It’s a long time since I last posted on our blog. I have been following what’s been happening though, and enjoying the posts and all your comments. Today it’s my turn to post an excerpt from my latest book, REAWAKENED BY THE SURGEON’S TOUCH, but first of all let me tell you a little about how I came to write this story.
I have an ongoing series based on an overseas aid agency called Worlds Together and every so often I set a book in some part of the world where my medics take on the task of helping people who are living in the most dire conditions. It takes a particular type of person to do this work and I greatly admire the folk who respond to each new emergency that occurs and fly off to help. While my heroine, Claire, is just the sort of person who can cope with the hardships, it doesn’t appear as though the hero, Jude, is cut out for the job. Let’s just say that they get off to a very frosty start, no mean feat in the middle of baking hot Africa!
Here’s how they meet.
What in heaven’s name was he doing here?
As the plane began the final stages of its descent, Jude Slater was struck by an unexpected rush of panic. Up to this point anger had buoyed him up. He had been so furious when his former mentor, a man he greatly admired, had accused him of choosing the easy option that he had set out to prove him wrong. Maybe it wouldn’t have stung quite so much if Jude hadn’t had the sneaking suspicion that the other man was right. He had been coasting for the past few years, although he had refused to justify himself by explaining why. He tried not to think about that period in his life; it was too painful. Suffice to say that he had paid his dues, even if it didn’t appear so to an outsider.
Nevertheless, the accusation had spurred him on so that almost before he knew it, he had signed up to work for Worlds Together, a leading medical aid agency. True, he had been a little disconcerted when he had been invited for an interview a couple of weeks later and offered a post. He hadn’t expected things to move quite so quickly but he had been determined not to back down. Nobody would be able to accuse him of losing sight of the real issues once he had done a stint overseas, he had assured himself. He would be accorded his true standing within the medical fraternity and that was all he wanted. It had all sounded so perfect in theory but now that he was about to land in the tiny central African country of Mwuranda reality had set in.
What did he know about the problems of working in the developing world? Jude thought a shade desperately. He was London born and London bred, and he thrived in the constant bustle of city life. When he travelled abroad, he visited other cities—New York, Paris, Rome—places where he felt at home. Wherever he went, he stayed in five-star luxury hotels too; however, recalling what he had been told at his interview—something about Mwuranda recovering from the effects of civil war—it appeared that five-star luxuries were going to be very thin on the ground here!
The plane rumbled to a halt and Jude unfastened his seat belt. Ten hours spent squeezed into a gap between piles of packing cases hadn’t made for the most comfortable journey but, hopefully, things would improve from here on. The one thing he mustn’t do was panic. Conditions couldn’t be that bad or nobody would volunteer to work here, so it was just a question of putting everything into perspective. Maybe luxuries would be few and far between, but so long as he had the basic necessities he would cope. He was only here for three months and he could put up with a bit of hardship for that length of time.
Jude felt much better once he had reasoned everything out. He had been told that he would be collected from the airfield so as soon as the ramp was lowered, he made his way out of the plane. His heart sank as he stepped onto the runway and looked around. All he could see in every direction was khaki-coloured landscape, the few scrubby trees which were dotted about providing the only relief from the monotony. It was mid-afternoon and the air was blisteringly hot. Apart from the plane he had arrived on, the airfield was deserted. He couldn’t see any sign of a car waiting to collect him and his spirits sank even further at the thought of having to hang around in the heat until his transport arrived.
The voice was female but that was the only indication of the speaker’s gender, Jude discovered when he turned around. The figure standing before him was dressed in a bulky old boiler suit which completely disguised the wearer’s shape. Heavy boots on her feet and an old baseball cap pulled low over her eyes completed her ensemble.
Jude could just make out the lower part of her face—a softly rounded chin and a mouth which was bare of any trace of lipstick. He had no idea if she was young, old, or somewhere in between, and it was unsettling when it meant that he wasn’t sure how to pitch his response.
‘That’s right. I’m Jude Slater.’ He held out his hand and smiled charmingly at her. ‘And you are—?’
‘Your driver .’
The woman ignored his outstretched hand as she stared past him into the hold and Jude felt himself bridle. Quite frankly, he wasn’t used to women of any age ignoring him. The older ones wanted to mother him, the younger ones wanted to sleep with him, while those in between could go either way.
‘If you’ve brought any luggage with you then you’d better fetch it. There’s a truck on its way to pick up our supplies, but there’s no guarantee it will make it back to town tonight. It all depends how long it takes to unload the cargo.’ The woman treated him to a cursory glance and he could tell how unimpressed she was by his attempts to charm her by the sneering curve of her unadorned lips. ‘We don’t drive around after dark. It’s far too dangerous.’
Jude’s chagrin faded in the face of this fresh snippet of information. He managed to hide his dismay but the situation seemed to be going from bad to worse at a rate of knots.
‘I’ll get my bag,’ he said shortly.
‘You do that. I just need a word with the pilot and I’ll be right with you. The bike’s over there.’
Jude stopped dead, wondering if he had misheard her. It had been extremely noisy in the plane and his ears were still ringing from the throbbing of the engines, but he could have sworn she had said something about a… ‘Bike?’
‘Uh-huh.’ She pointed across the runway. ‘That’s it over there. There’s some rope under the seat so I suggest you tie your bag onto the back. It should be safe enough so long as we don’t hit too many potholes.’
Jude’s jaw dropped when he spotted the battered old motorbike propped against the perimeter fence. Its bodywork was pitted with rust and even from this distance he could tell that the tyres were completely bald of any tread. She didn’t really think that he was going to travel on the back of that thing, did she?
‘This is a joke, isn’t it? Some sort of a…stunt you pull on new recruits like me?’ His good humour returned in a rush as he realised what was going on and he laughed. ‘You wind us up by telling us that we’re expected to ride on the back of that heap of junk and I, in my innocence, very nearly fell for it!’
‘I hate to disillusion you, Dr Slater, but it isn’t a wind up. We’ll be travelling back to town on that bike so I suggest you get your belongings together.’ The woman pushed back her cuff. ‘It’s almost two o’clock and I haven’t got time to waste, hanging about here. If you don’t want to spend the night sleeping in the plane then you’d better get a move on.’
With that she walked away. Jude watched her make her way over to where the crew were standing then realised that he was holding his breath. He breathed out and then in, but not even a fresh shot of oxygen made him feel any better. His gaze went to the rusty old motorbike and his mouth thinned. Given the choice, he would have refused to get on the blasted thing but he didn’t have a choice, did he? He was a stranger in this country and one who knew very little about what it took to survive here too. He might be able to hold his own in any city in the world but he was as vulnerable as a newborn babe out here and it was galling to admit it.
He was used to running his life the way he chose these days. It had taken him a while to get back on track after he had quit working for the NHS and he had no intention of relinquishing his autonomy ever again. Maybe he was at a disadvantage here but he still intended to be charge of his own destiny.
Jude took another deep breath and used it this time for a specific purpose, i.e. shoring up his anger. He would start as he meant to go on. No way was he going to be ordered about by some overbearing, pushy woman!
Definitely not the best start to a relationship but it does get better, I promise you! Claire and Jude led me a merry dance but I loved telling their story and felt that they deserved their happy ending. I hope you will feel the same too. I had planned to put up a photo of the cover here but the cyber gremlins have been at it again and it has disappeared. Apologies! If you want to see it then pop over to any of the following sites:
As an added incentive, if you visit the Harlequin website they are having a sale, lots of wonderful books being sold at a reduced price. There’s quite a few of my backlist there along with books by many other of the Medical authors. So pop along and stock up!
love to you all,