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When darkness breaks, p.1
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       When Darkness Breaks, p.1

           Traci Sanders
 
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When Darkness Breaks
Copyright ©2013 by Traci M Sanders

  Cover design by 4WillsPublishing. To learn more please visit their website at

  www.4willspublishing.worpress.com

  All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic, or electronic process, or in the form of phonographic recording nor may it be stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or otherwise be copied for public or private use—other than for “fair use” as brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews without prior written permission of the publisher.

  The author’s intent in providing this story is only to entertain you. The characters and events are fictional.

  When Darkness Breaks

  By Traci M Sanders

  Prologue

  The sun beamed down on the freshly-cut grass, with not a single cloud in sight. A gentle breeze brushed the faces in the crowd. Annie’s team led by two points in the last game of the season. She had begged her father to let her play center forward. “Please, Daddy. I know I can score a goal. Give me a chance to show you.” Drake was a sucker for those teddy bear eyes and had agreed to let her try.

  Annie’s little brother, Max, busied himself with matchbox cars, on a blanket situated next to his mother.

  With only two minutes left in the game, Amber scanned the soccer field and quickly located her husband, Drake. She admired how compassionate and patient he was as a coach; but her heart truly melted when she watched him interact with their daughter, Annie. In fact, Drake’s propensity to be a good father was what had attracted Amber to him from the moment they first met.

  A smile emerged on her face as she reflected on that day.

  ~

  It was a hot July afternoon. Ice cream trucks and squeals of little children serenaded the town. Amber had just graduated college and worked at waiting tables for extra income. The diner was nearly desolate but a bit overstaffed. Drake walked in with two little girls stuck to his legs, and chose a seat in Amber’s station. He sported a pair of dark jeans and a solid green muscle shirt that hugged the curves of his biceps. Amber’s eyes were fixed on paper in hand while she took their order, in an attempt to disguise the warm, crimson glow on her cheeks.

  As the girls enjoyed their after-meal vanilla cone, Amber stood alone at the counter. Her fingers twirled tiny strands of hair. Boredom was clearly written all over her face, until Drake invited her to join them. She learned that he was en route to the movie theatre with his two nieces. As she watched him interact with the girls, Amber became convinced that he was quality ‘daddy’ material. That was a very important item on her checklist, since she had never known her own father.

  She smiled and listened intently while Drake described his life as an architect at a local design firm. The passion he had for his job excited her, as she was career-driven too. Every word he spoke slid off his tongue effortlessly, the way sweat trickled down the outer edges of an icy soda bottle on a hot summer day. She melted in every place that counts when he looked at her with those chocolate brown eyes, sprinkled with tiny flecks of green. Five years her senior, Drake had a certain aura about him that made her feel safe. Every time he smiled at her, she felt like the only woman in the world. No man had ever had that effect on her.

  Amber didn’t date much but told herself she would instantly know when the right man came along. Though the timing was severely premature, she had already allowed herself to envision what life would be like with him.

  Before he left the diner, Drake asked for her number. Three dates later, the two were nearly inseparable.

  ***

  Just six months into their relationship, Drake took Amber back to the diner where they met, and proposed. The wedding took place outside a small chapel in their home-town of Wichita. He promised Amber a dream wedding as soon as they could afford it. The couple exchanged vows with simple gold bands, purchased from a local pawn shop, but what those infinite circles signified had more importance for Amber than their appearance or cost.

  Jill, Amber’s mother, attended the nuptials, with some reluctance. Amber’s father had been killed in the war when she was a small child, so for as long as she could remember, it was just the two of them. No man would ever be good enough for Jill’s little girl, and she definitely didn’t trust the smooth-talking Drake Woods. Most of all, she couldn’t stand to see her daughter be subservient to a man. She’d raised Amber to be a confident, self-sufficient woman like herself, but when Drake was around, that girl disappeared.

  Amber had always dreamed of becoming a world renowned journalist and traveling to other countries to interview foreign leaders. But after she steadily worked her way up the proverbial corporate ladder, from producer’s assistant to weekend anchor, those dreams got put on hold—when Amber announced she was pregnant. She stayed home with her daughter for six months then went back to work, and Annie was placed in full-time day care.

  For the next year, Amber proved her worth time and again to the station manager. The money was good, and her new nickname at the station was “the go-to gal,” because she covered every story she could get her hands on. Things were going well for Drake too. The higher-ups had taken notice of his talent.

  By the age of one, Annie had suffered several colds and sinus infections. Drake and Amber realized it was due to her interactions with the multitude of kids at the day care center. They agreed it was best if one of them stayed home with her full time. Drake worked out a deal with his office, which allowed him to come in once a week to pick up projects, and complete them from home. It was the perfect arrangement.

  Almost three years later, the Woods welcomed a nine pound, seven ounce baby boy to their family. Amber took only six weeks leave from the station then returned to work.

  Drake became a stay-home dad. He had been raised in a family of four boys, and his father coached his soccer team and managed the home, while his mom ran her own ballet studio.

  Since Drake was always with the kids, Jill rarely spent any time with her grandchildren, another thing she resented him for. Though she was relieved when the couple bought a house just one mile down the street from her. At least she still had her daughter close by.

  ~

  Amber’s mind returned to the moment. She cheered as Annie scored the winning goal to finish the game. Afterwards, the four of them went out to celebrate, complete with hot dogs and ice cream—Annie’s favorites.

  At home, they hung out in the backyard until the sun sank behind the trees. The night concluded with popcorn and a movie in the den, until both kids were fast asleep, piled atop their parents. Drake carried the children to their beds then made his way to his own, where Amber lay dressed in nothing but a hungry smile. They locked the door and made out like teenagers who were out past curfew on a school night. It was sweet, passionate, and after all those years, still amazing.

  ***

  That was once pretty much the course of events on any given Saturday for the Woods family, until … tragedy struck, and the life Amber knew, ceased to exist.

  Chapter One

  How It All Began

  Excitement made Amber jittery, despite the delicious anniversary meal she and Drake had just shared at the local bistro. She had big news. That morning, the station had offered her a promotion, and wanted to move her to Seattle, where she would be the head anchorwoman for the Channel 6 Seattle Beat. This would mean the entire family would need to transfer there with her.

  What an incredible opportunity for her. It would mean much more money for the family. Drake had always supported Amber’s career, and was proud of her. But, that particular night, she had discovered he had news of his own.

  Not wanting to fight in the restaurant, they waited until they left and were headed to the babysitter’s house
to pick up the children. Amber had hoped they’d be done before they had little ears in the back of the car, but the argument just grew more and more heated.

  “What do you mean?” She frowned and fiddled with her seatbelt.

  “They want to send me to New York. I’ll be leading a team in the design of the new International Science Building. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime … Why can’t you be happy for me?”

  “But, … what about my job? My career. Didn’t you hear how big a chance this is for me? For us?”

  “What about mine? It’s always about you. You and your job. You and your career. You. You. You. …”

  Amber huddled in the passenger seat, her head pressed against the window, and tried to ignore Drake’s anger and disappointment. He wasn’t the only one who felt hurt and let down. He’d always supported her, so why would he change his mind now? Right when she had her big chance?

  The engine roared as he put his foot down, and the gravity pushed Amber back into the seat.

  “Slow down!” she yelled.

  “God, you are such a control freak. I’m sick of you telling me what to do.” He slammed the wheel with the heel of his palm. “I thought you’d understand. I love being a stay-home-dad, but this is a chance I can’t pass up.”

  Amber crossed her arms. She loved her children but did not want to be a stay-home-mom. Especially not now. The car lurched and shuddered, and produced a sickening crunch followed by a bang. The tires squealed when Drake slammed on the brakes, and metal screeched on metal—the sound was ear-splitting.

  “What happened?”

  Drake ignored her, and muttered an expletive under his breath. He jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped. The kids wailed and screamed in the back seat. Amber’s heart raced as she unbuckled her seat belt and turned to tend to them. God, couldn’t this have happened before they’d collected them from the sitter’s?

  Five-year-old Annie was inconsolable. “Mommy, it was a boy, bigger than me. Daddy hit him.”

  Amber’s heart nearly stopped. Frantic, she leapt from the car and ran to where her husband knelt on the wet asphalt. A crowd had already gathered, and stood in shocked silence.

  In the distance, sirens blared and flashing blue lights drew nearer. Amber looked back at her husband, who was administering CPR to the young boy. The kid’s bike lay crumpled and smashed about three feet away. Annie and Max’s screams reached her from the car, but everything sounded like it was under water.

  “No. No, no, no.” Drake whispered over and over again.

  The emergency services arrived, and relieved Drake from his efforts. A few minutes later, the police arrived and wanted to take statements. Numb, Amber tried to cooperate with a young officer, while also trying to calm her hysterical children.

  Reporters showed up at their house and camped out every day, demanding statements. Amber refused to give them anything they could use against her—being well aware of how the ‘business’ worked. She couldn’t even make a trip to the grocery store without being followed or bombarded by cameras in the parking lot. She didn’t want to show her face in the neighborhood, let alone on television. So, she turned down the Seattle offer and quit her job. Amber hid out at home, while Drake sought refuge at his office. After a few weeks, they put their house up for sale, and Drake accepted the job in New York. It didn’t matter that the young boy had been riding in the dark without lights or reflectors, or that the police hadn’t pressed charges. She and Drake had ended a twelve-year-old kid’s life.

  The house sold in two weeks. It saddened Amber to let it go. This was the first home she and Drake had bought together—a two story brick, with beautiful bay windows in front, a winding staircase in the entrance, and a huge eat-in kitchen. Annie and Max had both learned to walk on those floors. She and Drake had christened every room inside. And it was the only home both of her children had ever known.

  Best of all, her mother lived right down the street. But, when she thought about all the bad memories wrapped up in that town, Amber agreed a move to New York might be the fresh start they needed. Although, it didn’t take long for them to realize they couldn’t outrun their problems.

  Chapter Two

  Welcome to New York

  Drake’s company had all of their belongings shipped to the new residence, which took a lot of stress from their family. In addition, he was provided with a company car, an expense account, and a beautiful furnished home in an upscale neighborhood, about ten miles from downtown. Though Drake soon realized that the commute was much longer with traffic.

  It took about three weeks for Amber to get everything unpacked and put away. The house was nice, but definitely didn’t have the comfortable feel of their home in Kansas. It seemed all of their neighbors were stuffy rich people who rarely made an appearance during the day, other than to exit their garages, en route to work or fancy restaurants. Some of the women were stay-home moms like Amber, but they already had their own neighborhood cliques established. Amber surmised that most of them probably worked in fancy Manhattan offices, as she took note of how they were dressed.

  Sometimes, she missed the corporate life. She no longer had a reason to don makeup or a pair of high heels. Well, for longer than a session of dress-up with her daughter anyway. But, when she looked into her children’s eyes, Amber was right where she never knew she always wanted to be.

  For a while, it seemed the move was just what they needed. Mr. Shelton put Drake to work right away on the Science Building project, which meant a lot of late nights away from his wife and kids. But it kept him distracted enough to not dwell on the past. Usually, Amber waited up for Drake, no matter how late. She asked him all about his day, while he devoured a re-warmed dinner. It seemed redundant and boring to Drake, but his wife absorbed every word he said. It was the only adult conversation she was afforded during the day.

  After dinner, they kissed the kids goodnight then slipped off to their room and made love for hours. Even if Drake had to get up early the next day, they always made time for each other.

  ***

  Annie attended an exclusive private school, which Drake’s company also helped pay for. A good education was very important to both Amber and Drake.

  Amber enjoyed her time with Max during the day, but soon realized that toddlers weren’t an adequate substitute for adult interaction. There was only so much house cleaning she could do in a day, and so many ways to redecorate without overdoing it. She was very supportive of her husband and knew he was doing what was needed to take care of their family, but soon the pressures of taking care of two children alone wore on her.

  Amber decided to join a local gym. Yoga had been her go-to sport for relaxation and staying in shape back in Kansas. She saw an ad on television for the Yoga Mania studio, which was about a block away, and decided to give it a try. By the end of three classes, she was hooked, and happy to have found an outlet to help release some stress.

  ***

  There were definitely perks to living in a big city. She could have an entire nutritious dinner delivered to their door within thirty minutes, which included a fresh salad. At first, Amber was excited to have so many amazing opportunities for the children. The neighborhood held a multitude of unique places to shop, Central Park was beautiful and serene, and the streets were alive with performers. But, soon the new wore off, and for the first time in her life, Amber had a surplus of money and time at her disposal, yet she was not happy.

  ***

  About six months after the couple arrived in New York, things went downhill for Drake. While on his way home from work one evening, he passed a terrible auto accident that involved a little boy. The scene vividly brought the past back to him. His work nights got later and later, and Amber wondered if he was actually at the office. He often reeked of liquor and women’s perfume—not a scent that belonged to his wife. She learned that his office building had a sports gym inside, and noticed he had been working out. Though she had not benefited from his new sexy physique in
quite some time.

  Amber didn’t recognize her husband or her life anymore. She felt like a single parent. Even the teachers at Annie’s school inquired about her marital status a few times for parental events. When Drake did show up to school functions, it never went well, and they fought about it for days afterwards. It definitely wasn’t the life she had imagined, but she held to the ongoing promise from Drake that things would calm down “as soon as the project was finished.”

  Sometimes, she grew homesick and missed her mother terribly. They spoke on the phone at least once per day. Though she tried to put on a façade, Jill could tell when something was wrong with her daughter. The conversations always seemed to be the same:

  “Honey, is everything okay with you and Drake?”

  “Everything’s fine, Mom, he just has to work a lot. It’s a new job and things will settle down soon.” She was trying to convince herself more than her mother.

  “Well, call me if you need me, and you know you always have a place to go.”

  “I don’t want my kids to grow up without a father like I did, Mom. Drake loves us and is doing all of this for us. I want to support him.”

  The conversation ended with Amber feeling exasperated, as always, from having to explain away her husband’s recent lack of presence in their family. Amber would often find an excuse to cut the conversation short, usually something that involved the kids. Then mother and daughter exchanged phone kisses and promised a call for the next day.

  Chapter Three

  Happy Anniversary

  Amber tried to melt her worries in the hot, soapy pool of heaven she had just stepped into, but the day’s events ran through her restless mind like a soundtrack stuck on repeat, even as the warm cloth covered her eyes. What was Drake doing that was more important than sharing that rare stolen moment with her?

  ***

  Amber had planned the perfect night for the two of them. The champagne sat on ice, a romantic movie waited in the DVD player, and she had even cooked a tender rack of lamb with rosemary garnish from scratch. She and the kids had spent most of the morning at the park to ensure they would be tired enough to meet with an early bedtime. Her hair was curled, her skin shaven and moisturized—even her makeup was done—which, these days, was unusual. The shopping trip to the local boutique had proven successful because she found a short, red strapless cocktail dress that fit her firm body like a glove.

 
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