Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Little Teaser from: Stolen Kiss with Her Boss

By Susan Carlisle

The book is out on August 1.

Stolen Kisses with her Boss

 

Cynthia Marcum tapped the mouse of her laptop. Her emails came into view. Scanning them, she paused when she saw one from Dr. Sean Donavon. Her body tingled in anticipation. Why would he be emailing her? Her interactions had always been with his staff. Had she done something wrong?

She had been doing Dr. Donavon’s transcription for just over a month now. He was an otolaryngologist and one of five surgeons she typed dictation for in the metropolitan Birmingham, Alabama area. The pay was so good she’d added him to her client list despite already having a full load. She could use the money. Her brothers, Mark and Rick were always in need of something costing at least a hundred dollars.

The money wasn’t the only thing she enjoyed about working for the mystery doctor. She loved the sound of his voice. It drew her in. She always saved his tapes for last. His deep resonating tone was smooth and silky like warm chocolate. It brought to mind a cool night with rain tapping against a tin roof and him pulling her close.

Her imagination worked over time where Dr. Donovan was concerned. She couldn’t get enough of listening to him, often playing his tapes back more than once. Even all the medical-ezes sounded erotic when he uttered them.

She often wondered if he looked like he sounded. All dark and sexy.

A ‘humph’ escaped her. Yeah, more like short and bald. That had happened one time when she had met a radio DJ. Based on his voice she’d built him up into this young, buff guy who every woman would want. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a short, middle-aged man with a gray ponytail. To say she had been disappointed was an understatement.

Listening to Dr. Donavan, had become her romantic outlet. Since she currently had no one special in her life, hearing his voice had filled that void. She’d been in a relationship when her parents died. Wedding bells with Dave didn’t seem too far off, then life happened. Her parents’ estate issues, the needs of her brothers and everything in between worked against the commitment continuing.

Dave soon began complaining that she wasn’t spending enough time with him. It then went into, “I didn’t sign on to help raise two teenage boys.” Finally, he told her he had found someone else. In a way Cynthia was relieved. He just didn’t share her mind set about the importance of family. He didn’t understand her or the necessity of keeping her family together at all cost.

After they broke up, she didn’t try to have another solid relationship. She dated a few times but never let the guys close enough to matter. Usually, when they found out she was responsible for her brothers, they quickly backed away. Now wasn’t the time for a man and she’d accepted that. Sadly, until the boys were situated in life she would just have to get her thrills from listening to Dr. Donovan. And he was well worth listening to.

Her finger hovered over the computer mouse. Would his emails be just as amazing? Yeah right. She’d been without a man far too long when fantasy started overtaking reality. She clicked the email, opening it.

The black words against the white screen read:

HELLO MS. MARCUM. MY OFFICE MANAGER GAVE ME YOUR NAME AS THE PERSON WHO HAS BEEN PREPARING MY TRANSCRIPTION. I’M IMPRESSED WITH YOUR WORK. THE REASON I’M CONTACTING YOU IS THAT I AM CURRENTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF PUTTING TOGETHER A GRANT PROPOSAL AND NEED TO HAVE SOME EXTRA REPORTS TRANSCRIBED OVER THE NEXT THREE WEEKS. I WANTED TO KNOW IF YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO TAKE ON THE ADDITIONAL WORK. OF COURSE  I WILL COMPENSIATE YOU FOR YOUR TIME. I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR HELP.

REGARDS,

  1. DONAVON

Nope. Nothing sexy there. But he sounded nice. Considerate. In her mind she could almost hear him say the words. Cynthia reread the message. There wasn’t much time in her days. Taking on more work might be difficult. This was Rick’s senior year in high school so what extra hours she had were spent going to his activities. Yet the extra money Dr. Donavon offered would help pay for Mark’s college tuition that was coming due soon.

Plus, she liked to keep her clients happy. Took pride in her work. So far that hadn’t been a problem with any of her employers. And she would get to listen to his voice more often. But if she didn’t agree to Dr. Donavon request would he take all his work elsewhere? She couldn’t afford to let that happen.

Moving the cursor to the reply button, she clicked and typed:

  1. DONAVON,

I’M GLAD YOU’RE PLEASED WITH MY WORK. MY TIME IS TIGHT AT PRESENT BUT I’LL DO MY BEST TO FIT IN ANY EXTRA REPORTS YOU SEND. I DON’T KNOW HOW QUICK OF A TURNAROUND TIME I CAN PROMISE YOU BUT I WILL MAKE IT AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE.

CYNTHIA

Scanning the message, she made sure she had used the correct tone then clicked send. She didn’t want to lose his business but couldn’t overextend herself either. Her brothers, her family, took priority-always. The up side was if there was enough money from the extra work maybe she could start looking for a new car. Hers was on its last leg. She grinned. More like last tire.

Since she had left nursing school to become a fulltime transcriptionist she’d gained a reputation as being competent and professional. It had been difficult to build a client list. She’d been tickled to add Dr. Donavon. As a surgeon, he produced plenty of work to keep her busy. He also paid better than her other clients. Getting to enjoy his voice almost daily was an added perk.

“Hey Cyn,” Rick called. His tall lanky body appeared in the doorway of the small front room of their house she used as an office. He wore his usual uniform of jeans and well-worn t-shirt. “I’m going over to Joey’s house.”

Cynthia swiveled in the chair to face him. “Do you have that project done?”

“Almost.” He put up a hand stopping her from saying more. “I’ll have it finished tomorrow and it isn’t due for another week. Don’t worry I have all As.”

“Yeah, but you don’t want that to slip. That scholarship you’re after depends on it.”

Rick waved a hand at her. “You worry too much. See ya.”

Seconds later the back door squeaked open and slammed closed.

She did worry. That had been her full-time job since her parents had died in that devastating car accident. She’d become sole guardian of her two teenage brothers when she was only a few years older than them. It hadn’t been easy for any of them but they were making it.

Her father had told her more than once, “Cynthia, family is everything. You have to support your family.” She lived by that motto. She would honor her parents by seeing that her brothers had a good start in the world. Once they were settled, she would go back to school and think about her own future. She missed that carefree time when she’d been on her own. The times she hadn’t had to considered her brothers before she did something as simple as go out for the night.

The three of them had inherited the house, but there was still day to day expenses. Those came out of her paycheck. Her parents had left some money but it wouldn’t last long if she tapped into it. What her parents had left them was for the boy’s higher education or to help them buy their own place.

Enough pondering. She had work to finish. Glancing at her email list one last time, she saw that there was a new note from Dr. Donavon. She opened it.

I CAN’T SAY THANK YOU ENOUGH. I’LL ELCTRONICAL SEND OVER THE DICATON THIS AFTERNOON. I WILL NEED THESE BY MONDAY MORNING. IS THAT DOABLE? IF YOU CAN GET THEM DONE BY THEN I WILL OWE YOU BIG TIME.

  1. DONAVON

She could imagine the smile on his face when he read her email. She liked that she’d made him happy. But work so soon. This weekend. He really must be in a hurry. Well, she knew what her plans were for tonight and tomorrow morning.

  1. DONAVON,

I WILL DO MY BEST TO HAVE THEM READY BY MONDAY.

CYNTHIA

Seconds later came back:

YOU’RE A LIFE SAVER.

  1. DONAVON

Cynthia wasn’t sure she could be anyone else’s life saver. She was already taking care of more people than she could manage now. Taking on someone else might sink her boat. What would it be like to have someone take care of her for a change?

The kitchen door opened and slammed shut. “Cyn?” Mark, who was just six years younger than her called.

“In here.”

He flopped into the cushion chair beside her desk and flung a leg over the arm.

“So how did it go today?” Cynthia asked.

“I’m going to quit.”

His blunt statement wasn’t unexpected. She leaned toward him, gripping the arms of her chair. Her parents had wanted them all to get a college education. She been fighting Mark’s apathy about doing that for months now. The weight of doing so was starting to get to her. “Why?”

“College doesn’t get you anywhere.” Mark spoke to the floor instead of her.

This was one of those times when she wished she had some backup, someone to turn to. She refused to let her voice rise. “You know Mom and Dad wouldn’t like that.”

“Yeah. But it’s not for me.”

Cynthia moved the chair to face him more directly. “Then what’re you going to do?”

He shrugged and continued to looked at that floor. “I don’t know.”

That wasn’t a good plan. “Well, you’re going to have to figure something out.”

Mark jumped to his feet. “Get off my back. You’re not my parent. We can’t all be Rick.” He stomped from the room.

She sighed. Could the day get any better? Mark’s statement hurt on a number of levels. Cynthia missed her parents too. That was why she took her guardianship responsibilities seriously. Wanted to do the best by them. And no, she was not Mark’s parent. If the situation was different she would prefer just being his sister.

His dictation arrived in her transcription systems’ end box right before dinner. The work could wait until after dinner. Her parents had made the evening meal time important and she continued the practice. Her brothers knew that if possible they were expected at home at six during the week so they could spend some time together.

Two hours later she pulled her chair up to her desk. This wasn’t the way she’d planned to spend Friday night, but she would get over it. Doing what had must be done had become a part of her life. She’d have Dr. Donavon’s work to him Monday morning hoping to impress.

She clicked the dictation inbox and Dr. Donavon’s voice filled her ears. It didn’t take long for her to forget about how tired she was or the amount of house work that needed doing and start enjoying the rich deepness of his voice. If she had to work on Friday night, there were worse jobs to have than one that involve having the sound of a sexy voice in her ear.

 

After lunch Monday, Sean settled in behind his desk at his clinic office. Pushing his chair back and putting his feet on his desk, he crossed his ankles and got comfortable. He didn’t usually reread all his reports but in this instance, he couldn’t afford not to. The grant was too important.

His future depended on it. Not to mention the quality of life for his patients, for the vast number of patients who would have their hearing improved and those of other ears, nose and throat doctors as well. With the grant he could continue his research and make that difference.

With the success of his procedure and the patent of a new instrument he would also be financially set for life. He knew too well what it was like being without and he’d vowed never to feel that way again. He’d heard some people call it the Scarlet O’Hara syndrome. He just called it smart.

Long ago he’d hired a financial planner. He was determined not to live paycheck to paycheck as his parents had, wondering if there would be enough cash to pay the bills or buy food. While growing up, more than once he’d been unable to participate with his friends in an activity because there hadn’t been funds. His parents had been and still were the types to fall in with the next big money making scheme which always cost them money instead of making them rich as they claimed they one day would be. There had been multi-level marketing, investing in commercial ventures or selling the next great vitamin product. Nothing seemed to work but they were always ‘in’ for the chance it might.

Sean hated any part of that way of life. Money shouldn’t be squandered. Instead it should be saved and invested. He was determined to do just that. Their attitude toward paying their bills and handling finances embarrassed him. Their philosophy about life was so different from his that they found little in common. Because of that he’d not seen them in almost a year. Even then visits had been short. He wasn’t interested in hearing about the next get rich plan.

The one thing about his new breakthrough was that it would allow him to put away enough money to support his parents in their old age. He was confident that they would need his help. Despite his bitter feelings about his childhood he would take care of them. No matter what, they were his parents.

Now he only had to get the grant documentation in order. The submission must be flawless. The competition was tight, right down to the written documents. Even the smallest element could make a difference between him or someone else receiving the grant.

Picking up his iPad, he pulled up his most recent reports and started reading. Halfway through the first one he was pleased to find not a single mistake. Not that he really expected one but he couldn’t be too careful. Ms. Marcum had done a superb job and certainly in a timely manner. He should tell her so.

When his last transcriptionist had taken another position she’d given his office manager Ms. Marcum’s name along with a glowing reference. Because he didn’t have time to waste completing the grant he’d told his office manager to hire her without further question. He wasn’t known for making snap decisions. Thankfully that one had been a smart one. He didn’t know what would have happened to his grant submission if she hadn’t been willing to take on the additional work.

Now he needed to make sure he kept her. He couldn’t have her quitting just when he needed her the most. He didn’t have time to waste hiring another especially when there was no guarantee that the next person would be any good. His manager had already said they were lucky to get this one. He needed his dictation done in a timely manner and she had proven she could do that.

Pulling up his email he entered Cynthia Marcum’s address. Her name made her sound like a middle age matron. It didn’t matter what she looked like. What concerned him was the quality of his papers and keeping her typing them.

MARCUM,

I HAVE REVIEWED YOUR REPORTS AND I’M VERY PLEASE WITH YOUR WORK. THANK YOU ALSO FOR GETTING THEM TO ME IN SUCH A TIMELY MANNER. I WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED TO LEARN THEY WERE WAITING ON ME WHEN I RETURNED TO MY OFFICE AFTER COMING OUT OF SURGERY TODAY. I CAN’T SAY ENOUGH ABOUT HOW MUCH I APPRECIATE YOUR EFFORTS. I HOPE IT’S STILL OKAY TO SEND YOU ADDITIONAL WORK.

VERY GRATEFUL,

DONAVON

Without hesitation he clicked the send button.

***

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

The Merry Month of May

By Susan Carlisle

I had a very busy four weeks in May. A number of great things happen. I thought I’d share them with you.

First off,  was the week long RT Convention in Atlanta. It was exciting and busy, but I do love interacting with readers. And boy there were readers. About 2,000 of them.

My obviously having a good time with one of the cover models. My Norwegian blood enjoys a good Viking.

viking

 

A group of authors wrote 20 related novellas and hosted a country fair. A lot of work but well worth it. So much fun.

 

carpet

The next week I had new carpet put in five rooms of the house and new flooring in my office which is in the basement. The only room out of three floors worth not affected was the kitchen. My house was a mess for days but I dearly love my new flooring. I still have work to do to get some rooms back in order.

The highlight of the month was the birth of my new grand son. He is too cute and a good baby. When he was only a week old my husband and I headed to Maine for ten days.

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The view from the house we rented in Eastport, Maine. Not bad is it? That’s Canada in the distance.

Canda

lost count of the number of lighthouses we saw.lighthouset

 

We made a day trip to St. Andrews by the sea. Beautiful place. Well worth the trip.

St. Andrews

We spent one night at the Mountain Grand View in New Hampshire. It is a historical hotel with all the old world feel. I loved the place.

hotel

And I came home to a box of my latest release. A nice end to a wonderful month.

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From matchmaker…to perfect match?

Whitney Thomason prides herself on being able to find the perfect partner for anyone, but heart surgeon Tanner Locke is a real challenge! He wants to settle down, but he’s adamant there’ll be no falling in love…

When Whitney’s candidate falls through, it’s up to her to be the girlfriend Tanner needs for his weekend business getaway, but two days in close proximity proves torturous. They know giving in to temptation is a bad idea, but desire is more powerful than reason…

Have you ever packed too much fun into a mouth?

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Southern Secrets

By Susan Carlisle

I’m doing a little horn tooting today. I hope you’ll indulge my pride.

My first Indy published book will be out tomorrow. I was invited to join 19 other authors to put out a novella a day for the twenty days before the RT Convention in Atlanta in May. Ten of us wrote sweet books while the other ten wrote books with sizzle in them. Mine is a sizzler.

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The only thing required was that the book take place in Atlanta. Not hard for me since I live only about an hour away.

Facebook pic

I must admit that doing a novella was a challenge for me. Writing shorter isn’t my cup of tea but after a good editing and a little more direction I came away with a product I’m proud to call all mine.

Below is a little snippet from Southern Secrets. I hope you enjoy.

Carrie Rodgers headed on unsteady heels across the floor of her Atlanta apartment to answer the door. As an elementary school teacher, she spent most of her days in flat shoes. Even scarier than her evening footwear was the fact she was replacing her twin sister on a date without the man knowing. She wasn’t sure which she might regret more, letting Cathie talk her into the date or the heels.

With a flutter of her heart and her hands trembling, Carrie reached for the door knob. This date was a bad idea on several levels, yet she’d agreed to help Cathie out of a jam. She wouldn’t let her down. Never had and wouldn’t start now. That’s what sisters did. Or at least that was what her mother had told her over and over when Cathie had been so sick. Besides, it was too late to back out.

Taking a deep breath, Carrie let it out slowly. She didn’t know this guy. Hadn’t even laid eyes on him and was expected to act as if they were acquainted. The chime sounded again. Apparently, Rick Marshall was an impatient man. The big question was how perceptive was he? Would he realize she wasn’t Cathie?

For most of their lives, Carrie had been the level-headed, studious sister who stayed in the background while Cathie had been the fashion plate, flighty, look-at-me one.

Much of that started when Cathie developed childhood asthma. After she was hospitalized a couple of times, their parents’ worries focused on Cathie. From then on Carrie heard, “be careful with Cathie, don’t let her run too much, watch out for her.” Carrie became more self-sufficient and dependable, always the person who took care of her sister. As they grew older Cathie continued turning to Carrie to fix things.  

She didn’t mind. She loved Cathie. And Cathie loved the attention. She was so fond of it she made the most of the spotlight even into adulthood.

They might have been different in personalities but they were similar in looks. More than once Carrie had gotten Cathie out of a scrap by pretending she was her. Now Carrie had been pulled into doing it again.  

“Cath, I’m not doing it!” Carrie had told her hours earlier. “High school is long gone. We’ve out grown the changing places game.”

Her sister put on her puppy-dog pleading look, dropped a shoulder and said in a whinny tone, “Aw, come on Care Bear, just this once. Rock finally asked me to go away with him for a weekend. I’ve been hoping for this forever.”

“You do know the right thing to do is to tell Rock you can’t go or as least be up front with the other guy.” Carrie couldn’t believe her twin’s rudeness.

“I can’t break the date. Rick is my boss’s biggest client. It’s too late for that.”

At least she was showing some concern for the guy. Yet, this idea was so Cathie. She liked getting her way with no concern for how it might affect others’ lives. “Why did you even agree to go in the first place?”

Cathie shrugged. “What’s not fun about dressing up and going to a party?”

“Cathie, what if this guy really likes you?” Carrie couldn’t believe how callous Cathie was about someone’s feelings.    

“He’s an alright guy, but he’s not Rock. You don’t want to stand in the way of true love, do you?”

Carrie didn’t even try to stop the roll of her eyes. Like she understood love. After what had happened between her and Brian, Carrie wasn’t sure she’d ever really known anything about it. In any case, she and Cathie had different ideas about love. At least Cathie had a love life. Carrie didn’t. Her sister went out regularly but rarely with the same man twice. Carrie was more careful. She was holding out for Mr. Right. For a time, she had believed Brian was him. Too bad he hadn’t thought the same.

“Come on, Care. This gala at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion is to raise money for the children’s hospital. It’s right up your alley.”

It was. Cathie knew all the right buttons to push. Being employed in a private disabilities school, Carrie was easily persuaded where children were concerned. Still she balked. “I don’t have any money to donate. So what difference would it make if I went or not?”

“If this guy doesn’t have a date, he might not attend. He has big bucks so the hospital could miss out on his contribution, you wouldn’t want that, would you?” Cathie gave her the ‘look’. The one that always made Carrie agree to what Cathie wanted.

This argument was getting more twisted by the minute. Carrie stood.

“Come on, Carrie.” Cathie put her arms out in a pleading manner. “Help me out just this one time. I’ll never ask again.” She’d taken Carrie’s hands, looking earnestly into her eyes. “Please. For once in your life take a risk. Live a little, all while helping out your sister.” Her smile was like a used car salesman’s closing a deal.

Carrie couldn’t resist Cathie. Helping her out was too ingrained in her. Maybe Carrie had been too careful in life. After all, Brian had broken up with her because he said she wasn’t bold enough, too set in her ways. This was a chance to have an adventure, to prove to herself that Brian was wrong. She could let go. It would only be for a couple of hours. What could go wrong? She’d go, have a good time and never see the man again. Cathie would get what she wanted: her weekend with Rock and Carrie would have an adventure. “Okay, but I want your word that you’ll never ask me to do this again.”

Cathie hugged her tight. “Great. Now let’s get you dressed to kill.”

Each time Carrie had taken Cathie’s place she’d put away her simple classic style to take on the more flamboyant appearance of her sister. Tonight, was no exception. She wore eye makeup, which Carrie rarely did, including false eyelashes that had her working to lift her eyelids. Her hair, normally worn in a simple ponytail or down, was pulled back into an up do where it was teased in front, gathered, and pulled to the side so that a long curl fell over her shoulder.

Carrie might admire a dress her sister had chosen but would never dare wear it.  Cathie had insisted she did. It was made of aqua chiffon and dipped in a V almost as far down in the front as it did in the back. Carrie couldn’t remember feeling more exposed. At the waist, it was pleated so it flowed around her legs and skimmed the floor. 

So here she stood dressed for a fancy party with her nerves strung tight as a child’s rope during a tug-of-war. Surely she could be Cinderella for a perfect stranger, for a few hours, couldn’t she?              

Opening the door, Carrie had to control the urge to gasp. The sketchy facts Cathie had given her about her date flew out of her head. Before Carrie stood the most handsome man she had ever seen.

Her mouth went dry. So this was uh…Rick Marshall.

Why in the world would Cathie want to spend the weekend with that muscle bound, idiot Rock when she could enjoy an evening with this guy?

Rick’s short, black hair was cut into the latest fashion. He had high cheekbones and a closely shorn beard covering a strong jaw that gave him a devilish look. A twinkle of a dare shown in his brown eyes. A shiver ran down her spine. She might be in over her head.

Standing at least a foot taller than her five-foot-two and with broad shoulders, he filled the door frame. The tuxedo he wore fit as if tailored for him. All in all, he was an overwhelming package.

His gaze remained on her. Was he seeing more than she wanted him to? There was an air about him that made her believe she’d have to work harder than ever before to convince him she was Cathie. His full lips formed a smile that made her middle ebb and flow as if a storm was coming.

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Help for Little Hearts

chd-valentine

February is not only the month of romance but also heart month. The pumping blood kind. With that in mind, we wanted to share a little different story.

Each year Harlequin conducts a contest called “More Than Words” where their authors are asked to nominate someone they know who is making a difference in others’ lives. In 2016, Susan Carlisle, one of our medicals authors,  nominated Jodi Lemarks, who works at Mended Little Hearts. It is a nonprofit group that helps families who have children born with heart birth defects. Susan is the mother of a son with serious heart defects, so she easily appreciates Jodi’s efforts. Jodie was one of three winners. Because of her dedication to children, Mended Little Hearts was awarded $15,000 to continue their vital work.

Below Jodie shares in her own humble words what makes the work done at Mended Little Hearts important.

“I felt so alone” are words commonly used by people to describe how they felt after their child was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (CHD), the most common birth defect in the U.S.  Loneliness has become much more prevalent in our country even for those not facing a CHD diagnosis.  Recent studies show that despite being more connected via social media and other online venues, people feel more alone than ever, with those 35 and younger reporting feeling the most alone. Per Forbes.  This sense of isolation can be far worse for parents and family members caring for a child with a life-threatening condition and for teens and young adults with CHD who feel “different” from their peers.

The number one goal of Mended Little Hearts is connection.  Mended Little Hearts provides local and national peer-to-peer support to prevent people from feeling so alone after they hear some of the most devastating news of their lives—that their child has a heart problem.  Mended Little Hearts provides a caring support network to families in crisis and empowers them to live happier, healthier lives.

Mended Little Hearts’ support takes many forms.  Mended Little Hearts chapters throughout the nation support families in a variety of ways including local support group meetings and programs.   Mended Little Hearts also supports families locally and nationally through parent matching, accredited visiting programs, patient and family education, CHD awareness, and advocacy.  One of Mended Little Hearts signature support programs is its Bravery Bag program where families in the hospital are given bags full of toiletry items, comfort items, and some fun things as well to make their hospital stay a little easier and to let them know there is someone out there who cares.  And it works—people email and call to tell us how much the Bravery Bag meant to them and asking how they can support the Bravery Bag Program.

Most Mended Little Hearts leaders started their chapter for one of two reasons:  Either 1) they felt very alone after they found out about their child’s heart condition and there was no support group in their area, or 2) they got support from Mended Little Hearts after diagnosis or while in the hospital and want to give that same support to others.  These chapters provide their local hospitals and communities with many services that make lives better for those affected by CHD.

CHD awareness is also an essential function of Mended Little Hearts locally and nationally as most people don’t hear about CHD until after their child is diagnosed despite it affecting 40,000 babies each year.  The hope is that the more awareness we can spread, the brighter the future will be for children and adults with CHD and their families.

Mended Little Hearts local and national leaders want you to know that if you have a child with CHD or have CHD yourself and find yourself feeling scared and alone, remember, Mended Little Hearts is there.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Check out Romance Stickers

by Susan Carlisleiphone-mock-ups

I know you’re going “Say what?” So here is the deal:

Mills & Boon have created some free romance digital ‘stickers’ in time for Valentine’s Day which are now live in the App Store. They are like emojis, but only available in iMessage on iPhone or iPad.

iphone-mock-ups3Here’s how you get them.

·         The stickers are only available on Apple iPhone or iPad and you will need to have a recently updated the software on your phone

·         On your Apple iPhone, go to the App store.

·         Search on Mills & Boon.

·         Two apps will appear, the reader app and the Stickers app. Choose the Stickers app and download.

Here’s how you use them:

·         To use the stickers, choose a friend to write send an iMessage (your friend needs to also have an iPhone).

·         In the message, you will see a tab to the left of the text box. Click on this and the Mills & Boon stickers will appear.

·         Add them to your message, and ‘stick’ them onto your friend’s reply (like real stickers).

We encourage you to use and promote theses. If you could mention them on social media, and leave a review on Apple app store that would be great. Share, Share, Share

twitter-shareable

Here is how you review:

·         Find the Mills & Boon sticker app in the app store by searching ‘Mills & Boon’

·         When you find the app, click on it and you will see three tabs under the app.

·         Choose the review tab and leave a review.

·         You can leave a review even before you have downloaded the Stickers.

Which sticker do you like the best? I like the box of candy!

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Memories

by Susan Carlisle

I know it is a new year and I’m looking forward to a great one, but I wanted to take a few moments to look back at some of my favorite happenings during 2016.

I had 3 books out.

 

 

I spent a wonderful week in London where I met many of the lovely authors from this blog. In this picture I’m having an afternoon tea sundae. (The weather was hot.) Can you tell how happy I was? This was at Fortnum and Mason’s. I can highly recommend.

img_0061

Christmas with my family. All 26 of us. We have two more on the way for next year. We all had to wear an ugly sweater. Some of us were uglier that others. We had great fun together playing games even though we exchanged no presents. That is my mother in the middle.img_0015

My nonfiction book a WWII Flight Surgeon’s Story was used as a prop in a crime scene on the show NCIS: New Orleans. Mine is the blue book to the left.

 

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A trip to Pennsylvania to a WWII reenactment weekend. There is a whole world out there I knew nothing about. Great fun! My husband and I got to spend a entire week together.

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My  youngest son (27) celebrated 25 years with a heart transplant.

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All in all, 2016 was an amazing year!

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations

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?