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DROVE ALL NIGHT (RELEASING JUNE 5TH, 2019)

BLURB

Out of luck, out of hope and out of diapers, Poppy Williams is so far out on a limb she’s clinging by one broken fingernail. 

Strong, silent-type Police Chief, Ben Crowe has seen it all, until Poppy’s minivan runs a red light and she leaps into the road begging him to arrest her. 

Stranded in Twin Elks, Colorado, can the town filled with warm, funny characters help Poppy find the way back to hope again, and can Ben find the faith in himself to join her there?

CHAPTER ONE

At Main and Fourth, a minivan shot through the stop sign. Ben hit the lights and siren. 

The minivan veered across the road and screeched to a halt at an angle from the sidewalk.

“Shit.” Ben punched the brakes. Keeping his eye on the vehicle, he called it in.

Whoever drove that thing had bought themselves a couple of hefty fines. Reckless asshole. Some people should not be allowed behind the wheel.

Stepping out of the cruiser, he palmed his sidearm. The car had Pennsylvania plates. Not from around here, and driving like a crazy person. He approached with caution.

The driver’s door flew open and someone leaped out.

The pale, wide-eyed woman hit the ground. Her knees smacked the blacktop so hard he winced. She threw her hands out in front of her. “Do it.” The woman sobbed. “Arrest me. Take me away. Lock me up and throw away the key.”

Fifteen years as a cop and this was a new one on him. Ben stopped midstride and loosened his grip on his weapon. “Ma’am?”

“I can’t.” Her shoulders jerked up and down. “I just can’t anymore.”

A rusted pickup stopped and Hank Styles hung his grizzled old head out the window. “Everything all right here, Ben?”

That’s all he needed, Hank Styles playing deputy. He waved him on. “All good.”

“She don’t look so good.” Hank leaned further out his truck. “What’s wrong with her?”

It went easier if you didn’t engage the conversation. “Drive on, Hank.”

The woman staggered to her feet, wrists still held out to him. She took three tottering steps in his direction and collapsed.

Ben caught her a heartbeat before her head hit the road.

“Holy crap.” Hank jerked his head back in. “She’s dead.” He rolled up his window and gunned his truck down Main.

Ben checked for a pulse and found one at her neck. Her skin felt hot and clammy. She was burning up. An ambulance, maybe? 

“Is my mommy dead?” A plaintive voice came from the van.

The van door opened and Ben stared straight into hell. A boy, maybe five or six, and covered in barf blinked back at him. From the far side, a scarlet-faced toddler hiccupped and then yowled. Two older kids, wearing identical girl faces peered around the van door at him.

The smell made his eyes water; an unholy miasma of body fluids that did not belong on this earth. 

The woman stirred. “Ryan?”

“You fainted.” Ben hoisted her into his arms. First step, get her out of the road. “Lie still.”

“Where are you taking her?” One of the girls cocked her head at him.

Ben jerked his chin to indicate the side of the road. “Stay put.”

He walked around back of the minivan and set her gently on the grassy shoulder. 

“Are you arresting her?” The girls moved to the other side of the van, hanging over the squalling baby, heads jammed together as they peered through the open window. 

“Nope.”

The woman opened her eyes, squeezed them shut, and then opened them again. “Who are you?”

“I’m the police chief, ma’am.”

“My children.” She bolted upright, slamming her head against his chin.

Ben tasted blood as he pressed her back down. “Lie still. You fainted.”

She blinked at him, but lay back. She had brown eyes, dark like his morning coffee and huge in her pale face. When not passed out on the side of the road with sweat sliding down the sides of her face, she might even be pretty. Too thin, but real pretty. 

He turned to the minivan. “Any water in there?”

“Nope.” Three heads moved from side to side. The baby kept right on bawling. 

Ben jerked his chin at the red-faced crier. “He sick?”

“Uh-huh.” One of the twins slow-nodded. “He’s got the flu, and he pooped in his diaper. Mommy didn’t have any more so we were going to Walmart to get some. He’s screaming coz he’s got a sore bum.”

Sick mum, one sick toddler, one puking boy and a set of lively twins. He weighed his options.

They didn’t cover this sort of shit in the police academy, or the army, and Ben was man enough to know when he’d drifted way out of his league. He reached for his cellphone.

Ma answered on the fourth ring, sounding as delighted to hear from him as ever. “Ben!”

“You home, Ma?”

“Of course I am. It’s baking day and they want some cupcakes for that fundraiser for the library. Do you think I should put sunflowers or flip-flops on the top? What with it being summer and all.”

“I’ll be right over.”

“What’s wrong?” Her voice sharpened. “Did you get shot? Are you injured?” She heaved a sigh. “You forgot to eat lunch again, didn’t you?”

He had, but not his biggest concern right now. “Bringing some kids.”

“What? What kids? Whose kids? Where did you find them?”

“See you.” Ben hung up on her still firing questions. If he answered those, she’d only find a raft more for him.

“Ma’am?” He looked down at the woman. “Can you tell me your name?”

“Poppy.” She swallowed. “Poppy Williams.”

“Well, Poppy Williams, I’m gonna have to drive your car.”

“Are you a car thief?” Her eyes widened.

Ben shook his head and hoisted her into his arms. She weighed next to nothing. Her sweatshirt claimed her as Property of Philadelphia University and hung on her narrow frame. He placed her gently in the passenger seat.

Her eyelids fluttered closed as she fought sleep. He’d bet by the shadows under her eyes it had been a long, long time since Poppy Williams had gotten a good night’s sleep. Her fever must be knocking the crap out of her round about now. 

Her eyes flew open. “My children.”

“I got them.” He buckled her in.

“Are you kidnapping me?”

“No, ma’am.”

Her lids fluttered closed, only to startle open again. “Are you a rapist?”

“Nope.” He took his badge out and held it in front of her fever-glazed gaze. “I’m the police chief, ma’am. I got you.”

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