Finding chase, p.11
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       Finding Chase, p.11

           Lacey Weatherford
 
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  “I don’t care, as long as it’s not pizza!”

  “Wanna go to that restaurant Britt works at?”

  “No!” I said forcefully. “Jennifer works there, and she’s pissed at me right now. I’d probably end up with a razor blade in my food or something. We should probably avoid that place for a while.”

  “How about The Devil’s Pit then?”

  “As long as Matt isn’t there. I think it’s his preferred hangout now. I can’t eat if I have to look at him.”

  “Dude, if you’re gonna keep burning bridges, can you stop doing it with peeps from our favorite restaurants?”

  I laughed. “The Devil’s Pit is fine. If Matt’s there I’ll punch him in the face and throw him out the door. It’ll improve the environment.”

  “So I should plan on dinner in jail is that what you’re saying?”

  I scoffed. “Would I do that to you?”

  “Yes, I believe you would.”

  I grinned, turning off the water and grabbing a towel to dry before tucking it around my waist. I emerged from the shower to find Brett leaving one a few stalls down. As we approached the lockers, Coach Bell walked in, looking between the two of us solemnly.

  “Have either of you been outside recently?” he asked.

  I shook my head. “No, we’ve been on the practice field, why?”

  “Get dressed and meet me outside,” he said, heading toward the door.

  “Wonder what that’s all about?” Brett muttered.

  “I have no idea, but he didn’t look too happy, did he?”

  “Nope.”

  When we were clothed, we grabbed our equipment bags and headed into the hall, making our way to the parking lot. Coach Bell was waiting by the front door as we stepped out.

  “What’s up, Coach?” I asked, waiting for him to fill us in.

  He pointed to the lot. “Isn’t that yours?”

  I glanced in the direction he indicated. “What the hell?” I dropped my bag on the sidewalk and ran toward my truck—my truck—smashed up by a baseball bat from the looks of it.

  My eyes watered as I stared at the last gift I’d received from my dad before he died. All the windows were busted, the headlights had been bashed in and huge gouging dents covered the body.

  “Who would do this?” Brett asked, joining me, his jaw gaping.

  “I’ve called the cops. They should be here any minute,” Coach said as he walked up. “Hopefully they can find some eye witnesses. This is extensive damage. It would’ve taken someone a while to do it.”

  “Unless it was more than one person, “Brett added.

  I peered inside, the upholstery slashed, and wires were dangling from the gaping hole where my stereo used to be. Even the tires were flat.

  “Don’t touch anything,” Coach said. “The police might be able to find fingerprints or something.”

  I closed my eyes, the image of my dad standing on the carport the morning of my birthday flashed in front of me, and it was as if someone had sucker punched me—ripping away my last good memory of him. I couldn’t stop shaking with rage. If I ever discovered who did this, they were going to be in severe danger of ending up like my truck.

  Chapter Sixteen

  There was a soft knock at my bedroom door, but I ignored it. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone right now. I lay still in the dark, not making a sound, hoping whoever it was would think I was already asleep and go away.

  I bit back a groan as the knock came again. “Chase?” Brittney’s voice spoke.

  I wondered what she wanted, but I didn’t answer.

  The door opened a crack, and I watched as she poked her head in, the fixture from the hallway backlighting her and making her blonde hair glow like she was an angel.

  “Chase?”

  “You’re taking a big risk coming in here like this.” I released a sigh. “What if I’d been laying here naked?”

  She shrugged. “What if you had? Do you sleep naked often?”

  I snorted. “Nah, not really.”

  “I didn’t think so. Can I come in?”

  “If you don’t mind sitting in the dark. I have a blinding headache right now.”

  She stepped the rest of the way inside, leaving the door open a crack as she came to stand beside the edge of the bed. “Scoot over. I want to lay down next to you.”

  My pulse sped up even though I didn’t want it to. I did as she asked, moving closer to the wall. She stretched out and cuddled against me, laying her head on my shoulder, then wrapping an arm and leg across the top of me. My arms went around her voluntarily.

  “What brought this on?” I asked, completely confused.

  “I thought you might need a hug.”

  “So you’re copping a pity feel then?” I didn’t like that. “I don’t need you to be sorry for me, Britt.”

  She embraced me tighter. “I’m sorry about your truck, yes, but that’s not why I came.”

  My pulse picked up. “Why did you?”

  “I realized today that I miss you. I don’t like the awkwardness between us right now, and I don’t like knowing I’ve hurt you.”

  I pondered this for a moment, loving the way she felt in my arms—different, but good all the same. I squeezed her lightly. “I’m trying to understand. I know you can’t help how you feel.”

  “That’s just it. I’m pushing you away for the wrong reasons. It’s not because I’m not attracted to you—I am. It’s because I’m scared of what you might do to my heart if it doesn’t work.”

  “What are you saying, Britt?” I held my breath, hoping.

  “I’m saying I want to date you . . . if you still want me.” In the small shaft of light from the doorway, I could see her biting her lip.

  My breath came in a rush of relief as I hugged her tighter, nestling my chin into her hair. “I still want you.” I was soaring on cloud nine. I hadn’t felt this happy since . . . Nikki. I shoved that thought to the back of my mind. “What made you change your mind?”

  She made an ironic laughing sound. “Jeff actually.”

  This surprised me. “What? How?”

  She sighed. “Every time I’ve been with him this week I’ve compared him to you. I look at him and think about how he looks next to you. I watch what he does, and I wonder if you would do it that way. It finally occurred to me that he wasn’t the person I wanted to be with all the time. You were.”

  “So did you talk to him about it?”

  “I did.”

  “And?”

  “He said you seemed like a decent guy, and he wouldn’t hold any grudges.”

  “Remind me to send him a Christmas card this year.” I grinned. “So, what now?”

  “Now we take it slow, Chase, and I mean almost painfully slow. There’s no need to rush things. Let’s date and see what happens. I don’t want to force something that might not be there.”

  “And by slow you mean . . . ?”

  “No throwing me on your bed and making out with me while you’re peeling my clothes off. I don’t even want there to be kissing right now. Let’s really get to know each other better before we start throwing a bunch of hormones into the mix, okay? You owe it to yourself. You’re coming from a difficult place, and I want you to be sure about things. Really sure.”

  “I’m not gonna take advantage and run away. You can trust me.”

  “I do trust you, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. But I’ve come from a bad relationship too. I need time to heal as well. Can you do this for me?”

  I sighed. “I’ll try, but it’s gonna be awfully hard if you keep crawling into my bed like this.”

  “Then I’ll go. I wanted you to know how I felt, though.”

  She rolled away, and I missed her instantly. My first instinct was to grab her back, but I knew if I did I’d be pushing her conditions. I was ready to make out with her the entire night. I didn’t want to scare her away again, though. She was definitely scared and fragile.

  I watched her as she slipped through th
e door.

  “Brittney,” I called, and she poked her head in again.

  “Yeah?”

  “Thank you.” I couldn’t help my smile.

  “Good night, Chase.”

  I woke the next morning, full of energy, refreshed and ready to start a new day. I hopped out of bed and hurried to the shower across the hall, singing to myself as I went. When I was finished, I went into Brett’s room.

  “Hey dude. Can I borrow your car for a while this morning? My rental won’t be ready until noon.”

  “Keys are on the dresser,” he mumbled into his pillow.

  “Thanks, man. You’re the best! I won’t be gone long.”

  He lifted his head slightly and squinted at me with one eye. “Why are you up this early, and why are you so dang chipper?”

  I grinned. “It’s a beautiful day outside. Time to start living.” I headed toward the door.

  Brett sat up and stared at me. “Now you’re scaring me.”

  I chuckled. “Brittney came to visit me last night.”

  “And?”

  I shrugged. “And we’re going to date. She wants to take things slow, but I’m okay with that. Some is better than none, right?”

  He smiled. “I’m glad she’s coming around.” He paused, watching me for a moment before continuing. “Happy looks good on you.”

  “I agree. I feel good for the first time in . . . ,” A bit of regret shot through me. “Is it bad that I don’t feel guilty? I feel guilty because I don’t feel guilty. Is that okay?” I didn’t know if I was making any sense.

  “You want my honest opinion?” he asked, solemnly.

  “Let’s hear it.”

  “I think Nikki, wherever she is, is probably clapping her hands with joy seeing the smile on your face. She’d be devastated knowing how badly you’ve suffered because of her. I’ve always thought she’d want you to be happy.”

  I mulled his comment over, remembering the recent dream I’d had about her. “It’s been hard to let go. I still love her so much.”

  “No one expects you to stop loving her, Chase. You can keep those feelings with you for the rest of forever. But think about it . . . what if it had been you that died? Would you want her to sit around and suffer for the rest of her life?”

  “No.” I didn’t even have to ponder on it. “I’d want her to be happy too, even if it was without me. I love her.”

  “Then why do you keep torturing yourself? Take your own advice, and assume she’d feel the same way. Keep loving her—love the things she gave you—those are yours to keep. It’s okay to open your heart and share it with someone else too. You and Britt—well, I think you’d work really well together. You should see where it might go.”

  I grinned again. “When did you get so smart?”

  “When I had to watch my best friend agonize over his broken heart, and I couldn’t do anything about it.”

  “I’m sorry I’ve been difficult to live with. I swear, I’ve been trying to get past things, I’m just not really sure how to do it.”

  “Well, I think you’re on the right track. I say keep doing whatever you’re doing right now. You’re . . . glowing.” He snickered.

  “You’re a dork. Fresh muffins . . . that’s what’s making me “glow.” I’m going to pick some up and surprise your sister with breakfast. It won’t be my grandma’s muffins, but I figure it’ll do in a pinch. You want some?”

  “No, Tana wants to do something with me later. Thanks though.”

  “All right. Catch ya in few then.”

  I left the apartment, my heart feeling lighter than it had in months. I wasn’t sure how things were going to work out, but for the first time in ages I was truly excited for the future.

  I knocked loudly on the door and waited, box of baked goods in hand. After a minute, I frowned and knocked again. There was still no answer, so I tried the knob. I shook my head when I found it unlocked again, and I opened the door a crack.

  “Hello?” I called. There was no answer, but I could hear the shower running and the girls carrying on a conversation.

  I stepped inside, going to the kitchen counter and searching for a piece of paper and a pen, so I could leave a note. I peeked around the corner and saw the bathroom door open. Tana was sitting on the sink talking to Brittney.

  “I bet you’re excited,” Tana said.

  “I am,” Brittney’s voice came from behind the shower curtain, which did nothing to help my rabid imagination. “I’ve always liked him, Tana, but he was Nikki’s guy from the get go, and I was with Matt. I never thought of him as someone I’d be with.”

  They were talking about me. I froze in place, unable to resist eavesdropping.

  “We’ve been friends for a long time,” she continued, “and I’m kind of afraid to tamper with that, but something is different now. I honestly can’t stop thinking about him.”

  I grinned to myself. The feeling was mutual.

  “I know he’s always liked you. You two get along really well together. It seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s only natural you’d be drawn to one another.”

  “Maybe it’s just weird because . . . you know . . . he’s Nikki’s.”

  My heart fell, and I faltered. Am I really doing the right thing?

  “Nikki loved you both, and she hated Matt if I can remind you. I think if she knew there was no way she and Chase could ever be together, she’d be thrilled two of the people she loved most found each other.”

  “Really?” Brittney replied, and I thought I heard her release a strangled sound. “Because this has been a really hard decision for me. I feel like I’m stabbing her in the back and trying to steal her boyfriend—like I’m betraying her memory.”

  Emotions swirled around me. I might be on the other side of this situation, but I understood exactly what she meant.

  “Don’t feel that way. I think she’d tell you to go for it. She’d want you to be happy.”

  “Would you feel that way if it was Brett we were talking about.”

  Tana was quiet for several moments. “I’d like to think I would,” she finally replied. “But the fact of the matter is, Nikki’s dead, and Chase has no future with her. They are done and over with. He needs to move on, and so do you.”

  I was starting to feel sick. Eavesdropping wasn’t such a good idea after all. I hated hearing Nikki’s and my relationship discussed so bluntly. I turned toward the door, leaving the muffins on the counter.

  “I want to move on, Tana. He does funny things to me.”

  I paused, curious about what she meant.

  “Funny things?” Tana asked.

  “To my body.” She laughed. “Like how my stomach drops as if I were on a roller coaster every time I see him, or my pulse races whenever he touches me.”

  Okay, I could stay and listen for a minute longer, I edged closer to the bathroom.

  Tana laughed. “I can see how that happens. Chase is hot!”

  “He really is. He came home from practice the other night without his shirt on, and I almost died. I wanted to run my hands all over him.”

  “You should’ve, I wouldn’t have stopped you,” I said as I leaned against the doorway, and both girls screamed.

  “What are you doing?” Tana said, holding her hand to her chest.

  “I brought breakfast. You two need to start locking your door. Anyone could walk right in.”

  “How much did you hear?” Brittney asked, sounding horrified.

  “I heard enough.” I chuckled as I folded my arms. “Please feel free to continue. I find the discussion to be quite stimulating.”

  “Get out!” she ordered, and Tana jumped off the counter and pushed me out the door.

  “But I brought you breakfast, and I want to hear what else you have to say,” I hollered as I struggled with Tana. “You were talking about rubbing your hands all over me. Please go on!”

  She growled, and Tana continued shoving me down the hall. “Go home!” she ordered.

  “Okay, okay
. You don’t have to be snotty about it. I’m leaving.” I pointed to the box on the counter. “There’s breakfast. And lock your door!”

  She smiled at me as I left, and I couldn’t stop grinning. That was fun.

  Chapter Seventeen

  I was still grinning when Britt walked into the apartment fifteen minutes later carrying the box.

  “For someone who preaches locking the door, you might wish to follow your own advice.”

  “I’m a guy, it’s different.”

  “Wow, that’s sexist.”

  I shrugged. “It’s the truth.”

  “If a burglar came in here and shot you, you’d die as easily as I would.” She gave me an arched look. “We aren’t in Silver Creek anymore.”

  “Point taken.” I couldn’t take my eyes off her—she was beautiful—wet hair combed straight, no makeup, and wearing a form-fitting tank top and shorts which showed her perfect figure and luminescent skin. I wanted to touch her—everywhere.

  “Thank you for breakfast, but I wanted to share it with you.”

  “That was my initial plan, before I was roughly thrown from your apartment. Have a seat.” I gestured to the spot on the couch, and she came to join me.

  “This was very sweet of you. I love blueberry muffins.” She opened the box and handed one to me.

  “I know. I remember Nikki, Tana, and you used to get them all the time from the bakery.”

  She smiled softly. “It’s a wonder we weren’t a bunch of lard butts. I miss doing things like that with the two of them. Nikki’s gone and Tana spends most of her time with Brett. I always feel like a third wheel when I tag along.”

  “So what do you say to starting some new traditions? Maybe Muffin Mondays with your new boyfriend? It’ll give you something to look forward to.”

  Her smile grew wider. “I have a new boyfriend? I thought we were just dating.”

  “Hmmm. That does change things, doesn’t it? I was under the impression you and I were going to date exclusively. I don’t know if I’m the sharing type.”

  She giggled. “I’m only messing with you. I wanted to see what you’d say.” She popped a piece of muffin into her mouth.

  I slid my arm behind her on the sofa and leaned in real close, my forehead almost touching hers. “Don’t tease me, Brittney, I’m still too fragile,” I whispered seriously. “I don’t want you to date anyone else, only me, exclusive—I want to be your boyfriend.”

 
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