Authors: T. A. Foster
E.M. Tippetts Book Designs
Loving Eden by T.A. Foster
Copyright © 2014 by T.A. Foster
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, actual events, or locales is purely coincidental.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.
Cover Art by Perfect Pear Creative Covers.
Interior design and formatting by E.M. Tippetts Book Designs.
All rights reserved.
Books by T.A. Foster
The Ivy Grace Spell Series
Head Over Heels Collection
Hollywood Kiss Collection
To the Texas boys
kicked the back tire twice. It was already deflated. My frustration was pointless. Seriously, how could I have a flat tire? I stared at the rubber as it formed a pancake on the shoulder of the road. I didn’t see anything protruding from the mangled mess, but who knows what happens on these back Louisiana highways.
I pulled out my phone to call roadside assistance. There was no way I was driving another inch on that thing.
“Hi. Yes, this is Eden Brady. The trailer I rented from your company has a flat tire. Can you send someone to change it out?”
“Where are you, ma’am? And I need your rental ID number.”
I looked at the swampy canal on my left and the rows of sugar cane on my right. I had no idea where I was, only that my trip was on hold and I was completely stranded. I searched the canal waters warily, wondering if there might be critters in there I didn’t want to meet.
“There was a detour and I was rerouted.” I sighed. It wasn’t as if I memorized all the highway numbers. “Let me check my phone.” If the map on my phone could pinpoint where I was, I’d have something to share. “It looks like I’m on state road 101.” There were no mile markers or exits. Only swamps and sugar cane. I unfolded the rental slip from my pocket and read the numbers in the right-hand corner to her.
“Ok, I see your reservation in our system. It will be at least an hour before we can dispatch someone in your direction.” Her voice was crisp, not at all the comforting tone I needed right now.
I cringed. I had already garnered five catcalls from slow-rolling pickup trucks and I’d been standing here less than ten minutes.
“An hour? Isn’t there someone closer than that?”
“No, ma’am.” The operator was losing her patience with me. “He’ll be there as soon as he can.”
Before I could ask anything else, she hung up. I looked at my phone. Next time I moved, I would definitely go with another company. She didn’t need to get snippy. I was the one on the side of a Louisiana back road.
I trudged to the cab of the truck and climbed into the air-conditioned cabin. There was nothing cool about September in this part of the South.
My entire life was in the back of this truck. The bedroom set I bought when Taylor and I moved into our first apartment. Boxes of books that I couldn’t seem to part with and their bookcase. Suitcases of clothes. My first pair of cowgirl boots.
I flipped on the radio. Who does this? Who packs up her entire life and drives halfway across the country by herself? I do. Because part of me can’t seem to believe that I’m no longer coasting through life alone. I had to prove that I could take care of myself. To me, that meant making the move from Chapel Hill to South Padre Island one hundred percent alone. No parents. No friends. Above all options, that meant no Grey.
The strategy was to make the trip in two days. I had a route planned that included an overnight stay in Montgomery, Alabama. That part of the journey was smooth. I made it to the hotel before dark, checked in to my room, and called Grey to tell him I was safe and sound. The first half was over and I made it without a speck of help.
This morning, I hopped out of bed at six, ready to finish the last half of this travel feat. I had a hot cup of coffee, listened to the parking lot birds sing, and pulled out of Montgomery with a smile on my face. As Alabama faded in my rearview mirror, I felt the confidence surge through my veins. I was driving the biggest rental truck the company carried, with my car on a trailer behind it. It didn’t get much braver or bolder than this. I even learned how to pump diesel fuel at the truck stops. The trick was to wear gloves. I was quickly becoming a truck-driving expert.
I had to make this statement. Grey needed to know I could do things on my own. I needed to know that, just because I was in love, it didn’t mean I couldn’t make change happen in my life. I was still in control.
The second I saw the back tire on the trailer scorched with smoke and I pulled alongside the shoulder, all those proud certainties fizzled. This sucked.
I slouched in my seat and checked the mirror in case the service car had arrived. Nothing. Plenty of cars slowed to have a peek at my dilemma and me, but not a single car in that lineup included a man with a spare tire.
I thought about calling Grey, but if I told him where I was, he would get in his truck and start driving. No matter how many times I tried to convince him I could handle the situation and everything was under control, he would drive straight to me. That’s what Grey does. That’s why I fell in love with him.
Mom had packed snacks for me. I reached into the canvas bag full of pretzels and apples, and landed on a granola bar. She seemed to be the only one who understood my need to finish this trip on my own. After my graduation at Carolina, she threw her support behind my relationship with Grey. Dad wanted me to start applying for jobs, get my feet wet in the business world before I dedicated my time to a personal life. He thought I was throwing away the education I had just earned by moving to South Padre. The Palm Palace didn’t appeal to him as my hands-on training. Maybe one day he would see it in person and he would change his mind.
I jumped when I heard my phone ring. “Hey, Marin.”
“Eden, when are you getting here?”
I laughed. Marin might be as excited as Grey and I were, possibly more. “I’m getting there.”
“I still don’t know why you didn’t let Grey drive with you. He was dying to make the trip with you.”
“I know. I know.” I wasn’t going to feel guilty about it. “It’s just something I needed to do. I’ll be there tonight.” Although, at the rate this roadside assistance was going, I’d be lucky if the guy showed up by nightfall.
“I can’t wait for you to get here. I still can’t believe you are actually moving.”
I shook my head. “Me either.” I looked at the trailer behind me. “There’s no turning back now. The truck is loaded and I’m in Louisiana. I’m almost there.” My shoulders were starting to cramp from the driving and my left foot kept falling asleep. Grey was my grand prize at the end of this journey, but it would be so amazing if he came along with a hot shower.
“Wait until you see what Grey has—”
“What? What did he do?”
Marin gasped. “I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t have said anything. We’ll see you when you get here. Call when you get to the bridge, ok?” She sounded happy, but I wanted to know what secret she almost let slip.
“Ok. I can do that, but you know I don’t like big surprises. Grey knows that too, right?”
“Don’t worry. He can’t wait to see you. He’s not going to do something to scare you off the first night.” She giggled.
I envisioned guiding the truck over the bridge that peaked over the sound and careened onto the island. I’d give just about anything to be there now. I had at least nine hours of driving ahead of me. I might never make it to Grey.
“Thanks for calling. I’ll check in with you later.” I smiled as I saw the yellow caution lights flash in my mirror. I had to get this show on the road.
“Be careful, Eden. See you tonight.”
I hung up the phone, tucked it into my back pocket, and hopped out of the truck into the Louisiana heat. I swear I had discovered the breeding ground for monster mosquitoes. One the size of a beetle landed on my arm. I swatted at it and headed toward the tow truck.
“You run into trouble?” A lanky man with grease-stained jeans and a wad of tobacco in his jaw strolled to examine the flat tire.
“I did. Do you think you can get the tire changed for me?” I observed his truck, the lights flashing. It looked like a tow truck, but I was hopeful there were also some tools and maybe a tire stashed in the cab.
He lifted a ball cap from his head and scratched what little bit of hair he had. “Nobody told me nothin’ about a tire. I got a call you needed a tow.” He lowered himself to the ground, his eyes closer to the rubber donut that used to resemble a tire.
“That’s not possible. I specifically told the woman on the phone the trailer tire was flat.” I wanted to call her back and lay into her, but I had bigger problems. This was the help they sent, and now that he was standing four feet away, I wasn’t sure he would be able to do much of anything.
He spit from the side of his mouth, sending brown bits of tobacco into the grass and gravel. I tried not to stare, but this couldn’t be happening. I had to get to South Padre. I had to start my life with Grey. This tow trucker driver held my trip in his grimy hands.
“Don’t know what to tell ya. I don’t got a tire. I’ll roll back up to town, pick you up one, and I’ll be back.” He looked at his watch. “Gimme an hour.”
“An hour? You’re going to leave me here for another hour?” The traffic had slowed to a turtle’s pace. The blinking lights of the tow truck had that effect on drivers. “I’ve been sitting here two hours already.” I refrained from kicking the gravel.