Finding chase, p.14
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       Finding Chase, p.14

           Lacey Weatherford
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  She shrugged and sat up next to me. “I’m not sure, but I honestly want to know.” She fiddled with her shorts before running her hand over the blanket.

  “Is something wrong?” I asked.

  She shook her head. “No. Not really.”

  “Britt, talk to me. I can’t read your mind. You have to tell me what’s going on in that head of yours.”

  She glanced toward Nikki’s picture, silent for several moments, and I waited for her to speak.

  “I feel kinda like I won you by default sometimes. I mean, I know you love me, but if Nikki were here, let’s face it—you and I would’ve never happened. I would’ve broken up with Matt, and then what? Been lonely? Would I have watched you and Nikki together and been jealous? I feel like the second choice. I don’t want to feel that way, but I do. If she were to reappear right now, you’d go right back to her, wouldn’t you?”

  Damn, damn, damn. I really did not need this right now. I didn’t have a clue how to answer her. I ran my hand over my head. “Britt, I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but I can promise you—you were never my second choice.”

  She wrinkled her brow in confusion. “What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

  “I mean you were the first girl who caught my attention when I moved to Silver Creek. You sat there in class giving me these shy smiles. I thought you were hot, and I would’ve hit on you, but Matt was hanging all over you—clearly marking you as his territory. I was new and didn’t want to push it. I figured there were other fish in the sea. Then I saw Nikki, and she was beautiful too—it progressed from there. Who knows why things happen the way they do? If you hadn’t been with Matt, it might have been you I went after. We could’ve dated and then Nikki wouldn’t have been coming to meet me at all. Maybe she would still be alive.”

  “Oh, Chase . . . ,” she began, resting her hand on my arm.

  “No. Stop, okay? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that what you said is true—playing the “what if” game won’t get you anywhere. It only creates more hurt. Can I say what I’d do if Nikki walked in here right this moment? No. I can’t. Why? Because even though I’d be thrilled to see her, I’d be devastated too. I’d be in love with two amazing girls and know I’d end up hurting one of them by choosing the other. So, let’s do this instead. Let the past lie, Britt, there’s no possibility of a future for it. I don’t know why fate let things play out the way they did, but you’re my here and now. It’s all that matters to me. Yes, tragedy brought us together, but I can’t imagine my life without you. Don’t ever think you’re here by default. I love you.”

  Her chin trembled as she fought back tears. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be weird about things. It’s been weighing heavily on my mind. I think deep down I’m . . . jealous of her. I don’t want to be because I love her too. She was one of my best friends. But I can’t help thinking if she were still alive, it would be her here in my place, and you’d be super happy. It’s hard for me to get over.”

  “I understand what you’re saying, but I’m telling you it doesn’t matter. You’re my future. You and I will do stuff together I only dreamed about with Nikki. You—you’re the one those things will happen with. You’re the reality. Don’t doubt my feelings for you. Nikki—she was there for me when I needed her the most. She helped to shape and change me into the guy who’d fall in love with you. I’m better because of it, and you’re getting a better me because of it too.” I was frustrated. I didn’t know how to properly express what I was feeling—I only knew I was desperate for her to know I loved her—I mean really, truly loved her.

  “I liked you from the first moment, Chase. I’m glad Nikki helped you with stuff, but I thought you were pretty awesome to begin with.”

  “You did?”

  “I did. I watched how you went after her. You did the most romantic things—and you respected her too. Matt was never that way with me. He’d blame me for things he did wrong, like when he got pulled over for speeding one day. He said it was my fault for distracting him. If he didn’t like someone, then he didn’t want me to talk to them either. He hated when I was around you.” She sighed heavily. “I wasted so much time with him—time that could’ve been spent with you if I’d been brave enough to walk away.”

  “Well, guess what? You’re not with that jerk anymore, and I’m always willing to shower you with romantic things.” I smiled, placing my hand over hers.

  “I know. You have been already. I guess I’m only wishing I’d been lucky enough to find you sooner.”

  “Better late than never, right?”

  She looked up, and a soft smile played on her lips. “Better late than never. Now kiss me, Walker,” she ordered, so I did.

  Chapter Twenty

  I tried not to do the jello-neck-head-bob during my required Sociology class, but it was proving dang near impossible. Who thought up these stupid curriculums anyway? There was a cute brunette sitting to my left who kept trying to catch my attention during the lecture, and I was doing my best to avoid eye contact with her.

  My mom had been right. Being the quarterback at a big university made the girls come crawling out of the woodwork. I remembered the days when I used to be nervous about asking girls on a date, and it made me chuckle. I had to practically beat them off with a stick now. The old me would’ve loved hanging and partying it up with a different girl every night, but that was before Nikki, and now Brittney. I was crazy about her, and no one else could compare.

  Not that I was getting to spend any time with her. I was in these dumb classes all day, practice until after dark, then games on the weekends—which were away a lot, so I was traveling too. The only time we ever got to spend together was nights and Sundays. We fell asleep together almost every evening, piled under a mountain of homework we were trying to finish. I’d often come home from trips to find her curled up on my couch or bed with textbooks all over her. I’d carefully remove them so I wouldn’t wake her before lying down and wrapping my arms around her. I missed her.

  There didn’t seem to be an end in sight, either. It was only October, and the season would run through January. We needed a break soon, and I’d begun to formulate a plan to surprise her with on Sunday.

  I didn’t realize I’d dozed off until I heard the teacher call my name, and a bunch of the students snickered around me. I noticed the stern expression on her face as she stared at me over the top of her glasses.

  “If you want to continue playing football, Mr. Walker, I suggest you start paying attention in class.” This was the second part of the problem—being the quarterback also meant all the teachers knew who I was too. They might not know who ninety-nine percent of the student body was, but people tended to remember the name of the kid whose face was on television and in the sports section of the newspaper frequently.

  “Sorry Mrs. Miller,” I said politely, staring down at her from where I sat several rows up in the amphitheater styled seating. “It’s been a long week.”

  “Well, it’s time to pull your priorities together.”

  My priorities don’t include your class, I thought. “Yes, ma’am.” I said what she wanted to hear so she’d get off my case.

  “You don’t want to get behind anymore than you are. Otherwise you won’t be eligible to play. You might want to consider getting a tutor if you can’t keep up with things.” She returned her attention to the blackboard, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from blurting that my grade in her class was several points above eligibility range, despite the one assignment I’d neglected to turn in. I was pissed she’d singled me out to reprimand in front of the whole class.

  “I’d be happy to help tutor you,” the brunette to my left whispered, and I had to acknowledge her.

  “Thanks,” I said, smiling nicely. “I already have a tutor, though.”

  “Oh.” She looked disappointed before she stopped to scribble something on a piece of paper and hand it to me. “Well, if it doesn’t work out, here’s my number. Feel free t
o give a call anytime.” She smiled widely, and I took it, reading what she’d written.

  “Thanks again . . . Lexie,” I replied, glancing at her name. “Oh, I see you put your dorm room number here too.” Talk about obvious. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes.

  “Yeah.” She tossed her hair behind her shoulder, as she cast a seductive glance over me. “In case you want to . . . study at my place.”

  “Super. You’re awesome. I’ll be sure to have my girlfriend file this for me.” I stared pointedly at her, and she had the decency to keep her mouth shut and turn away. The class time was up, saving me from any further awkward conversations, so I gathered my books and headed toward the door, depositing Lexie’s number in the wastepaper basket on the way past.

  I checked my phone and saw I had a message from Brittney. I dialed my voicemail and listened.

  “Hey,” Brett said joining me from his class down the hall. “Ready for lunch?”

  “Yeah. We need to run to the store for Britt, though. She’s stuck at work and can’t take a break.”

  “Let’s go then. We can pick up whatever she needs on the way.”

  While I was thrilled to have a girlfriend who felt like she could talk to me about anything, I found myself very frustrated and amazed. I was confident no one would think I was standing in this section of the store for my own benefit, but I honestly would’ve given my right arm to be anywhere else in the world than here.

  “Grab a box and let’s go,” Brett said, looking around nervously.

  “Which one? There’s like a thousand of them.”

  “I don’t know. Aren’t they all the same? Did she ask for something specific when she called?”

  “No. She just said tampons. You’re her brother, dammit. Didn’t you pay attention to these kinds of things?”

  “Oh, hell no. I’d rather pluck my own eyeballs out than be around a woman on her period.”

  “What kind does Tana use?”

  “Did you not hear my last statement?”

  A woman pushed her cart between us and the massive wall of feminine hygiene products. She grabbed a box and placed it in her cart.

  “Are those the good kind?” Brett blurted, and I elbowed him in the ribs, mortified.

  The woman gave us a strange stare, like we were some kind of deviants.

  “My girlfriend sent me to pick some up for her,” I offered lamely before she called security.

  “Oh!” She smiled as if everything made sense now. “Well, what size does she like?”

  “There’s a size?” Brett asked, dumbfounded.

  “Well, yes. It helps to know how heavy her—”

  “Never mind,” I said snatching a random box off the shelf. “This box looks good. Thanks for your help.”

  I practically ran from the aisle before turning to Brett who was following close behind. “Here, you carry these.” I held the box toward him.

  “You couldn’t pay me enough to carry those.” He stepped backward as if I were holding a culture dish carrying the black plague inside.

  “It’s for your sister,” I said shoving the box in his direction.

  “She’s your girlfriend, and she asked you to get them. Besides, how do you know this isn’t some sick, twisted, female test? You won’t pass if I show up with them.”

  I tucked the tampons under my arm with a growl and headed toward the register.

  “It’s not like people are gonna think they’re yours,” Brett added with a laugh.

  “Shit!” I uttered the curse as several guys from the team stepped from an aisle a few feet ahead of us. I quickly tossed the box toward Brett, who reflexively caught it, stunned.

  “Hey dudes! Wassup!” Garret Hunt, one of the D-linemen called coming to give me high five, followed by the others.

  “Nothin’ much. Just pickin’ up some stuff for Brett’s period.” I gestured to him with my thumb, and he glanced down at the item in his hand. “It’s that time of the month.”

  Brett glared at me. “You are so dead.”

  I laughed. “He’s a little moody too, so take it easy on him at practice today, okay?”

  “No problem,” Garret said with a grin, clapping Brett on the shoulder. “Hang in there, man. It’ll pass.”

  The guys chuckled and continued on their way. “Catch ya later.”

  “Sure thing,” I replied, moving toward the registers again. “You coming?” I asked Brett who was still fuming in the aisle.

  “No. I’m thinking of ways to kill you.”

  “Ah, come on. It wasn’t that bad.”

  “Mmhmm.” He pursed his lips.

  Later that evening, we walked into practice, and my eyes widened when I saw Brett’s locker covered in pads, tampons, and boxes of Midol. Garret and the rest of the guys were standing around waiting for him and started laughing when they saw us. I couldn’t help it—I laughed too.

  Brett leaned close and whispered in my ear. “Man, you better pray I take the Midol because you’re gonna need it!”

  “Don’t blame me! I didn’t do it.” I held my hands up and backed away innocently.

  “You’re just as guilty of doing it as if you’d taped the stuff up there yourself. If you’d have kept the stupid box, it would be your locker that looks like this.”

  “That’s right. See, you took one for the team. I have a rep to protect. The QB can’t be some tampon wearing fool.” I headed toward my locker.

  “Hey! Are you calling me a tampon wearing fool?”

  “Would I do that?” I asked, tossing a grin over my shoulder.

  “Yes. I do believe you would.” He was glaring, and I couldn’t help laughing harder.

  “We got you a heating pad too, man,” Garret said handing Brett a box as he approached. “I think you’ll find it really helps those cramps.”

  Brett glowered at me and mouthed the word, DEAD. I couldn’t stop snickering. I’d need to watch my back. He would definitely be looking for payback.

  “Walker! I need to see you in my office!” Coach Bell’s voice boomed through the space, interrupting Brett’s and my banter.

  I turned to head in that direction, giving Garret a high five as I passed. “Good job, bro. That’s some friggin’ funny stuff right there.”

  “I aim to please,” Garret replied with a grin.

  Coach gestured for me to take a seat. I did so, and he shut the door behind me, closing the blinds to the interior window of the locker room as well.

  That wasn’t a good sign. I was immediately on my guard.

  “Is something wrong, Coach?”

  He walked around his desk and sat down, leaning his arms on it as he stared at me. “Is there anything you want to tell me, son? You know if you’re struggling with things, you can talk to me. I’ll always listen to what you have to say and help any way I can.”

  I stared at him for a moment, completely befuddled as to what he was referring to. “Can you be more specific, because I truly have no idea what you’re talking about.”

  He sighed deeply and picked up a piece of paper folded in front of him. “This was slipped under my door when I came in today.”

  I opened it, reading the typed message.

  Your starting quarterback is on drugs. Check his locker.

  I calmly tossed the paper back onto his desk. “I’m not on drugs. Feel free to check my things.”

  “I already did. I had security come do a legal search.”

  “Then you know it’s not true.”

  He opened his drawer and lifted two bags, one contained marijuana and another pills. “We found these in your locker.”

  My heart sank, and my vision spun from shock. “Someone is setting me up, Coach. I’ve used in the past, yes, but I’ve been in addiction therapy to get past it. I’ve been clean ever since.”

  “How long ago was that?”

  I thought back to Nikki’s death and reading her journal, which had triggered my decision to get help. “It’s been more than a year now since the last time I had any
alcohol. Even longer than that for the dope.”

  He pondered this as he prodded the items on his desk. “If you’re telling the truth, then I want you to submit to a random drug test right now. School policy dictates I suspend you from the team until your name is cleared. I’ll do my best to keep this under wraps. We definitely don’t want the press getting ahold of this.”

  “What about practice today? And the game tomorrow?”

  “As of right now, you’re out sick. The lab is closed for the weekend, so they won’t be doing the test until Monday. I’m thinking that afternoon will be the earliest we’ll have results back—maybe even Tuesday morning.”

  “Are you serious?” I was fuming angry, pushing back my chair to stand. “You’re honestly telling me I can’t play because some asshole set me up? Anyone could’ve watched and got my combination. It’s not like I hide it or anything.” I took my cap off and ran a hand through my hair. “This will affect my stats. It’s ridiculous!”

  “The rules are rules, Chase. I don’t want to do this either. My hands are tied. I want to believe you’re telling me the truth, but I have to do things by the book. It can’t appear as if I’m trying to protect you.” He honestly looked apologetic.

  “I am telling the truth.” I was so angry I wanted to spit nails. Someone on my team was doing this to me.

  “Then if that’s the case, go into the restroom there and fill one of the collection cups on the counter.” He gestured toward the private bathroom attached to his office. “After that, go home, and enjoy your weekend off. Sleep, watch movies, do whatever you want. Hopefully, I’ll have good news for you on Monday.”

  “I have a date planned at the State Fair on Sunday with my girlfriend. Can I still do that? I’ve hardly seen her, and she got the day off work to be with me.” I was boiling mad as I headed toward the bathroom.

  He shrugged. “I don’t see why not. Maybe you end up having some food poisoning?”

  I shut the door, going over to pick up one of the sterile cups. When I found the dickwad who did this, there was gonna be hell to pay.

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