Finding chase, p.1
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       Finding Chase, p.1

           Lacey Weatherford
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Finding Chase


  FINDING CHASE

  Moonstruck Media - Arizona

  Copyright © 2012 Lacey Weatherford

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  Published by

  Moonstruck Media

  Edited by Irene Hunt, Third Eye Tight Editing Services

  Arizona

  Smashwords Edition

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  This book is available in print and ebook format.

  Acknowledgments

  As usual, it takes more than just me to write a book. This project was extremely emotional on many levels, so I’m glad for the opportunity to thank those who’ve been so crucial in helping me get this developed.

  First off, I’d like to thank my best friend, Belinda, for being there when I felt like everything was falling apart around me and I couldn’t stop crying. Your advice and giving me ways to pull myself together allowed this story could continue on. Without you, I’m not sure if this book would’ve ever been finished. I appreciate that you’ve decided to accept the challenge of having a sensitive basket case of a friend like me.

  Second, I’d like to thank my wonderful husband, James, for continually being my sounding board. Thanks for backing up the things Belinda tells me and being a support to me no matter how badly my mood swings shift. I love you!

  Third, thanks to my fabulous editor Irene. You do such an amazing job helping to put the fine polish on my projects and making them shine. I also want to thank you for the time you invested in listening to my story development and helping me to think outside the box that is my head. I’m so grateful to have you in my life and I love your dedication to everything.

  And last, but definitely not least, thanks to my readers—without you there’s no reason to write. I appreciate the support I’ve received from all of you!

  Hugs and Kisses!

  Lacey

  Dedication

  For my readers who begged me to please give them the rest of Chase’s story. This book is for you.

  And for Chase, the muse who made my favorite character burst to life inside my head.

  I miss you.

  I ache for you.

  Where did you go?

  I would really like to know.

  I refuse to believe that with one fateful twist,

  You completely ceased to exist.

  Sometimes I smell your perfume on the air.

  Find myself looking to see if you’re there.

  Always staring into space,

  Missing the vision of your beautiful face.

  I crave your kiss.

  I can’t go on like this.

  Nikki.

  Nikki.

  Part One

  Chapter One

  Just because I’d given her my vow, didn’t mean I’d stopped thinking about doing it.

  I looked through the windshield at the serene view ahead—one which belied the inner turmoil boiling inside me—and slammed my foot against the gas pedal. The engine roared, and the truck shook as it vibrated.

  My hand slid closer to the gearshift. All I had to do was take it out of park, and it would go sailing off the edge of the cliff in front of me.

  So easy.

  I glanced down, my gaze settling on the state championship football ring on my finger. If it hadn’t been for her, I would’ve never earned it.

  “Stop looking at the past,” Nikki’s voice echoed in my head for the millionth time. “Look to the future.”

  I released the gas pedal and hung my head in remorse.

  “I wasn’t really going to do it,” I said with a sigh, answering as if she were sitting next to me. Sometimes I still wanted to, but I’d let her down enough. I wouldn’t break my word.

  As usual, she didn’t reply, but I guessed that was to be expected since she was dead.

  My mind drifted over the memories of our too short relationship. She was constantly in my thoughts, which was difficult to deal with since I’d banned myself from coping in my preferred way—with drugs and alcohol.

  I’d kept that promise as well, attending group sessions and learning how to avoid falling back into those patterns and habits. While I had never truly been addicted to anything, I could see I’d definitely been headed in that direction. The things I’d learned to recognize about myself helped me have better control, but at the same time, caused added irritation. In becoming and staying clean, I found myself overwhelmed with memories of both her and my dad. Things I’d refused to dwell on for so long were always right at the surface.

  Sighing, I carefully put my truck into reverse and backed away from my precarious position, turning in the direction of the ranch. I’d really grown to love the place. It had been some of the best therapy available. I kept busy with sports, then came home and threw myself into my chores and homework. Anything I could do to exhaust my mind was beneficial; otherwise, I couldn’t go to sleep at night.

  My hard work paid off, though. I’d graduated from high school with almost straight A’s, and after being named State Football Player of the Year in my division, I had my pick of colleges knocking at my door.

  My family and friends were excited to see my sports career continue. They couldn’t understand why I hedged on picking a school, not realizing my thoughts dwelled on Nikki. This was when she and I had planned on starting our life together. Every time I looked at the list of places offering scholarships, all I could think of was our conversations and how excited we were to see where we would end up.

  I’d met with a few recruiters at the beginning of the summer and even made trips to check out some of the schools’ programs. In the end, I decided to keep things close. One of my choices was Arizona State University, which would not only allow me to stay near my family and easily make trips home on free weekends, but would also give me the opportunity of attending school with several people from my core group of friends.

  I had to laugh at myself. I remembered being anxious to leave this place when I first arrived. Now I was deliberately staying close, so I could be here more often. My family was thrilled with my choice—happy they were relevant in my decision. I wondered if they realized they’d become my anchors, the people who kept me stable. I didn’t think they understood how much I needed them.

  Oh, I could put on a good show of moving on when I needed to. There had come a point when I felt if I got condolences from another person, my head might explode. In fact, there were days I could have gone postal on some of those well-meaning people. I knew they were trying to help because I was sad, so I did my best to fake happy when I was out and about. It made people back off a bit.

  There was only one place I could go and truly let down and be myself. That’s when I was at Nikki’s house. I often spent my free evenings with her family, cuddling on the couch with Timmy and Clara after eating a great dinner her mom, Justine, had prepared. I fit in there because they were mourning the same way I was. No one expected me to be chipper and happy all the time because they weren’t either.

  Nikki’s room still remained exactly the way it was when she died. Her mom kept it close
d and no one went in anymore. It hurt too badly to look at it, but I don’t think any of us were ready to let her go yet. I couldn’t count the times I’d stopped in the hall and rested my hand on the knob as I leaned against the door, wishing I could open it and find her sitting on the other side like I had all those times in the past.

  I often wondered if perhaps she was still around somewhere, like a guardian angel. I couldn’t imagine her being anything other than an angel, because that’s what she’d been when she was alive.

  One thing I was positively sure of, was I didn’t want to date anymore. There was no way I was willing to risk being close to someone again. It was too painful to lose them. There was also the fact I didn’t think there was another soul in the world who would ever be able to replace Nikki in my heart. I had my family and my few best friends. They were all I needed. I wasn’t letting anyone new get close.

  I parked my truck in front of the big, white ranch house and grabbed the bags of groceries I’d purchased from the back seat. I found Brett sitting on the porch swing.

  “Where have you been?” he asked as I approached. “I’ve been waiting for almost an hour. Not that I’m complaining. Your grandma felt the need to feed me while you were gone.” He smiled.

  “I took the scenic route home.”

  “I called your phone, and it went straight to message.” Brett hopped up to open the door.

  “Hmm, I must’ve forgotten to turn it back on after I charged it.”

  “Everything okay?” He scrutinized me for a second, always able to read my moods.

  “I’ll be fine. Just thinking things over.”

  He didn’t reply as we walked into the kitchen to give Grandma Caroline her purchases.

  “There you are!” She smiled as if she’d missed me incredibly in the two hours I’d been gone. She brushed her hands on her apron. “What took you so long?”

  “He took the scenic route,” Brett explained.

  “Ah.” She didn’t press any further, and I wonder whether or not I should be irritated a simple statement like that could speak volumes to everyone.

  I placed the bags on the counter, but Grandma ignored them, wrapping her arms around me instead.

  “I love you, Chase.”

  “Love you too,” I replied hugging her back. “Is there anything else you want me to do?”

  “No.” She released me and began unloading the bags. “Brett’s here to help you with your things now. I know you have a lot to pack.”

  “Yeah. Let me know if you need me for anything.” I left the room, Brett following after, and the two of us made our way up the stairs toward the living quarters for my mom and me.

  We were both leaving. Mom was getting married to her fiancé, Greg Stanton, at the end of the summer, and she was moving into his huge house.

  Grandpa and Grandma had offered to let me keep my room here, and I’d taken them up on it. The ranch had become my home, and I didn’t want to leave. Plus, I thought it would seem strange to come visit and stay at Greg’s when this is where I really wanted to be.

  “Do you ever take a minute to sit down and relax anymore?” Brett asked.

  I snorted in reply.

  “Seriously. You need to take a breather once in a while. You’re working yourself to the bone. I hope you’re going to take a bit of time off to enjoy the parties and stuff at school. I doubt you even remember what a party is.”

  I glanced at him. “I won’t be attending any parties.”

  He laughed. “Of course you will. Everyone knows ASU is one of the biggest party schools in America.”

  “I’m serious. I won’t be going to any. I need to concentrate on my classes and football practice, so I can meet the requirements for my scholarship.” I went over and tapped on the glass fishbowl beside my bed. “Hey, Turk. How ya doing?”

  “That’s bull, and you know it. I have the same amount of classes, and I’m walking on to the football team. If I have time to go to a party, then so do you. Heck, the football team probably has some of the biggest partiers on it.”

  I dropped a few flakes of food in Turk’s bowl. “And what’s at those parties, Brett? Alcohol? Drugs? Those are the two things I went to therapy to get control of.”

  “You don’t have to drink or do drugs to have a good time. I was thinking it would be a nice way for us to meet new people.”

  I could see he wasn’t going to let this go.

  “I assume by people, you mean girls. Won’t your girlfriend, Tana, have a problem with that? Especially since she’s attending ASU, to be with you and your sister, Brittney?”

  He was silent.

  “Oh, I see. You don’t want to meet anyone—you want me to. Forget about it now, because it’s not going to happen.” Feeling frustrated, I walked to my closet and pulled out my luggage and some flattened boxes.

  Brett huffed. “Dude, you can’t be celibate forever.”

  “Yeah? Watch me.” I started folding and taping the boxes together.

  “You’re seriously telling me you have no desire for any kind of a relationship with any girl for the rest of your life?”

  I spun around to face him. “No, I’m telling you I only want to be with one girl, and she’s not available anymore. I’m telling you I’m not willing to risk putting myself through the trauma I’ve been through with Nikki ever again. And I’m asking you, as my best friend, to understand and respect that!”

  He stood in silence, staring while he clenched his jaw. “I’m sorry for what you’ve lost, Chase, but I have to say that sounds like a long, lonely life. You have so much you could offer someone.”

  I took a deep breath and ran a hand through my hair, turning back to the boxes I was assembling. “I don’t want anyone else. I love Nikki.”

  “We all do,” Brett said softly. “And I know she loved you more than anything, but it’s been months now. I think she’d want you to be happy.”

  The tears crept into my eyes, and I blinked them away before I spoke. “She’s not here to say what she wants, and this conversation is over.”

  Chapter Two

  “I can have Greg do that, Chase. You don’t need to bother with it right now.”

  “It’s not a hardship, Mom. Really.” I grabbed another box from her room and carried it down to my truck.

  Her hands were on her hips, and she was glaring when I returned.

  “You’re working too much—all the time lately. Take a break, and go hang out with your friends before you leave.”

  I laughed. “Most of my friends are going with me. Seriously, I’d rather be helping you.” I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and rested my chin on the top of her head. “Why are you always trying to get rid of me? Am I that much of a thorn in your side still?”

  She hugged me tightly. “I don’t ever want to be rid of you. I simply want you to have some fun for a change. And quit talking about leaving, or I’m going to start crying. I’m going to miss you so badly.”

  “You’re not even going to notice I’m gone,” I teased. “I know how it’ll be . . . you and Greg, alone in a big old house.” I shuddered and she laughed, shoving me away.

  “Just for that, I’m going to let you haul all these boxes over there.”

  “I was going to do it anyway.” I grinned as I went to get another one.

  It wasn’t long until I had everything she’d packed in the back of the truck. I shut the tailgate firmly and faced her. “Anything else you need me to take?”

  She shook her head. “No. I’ll need the stuff that’s left here until after the wedding. This place is going to look bare after you take most of the furniture with you.”

  “Well, you know I’d be happy to stay longer if I could. I’ll be back every weekend, though, until school starts.”

  “I’m excited for you to start practicing with the team. I’m sure you’ll be wowing them in no time at all.”

  I shook my head. “Don’t hold your breath, Mom. I might be the top dog around here, but I’ll be the little gu
y on the totem pole there. I’ll be lucky if the coaches even know my name.”

  “Whatever. They know who you are, otherwise they wouldn’t have offered you a scholarship. Everyone who knows anything about football in Arizona knows who Chase Walker is.”

  I laughed again and climbed inside my truck. “We’ll see about that.”

  Leaning against the tree, I sighed heavily and wished I could ease the terrible ache in my heart. No one knew about this secret ritual of mine—it was something I’d chosen to keep between Nikki and me. I was going to miss it once I went away. Sometimes it was the only peace I could find—the only place I allowed myself to break down and really feel.

  I thought back to how I’d initially told myself I wasn’t ever going to come here again, but after about a week I couldn’t stand being away. I needed to be as close to her as I could. I hadn’t missed a week since.

  “I’m moving away to the valley tomorrow. Football practice is starting.”

  I stared at the beautiful granite headstone which graced her resting place. Her gorgeous senior picture, taken a few days before the accident, was embedded in it. She looked so alive—so vibrant. I liked to imagine she was here, listening and smiling at me when I came to talk.

  “I’ll be back to see you every weekend until school starts. Then I’ll have games on Saturdays, and I won’t be able to come as often until the season is over.”

  I paused and looked down at the ground. Pulling up a few blades of grass, I twirled them between my fingers.

  “I promise I won’t forget you,” I said, continuing my one-sided conversation. “I’ll think about you every day, and hopefully you’ll be out there somewhere watching over me. Sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me sane . . . hoping wherever you are, you can see me, and you aren’t as lonely as I am.”

  I didn’t know how to close and heal this wound. I needed her help to mend it.

  “Nikki, I’m having a hard time. This was when we’d planned on starting our lives together. I can’t see past the fact I’ll be leaving you here while I go on. I swear I’ve tried to move past this, but I can’t seem to. My heart is stuck with you. When you died, my hopes and dreams died with you—I’m simply going through the motions. I look around and see everyone continuing on like they don’t realize the sun has quit shining. Everything seems dark and negative now. I’m not myself anymore. I might appear the same on the outside, but inside . . . inside I’m hollow. How do I fix that? How do I go forward when all I want is to be with you? How do I carry on when it’s my fault you’re lying here?”

 
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