Chasing Lights

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Chapter 31: New Beginnings

Florence

Present

My whole life, I loved watching the night. The way the stars glimmered in the sky would always take my breath away, would calm my chaotic soul. The moon was hiding from me today, but I still felt it, knew it was the best company I’d get. It always lingered in the distance, helped to illuminate the earth at its most peaceful time.

Only the flickering street lights distracted from the beauty above, and I sighed as my focus redirected at the path ahead of me; the Castro district of San Francisco. My fingers tightened around the tiny aloe vera plant in my hand, its clay pot a reminder that I might be a skilled mechanic, but not a great pottery maker.

It was beautiful in its own way, though. Imperfectly perfect.

The vibrating phone in my other hand startled me out of my thoughts and I glanced down, smiling at my friend’s text.

Missed your call - everything good?

Broke up with Tay, I replied instantly. Can I crash at yours’?

As expected, it didn’t take long before her message chimed in. That’s why you got a spare key, isn’t it? ;) If only her husband knew about that. Hah. You okay though? I can leave if you wanna get wasted. This award show is so fucking boring. What followed was an eye-roll emoji that made me snort, the image of her doing the exact thing filling my mind.

Didn’t he get the damn award already, anyway? I remember her telling me about that last year. And I’m good, really. Just want to sleep.

He did. The fucker is persistent, though. Her text chimed in seconds later. You can crash on the couch. Or the bed. It’s comfy.

Ew, hell no! I laughed while walking down the street, eyes focused on the screen as I took the next corner. No way in hell am I sleeping in your bed. You guys fuck like rabbits — I don’t want to catch anything.

Fuck you. Another eye-roll emoji. Just make yourself at home. But stay away from the gin. That shit was expensive,

“Gin it is, then…” I muttered with a chuckle. Got it, boss. Thanks.

The large studio to my left told me I was close to my destination, but I crossed the street, curiosity getting the better of me. With my palms cupped around my eyes, I glanced through the window. Black and white photographs graced the wall, most of them showing professional athletes posing for the camera. Many of them were half naked, but none of them seemed cheap, or like the goal of the image was to sell their bodies. It was about positivity, about being one with yourself, and standing up for who you want to be.

I’d always known she was talented, but this studio showed just how much effort went into her career, into getting her the life she’d always dreamed of.

With a content smile on my lips, I crossed the street, leaving behind the last mile before I got to her apartment building.

Using the key she gave me ages ago, I let myself in, took the rusty old elevator to the eighth floor, and entered their apartment. Or penthouse, if you wanted to be precise.

The grey walls were familiar, since I’d spent the odd night or two at this place in the past. My career made me travel a ton, and whenever I felt like getting a break from everything, her home seemed like a great escape.

My gaze fell on the bedroom door to my left, and I couldn’t help but laugh as I reached for it. “Sleep on the bed… Yeah, right.” I snickered while opening the door, the smile on my lips turning into a full-on grin from the sight in front of me.

Of course, she’d have boudoir photos of herself in her damn bedroom. What else?

I couldn’t deny she looked stunning — the confidence in her eyes was the most beautiful part about this woman, that’s something I knew from day one. Her red hair was way longer at that point in time, so I was sure those pictures must’ve been a couple of years old, not that it would make them any less gorgeous.

The fact that she would’ve let me sleep in here, with those pictures staring back at me, told me that first, she trusted me, and second, she loved showing off her body.

As she should.

With another shake of my head, I closed the door behind me and trotted to the living room. My boots clattered on the concrete ground until I reached the couch, which I instantly lay down on. Kicking my boots off, I stared ahead of me, studying the liquor cabinet with narrowed eyes.

A white bottle with a golden eagle on it piqued my curiosity. I grabbed my phone and googled the brand, though I already knew this bottle was expensive from its elegant decor. “500 dollars? For a bottle of gin?! Fucking Germans…” Of course they’d buy a German gin out of all things. Michael would’ve loved this.

I laughed before putting my phone back down, glancing back at the cabinet. Fortunately for my friend, all of those bottles were unsealed.

Guess I won’t be drinking, then.

My phone vibrated again, showing Tay’s face on the screen, but I simply silenced it before I got comfortable on the couch. I grabbed the wool blanket laying at my feet and spread it over me, cuddling in the warmth of my body and the sofa.

“Finally…” I wiggled my toes, relishing the relief after the walk I’d had. “Some good fucking sleep.”


A sting on my forehead ripped me out of said good fucking sleep, and I groaned as I pulled the blanket over my head, just to be hit again. “What the fuck?” I pulled down the protection, spotting a certain smug idiot on the recliner opposite to me.

The wide grin on his face made me want to smother him, and when he tossed another coaster at me, I caught it with both hands. “Kill, you fucking idiot!” I threw it back at him, but he had no issues catching it with two fingers.

“What?” Leaning back in the leather, Kilian laughed at me. “You wouldn’t wake up. And you were snoring. It’s annoying.”

“You’re annoying.” I narrowed my eyes at him, running a hand through my chin-length hair.

“Great comeback, Flo.” He grinned. “How the fuck did you even get in here?”

“She has a key, I told you!” Jasmine’s voice traveled through the apartment as she emerged from the kitchen, two steaming mugs of coffee in her hands. “Now stop being an asshole, you idiot.”

I watched with great humor how she placed the mugs on the table and then continued to slap the back of his head, making him narrow his eyes at her. “Why you gotta be so mean, Venus?”

“’Cause you can’t read the fucking room.” She rolled her eyes as she nodded at the mug, gesturing for me to take it, but the smirk on her lips told me she enjoyed this banter just as much as I did.

The grin on Kilian’s lips when she settled on his lap told me he didn’t mind either, and I couldn’t help but beam at them. Jasmine’s fiery red hair was all over the place when her husband pressed a kiss on her neck, and even though she tried to act casual, I caught the faint blush on her cheek before she pushed him off with a warning glare.

“How was your night?” I asked, smiling as I took a sip of my coffee. Kilian had been killing it lately — haha, what a great pun —; the trophies scattered all over the penthouse spoke for his athletic success more than anything.

“Well, Kilian won, of course.” Jasmine laughed, pride radiating off of her as she grinned at her husband. “Oh, and Mitchell Brown has a new Patricia.”

“He does?” I gasped, remembering the history between him and Jas. “Does she look like a barbie too?”

“I couldn’t even tell the difference between her and Shania,” Kilian chimed in.

“Shannon,” Jas corrected him.

“Whatever.” He shrugged. “I’m still convinced they’re the same person, honestly.”

Our laughter filled the apartment, and I shook my head in amusement, watching how Jas did the same. “No, really, she looked different. I even suspect he actually likes her. He had that look in his eyes.”

“What look?” Kilian asked.

“You know… That look.”

He still furrowed his brows.

“She means the look that’s not just about fucking someone’s brains out,” I elaborated.

Kilian took a moment to think about that. “Ohhh… Well, good for him, I guess.”

Both Jas and I raised an eyebrow at him, but none of us said a word. I’d been under the impression that Kilian hated the guy, so this response was more than surprising.

“Don’t look at me like that.” He laughed, patting Jas’s ass. “Let him have that. I have you. It’s cool.”

The grin on my friend’s lips made me reciprocate it. These two were weird as fuck, but I enjoyed seeing her happy like that.

My phone lit up on the table and I glanced down, seeing another call from Tay. Rolling my eyes, I declined it, but not without registering the time at the top of the screen. “It’s ten a.m.?!” I almost shrieked. I’d never shrieked in my life.

Jas and Kill both shrugged, obviously not minding the late morning. “Yeah. Now what? It’s Sunday.”

“And you don’t have a race this weekend. The season hasn’t even started yet, after all.” Jasmine read my mind.

In my world, Sundays were race days. Weekends were filled with adrenaline, high-speed work and the magic of the paddock. It was what I lived and breathed, on- or off-season, especially now that I was transferring to a new but so familiar team.

“Besides, you’re not going anywhere before you don’t spill!” Jas curled a brow at me.

My gaze fell on Kilian, who seemed just as interested as she was.

“Alright, I’ll just—”

“No, I don’t mind.” I waved my hand around, shooting him a smile. “Really. Stay. You’ll enjoy this one.”

Jas cocked her head to the side, curiosity sparking her thoughts now. She’d heard quite a few stories over the past years, but this one would surprise even her, I bet.

I could tell she was gauging my reaction for a moment, but given she knew about the history of my relationship, she seemed to be content soon enough, a smile now curling on her lips. “Well? Don’t let us wait, then!”

I laughed. “Alright, here we go.”

Twelve hours earlier.

“Babe?” I called out, closing the front door behind me.

The familiar citrus scent lingered in the air, and I wondered how after three months, I’d already gotten so used to it. Our long distance relationship meant we couldn’t see each other as often, but it must’ve been enough to implement that memory in my brain.

“Tay?” I repeated, furrowing my brows as I walked through the dimly lit hallway. I cringed at the Picasso-style painting at the wall. This hideous thing would always creep me out. Shaking my head, I avoided my gaze and headed straight for the bedroom. It was ten p.m., after all. Some people slept at this time. “Are you—”

I got interrupted by the sight of a blonde in the bed. She was holding on to the headrest, her eyes closed as someone else was obviously beneath the sheets. The familiar ankle bracelet coming out of the covers shone in the moonlight, and I pressed a hand on my mouth upon realizing what exactly was going on.

“Damn,” I said, unable to stop the giggle from my lips. This was absolutely hilarious.

The blonde’s eyes fluttered open. “What the hell?” she shrieked. “Who are you?”

“I’m the girlfriend,” I replied, laughing out loud. “And who are you?”

She blinked a few times, confusion rolling over her now. “I, uh, I mean—”

“Flo!” The familiar voice made me redirect my attention to the bed, where a flustered Taylor was now staring at me with wide eyes, black hair falling into her face. Silk sheets wrapped around her otherwise naked body, and I cringed at the way she fiddled with it, trying to hide it now. “I—I don’t…”

She got interrupted by the door to our right opening.

A stunning brunette entered the scene, her naked body emerging from the bathroom. She raised a brow at me, dark eyes raking up and down my figure.

“Are you seriously checking me out right now?” I snorted. Weirdly enough, I felt accomplished as hell at that moment.

“I mean, you’re hot, so yeah.” She shrugged, glancing from Tay to me, and back. “I’m Alicia, by the way.”

“Florence.” I nodded, not understanding why I introduced myself to the woman my girlfriend just cheated on me with.

“What the…” Taylor studied both of us, mouth hanging wide open as she stuttered, “I mean… I… This isn’t—”

“Don’t say it’s not what it looks like because bruh, this looks like hella fun.” I nodded at the three of them, watching how the brunette — excuse me, Alicia — was now picking up her underwear. Part of me was glad she was leaving, but another found this situation so amusing that I couldn’t help but watch her.

“Wait, you’re not…” Tay blinked a few times, her bright blue eyes narrowing in hesitation. “Like…”

“I’m not pissed, you mean?” I answered her unspoken question, focusing back on my girlfriend. Well, ex-girlfriend. “I mean, I’m not thrilled, but I guess this was to be expected.” The truth rolled from my lips as I shrugged. Taylor and I had a very casual relationship, both of us knowing we’d never work in the long run. I liked her, and she was an amazing girlfriend while it lasted, but this wasn’t my game. She was very open about her intentions and her need to explore, and I wouldn’t stop her from doing that.

Guess it took seeing her in a threesome to realize this wasn’t what I was looking for, after all.

“I’m sorry, I’ll just—”

“No, you’re good.” I shot her a smile, ignoring the brunette’s eyes on me as she pulled a yellow dress over her head. The way she stared at me made me both uneasy and proud. “Give the next one a heads up, just so they don’t travel for hours to find… this.” I waved my hands around, suddenly realizing that I was most annoyed about driving here for nothing, and not that my girlfriend just cheated on me.

Damn. That’s fucked up. Right?

“I’m sorry, really, I—”

“Don’t worry about it.” My eyes fell on the dresser next to me, the aloe plant staring up at me. “But I’m taking this. She needs a proper home.”

“Wait, so she was fucking both of them?” Kilian’s voice brought me back to reality.

I laughed in response, sipping the coffee in my hands while trying not to scrunch my nose. It lacked cinnamon, but I wasn’t about to tell my friend. She tried, but she failed. “Well, yeah, seems like it.”

“Damn! Not what I expected,” Jas chimed in, shaking her head. “So, how do you feel?”

Leaning back on the couch, I pondered her question for a moment, even though I really didn’t need to. “I’m good, really. Yeah, I wish I could’ve spared myself the trouble of coming all the way here to find her like that, but I mean… I’m not even mad. Let her live her life if she wants to.”

“But she cheated on you,” Kilian intervened, raising a brow. His annoyance surprised me — he was the last person I would’ve expected to go off on Tay now.

“Well, the fact that I don’t really care that much about it should tell you I wasn’t exactly fair to her either.” I shrugged. “We both weren’t emotionally invested, and we knew it. Life goes on. I’m twenty-eight, not eighteen.”

I internally smiled at eighteen-year-old Florence. She’d demanded the world, but was given the opposite. The strength she showed at such a young and fragile age was surely the reason she’d survived all those storms, and I’d always be in awe of how ruthlessly she stuck to her principles. She’d loved herself, and that love only grew over the years. It was the most beautiful constant in her life.

Self-compassion.

With that reminder, I took another deep breath, forgetting all about the weird twenty-four hours I’d had.

“So, how do you feel?” Jas must’ve noticed my resolve, and when I glanced over at her, I realized it was just the two of us now. Kill must’ve gotten bored by my silence.

“Honestly? I feel great.” I sat up, emptying the coffee in my hands.

“You should.” Jas grinned at me. “You got a new job and don’t have to worry about anyone but you while you work for your career. That was the plan anyway, right?”

“I didn’t exactly plan on getting cheated on.” I snickered, shooting my friend a grin. “But you’re right. That’s the plan, and it’s already set in motion.”

“Perfect. Have you signed the contract yet?”

I shook my head. “We got an appointment on Friday. My lawyer didn’t agree to some of the terms so it took a while until they found a middle ground.”

“Must be some eager lawyer,” Jas quipped.

“Oh, she is.” I grinned. Jas had no idea.

Her red shoulder-length hair fell into her face as she leaned forward, bracing her elbows on her thighs. She had that mischievous grin on her face again, the one that made me want to run away from her.

But, as we all knew, I didn’t run.

And so I listened.

“So, I mean, this is Azure Racing we’re talking about here…” Her brow raised as she glanced over, reading me carefully. “Will he be there?”

“No,” I replied without hesitation, knowing who she’s referring to. Blame drunk me on spilling the guts about what happened a decade ago, past-Flo obviously didn’t care about how damn persistent this woman was. “As far as I know, he doesn’t even have a seat this year.”

No way in hell would I admit to googling him a few days ago, just to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into. I was ready to face him, but would avoid doing it if I could.

“What a shame…” Jas muttered, and I threw her a look. “What? Remember how excited you were about the whole Mitchell thing a few years ago?”

“That’s not even remotely the same,” I responded, hoping she’d drop it.

“I mean, kinda…”

“Jas,” I groaned, placing the mug on the table in front of me.

“Fine, fine!” She threw her hands up in defeat. “I’ll stop the nagging. You gotta do me a favor, though.”

“Favor for what? For pestering me consistently?”

“Ouch!” Her hand flew to her heart, and she widened her eyes in mock-appall. “You’re mean!”

“And you’re a pain in my ass.” I chuckled.

Jas looked at me for a long moment, but finally shrugged. “Yeah, guess I am. Anyway, get your boots on, we got shit to do.”

“What shit?”

She got up from the recliner, throwing a white leather jacket over her arm. I glanced at the light fabric, internally smirking at the fact that I’d never own anything lighter than blue. I’d destroyed way too many clothes with oil and grease already.

“You’ll see.” Jas waved me over, not even trying to hide her mischievous grin. “Now, let’s go!”

Author’s Note

Hey, folks!

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I was waiting so long to get some Jas and Kill action in there, and also to show you our Present-Florence and her attitude. She’s changed!

For the better, or not? What do you think?

Also, as I compiled the first half of this book, I realized it’s already the length of a standard novel... I mean, what the hell. Not complaining though, as long as you guys aren’t. :D

Enjoy your week!

Lots of love,

xx Jane

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