Finding chase, p.13
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       Finding Chase, p.13

           Lacey Weatherford
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  “That would be incredible. Maybe we can check into camping here someday. Then we could see it.”

  She giggled. “Are you trying to get me alone in a tent out in the middle of nowhere?”

  I squeezed her tighter. “I suddenly find myself hard-pressed to think of anything I might enjoy better.” My rampant imagination sprang eagerly to life.

  She turned and wrapped her arms around my neck, popping up to place a soft kiss against my lips. “I can almost hear that mind of yours going a million miles a minutes.”

  I chuckled and kissed her again. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

  “Uh huh. Sure you don’t.” She kissed me again. “Please tell me you’ve got something delicious in your backpack, because I’m starving.”

  “I brought energy bars, trail mix, and jerky.” I released her so I could shrug it off.

  “That sounds divine.” She walked to a large rock, and after checking around it, sat down. A sudden breeze whipped her ponytail about, making her hair flip around her face. She turned to glance toward the valley below. “Where did that come from?”

  “I don’t know, but I’m not complaining. It feels great. You were right about the temperature. It’s pretty humid today.” I dug through my knapsack and handed her several food items. “Here you go. Take your pick. How’s your canteen doing? I’ve got some extra bottles of water in here too.”

  She unscrewed the lid and checked inside. “I’ve still got about half.”

  I frowned. “You need to drink more. You’re going to get dehydrated if you don’t.”

  “I didn’t want to drink too much. I’ve noticed there aren’t many handy bathrooms.”

  “That’s what bushes are for.”

  “That’s easy for you to say. You’re a guy. You can pee standing up. Knowing my luck I’d pick the bush that covered the entrance to a snake pit.”

  I shook my head. “Yeah, that’d be bad . . . I’d be forced to suck the poison out.”

  She blushed heavily. “You’re incorrigible.”

  I couldn’t help my grin. “So I’ve been told.” I sat beside her, breaking open a bag of jerky and offering her some. She took a piece and started chewing, and I popped a piece between my lips before bending over the pack to dig out some water to refill her canteen.

  “Um, Chase?”

  I heard the concern in her voice and sat up. “Yeah?”

  “What’s that?” She pointed toward the horizon.

  I followed her line of sight and felt a bit of dread creep over me. “Put your canteen on, Britt, and get up. We’ve got to go. We can’t get caught in that.” I looked at the giant dust storm billowing up like an enormous rolling cloud that reached thousands of feet into the air as it engulfed the surrounding area for miles. Even though it looked far away, it was monstrous and I knew there was no possible way we could get to the truck before it hit. “We need to climb those few feet back down the cliff face, and get to safer ground.”

  She didn’t say a word, but quickly helped me gather our things and load them again. We hurried in the direction we’d come, trying to move as fast as possible. I was nervous. I’d seen the damage first hand these horrific monsoon storms could do. They often brought sections of the city to a complete standstill, snapping power lines and trees like matchsticks, knocking out the utilities of thousands, shutting down air traffic, even producing microbursts of tornado-like activity. If we got stuck here, no one would be able to help us until the storm passed. We were going to need to find a place with some cover.

  Running down the trail was easy since it was steep, but we often had to move forward in a back and forth motion—like switchbacks—to slow our progress, so we didn’t lose control. We didn’t speak, gripping each other by the hand as we hurried along, watching our footing and occasionally glancing to check on the progress of the storm which was raging ever closer, swallowing everything in its path.

  Despite the popularity of this trail, we hadn’t seen another soul hiking today. We were in this alone . . . the two of us against Mother Nature.

  We’d managed to make it about half a mile before I knew our time was up. The wind had increased significantly, pelting us with stinging grains of dirt. I paused, glancing around the terrain. “Over there, Britt. See that outcropping of rock with the low overhang? That’s where we’re heading.”

  I didn’t wait for her to reply, and the two of us took off running. I said a silent prayer there wouldn’t be any snakes taking refuge in the space as well.

  “Lie on your side and slide under there!” I ordered loudly over the roaring sound of the wind.

  She moved quickly, and I stopped long enough to shrug my backpack off and toss it underneath before I scooted into the small space, my back facing the entrance.

  “If the dust gets too bad, pull your shirt over your face to help filter the air, okay?”

  She nodded, her eyes wide in the dim light.

  I dug into my pocket for my cell phone, turning it on and checking for service. It had a couple of bars, so I dialed Brett’s number. It went straight to message. “Brett, we’re on the trail, stuck in the storm.” I had to yell over the howling wind, the metallic taste of the dust settling into my mouth. “I think we’re about half a mile down from the top—the route is marked on the map I left with you. We’ve taken cover in a crevice under a rock, and we’re okay for now, but we’re unable to keep going. I’m turning on my location services. If you don’t hear from us again, send help. I’ve had my phone off all day, so I have a full charge. Call me when you get this.” There was a crackling sound, and the line went dead. I quickly enabled the location setting and slid it into my pocket.

  “I’m scared.” I hardly heard her shaking voice over the sound of the wind whipping and whistling through the rocks of the narrow canyon.

  I shifted the bag lower between us and pulled the upper portion of her body into the cradle of my arms. “Don’t be afraid,” I spoke next to her ear. “Think of this as part of the adventure.” The light around us had quickly darkened and taken on a decidedly brownish hue. “We’ll be okay. Brett will get the message, and I left a map with him of where we were going today. This is just a detour in our plans. Look at the bright side . . . it can’t last forever, now can it?”

  A bright flash, followed immediately by a loud crack of thunder, made us both jump. I was suddenly very glad we were under this rock.

  Brittney instinctively scooted back farther, moving the few extra inches until her back was pressed against the stone. Her fingers tightened around my neck, dragging me closer. “Get in as far as you can!”

  I scooted closer, and we both flinched again at another flash and deafening crack.

  “Those are hitting the ground,” she said, as it rumbled beneath us.

  I nodded. “I know. I can feel it.”

  “I can see them behind you. I’m terrified, Chase!”

  I could feel her trembling. “Look at me. Don’t watch the storm, focus on me.” Her eyes were wide with fear, panicked, and I wished I could make her feel better somehow—take her mind off the dangerous situation we were in.

  My mouth descended quickly to hers, and I felt her stiffen in surprise before she relaxed slightly. She returned my kisses almost frantically, her fingers digging into my scalp as she held me tightly, both her desire and fear jumbled together.

  The distraction worked for both of us as I buried my face against her neck, kissing her there as well, my arm sliding down to her hip in an effort to bring her body closer to mine, but the backpack was in the way, and I groaned in frustration.

  My mind faintly registered a change in the smell of the air, and I realized it had started raining. I kept kissing her as the sound of a torrential downpour now joined the rest of the storm’s wild noises. I could feel the back of my shirt starting to get wet.

  We were in big trouble. I’d seen the watermarks against the rocks in the area around us, and the odds of a flash flood were great. If that happened, we’d be stuck
here, unable to cross several parts of the trail.

  She pulled away, staring at me, concerned. “What’s the matter, Chase?”

  My phone buzzed against my leg. I quickly grabbed it from my pocket. “Brett?”

  “Where are you, man? Are you okay?”

  “It’s pouring. I’m worried we’re gonna be stuck here for the night.” Brittney became rigid at my words, nervousness washing across her face. I stared at her as I continued talking to Brett. “The watershed runs right through here. There’s no way we’ll be able to get back down to the truck. We still have plenty of food and water to last us a while, but I don’t know how long it’ll be before we can safely cross the trails again. Check the news. See if they know how long the storm is supposed to last.”

  “I’ll call you right back,” Brett said, hanging up.

  “We have to stay here all night?” Brittney asked.

  “There’s a good possibility of that. Hopefully the water will be down enough we can cross in the morning.” I shifted, casting a glance over my shoulder and could see a steady stream tumbling its way through a lower section of the rock. “I don’t want to risk getting caught in a flood area.”

  “Me either. I’ve seen on the news how quickly those can turn bad. Are we safe where we are?”

  “I think so. We’re a little higher than everything else.” Another bright flash and loud boom rattled us.

  “I don’t like those,” she whimpered.

  “I know, me neither.” I hugged her tighter, and she buried her head under my chin, nuzzling against my chest. My phone vibrated again, and I answered it.

  “Hang in there, dude. I called 911. They’re sending a rescue crew. I gave them your number. They’re going to be calling and coordinating with you.”

  I was relieved. I’d face the humiliation of being rescued if it meant getting Brittney safely off this mountain. “Thanks, Brett. I’ll call you when we get out of here.”

  “What’s happening?” Brittney asked.

  “He called 911. They’re sending a rescue crew.”

  To my surprise she started laughing.


  “I told you we were going to end up on the six o’clock news.”

  I grinned. “I guess you did. I’ll remember to pay more attention to you next time.”

  She held my face in her hands and smiled. “When it comes to hiking, Walker, I can promise you—there will be no next time.”

  I laughed and kissed her again.

  Part Two

  Chapter Nineteen

  I threw the pass as hard as I could, smiling as the sold-out crowd shot to their feet when the receiver caught it and ran it in for a touchdown. I’d been in lots of football games, but nothing had prepared me for the sound of seventy thousand plus fans rising to their feet and screaming all at once.

  “Touchdooooooown! Sun Devils!” the announcer’s voice boomed through the stadium. “That was a forty yard pass from number twenty-three, Walker, the freshman quarterback to the senior, Nelson. The score is now ASU Sun Devils 20, U of A Wildcats, 7.”

  The crowd roared again, and I couldn’t help my grin. This was our biggest rival game here, in the home state, and we were rockin’ it.

  “Great pass, Walker,” Coach Bell yelled, smacking me on the helmet with his clipboard. “Keep it up!”

  “I will, Coach.” I went to the water table and grabbed a bottle, squeezing some of the refreshing liquid in my mouth before removing my helmet and dousing some over me as well.

  I glanced up into the stands, seeing Brittney and Tana sitting together in the special reserved section for wives and girlfriends. She waved at me and blew a kiss. I smiled at her before turning back to the field to watch the special teams do the point-after attempt and kick off.

  Life was amazing. In the two months Brittney and I had been together, things had moved very quickly, and I found myself completely wound up in her. The ache in my heart for Nikki was still present, as it probably always would be, but it didn’t torture me nearly as bad these days. I’d gone so far as to put her picture away in a drawer, only to come home from practice one night to find Brittney sitting on my bed staring at it before putting it back in its usual place. I’d given her a questioning look.

  She shrugged. “I miss her, and you love her. I think it’s important for her to be where you can see her still. She was a good part of your life.”

  My heart warmed at her generosity. “I love you too.” It was the first time I’d said the words.

  Her eyes widened, and a smile emblazoned across her face. “You do?”

  I nodded, dropping my duffle bag and went to the bed and wrapped my arms around her. “I do.”

  She kissed my lips lightly, and there were tears in her eyes. “I love you too. I’ve been afraid to say it because I didn’t want to put any undue pressure on you.”

  I stroked her hair away from her face and pecked her lips again. “You don’t ever need to be afraid to tell me what you’re feeling, Britt. I want to hear it all, but first you have to make a deal with me.”

  She looked confused. “What’s that?”

  “I want you to take a picture with me to go on my nightstand next to Nikki’s picture.”

  “I’d love to do that. Maybe Tana can take one for us.”

  “Sounds great,” I’d replied and started kissing her again.

  I smiled to myself as I thought of the amazing picture of Britt and I in each other’s arms now sitting next to Nikki’s. I liked having the two pictures together. It was almost like Nikki was smiling about us.

  The defense ran onto the field, setting up for the Wildcat offense.

  “What are you grinning about over here by yourself?” Brett’s voice interrupted as he pounded my shoulder pad with a fist.

  “Nothing. Happy, I guess. Things are going really good right now.” I laughed. “I sound sappy.”

  “No you don’t. You should feel good. How many guys can say they’re da bomb starting quarterback for a four year college? You’re dating the girl you wanted, your classes are going well, you’ve got your truck back, and you have the best roommate in the world. People would kill for your life, man.”

  “I’m just trying to be me.”

  “And it works for you. I think poor Matt is about to go into a fit of rage every time he sees you, he’s so jealous.”

  I cast a glance down the line to where Matt was standing, glaring at me. “You’re probably right, but it’s his own fault. He was dating the perfect girl, and he cheated on her. He deserved to be ditched.”

  “He’s still hanging around with Jared too, ever since he got kicked off the team. Both of them hate you. You know this right? I’d be careful, bro.”

  “I’m aware of it,” I replied, turning my attention to the field once more. “I’m fairly certain they’re the ones who smashed up my truck. I don’t know how to prove it, though.”

  “It makes sense to me. I wonder if they’re trying to goad you into a fight, so you’ll get kicked off too.”

  “I have no idea, but I don’t really care. I’m not gonna waste my time and energy thinking about them. I’ve got better things to do.”

  Brett groaned. “Please tell me when you say the word “do”, you mean football and homework . . . not my sister.”

  I laughed loud, caught off guard.

  His eyes narrowed. “What? No comment?”

  The crowd cheered wildly as ASU intercepted the ball.

  “Sorry, bro. No time to answer. Gotta go back to work.” I headed onto the field leaving Brett grumbling under his breath behind me. It was time to finish this game.

  “You were amazing tonight,” Brittney said as we cuddled together on my bed.

  “How’s that possible? I haven’t started yet.”

  She tried to shove me away, but I clenched her tighter. “In the game, silly.”

  I chuckled. “Oh, that. Yeah, I guess I did okay. The line did a good job of protecting me.”

  “Quit pushing the gl
ory off on to others. You rocked, and you know it.”

  “If I was any good, it’s because I knew you were watching. I can’t put on a bad show for my girl, now can I?”

  “You’d have been amazing whether or not I was in attendance. Chase Walker never does anything half way.”

  “Is that so? When did you become such an expert on me?” I kissed the side of her mouth.

  “I’ve been studying . . . a lot, or haven’t you noticed?” She kissed me back.

  “Please continue your studying. I quite enjoy it—or perhaps I should be the one studying.” I rolled her over so she was underneath me.

  “You mean you haven’t been?” Her white-blonde hair was spread over my pillow.

  “No—not studying—memorizing.” I lowered my mouth to hers, dipping my tongue between her plump lips, enjoying the intimate taste of her.

  She wrapped her arms around my neck, followed by hooking her legs around my waist, and I groaned against her as she pulled away slightly.

  “You’re my prisoner,” she whispered. “Now you can’t escape.”

  “I was already your prisoner, and I never want to escape.” I kissed her again, slow, languid, and deep. She sighed heavily.

  “What’s the matter?” I asked.

  “Nothing. I like the way you kiss. Keep doing it.”

  I did as she asked.

  “Where did you learn to kiss like this?”

  “God given talent,” I muttered against her skin as I slid down her neck.

  She slapped my shoulder. “I’m serious.”

  I locked eyes with her. “Do you really want to know? I’m not sure you do.”

  “I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to know.”

  I sighed, seeing how this conversation could turn bad in a hurry. “I’ve made out with lots and lots of girls.” I watched her closely for her reaction.

  “And what makes me different from those girls?” She looked nervous.

  “I’m in love with you. These kisses mean something . . . they’re not simply for gratification.”

  “How many others were you in love with?”

  I sighed, moving off her to sit up. “Only one, and you know all about her. Why the sudden questions?”

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