. I know you want to put this family back together, but I’m damn well glad that you’re doing your homework. We may have six uncles along with Aunt Shelly, but you don’t want to meet them all. There’s a lot of stories that should remain buried.” Chase slowly nods his head, accepting, almost biting his tongue in the process. Taking a deep breath, he wondered if after Shelly he should close the project and not even worry about anymore family.

“I will remember that. Thank you…”

The group watches the final practice together, decently satisfied as Bubba topped the charts again with Kyle sitting third, Sarina 20th, and Cole back in 21st. Chase passed along the suggestion from Ricky afterwards to Marcus, which was accepted for ‘consideration’.

Chase then took a step back, watching Sarina interact with her teammates and team members, running his hands through his hair. In an instant, a simple conversation with Lindsay, he understood the fear that Sarina held now. That’s why she wondered whether the time they had put Chris and Bethany away was enough, and whether Allison would truly stay away. She was probably also wondering who else would surface, too.

Catching a glimpse of her eyes, he silently promised himself that no matter what happened moving forward, he would always protect her and make sure her happiness was at the forefront.

Through the rest of the night, Chase remained quiet, allowing the group to focus. His happiness didn’t increase or decrease with qualifying, though, as Sarina ended up 20th with Kyle in 15th.

“300 laps is lots of time to work your way to the front,” he offers, as he rubs her shoulders, following qualifying, kissing her cheek. “You’ll be fine.” She nods her head, focusing on his eyes.

“I’m not worried,” she tells him. “I have a good car underneath him, great crew around me, and I know I can get the job done. Like you said, Sunday is going to be a long day…..”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 180: “There’s so many people here….”

Thursday, November 30 – 5 Flags Speedway – Pennsacola, Florida

Lindsay looked around in awe as she followed Sarina into the infield, glancing at the sea of people that seemed to consume the infield. No matter where she looked, whether left or right, there seemed to be people beyond people, beyond people. How did they pack this many people into a short track? Was this really as big as she was told?

She continues appearing in shock as they make their way down pit road, watching the seas of crews that seemed to engulf their racecars, focused on the smallest details. She even swore that she recognized some of the faces, too, from the time that she watched NASCAR.

She realizes that they had reached their stop, going over to where a couple crew members stood together by the No. 18. It seemed weird that Kyle was running the event, but Sarina was behind the wheel of the 18.

“Any questions so far?” Sarina questions as she puts her hair up in a pony tail.

“You’re running the 18?” Lindsay wonders and Sarina nods her head. “What about Kyle?”

“51. Ever seen Days of Thunder?” Lindsay laughs, having watched that movie numerous times, and knowing that Sarina knew that very well. They had watched it quite a bit together.

“Rowdy Busch. So let me guess, the new kid on the block, Cole whoever, is running the 46 just like Cole Trickle?” Sarina then freezes, having not realized how Kyle did the numbers prior to that comment. That was actually impressive. “There’s so many people here….”

“Chase wasn’t kidding, and it’s only going to get bigger from here on out.” Sarina then double checks her shoes are done up accordingly, before taking her helmet out of the bag. “I’ve got two practices today – with the Snowflake practice session in between. You can either hang here, watch from the trailer, or watch from the stands. Fingers crossed that we got a good car under our belt.”  Lindsay crosses her fingers as she watches Sarina climb the wall, climbing in the car, getting set for the first session.

Needless to say, it did not go anywhere near where they wanted as the frustration showed on her face following the first hour and a half. She just leaned back against the wall, shaking her head as she watched the fury of activity from the crew members. They had ran well here before, coming close to winning. They had won at Winchester just a month ago. How were they so far off, today?

“Well, I guess I should turn around…” She hears, glancing over and seeing Kyle Benjamin standing there. With Kyle Busch busy in Vegas with banquet preparation, he had gotten him to fill-in.

“Unhappy with the car, too?” Kyle Benjamin nods his head as he leans against the same wall.

“I tried to diamond the corner, I tried to roll the corner, and I tried the second groove. Nothing worked at all. I mean, I’ve never been here before, so I thought it was my problem.” She shakes her head no as she keeps her eyes locked on the car.

“I practically won this damn thing, and I’m fighting the same issues. It just seems no matter what Marcus tried, nothing worked. I’m actually glad they gave us the second session today, and another tomorrow because as of right now, we’re out to lunch.” Kyle couldn’t help but agree.

“So, you’re going to the banquet once we’re done practice?” She nods her head as she glances over. “That’s got to be mission impossible…”

“Oh trust me, it’s not going to be easy to make it work, but I plan on getting there on time.” He looks over surprised as she takes a deep breath. “Lindsay has our bags back there – dresses, hair accessories, make-up – everything that we need. The second practice ends at 4:30 – which is technically 1:30 if you’re in Las Vegas. It takes four and a half hours to fly to Las Vega-”

“The banquet red carpet is at 7pm, followed by the banquet. You’ll get there at 6. That gives you an hour.” She smiles, having worked out the calculations a couple times herself.

“I’ve got an hour to get my hair right, get in my dress, and get down to the red – uh, black carpet actually – at 7 with Chase. I am going to make it happen.” He shakes his head in disbelief.

“That’s love right there. I’m impressed…” She could only glance back with a smile of her own. “Say, does your friend there have a banquet date?” She looks back towards Lindsay, giving her a nod, before looking back at Kyle.

“Oh Mr. Benjamin, you know that you cannot come. Tickets have to be arranged in advance and I have no room on the helicopter.” He gives her a grin back in return.

“I could always get Lindsay to sit on my lap for the flight….” She looks at him shocked as he laughs, walking away. She then looks over at Lindsay, rolling her eyes, before focusing on the Snowflake practice session happening.

While the first session was a disaster, the second didn’t go much better as the speed or handling wasn’t found that they wanted. She ended up 43rd quickest out of 56 cars, struggling with corner entry throughout the entire hour and a half.

“I don’t get it….” She comments, shaking her head as she places the helmet securely in it’s bag.

“We didn’t mock up (on new tires), nor were we focused on lap time,” Marcus offers as he watches her closely. “That’s got to make a difference tomorrow.” She knew that would help, but still wasn’t having much faith in laying down a  good lap tomorrow. What if she wasn’t in the top 30 tomorrow locked in?

“Do you seriously think we’re going to pick up that much time? And what happens when those tires fall off 50 laps into the run? We’re going to get lapped by Bubba before we can even think of kissing the snowball.” She then glances down, looking back towards the car. “I hate leaving on this note. We need to figure out something…”

“That’s why Kyle has guys like me and the others in place – this is what we do for a living, right? There’s not much else you can do as you’ve told me what the car is doing. Go and enjoy yourself. You deserve it – as crazy as you are.” She gives him a slightly smile, instantly remembering the conversation with Chase last night.

“If you need anything at all, text me.” Marcus nods as he takes the bag, complete with her helmet, gloves and racing shoes packed away.

“Don’t forget your firesuit in the hotel room…” She nods accepting, before heading off with Lindsay in toe.

As they had hoped, they were able to get out of the track in a timely matter and make it to Pensacola International Airport within a half hour, as Sarina realizes it is 5pm (2pm Las Vegas time). She begins to tap her leg nervously as they sit on the airplane that was already waiting for them.

“Thank you for doing this again,” she comments as Bill glances back at the girls with a smile.

“I’d do anything for him,” Bill adds, before focusing on getting them up and in the air accordingly.

As originally calculated, the flight time was four and a half hours – which equaled four and a half hours of nerves for Sarina as she still hated the thought of flying entirely. As they touch down on the ground, she glanced at the watch – 9:30 (6:30 Las Vegas time).

“The limo is waiting right there for you,” Bill states as he stops the plane, looking back at them.

“Are you coming?” Sarina wonders, having not figured out all the details. Bill nods his head yes, as he climbs out of the plane, grabbing the bag.

“You girls take the back seat of the limo, and I’ll sit up front. You may want to think about changing on the way…” Sarina and Lindsay glance at each other in horror, before looking back towards him.

“There’s no way in hell that I can change into my dress in a limo, Bill!” He understood that as they climbed in the limo, but knew their options were running out.

“It’s going to take at least 11 minutes, probably more with traffic, to get there. Think about it…” He then pushes a button, putting the divider between the seats up, as the girls glance back at each other in horror.

“We’re going to get there for 6:41 at the earli-”

“You know how traffic works, though,” Lindsay ponders as she begins to unzip the bag. “I’d prepare for the worst….”

Sure enough, their original 11 minute timing was met with frustration, followed by wanting to punch a hole in the seat, as they found themselves sitting parked on the road, bumper-to-bumper traffic, not moving.

*********

Thursday, November 30 – Wynn Las Vegas

Chase glanced at his watch once again, shaking his head, before returning his eyes to the mirror before him. He once again fixed the tie, making sure it was straight, before adjusting the jacket slightly.

“Nervous?” He hears as he glances over his shoulder, watching Morgan walk over.

“No, just impatient,” he replies as she nods her head. They were supposed to be heading out to the carpet in five minutes and Morgan wanted them to begin to make their way there. However, each previous time she asked, it was meant with a protest from Chase.

“We need to get goin-”

“I told you that I am waiting for Sarina…” Morgan rolls her eyes, having heard that now four times.

“Chase, are you sure that she’s coming?” He holds up the phone, showing her the text message from his dad that they had landed in Las Vegas. “There’s a ton of traffic out there, and she’s probably stuck in it. They’re probably going to run late. Let’s head down and then she can join you once she shows up, please…” Another glance at the time, and he knew that he couldn’t put this off any longer.

One more glance at the shoes to make sure they looked alright, and another glance at the tie, he reluctantly made his way to the carpet.

He smiles as he begins the walk down, posing for a photo with the Monster Energy girls as instructed. He then stands there, smiling as cameras go off to take photos of himself. The smile faded for a quick second as he wished Sarina was there at that moment, but immediately came back as he made sure to look the part.

He continues to walk down, talking to the various radio outlets, almost feeling a bit of jealousy as he watched other drivers and their wives and girlfriends joke around together. Where was she?

He then went through the TV interviews, answering their questions with a smile firmly on his face. A glance at his watch between them, it was 7:30. They had landed an hour ago. Where was she?

“No date tonight?” Matt Yocum asks as part of his bit with NBC. The comment only made his heart break more, as he shook his head no.

“I guess I got to get better at my game,” he offers.

“Our understanding is Sarina is down at the Snowball Derby….” Chase nods his head, knowing that was partially true. She was somewhere in Las Vegas, but where?

“I can’t say I blame her for choosing to go race there. Hopefully she can pull out a win on Sunday.” Matt then went to say something, a small smile beginning to form, but hid it immediately after being motioned to do so.

“So you’d prefer your girl to choose a race over being your date tonight?” Chase nods his head.

“Thankfully, he doesn’t have to choose between both,” Chase hears as a pair of arms wrap around him from behind. A smile immediately forms on his face as he looks over his shoulder at her. His jaw almost dropped as he took in full view. From head to toe, she was just absolutely looking amazing. From her hair being perfectly in place, to the shine of the blue gown from head to just above the heels. He was then surprised by the heels, too, seeing they had a couple inches on them as the navy blue complimented her dress perfectly. “It was a tough trip, but I’m here – barely, and ready for a night with my man. I’m proud of him for his year, and I wouldn’t miss celebrating it.”

“Now that’s true love,” Matt comments. “Krista, ever had someone do that for you?” He then gives them a quick nod before walking away, set to catch another driver.

Their eyes immediately lock together as Chase stands there, still frozen, caught off-guard more than he could’ve even realized – as he takes another glance at her.

“Did you think I wasn’t coming?” She breaks the silence and he slowly shakes his head no.

“I didn’t lose my faith for a single minute,” he answers, before pulling her back close to him. “And might I add that you look absolutely amazing? I don’t even know what to say, except you’re beautiful. You look dashing…” She smiles back in response.

“Not bad for getting dressed in a limo, huh?” He looks on surprised as she nods her head. “I would’ve been here earlier, but traffic was a nightmare. You look very handsome.”

“The main thing is you made it here in time, and stole the show looking absolutely amazing. I love you.” He kisses her lips, before taking her hand and heading into the ballroom together.

“Damn….” The various crew members let out as the pair sit down together.

“Not bad for someone that just got done practice, huh?” He offers, snagging another quick kiss.

Following the banquet, the pair joined the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports team at the after-party, sharing in a couple dances together as everybody shared compliments for Sarina on how she looked. Throughout their time together, even as he twirled her around a couple times, Chase was just in awe at how amazing she looked. How was he spoiled to have an amazing girl like her in his life?

After a couple hours, he whispered in her ear that it was time for turn in for the night. Knowing that she had a long day tomorrow with flying back to Florida and Snowball Derby practice, followed by qualifying – all beginning with their flight at 7am (10am Las Vegas time), he knew a good night sleep was in order.

“Can I say that I am still in awe at how amazing you looked tonight?” He offers as she slips her shoes off.

“I could say the same about how handsome and charming you are,” she replies as he pulls her back close, again.

“I’m so glad that you came. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted you here until I was standing there alone.” She grabs his hand with hers, rubbing it.

“Chase, like I told you last night, it’s okay to admit your emotions to me. I’m here for you as much as you’re here for me. I knew it wouldn’t feel right not being here – same as last night felt odd being apart from each other, too. You know, when I’m missing you, I play that song over and over.” He smiles as he keeps his brown eyes locked on her blue ones.

“You have a beautiful voice yourself. That message this morning was perfect. I don’t even know what to say in response to that, or you being her-”

“Same thing that I say to you in how you’ve helped me, how you haven’t given up on me, and how you’ve been for me – absolutely nothing because of total shock. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too.” He then kisses her lips. “By the way, where did you leave with Lindsay?” Sarina could only smile in return.

“Her and Ryan were sharing a drink and a dance together…” Chase looks on impressed, but couldn’t help but smile. He’d have no issue with setting his best friend up with her cousin. “Can you help me, please?” He turns her around, undoing the zipper on the back of dress slowly, pulling it down, hand running across her shoulder. “Chase….”

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?” She nods her head, as he had told her a couple times already that night. Regardless, she didn’t mind as she could listen to those words as many times as he wanted. “Have I told you lately how much I love rubbing my hands across your skin?”

“I believe you’ve shown me that nicely before…” He nods his head as he spins her around.

“So, what’s the surprise?” She smiles, knowing how badly he wanted to know the birthday secret. However, again, she knew they needed more time. Besides, weren’t they supposed to be sleeping? They had to be up in six hours for a busy day.

“You’ll find out tomorrow night, I promise. I want to show you when we have time…” He nods, accepting, filled with intrigue, as he pulled her close to him.

“Can I get a clue?” She shakes her head no. “Could I earn that clue?” She was intrigued by the request, wanting to feel his skin against hers, but she still didn’t want to offer anything, yet.

“I thought we were supposed to come up here, relax, and catch up on sleep…” He smiles, remembering the original intention. But a glance in her eyes, the softness of her skin meeting her fingers, he had other plans now.

“I realized how badly I need you…” She smiles, kissing his lips lightly, as she slips the coat off of his shoulders. She then begins tracing the finger tips of his dress shirt with her fingers.

“I need you too, baby…” The grin on his face widened as he backed towards the bed.

“Then help me out of these clothes…” She immediately begins undoing the buttons, slipping the dress shirt off carefully and setting it alongside with the coat.