Love & Work: A Combo of Madness – Chapter 33: The Photograph

Kevin walks into the garage, with Travis in toe. Travis could only roll his eyes as he followed, not believing they had actually pulled this off. He also wasn’t sure if he wanted to see William wearing a coconut bra and hula skirt later that day.

“I have a gift for a certain Mr. Harrell,” Kevin states, catching the attention of the crew.

“Do I trust you?” William asks as Kevin laughs, setting the envelope down before him.

“Look at those and then get sized for your new costume.” William looks back surprised as he opens the envelope, spreading the photos on the table. The crew then gathers around, snatching up one each to look at themselves. “That was last night. As I predicted, those two couldn’t keep off the chemistry for long as they were quite close last night, couple kisses, and a sweet go-karting date night. Any questions, sir?”

“Unbelievable.” William then shoves the photos across the table as Kevin can only sit down and laugh at his fellow crew member. “It’s only March and they’re back together. Why did I even think of giving you to July?”

“You just don’t know our driver as well as you thought you did.”

“They surprised me, if it’s worth anything to you William,” Nick Covey comments as he shakes his head in disagreement.

“Want to take my place in the outfit then?” William questions as Nick laughs and shakes his head no.

“I just wonder if they’re doing the right thing. Like you said, they had a rocky past with what happened previously when she first started working here. I mean, Cameron said they dated five or six months and something what happened – but what? Did she cheat on him with Hamlin? Did they have a fight?”

“What are you getting at?” David Mayo questions as Nick shrugs his shoulders.

“I am wondering whether there’s going to be issues down the road that we’re going to have to separate, and perhaps cause other problems on-track,” Nick comments. “I mean, what if something happens?”

“They’re both professionals,” Travis starts. “They’ll keep it separate from what happens on track. I don’t think we have to worry about that, anyway. They seemed pretty chummy last night.”

“Anybody want to take a bet how long till she’s pregnant?” Kevin questions, as the crew looks on surprised. “I’m barging on this while my luck is hot. I never get anything good around here.”

“I say let’s just be thankful we didn’t get caught this time and leave things alone,” David comments.

“What is this discussion about?” A new voice chimes in, catching the crew members off-guard. They glance up to see Dale standing there. Normally he didn’t come by the garage much till it was closer to practice. It was a surprise for them to see him, but they figured he was there to see Angelica. He then snatches one of the photos off the table. “Where did this come from?”

“It seems you had a pair of spies last night,” William answers, catching a glare from Kevin. “What? If I have to wear a coconut bra and hula skirt, I’m getting you in shi-”

“Coconut bra and hula skirt? Sneaky photos of my night out with Angelica?” Dale then snatches all the photos up as he looks among the guys. “Seriously, what the fuck is going on?”

“We had a bet that you and Angelica wouldn’t get together before July,” Kevin gives in, knowing there was no way around this. “I bet you would, and he bet you wouldn’t. I may have spied last night to get proof for him.”

“Are you fuc-”

“Look, I’m sorry, okay? I know I was wrong and it’s the worst thing to do. I apologize, sincerely.” Dale shakes his head as he looks through the photos.

“And to think that I liked you guys,” he starts. “But yet here everybody is gossiping about me and our crew chief behind the backs of us all. On top of that, you’re spying on us, too. This is high school bullshit and one of the damn reasons Angelica held back, among others. Do me a favor and can this bullshit before I make Rick can every one of you. Now, get to work!” He then walks away with photos in hand as the crew members trade glances.

“I told you he’d be pissed off,” Travis comments as he stands up first.

“You still have to wear the outfit,” Kevin states as William rolls his eyes.

“I’ve never seen him that protective over someone…” Nick says as he walks away from the table, set to focus on some job, any job to get out of the dog house.

“I told you they care a lot about each other.” Nick shakes his head in agreement. “Just wait till he tells Angelica. I might as well start packing now.”

“Was she already mad at you for the questions?” Kevin shakes his head yes with a sigh. “Listen, maybe Dale won’t say anything. I mean, he didn’t seem pleased that he found out about it and I don’t think he’ll want to say something to her.” Kevin hoped that Nick was right, but knew he couldn’t be certain till some time passed.

Meanwhile, Dale stashed the photos away, actually smiling at a couple in seeing how happy they both looked together. As a smile formed on his face, he just hoped the positive vibes continued moving forward – both on-track and off the track.

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Moving Forward – Chapter 32: Bristol

Marie let out a sigh as she sat in the motorcoach, watching Fox Sport’s feed of practice.

She had planned to be outside enjoying the sights, especially being Bristol, but found herself in the motorhome. With a six month old, they never wanted to stay still for long and it seemed today Elsa was on the patrol of playing more than usual. It was why Marie had her laying on the floor on her blanket underneath the toy thing that they had gotten her. Elsa could reach up and hit the toys, causing them to swing a little and make different noises.

While Elsa wanted to play, Alyssa was all about being around the racecars. It was why she had trusted Greg and Travis to keep an eye on the five-year-old. They both agreed, easily, taking turns as they did their necessary work. It was easy to keep track of Alyssa as she was good at listening in where to go, and how to stay out of the way of the work.

Marie lets out a sigh as the practice speeds flash on the screen, seeing Dale currently middle of the pack. So much for the plan that Greg had for the weekend as it didn’t seem to be working thus far for them.

Though she couldn’t sit and ponder that as she looked back down at her wedding plans. They had finalized the guest list once already – and even sent out invitations, but now she felt lost. Would everybody fit in the church? Would everybody have a spot to eat afterwards? What if they had invited too many people?

Shaking her head and a little laugh, perhaps Dale was right – maybe she was ponder over the wedding a little too much lately. Maybe she could use a break, too, so she had a clearer thought on everything.

She then focused on going through some country business, instead, figuring it’d be a decent escape. It worked, as she forgot about her wedding question – till the boys returned with Alyssa in hand.

As they made their way in the coach, she found the question at the tip of her tongue. She was curious as to the answer from Dale, but wanted to keep her word in regards to their agreement. Besides, he had reason to want to focus on the weekend after the lack of speed in practice.

“You look like you’ve been scared by a ghost or something,” Travis breaks the silence in the room, before sitting down to spend some time with Elsa.

“Is something wrong?” Dale asks and Marie shakes her head no. it was that moment she wanted to spit out the question, but the discussion from the other night rang through her mind over and over.

“You guys just caught me off-guard – that’s all,” Marie comments as she sets aside the country business for the time being. Some discussion would get them all off her back. “So, how was practice?”

“It was good. The car has some good speed in it, we figured out some handling issues, and everything we worked on we were pleased with. I think we’re going to have a winning combination this weekend.” Greg shakes his head in agreement, which surprises Marie based on the practice speed.

“You guys may want to divulge what we worked on as she’s confused now – just like the fans,” Travis adds as Marie glances between the crew guys.

“We worked on race runs – not qualifying trim,” Greg explains. “So therefore the speed factor just didn’t shine through. It was part of the team plan for the day. We worked on race runs, the 48 team works on qualifying trim. See where they were in practice? Enough said.” Marie shakes her head, understanding, feeling much better about things. Perhaps she could’ve asked the question after all.

Greg then goes to sit on the couch after accepting a bottle of water from Dale, though almost sits on the binders. He immediately stands up, glancing at the cover and seeing the word wedding. He then trades a glance with Dale before picking them up and shifting them over to sit down.

“Mommy, Daddy – can I watch cars?” Alyssa’s question catches the entire group’s attention. Glancing out the window, they knew she was referring to XFINITY qualifying.

“But who is going to watch you?” Dale questions as Alyssa thinks it over, before pointing at him. “Sweetheart, as much as I want to, I need to talk with Greg and Travis about things.” She then glances around the room and points to Marie and Marie shakes her head no.

“Someone need to watch me? Really?” Dale and Marie both shake their heads yes. “Can I ask Chasey?” The pair glance at each other with a smile, before Dale pulls out his phone and face times Chase. After a couple minutes, the pair had their answer – resulting in a big smile on Alyssa’s face as she ran to the door to meet up with him.

“So, do you want to go a little loose or no?” Greg asks, switching attention once again. Marie, though, was still focused on the eye glances between Dale and Greg with regards to her binders.

“It’d probably work better so we’ll be fine through all the rounds,” Dale offers and Greg shakes his head yes, agreeing, as he opens up his laptop. “It’s up to you, though.”

“Driver input is important, though, and if you agree then I’m doing it.”

“Aren’t you just the cutest?” Travis lets out as he tickles Elsa, causing her to laugh. “I love your laugh.” Travis then glances up at Marie, seeing the look again. “That look again.” Dale then pulls his attention away from his phone, looking at her curiously.

“What’s up?” He asks, knowing that she couldn’t talk her way out of it this time. Letting out a sigh, she plops back down on her spot on the couch.

“I saw the glances between the pair of you as Greg moved the binders,” she states as the driver and crew chief combo look at each other again. “What’s up?”

“After I let off on you, I felt bad so I talked a couple things over with Greg in how I was feeling and actin-”

“Realizing you were being a jerk?” Travis questions, causing a surprise look at Dale’s face. “Yeah, I noticed it, too.”

“I’m sorry, honestly.” Dale then looks back over at Marie. “Anyways, I may have told him about our wedding deal in detail and such. By the look, I’m guessing he was curious if we laid back on the agreement and if I said my apology to you. Greg, to answer you, I did apologize for what I said.” Greg shakes his head, understanding, keeping his eyes focused on his laptop though as he wanted to make sure the notes were kept neat.

“No worries – it’s fine,” Marie comments as she takes a binder off the stack. “By the way, I hate to ask you this in the midst of a weekend – but are you sure we’ll be able to fit everybody in the church? Are you sure there’s enough room? Oh, and is there enough room for tables in the saloon?” Greg and Travis chuckle a little, causing a scorn look from Marie as Dale thinks it over.

“There’s enough room, Marie. I already checked a couple different times to be certain before we sent out the invites. It’ll be fine, Marie.” She shakes her head accepting, easily. “And ignore those two immature buttheads for laughing at a very concerning question.”

“I wasn’t laughing at that,” Greg states as he looks up from his notes. “I’m laughing because she sounds like every bride out there. Listen, you may think you’re strange for over-thinking everything – and you, sir, may think that she’s going crazy over it. However, that’s how every bridge gets. I don’t know what gets into them, but it happens. My wife was the same way, as was my cousin. But no matter the concerns that you have, everything will piece itself together on the day of the wedding. It’ll work out.”

“Thanks,” Marie and Dale both comment together as Greg smiles.

“The key to a good wedding and a good marriage is love, and you both have that – as proven for a long time now.”

Love & Work: A Combo of Madness – Chapter 32: Date Night

LoveWorkAComboOfMadness

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“This is crazy,” Travis comments as he looks over at Kevin. “We’ve been watching this man’s house and closely for three days and nothing. What makes you think that something will happen?” Kevin rolls his eyes as he glances back towards the house.

As discussed on the weekend, they had been keeping close eye on Dale, waiting for him and Angelica to do something that was out of the norm. They had been watching each car come into the driveway, while watching each place that he went to see if it was to see her.

“If they’re together, they will want to see each other outside of work,” Kevin offers as he relaxes back in the seat. “Are you starting to doubt this whole idea?” Travis shakes his head. All he could think about was getting caught.

“I think this has just been a big waste of our whole week,” Travis replies as Kevin rolls his eyes. Supposed the car chief was right, though, as they had nothing.

“Did you have anything else planned? At least you have some company….and I bought you dinner two nights this week.” Travis lets out a sigh and knew there were some advantages.

The pair’s attention is then alerted when they watch a familiar 2013 Camaro pull up to the gates on the property. They glance at each other with a smile, having recognized that car from the shop. Kevin may have memorized the license plate, too.

“Maybe this wasn’t a waste after all,” Travis comments with a smile as he watches the car drive through the gates. “But how are we going to get anything from out here?”

“She’s going to see him outside of wor-” Kevin starts.

“They could be spending extra time on wor-”

“Well, what do you suggest? Hopping the fence and sneaking into our boss’ property? You can do that, but it won’t be on my coincidence if you’re fired tomorrow.” Travis lets out a sigh as he flops back against the seat in the truck. So much for that plan. “Let’s just sit tight. Maybe there’s something more that they’re up to that we can see…”

Angelica pulls the camaro up to the house, turning it off before climbing out as she watched him step out of the house. She smiled, perhaps licking her lips a little, as she took in the view before there. There was nothing like seeing a sexy man dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans.

“You went with the right outf-” He starts as he takes in a view of her tight blue fitting t-shirt, along with her denim – fit every curve known to man – jeans.

“You told me that we weren’t doing anything fancy and to wear something comfortable so here I am,” She cuts him off. “I can see that you found something very nice to wear as you look good.” He smiles, knowing that she always enjoyed the appearance. “So, what’s the plan?” He had long debated what to do and where to go, but came up with the right method to his madness. It just took some careful talking, though.

“I thought we could go for burgers and go-karting.” She couldn’t help but smile at that brought forth memories of one of their first nights together. “I may have been a dumbass and filled in the go-kart track here, but I know a friend that owns an outdoor track. It closes at 8, but he said that he’d leave it to us for an hour alone aft-”

“You told someone. I thought we agree-”

“He just thinks that we’re going as friends, and will be busy in his office to know nothing else.” She then smiles as he walks over. “Ready for a fun night?”

“Ready to get your ass kicked?” He then laughs, crossing his arms.

“Last time we raced, I beat you and the time before that, we wrecked each other. Good luck with that.” She then chuckles to herself.

“I may have had some teaching from someone since then.” He then looks at her intrigued as she gives him a wink. They then climb in his car together, as he glances over at her. “No, it wasn’t Hamlin jackass. It was Johnson.”

“I may be in trouble after all.”

They then head out of the property together, earning a pair of glances on their way out as the crew members look at each other with a smile.

“Just going to do work, huh?” Travis questions as Kevin starts up the truck. “Don’t tail too closely. We don’t want to draw suspici-”

“Will you shut up?” Kevin cuts him off with a glance. “I think I know what I should do.”

***********

The pair stand by the track afterwards, eyes focused on each other as Dale smiles.

“Told you I’d win,” he tells her as she just rolls her yes, while putting her helmet up.

“Well, I’d expect that as you’re supposed to be winning races on Sundays,” she offers as she continues to follow him out. “But come on, it was better than the last time.”

“Least you didn’t wreck me, again.” She then gives him a surprised glance.

“And what do you call shoving me into those tires?” He then looks back with a smile.

“Strategic blocking. You didn’t say there couldn’t be contact.” She rolls her eyes.

“I want a rematch.” He couldn’t help but smile more in return.

“Next Thursday? Same spot?” She shakes her head yes as she wraps an arm around casually around him as they walk together. “I have to admit. This has gone a lot smoother than I thought it would.”

“The racing was nice, but the conversation was even better.”

Prior to taking to the track, the pair had sat by the track with their burgers and had a lengthy conversation. They talked about how things have been for each of them separately over the past several months.

She talked about how tore apart she was following the break-up, how she fell in love with Denny (friendship grew to more), but how it fell apart in realizing that wasn’t the right step for them.

He talked about how he had tried to find the right girl after her, but no girl seemed to measure up to the standards he had set. It was when they were reunited that he had realized he was comparing every girl to her, and missing her more than he wanted to admit.

“You never elaborated on your fears, though,” she offers, catching a glance from him.

“What do you mean?” He asks as he leans back against the truck, facing her.

“You said that you were going to tell me why you chased me away then. You were going to tell me about your fears. You never did.” He then glances down, knowing it wasn’t a topic that he wanted to discuss. However, he knew if he really wanted this chance with her, he needed to face it.

“You know my past. You know what happened with my parents. It tore me apart for awhile in watching two people that I thought loved each other dearly separate for reasons beyond their control. I tried to ignore it, but then I got into my first couple of relationships. I found girls that were using me for their own fame, or just wanted to say that they had slept with NASCAR’s most eligible bachelor, or whatever reas-”

“So you thought that I was doing that?” He looks up at her in the eyes and shakes her head yes.

“Jimmie was married, and Chad is the hardest man to crack so that’d be hard to get him in bed. That left the option of me. If you sleep with me, you become more well known and could boost your profile in the organization….or so I thought at that time. Sounds ridiculous now.” She laughs and shakes her head yes.

“Really ridiculous now. Do you think I wanted to be known as the girl that slept my way to the top of the food chain? Do you think that I wanted rumors spread through the shop? Do you know what Rick would say?” He knew that she was right, and that was why he could only shake his head in disbelief of his actions.

“Like I said, it sounds ridiculous now. But that was me then. I was so used to people using me, or trying to get what they only wanted through me at that time. I had girls clawing at me for their own reasons. I had people trying to tell me what they wanted me to do in my career for their own reasons. It seemed everybody was trying to use me, or control me.”

“So you automatically thought that I was one of those types?” He shakes his head yes.

“You were the young engineer. It would make sense….in my crazy mind at that time, anyway. You were either using me for your own gains, or because I was someone that you could easily get your way with.” He then takes a deep breath, thinking over his words carefully. “That’s why when I saw you close with Denny, I began to worry. What if you’re just some pit lizard? What if you’re just one of those girls? What if…. I asked myself so many questions that I couldn’t take it anymore and cut the cord. I forgot who you truly were out of my own worries.” She shakes her head, understanding. His reasoning makes sense, based on those around him and everything that happened. She still felt pain really deep in what had happened, but felt it lessen in hearing some reasoning.

“So what’s going to stop that from happening again?” He wasn’t ready for her to come out and ask that. He wasn’t even aware that they were all the way to fully committed. However, he wasn’t going to back away from the question.

“I’m older and wiser. I also know that having the ability to forgive me for hurting you like I did and hear me out, you’re not one of those girls. I also realize looking back at all those moments we had together – not just the sexual fun ones, but our deep discussions in how you heard me out on frustrations and offered advice – that you weren’t one of those. You were someone that I shouldn’t have let go of, and should never let go of again.” It was all that she needed to hear as she stepped forward and gave him a hug.

“With what you’ve told me, I’m willing to give you another chance, and accept another date next week so I can see if I can kick your ass fairly.” He looks into her eyes.

“You’re on.” She then reaches up and gives him a quick peck on the lips.

“Good.” She then lets him go as she walks around the other side of the truck. “We have a flight to catch soon, don’t we?” He shakes his head yes as he climbs into the truck.

As the pair drove away, the crew members couldn’t help but smile as they glanced at each other. Travis sat there with the camera in his lap, flipping back through a couple of the photos.

“You’re a sneaky bastard….” Kevin teases as he looks at the photos that Travis managed to snag of them together. “But God damn I love you, and can’t wait to show these to William tomorrow.”

“Just don’t let Angelica and Dale find out that we got these or else we’re dead.”

Love & Work: A Combo of Madness – Chapter 31: Race Time

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Standing on pit road prior to the race, the pair simply traded a glance as Kevin Meendering watched with his arms crossed.

“What’s to say that they’re not already together?” Kevin questions, catching Travis’ attention.

“Didn’t you already get in shit from Angelica this weekend?” Travis asks and Kevin shrugs his shoulders. The car chief was right as he had gotten yelled for his comment following the winks.

“But seriously – you have to admit that I was right about that. Then you notice they’re glances here on pit road at each other, as well as that private conversation that we saw earlier. All the pieces are there, Travis.” Travis lets out a sigh as he knew that the engineer was probably correct, given what he had seen as well.

“So what are you thinking that we do? You already tried asking her and got your tail caught between your legs.” Kevin smiles as he glances over at the pair before looking back at his fellow crew member.

“We spy on them this week. If they’re together, they’re going to want to spend together outside of work. That’s going to be the telling sign. I bet we’ll catch them together and then we can rub it in the other guy’s faces.” Travis laughs as he shakes his head in disbelief. He couldn’t believe they were having this discussion.

“So you’re going to spy on your driver and crew chief like you have no life, because you’re noisy and waste your own precious time during the week?” Kevin shrugs his shoulders as he crosses his arms.

“I don’t see you suggesting anything else interesting for us to get into besides video games and go-karting.” Travis lets out a sigh, knowing that he was right as he glances towards the pair. What if the crew member was right?

“Fine…”

The pair then watch as Denny walks over towards them, stopping and giving Angelica’s shoulder a little squeeze.

“Good luck,” he offers as she looks at him with a small smile.

“Right back at you,” she replies. “Hope you don’t mind looking at the tail of a Chevy all day.” Denny chuckles, but knew it was nice to get back to the puns back and forth.

“I won’t mind taking a view of it as I pass your man to take the lead. Hope you both have a good day.” He then keeps walking down pit road, as Dale glances towards Denny’s direction. He then looks back at Angelica curiously.

“Someone is looking a little jealous…” Dale rolls his eyes and shakes his head no. “Alright, I know he caused us both a series of headaches. But he came to me this morning and apologized. A heart-to-heart with Kyle and Matt made him realize that he’s been a dumbass. He is trying to correct his ways, including things with his ex.”

“We’ve heard him say that before, but can he actually follow through?” Dale questions, as he vaguely remembered hearing something about Denny maturing after his incident with Joey, and after the deal broke down with his ex. It wasn’t going to be lost on him about what happened with Angelica in the past, or Denny’s own past for that matter.

“We’ll just have to wait and see right?” She offers. “We don’t know. I told him that I’d give him a chance as I enjoy his goofiness at times, but he better not screw it up. The moment that he does, I will be the first to kick him in the ass.” He smiles, knowing that Angelica didn’t mess around about things.

“I wouldn’t bet against that happening.”

The pair then stand together for opening ceremonies, just like did the previous weekends, keeping a bit of space between each other to exclude a professional relationship. Following the national anthem, Angelica wanted to go for the hug, but held back and simply gave him a fist-pump like the pervious weekends.

She then turned and headed to the pit box, putting her headset on her head as Dale climbed in the car, set for the race ahead.

While the pair had predicted a great race based on how practice went, they struggled throughout the first three quarters of the race with the handling. Dale complained on the radio on a constant basis about the car being loose and it seemed no matter what adjustment that she made under the pit stops, it didn’t work.

They caught a break with a late-race caution and she called the audible, taking two tires while most of the field took four. The result was him getting off pit road in the second spot. Against the field’s four tires, she knew that a win probably wouldn’t happen, but she wanted to see if they could steal a top-10 after running in the teens all day.

It ended up working in their favor as the adjustments got them closer to where Dale wanted the car to be and he was able to hold on to snag a ninth place finish on the day. Three races in the book with three solid finishes had Angelica holding her head high thus far.

“I should’ve went with the other set-up,” she starts as he walks up into the hauler after the race. “I feel terrible. I shoul-” He then cuts her words off with a kiss on the lips. She then stands back after, stunned. She didn’t think they were that far into testing the waters of a relationship, and they were also in a public sort of arena.

“I didn’t want to hear you ramble on about feeling terrible or whatnot so I had to do something,” he tells her. “Sorry if I crossed the line. However, you don’t need to feel terrible. We both decided to go with this set-up as we thought it was the better of the two. We also both discussed the adjustments throughout the race and went the right way with some, the wrong way with others. There’s nothing to feel terrible about. You’re doing a good job, and we’re still getting good finishes. We’ll figure it out together and get those wins.” She found it difficult to take in everything that he was saying as her thoughts were still fixed on the kiss.

“You kisse-”

“And I told you that I was sorry if I crossed the line. I just hated to hear you feel bad about what happened.” She then looks down, taking a deep breath as she thinks it over. She wanted to be mad at him. She wanted to yell at him for crossing the line. She wanted to remind him that they were just at the beginning stages. However, her constant feelings for him left her with nothing to say.

“It stunned me, but it’s okay I guess. Just let’s watch those right now. We’re just starting over and I don’t want to push things too fast. Also, we got to make sure that nobody is watching.” He shakes his head, understanding.

“Like I said, I’m sorry. Are we still on for Thursday?” She smiles and shakes her head yes.

Love & Work: A Combo of Madness – Chapter 29: Garage Winks

LoveWorkAComboOfMadness

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Following the date arrangements from the night before, it seemed the pair entered the extra day with a bit of extra pep in their step.

Dale was excited for the week to come, set to plan the perfect date night for the pair of them together. Angelica was glad to have the pressure of hiding her feelings off of the plate, but also an understanding with Dale about taking it slow.

With the extra stress off of their shoulders for separate reasons, the pair simply traded a smile, set to focus on the upcoming day and what would come. They couldn’t think about the discussion or what was to come. It was time to focus and get the car working well ahead of Sunday’s race.

The weekend had started off to a good note as beyond the dating arrangements, Dale had qualified the car in the seventh spot. That meant that they’d good track position to start off the day. If they got the car close to good, he could break into the top-five and remain there throughout the day, hopefully finding that extra edge in the closing laps to capture the victory.

“Are we trying the set-up that we worked out last night in the hauler?” Dale questions as he walks in the garage, eyes locked on the familiar brunette that seemed to always capture his attention. She shakes her head yes as Kevin Meendering offers a wink at the crew guys. William Harrell simply rolls his eyes, knowing what Kevin was implying by night discussion in hauler glance, but knew it was probably all work between the pair.

“That’s the one that you believe will feel the best, and I believe will work the best based on yesterday’s practice so that’s where we’re going to start,” Angelica replies as she glances up from her clipboard. She then walks over to him, keeping her eyes locked on his blue eyes. “Unless you want to try something else.”

“Nope, that one sounds perfect.” She smiles as she gives him a pat on the shoulder.

“Good, because practice starts in five minutes so I expect your ass in that car.” She then lowers her tone with the next couple of words so nobody else could hear her. “Don’t expect me to change how I run my garage just because we’re dating.”

“I wouldn’t dare expect that from you. Keep work separate from play, right?” She smiles as she heads out of the garage, set to take her normal stance on top of the hauler. He then puts his helmet over his head, climbing into the car as the crew mates simply trade glances all around.

Once he is in the car and they back him out, set to line-up on pit road, Kevin and Travis head out of the stall to join Angelica on top of the hauler. Kevin takes his spot next to her, loading the timing and scoring on the screen as Travis holds his notebook close to him.

“Mr. Meendering, can I ask you a question?” Angelica asks, catching Kevin off-guard. Normally everybody was referred to by their first name.

“You can simply just call me Kev-” He starts as she looks over at him.

“What was that glance in the garage about? I saw the glance that you offered a bunch of the guys, followed by the roll of the eyes from William.” He could exactly tell why she had given him the last name treatment by the tone of her voice as Travis crossed his arms and looked over in curiousity. It was going to be hard to talk his way out of this one.

“We had taken bets as to whether Dale would accept the set-up that you told us to put in the car, or ask for changes. Considering he listened to you immediately, that meant that I won the bet so I gave him a wink as if to pay me up later.” She could tell that he was lying immediately, and knew that she had to keep an eye on the guys. IT was obvious that they hadn’t gotten the message last week. With the fact that Dale and her were going to truly start dating behind the scenes, it’d mean that they’d have to be extra careful.

“Okay. I was just curious since there’s been some interesting activity around the garage lately.” Travis couldn’t help but smile as he shared a glance with Kevin. If she was worried about small things like that, it meant there was probably more to the story with Dale than she had told them previously.

“I’ve heard the rumors and stories, but I believe when my driver and crew chief tell me that they’re not dating that they’re telling the truth.” She shakes her head in approval as she puts on her headset, set for the day of work.

The practice went off without a hitch with no issues as each run, they were able to make Dale more comfortable in the car while showing good speed on the charts. With the practices over, everybody separated to do their own thing. Angelica needed to run to the store to grab some things, Dale wanted to watch the XFINITY race with his team, and the crew set on having a late lunch together.

Of course, the lunch together brought forth discussions about what happened on the hauler, and whether there was something going on.

“I thin there’s something going on and it’s just a matter of time before one of us figure it out,” Kevin offers after sharing what happened. “Why would she be defensive otherwise?”

“I told you there was flirting at Daytona, and that continued last weekend at Phoenix,” David starts, causing an immediate eye roll from William. “Flirting leads to eventually realizing the feelings. They spend a night in the hauler discussing supposedly, and boom, next thing there’s going to be a date.”

“It wasn’t flirting the past couple of weeks,” William comments. “They were simply working together. All these comments about extra eye glances are for no reason at all. You’re just seeing things that you want to believe for your own suspicions.”

“Then why would she be so suspicious about our actions?” Kevin questions as William shrugs his shoulders.

“The article came out and caused a big mess this week. They’re trying to squash that immediately. She probably was just making sure that we weren’t adding to the mess that was already out there. It’s a reasonable explanation. If the crew is causing more things to be spread, then it causes the rumor to continue.” Kevin couldn’t help but smirk as other theories entered his mind, picturing some deep hearted conversation during their night together.

“What if the rumors are continuing for other reasons?” William lets out a sigh as he rolls his eyes. There was nothing that was going to convince the crew guy otherwise, it seemed. Although, it seemed that Kevin had a good reason to make sure that they ended up together.

“You’re just wishing that because you don’t want to show everybody your weeewee.”

“If we’re having these discussions in March, that gives a good opportunity for magic to happen in three months,” Nick interrupts the pair. “I think you better be selecting the style of bra and skirt that you’re going to wear, William.”

“I already have a couple selections for you to choose from,” Kevin adds with a smile, as he brings up some images on his phone.

Love & Work: A Combo of Madness – Chapter 28: A Date

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Congratulations to Denny Hamlin on winning the Daytona 500. That was a great move to cap off the race. I have to admit that I didn’t start off as the biggest Denny Hamlin fan, but have sort of grown to like him more through the years. Of course, he’s still someone that hits the inspiration for stories with his tales of “little black book” as confessed on national television haha

As far as Dale Jr. in the 500…..cue the tears for Amelia. 😦

With the week behind them, everybody tried to go forth into the following weekend with an open-weekend. The article was set to be the last thought on their minds as the number one focus was going to be on trying to find the right set-up and win that weekend.  Everything else didn’t matter when hey hit the track in their minds.

It seemed that others had different thoughts in looking at them, as rumblings could be heard in all directions. While Dale and Angelica both had put down the rumors in their tweets, it seemed that half of the people disregarded what they said. There were still crew members throughout the garage on other teams that continued to make comments about them possibly being together, and hiding it in their sight. There were also fans that spied, looking for any sign of a romantic relationship amongst their driver-crew chief discussions. There were fans that accused Angelica of taking the job just so she could get closer to Dale, spend more time with him and end up with him for her own objectives.

“It seems everybody is talking about our magic couple of the garage,” Kevin Meendering lets out as he picks up the clipboard to go over the notes that Travis had made, along with the numbers from the first session on track. “Perhaps this is easier than I imagined.”

“You can thank Denny, Dustin and Brandon for this,” Dustin says as he over at the engineer. “It has nothing to do with them actually being together. It’s all based on some rumors put out, followed by everybody else making their own assumptions. You are no where closer to winning the bet than you were before.” Kevin shakes his head in disagreement as he makes a couple notes, before handing the clipboard back to Travis.

“I disagree as this is only going to bring them closer together. They’re going to bond more in trying to deal with everything that comes from the rumors being spread, allowing them to rekindle the old magic and hit the jackpot.” Kevin then looks away from the front wheel well where Dustin was over towards the rear, where he found William working. “I hope you have bought a coconut bra to wear.”

“I hope you’re not going to be ashamed when everybody sees how short of a dick you have,” William shoots back, causing laughs and shocked expressions amongst the whole team. “This could actually drive them apart in frustration, though, in having to hear about it. It could bring less discussion in not wanting to drum up more stories. So in theory, it could work against them as well.”

The whole conversation caught Travis’ attention as he tried to focus on his job of setting up all the notes from the entire team for Angelica to look over before qualifying. He found himself hopeful for the pair, but also worried as to what could become of the future. What if this affected their on-track relationship?

Taking a deep breath and shaking his head, he knew that he couldn’t worry about that. They were both professional and would handle it accordingly. They had told Rick that they were fine working together, and could fight through whatever came their way. For that reason, he knew that he just had to focus on his job and do what he could do to help the team, while allowing everybody else to fall in place as it may.

It was still entertaining to hear the antics of the crew, as well as think about the possibilities of what could happen in the shop later on that year, depending how things went. Part of him hoped that Angelica and Dale ended up together as he didn’t know if he could handle seeing Kevin naked.

Though while the crew debated it, the driver and crew chief was sitting in the hauler, enjoying lunch together as they debriefed everything from the practice session earlier that day.

They talked about the single-car runs that they made, and the differences that Dale felt between them. They talked about what he felt, the practice times on the chart, what the track conditions were like, and worked at developing a strategy for qualifying.

They also discussed some things in trying to figure out which way to go in regards to the race set-up, trying to figure out the best way to set themselves up for success this weekend. The discussion went forth in figuring out some ideas on things to try during the pair of practice sessions on Saturday.

“Dale, remember how we stated that we were going to take things slow and see how our friendship went before we moved forward?” She interrupts the discussion surrounding ideas for Saturday, catching him off-guard. He simply shook his head accepting, remembering the discussion but also curious as to her direction. “How concrete was that?”

“What do you mean?” Dale questions as she takes a deep breath, thinking things over clearly. She just hoped that her heart wasn’t causing her brain to jump the gun. Like Jimmie and Denny had told her multiple times, she knew that she couldn’t bear getting her heart broken again.

“We agreed to take things slow, focus on being friends and the professional side. We told each other that we’d go into a relationship when the time was right. Was the amount of time that we had to wait concrete or set?” Dale found himself looking at her in disbelief in what he was hearing. It was as if she was asking whether they could cross the relationship barrier already. What happened to how uptight she was a couple weeks ago? Was this really happening?

“I never gave you a time that you had to follow. I always told you that it was up to you, when you felt the time was right. I wanted to go right back to that, but understood waiting because you were still hurting…” She shakes her head, remembering that pain that she felt. It was why she found herself second guessing everything that she was saying. However, she couldn’t find a way to hold it back.

“I wanted to hold back, and I wanted to wait. I wanted to make sure that it was right in my heart and to my brain, but my heart is telling me something over and over that I couldn’t ignore. It’s something that’s been there for the past week or so, locked in without an escape key.” She then glances down, before looking back up straight into his blue eyes. “I don’t think there’s a way that I can resist you any longer. I think I’ve fallen back in love with you without any escape.”

“You’re serious, right?” Angelica shakes her head yes as Dale just sits there with a look of shock on his face. He had always wondered if this could happen sometime down the road and work out for him. However, he never thought that it’d be possible. Was this really happening? “I never fell out of love for you, despite what happened. It just made me realize how much I really do love you actually. I was always open to getting back together.”

“I don’t think I could’ve ever found anyone to replace you, or make up for the love that we had. It was just special, unique, great, and every word in the book. We all make mistakes, but we grow and move past them at the same time. I think that’s where we find ourselves. You’ve realized your mistake and grown to move past that layer. I’ve realized my mistakes, as I’ve made some over the years too, and matured over the years.” Dale then moves a little closer to her, keeping his eyes locked on hers. He didn’t want to let go of the moment. He was waiting for someone to wake him up from this dream.

“So what are you saying?” She then smiles as she takes her hand into his.

“I’m saying that I’m willing to give us a try once again. I’m willing to accept your offer on a date or two ,and see where things go.” Dale smiles as that was the best news that he had heard in weeks.

“What do you say we pick a night next week and go on a date together?” She smiles and shakes her head yes. “I have to ask this, though. Are we going to tell everyone that we’re together quite yet?” She then takes a deep breath. It was a difficult balance, especially considering that they were also driver and crew chief.

“I think we should continue down the road that we chose in taking our time. Start off with a couple dates, and letting ourselves grow back closer, being more personal. Then if that works out and we find that this relationship thing may not be so bad, then maybe we can tell some friends and the world.” Dale shook his head in agreement as he wasn’t going to offer nay complaints. If he could get his Angelica back in anyway shape or form, that’s all that mattered. He also understood her apprehensions, still, but was glad that they were making steps. It was progress, and that was better than where they stood a month ago.

“That’s fine. It’ll be our secret as we see where we want to go with this. You pick a night and I’ll make you dinner at my house.” She then looks over, thinking of the possibilities. It was tough to figure out a night that she’d be free as it seemed the past couple of weeks she had spent every night at the shop working on the car. However, she wanted to put effort into this as she was really curious to see whether they could grow back together once again.

“Thursday night. I need Monday thru Wednesday to work on the car, but we can do it Thursday night before we head out to Atlanta.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 16: Post Labor

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February 2016 – Wednesday

After waiting awhile and giving them some privacy for a bit, Dale allowed the rest of the family to come in to meeting the new littlest member of the family.

“This is your little sister Elsa,” Dale tells Alyssa as she walks over to look at the baby in Dale’s arms.

“She was in there?” Alyssa asks, pointing to Marie’s stomach as Dale shakes his head yes. “She look too big that, Daddy.” Dale couldn’t help but laugh, as he thought how kids could say the craziest things. “Mommy belly shrink now?”

“Yes sweetheart,” Marie offers from her spot on the bed as she looks over at them, still feeling tired from giving birth. “What do you think of your sister?” Alyssa looks back over at the little girl in Dale’s arms as a big smile forms on her face.

“She cute!” Alyssa then leans against Dale as she continues to eye the newest addition to the family. “Can I hold her, daddy?” Dale smiles and shakes his head yes.

“I have to help you hold her though, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “We’ll get Aunt Kelley to hold her so you can get comfy on my lap, and then we can hold her together.” Dale then hands Elsa over to Kelley as Kelley looks at her with a smile.

“I think Alyssa described you perfectly, sweetie – you’re certainly cute,” Kelley comments. “You’re also the perfect combination of the pair, it seems.” She then watches as Alyssa gets comfortable on Dale’s lap, before carefully handing the baby over to them.

“I think it’s safe to say that I have the most adorable family,” Marie comments with a smile as she watches them. Kelley then snaps a photo on her phone, knowing that it’ll definitely be a moment to save forever.

“I being extra careful, mommy, unlike my dollies,” Alyssa shares as Marie laughs with a smile. They had told her when Marie was pregnant that she had be more careful holding baby Elsa than she treats her baby dollies when playing with them.

“I can see that. You’re being a good big sister.”

With the baby born, the parents began spreading word to family members first, followed by close friends. they figured that later that night they’d officially reveal to the world that the littlest edition had been added to complete their family circle.

In spreading the news to close friends, which included telling Greg Ives and Chase Elliott the news. Dale had chose to spread the news to close friends by sending them a photo of him and Marie together with both their daughters, as taken by Kelley.

“They certainly make an adorable family,” Elliott Sadler comments as he looks at the photo on Greg’s phone after practice. “Looks like I was right in saying that Dale would be able to get here by Thursday for the Duels.” Everybody shakes their head in agreement, as the team had to admit it’d be nice to have their driver there for the rest of the weekend.

“When is he flying out, and are they all coming?” Travis wonders from his perspective. In the end, it didn’t matter as to the specifics, but it didn’t hurt to have an idea.

“Dale texted me saying that he’s flying out Thursday morning,” Greg reveals. “Marie and Elsa are at the hospital over night. If they’re released by the morning than they’re coming. If not, they’ll fly out once they’re relea-”

“Elsa is going to make her first appearance at the track only a couple days old?” Elliott cuts him off, surprised by the dating of everything.

“That’s what they tell me. The doctor seems find with the baby flying out once she is released, and they want to keep the family together and close.” Greg glances down at his notes for a quick second, getting lost in his own thought. He knew the reason for doing this, beyond the simple facts laid out on paper. There was no doubt that the past year still played on everybody’s thoughts, and having everybody close would give comfort in the midst of that. Besides, Daytona wasn’t the most comfortable topic at times by itself anyway. “I’m not going to dive into specifics, Elliott, but he has his reaso-”

“You don’t need to say anymore.” Greg gives him a nod of approval. “Oh, and as far as Alyssa, she’s flying out on Thursday morning, as well. She’s enjoying spending time with her new sister, but she also can’t wait o get to the track and see her track friends.” Everybody knew those friends included not only those around her age, ranging from Leo to Lydia, but also included fellow drivers, like Chase and Ryan. “Speaking of which, Elliott, Dale was wondering if you’d watch her during the Duels while he’s racing. Chase had the honor last year, but obviously he has his hands full this year.”

“I wouldn’t mind at all.” Greg relays the message back to Dale via text.

It seemed that everything was falling into the place as the crew chief had planned it out prior to the weekend and beyond. Now it was just about getting everything to fall together once they hit the race track.