The Blessings We Love to Curse

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It’s been a crazy two weeks for me. Joel and I have been on an entertainment binge.    Been to a hockey game,  a Broadway tour of ‘The Book of Mormon,’ the musical ‘Cabaret,’ a Joe Bonamassa concert and a festival of Christmas carols.

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 We have another few things lined up to get us up to Christmas. And tickets to these were so easy to purchase – zip into a website online, pull up a seating chart, plug in the credit card and—voila, ticket on my phone. And when I say phone, I don’t mean the old-fashioned kind like the one that hung on my parents’ kitchen wall, but the one that gives me instant access to the world via the internet, keeps track of my grocery list, wakes me up on time, sends me reminders from my dentist and brings me a delightful good-morning message, every morning, from my sister-in-law who lives 1000 miles away. imag0973_1

Did I say internet? The vehicle that let me have a chat with a friend in India the other day, research the most prominent kind of pine tree in Montana for one of my books, and served as the device for a majority of my Christmas shopping this year? The same vehicle through which I bought a new washer three weeks ago and a brand new car two weeks ago? The place where I pay my bills, check the weather and watch movies, British television and Broadways plays?

It wasn’t that long ago that my husband dragged home this clunker of a computer, one with no internal storage and everything went to large floppy disks. “This is the future,” he told me. I didn’t believe him, but since he’d spent a lot of money on the thing and told me it was mine to use, I used it. Then upgraded, upgraded, upgraded. Got a laptop, a phone with way more capabilities than my first computer, and a tablet which my 4-year-old niece uses to watch her movies.imag0967

                My car is computerized. It has all kinds of neat little gadgets I’ve yet to explore. It syncs with my phone, gives me a rear-view back-up and I’m not sure, but I think it makes coffee. My television is hooked up to a speaker system that’s probably better than the speaker system of any movie theater I went to when I was a kid. And my refrigerator—don’t even get me started on what it can do. Yes, I remember the one that simply froze water and meat, and chilled food. But mine will sing me a lullaby if I let it.

 Yet, we are a discontented society as a whole. Nothing is ever fast enough. Nothing ever has quite the right amount of capabilities. In fact, the online response time on my computer had bogged down to a whopping 5 seconds, and I was pretty darned frustrated by how slow it was. I wanted that pine tree information, and I wanted it NOW! So, I called my internet service provider and complained that their service was too slow, it was wasting my time. They pressed a switch on their end, upped my band width and gave me a 2 second response time. I was so happy. Makes me wonder how happy I would have been in the old days when I’d have gone to the library just to research that one little fact. Back then, I thought it was amazing that so much was available to me in any number of books I could check out and take home. The other day, I thought it was downright awesome that I was given back 3 whole seconds.

This is the time of year when everybody is more mindful of their blessings. Friends, family, pets, good fortune in our lives, health. We do have so many things to be grateful for, and I am. But when I got home from a Christmas tree display (which I’d found online) I got a message from a friend I rarely see because she lives so far away, I turned on my computer to write this blog instead of trying to do it on a typewriter imag0925(because I can’t type on a typewriter) and I sent a lovely picture of a Christmas tree made from books to all the people who follow me on Facebook – a picture taken on my phone. And you know what? These are blessing, too. Maybe not the ones that complete us and make us better as individuals, but the ones that make our lives easier, and quicker and more convenient. I’ll admiimag0923t, I’m the first one to get angry when my computer slows up or my phone has to be rebooted. It’s frustrating when I can’t click right into Acorn and get my fix of ‘Doc Martin’ because something isn’t feeding properly at that precise moment. And heaven forbid I should be delayed from my Broadway streaming when I want to see ‘Les Miserables’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ But last night, when I took a picture of MacKenzie, didn’t have to wait for a day to see it developed, and was able to send it to everyone in my family within minutes, I was grateful for that phone. It allowed me something I wouldn’t have had so very long ago—the chance to share the best moments of my life with the people I love. That’s what this season is about—sharing those moments. And sure, they may take you an extra 3 seconds if your computer is bogged down, but when I look at the tin type of my grandmother from 1889, and consider the amount of time her family had to wait for that photo, and the one minute it took for me to snap MacKenzie’s picture and send it to my aunt 2000 miles away, imag0960_2I know that something we love to curse is really a blessing that enhances our lives every day, in little ways, and in big ones. It’s a beautiful thing.

“Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.” (Oscar Wilde)

From my family to yours, I hope you have a lovely  holiday season.

And, wishing you health & happiness

Dianne Drake (www.Dianne-Drake.com)

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                                                                     Out February, 2017.

 

 

 

 

December Releases

Six more Christmas book babies for medical romance fans! Showcasing the difference between the US and the Australian covers this month!

 

Playboy on her Christmas List by Carol Marinelli

Making her Christmas dream come true…

Paramedic Holly Jacobs knows that her night of scorching passion with Dr. Daniel Chandler meant more than just lust. And she’ll fix the hospital staff’s Secret Santa to prove it!

Playboy doc Daniel has sworn off love—but he can’t resist Holly! And by the time they get snowed in at a B and B on Christmas Eve, Daniel finds himself wondering if the connection he’s feeling for Holly is for life, not just for Christmas!

 

Christmas with the Single Dad by Louisa Heaton

A family for Christmas!

Veterinary surgeon Sydney Harper has avoided the festive season since she experienced a heartbreaking loss. But this year the gorgeous new doctor in town tempts her to step out of the darkness and into the Christmas lights!

Nathan Jones’s little girl, Anna, is everything to him, since his life-changing diagnosis left them alone in the world. Yet spending time with Sydney makes Nathan long to mend their broken hearts and to welcome her into his family—not just for Christmas, but forever!

 

The Doctor’s Sleigh Bell Proposal by Susan Carlisle

His surprise Christmas promise

Dr. Ellen Cox goes to South America to break the shackles of her confined life. But she never imagined replacing them with bonds of desire for her new hotshot boss—Chance Freeman!

Guarded Chance, although sorely tempted, tries to keep Ellen at a distance—and when the dangers of their jobs are ramped up, he sends her home to safety. Then he realizes his mistake and heads for snowy New York, determined to win Ellen with a very special Christmas proposal!

 

White Christmas for the Single Mom by Susanne Hampton

Temptation under the mistletoe

Specialist Juliet Turner flies halfway across the world to England with her young daughter, Bea, to perform lifesaving in utero surgery. But her first white Christmas is complicated by the feelings awakened by ob-gyn Dr. Charlie Warren!

Juliet has protected her heart for years, but she soon finds there’s so much more to this closed-off widower than meets the eye. Perhaps it’s time for them both to let go of the past, surrender to their burning chemistry and make this a Christmas to remember!

 

A Royal Baby for Christmas by Scarlet Wilson

A gift for the man who has everything…

A brief, electrifying fling—that was all Sienna McDonald and Sebastian Falco, Crown Prince of Montanari, agreed to. But on her return to Teddy’s, neonatal surgeon Sienna learns she’s brought back more than just memories…

Sienna wants to keep her unborn baby out of the limelight, so Sebastian’s sudden reappearance throws her perfectly ordered world into chaos. She does her best to stay away from the devastatingly charming royal, but Sebastian is determined to claim his family with a forever diamond this Christmas!

 

The Army Doc’s Baby Bombshell by Sue MacKay

From one night…to baby surprise!

Surviving a bomb blast together led to an explosive night of passion between army docs Cooper Daniels and Sophie Ingram. But the next day Cooper shipped out, leaving Sophie with a lasting reminder of their desire!

Cooper hasn’t been able to forget Sophie, but commitment isn’t an option for this lone wolf. So when the army throws them back together, her baby secret stuns him! The captain will give anything to protect his new family…but can he offer Sophie his heart?

 

 

 

 

Saying goodbye… And hello!

kate hardy sept 2015 400pxThis year has been a bit of a rollercoaster year. We knew we were on borrowed time with Byron, our beloved Springer Spaniel – he was 14 1/2 and, considering that he’d had a heart murmur as a puppy, he’d done incredibly well.

But we had noticed him slowing down a lot over the summer and he tended to sleep all day. To be honest, I feel as if he was waiting for our eldest to be settled at university and then for our youngest to  come back from a school trip to Berlin before he’d admit that he’d had enough. We’d always said that we would do the right thing by him when the time came, and we did.

imageBut it totally broke my heart, and I discovered that I just couldn’t function when the house felt so wrong. There was a massive dog-shaped hole in the house. I couldn’t get used to not hearing the thump of a tail as I walked downstairs, or the patter of paws across the floor, or just gentle doggy snoring at my feet while I was working. I spent most of the day sobbing my eyes out.

When we lost our previous spaniel in 2006, we had planned to get another pup (we were using to having two dogs), but we were remodelling the house at the time and it wouldn’t have been fair to bring a pup into the chaos. Byron got used to being an only dog, so we decided to leave it. The breeder we’d planned to go to had a very long waiting list – so quite what possessed me to look up their website when Byron died… (I think my parents and my old spaniels had a hand in it, but that’s another story.)

But there were pups for sale. Three boys. I got in touch, we went to meet them and played with them, and one of them climbed onto my lap and fell asleep. We’d clearly been chosen. It was too soon for our youngest and she felt we were being disrespectful, but Gerry and I felt it was fate – especially when I recognised names on the paperwork and we realised that the new pup was actually related to our Byron.

imageSo Archie came to join our home nearly 3 weeks ago. He’s a very bright, funny, affectionate little chap. He hasn’t replaced Byon, but is a gorgeous addition to our family. He is a bit of a shock to the system after an elderly dog – he’s absolutely full of beans and it’s like having a toddler in the house again (even down to putting him in time out when he’s overexcited and nippy – puppy teeth are like razors and the ‘ow’ thing doesn’t work because he thinks we’re playing). I can only really work either when he’s asleep or when someone else is home to puppy-sit, but it has focused me. And, most importantly, the house feels right again with four paws and a waggy tail.

Even if he does rearrange my kitchen cupboards for me and find odd places to nap…image  image

Do you have pets? I’d love to hear all about them!

 

Playlists & Such

I hear a lot of writers say that they need complete silence to write. No distractions. NOTHING but them and the voices in their head. I can write this way too, grudgingly, but I prefer music or at least something I’ve seen a million times playing in the background on the television as I write.

As book 15 was just accepted a week or so ago, I though I would share some of the music which was played repeatedly while I worked on various titles. Due to the beauty of Apple iTunes Music (Hooray because my memory can be sketchy on the best of days) it lets me know which songs on any given playlist that I listened to a lot.

It drives my DH a bit bonkers if I don’t have my headphones on and I’m listening to a song on repeat.😉

Since book 15 was accepted, I thought I would start with the book that started it all, SAFE IN HIS HANDS. This was before I subscribed to Apple Music, but I do remember the song that inspired the book.

safeinhishands   The song that inspired this book was Adele’s Someone Like You. Safe in His Hands was a reunion romance. A second chance at marriage and love.

When I write about my Army Docs or Navy Docs, I always have to have Skillet’s Hero added to my playlist.

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And for my latest release Unwrapped by the Duke, even though it’s a Christmas themed book I didn’t listen to many Christmas songs, but instead went for something a bit sexier. Only fitting for that gorgeous hero.

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And the song that was on repeat for this book was Salted Wound from Sia.

Writers, do you listen to music while you write?

Readers, do the songs fit the books? Or did you envision something else when reading it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt–The Doctor’s Sleigh Bell Proposal

 

 

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CHAPTER ONE

Screeching vehicle brakes caught Dr. Chance Freeman’s attention. That would be his three new staff members arriving. They should have been here last night but bad weather had delayed them. He’d needed them desperately. His other team had left that morning and today’s clinic had been shorthanded and almost impossible to manage.

Chance glanced up from the Honduran baby boy he was examining and out the entrance of the canvas tent located in a clearing near a village. Beyond the long line of waiting patients, he saw a tall, twentyish woman jump down from the rear of the army surplus truck. She wore a tight green t-shirt, a bright yellow bandana round her neck and tan cargo pants that clung to her curves.

Great. High jungle fashion. He’d seen that before.

Shoulders hunched, he drew his lips into a tight line stopping a long suffering sound from escaping. Years ago he’d helped Alissa out of a jeep. She believed in being well dress in any environment as well. They had been newlyweds at the time. That had only lasted months.

Everything about this new staff member’s regal bearing screamed she didn’t belong in the stifling heat of a rainforest in Central American. He bet she wouldn’t last long. In his years of doing medical aide work he’d learned to recognize those who would stick out the tough conditions and long hours. His guess was that she wasn’t one of them. Everything about her screamed upper-crust, big city. Pampered.

When had he become so cynical? He hadn’t met her yet and he was already putting her in a slot. It wasn’t fair not to give her a chance just because she reminded him of his ex-wife. Still he didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to coddle anyone, even if he desperately needed the help.

From under her loose-brimmed hat she scanned the area, her gaze coming around to lock with his. She titled her head shielding her eyes with a hand against the noon day sun. One of her two companions said something and she turned away.

Shaking off the spell, Chance returned to the child. He’d hardly looked down when there was a commotion outside. People were screaming and running. What was going on?

He didn’t have to wait long to find out. Two men carried another man into the tent who was bleeding profusely around the face and neck area and down one arm. Quickly handing the baby to his mother, Chance cleared the exam table with his arm.

“Put him here. What happened?”

The men lifted the injured man to the table. Despite Chance’s excellent Spanish they were talking so fast he was having to work to understand them. Apparently, the man had been attacked by a Jaguar while trying to save one of his goats.

A feminine voice asked from the end of the table, “What can I do to help?”

A fragrant scent floated in the air. He was tempted to lean forward and inhale. There was a marked difference between the feminine whiff and the odor of the sweaty bodies around him. Unfortunately, he would need to warn her not to wear perfume in this part of the world because it attracted unwanted insects.

Chance looked up into clear blue eyes that made him think of the pool of water at the bottom of his favorite waterfall. The woman he’d just seen climbing off the truck waited. She’d removed her hat and now he could clearly see a long blond braid falling over a shoulder. With her fair coloring she would burn in no time in the hot Honduras sun.

“Start with cutting away the clothing.”

She stepped to the table. The paper on the table was soaked with blood. He glanced up to see her face blanch as she viewed the man who would be disfigured for life from the deep lacerations.

“Don’t faint on me,” he said through clenched teeth. “Michael, get over here.” He nodded toward the other table. “Go help there. Michael and I’ll handle this.”

She moved off to see about the case Michael was working on. Chance didn’t have time to ponder why someone in the medical profession couldn’t handle this type of injury.

He and Michael worked to piece the Honduran man back together. It may have been the largest number of stitches he’d ever put into a person. There would a long recovery time.

“We need some help here.” Michael called as he finished suturing an area.

The woman stepped to the table again.

Chance glared at her. “I thought I told you—”

She gave him a determined and unwavering look. “I’ve got this.” She turned to Michael. “What do you need?”

“Bandage this hand,” he said.

“I’ll take care of it.” The words were full of confidence as fingers tipped in hot pink picked up the saline and 4x4s sitting on the table and began cleaning around the area.

Chance had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. That manicure wouldn’t last long here and there wouldn’t be another forthcoming either. He moved on to the next laceration. As he looked at the man’s arm Chance kept a watchful eye on the new staff member. With the efficiency of few he’d seen, she’d wrapped and secured the dressing and move on the next spot.

At least she seemed to have recovered from whatever had been her earlier issue. He was used to temporary help, but he still wanted quality.

Many who came to help with the Traveling Clinic were filled with good intentions and the idealism of saving the world, but didn’t have the skills or common sense required to work in such primitive settings. The clinic served the medical issues in the small villages outside of LaCeiba. Making it even more difficult was that the locals were often hesitant about asking for help.

A jaguar attack wasn’t the clinic’s normal injury but they did see a number of severe wounds from accidents. He needed staff that could handle the unexpected and often gruesome. If Chance wasn’t such a sceptic he’d have given the new woman points for her recovery but he’d been doing this type of work for far too long. Seen staff come and go.

He was familiar with people who left. His mother had done it when he was a child. He’d been seven when she’d just not been there. His father had been a world renowned surgeon and been gone much of the time. With his mother’s absence Chance starting acting out in an effort to keep his father’s attention even to the point of stealing. That got him sent to boarding school. Even in that restrictive environment Chance pushed back.

In a stern voice the headmaster had said, “It’s time for you to decide if you’re going to amount to anything in your life. Right now I’d be surprised if you do.”

He was the one man in Chance’s life that had taken a real interest in a scared and angry boy. The grizzled and gruff headmaster had believed in him, had time to listen. Unlike his father. Chance wanted to make the headmaster proud and made a change after that conversation. He’d focused on his studies. Dedicated his life to helping others. But in the area of personal relationships he had failed miserably over and over to the point he had long ago given up. Those, apparently, he wasn’t capable of having.

Why were dark memories invading now? Maybe because the new woman reminded him so much of his ex-wife, Alissa whose defection always made him think of his mother. Two females who had rejected him. He’d moved passed all that long ago. His worry now was how to keep the clinic open. Pondering old history did nothing to help with the present problem.

He watched the new woman as he changed gloves. Her movements were confident now.  Marco, a Honduran man who served as clerk, translator, and goffer for the clinic entered

the tent with a distressed look on his face. He hurried to her and said in his heavily accented voice, “I no not where you are. Please not do not leave again without telling. Much danger here. Not get lost.”

She looked at him. “I’m sorry. I saw the emergency and thought I should come help.”

“It’s okay, Marco. I’ll explain. See to the other two,” Chance said to the short but sturdy man.

“Si, Doctor Chance.” Marco nodded and hurried out of the clinic.

Chance gave her a pointed look. “Please don’t leave the clinic area until we’ve talked.”

Her chin went down and she nodded. “I understand. By the way my name is Cox. Dr. Ellen Cox. Like Bond. James Bond.” She flashed him a grin.

She was a cheeky little thing. He wasn’t certain he appreciated that.

 

He finished up with the attacked man and sent him off in a truck to the hospital in

LaCeiba. He would check in on him when they got back to town. Chance cleaned up and moved on to his next patient who was an older woman with an infected bug bite. It would be necessary to drain it.

Before starting the procedure, he stepped to the table next to his where a five-year-old girl sat. Digging into his pants’ pocket he pulled out a peppermint and handed the piece of candy to her. She removed the clear plastic cover and plopped it into her mouth, giving Chance a wide toothy grin. He’d given a child a second of happiness. He just wished he could make more of a difference. What he did wasn’t enough.

As Chance returned to his patient, Ellen joined him.

Since she was so enthusiastic he’d let her see to the woman as he watched. “We’re going to need a suture kit, a box of 4x4s and bandage. Supplies are in the van.” He gestured toward the beat-up vehicle that had been parked partially under the tent so that the backend was protected from the daily afternoon rain and could function as a portable storage room. Chance waited as she hurried after the supplies.

Returning to his side she placed the kit on the bed and a bottle of saline water as well. “I’ll get a pan.” She was gone again.

Chance spoke to his patient in Spanish, reassuring her that she would be fine and that what he was going to do wouldn’t take too long. A few moments later Ellen was back with the pan and plastic gloves for herself.

He helped the older woman lay back on the table.

Ellen gave the patient a reassuring pat on the shoulder and then turned her attention to opening the suture kit placing it where he could easily reach the contents. Taking the plastic gloves off the top, he pulled them on. She did the same with hers. Removing the blue sterile paper sheets, she placed them on her patient’s leg around and under the inflamed area.

Chance handed her the scalpel. She took it without question.

Michael called, “Chance, you got a second to look at this?”

“Go ahead. I can handle this,” Ellen said.

Chance hesitated then nodded. He liked to oversee the new staff for a week or so just to make sure they understood the locals and the type of work they were doing but she should be able to handle a simple case.

The patient eyes had grown wide went he left. Ellen moved to his side of the table and began speaking to her in an elementary mix that was more English than Spanish. As she distracting the woman by having her pay attention to what she was saying instead of what Ellen was doing the woman calmed down to the point of smiling a few times.

He glanced Ellen’s way a few times to see how she was doing. By the time he returned the patient was bandaged and ready to leave. Ellen had done a good job.

Chance moved on to the next person waiting. She assisted him with the next patient. They were just finishing when Marco returned with the two other new staff members. He introduced the man as Pete Ortiz and the woman as Karen Johnson. Both nurses. Ellen moved off across the short aisle of tables to help Chance’s colleague, Michael Lange. Because Pete spoke fluent Spanish, Chance sent him to do triage and Karen stayed to help him.

Working in Honduras on and off for eight years had only made Chance see the needs there grow. There was a time he thought he might really make a difference. The people needed real clinics. Brick and mortar buildings with dedicated doctors, not just a few coming in and out every few weeks.

He loved this country. The weather which he much preferred to the cold of the north, the coast. Scuba diving was one of his greatest day-off hobbies. Walking through a rainforest and being surprise by a waterfall was amazing. But most of all he like the open generous smiles of the people. In Honduras he had found home.

The Traveling Clinic had been his idea years ago and he’d worked long and hard to gain funding for the idea. The clinic was a successful concept but money was forever a problem. Again tomorrow the clinic would be stopping at different villages and the locals would line up. Some would wait all day for care. The day would start just as this one had. Never enough, and more left to do.

A couple of times during the afternoon hours the sound of laughter reached his ears. Michael and the new doctor seemed to enjoy working together. That was what he’d thought when his wife had spent so much time helping his clinic partner, Robert. They had gotten along so well she’d gone home with him.

The sun touched the top of the trees by the time Chance saw his last patient. Michael was finishing up with his as well. Now all that was left was to break down the clinic, load the trucks, and head for a hot shower. He leaned up against the nearest exam table finishing a note on his patient’s chart.

“Doctor, if you’ll excuse me I need to fold this exam table.” Ellen gave him a pointed look as she flipped her hair back implying he needed to move.

She reminded him of a teenager. Looked no older than a fresh out of high school girl even though she must be at least twenty-eight, to his tired forty-one-year-old eyes. Breaking down the clinic was Marco and the local men he’d hired to help him. As much as Chance was amazed by her zeal she needed to understand a few things about the culture and dangers here. “Marco and his men will take care of that.”

“I can get—”

He lowered his voice. “I’m sure you can but they take their jobs and positions seriously. I don’t want them insulted.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize.” She stopped what she was doing.

“Now you do. You need to tread more carefully, Doctor Cox. There are cultural and safety issues you should be aware of before you go off willy-nelly. Don’t reckless. This isn’t Los Angeles, New York or wherever you are from.”

A flash of something in her eyes he couldn’t put a name came and went before she said,  “New York.”

He looked at her a second. “There’re not only animals in the jungle that could hurt you, as you saw today, but there’s a major issue with drug traders. Neither play around nor allow second chances. You should never go out alone. Even in the villages or clinic compound always have someone with you.”

“Are you trying to scare me?”

Did she think this was some exotic vacation spot? “No, I’m trying to keep you out of harm’s way.” He looked straight at her. “If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t stay around here long.”

Her lips tightened as she glanced toward the men working to breakdown the clinic. “I’m sorry I upset Marco. I saw the amount of people waiting and thought I should get to work.”

“You would be no good to them if you get hurt.”

“Your point is taken.”

“Chance.” Michael called.

“Just remember what I said.” He walked away to join Michael beside the supply van.

Half an hour later the tent was down and everything stowed in the vehicles. Now their party was bumping along the narrow dirt road toward the coast. Chance rode in the supply van with one of the locals driving while Michael was a passenger in the truck. The others rode in the rear of it. The hour trip to the resort might be the toughest part of the day. As the bird flew the distance wasn’t far however the roads were so rough and winding it seemed to take forever to make the return drive. Chance usually tried to sleep.

For some reason his thoughts went to the young doctor traveling in the truck behind him. She’d worked hard, doing her share and some more. There was no way she was napping while sitting on that hard metal bench. If she complained, he would point out that the ride was just part of doing this type of medical work. Anyone who stayed with it learned to accept the hardship.

 

Ellen’s head bumped against one of the support frames running around the bed of the truck. Taking a nap was almost impossible. She pulled a jacket out of her duffle bag and folded it up before stuffing it between her head and the unforgiving metal.

Looking out the slats, she watched the fascinating countryside go by. The vegetation grew rich and huge. Some of the leaves were the size of an umbrella. And so green. It looked impossible to walk through. She’d never seen anything like it. The flowers were such vivid colors. A pink hibiscus always caught her attention.

As the plane was coming in that morning she’d looked down on the coastline of the county. The pristine white sand against the blue-green of the water made her want to experience it for herself. It was a beautiful country. She already love it.

Completely different from New York. The land of buildings and lights. She’d worked at an inner city clinic that saw pregnant teenagers and babies with colds. It was nothing compared to the type of patients and conditions she’d experienced today. It had been exhilarating. Except for that one moment when she looked at that man and all the memories of her mother caught in the car had come flooding back.

The Traveling Clinic cared for people who truly need it. These people had no other way of getting medical care. They hadn’t made poor life choices like the drug addicts and drunks in the city. Here they had nothing, and the clinic offered them something they desperately needed. Still they had a bright smile to share.

The type of work she’d done today was why she’d become a doctor. As a child a car accident had killed her mother and left Ellen in the hospital for weeks. There she’d learned the importance of good medical care. The staff had loved and given special attention to the little girl who had lost so much. Ellen had determined then that she wanted to work in the medical field. Do for people what had been done for her.

The only sticking point had been her father. As a Manhattan socialite, and the only child of an over-protective father she’d worked at being taken seriously when she announced she was going to medical school. Ellen wanted to do more than chair committees and plan fancy fundraisers. She wanted to personally make a difference, get to know the people she was helping.

When Ellen had started working at the intercity clinic her father had pitched a fit. It was too risky. He didn’t want her to work there.

“You’re acting like your mother. She all went in head first and then thought,” he said more than once to her growing up.

Ellen told him he had no choice. A number of times she’d noticed a man watching when she came and went from the clinic. Some days later she found out he had been hired by her father to watch over her because he was concerned about her safety.

A few weeks later she heard Dr. Freeman speak with such passion about his work in Honduras and she was hooked. She wanted to make that kind of difference, offer that kind of care. The next day she’d applied to join his staff. It had taken her six months, but she was finally here.

After her decision to come to Honduras, she’d thought of not telling her father but she loved him too much to just disappear. Instead, she told him she was going to Honduras not specifically where she would be fearing he’d send someone to watch over her again. Again he accused her of not thinking it through. She assured him she had. For once she wanted to do something on her own, free from her father’s influence.

Her head bounced again. The picture of Dr. Freeman’s displeased look when she’d frozen came to mind. Her lips formed a wry smile. Later she had seen a small measure of respect in his eyes.

The wheels squealed to a painful halt. Ellen looked out the end of the truck to see a beautifully groomed foliaged area. Where were they? The others filed off and she brought up the rear. With her feet on the ground, she looked around. It appeared as if they were in the back parking lot of a resort.

A couple of Honduran helpers pulled her bag along with Pete’s and Karen’s down from the truck. Her fellow staff members she hadn’t met until time to board the flight to Honduras. Pete was a nice guy, who was looking for a change after a bad marriage and Karen was a middle age woman who thought working with the clinic would be a nice way to see a new country. Ellen had liked them both right away.

Their group was joined by the two doctors. She’d enjoyed working with Michael Lange. He seemed fun and laid back. The same couldn’t be said about Dr. Freeman. From what she could tell he was an excellent doctor. Everything she’d heard about him had been glowing. But on the Mr. Congeniality scale he was pretty low. He could work on his warm welcomes. He hadn’t even taken the time to offer his name.

After hearing him speak Ellen had expected him to have less of a crusty personality. He acted as if he’d seen too much and couldn’t leave it behind. He was as strikingly handsome as she remembered. With thick, dark wavy hair with a touch of white at the temples that gave him an air of authority, he was someone who held her attention. Even when she hadn’t been working directly with him she was conscious of where he was in the tent. She generally didn’t have this type of reaction to a man.

“I’ll show Ellen to her hut,” Michael said.

“No, she’s next to me,” Chance said. “You see to uh, Pete and…” He looked at the other nurse. “It’s Karen, isn’t it?”

“That’s correct.” Karen picked up her bag.

“Okay. Dinner is at seven in the private dining room behind the main one.” Dr. Freeman headed toward a dirt path between two low palmetto plants. There was a small wooden sign there giving arrow directions to different areas of the resort. “Coming, Dr. Cox? I’ve got a call to make to the States before it gets too late.”

He’d not offered to carry her bag. If he thought she couldn’t or wouldn’t carry her own bag, he had another thought coming. Grabbing her duffle, pulled the strap over her shoulder, Ellen hurried after him. The man really was egotistical.

She followed him along a curving path through groomed vegetation beneath trees filled with blue and yellow macaws chattering. She lagged behind when she became caught up in her surroundings. The place was jaw-dropping beautiful. Completely different from any place she’d ever seen.

“Dr. Cox.” The exasperation in the doctor’s voice reminded her of a father talking to a distracted child. She didn’t like it.

“It’s Ellen.”

“Come along, Ellen. I still have work to do tonight.” He took long strides forward.

From what she could tell he had more than put in a days’ worth of work. What could he possibly need to do tonight? “Coming, sir.”

He stopped and glared down his nose at her. “The sir isn’t necessary.”

“I just thought that since you were acting like a general I should speak to you as such.”

“Ellen, you’ll find I’m not known for my sense of humor.” He continued on down the path as if he didn’t care if she followed him or not.

“I’m sure you’re not,” she murmured. Hefting her bag strap more securely over her shoulder, she focused on catching up. They moved farther into the landscape until they came out in a small grassy opening where two huts stood with only a huge Banyan tree separating them. Each had a thatched roof, dark stained wooden porch with what looked like comfortable chairs with bright floral pillows.

The space was perfect as a romantic getaway. “This is amazing. I expected to live in a tent and have to use a bathhouse.”

“You have a top of the line bath. We work hard and the board believes the least it can do is provide a nice place to stay. The resort gives us a deal.” Dr. Freeman pointed to the structure on the left. “That hut is yours. Follow the signs around to the dining room. Need something, call 0 on the phone.” With that he headed toward the other one.

Well, she wouldn’t be counting on him to be the perfect neighbor.

Ellen climbed the three steps to the main door. There was a hammock hanging from one post to another. The living arrangements weren’t what she expected but she wasn’t going to complain.

She swung the door open and entered. Her eyes widened. She sucked in a breath of pleasure. Talk about going from one extreme to another. As rough as the working conditions were the living quarters were luxurious. She lived well in New York but even by those standards this was a nice living space.

The floor plan consisted of an open room with a sitting area on one side and the bed on the other. The ceiling was high with a slow moving fan that encouraged a breeze through the slated windows. A gleaming wood floor stretched the length of the room. The only area of it that was covered was in the sitting area where two chairs and a settee created a cozy group. A large bright rug of  red, greens and yellows punctuated the space.

But it was the bedroom side that made the biggest impression. A large square canopy bed made of mahogany with identical twists carved into each of the four posts set there. If she was going to spend a honeymoon somewhere this would be her choice.

She’d come close to a wedding a couple of times but it seemed like her father stepped in and changed her mind just as she was getting serious. It was as if he couldn’t trust her to know who and what she wanted. That was one of the reasons she’d come to Honduras. At least here she could make her own decisions.

The open air shower blinded from any onlookers by plank walls was a new experience. At first she’d found it intimidating but as the warm water hit her shoulders Ellen eased into the enjoyment of the birds in the trees chirping at her. She was officially enchanted.

Half an hour later, Ellen headed down the plant-lined walk in the direction of what she hoped was the dining area. She turned a curve and a crystal blue swimming pool that resembled a fern encircled grotto came into view. The resort was truly amazing.

Beside it Dr. Freeman sat on a lounger talking on the phone. He wore a t-shirt, cargo shorts and leather thong shoes. His legs were crossed at the ankles. He appeared relaxed but the tone of his voice said that was far from the case. She wasn’t surprised. Her impression had been he didn’t unwind often.

“Look, we need those supplies. We have to raise the money.” He paused. “I can’t be in two places at once. You’ll have to handle it. And about the staff you’re sending me, I’ve got to have people who’ll stay longer than six weeks. No more short term. The people of rural Honduras need a standing clinic.” He glanced her direction.

Ellen continued toward a tall open air building hoping it was where she should go. Footfalls followed her.

“Ease dropping, Dr. Cox?”

She looked back at him. “I wasn’t. I was just on my way to dinner. And I told you I prefer Ellen. When you say Dr. Cox it sounds so condescending.”

“I’m sorry. Ellen.”

She now wished she hadn’t insisted he call her by her first name. His slight accent gave it an exotic note that sent a shiver up her spine. Not wanting to give that reaction anymore analysis she said, “I’m hungry.”

“The dining room is this way.” He started up the steps to the building and she joined him.

They entered the large completely open space with a thatched roof supported by huge poles. A wooden desk with a local man standing behind it was located off to one side. He waved in their direction as they cross the gleaming wooden floor. Ellen follow him around one of three groupings of wicker furniture toward a shuttered doorway that stood open. Inside were tables with white clothes over them and low lighting. Dr. Freeman kept moving then stopped at a single door and opened it.

“Close the door behind you,” he instructed.

Ellen did as he asked. They were now in a small room where a long table was set in the middle and a buffet area along one wall. The other members of their group were already there talking among themselves. They grew quiet as she and Dr. Freeman joined them.

“I thought you guys would already be eating.”

“Not without you, Boss,” Michael said with a grin.

“You know better than that. Well, if no one else is going to start then I am.” Dr. Freeman picked up a plate off the stack on the buffet table. Everyone else followed his lead and lined up. Unsure of the protocol or the sitting arrangement, Ellen move to the back of the line. With her plate full of chicken and tropical fruit, she considered which chair to take.

“Come sit beside me,” Michael offered.

With a smile Ellen took the open seat. She glanced a Chance. His eyes narrowed as he looked in their direction.

She and Michael discussed where she was from and what she thought of her hut then he asked, “So Ellen, what brings you to our little slice of the world?” Michael asked.

She shrugged. “I wanted to work where I could make a difference.”

“You weren’t doing that where you were?” Dr. Freeman asked.

She hadn’t realized he’d been listening to their conversation.

“Yes, but these people really need someone here. I was seeing young mothers and babies. I found my job necessary and rewarding but there was a tug to do something more. Others were there to help those girls but not enough here to help these. I wanted to come here.”

“How did you find out about us?” Michael asked.

“I heard Dr. Freeman speak. I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

“Well, Chance. You made a convert.”

Dr. Freeman shrugged and went back to eating.

“So, what did you think about the work today?” Michael asked.

“It was different, I have to give you that. But I loved it.” She glanced to the end of the table where Dr. Freeman was sitting.

“You might feel differently after a few days of hot, unending work,” Dr. Freeman drawled.

“Aw, come on Chance, don’t scare her.” Michael smiled at her. “Don’t worry about him. The great Chance Freeman has seen so many people come and go here he’s a little cynical about all the new people. Many don’t stay the full six weeks. Some haven’t lasted but days. It’s made him a little jaded.”

“That’s enough, Michael.”

The doctor’s snap didn’t seem to faze Michael. He just grinned. Ellen looked at Dr. Freeman. “I don’t plan to be leaving anytime soon.”

“Dr. Freeman?” Michael chuckled. “We’re a casual bunch around here. First names work just fine. Especially after hours. Isn’t that right, Chance?”

He leaned back in his chair. “Sure.”

After that Michael turned his attention to Pete and Karen asking them about themselves.

Ellen concentrated on her dinner and was glad to have Dr. Freeman…uh Chance’s, attention off her. When everyone had finished laughing at a story Michael told, Chance tapped on the table with the back of his fork gaining their attention.

“Okay, we need to talk about tomorrow. We’ll be in the Tooca area. Near the River. This is our first time there so let’s be on our toes. We’ll need to be at the trucks at 4AM ready to roll. Get some sleep and be ready for a really long day.”

Ellen shuffled out of the dining room with the rest of the group. It turned out that Karen was housed not far from her so they walked back toward their huts together. After leaving Karen, Ellen continued along the path lit only by lights in the vegetation. Thankfully the porch lights were on at her and Chance’s huts. One of the staff at the resort must have come by while she was at dinner.

Ellen had just crawled under the covers when the light flicked on inside Chance’s hut. His silhouette crossed in front of the window. His passion for what he did was a major factor in why she’d came to Honduras. It was obvious he needed nurses and doctors to help him. So what was his problem with welcoming her?

An Extra Slice of Gratitude Pie (and a dollop of Thank You)

For those of you who weren’t aware, I’m a Connecticut Yankee living in Queen Elizabeth’s Court (and by court…I sort of mean…well…the whole of the United Kingdom). It sure doesn’t stop me from celebrating American Thanksgiving, though.

This year – as we try to do every year, was full of firsts. We had our first Canadian, who was celebrating her first Thanksgiving (Canada has one, too – just a bit earlier in the year). This was the first year  I was brave enough (in the twenty-odd years I have lived in the UK) to put MARSHMALLOW on top of my sweet potatoes (smash hit – just sayin’. It was worth the gamble). It was the first year I didn’t go all control freaky and I actually accepted an offer from someone to make the pies (DELISH!).

But what got my little heartstrings a stretching the most – was something my husband and I started as our own family tradition (my family never did this)…where we went round the table and had to say what we were grateful for. In a crazy display of NOT Britishness – the Brits took to it like ducks to water. Not only taking their turn to be grateful, but saying it STANDING UP and with a spoon microphone (natch – always makes things jazzier).

And me? I got to go last. I was grateful for the friends we had, the pie we ate, the gigumbous turkey I will be making sandwiches out of until Christmas and very grateful for my entry into the magical world of romance writing. I have my moments where it’s tough, but I love it. The readers, the writers, the characters I hate to say goodbye to, the ones I can’t wait to see the back of – all of it! So thank you for being there. I’m grateful for you. (And for leftovers. Yum yum). All the best and see you soon! (oh, and if you’re dying for a Christmas read – my latest book – The Nightshift Before Christmas is already out. Hope you enjoy). xx Annie O’

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Some Light Relief

After the terrifying earthquake and the days of after shocks plus a storm to beat all storms in our area it was wonderful to come down to Christchurch two days ago to celebrate our grandson’s fourth birthday. All fun and laughter, chocolate and presents. What a perfect way to put the past week where it belongs – away in the memory box.

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Yesterday was party day at the local train park. Perfect for all the little guys and girls.

Birthday boy on the Hamilton Jet train with dad, and Grampie with little sister behind them.

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What better than a train cake. It was red, blue, green and yellow, and of course silly Granny Sue didn’t have her camera on colour.

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One relieved mum that everything  went well.

One little miss enjoying CAKE. Didn’t we all?

 

Well worth the long trip down, and great to relax again.

Where would we be without our families. They are so special.