Finding chase, p.5
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       Finding Chase, p.5

           Lacey Weatherford
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  I returned my gaze to the menu. “Hmm . . . I’m not sure. The Devil Burger sounds good, and it’s their signature dish, so I might try that.”

  “It does look good.” Her eyes flicked over the page. “They have southwestern chicken wraps. I might try those. Ugh, there are too many good choices. I always get something and then wish I had something different.”

  I chuckled. “Everyone else’s plate looks better than the one you have?”

  “Exactly. Then I’m bummed because I wasted my money.”

  “Tell you what—you order your chicken wrap, I’ll order the burger, and we can share with each other. I’ll give you half of mine, if you give me half of yours.”

  Her eyes widened and she grinned. “You’d do that for me? Really?”

  “Of course I would. I can’t let you go home feeling bummed, can I? What kind of friend would I be?”

  “You could never be a bad friend, Chase. I don’t think it’s in your chemical makeup.”

  I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and gave her a brief squeeze. “I’m glad you think so. You wouldn’t have thought that if you’d known me a couple of years ago.”

  She looked like she wanted to ask me something, but the waitress brought our drinks, interrupting us. I rested my arm on the seat behind her, slouching as she took our orders. When she left, I leaned my head against the booth too.

  “Are you tired?” Brett asked.

  “Exhausted. Aren’t you? We worked out hard today. I feel like I could sleep for a year.”

  “We should’ve let you guys stay home,” Tana spoke up. “Especially since you have football practice again tomorrow. You need your rest.”

  “We’ll be okay,” Bret said. “This is nice, and we needed to eat anyway.”

  “And there’s no dishes this way,” I added.

  “Please. You both know you wouldn’t have cooked. Brett would’ve ordered a pizza if we hadn’t invited you.” Brittney smiled. “He hates to cook.”

  “You’re right.” Brett grinned. “I see a lot of pizza in our future.”

  “Well, we didn’t have any groceries to cook with anyway. We still need to go shopping tonight and get some,” I reminded.

  “Maybe we can all go after dinner then,” Tana suggested. “Britt and I need some more too.”

  “Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it.” I glanced between the twins who both nodded in agreement.

  Brittney suddenly stiffened, and I turned to follow her gaze, seeing Matt walk from the bar with his arm draped around the curvy brunette. They were laughing boisterously over something, and his hand slid down to pinch her on the rear.

  “Well, now I know what he was working on,” Brittney whispered as she watched him walk through the front door.

  “Say the word, Britt, and I’ll go out there and pound his ass.” I was pissed for her. Any guy would have to be blind not to see what a catch she was.

  “I’m right there with him,” Brett added as the four of us watched through the window. The two of them were kissing on the sidewalk as they moved toward Matt’s car. We watched them until they were out of view. I ground my teeth together—so much for no public displays of affection. Had he raised his head up for two seconds he’d have seen us gawking at them.

  “No. Leave him,” she said, and I stared at her.

  “Don’t let him treat you this way, Brittney. He doesn’t deserve you.”

  “I’m not letting him treat me this way,” she said, lifting her chin a notch. “We’re through. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

  “Please say you’re gonna let me be the one to tell him. I’d really love to punch the guy right now.”

  She smiled a bit dejectedly, and patted me gently on the leg. “Thanks, but no. He’s supposed to pick me up for breakfast tomorrow. I’ll tell him when he comes.”

  “I’m sorry, Brittney,” Tana said, hugging her best friend. “Are you okay?”

  She nodded, and grabbed her purse. “I will be, but I don’t feel much like eating right now. I think I’ll call a cab and go home, if you don’t mind.” She threw some money on the table. “That should cover my dinner.”

  “Wait,” I said, grabbing my wallet and throwing some bills down too. “Brett, there’s enough for my meal and some extra to help with groceries. If you and Tana will take care of that, I’ll make sure Brittney gets home okay. I’m beat tonight. Have them box my food, and I’ll eat it tomorrow. I can hardly stay awake.”

  “We can come now too. Are you sure?” Tana asked glancing between Brittney and me.

  “No, eat your dinner. I’m sorry I ruined everyone’s plans,” Brittney said.

  “You didn’t,” I replied, squeezing her shoulders briefly. “I’m going to get the hostess to call us a cab.”

  I left her with Brett and Tana while I walked to the hostess station for help. I saw Matt leaning against his car with the girl pinned beneath him as he kissed her. He obviously didn’t care about who saw him. Did he think he was going to get away with it?

  My hands clenched into fists, and I wished I could go yank him back by his sandy brown hair and beat his face. He stayed there long enough I worried he’d be there when our cab showed up. How would I get Brittney to the car without causing a big scene? I cast a worried glance in her direction. She was still talking to Brett and Tana. I was glad—she didn’t need to see this. Finally, Matt helped the girl into the car and quickly joined her before they drove away. Not five seconds passed before our cab pulled up.

  “Brittney,” I called, signaling to her, and she joined me. I ushered her outside and opened the door, sliding in behind her.

  “Desert Breeze Apartments near Southern and Rural Road, please,” I leaned forward and told the driver then settled into my seat. I closed my eyes and sighed deeply.

  “You really are tired, aren’t you?” she asked after a couple of minutes. “You weren’t saying that as an excuse to come with me.”

  “I’m beat,” I said with a soft chuckle. “They’ve been running us hard.” I gave her a heavily lidded stare and grinned. “Don’t think I’m a wimp now, okay?”

  “Whatever. I’d be surprised if you weren’t tired. You helped us carry in all those boxes, bags, and furniture items we bought today too.”

  “Brett seems to be fine.”

  “He didn’t carry half of what you did. Plus, he stopped and made out with Tana every time he brought something in.”

  “Disgusting,” I said with a scrunched up face.

  “Pitiful, indeed,” she added, and we both laughed, the golden glow of the streetlights brushing back and forth across us. I watched her for a few moments as the driver sped down the road, weaving through the evening traffic.

  “Aren’t we a couple of sourpuss losers?”

  “Yeah, but better a loser than having to be the one making out with Brett or Tana if you ask me.”

  “Here, here,” I replied, enjoying our banter at the expense of our friends. “That would be wrong for both of us on so many levels.” I pretended to shudder, and she laughed harder.

  The cab stopped outside our complex, I paid the driver and we got out.

  “Here’s some money for my share of the cab,” she said, handing me a few dollars.

  “Don’t worry about it. It’ll be my treat. It was totally worth the chance to hit my pillow earlier than expected.”

  She smiled, but didn’t argue as we walked up the stairs together. “Do you have your key?” she asked.

  “Yes, I do,” I replied, dangling them to show her.

  “Okay, good. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

  “Sounds like a plan. Get some rest.”

  She gave me a quick embrace, and both of us entered our apartments. I went straight to my room and sat down long enough to remove my shoes and hat before flopping onto my pillow. I stared at Nikki’s picture for a minute in the dim light and slowly let my eyes drift shut to her image.

  The air conditioning unit clicked off, and the house got really quiet. I could hea
r something strange, though, and I strained my ears trying to figure it out. I listen for several minutes to the random sounds before I finally realized what it was. Brittney’s bedroom shared a wall with mine. She was crying in her room—sobbing from the sounds of it.

  I groaned and rubbed my forehead. Damn that Matt. How could he do this to her? I was glad she was dumping him, yes, but I didn’t want to see her hurting either. I knew what it was like to lay in bed and ache for the person you wanted to be with.

  Without considering anything, I got out of bed and went next door. I tried the knob and it was open, so I walked in. I was going to have to talk to her about that. We didn’t live in the country anymore. I went to her room and knocked.

  “You decent, Britt?”

  “Yeah,” came the hiccupped reply.

  I stepped inside. The light was off, but I could see her form curled up in the corner of the bed under the far wall’s window.

  “I could hear you crying,” I explained, not knowing what else to say.

  “Sorry.” She didn’t move.

  I went over and crawled next to her, leaning against the headboard. “Come here.”

  She snuggled into my arms immediately, still crying, and I stroked her hair, trying to soothe her somehow. My eyelids grew heavier with each passing minute, and I tried to fight the exhaustion, but I couldn’t hold it back. I decided to rest my eyes for a few seconds.

  Chapter Eight

  Nikki and I were in the meadow by the creek sitting against a tree. She was wrapped in my arms, and it felt good to have her there.

  “I’ve missed you,” I said, kissing her brown hair softly as I stroked my hand over her short white sundress. We were both barefoot, and I was wearing a white button-up shirt that hung open along with a pair of kaki colored pants rolled at the cuff. I couldn’t remember where I’d gotten them—they weren’t my normal style.

  She tilted her head so she could stare at me, her brown eyes sparkling brightly. “I’ve missed you too.” Her voice was like music to my ears, a sound I could get lost in over and over again.

  “Say something else to me,” I ordered and she laughed.

  “Like what?”

  I sighed. “That was perfect. Don’t stop talking or laughing. I love the sound of your voice.” I squeezed her tighter, trying to get closer.

  “I enjoy yours too.” She slid her fingers up, tracing my lips, and I kissed them, my heart feeling like it was overflowing with joy. I’d never been as content as I was in this moment.

  “You seem happy, but your eyes look sad and guarded.” Her fingers moved their way to my brow. “Why?”

  I stilled, wondering why she would see that. “Probably because you left me. I’ve been searching for you frantically. I never thought I’d see you again.”

  She nodded, and the sparkle in her own eyes dimmed. “I know. What happened to us wasn’t very fair, was it?” She turned away slightly focusing in the direction of the creek. “Torn apart as our lives were barely beginning. I’m sorry it had to be that way.”

  “Why did it have to be that way?”

  She shrugged. “I don’t know. It just did.”

  “Well, I don’t like it. It’s been horrible without you.”

  “I know, and I’m sorry.” She scooted up, brushing her lips across mine, and I slid my hand behind her neck in an attempt to keep her there and kiss her deeper. She smiled against my mouth and relented, allowing me the access I desperately sought.

  My tongue slipped inside, touching hers, and the same old sparks exploded within me. I groaned as she moved, straddling my lap, so she was slightly above me now. Her hair fell in a dark curtain, surrounding both our faces in a little cocoon all to ourselves. It was longer than I remembered it, and I loved it.

  I slid both my hands up the sides of her face, holding her lovely cheeks while the tips of my fingers tangled near the roots of her glorious locks. She tasted incredibly sweet, and I knew she was a treat I’d never get my fill of.

  Releasing her, I trailed my fingers to her waist, rolling her over and pinning her on the ground beneath me. She laughed as I kissed my way down her neck, and I could feel her fingertips dancing down the skin of my back, underneath my unbuttoned shirt. It felt wonderful to have her touch me that way again.

  “Why’d you wait so long to come to me?” I whispered against her skin, unable to pull my lips away.

  “I’ve always been with you, Chase. You were too caught up in your own grief to notice I never left.”

  I lifted my head, pausing so I could search her eyes. “My heart has been breaking. There were days I didn’t know if I’d be able to go on.”

  She had a sad expression. “I know it’s been difficult, but you’re healing better now. That’s good to see.”

  “I’m only healing because you’re here with me again. I’m never going to let you go.”

  She didn’t speak, but the glimmer in her eyes dimmed.

  “What is it?” I asked, feeling apprehensive.

  “I can’t stay. I only came so you would know you’re on the right track.”

  “I don’t know what you mean.”

  She didn’t speak for a moment, but when she did, her fingers traced over my heart. “Stop looking at your past and the things you can’t change. They’re done and over with.” She brushed the side of my cheek. “Now is the time for you to look to the future, grasp it by the hand . . . ,”

  “. . . And decide where you want to go,” I finished for her. “I’ve read the letter you left me in your journal so many times I have that part memorized. What future, Nikki? I’m doing my best to try and understand, but I’m just going through the motions.” I stared, memorizing the planes of her beautiful face, not wanting to blink for fear she’d disappear.

  “Chase?” Another voice intruded on us, calling from a distance, and I sat up, not recognizing it at first. “Chase?”

  I looked at Nikki and smiled. “It’s Brittney. Come on. She’ll be so happy to see you.” I pulled her to her feet and started running in the direction of Brittney’s voice. I saw her standing in the middle of the field between the creek and the ranch house, her light-yellow dress blowing in the breeze around her. “Over here, Britt!” I called excitedly. “Look who’s here!”

  I turned, realizing Nikki’s hand had slipped from mine, and she was standing several feet behind me. She smiled softly, but there was a tear running down her cheek. “What’s the matter, Nikki? Don’t you want to see her?”

  “This is as far as I can go,” she said, staying where she was.

  “What do you mean?” I glanced toward Brittney then back to her, feeling confused.

  “Go to her. It’s okay.” Another tear fell, racing down her face, but she smiled wider.

  “I can’t. You’re crying. I need to stay with you.” I hurried over and grabbed her hand.

  She shook her head. “I love you more than anything. You’ll always be with me wherever I go, because I hold you in my heart. You’re a piece of my very soul.” She started to fade away.

  “Don’t leave me, Nikki. Stay here, please. I’ve tried really hard, but I can’t do this on my own.” I tried to hang on, attempting to grip her tighter.

  “You don’t have to, Chase. You’re not alone.” Her voice grew softer, carrying away on the breeze, so I had to strain to hear. “Go to her,” she whispered. “I love you. Go.”

  “Nikki! Nikki!” I bolted awake calling her name, searching the room frantically.

  “Chase? It’s okay. You were dreaming. Chase?” Brittney’s placed her hand against my heaving chest. The sheets of her bed were tangled around us, and the morning light was coming in through the window.

  “What am I doing here?” I was totally confused, staring at the images on Brittney’s wall.

  “You heard me crying last night, and you came to comfort me. Remember? I think we both fell asleep. You were really tired.” Her stare was wide and full of concern.

  “I remember.” I closed my eyes for a second, Nikk
i’s image still burning inside them. I felt Brittney’s hand stroking my stomach in a comforting gesture, immediately causing a not-so-comforting reaction. “I’ve gotta go.” I hastily threw the covers off, jumped up and hurried to the door, throwing it open as I headed down the hall.

  “Chase,” Brittney’s voice called after me as I stepped out the front door, and I paused, afraid to look at her. I closed my eyes when I felt her hands slide over my shoulders. “Are you all right? You were calling for Nikki. You sounded panicked.”

  “I . . . I . . . ” I couldn’t talk about it, not with Brittney. I wasn’t ready. “I can’t do this right now.” I stepped away.

  “Chase, will you look at me?”

  I clenched my teeth and took a breath, steeling myself as I turned. Her blonde hair was slightly tousled, and she had mascara smeared beneath her big blue eyes. She was beautiful, and I wanted to scream. When had I started noticing her this way? She was one of my best friends, nothing more.

  “I wanted to thank you for taking care of me last night. It meant a lot. I’m not sure what happened in there this morning, but if you ever need to talk, please know I’m here for you.” She stood on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around my neck.

  I slipped my arms around her loosely, not wanting to return the embrace—but wanting to at the same time. I sighed heavily as I laid my cheek against her hair. It smelled good, but not the same scent as Nikki’s.

  “Are we okay? You seem different.” She pulled away so she could look at me, and I stared into her questioning eyes, not knowing how to answer.

  “What the hell is going on here?”

  We both turned to find Matt standing there, an angry scowl across his features.

  This day was going from bad to worse, I could quickly see. I pushed Brittney behind me.

  “I always knew you were after my girl, Walker!”

  Brittney screamed as he threw his first punch, which I managed to dodge, but his second fist followed closely behind. I caught his hand and twisted it around behind him, grabbing him by the neck, shoving his face and chest against the plaster wall.

  “If anyone deserves to be hit this morning it’s you, you jackass,” I whispered in his ear.

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