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Authors: Jevenna Willow

120 Mph

BOOK: 120 Mph
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120
mph

Saving
the Sinners of Preacher’s Bend

book 1

 

 

 

 

 

Jevenna Willow

 

 

 

 

 

120
mph

 

Jevenna Willow

 

 

 

 

copyright © 2014
Jennifer J. Yost

All work in this book
is made up in the mind of the author. No names, dates, or places are real, and
only in the imagination of its creator. I thank you for respecting my work.
Pirating author’s work is a crime, so please respect my hard work.

 

Cover art by Linda Kage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

As life flashes
by—lightning on a warm summer’s evening, the roar of an engine during a quarter
mile on the hot asphalt track, even the speed of sound drifting past out
ears—each of us will end up wondering where it went and why we’d so easily let
life vanish from our grasp.

 

I want to
acknowledge and dedicate this novel to two darlings who didn’t slip from my
grasp, and who make every second of my life worth living, if done at 120 mph.

To Alex and Ian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

120
mph

Jevenna
Willow

 

 

 

 

Chapter
One

 

Sara’s eyes darted to the speedometer.

Eighty mph, ninety, one hundred . . .

Battling against the pull of the tires
against the wet pavement, her one hand clamped on the steering wheel while the
back of her other swiped at steadily falling tears, her vision was clouded by little
more than fury. Why was it fate seemed only to find those who were trying their
hardest to hide from it?

Sara’s eyes darted to the speedometer
again.

One hundred ten miles per hour . . .

Jesus! She would’ve never thought this old
hunk of junk could even get up to the speed of one hundred ten mph. The first
curve had been a little hard to handle, but she didn’t have the time to waste
caring how difficult this was, or slow down once the conscience kicked in.

Up ahead, the road was clearly marked
with a 50mph curve sign. Sara didn’t see the sign.

Fifty, one hundred, even two hundred
miles per hour—this would all be turn out exactly the same in the end. Disappearance
and easy escape from wretched fate wanted . . . and all that Sara really desired
from this point on.

Her right foot pressed on the accelerator
pedal as the pinch to her heart took up its bitter stronghold, holding
everything else at bay. She dragged in deep, gasping breaths laced with sobbing,
turned the wheel to curve the vehicle a little to the left . . .

Sara’s forehead slammed against the
windshield, cracking the safety glass into a billion shards of broken dreams,
as the resounding impact threw her forward. Her seatbelt caught at the base of
her neck. Airbags would have saved her chest from crushing against the steering
wheel, but the seatbelt was all that saved her from visiting St. Peter on a
rainy Sunday night born from Hell.

Saving Sara from fate would’ve been far too
easy.

****

Twenty-four hours later . . .

Caught up in a web of tangled bed sheets,
her legs trapped between the sweat-soaked layers, Sara’s eyes darted to the
bedside clock. Two a.m. . . . .
And all’s well with the world
.

But that all’s well part ended late last
night.

She placed her trembling hand over her
face, flinching once contact was made with her skin. All she could remember
this time, what she most needed to forget, was the burning of tires. But no
matter what she did, the sickly smell of melting rubber would not go away.

Damnit. To go through more nights like
this . . .

Maybe survival wasn’t all that it was
cracked up to be. If she died, she wouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of
her actions.

She pushed aside the sheets, slid her
legs out, then darted to the bathroom. The sudden urge to puke had hit her hard
and swift. She dropped to her knees in front of the porcelain toilet. Every
part of her body hurt as if she’d been broken in two and her life blood drained
away. That might not have been such a bad thing right now, either. She wouldn’t
have to remember . . . if she simply ended it all, or God ended it for her.

Guilt, remorse, disgust, they all came
at her hard, and blindingly clear as the porcelain bowl filled. She sat back on
her haunches breaking into a cold sweat.

Sara could not chance looking at her
face; knew there were numerous deep gashes, ugly purplish bruises that would
eventually heal, given enough time to do so but without the benefit of medical personnel.
She vomited once more, pressing down the flush lever as each heave came quicker
and stronger and so . . . Well, so damn expected.

Five minutes later, exhausted, her
esophagus burning, she wiped her mouth with her now trembling hand, pushed back
on her weakened limbs to stand, and slowly turned to face her demons. The cracked
mirror above a cheap motel sink wouldn’t be kind to her this time. It wasn’t
going to lie to her as it did two hours ago, even five hours ago.

No. This time the three visually
distorted images of her face said, loud and clear, she would not get away with what
she’d done.

She stared at the sullen eyes all but finished
crying, the dark hair matted in dried blood, the huge fat lip cut at the bottom
left corner and likely to be a permanent scar. Each malady was set an odd angle
against all the cracks in the mocking mirror. God, she even looked dead!
Perhaps she was. Every part of her felt as if she’d gone two steps beyond the
grave.

Sara closed her eyes quickly, her gut
tightening and the bile rising tenfold.
Burning tires and swamp water.

She dragged in an unsteady breath,
releasing it through her swollen lips. Her nose was surely broken, same as much
else was. A broken nose would go well with the eventual scarring.

Burning tires, swamp water, and
gasoline.

Every minute upon every hour her
subconscious pulled forth from the dark recesses something else, something far more
disturbing than before. Her nostrils pinched, she could swear the putrid smell of
petrol was soaking her entire being. Her sudden groan made her gag. A smell
like that wouldn’t go away through a measly shower, let alone a thousand baths
drenched in perfume. So when would this end? Tomorrow? Next week? Next year?

She needed that one second, that one
blessed moment where she could open her eyes, pretend that it hadn’t really
happened, and that she could go on as before.

She reached up and set her fingers to
the knob of the medicine cabinet, taking a moment to gather the strength needed
to end this once and for all. Another deep breath allowed her to actually pull
open the cabinet without having her heart stop her as it had hours before.

Half a bottle of aspirin, a full bottle
of cold medicine, a couple of odds and ends she didn’t put inside here but
someone else had . . . she located the ill-bought painkillers, dropping them in
the sink. One would suffice most anxiety sufferers. Five would be better, but the
entire contents, all one hundred and twenty tiny white pills would be damn near
perfect.

She had to see what was inside the
bottle to make the ultimate choice. Unscrewing the cap with a bit of trouble,
four out of five fingers broken on her right hand, she discovered only twelve
useable, welcoming pills.

That’s all? Damnit. She couldn’t even
kill herself right.

Sara dumped the entire contents into her
palm, stared fixated at what her life was now reduced to, and without
conscience thought threw all twelve pills into her mouth at once, watching in
horror the heartless reflection staring back at her face from the mirror.

So many pills down the throat at once
were a little hard to swallow, but with effort Sara gagged them all the way to
her stomach. It wouldn’t matter after this. Nothing would matter after this.
Two, ten, even five hundred pills wouldn’t matter after this.

She stuck her head near the sink, turned
on the tap, and helped finish each pills’ final journey by placing her mouth
near the steady flow then taking a small drink.

Burning tires, swamp water, gasoline,
and the stringent scent of broken pine trees . . .

Soon enough, the memories would all go
away. They had to.

Sara turned, wobbled her way back to the
bed, climbed under the clammy sheets, curled into a fetal ball . . . willing
away the world. Perhaps this time she wouldn’t vomit the pills back up. Perhaps
this time she would be able to forget what she’d done.

Sara closed her eyes as the pinch to her
heart took up exactly where it had left off.

 

 

Chapter
Two

 

Eight years later.

 

Yard Sale
.
The letters had been painted in bright red and likely the leftovers on the
bottom of the can from painting the barn.

Sara Ruby’s pulse quickened. Any other
color wouldn’t have made much of an impact on her. For the first time today,
she was excited. She drew in a deep breath trying to contain herself. Yard sale,
to a tried and true county girl, meant something far different than it would to
the urbanite—the fifty to eighty years, few generations kind of different. Hot
items presented at yard sales were what most hard-working folks had saved their
money to buy, used until worn, then put aside when something much better came
along.

Sara wasn’t into the trendy stuff; dots
and stripes didn’t suit her fancy. She liked the simpler things, from simpler
times. She liked old stuff. A yard sale on the side of a country road meant
old.

She drove her vehicle to the shoulder,
made a hasty glance at the traffic—none seen—then whipped a U-turn, using the
few feet of shallow, weed-choked ditch to achieve her goal. The tires on her
car would forgive her, but she wasn’t quite so certain the bottom of her
convertible would as the muffler dragged against some of the gravel and made a
dearly wretched sound.

It was still early in the day. Perhaps
not all the good stuff was picked through and she might find the bargain she’d
been looking for. Rural folks usually sold their stuff cheap. It made the
sellers happy just to be rid of the items from ample storage. It made Sara
happy to buy it, then add to her ample supply of stuff already had. No one ever
left a yard sale unhappy.

Sara parked her ten year old convertible
in a designated spot for customers. With a spring in her step and the first real
smile of the day gracing her lips, she drew in another breath, letting the last
twenty-four hours drift away.

Country girls knew not to block the
drive when it was harvest season. A hasty glance to her right, across the driveway
and over the unkempt front lawn, folks around Preacher’s Bend hadn’t the time
to mow the lawn during harvest season. They were too busy fighting against the
rains; more often than not, lost this battle by the forces of a wrathful Mother
Nature hell bent on putting the misery into miserable.

She craned her ears. Yep. There it was.
The old diesel pump in the milk house had started up. That meant the items of
bric-a-brac on the scattered tables were the really good stuff. Antiques of
extreme value and not dime store knockoff, tourist-trap trinkets sold closer to
town at the monthly flea market.

Sara reached over the convertible’s
closed door, grabbed her purse, then walked straight for the tables laden with dishware.
Her course was set by will alone. She had enough of the steamer trunks and
hurricane lamps for the time being. What she desired most was the Depression
glass. She needed only two more pieces for a complete set of eight. The old
banquet table covered in blue check gingham was loaded with Depression ware.
Perhaps she could find the exact item she needed and her day could end far
better than it started.

Her fingers crossed, she hoped any
prized treasure wasn’t overly-priced. Sara hated haggling with owners.

With her thoughts on the glassware, she
never noticed the man directly behind her back.

She picked up a fragile relict, a salad
bowl by the look of it, turned it in her palm, checked for a date, looked for
chips and cracks, then set it back down. There were too many chips and one
small crack nearer the bottom. It would have made her collection shoddy. An
expert would notice a crack right away. Sara would never claim title to being
an expert, but she knew damn well what reduced the value of a proper
collection. She grabbed another, more interested in quality than quantity today.

The second bowl had no chips but one
small crack near the bottom. She set this one down too. She did keep the bowl
in her view, however. Her third selection was a plate.

Trained on the table’s display of treasured
items, Sara never saw how close he’d been standing behind her until she
physically backed into a firm male ass.

She nearly dropped the priceless piece
of glassware onto the ground from the impact, holding onto the plate with both
hands, then carefully set it onto the table with now shaking hands. Raised that
if you dropped it you bought it, over the years that became a rather costly
advice told. Sara was always dropping things, and then having to pay for them.

The plate was marked fifty dollars with
a tiny white sticker. Fifty was just too much money for a plate with equal
amount of cracks as the bowl. Without the crack, it would have been worth at
least eight hundred dollars. She had only four hundred to spend. The money in
her pocket was half her paycheck.

She should not have been spending any
it, for there was plenty other things wanting a piece of her pie. However, life
was short, and rainy days never came her way, so Sara was intent on spending
what she wanted for what she truly enjoyed. Old things made her happy.

However, she had to deal with the fact
she just slammed rumps with a stranger before she could haggle a price with the
glassware’s original owner.

She turned around and felt the old
familiar saying ‘Too good to be true’ hit her right between the eyes.
Chippendale quality, and certainly
too good to be true
, he was more man
than any man had the right to be. In fact, Sara had ever laid eyes on someone
so hot. Her mouth began to water. Good God! She was salivating over a stranger?

Yet hot men were the kind Sara tried to
stay as far away from as possible. They knew their shit didn’t stink, and
Sara’s stunk worse than stink on a skunk. She hated rejection, and it always
came from the mouth of a hot guy. Why was that?

Well, neither here nor there, this town
thought she’d done a great injustice to almost all the men living within a fifty-mile
radius of Preacher’s Bend, and this had made her enemies. She wasn’t a prude.
Hell, no! What she did was because of her job and nothing more; Sara told to
close the club, in fact, ordered to close it . . . or else. When an ‘
or else’
was involved in any choice made, a person literally had none. An ‘
or else’
meant do as told . . . or else! It rather coincided with the rule ‘if you break
it, you buy it’. Either way, job loss part of the equation, and lack of funds
its sum. She would not have been able to stop at any yard sales. And without a yard
sale on red-painted sign to catch her attention, her life would have really sucked.

Sara Ruby’s ‘
or else’
had cost
her a dear friend, her neighbors to no longer speak to her, and a whole lot more
she didn’t want to dwell on for the moment. How much suckier could it get, when
dealing with the loss of all that?

Cara wasn’t speaking to her, because
Cara had worked at the club and was now out of a job; slightly unemployable by
her past experiences. Shay wouldn’t give Sara the time of day and they live
seven lousy feet apart. The man at the bank was calling in her student loans,
likely for the fact he’d been one of the regulars at the club and was married
to the meanest, ugliest woman alive. Guys like him needed the release the club
gave him.

Christ! Everything she’d ever worked for
now hung on a thread that was too close to the sharpened knife of fate because
of her crappy job.

Yard sales were her only outlet; her
only escape away from reality. Sara could look at the nearly priceless objects
and be taken back to a better time and place. Yard sales were her free shrink.

She pulled her thoughts to the here and
now and started to apologize to the man for backing into his ass. Her intent
was to form words past stalled lips. What she got instead was a stare, a hasty
smile, and a complete brushoff by his moving to another table. He didn’t even
say as much as ‘boo’ to her.

Yes. Her shit did stink. However, she
did not think it stunk that much!

Snubbed by friends and co-workers simply
because they knew of what she’d done was one thing. Sara snubbed by a stranger
at a yard sale in the middle of friggin` nowhere turned into an entirely
different sort of snub. She moved away from her table and walked over to his,
held out her hand, then introduced herself.

“Hi. Um, sorry about the little shove
back there. I guess I got a bit carried away with my interest in one of the
bowls. I’m Sara. Sara Ruby.”

With utter surprise, Sara watched the
man step back, and then he shoved both of his large hands deep into his
pockets.

Okay! Never from anyone met had she held
out her hand . . . and he did not shake it. In fact,
Chippendale
seemed
to be openly glaring at her, perhaps for Sara having tried to make an apology
toward a rather innocent bump in the first place. Good grief! It was not as if
she’d flattened him onto his backside.

Her fists balled while putting more
thought to doing just that.

No. Just because her day started out so
crappy did not mean she should resort to road rage mentality on the front lawn
of a stranger. Her hands released their fists.

“Um . . . yes, I am sorry,” she
reiterated, then turned on her heels and moved away. Under her breath, she slipped
out the words, “Even though you don’t want to believe me.”

Sara headed back to the glassware and
suddenly could not control the fury building inside her. So strong in an
otherwise generous nature . . . well, it could not be contained, no matter how
hard she tried.

She whipped around, set her hands on her
hips, and gave
Mr. Chippendale
what’s what—right over the span of a
table of tools and old bric-a-brac displayed in proper order of rust. The fury
released out of her within two beats of a bumblebee’s wing. Surely the man had
no need to add to her crappy day just by making it rather tiresome.

“What exactly is your problem?” She almost
growled out her frustrations, which wouldn’t have been at all ladylike.

Unfortunately, the bluest eyes
imaginable rose and stared at her. Those eyes raised their corresponding brows,
while a sudden smile filled the expanse of his firm, tipped mouth.

“I did not think that I had one . . . until
now,” he said.

Didn’t have one? Of all the nerve!

The sharp lilt to his voice set Sara’s
world afire. Yet the condemnation in that tone somehow doused any fire faster
than could be lit. Anger? Remorse? No, it had looked and sounded to go much
deeper inside the man. He sounded . . .
bothered
.

Good Lord! Was that his problem? She was
bothering him, while a few minutes wasted shopping for old treasures and an
accidental bump with the ass?

Without much pause he added more, likely
his sole purpose to force Sara into regretting having stopped at another yard
sale on her way home from work. “And I know exactly who you are, Ms. Ruby.”

She must have looked ready to contradict
this fact, and state she clearly did not know him, and if she had wouldn’t have
liked knowing him, because he continued with, “It is why I have been following
you.”

Eight carefully spoken words suddenly
stalled the beating of her heart.

“Y—you’ve been following me?” she
questioned firmly, but with a mild stutter when finding her voice still intact,
and the control of that voice located more toward the knees than within the back
of the throat. “W—why would you be following me?”

Okay. Time to do a quick assessment
check . . .

She would need a proper description when
having to tell a sketch artist his more than prominent features. Strong jaw,
blue eyes, dark hair, tall, about six-feet-two, leather jacket that fit like a well-worn
glove, snug . . . no, not right. His pants weren’t at all snug; more the pity
to all the women of the world.

Jesus! There were a million men with this
rather vague description to his person. She’d have to try a whole lot harder to
assess all of him. Sara’s gaze darted to his pants.

He didn’t seem to notice, while turning a
hasty glance toward the old woman who was selling her treasured possessions, and
who sat in a rocker nearer the farmhouse with knitting needles in hands.

Two seconds later, his attention
returned to her and Sara’s eyes had to be forcibly moved up to his face.

Her handsome, leather bound stranger then
stepped toward her, leaned his head near her ear, and all she could do was remain
motionless, waiting out fate.

“Why shouldn’t I be following you Ms.
Ruby?”

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