Authors: Amy Miles
~A Cherished Hearts Novel~
Also by Amy Miles
THE AROTAS SERIES
IMMORTAL ROSE TRILOGY
THE RISING TRILOGY
~A Cherished Hearts Novel~
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright ©2014 by Amy Miles Books, LLC.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Also available in eBook format.
First paperback edition 2014
From the Author
My faith in God is very much a foundational part of who I am. I grew up with a desire to someday write an inspirational romance novel (or series) that dealt with real people in real time.
Life is hard. There’s never a promise that it won’t be, but it is through the trials and tribulations in our lives that give evidence to who we are as a person.
In Your Embrace is the first book in a series of standalone novels that deal with real life problems: doubt, fear, guilt, shame, insecurity, anger, betrayal, bitterness, etc. and how people can find their identity in Christ instead of the world to overcome these issues.
The goal in writing In Your Embrace is to remind people that it is not the words that you speak that show your faith, but the actions you do on a daily basis.
A simple smile.
A kind word shared.
A hand stretched out in aid.
A book written.
Draven Young feels invincible as he slouches behind the wheel of his black Viper.
Of course, that might have something to do with the six-pack of beer he finished off before he left his friend’s party a short while ago. The wheels mold to the curving road, taking the bends at breakneck speed. Despite the freezing ocean spray lashing against his windshield, he laughs at the challenge.
The new car scent still clings to the interior despite being several weeks old.
The leather bucket seats curve around him, warm and inviting. Draven feels like a god as he stamps down on the gas pedal, and the speedometer needle quivers near the 100 line.
The trip along the Outer Banks from Kitty Hawk to Kill Devil Hills passes in the blink of an eye, not to mention several red lights.
Colored lights appear like twinkling halos on rooftops of businesses. Parking lots stand woefully deserted. The manic shopping rush ended the evening before. Christmas is only two days away, a fact that offers Draven little excitement
The thrill of racing through the vacant streets in the early morning hours fades as he is forced to slow when he hits the poorly lit road toward Rodanthe. The winds are strong, dragging gusts of salty spray across the deserted lanes.
The dunes are ever shifting and the grasses whipping about. Draven’s grip on the steering wheel tightens as he speeds past the wildlife refuge. His windshield wipers rake back and forth rapidly in an attempt to keep his vision clear. He can feel a slight skid to his tires now as he increases his speed, but still he does not feel fear. Nothing can touch him tonight.
Draven feels free.
Free from mind-numbingly boring finals leading into his last semester of college. Free from the nagging of the ex-girlfriend he left behind in California and free to hook up for a spicy holiday fling. He has girls to seduce, guys to impress, and a wallet full of cash burning a hole in his back pocket.
It’s good to be home
. He grins at the thought. His head bobs to the heavy metal blaring from his speakers and rattling the windows. The electric guitar solo alone is what Draven considers to be life changing.
The darkened sand dunes blur past as he increases his speed some more, now only a few miles out of town.
The final stretch into Rodanthe, North Carolina is darker than normal. The streetlights ahead do little to light the road, now slick with growing patches of black ice. Draven leans forward, noting the wintry mix beginning to thicken around the edges of his windshield. He reaches down to adjust the defrost as his foot slips slightly off the pedal, the soles of his shoes still slick from the beer he stepped in before leaving his friend’s party fifteen minutes ago.
He looks up to find himself near the center line and swerves back into his lane.
A silver shape appears in his vision as he realizes too late that an old boxy Honda Accord is pulling out onto the road in front of him. Draven slams on his brakes, gripping the steering wheel in both hands. The taut skin of his knuckles goes white and he struggles to control his wild skid.
The impact is far more brutal than his intoxicated brain anticipates.
His head is flung back as the seatbelt tightens, slamming into the headrest. Light flashes before his eyes as he feels his car leave the paved road and tumble through the sand. Stabbing pain rips through his head, legs and back, stealing his breath away as the car crashes to a halt. His seat belt tightens painfully against his chest, making it hard to breathe. The sound of grinding metal is the last thing he hears as black spots encroach on his vision, blending into a cloak of darkness.
His groan of pain seems to echo in his ears as he opens his eyes some time later.
He winces as nausea flares up, and he is forced to close his eyes again. The scent of blood is strong in the confined space. He can hear something dripping but dares not look until the wave of nausea trickles away. His head pounds with maddening incessancy. Bile backs up into his throat as he finds the source of the dripping: a gash across his abdomen, deep enough to well with blood but doesn’t appear to be life threatening...yet.
Clenching his teeth, Draven tries to pull himself together.
There will be time to be sick later. Right now he needs to find help.
Opening his eyes, he realizes that his car is propped against a light pole.
Shattered glass from the windshield carpets the roof of his vehicle below him. The bitter winds whip his hair about, and make his fingers numb from the cold. His hands tremble as they work down the line of his seat belt to the buckle.
He growls in frustration as he pushes the button several times to no avail.
“Work, darn you!”
The buckle finally clicks and Draven cries out as he slams to the roof.
Glass burrows deep into his hands and cheek. Warm blood trickles down his chin. He looks around for his black leather jacket to help shield him from the worst of the glass but it is no longer in the seat beside him. Rolling onto his side, wincing at the numerous lacerations, he winds his bloodied hands around the bottom of his shirt and rips two uneven strips free. He gingerly wraps them around his palms and bats away a clear path through the glass to the far window.
Jagged portions of the passenger side window protrude from the frame.
Draven pauses to clean them away before slithering through and out onto the sand. It feels cold and sticky against his bare skin, clumping to the hairs on his arm. A burning pain flares as the sand burrows into his open wounds.
Rolling onto his back, he coughs as pain licks up his leg and centers on his knee.
It feels wrong, loose in its socket. Biting his lip, Draven runs his hand down his leg and nearly passes out at the feeling of his kneecap twisted out of place. “Oh God,” he grunts as he rolls to his side and vomits.
The acrid scent of bile burns in his nose as beads of sweat form along his brow.
He cranes his head back to view his surroundings. The remains of his precious car are curled around a tall wooden light post, the front end nearly crumpled beyond recognition. The blustery winds batter him as he attempts to look toward town. He can see light less than quarter of a mile up ahead. The ocean spray looks heavy in the glow of lamplight.
Crying out in pain, Draven pushes himself over onto his belly. He lifts his head to look at the road and feels his stomach drop out beneath him.
Glass litters the ground, sparkling like diamonds against the bright beam from the silver car, which has only one headlight still working. Metal shrapnel from both vehicles lies here and there on the deserted street. Most of Draven’s bumper has been left in a mangled heap at the side of the road.
Squinting, Draven can just make out the black skid marks his tires left as he tried to brake in time.
He blinks against the freezing rain and tries to rise to his feet. Favoring his injured leg, Draven half limps, half drags himself toward the silver Honda. A highway sign stands where the driver’s side of the vehicle once resided. Now it is nothing more than a crumpled mess. This half of the front end has been torn away, exposing the engine and crushed hoses. His throat clenches when he draws near. The sign has stabbed straight through the windshield. He can see blood oozing down the metal.
God,” he groans again as his legs nearly give out on him. The driver’s side door has been dented completely in. He can easily make out the impact point of the corner of his car. Draven wavers in place, shocked to silence as he realizes there is no reason to look inside. Whoever was driving this car could not have survived.
When he falls to his knees, pain flares in his right leg and nearly drags him back under, but the heaving contents of his stomach keep him conscious.
His abdomen spasms until his stomach is empty, leaving him victim to dry heaves. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, knowing that it is a taste he will remember for the rest of his life. It is not just the mixture of alcohol and pizza, but that of bitterness and guilt over his actions.
I killed someone
tumbles through his mind.
Draven fumbles to retrieve his cell phone out of his jeans pocket.
It slips from his fingers and clatters against the road. He grasps the phone and forces himself to focus. Should he dial 911? No. He shakes his head at the thought. He can’t let anyone know that he’s been drinking. He can’t risk losing his license over this. Without another thought, he dials his home number.
“Hello?” a gravelly voice answers the phone.
His step-father, Kevin Young, has been working overtime during the holiday season and has barely had enough time to catch a few winks between hitting his next shift at the Outer Banks Hospital several miles away.
“What have you done?” His accusing voice is instantly alert.
Why does his step-father always have to act like it’s no surprise when he messes up? “There’s been an accident…”
“Don’t you dare tell me that you’ve wrecked your new car.” He can hear Kevin close a door and knows that he’s stepped out of his bedroom to speak in private.
Draven’s mom has a very nervous nature. Something like this would send her into another spell. “Do you have any idea how much that car cost your mother and me?”
“Kevin…” Draven chokes up.
His step-father’s tone instantly shifts from anger to concern. “Is someone hurt?”
Draven struggles to regain his voice.
He bends over, gulping large breaths of air as he fights back against the dizziness. “I think he’s dead!”
Was someone else in the car with you?” his step-father demands.
“No.” Draven closes his eyes against the pain.
“There was another car.”
“Did you check for a pulse?” The doctor in him quickly leaps into action.
“I can’t. There’s not much left of the car.”
“Get over there and check!” Kevin roars down the line.
“Tell me what you see.”
He knows this voice all too well. He also knows that no matter how badly he doesn’t want to look in that car, he doesn’t have any other choice.
Stepping gingerly around the mangled vehicle, he lifts the sign up just enough for him to see inside.
Draven’s face blanches as he notices the strands of light blond hair matted with blood that fall around slender shoulders.
“Oh no!” Draven cries hysterically as he drops the sign and lurches back.
“What did you see?”
“I killed her!”
Draven leans against the car, gripping the phone so tightly that blood begins to trail down his wrists from the wounds in his hands. “She was married!” he gasps, remembering the small diamond ring on the petite hand, still gripped tightly onto what is left of the steering wheel. Draven crumples to the ground; all lingering effects of the alcohol vanish instantly.
A deep groan comes from the other end of the phone.
“Where are you?”
“Just outside of town,” Draven responds, nearly incoherent.
He is going into shock. Living with a doctor for a step-father has taught him enough basic medical knowledge to know this to be true.
“I’ll be there in five minutes.”
He can hear Kevin opening and closing the door in the kitchen. It has a tell-tale groan to its hinges. The shuddering sound of the garage door opening draws him back as his father speaks again. “And Draven?”
“Don’t do anything stupid until I get there!”