Finding chase, p.8
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       Finding Chase, p.8

           Lacey Weatherford
 
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  She shook her head. “No. I was too chicken to try it after my older brother went on a class trip and broke his leg. He’s super athletic, and I’m not. I figured I better not risk it.”

  I briefly admired her form. “You must be doing something to stay in shape. You look pretty good to me.”

  She smiled, her cheeks pinking slightly. “Thanks. I use my bike to get around most of the time. It’s cheaper than paying for gas.”

  “Well, it’s working for you. I totally understand about gas prices. They suck. You’ve probably saved a lot of money by doing that.” We weren’t really talking about anything particularly important, but she seemed easy to get along with.

  “It’s helps significantly, plus it’s good for me.” She paused, giving me a perusing glance. “So you play football. Tell me about that. I’m assuming you’ve been doing it a while.”

  “I’ve played contact football since I was four years old. My dad thought it would build character.”

  “Well, since you have a full-ride scholarship to ASU, you must be awesome. Those are hard to get.”

  I shrugged. “I’m okay, I guess.”

  “Don’t let him fool you. He’s the bombdiggity when it comes to football players,” Brittney broke in. I hadn’t been aware she was listening. “He was named State Player of the Year in his division. His stats are incredible. Trust me when I say he’s the best of the best.”

  I laughed. “I’ve paid her to be my personal cheerleader. You can’t believe a word she says.”

  “Whatever,” Brittney replied, rolling her eyes. “He’s trying to be modest. I promise you he will knock your socks off. I could watch him play all day long and never get tired of it.” She grabbed my hand and squeezed it, staring into my eyes. “Admit it—you’re the best.”

  “That remains to be seen. My coaches haven’t named any positions yet, and as a freshman, there’s a good chance I won’t get the starter spot.”

  “Where do you play?” Jennifer asked.

  “He’s the quarterback,” Brittney responded before I could open my mouth. “And mark my words . . . he’ll be the starter.”

  “Wow. That’s amazing,” Jennifer said, sounding truly impressed.

  I couldn’t stop staring at Brittney. “I had no idea you were such a fan.”

  She smiled and gripped my hand harder. “I’m your biggest fan. Don’t ever forget it.”

  Something inside me flipped around, and my pulse sped up. I liked hearing her talk like this. Now if I could only make her see how well we could work together. “I won’t. I think you’re pretty great too.”

  “Aw, we’re having a BFF moment. How sweet!” She gave me a quick hug and turned around to talk to Jeff before I could respond. What I was feeling had nothing to do with being best friends.

  “I knew you two were acquainted, but I didn’t realize you were so close,” Jennifer said as Jeff steered the boat into a small cove nestled into the rocky canyon.

  “Her twin brother is my best buddy, and she was best friends with my girlfriend too. We’ve hung around together a lot. She’s a great girl.”

  “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her through work. She’s very sweet.”

  “I would have to agree.” Plus she’s a fabulous kisser, I mentally added. I snuck a peek at her skimpily clad form once again, remembering how silky her skin had felt against me during those all-too-brief moments in my bed. I wondered if she’d ever be there again.

  “So what are you going to major in?” Jennifer asked, redirecting my attention.

  “Sports medicine, I think. Mostly, I’m doing the general education thing right now—getting the required stuff out of the way.”

  “Do you hope to continue playing football after college?”

  “That’s my dream—yes. I’ve wanted to play pro for as long as I can remember. Hopefully, I’ll be good enough to make it there.”

  “I hope you can too. It would be awesome. Then I could say I knew you when.” She laughed, and I smiled.

  “Maybe. What are you studying?”

  “Culinary Arts with a minor in small business management. I want my own restaurant someday.”

  “Really? I’m guessing you cook then.”

  She laughed. “When I’m not reading, I love to cook. Then I like to read while I’m eating what I made.”

  “So does this have anything to do with your uncle owning a restaurant?”

  “Maybe. It does sort of run in the family. We have a lot of good cooks.”

  “What kind of place do you want to open?”

  “Definitely an Italian place. I want to live abroad for a few months and go to a culinary school in Italy after I graduate here.”

  “So you want to be one of those fancy chefs then?”

  She shook her head. “No. I want to perfect the home-grown taste. Things like you’d find in those cozy authentic bistro kinds of places. I want that homey old-world type of feel, full of warmth, laughter, and really good food.” Her face was totally lit up as she described it, and I could picture exactly what she was talking about. It made me hungry.

  “Well, I’m sold. Tell me when you open for business, and I’ll be there.”

  She grinned widely and shoved me playfully. “Quit teasing. I know I sound crazy, but it does excite me.”

  “I’m not joking in the least,” I replied. “You painted the picture well. I’d take you to the car right now if we could find a place like that to eat. I skipped breakfast.” I glanced around. “Of course there’s the minor problem of all this water. I’m not too big on swimming back to the marina.”

  “Good thing we brought lots of food then, huh?”

  “A very good thing.” I smiled and she returned it.

  “I think I like you,” she said. “You’re fun. I’m glad. I wasn’t too sure about coming today.”

  Jeff anchored the boat next to a small dock, which ran into the cove, and I stood and offered my hand, helping her up onto the platform.

  “I’m happy I made a good first impression. To be honest, I feel a bit out of my element when it comes to dating these days.”

  She linked her arm through mine. “Don’t worry. You’re doing fine.”

  I cast a glance at Jeff and Brittney setting up a picnic area, the two of them laughing together. I sighed. Today was bound to be interesting.

  Chapter Twelve

  The campfire crackled, and the smell of the roasted marshmallows and chocolate in the air was great. We were worn out from a fabulous day of water skiing, swimming, laughing, and generally having a great time.

  I was trying really hard to concentrate on what Jennifer was saying while she made the s’mores, but my eyes kept drifting to where Jeff and Brittney lay together on a blanket. He was holding her in his arms and placing soft tender kisses on her face.

  They liked each other. It was killing me.

  I had to hand it to Brittney. She’d been true to her word when she said she was going to pretend like nothing had happened between us. I had no idea how she was in such control of her feelings. I was in complete turmoil inside, torn between wanting to kick the crap out of Jeff before dragging Brittney away, and actually paying attention to Jennifer because there was honestly something I liked about her too.

  The other couples had wandered off to their own dark corners, leaving Jennifer and I together at the campfire making our dessert.

  I had fun with her today, and enjoyed trying to teach her how to ski. She’d managed to get up on her skis occasionally, but spent most of her time being dragged behind the boat instead. The new joke was that she’d been paired with the ex-lifeguard for a reason.

  She was a great sport, I thought, even when she lost her bikini top in the water. I fetched it while she attempted to keep herself covered and helped her get it back on. She’d been bright red with embarrassment. I hadn’t minded one bit. She was a beautiful girl, and I enjoyed looking at her. If Brittney weren’t in the picture, I’d already be planning when I could ask her out again.
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  “Here you go,” she said, breaking into my musings. She held the gooey treat up to my mouth, and I took a bite, chewing slowly. “How is it?”

  I closed my eyes and finished it, swallowing before I answered. “Pretty good. I can see why you’re gonna be a chef.”

  She snorted. “I don’t think s’mores qualify as cooking.” She popped the rest into her mouth.

  “Sure they do. You don’t want to overcook the marshmallow, or leave the chocolate too hard. That’s important.”

  “I didn’t realize I was with a s’more connoisseur.” She laughed as she licked her lips for stray marshmallow.

  “I take my dessert very seriously,” I replied with a deadpan expression, and she giggled. “Here, you missed a spot.” I ran my finger under her lip where she had some smeared, holding it up for her to see.

  She studied it briefly before wrapping her lips around my finger and licking it clean. I sat there, stunned, as I watched, and suddenly I was very turned on. She pulled away and stared at me, firelight caressing her features.

  I was frozen as I stared, wondering what she’d do next.

  She leaned in close, her gaze falling to my mouth. “I want to kiss you, Chase. Is that okay?” she whispered.

  I held my breath for several seconds before I nodded.

  She closed the distance between us, her lips gently touching mine, pressing there for a few moments before she pulled back, looking at me innocently.

  Breathe, I reminded myself. You’ve done this before.

  “Let’s go for a walk,” I said, standing to offer her my hand. She took it, and I steered her toward the dock.

  “Where we going?” she asked.

  “I thought we could enjoy the moonlight on the water better away from the fire.”

  “Sounds nice.”

  She sat down with me when we reached the end, both of us dangling our feet in the lake.

  “It’s really pretty out here,” she said.

  I nodded.

  “I hope I didn’t offend you a moment ago.”

  I was confused. “Offend me?”

  “By asking you if I could kiss you.” She smiled softly, and again I was struck by the resemblance to Nikki.

  I glanced away. I wanted to like her for her, not because of a ghost tormenting my every waking moment. It wouldn’t be fair.

  “Chase?”

  “Yeah?” I turned to face her.

  “Your lips were really nice.” She tucked a hair behind her ear. “I liked it.” She smiled shyly again.

  I was losing this battle. I slid my hands to both sides of her face and kissed her hard, abruptly. She responded willingly, arms wrapped around me, grasping tightly, nails grazing the bare skin of my back. I groaned as I sank against her, completely immersing myself. I didn’t want to analyze why I was kissing her, I just wanted to do it . . . to lose myself with her these few moments. I was tired of feeling lonely. I needed to be with someone again, even if it was for all the wrong reasons.

  I slid off the dock, into the cool water, pulling her with me so we were out of view of the others, and I attacked her mouth again. She wrapped her arms around my neck, standing tiptoe to keep her head out of the water.

  “Wrap your legs around me,” I instructed, knowing I could hold her up easier.

  “I have a better idea,” she said, looking toward the boat. I watched as she climbed the step at the rear, and then followed after her. From one of the bench seats she pulled a blanket and laid it on the floor. She sat and patted the space next to her. “How’s this?”

  I grinned. “I like the way you think.” I slipped down beside her, and she wrapped her arms around me again, and we moved together until I was lying on the floor with her above me.

  We spent several breathless moments together, exploring the newness of one another before she slipped to my side and laid her head against my shoulder. I stared at the stars overhead as I tried to calm my breathing.

  “That was fun,” she whispered and I smiled.

  “It was. Why’d you stop?”

  “Because . . .” She hesitated. “I figured this is probably the first time you’ve kissed a girl since your . . . well . . . your girlfriend. I didn’t want you to feel rushed into anything.”

  My thoughts instantly went—not to Nikki—but the burning kisses I’d shared with Brittney. The image of her lying on the bed beneath me was forever seared into my mind. I saw it every night before I fell asleep. This was probably not the time to bring that up.

  “What’re you thinking about?” she asked, shifting uncomfortably, and I scrambled to think of something.

  “How much fun I’ve had today. It’s been a long time coming.”

  She smiled and traced a finger in a circle over one of my pecs before drawing down to my abs. “I hope I had something to do with that.”

  “You did.” I grinned as I reached down, arresting her traveling finger and twisting it with my own. I took a deep breath, preparing to take the plunge. “How’d you like to do something with me next week? Maybe see a movie or something.” I wasn’t sure if I was really ready for this step, and I didn’t know if she was the right person to take it with, but I figured it was the least I owed her after making out like we had. I wasn’t sure if I was asking her for her, though, if she reminded me of Nikki—or if I was trying to forget about Brittney being currently wrapped in someone else’s arms. I sighed. When did life get so complicated?

  “I’d love to go out with you again. What day?”

  Well, I was committed now. “Hmm. I have practice most afternoons, but we are usually done by six. Maybe Thursday at seven?”

  “Thursday is perfect.” She squeezed my fingers.

  “What movie do you want to see?”

  “I’ll let you pick. Surprise me.”

  I chuckled. “Okay, but as you stated before, I’m rusty at this, so you can’t be mad at me if I mess things up.”

  She laughed. “You won’t. I can’t imagine you messing anything up. You’re too nice.”

  I eyed her down. “You should know I have serious issues with the word ‘nice.’ It usually doesn’t mean anything good.”

  “Okay then, how about you’re too sweet?”

  I groaned. “You really aren’t helping my ego.”

  She giggled and shifted so she was leaning over me. “All right. Then how about you’re too much of a stud?”

  “Much better.” I grinned, and her lips met mine once again.

  My mood was beyond foul today. I was currently releasing that aggression during practice drills. I stepped from the pocket and threw the ball as hard as I could toward the receiver, hitting him with a firm smack against his pads. He made another “oomph” sound, catching it this time, and started running the other direction.

  Coach Bell blew the whistle. “Set it up again.”

  “Will you take it easy, Walker?” the receiver, Jared Webber, grumbled as he returned. “What crawled up your butt and died today? Geez.”

  “You take care of your job, and let me take care of mine,” I snapped, grabbing another ball and getting into position.

  He glared at me. “I could if you’d quit being such a damn diva.”

  I straightened shuffling the football between my hands and took a step toward him. “Well, if you’d learn how to catch this without dropping it sixty percent of the time, I wouldn’t have to teach your pansy ass how it’s done, now would I?”

  He ran at me, lifting his fist into the air, but Brett and several others from the line stepped in front of me, keeping him away.

  I grinned and continued tossing the ball as if I didn’t have a care in the world. “Rule number one for the line. Never let them touch your quarterback. Sucks to be you right now, doesn’t it?”

  Jared struggled against the guys who held him, his face red with fury. “This is only practice. On this field you’re just another stupid freshman—lower than shit. And no one has named you the quarterback yet.”

  I stared him square in the e
ye. “They will.”

  He shoved at Brett, pushing past. “Not if I kick your sorry punk ass so bad you can’t play anymore.”

  He got within a foot of me before he was tackled to the ground, spewing more foul obscenities for everyone to hear.

  The coach blew his whistle loudly, and everyone stopped. I noticed Matt standing in the background, observing me with a scowl. I sent a sarcastic wink in his direction, and he flipped me off.

  “Jared, you’re excused to turn your gear in.”

  “What?” he bellowed, rage mottling his face. “You’re kicking me off the team and not him?” He shoved a finger angrily in my direction.

  “There’s a no fighting policy on this team,” the coach replied, standing his ground. “We know that there will occasionally be verbal disputes, but if you start throwing punches, you’re done. Now go turn in your gear.”

  “I never hit him!” Jared yelled.

  “You intended to. That’s enough. I decide what works for my offense, and I want you off my field right now. You can go on your own, or I will call security. What’s it going to be?”

  I raised my eyebrows as I watched Coach Bell grow angrier. He was definitely intimidating, and as a burly ex-lineman himself, I certainly wouldn’t be stupid enough to mess with him.

  Jared apparently got the same impression, because he turned and strode toward the field exit. I didn’t miss Matt clapping him on the shoulder in sympathy as he walked past.

  “Walker!” Coach hollered.

  “Yes, sir?” I said, snapping to attention as if I’d joined the Marines.

  “Hit the bleachers, son, and don’t stop running ‘til I tell you it’s okay!”

  “Yes, sir!” I turned toward the stands. Damn, it was going to be a long night. Of course, I’d brought this on myself. Maybe a good exhausting run was exactly what I needed to adjust my attitude.

  I couldn’t help it. My mind had been a jumble of turmoil ever since I’d been at the lake. I shouldn’t have made out with Jennifer, especially knowing any feelings of attraction I was having for her were most likely a direct result of her similarities to my dead girlfriend. Then I had to ask her out too, digging myself in deeper. She was going to think I was really into her.

 
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