Eight years earlier…
“Slow down, Beck.” I know my news is shocking, but I had no idea he would react so badly. I thought we were in love. We’ve even talked about getting married after I graduate this spring.
“I can’t fucking believe you let this happen, Alyse!” His hand slams the steering wheel so hard you’d think it would break.
“I let this happen? I don’t understand why you’re reacting this way. I know it wasn’t planned, but…”
I’m cut off when Beck takes a corner too fast, throwing me into the passenger door, tires squealing their protest. My head bounces off the window and my elbow now throbs where it slammed into the metal handle.
After I broke my news over dinner, Beck threw three twenties down on the table and stormed out of the restaurant. I barely had time to hop into the vehicle, let alone put my seatbelt on, before he took off at warp speed, no doubt leaving fresh black rubber marks on the pavement.
“Beck, slow down. Please. You’re scaring me.” But he doesn’t. He punches the gas even harder, lurching the car forward. I fumble for my seatbelt, frantic to get it on before we crash. The dark, desolate road we’re flying down—at speeds that would rival a cop chase—is winding and treacherous, especially with the slight sheen of December frost that’s now covering it. There is more than one makeshift cross that lines its deadly path. I don’t want one to be mine.
“This can’t be happening,” he mumbles to no one in particular. He seems lost within himself, which confuses me even more. This news isn’t the end of the world; it only accelerates our plans to be together, just as we’d talked about many times over.
“I’m sure they’ll understand, Beck. I know I haven’t met your parents yet, but you’re a grown man for God’s sake.”
My eyes flick between the speedometer and his angry, clenched face and my heart races. We’re now going over sixty miles per hour in a forty-five zone. He takes another bend too fast and his truck fishtails. The tires spit gravel when he overcorrects, landing the passenger side wheels on the shoulder. We narrowly miss a speed limit sign that’s mocking us to slow down before he finally regains control.
I brace my arms against the door and the armrest to my left, my long fingernails embedded in the leather fabric. Every muscle in my body is coiled and taut, ready for the inevitable collision. Fear courses through my bloodstream, nearly paralyzing me.
“You’re going to kill us if you don’t stop this!” I scream.
For the first time in nearly twenty minutes, he looks at me, and I see a man I am not at all familiar with. Pure panic is written on every inch of his handsome face. I shrink into my seat, wondering what alternate universe I have just slipped into.
“Trust me. I’m better off dead.” His soft voice is thick with fear and sadness and suddenly I’m truly terrified. The man sitting to my left is not at all the man I fell in love with. It’s like he’s been possessed by a demon or the devil, and he’s taking me on the fast, fiery ride to hell with him.
I don’t get a chance to respond to his confusing words before I register we’re quickly approaching a particularly wicked curve nicknamed the Widowmaker. The speed limit here drops to thirty, because it’s deceptively sharp and steep and many people have lost their lives by not adhering to the slower speeds. Taking this curve at forty-five miles per hour is reckless. Taking it at seventy is nothing short of suicidal.
You’ve heard people say that your life flashes before your eyes in the seconds before a near-death experience, right? That they are filled with regret for that degree they didn’t finish, harsh words they wish they could take back, or letting The One get away?
Well, that’s not what’s happening with me. The only thing clouding my mind at the moment before impact with a grove of thick, life-ending oak trees is anger.
Anger at my naiveté.
Anger at my judge of character.
Anger that I let myself trust someone else who would fail me.
And anger that my life is going to end at the tender age of eighteen at the hands of a man who claimed to love me.
My screams echo in the blackness.
I stare at the stack of bills on my desk and sigh heavily, my stomach churning.
They taunt me. Remind me that unless we pull in a large client and fast, this business that I rushed to open is about one month from total, epic failure and not only will I be out of a job, my three employees will be as well. I’m almost a month behind on the loan payment and our electricity is pretty close to being turned off.