Finding chase, p.6
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       Finding Chase, p.6

           Lacey Weatherford
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  Brett appeared from our door rubbing his face, still dressed in his clothes from yesterday, followed by a bleary eyed Tana. “What’s going on?” he asked.

  “I found your sister and Chase together,” Matt spat.

  “No you didn’t,” Brittney quickly said. “You found me thanking Chase for his help. He heard me crying and came to check on me.”

  “She was crying because she saw you making out with some bimbo at The Devil’s Pit last night,” I added, twisting his arm higher. “Who needs to be punched now? Say the word, Britt.”

  “No. Let him go. I can deal with this.”

  I pushed away as I released him, feeling my emotions boiling to the surface.

  Matt slowly turned around, rubbing his arm as he took in our angry faces before finally settling on Brittney’s.

  “Brittney, I . . .”

  “Save it, Matt. Your actions spoke loud enough. We’re through.” She folded her arms as she stared at him.

  “Just like that?” he asked incredulously.

  “Just like that.”

  “We’ve been together for over two years now. I can’t believe you’d throw it away because of one small indiscretion.”

  I wanted to pound his face, but I remained still.

  “How do I know it’s only been one? That’s the thing—if it’s been one, it could be more. It violated my trust in you, and now I can’t believe anything you say. You could’ve been hooking up with people this whole time.”

  “So could you. We all know Walker’s been desperate to get into your pants from the first day he saw you.”

  I immediately jumped forward. “You son-of-a . . .”

  “Chase!” Brittney stepped between us, pushing me backward, and I was surprised how strong she was. “I’ve got this.” She turned to face Matt. “Everyone here knows that’s not true, Matt. Chase was always crazy about Nikki. He never made any kind of advances toward me. That’s the difference between you and me—if he had shown interest, I would’ve broken up with you before I moved on to him. I’m not a cheater.”

  “Whatever. Just stay clear of me. All of you.” He started walking toward the stairs.

  “See you at practice, Matt.” I couldn’t help adding the goad. I’d be more than happy to take out my aggression on the field.

  He paused for a moment, glancing back to glare at me, before he turned and headed down the steps out of site.

  Tana wrapped her arms around Brittney. “Are you going to be okay, sweetie?” she crooned.

  “Yeah,” Brittney replied, glancing at me as a few tears ran down her cheeks.

  “Good riddance, if you ask me,” Brett grumbled.

  “No one asked you,” Tana snapped before steering Brittney toward the apartment they shared.

  “Come on, Brett. Let the girls work it out together before we mess things up worse.”

  He nodded, and we walked inside our apartment.

  I shook my head. “First two weeks here, and people are already in beds they don’t belong in.”

  He laughed. “In my defense, Tana and I fell asleep together on the couch watching a movie. We were trying to be super quiet so we wouldn’t wake you.”

  “Well, I wasn’t here. I was asleep in your sister’s bed.”

  “I’m not sure how I feel about that,” he said, eyeing me.

  “I’m not sure how I feel about it either, but if you’re going to hit me, can you wait until I get up again? I’m going back to bed to see if I can start this day over.” I pushed open my door and walked in.


  “Yeah?” I turned to find him standing inside.

  “Do you like, Brittney? I mean in that way?”

  My breath caught, and I suddenly felt like a ball of nerves about to explode. “I don’t know how to answer your question right now.”

  He nodded and stayed there for a second staring.

  “Was there something else?” I asked.

  He sighed. “No, not really. I only wanted you to know I’m cool with it if you do decide you like her. She can’t do any better than you. If I’m being honest . . . I’ve kinda been hoping something might eventually happen between you two.” He moved into the hall, shutting the door behind him and left me staring at the spot where he’d stood a moment ago.

  I took a step backward and sat heavily on my bed before leaning my elbows on my knees and thrusting my hands into my hair.

  What the hell was happening?

  Chapter Nine

  It had been a week, and I didn’t know how much longer I could manage to avoid her. I’d thrown myself into football practice with a vengeance. Matt never made any attempt to egg me on, other than to give me vicious looking stares. Part of the reason may have been there were strict no tolerance policies regarding fighting amongst team players. If we did it, we risked getting kicked off the team, but whatever, Matt wasn’t my problem.

  I’d gone home for the weekend and moped around, spending a good chunk of time sitting by Nikki’s grave while I tried to decipher the crazy dream I’d had about her and Brittney. I didn’t dream of her often, and when I did, it was usually some sort of nightmare involving her car accident. But even those dreams had faded after a few months. I’d never had a dream like this before.

  While I wasn’t sure I believed in messages from beyond the grave, this dream had certainly seemed to carry one. It had opened my eyes to something I’d refused to acknowledge . . . something I was still having difficulty acknowledging.

  It wasn’t possible for me to have feelings for Brittney. My heart wasn’t in my chest anymore. It was buried in a grave next to the girl I loved, and I didn’t need anyone else in my life. I’d had my chance at real love and was content to live with the memory of it forever. The few months we’d been together had filled me with enough warmth to last a lifetime.

  Sure, I felt like the sun would never shine again, but knowing I’d held its heat for one brief moment made it worth it. I knew if I had the chance to live it all over again—knowing what the outcome would be and the pain I would suffer—I’d do it in a heartbeat. Only this time I’d make sure every single moment was counted and enjoyed to the fullest possible measure.

  Brittney. Her face resurfaced in my mind for the millionth time. Images of the two of us in her bed flashed through as well. I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter—tried to tell myself the strangeness I felt was simply the result of waking up in bed with her. Any red-blooded guy would’ve been turned on a little, not just me. She was Brittney . . . one of my best friends. I couldn’t feel that way about her; I shouldn’t feel that way about her.

  My phone rang, and I picked it up out of the cup holder next to me. “Hello?”

  “You almost home?” Brett’s voice said.

  “Yeah, coming in on Country Club now, about to get on the freeway. Why?”

  “The girls and I are getting ready to head to dinner and thought we’d wait for you if you were close.”

  I hesitated. I was starving. “No thanks, man. Go without me. I’m beat. I’ve been helping my mom set up her things at Greg’s this weekend, and Grandpa had me weed the vegetable garden for Grandma. I think I’ll go straight to bed, so I won’t be tired for practice tomorrow.”

  “It’s like five P.M., bro. You’re turning into a grandma yourself if you’re going to bed this early. Come eat with us.”

  I laughed, nestling the phone against my shoulder as I quickly checked my side mirror and switched lanes. “Grandma or not, I can still kick your butt any day of the week.”

  “That may be true, but even old ladies need to eat.”

  “I’m okay. I’ll grab a sandwich before bed if I need to. Have fun. Tell the girls hi,” I added hoping not to seem standoffish.

  “Will do. Catch you later.”

  I sighed as I tossed the phone back into the cup holder, feeling like the biggest jerk in the world. I knew I needed to stop moping around at some point and face things in my life, but I didn’t feel ready to take that leap yet.
  I wasn’t stupid. I knew Nikki was never coming back, no matter how much I hoped and wished for it. No matter how much I loved her and wanted her, we were done—through. Fate made the choice for us, and there was nothing I could do about it. I knew I needed to move forward, but I didn’t want to. I’d been happy where I was—well, sort of.

  My thoughts continued to eat at me as I drove my truck down the now-familiar route to my apartment. I parked in the numbered space reserved for my vehicle and grabbed my duffle bag from the passenger seat before I hopped out.

  I slowly made my way up the stairs, pausing on the top step of the second floor landing when I saw Brittney sitting on my doorstep. She was staring at me, and I couldn’t read the expression on her face.

  “Hey, Britt. How are you?” I asked, my mouth going dry. Even dressed casually in shorts and a t-shirt with her hair pulled back, she was still extremely pretty.

  She stood without speaking and opened the door to my apartment, going inside. I followed after—so much for avoiding her. She didn’t look too happy. Instantly I worried maybe something had happened with Matt while I was gone.

  “Is everything okay?” I asked, tossing my stuff on the floor when she flopped down onto the couch. I sat in the chair to her left—distance was a good thing. “Brett called and said you were all going to dinner. What happened?”

  She sighed as she toyed with the frayed edge of her cutoff shorts. “I asked them to leave me behind when they said you weren’t coming. I’m tired of being the third wheel tagging along with them all the time. Things aren’t as fun when you aren’t there.”

  I hadn’t considered that when I’d been ditching her. I hadn’t meant to make her uncomfortable.

  She looked up, her expression hurt. “Why are you avoiding me?”

  I didn’t know what to say.

  “I’ve gone over things in my head a billion times, trying to figure out how I might have offended you, and I can’t think of anything,” she continued. “Something is different, and it has been ever since you spent the night with me. I mean, I understand if the whole argument with Matt put you off, and you don’t want to be caught in the middle of it, but he hasn’t tried to call me since then. Brett says there haven’t been any issues at practice, so I’m not sure what else is going on. You took off this weekend without asking the rest of us if we wanted a ride home, and then you backed out of dinner as soon as you returned. There’s no way you’re that tired. You spent half of last week holed up in your room sleeping. You didn’t do anything with us.”

  She stopped, clearly waiting for me to say something.

  “Sorry, Britt. I’ve had some things I’ve been trying to work through. I didn’t mean to upset you.” I took my ball cap off and rubbed my head, knowing I was making a bigger mess of things.

  “I told you that you could come talk to me about things. You seemed so much better, and then all of a sudden you’re avoiding us again. Why can’t you talk to me like before? I want to help. That’s what friends do for each other.”

  I grunted in frustration, more of a feeble attempt to laugh really. “I know, and I appreciate it. This was just something I needed to try and figure out on my own.”

  “Did you?” she asked.

  “Did I what?”

  “Get it figured out?”

  I stared, my gaze resting on her appealing mouth before I quickly looked down, only to find it settling on the rest of her perfectly curved form. “No, I didn’t,” I replied with a sigh as I slumped in the chair. I was clearly attracted to her. I’d been happy for one second when I’d seen her there, on the doorstep. This was extremely irritating. I couldn’t feel this way. Her friendship was invaluable right now. I didn’t want to mess it up by coming on to her. Hell, I wasn’t sure if she liked me at all. Plus, I felt like I was cheating on Nikki in the worst way by entertaining these ideas in my head.

  “Is there anything I can do to help?” She appeared truly concerned.

  I gave a wry smile and chuckled mostly to myself. “Nope. I think you’re . . . you’re doing good just like you are.” Sitting up quickly, I patted her on the knee in what I hoped was a reassuring gesture and got up, grabbing my bag off the floor. I went to my room, dropping it onto my bed and unzipped it. I began putting away the clean clothes my mom washed for me while I was home.

  She stepped inside my door, taking a few steps toward me, and I tried, unsuccessfully, not to feel excited she was there. “If nothing is wrong, then why do you keep leaving when I’m around? Seriously, I’m starting to feel like you’re mad at me or something.”

  “I’m not mad at you, Britt, okay? Let’s leave it at that.” I yanked a shirt over the hanger in my hand and took it to my closet before repeating the action.

  “You’re acting like you are.” She was biting her lip in a worried gesture when I glanced at her.

  “Well, I don’t mean to.” I reached into the bag for another shirt, pausing when I felt her hand on my arm.

  “Please tell me what’s wrong.”

  She was too close. I could smell the perfume she wore, and the soft scent called to me. I clenched my hands, balling them into fists as I closed my eyes, fighting the temptation.


  I lost the battle with that one word. I turned around, grabbed her face and kissed her, pressing my mouth hard and fast to hers before breaking away, stumbling a step backward.

  She looked at me in shock, her trembling hand moving to brush against her lips.

  “Go ahead. Yell at me. Tell me what a jerk I am for stealing a kiss. I deserve it. I need to hear it.” I glared, straightening my spine—ready for her attack.

  She moved toward me, looking me straight in the eyes. “I can’t.” She slid her arms around my neck and popped up on her tiptoes to kiss me again.

  I groaned as I relented, wrapping my arms around her. This couldn’t happen now. I was too needy, and I craved the feeling she was giving me. I crushed her body to mine, as our mouths tangled together, heat and passion running furiously to the surface between us. I felt her fingers digging into my skin, my shirt bunching beneath them. I broke from our embrace and pulled it over my head dropping it to the floor before stepping into the circle of her arms again, loving the feel of her hands sliding up against my bare skin. I pushed her back, brushing my bag off the bed before the two of us toppled together onto the soft mattress.

  The sensible side of my brain was screaming obscenities, trying to stop me, but I didn’t want to. I hadn’t been with a girl in well over a year. I was tired of waiting, of feeling alone. I’d waited for Nikki, and look where it had gotten me. I was going to lose myself for a while in the arms of Brittney.

  I broke away from her mouth, trailing kisses down her neck, along with a few nips against her skin. My hand slid up under her shirt, feeling the smooth satin of her stomach as I feathered kisses against her collarbone. Pushing her shirt farther out of the way, I trailed my tongue down to her belly button, and she arched against me.

  “Chase,” she breathed. “Chase, wait.”

  I didn’t want her to stop me. “Shhh. It’ll be fine, Nikki . . .”

  She stiffened, and I froze in horror as I realized what I’d said.

  I punched the wall, and she gave a slight shriek as I got off the bed. I grabbed my shirt off the floor and threw it back on before grabbing the keys to my truck off the dresser.

  “Where are you going?” she asked, propping up on her elbows.

  “Out. I can’t do this right now.” I headed for the door.

  “Chase wait!” she called.

  I spun around. “You wanted to know what the problem is? Well, there it is. I’m attracted to you, but I’m still in love with her! What am I supposed to do with that?”

  Her eyes were wide and round. “I . . . I don’t know.”

  “Well, neither do I.” I slammed the door on my way out. I left the apartment, and ran down to my truck, peeling out of the parking lot. I tried to calm my raging hormones as I drove—I was
so turned on I could hardly see straight.

  My tires squealed into the parking lot of the gym, and I jumped out and ran inside. I went to the first available punching bag and started hitting it as hard as I could, not caring who was there or watching. All the blind rage that needed venting spilled from me as I hammered away, slamming my fists into the bag. It swung about wildly as I pummeled it over and over. The skin on my knuckles split open, leaving blood smears behind, but I kept going, too pissed off to stop.

  I hated myself for betraying both Nikki and Brittney with my actions. I didn’t deserve either of them. Everything inside me was too dark, tainted with something that smothered the good it touched. People like me didn’t deserve to be happy, which is why I lost everyone I cared about. Well, if I was going to lose Brittney, it would be because she was angry with me, not because she was dead. I was determined to never allow myself such close attachment to another person that losing them would destroy me this badly.

  Sweat dripped down my face as I poured all my exertion into beating the swinging device as if my life depended on it. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep going until I couldn’t feel anything. I needed to find that place of blissful numbness once again.

  There was no way for me to tell how long I’d been there when strong arms wrapped around me, pulling me away from the bloody bag. “That’s enough slugger. It’s dead now. It’s dead.” Brett’s voice said softly.

  I dropped to the mat, breathing heavily. The area had cleared but several of my teammates stood around the edges of the room casting cautious glances at me. I wondered which of them had called Brett.

  He settled down next to me. “Talk to me, Chase. What can I do for you, bro?”

  I felt like I was going to start sobbing. “Get me some damn blunt,” I croaked. “I can’t take this shit anymore.”

  Chapter Ten

  I was in bed with the covers over my head in an attempt to block the brightly shining sun. I didn’t have practice this afternoon, and I was determined to stay inside as long as possible. There was no way I was going to risk running into Brittney, who’d managed to safely vacate my room before Brett returned home with me last night.

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