From the Heart Friday: A Worthy Heart

Are you looking for a heartfelt weekend read?
Take a peek at this week’s From the Heart editor’s choice.

A Worthy Heart

Title: A Worthy Heart
Author: Sara Beth Williams
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback and eBook

Description

Joel Bennett has always known Serena Hayes as his sister’s gregarious best friend. In the three years since Lacey began college, Serena became a regular houseguest, but lately, she’s absent more than not. When Joel discovers she’s in an abusive relationship, protectiveness from within roars to life.

With only a part-time job to support her and nowhere to go, Serena fears leaving her current relationship would jeopardize her chances of graduating college. After a brutal attack leaves her no choice, she courageously moves out. On her journey toward regaining confidence, self-worth, and independence, Joel falls in beside her, encouraging her. The way he emulates Godly love and compassion draws her close—not just to him, but to the God who can satisfy her longing for love better than any man,

Attraction sizzles between them, but events from their pasts cast shadows of doubt.
When the unthinkable happens, can Serena open her heart to a second chance at love, or is she destined to be alone?

Find the book on Amazon

Check it out at AnaiahPress.com

Take a peak!

Chapter 1

A SCREAM ESCAPED SERENA HAYES’S throat as she stomped on the brake pedal. She gripped the wheel until her knuckles turned white. Sounds of screeching tires and metal smashing against metal echoed and reverberated through her entire body as her coupe slammed into the side of another car. Her seat belt locked, yanking her taut against her seat. The airbag deployed with a resounding pop and rush of air.

A sharp ache spread across her face from the impact of the airbag against her skin. Heart slamming against her chest, Serena sucked in ragged breaths. Shaking, she unbuckled her belt and reached for her door handle. Panic shot straight to her heart when it wouldn’t open, until she popped the unlock button. Exhaling, she shoved open her door and stumbled out.

Immediately, she scanned the four-lane street for the other car and spotted it several yards away. Vehicles slowed and changed lanes in order to pass the accident.

Still shaking, she shielded her eyes against the glare of the sun and walked toward the other car—a green four-door sedan—to where it sat at an angle. Pressure built behind her eyes at the sight of the back door on the driver’s side crushed inward. Her stomach rolled as she approached.

An older man with graying hair climbed from the front of the sedan. “Are you okay?” he asked without preamble.

She nodded and detected sirens in the distance. “I’m so sorry,” he said as he swung his gaze around, taking in the damage to his car. He fished his phone from his pocket and refocused on her. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m okay.” She stepped closer, examining the back seat. “Is there anyone else inside?”

He shook his head. “No, no, I’m the only one.”

A tear of relief escaped down her cheek. She stepped back, wrapping her arms around her middle.

After retrieving his license and insurance papers from his glove compartment, he asked whether she wanted pictures of his information. She agreed and rattled off her phone number. While he snapped pictures, she returned to her car to retrieve her insurance papers.

A wave of dizziness washed over her at the sight of the damage to her own car—a gift she’d received upon graduating high school. Smoke rose from the crumpled hood, once a shining navy blue; liquid spilled out and down the roadway; glass from broken headlights littered the asphalt like confetti. She leaned forward against the side and bent her head. I can’t believe this is happening.

“Serena!”

She lifted her gaze at the sound of her name and scanned the lines of halted and slow-moving cars for the source of the voice. Doesn’t sound like Chris. She needed to find her phone. By now’ he might already be at the birthday party, wondering why she hadn’t arrived.

Then she identified the source of the voice. Tall and lean, clad in black slacks and a collared shirt, jogging along the bike lane past the stalled traffic was Joel Bennett. Her best friend’s brother. The same best friend whose birthday party was happening right now. What’s he doing here? Why isn’t he already at the restaurant with Lacey?

Panting, he stopped in front of her. “Serena, are you okay? Are you hurt?”

She sniffled and swallowed the emotion clogging her throat. He was the last person she wanted to see her cry. “I’m fine. My car…not so much.”

Without warning, she found herself wrapped in his arms. For a brief moment, she allowed her eyelids to sink closed and laid her forehead against his chest. Then she thought better of it and quickly stepped out of his embrace. What am I doing? I have a boyfriend. Who would flip out if he saw me hugging another guy!

“You sure you’re all right?” Joel studied her with an expression of deep concern, but he kept his hands at his sides.

She wrapped her arms around herself again, tucking her fingers under her arms to conceal the trembling. “I’m okay. The other driver is fine too.” She inhaled a shaky breath. “He pulled right out in front of me. I slammed on my brakes, but…”

Two squad cars arrived, and their sirens halted abruptly. Four uniformed officers emerged. Two officers immediately placed orange cones strategically alongside each vehicle, cordoning off the lane that the two vehicles occupied. They then stepped out to redirect the traffic.

A third navy-blue uniform approached Serena and Joel. “Were both of you involved in the car accident?” she asked.

“No, I wasn’t involved.” Joel introduced himself and offered his hand before continuing. “I’m a friend. When I saw her getting out of the car, I pulled over and ran down the street to see if I could help.” He placed one hand on his hip and the other on the back of his neck as his gaze slid to the damaged front end of Serena’s car.

“Miss, are you hurt in any way?”

Serena turned her gaze to the officer. “I’m not hurt, no.”

“Can you provide license, registration, and insurance?”

“Yes.” Despite the numbness cloaking her, she opened her car and climbed inside. She found her purse and pocketed her phone. When she tried to open her glove compartment, it wouldn’t budge. The officer left, then returned with a screwdriver and pried it open. After handing over her insurance card, Serena grabbed her keys from the ignition and her purse from the passenger seat.

The officer examined her documents and input the needed information into a tablet before returning everything.

Once she and Joel had both provided statements, which the officer recorded with a stylus on her tablet, the officer said, “Is the car still drivable? Can you move your car off to the side of the road?”

Unshed tears blurred her vision as she focused on her car and shook her head. She shoved wayward strands of hair out of her face. “I don’t know.”

“What if we pushed it into the bike lane?” Joel stepped forward and opened the driver’s side door. Leaning in, he put the car in neutral. Together, Joel and two of the officers pushed the car into the bike lane, out of the line of traffic.

Serena sank to the curb in a daze. The buildings in the distance now blocked the sun sinking beneath the horizon. Noise surrounded her—glass crunching beneath the tires of her car as it rolled across the asphalt, the constant hum of car engines, snippets of conversation among the officers, the owner of the sedan speaking on the phone, snippets of country music drifting from a car behind her.

Through all this noise, helplessness overwhelmed her. What am I supposed to do without a car? How am I supposed to get to school and to work? Not to mention the interview for an internship she’d arranged for next week, all the way across town.

“Can I do anything to help?” Joel’s voice from beside her caused her to jump and brought her out of her stupor.

She held her head in her hands. “I was on my way to Lacey’s birthday dinner.” She fingered the strap of her purse, which lay at her feet.

“I was headed there too.” Joel sat with his arms across his raised knees.

“I need to call my boyfriend. And a tow truck. And my insurance company. I was supposed to meet Chris—my boyfriend.” She scrubbed her face and glanced up again. “Lacey met him, but I don’t think you have.”

He nodded. “I see.”

She exhaled, shoving her hair out of her face. “What am I supposed to do without a car?”

“Would your insurance company provide a rental in this case?”

She cleared her throat, pondering this. “Maybe. I can’t remember all the policy details. I have to ask.” She checked the time on her phone. Past six o’clock already. “You should probably head to the restaurant.”

“I’m not about to leave you here alone.”

She offered him a half smile. It wasn’t his responsibility to stay with her, but she would be lying if she said she didn’t appreciate it.

“I can give you a ride home if you need one.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

Her phone vibrated against her knee. She swiped across Chris’s photo blinking on the screen. “Hi—”

“You’re late. Where are you?”

She cupped her hand over her ear to reduce the amount of traffic noise. “I’m sorry. I was in a car accident, and—”

“What? How? What happened?”

She briefly explained the incident.

A string of curses regarding the other driver slipped from Chris’s mouth. “I’ll text you the number for a tow company. Call them and have them tow it home.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll meet you at the house.”

After disconnecting, she awaited his text, then called and spoke with the tow company. Call completed, she waited silently with Joel beside her. Gas and exhaust fumes spewed from the passing cars. Tires screeched; horns honked; engines revved; pop music drifted through the air. Her head pounded in rhythm with the chaos surrounding her.

Once the tow truck arrived, she forced herself to rise and walk to meet the driver as he slammed his door. “My friend Joel is giving me a ride home. Would you like to follow me, or do you want the address?”

“Text me the address, and I’ll meet you there.”

“My boyfriend will pay you when we arrive. Is that all right?”

“No problem.” He wiped a gloved hand across his forehead. “Here, text me that address.” He handed her a small card.

“Sure. Thanks.”

Back at her car, she unlocked her trunk and retrieved her backpack and the gift she’d bought Lacey and then stepped back so the tow truck driver could attach the car to the chains of his truck.

Knots of frustration, anxiety, and sadness coiled in her stomach. Her car was her baby. Her dad wouldn’t be happy when he found out. It wasn’t my fault, though, so he should understand.

“Ready?” Joel asked.

“One second.” She found the number on the driver’s card and quickly texted him the address where she and Chris lived, and then she followed Joel down the street a couple of blocks to where he’d parked in a small lot. While they drove toward her residence, she spoke only to give directions. Unlike Lacey, who often talked nonstop, Joel remained quiet the entire drive—for which Serena was grateful.

As Joel approached her street and rounded the corner, she glimpsed Chris standing in the driveway, muscular arms folded over his chest, the pose enhancing his broad shoulders.

Joel eased up to the curb and shifted to park.

“I bought Lacey a gift.” Serena held up a purple gift bag and then set it behind her on the floor of the back seat. “Make sure she gets it?”

“Of course.” Joel nodded in affirmation.

“Thank you for the ride.” She collected her purse on her lap.

He tilted his head, mocha-brown eyes full of concern. “You sure you don’t need anything else?”

She shook her head and climbed from the car. Joel nodded once, but his car remained on the curb as she walked toward where Chris waited in the center of the driveway next to his extended-cab pickup truck.

“Who is he?” Chris gestured in Joel’s direction.

“A friend—Lacey’s brother. He was at the scene of the accident to help and offered me a ride home—”

Chris planted two fists on thick hips. “Why didn’t you ride with the tow truck driver?”

Serena stared at the ground, heat infusing her cheeks. “He’s an acquaintance. It was only a ride home, Chris.”

“Don’t do it again.”

“You’d rather me ride home with a complete stranger—” The slap across her face stole her breath and sent tears to her eyes. She squeezed them shut, gripping her purse in a bundle in her arms.

“I’d rather you not flirt with every man you see.”

“I didn’t… I wasn’t—” She cleared her throat, inhaling a deep breath. Sharp blue eyes glared at her without words. She closed her mouth, determined to keep the peace. He hated when she argued back, and she wasn’t emotionally stable enough to stand her ground at the moment.

Before either spoke again, the tow truck rumbled up to the curb. With rhythmic beeping and flashing yellow lights, the truck carefully maneuvered Serena’s car into the empty spot next to Chris’s truck.

Another stray tear traced a trail down her cheek as she surveyed, for the second time, the extensive damage to the front end of her car.

Once the driver unhooked the car from the heavy chains, Chris paid him in cash and sent him on his way. He turned toward Serena with arms folded. “Stop crying. It’s over with.”

Serena swiped away the moisture and inhaled another deep breath to rein in her emotions. “How could you let this happen?” Chris gestured toward the damaged car. “How—”

“I told you, someone pulled out in front of me—”

“Stop interrupting me.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“We just got your car fixed—and now we have to deal with this.” One hand shoved in his pocket, he gestured toward her wreck of a car with the other. “I can’t believe this.”

Waiting until he paused longer than five seconds, she said, “The other guy pulled out in front of me. His insurance company will pay for the repairs.”

“They better.” Chris ran his palm over the fuzz of brown hair covering his head. “Let’s go inside. I’m starving.”

Once inside, she found refuge in the bathroom, where she could cry in peace for the loss of her car. Dropping her purse on the floor, she leaned over the sink, rubbing the sides of her head to combat the growing ache behind and above her eyes.

This is the last thing I need to deal with in my last year of college!

Tears subsiding, she gently washed her face and eyes with a warm cloth.

It’s just a car. Chris can give me rides for now. They’re sure to provide a rental. She inhaled through her nose. I can still get to school. It’s not the end of the world. She expelled another long breath. From the medicine cabinet, she retrieved her bottle of aspirin and swallowed two pills, chasing them down with a quick drink from the faucet.

She retrieved her phone from her pocket, checked her messages, and cringed when she found two from Lacey. She began typing back. I’m sorry I’m missing your party. On the way I—

“Serena!” Chris’s voice cut her text short. She’d have to send the text later.

She sucked in one last deep breath to calm her pounding head and aching heart and then headed to the kitchen to throw something together for dinner.

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A Worthy Heart

One thought on “From the Heart Friday: A Worthy Heart

  1. Reblogged this on life, love, writing and commented:
    Happy Friday! I wanted to share with you the first chapter of A Worthy Heart for FREE! If you’ve not had a chance to check out this story, now is your chance.

    Keep reading below for this sneak peak.

    A Worthy Heart is free on Kindle Unlimited or you can purchase it directly from Amazon. Enjoy!

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