Finding chase, p.17
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       Finding Chase, p.17

           Lacey Weatherford
 
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  I laughed and kissed her lightly on the mouth. “You might want to wait to thank me. We haven’t actually won yet.”

  “We will! I have faith!”

  I laughed. “Glad someone does. Where do we need to sign up?”

  She bit her lip and blushed. “I already did.”

  “What? Without asking me? What if I had said no?”

  “I’m fairly confident in my persuasion skills when it comes to you.”

  “Hmm. Sounds like I should’ve put up a harder fight.”

  “Too late now,” she replied in a singsong voice. “Come here and sit down. Let’s take our shoes off.”

  I followed her to a stone bench and sat beside her. “I hope I don’t catch my death of cold from doing this. The breeze tonight is a bit on the chilly side.”

  “I heard it was supposed to snow in the mountains tomorrow.” she replied. “I talked to my mom earlier today. She said it’s been really cold and windy up there.”

  “I definitely don’t miss that.”

  “You don’t like the snow?”

  “I don’t mind it so much, I just don’t care for the storm blowing in. I swear that howling wind nearly drove me mad at times.”

  “Yeah, I don’t miss the wind either.”

  I looked at the massive amount of students gathered on the lawn. “How many couples entered this thing?”

  “A bunch! I’m not sure how many.”

  “Sounds like a lot of games of Twister to me.”

  “As long as we keep winning, yes. I’m thinking the paint will make things go quicker, though, because it’s harder to stay up.”

  “True. By the way, how the heck will we get home? We’ll have paint all over us. I don’t want it to get on everything.”

  “I brought us extra clothes, and they’ve opened the showers at the pool, so people can clean up. That’s why they’re doing it right here.”

  “You’ve had this planned for a while now, haven’t you?”

  She nodded guiltily. “I have. I didn’t tell you what was happening, because I was afraid you’d say no. But if I said it was a date—I knew you’d never pass that up.”

  “Well, aren’t you the sneaky little devil?” I grinned and gave her a wink.

  “Sneaky little Sun Devil to you, and I’m gonna be driving that Sun Devil car too!” She jumped up, grabbing my hand. “Let’s go. People are starting to get in line.”

  She dragged me to where a tall girl with glasses was staring at a list of names, checking them off as people came forward, and directing them where to go.

  “Brittney Dodson and Chase Walker,” Britt told her.

  She found us on the list. “You’re at game sheet number ten against Rocky Dane and Robyn Sheraton. Go stand on the end opposite them, and wait for further instructions.”

  “Oh, I’m incredibly excited,” Britt said, bouncing along as if she’d eaten a five pound bag of sugar.

  “Why?” I asked unable to help my chuckle at how hyper she was.

  “Because it’s gonna be so much fun, and I have the best athlete on campus as my partner. There’s no way we can lose!”

  “I should probably remind you—rolling in paint isn’t exactly my athletic specialty.”

  “Maybe not, but you’re strong, muscular, and probably in better shape than most the people here. That’s gotta count for something.”

  “We’ll find out soon, I guess, won’t we?”

  “Yes, we will.” She rubbed her hands together with glee.

  A sharp whistle blew, and a stylishly dressed brunette climbed on a footstool with a mike in her hand. “Hi, all! My name is Irene Winsor, and I want to welcome everyone to our event this evening! It’s a tad cool tonight, I know, but we still plan on having lots of fun. First off, here are the rules. To make it fair, everyone will be playing the exact same game, which will be called over this microphone. Please pay attention, because we won’t be repeating. When a color and limb are called, you will move your corresponding body part to that color circle. The object of the game is to keep your butt, knees, and elbows from touching the ground as you move to the new spot without pulling any of your other limbs off the spot they’re currently on. If you do, you’re disqualified and must leave the game. If your partner loses too, then you’re out of the competition. If you or your partner wins the game, then you go on to the next round. There will be two judges watching each game to see who falls and is out.

  “As you know, we have a tricked out Sun Devil car to give away tonight, sponsored by Hot Vehicles of Tempe. Let’s give them a round of applause for their generous donation.”

  Everyone clapped, and there were a few whistles and cheers as well.

  “Okay, let’s win a car!”

  Another girl stepped beside Irene and spun the board showing her the result. “Left foot, blue!” Irene called, and we stepped onto the mat.

  “Hey, how ya doin?” I asked politely, shaking the hands of the other two we were facing, and exchanged pleasant hellos.

  “Nothing like getting up close and personal on the first date is there?” Rocky joked, and we laughed.

  “No kidding,” I replied. “But I’m used to a team of strangers wanting to tackle me, so I’m okay with this, I guess. It’s gotta be a lot less painful.”

  “I’d imagine that would be true.”

  “Right foot, yellow,” came the next command, and we easily complied, though I had to say I wasn’t really loving the feel of paint squishing between my toes.

  Britt wrinkled her nose. “It’s slimier than I thought it would feel. Kinda icky.”

  “Remember, this is all your fault, sweetheart.” I grinned.

  “Right hand, yellow.”

  Now things were going to start getting tricky. We scrambled for the closest available spot. Robyn was the unlucky person who had to reach the farthest from where she was. She slipped and fell.

  “Out!” one of our judges called, and I heard the same echo from a few other mats as well.

  “Hang in there, Rocky!” Robyn encouraged as she stood and left the plastic, wiping her hands on her pants as she went.

  “Left hand, red!”

  I had to contort my body to reach this one, and I could feel myself sliding in the paint, damn stuff. I’d be fine if it wasn’t involved. I gritted my teeth, torn between laughing and growling as I tried to stay up.

  “If you fall, it’ll be me knotted up with him for the rest of the game,” Brittney whispered in my ear.

  “Are you trying to give me extra incentive? Because while that might normally work, I can’t see how it’s going to keep me from slipping through paint.”

  She had the audacity to giggle at my comment. “Aren’t you having fun?”

  “Loads,” I replied as I fell to the ground.

  “Out,” a judge called, and I got up, pausing first to smack Britt firmly on the butt, so she’d have my handprint there for the rest of the night.

  “Ouch!” she said in surprise. “What was that for?”

  “Marking my territory,” I said with a laugh. “Pay attention or you’re going to lose on the first round.”

  Her face was a mask of determination as I watched her play the rest of the game, and in the end, it paid off. She won, and we were moving on.

  Things were quickly reset, and the games continued. Set by set, several couples were eliminated, but somehow, Britt and I managed to keep going. We ran fairly even, both of us being the last one standing many times, and on several occasions, we were left there together. In those cases we didn’t have to finish the match because we’d already won. It was nice to take a break. It might be a silly game, but it was proving to be a strenuous workout all the same. It had been quite a feat to hold myself in some of the jumbled positions I’d ended up in. If I were being truthful, this crazy event had kicked my competitive nature into overdrive. Car or not, I was determined to win this thing—just to prove I could.

  Finally, we managed to make it all the way to the last match. Britt and I lo
oked like we’d been cast in a zombie movie or something—we were so splotched and covered in paint. It was everywhere; in my hair, all over my bare skin, and I was fairly certain some of it had managed to creep into my underwear somehow. I couldn’t wait to hit the shower. I hoped this stuff would come off easily.

  The two people we were facing didn’t look nearly as bad as we did. This made me nervous because it could only mean they hadn’t fallen as much as we had. Both the guy and the girl were in pretty good shape. Our work was cut out for us.

  “Chase,” Britt said, catching my attention.

  “Yeah?”

  “Kiss me for good luck.”

  I grinned and wrapped my painted limbs around her, pulling her close and giving her a resounding, full kiss—one which started the onlookers cheering and catcalling. She wrapped her arms around me and kissed me vigorously, and I couldn’t help my widening smile as the crowd started chanting, “Walker, Walker, Walker,” over and over again.

  “I think you’re the crowd favorite to win,” Brittney said as she pulled away, laughing.

  “We are the crowd favorite to win. Come on, let’s finish this and take your car home. I’m tired.”

  “Deal.”

  We stepped onto the mat and shook the hands of our opponents, named Ryan and Megan.

  “So, I’m guessing this is your girlfriend,” Ryan said as he turned to Brittney.

  “Nah, she’s my sister,” I replied, deadpan.

  Ryan’s head snapped in my direction, his eyes wide.

  “Gotcha,” I said, snapping my fingers, hoping maybe I’d thrown him off his mental game a bit.

  He laughed. “You did there for a second. I guess it was kind of a dumb question. Megan is my girlfriend as well, and we are both big fans of yours. It’s a pleasure to umm . . . twist with you tonight.”

  “Thanks, man—I think.” I shook my head, chuckling at how perverse that sounded.

  The whistle blew, and the game began.

  “Right hand, green.” Great, we were going to have to bend over already.

  “Left foot, blue.” Stretched clear across the mat.

  “Left hand, yellow.” Getting increasingly difficult as we scrambled for placement.

  “Right foot, red.”

  Megan went down, and I felt a moment of elation when the judge called her out. Two of us against one—this game was ours. My confidence was shattered in the next moment as I heard Britt yelp behind me.

  “No!” she exclaimed.

  “Out!” the judge called.

  Shoot! It was down to us guys. I had to win this car for Brittney. It would kill her if we got this close only to lose now.

  “Right hand, red,” the next position was called, and Ryan and I continued to battle for several turns until we were both in a precariously balanced position. My limbs were shaking with effort as I tried to hold my spot. I could also feel his trembling where we had contact.

  His hand slipped a little, causing more of his weight to fall onto me since he was angled across my back. My grip slid and I fell, unable to hold it any longer, and Ryan collapsed on top of me. A collective gasp rang through the crowd. I’d lost.

  “Good game, man,” Ryan said, holding out his hand and helping me to my feet. “I’m sorry about that. My slipping caused you to fall, I think.”

  “No worries. I hit the ground first. Rules are rules.”

  “We have a winner folks,” Irene’s voice came through the loud speaker.

  “I’m so sorry,” I said as I approached Brittney. “I really tried.”

  “It wasn’t your fault,” she said, wrapping her arms around me and kissing my now paint covered lips.

  “Can I have Ryan and Megan, and Chase and Brittney come here please?” Irene asked.

  I grabbed Brittney’s hand, and the four of us walked over together.

  “We’d like to thank everyone for participating tonight. It’s been a fun event! What did you think of the last match?”

  There was a burst of cheers and applause from the crowd.

  “What many of you failed to notice, was Ryan and Megan didn’t participate in all the matches. That’s because they’re ringers from the car dealership we slipped in to make things a bit more fun. So, that means, Chase and Brittney, you’re the winners of the new car!”

  “What?” Brittney exclaimed before throwing her arms around me and jumping up and down. “Oh my gosh! We did it, we did it, we did it!”

  “I’d say that deserves another kiss. Don’t you think so?”

  The crowd roared its approval, and even if they hadn’t, nothing was gonna stop me from kissing my girl.

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  “I have half a mind to make you personally scrub off every bit of paint left on me when we get home. I’ve been in the dang shower for almost forty-five minutes trying to remove all this stuff. There’s still some in my hair. Thank goodness they used water based paint.”

  Brittney laughed and reached up to ruffle her fingers along the top of my head. “I think the paint flecks look good. It’s like rainbow colored dandruff.”

  “You aren’t helping things. I don’t want dandruff of any color, and your hair looks as bad as mine does.”

  She giggled and wrapped her arms around my neck, popping up on her tiptoes to kiss me lightly. “Relax. Someone told me you can rub olive oil through your hair, and it will strip the paint off.”

  “Well, then I say we stop by a store on the way home and pick some up.”

  “I’ll be driving my new car home, remember?” She dangled the keys happily in front of me.

  “That’s right. Are you going to follow me to the store?”

  “Would you mind getting it? Tana is dying to see the car. I told her I’d hurry.”

  “It’d probably be for the best anyway. You shouldn’t be driving it all over the place until you get your insurance set up. I can help you do that tomorrow.”

  “Thank you again, Chase. You know, technically this car belongs to you as much as it does to me. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

  I pulled her against me. “Nah, I want you to have it. I have my truck, and besides, you deserve it.” I brushed my thumb over some yellow paint specks on her face, which gave her the appearance of having light freckles. “I love you.”

  “I love you too.” She rose and pressed her lips to mine. I didn’t think I’d ever get enough kisses from her. Every second I spent with her tied her further to my heart. I slid a hand into her hair, holding her mouth to mine as our tongues met, leaning together as we feathered light strokes over one another.

  We broke apart and I grinned. “You better get going. I’ve been twisted up with you on this grass all night. I have no problem doing it again.”

  She smiled. “I thought you were cold.”

  “You took care of that.”

  “Hmm.” She bit her lip and cast a suggestive look over me.

  “Leave,” I ordered, pointing to her new vehicle.

  She sighed and started walking away. “Okay, but maybe we can pick up where we left off when you get home?”

  “Most definitely.”

  “See you in a few.”

  “Hey. I’ll be a little while, okay? I’ve got to gas up my truck before I go to the store and run by Coach’s office. He asked me to come sign some papers tonight. He said he’d be in until eleven o’clock.”

  “Don’t keep me waiting too long.”

  “I’ll be there as fast as I can.” I watched as she started her car, and when she drove past, she gave an excited wave, pure joy written on her face.

  “Hi, Coach. Sorry I’m late getting here. I got sidetracked tonight.”

  He glanced at me. “Painting something?”

  I chuckled. “Not exactly. I’ve been helping my girlfriend win a car.”

  “Ah! The sorority event they held tonight. I remember hearing something about it. So you won?”

  “We did, thank goodness. It’ll make wearing this paint around for the next week wor
th it.”

  He laughed. “I’m sure it’ll help. Have a seat.”

  I did as he asked, wondering what was going on.

  “As you know, both Matt and Jared confessed to being involved with setting you up. There was a hearing between the school board and their lawyer, and there’s been a plea bargain of sorts. The school agreed to expel them in lieu of pressing formal charges of tampering and harassment. They still have to go through a regular hearing to see what their legal punishment will be, but as far as the school is concerned, this ends our involvement in the case. In regards to you, the school would like you to sign a document stating you know nothing of, nor have you participated in the use or sale of illegal substance while a part of this institution. If you’ll agree, then the school’s investigative proceedings will be closed, and we can wash our hands and move on.”

  “Where do I sign?” I answered immediately. I was anxious to get this over with.

  Coach relaxed visibly. “I have the statement here.” He slid a manila folder across his desk, handing me a pen also.

  I leaned forward and read through the document before I signed and slid it toward him. He checked it while I glanced around the room at the numerous triangular football banners which hung about the windows of the room. There were several trophies from various season and events displayed in a case behind his desk. I wondered if we’d ever get anything like that this year.

  “This is good,” he replied, sliding the folder into his desk. “I appreciate your willingness to cooperate. I didn’t want you to feel like you were getting shortchanged.”

  “I don’t feel that way at all. I’m happy to be done with it.”

  “Hopefully the two of them have learned their lesson and won’t bother you anymore.”

  “I agree. That would be nice.”

  “So are you feeling pretty comfortable with everyone else on the team? As odd as this may sound to a guy your age—we don’t tolerate bullying here. I want to make sure you aren’t feeling threatened in any way.

  “No one’s bothering me.”

  “You sure? I noticed Brubaker seems to rub you pretty hard.”

  “Nothing but healthy rivalry, Coach. He’s just upset I got picked as the starter instead of him. Don’t talk to him about it. The competition helps keep me on my toes.”

 
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