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Sometimes I’m super jazzed about a book, but I don’t get to reading it for a while. Sometimes it takes a friend or two to remind me why I WANT to read it. Sometimes just a reminder email, and I go, “Oh, yeah! I’ve got that book! Let me open it right now!”
🙂 This can be any of those for you. No matter what, I want it to be EASY to read my books. Easy to find them on a variety of retailers, including libraries. Easy to find them in your country. Easy to read them anywhere you read – your phone, an eReader, on an app, in your web browser.
So if you have a few minutes, keep reading for the first couple of chapters of THE DAY HE DROVE BY – that free book you got a few weeks ago!
If you can’t remember where you got it, you should be able to find it inside the BookFunnel app, or perhaps you had BookFunnel send it to your device…
Either way, enjoy this beachy, heartwarming romance between paramedic Drew Herrin and single mom Gretchen Samuelson!
The Day He Drove By - Chapter One:
10 years ago:
“Aaron, you have to stop the car. We’re not going to make it.” Gretchen Samuels hated the weakness and panic in her voice, but the pain ripping through her lower back made it difficult to speak any other way.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” her husband said. “I can’t stop.” In fact, he accelerated to a speed their twelve-year-old sedan certainly couldn’t handle.
As another labor pain tore through her, tears spilled from Gretchen’s eyes. She didn’t want to have her first child on the side of the road, miles from nurses and antiseptic and baby warmers. And medication. She really needed a fast-acting painkiller.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed. Aaron hated living out on her granddad’s lavender farm, but the housing was cheap and he was almost done with his online securities degree. Their plans for a future in Seattle while he led the data security team at a top technology firm were months from coming to fruition.
“Don’t be sorry.” He glanced at her, and she disliked the panic in his eyes too, and the white-knuckle grip he had on the steering wheel certainly wasn’t comforting.
Her breath caught in her throat as it seemed like this baby was going to claw its way out of her no matter how much she willed the little girl to hold on a little longer.
“Call 911,” she said. “Please.” She must’ve infused the right amount of emotion into her voice, because Aaron slowed the car and eased it onto the gravel shoulder. He leapt from behind the wheel, left his door open, and sprinted around the front of the car.
“Let’s get you into the back.” He supported her—the way he’d been doing for the four years they’d been together—and helped her into the backseat before pulling out his phone and making the emergency call.
Gretchen’s pain eased with the new position, but it didn’t go away. She wondered if it ever would, or if this degree of agony would hover in her muscles like a ghost forever. “Hang on,” she whispered as she put her hand on her very pregnant belly. “Just a little while longer.”
“They’re on their way.” Aaron poked his head back inside the car. “They said to get any blankets, towels, napkins, anything we have. You’re supposed to stay lying down and try to relax.”
Gretchen couldn’t help the snort that escaped. “Relax?” She let her head fall back as she focused on the car’s ceiling. She hadn’t been able to relax for months, not since her stomach had grown so large she couldn’t see her toes. Simply getting up from the couch had grown increasingly difficult as the days had passed.
She hadn’t minded, because she and Aaron had wanted this baby more than anything. The tears that heated her eyes this time were from desperation. A shiver ran over her body as the wind snaked its way into the car.
“Aaron, can you close the doors?” She lifted her head but couldn’t see him anywhere. Fear flowed through her. “Aaron?”
The trunk slammed, and he came to the door closest to her head this time. “We don’t have a blanket in the trunk. I found this jacket though.” He balled it up and put it under her head before shrugging out of the one he was wearing too.
Gretchen steeled herself to deliver her baby and wrap it in her husband’s polar fleece. Her range of emotions felt ridiculous as a wave of injustice slammed into her. “Close the doors, please,” she said through tight teeth. “I’m cold.” Should she be cold? What if she was going into shock or something?
Her jaw worked against the rising terror as he complied, going around the car—which had all four doors open—and shutting the wind out before sealing himself behind the wheel again. Gretchen thought the silence in the car might be worse than the wind, and she didn’t want to bring her baby into the world under such a cloud of awkwardness.
“Remember when we first met?” she asked him, glad when his low, soft chuckle met her ears.
“You said my hair looked like a gorilla.”
She giggled too, though the motion made her stomach muscles tighten uncomfortably. She hitched in a breath and held it. Aaron had been a freshman on campus though he was twenty-three years old. Gretchen had just finished her business management degree. His dark hair was swooped to the side, very much like the cartoon gorillas Gretchen had spent a lot of time watching while she nannied to pay for school.
He reached back and threaded his fingers through hers. “What if they don’t make it?” he asked, his voice barely higher than a whisper. “I don’t know how to deliver a baby.”
And Gretchen knew there was more than just a baby that needed to come out. “They’ll make it.” She spoke with as much confidence as she could, the way she always did when Aaron confessed his worries to her.
You’re the best in your class, she’d tell him. You’ll be able to find a good job.
Don’t worry about anything here, she said to him when he had to go to Seattle to take his tests, attend interviews, or deliver dissertations. I’ll be fine. Just watching the lavender grow.
She closed her eyes and imagined herself in the fields of lavender now, the fragrant scent of the herbs wafting through the slow, blue sky. The same smile that had always accompanied her assurances when he left drifted across her face now.
Her next labor pain stole all the peace from her, and her eyes shot open and a moan ground through her whole body. Aaron’s fingers on hers squeezed, and everything seemed clenched so tight, tight, tight.
The contraction seemed to last a long time before subsiding. Gretchen only got what felt like a moment’s reprieve before the next one began. Time marched on, seemingly unaware of the pain she was in, the desperate way she cinched everything tight to keep the baby inside.
She wasn’t sure how many labor pains she’d endured, or how much time had gone by, before Aaron said, “They’re here,” with a heavy dose of relief in his voice. He once again jumped from the car.
Moments later, the door by her feet opened and a gust of ocean air raced in. The scent of brine she normally loved only reminded her that this wasn’t a hospital, there were no drugs, and she could do absolutely nothing about it.
“Ma’am, my name is Andrew Herrin, and I’m going to take good care of you.”
She managed to look over her belly to a man who couldn’t be older than twenty. A zing of alarm raced through her.
“Drew?” She couldn’t believe she cared if the man whose family lived next door to her—who she’d walked with in lavender fields as a teen—delivered her baby. He had a bag of medical supplies. A faster ride to the hospital. And a kind face, with a calm smile.
“You’re going to be fine, Gretchen.” He snapped a pair of gloves on and touched her ankle. “So let’s see what we’ve got.”
The Day He Drove By - Chapter Two:
Drew Herrin felt the morning sun warm his back as he worked. He’d already fed the chickens, the horses, the cows, and the goats. His mother and step-father had quite the little farm just north of Hawthorne Harbor, down the Lavender Highway. He glanced up and took a moment to just breathe, something he hadn’t been able to do in Medina, though the town sat right on the water too.
The air simply tasted different here, and while Drew had hoped to make something of himself in Medina—do more, be better, actually help someone—he’d only realized the job was the same there as it was here. Just more stressful. Less fun. No room to run with his German shepherds and experiment with his ice cream flavors.
The wind picked up, but Drew was used to being windblown. Everyone on Hawthorne Harbor was. The long-time joke was that if you didn’t like the wind, you should leave. Because it was always windy.
He looked across the water to the body of land he could just make out in the distance. He’d grown up on the harbor, but it still gave him a snip of surprise to remember he was looking at another country when he looked at that land.
For a fleeting moment, the same restlessness that had driven him to Medina three years ago squirreled through him again.
Then he put his head down and got back to work. He finished fixing the tractor his step-dad used to get the lavender fields properly built up for watering. He sharpened a few tools and whistled for his shepherds to come with him as he headed back to the house.
With a single bark, Blue announced his arrival from the huge flower garden adjacent to the farm. He brought the scent of roses with him, and even a white petal from a flower Drew would never know.
“You rascal.” Drew grinned at the dog and flicked the petal to the ground. “You can’t go over there.” He glanced at the expansive garden, bearing row after row of flowers in all colors, shapes, and sizes. His family owned the land, but he’d learned that his mother rented it to a local florist in town, who apparently hand-grew everything she sold in her shop on Main Street.
Drew had never met the woman. She tended to the flowers when he wasn’t there, obviously. And he had no need for flowers, as he’d sworn off women and all common dating practices when his last girlfriend had carved out his heart and then left town.
A text. That was what he’d gotten after a fifteen-month relationship where diamonds and children had been discussed.
I can’t do this.
Drew thought the words his ex had sent now, though he tried to stuff all memories with Yvonne in them back into the box where he kept them.
Can’t hadn’t been in Drew’s vocabulary growing up. His father had taught him to fix cars, tractors, lawn mowers, all of it. He worked the farm, rode horses, raised goats, planted lavender, and played a major role in the Hawthorne Harbor Lavender Festival. There was nothing Drew couldn’t do.
He’d taken that attitude into adulthood, first finishing his emergency medical technician training and then going on to be a certified firefighter. He’d gone on to take cardiac life support classes, pediatric training, and tactical emergency care.
No, can’t didn’t exist in Drew’s world. At least until Yvonne.
Something wet met his palm, and Drew danced away from his second German shepherd, the much more silent and sneaky Chief. A chuckle came from his throat, and Drew crouched to let his dogs lick his neck and face. His laughter grew, and he was reminded why this remote farm on the edge of Hawthorne Harbor felt more like home than anywhere else.
“Morning chores are done,” he announced as he entered the wide, white farmhouse, his dogs right behind him. Their claws scratched against the hardwood, and he pointed to the utility room where he kept their food and water. “Go on, guys. I’ll come let you out in a minute.”
“Thanks, Drew,” Joel said. His step-dad didn’t mind the farm and the equipment upkeep, but his true love was with the lavender, and Drew figured they could both do what they liked best if he came out and tended to the animals.
Joel had spent the first thirty years of his life in trade carpentry, and he’d improved the inside and outside of the farmhouse until Drew barely recognized it. He stepped into the kitchen with the high, honey-colored wood beams slanting up to the vaulted ceiling to find his dark-haired mother standing at the stove.
“Morning, Ma.” He swept a kiss along her hairline as she scrambled eggs. The smell made his stomach turn, and he opted for turning away and pouring himself a glass of orange juice. Funny how his father had passed nine years ago, and Drew still couldn’t handle the sight and smell of his dad’s favorite breakfast. How his mother continued making it every morning was a mystery to him. Thankfully, the grief that hit at unexpected times only tapped his heart today. Sometimes it could punch, leaving him breathless and confused.
“Are you working today?” she asked, switching her attention to a pan of sizzling bacon.
“Yep. Gonna shower and head in.” He wondered what today would bring behind the wheel of the ambulance. Probably another cat stuck in another tree. Or a kid with a scrape or two. Drew chastised himself that he shouldn’t want anyone in Hawthorne Harbor to need emergency medical care. But that seething need to do something worthwhile wouldn’t seem to quiet today.
“Can I leave Blue and Chief here?”
“Yeah.” Joel exhaled as he stood and refilled his coffee. “I’ll take ‘em out to the lavender fields and then let them swim in the harbor.”
Drew smiled at the man. “Thanks, Joel. I promise I’ll come get them tonight. The raccoons out here get them barking at night.”
“Maybe they’ll finally scare them away from my chickens,” he said with a grumbly note in his voice. Joel certainly did love his fresh eggs and those clucky chickens.
“Breakfast?” his mother asked when Drew attempted to leave the kitchen.
“I’ll stop at Duality on the way in.” Part gas station and part eatery, the chefs at Duality made the best breakfast burritos Drew had ever tasted. He softened his rejection of her food with the biggest smile he could pull off and hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “I’m going to use the bathroom upstairs. I’ll hang up my towel.”
She didn’t protest, and Drew took the steps two at a time to the mostly unused second floor. His old bedroom was up here, completely redone with the same luxurious hardwood Joel had gotten for next to nothing when a client decided they wanted something different. He’d painted the room in a light blue-gray and wispy white curtains had been added.
But the bedspread his mother had quilted still draped the bed, and Drew took a moment to run his fingertips along it. His favorite colors were green and blue, and he loved everything about being outside. So she’d carefully pieced together pine green pieces to make trees, dark brown pieces to make mountains, and several shades of blue to make the sky and ocean that surrounded this town Drew loved.
How he’d thought he could ever leave it and be happy plagued him. “Doesn’t matter,” he muttered to himself. He was back now, and happy helping around the farm as his parents got older, happy to have his old job back at the emergency services company that contracted with the hospital in Hawthorne Harbor, nearby Olympic National Park, and four other towns in the surrounding area.
After he showered, dressed, and let his dogs back outside, he climbed behind the wheel of his truck for the fifteen-minute drive into town. He loved the commute from farm to civilization. Though he didn’t make it every day, the straight road and country stillness allowed his mind to wander along new flavor combinations for his ice cream fetish.
He’d been circling something new for a few days now, something he hadn’t quite been able to put his taste buds on. He’d tried lavender and honey—that combination was as old as the Lavender Festival in town. White chocolate and lavender had been well-received among his paramedic teams, but he didn’t think it special enough to enter the Festival’s contest.
No, he definitely needed something special, something with that added oomph to make the Festival judges give him the coveted Lavender King title this year. He knew Augustus Hammond would enter the competition, and he’d won with ice cream three times out of the last six years. If Drew was going to take on the three-time Lavender King, it wasn’t going to be with lavender and honey.
And he wasn’t just competing against other food artisans. Oh, no. The town hosted the largest lavender festival in the entire country, and they gave out awards for revolutionary and best-use way of utilizing the plant that brought a new twist to old lavender traditions. He needed something special, but so far, it had eluded him.
He’d nearly arrived at the flavor that seemed to skip in and out of his mind when he saw a big, brown van on the side of the road up ahead. The vehicle looked older than him, and it sunk low on one corner, indicating a flat tire.
A blonde girl stood in the middle of the road, waving both of her arms. Drew immediately slowed and pulled to the gravel shoulder, giving plenty of distance between his truck and the van.
“Thank goodness.” The girl ran up to his truck before he could get fully out. She looked to be ten or eleven, with big front teeth she hadn’t quite grown into yet. She had dark green eyes that had probably come half from her mother and half from her father. “You’re the first car that’s come along in an hour.”
“Not much going on out here in the mornings,” he said, glancing past her to the front driver’s side, where the van leaned.
“My mom blew her tire, and we need help.” The girl sized him up as if she could tell by looking alone if he could help or not. “Can you change a tire?”
“Sure I can.” He gave her a smile, noting that all the windows on the van were glazed dark. His defenses went up, especially because her “mom” still hadn’t made an appearance. Crime was low in Hawthorne Harbor—one reason he hadn’t gone to the police academy to make his certifications a trifecta in public service.
But still. This non-moving van, with all those black windows, and a little girl in the middle of the road… Drew proceeded with caution.
She played with the end of her pale ponytail. “My mom will try to tell you she can do it herself.” Her voice pitched lower with every word and her eyes rounded. “But don’t believe her. We’ve been out here for over an hour, and she’s cried twice. ‘The flowers,’ she keeps saying.” The girl turned and skipped toward the van. “Come on.”
Drew took out his phone and tapped out a message to his boss. On my way in, I ran across a motorist on the side of the road. Flat tire. Just north of mile marker seventeen on the Lavender Highway. Going to check it out.
That way, if something happened, someone knew where he was. He’d been on the Lavender Highway hundreds of times, and he’d only stopped once—to deliver a baby almost ten years ago.
He glanced around. It had been right around here too, closer to the farm than the town, out in the middle of nowhere. He wondered what had happened to Aaron and Gretchen Samuels, and the baby girl he’d wrapped in a towel before delivering the afterbirth.
Let us know if you need help came back, and Drew pocketed his phone and shelved his memories of the last time he’d been out of a car on this stretch of the road so his senses could be on full alert.