Title: Love & Liberty (Holidays in Hallbrook)
Author: Elsie Davis
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Blinded by the past, it takes a little fate and great faith to be liberated and set free. Where you fly is up to you… After a bad divorce, Ashley returns to Hallbrook with her four-year-old son to regroup and start over. When her apartment catches fire and the fire department is called in, one of the first responders is David, her older brother’s best friend, and the man who dumped her without any reason when they dated in high school. She accepts his offer of a place to stay, knowing she could trust him with anything other than her heart. David, a member of the White Mountain Fire Department, is tasked with the controlled burns needed in the NH National Forest after a particularly dry winter and spring. While out marking the territory with Kojak, his dalmatian, he runs into Ashley, who’s on a mission and quick to tell him how to do his job. Ashley’s been called upon by the Audubon Society to verify the reported sighting of a pair of eagles and to look for a nest. The eagles are protected under federal law, but without proof they are nesting nearby, David has a job to do. A job that will protect the public far more than protecting an unverified eagle nest. Ashley will do anything to stop him, including seeking an injunction and rallying a protest. Just when David starts to compromise on both the controlled burn and his no-relationship rule, disaster strikes, reminding him why he made the rule in the first place. David soon realizes his mistake, but will Ashley give him a third chance? And if she does, will the third time be a charm?
“Mommy,” Cory said, the tone of his voice alarming.
Ashley started to rise, concerned about what might be wrong. “What is it, honey? What’s wrong?” she asked, advancing toward him.
“Um, there’s a fire.” He frowned.
“Fire?” Ashley raced to the kitchen, Cory’s words sending her into a panic. Just as she reached the doorway, the smoke alarm began emitting a high-pitched screech. “Oh my gosh, the kitchen is on fire. Tricia, call 911. We’ve got to get out of the house.” The flames were already licking at the ceiling, the fire too big for her to put out. She wasn’t even sure if there was a fire extinguisher in the place.
Whoosh. The kitchen curtains caught fire and were destroyed in seconds, the old, dry material like gasoline. The acrid odor of smoke burned her nose.
Cory. The only thing that mattered was getting him to safety.
Ashley scooped her son into her arms, adrenaline racing through her body as she tried to think clearly and not overreact. Cory started to cry. They headed for the door, Ashley clutching him tightly. She stopped only to grab her briefcase and camera bag. Luckily, she’d left them by the front door for tomorrow’s expedition into the forest.
Tricia followed her outside. They headed for the sidewalk, well away from the house and close to where her friend had parked.
“I called, and they’re on their way. I made sure they knew everyone is out of the house.” Tricia’s calm attitude despite the danger was exactly what she needed to help her remain focused.
“This is awful. I can’t imagine what would’ve started the fire. Thank goodness Cory said something.” Ashley couldn’t believe what was happening, but as she heard sirens in the distance coming closer and closer, it was becoming more real than she wanted. It was just one more thing in a long line of failure and setbacks. And what if it was her fault? The only thing she’d done was turn on the tea kettle.
She fought to control her emotions for Cory’s sake, hugging him close. “I’m so proud of you for telling me about the fire.”
Everything they owned was in the house. Everything. What if the fire department couldn’t save the cottage? Ashley prayed that wouldn’t happen. She took a deep breath and exhaled.
Everyone was safe. And that’s what was most important. Not things. Just people. Thank you, Lord. She drew another cleansing breath and tried to hold on to that thought.
The owners of the rental would be furious, and Ashley prayed they had adequate insurance coverage. Judging by the smoke pouring from the house, if the firefighters didn’t arrive soon, they might not ever find out what had caused the fire. In the space of minutes, her life had turned into another round of turmoil.
The loud wailing grew closer.
“Are the fire trucks coming here, Mommy?” Cory tried to get down out of her arms.
She set him down but kept firm hold of his hand. “Yes, honey. They’ll stop the fire, and everything will be okay.”
“They’re here.” Tricia pointed at the fire trucks as they rounded the corner, sirens blasting. “Maybe we should move off to the side.” Her friend took her arm and led her to the farthest point down the sidewalk away from the driveway.
Two fire trucks pulled up, and the firefighters jumped off the enormous red vehicles and went into action. Everywhere she looked, firefighters dressed in long, yellow fireproof jackets and galoshes went to work. Some unloaded the hoses off the trucks. A couple of them disappeared behind the house, while others stayed in front and headed for the front door. One of the firefighters pushed the door open and smoke came pouring out. The man lowered his oxygen mask into place before entering the cottage. Ashley said a prayer for the man’s safety.
A black Dodge truck pulled up, and the lone occupant stepped out of the vehicle with a beautiful dalmatian hot on his heels. Ashley watched as the man assessed the situation and called out directions to some of the firefighters. He turned to look her way and then headed straight toward her.
David Beckett. Her brother’s best friend. And her ex-boyfriend. The man who’d broken her heart with no reason back in high school.
Of course, it had to be David. With everything else in her life going to pot, Ashley wasn’t surprised at another heaping dose of insult to injury being added.
Ashley’s hand moved to touch the eagle pendant she’d worn ever since David had given it to her. He’d told her the eagle represented freedom, independence, and his love. He wanted her to follow her dreams and travel the world to discover the beauty of wildlife and nature. It was the one thing from David she hadn’t been able to expunge from her life. That, and her memories, of course.
For Ashley, the pendant was a symbol of freedom and independence, not undying love. Because one thing she knew for a certainty, David’s love had died.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
Love & Liberty celebrates July 4th, but it’s also about two people who free themselves from the past and find love in the process. This story became more personal when I felt like it received a real-life blessing…the morning after I introduced ‘Liberty’ to the story, an eagle showed up on our property. It was a first and I’ve been living here over eleven years.
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Elsie Davis discovered the world of Happily-Ever-After romance at the age of twelve and has been hooked ever since. She's a Hallmark Channel movie fan, enjoys reading sweet romance, and loves creating her own fun stories, keeping them appropriate for all ages who love romance...pre-teen to grandparents. A #1 Amazon Best Selling category author, Elsie writes from her heart, hoping to share a little love in a big world. Colossians 3:14 ~And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.~ Sweet and Wholesome Romance by Elsie Davis - amazon.com/author/elsiedavis
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