Authors: Brianna Merrill
NIGHT WRITER PUBLISHING
Brianna J Merrill
©2010 Brianna Merrill
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Night Writer Publishing LLC. Printed and bound in the United States of America. Published by Night Writer Publishing LLC. First addition.
Cover photography © 2010 Ben Mecham
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To Golden, for all your love and support, I couldn’t have done it without you.
The sound of the BMW’s screeching tires was deafening.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion - except for the pounding of Emily’s heart; it raced faster and faster with each second that ticked by. She clung to the steering wheel, trying to hold her center of gravity as the car did continuous three - sixties along the deserted road.
The headlights shone brightly on the approaching guardrail, illuminating the danger looming ahead. Emily traveled this road enough to know what was on the other side of that barrier. A two hundred foot plummet into an icy lake awaited her. There was no way she could survive.
The car hit the rail with enough force to knock her grip free from the wheel. The left part of her head slammed into the side window. Emily didn’t notice the pain; her mind was occupied with the sound of groaning steel and the feeling of resistance being blown away.
The BMW’s rear tire was edging right over the cliff.
This is it
,” she thought. The car would topple down the side of the mountain. If she didn’t die from the impact she would most likely drown in the lake.
Emily braced herself, squeezing her eyes shut she accepted her fate. But in that moment everything stopped. No more terrifying noises. The car no longer teetered on the edge. Emily couldn’t believe it; something kept the car from going over the side of the mountain, but what?
She glanced around, searching for an answer, but there was none to be found. Emily could not shake the feeling that someone was there, watching her, a silent presence. Prickles ran up her spine as she slowly turned around to glance behind her…
Emily awoke in a cold sweat. Her nerves trembled and twitched. The memory of her accident was haunting her dreams more frequently, sometimes multiple times a night.
“Why can’t I just move past it?”
she thought, rubbing her arms to calm her shaking body.
Checking the clock, Emily rolled out of bed. It was 5:30 in the morning. Not her usual time to be up but she knew she couldn’t go back to sleep. Stumbling down the hall she clumsily maneuvered her arms through her long cashmere robe. The hardwood floors of her luxury apartment felt like ice. That was a welcomed feeling in the summer, but not in the winter. She hated the sensation of cold feet.
Emily quietly tiptoed past her father’s bedroom as she made her way into the kitchen.
Hunting through the cabinet for her favorite mug, Emily reassured herself that a cup of hot chocolate would help her feel better. It was often the only remedy that worked. The mug she searched for was the one her mother always used and the object brought her comfort. It pleased her to know that her lips once touched it and those soft hands often surrounded it.
She missed her mother terribly. Emily was convinced there was an actual hole in her heart, created the very moment her mother passed. She felt the familiar cramp in her stomach that was sure to grow until it crept up her throat like an animal thrashing to escape her body. Emily suppressed the urge to cry, she had awoken her father too many times before with her sobs.
The hot chocolate helped soothe her nerves; she could have sipped it for hours. Reluctantly, she decided to get ready for school. It was still a little early but the thought of an extended hot shower appealed enough to get her off the kitchen barstool.
After her shower, she wiped the steam from the giant mirror that covered the entire wall of her bathroom. Emily stared at her reflection, contemplating how to tame her long and wavy brown locks. Finally she decided to do soft curls because it would be easier to turn into an up-do for later that night.
She sighed at the thought of the banquet that evening.
Emily hadn’t felt like socializing much since her mother’s death. But, the beginning of the year was always the time her father did fundraisers for the charitable organizations he founded. So it didn’t matter if she felt up to it or not, Emily knew she needed to attend.
As a little girl she looked forward to this time of year. Whenever her father delivered big checks, he would take her along so she could witness the joy on the people’s faces. Among her favorite memories were their visits to the St. Martin’s Children’s Hospital. Before they arrived, her father would take her to a toy store. There he would have Emily pick out stuffed animals and toys for the children. They would pile three carts as high as they could and then take all those toys with them to the hospital. When they got there it was Emily’s job to hand out the surprise. She loved to see the children smile with complete delight. At a very young age Emily experienced the emotional fulfillment that came from serving others.
Tonight’s banquet, an annual event for The Honorable Veterans Foundation, would benefit the surviving family members of service men and women killed in the line of duty. It was a wonderful cause, one that Emily believed in just as much as her father.
Once Emily was dressed, her large hazel eyes examined the girl in the full-length mirror. She certainly hadn’t been putting as much effort into herself lately. Loose jeans and t-shirts undoubtedly did nothing to complement her slim figure.
There was a time that Emily had better clothes, when she’d enjoyed shopping trips. The memorable sprees were the ones with her mother. They used to take turns picking out new outfits for one another. Now Emily found no thrill in shopping so she kept it as simple as possible.
“At least it’s Friday,”
That meant she could spend the weekend lounging in her yoga pants and even more oversized t-shirts. Emily gave another audible sigh, grabbed her book bag, and went out to the kitchen to greet her father.
Entering through the wide archway, Emily mustered all the energy she could.
“Morning, Daddy!” She tried to sound extra chipper.
“Mornin’ sweetie. Did you get enough sleep last night?”
“Hope so. Don’t you have your big history exam in Mr. Currie’s class today?”
“Yeah, but I’m ready for it.”
“I’m sure you are. You always are.” Her father smiled as he turned the kitchen television to CNBC.
Emily’s father always started his day by checking the stock market. Even though he was a financial advisor for 27 years he never seemed bored watching the ticker go by. His reactions sometimes led Emily to believe he was watching a horse race or action movie. Even now, she couldn’t help but give a little chuckle as her father’s eyes got as big as a small child’s on Christmas morning.
“Should be an interesting day at the office.”
“It always is for you.” Emily poured them both a bowl of cereal.
“That’s why my job’s so interesting. Things are always changing, there’s always a new challenge.”
“Yeah and always some client you have to spend hours convincing that the world is not coming to an end just because the market’s down.”
“Hmm, yeah. That, too.”
“Did you pick up your tux from the dry cleaner yet?” Emily asked as she sat down on the stool beside him. Placing both of their bowls down carefully.
“No, I keep forgetting,” he groaned, his eyes still on the ticker.
“Daddy, you need that for tonight. Do you want me to get it for you?”
“No.” Her father peeled his gaze away from the television to look directly at Emily. “I don’t want you going there. I wouldn’t be comfortable knowing you were in that part of town alone. Thanks for the offer but I’m a big boy, I can do it.” He sat up straight and tall, with over-exaggerated posture.
Emily gave a snicker. “I’m a big boy, I can do it,” seemed to be her father’s favorite phrase lately. Maybe it was because she’d been babying him so much. She couldn’t help it though. She just wanted to make sure that even though her mother was gone her father had someone around to help share the burdens that everyday life could create.
Emily finished her breakfast, waited for her father to finish, and then cleared their bowls.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you tonight.” Emily gave her father a quick kiss and turned for the door.
“Have a good day honey,” he replied and went back to watching the ticker go by.
Later that evening, the charity banquet crept along too slowly for Emily. Dinner was finally over and everyone’s attention had been diverted to the auction. They were still on the smaller-priced items but she was trying to look extremely interested in what was up for bid.
“So only a few months left of school. Then you’re off to college right?”
Emily fought the urge to give an audible moan. Obviously she hadn’t looked interested enough. As always, she was seated at the head table with her father. Which also meant Rob Troffer was at the same table. Her father excused himself after dinner to help monitor the auction and that left Emily alone with her ever so chatty, would-be suitor.
Rob recently passed his series 7 exam, something that was required if he was to enter into the same profession as her father. In the past, conversation was easier to avoid with him. His mind was occupied with the daunting task of studying for an exam that was known to leave grown men crying. Now that he was no longer distracted, and had found himself an internship with her father, he could concentrate on other things, like Emily. He was very handsome with his light blonde hair and ice blue eyes. His features were strong and chiseled-looking but not overbearing. He was also sweet and extremely smart. At the age of 22, he had accomplished more than many men twice his age.
Most girls at her school, and women in general, would think Emily crazy. But she just wasn’t attracted to Rob. She appreciated his qualities and didn’t mind having a friendship. Anything more than that did not appeal to her, although she knew Rob was hoping it would.
“Yeah, just a little while longer and I’m free of that jail cell they call high school. Then I’m on to a bigger and better prison,” Emily said sarcastically.
“That excited about it, huh?”
Emily didn’t mean to sound so pessimistic. She really loved to learn. She just didn’t care for the adolescents that surrounded her at school. For the most part, her high school was full of spoiled, self-absorbed teenagers who believed the world revolved solely around them. She had a hard time believing college would be any better, since the places her father preferred seemed to fit the same profile as her private school.
“So do you have any place in mind? Are you thinking of stayin’ close?” Rob attempted to keep the conversation going.
Emily sensed there was more to his question than just casual interest. “I haven’t really decided on anything other than the fact that I don’t want to go too far. I want to stay close to my dad. He still needs me whether he admits it or not.” Emily didn’t say it but it was more the other way around.
. “I was giving a little thought to the community college in Cooperstown.”
“Isn’t that where your family has a vacation home?”
“Yeah, that’s part of the reason I thought it would be a good place to go. It would still kinda feel like home since it’s just over two hours away.”
“But it’s a community college. You’re too smart for that.”
“Not the way I figure it. I really don’t have a clue what I want to major in, and this would give me time to figure it out while keeping my brain stimulated.” She paused, remembering what she had learned in a previous conversation about Rob’s education. “Besides, who are you to talk, you didn’t even go to college,” Emily retorted, the accusation carrying more heat than she intended.
“Yeah, but I knew what I wanted to do. Instead of enduring four years of some professor telling me his theories on investing and economics, I figured I would learn more if I just threw myself into the mix. And it looks like I was right.” Rob raised his eyebrow as if to question her and then flashed his bright white smile.
“Well, look who thinks he’s a mister know-it-all. So since you seem to know everything do you have any brilliant suggestions for me?” Emily was trying to play nice to ease the sting of her last comment.
“You mean besides model?”
Emily wanted to roll her eyes but she knew that was an immature and inappropriate response, so she resisted. Rob always seemed to give at least one corny line every time they talked, and it often referenced her looks.