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AUTUMN SONG by MARTHA ROGERS - FIRST CHAPTER

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Realms (October 4, 2011)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Why does everyone think a girl’s only lot in life is to find a husband and settle down?
Kathleen Muldoon is twenty-three and tired of ranch living. Fiercely independent and determined to become a nurse, she has left her family’s ranch to study medicine under Old Doc Jensen and live in town with her Aunt Mae, who runs a boardinghouse.

Daniel Monroe has just arrived in Porterfield to set up his law practice. Sparks fly when he is introduced to Kate at the boardinghouse, but the initial attraction quickly dissolves into an argument—the first of many. Daniel is enamored with Kate but uncomfortable with her independent spirit and dreams of becoming a nurse.

When trouble erupts between the ranchers and lumberjacks over timber rights, Kate is furious to learn that Daniel has worked out an agreement she believes will destroy her father’s land. Can they overcome their pride and help each other become everything God wants them to be?
Set in the late 1800s, the Seasons of the Heart series follows the lives of four women and their families, weaving together their stories of faith, life, and love as they bond in friendship only God could orchestrate.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616384573
ISBN-13: 978-1616384579

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

August 1889

Kate Muldoon, I simply can’t understand why you haven’t found yourself a husband among all the eligible men in this town.” Sarah picked up a book from the bedside table in Kate’s room. “You’re twenty-three now, and hiding yourself away to read and study all the time will not help you find the right man.”

Kate grabbed the book from her sister-in-law, who had wandered into her room for a chat. As usual, the talk had turned to men. “I don’t need a man,” Kate declared.

“How can you say that?” Sarah gasped.

Kate shook her head. Marriage and family ranked last in the things she wanted out of life right now. Kate fought against the swelling tide of anger that had landed her in trouble on more than one occasion. Why did everyone think a woman’s only role was that of a wife and mother? Sarah meant well, but then she loved living on a ranch and taking care of her husband Donavan Muldoon. Sarah believed everyone should be in love, as did her other sisters-in-law.

Once again Kate tried to explain. “Sarah, I do not intend to marry a rancher or anyone connected with cattle. I was born on a ranch, grew up on a ranch, and have lived around cattle and horses all my life so far, and I don’t plan on spending the rest of it on one.” Despite her love of horses and riding, the ranch held no pull or fascination for her as it once did when she was younger. Kate hugged her textbook to her chest. “Why do you think I’ve studied everything about Florence Nightingale and nursing and moved into town to help Aunt Mae?”
Sarah waved her hand airily, dismissing Kate’s plans. “I don’t know about that, but I do know Auntie Mae’s boardinghouse is full of men who are not ranchers. Why, there’s my cousin Seth who just moved out here to pastor our church, and then there’s Doc Jensen’s nephew who came to town to assist his uncle with the infirmary. They’re both unattached. Sometimes I think you’re just too picky.”

Picky wasn’t exactly the word Kate would choose, but preachers and doctors held no interest for her other than as people she could work with. She did enjoy working with Doc Jensen and his nephew, Elliot Jensen, but they were teaching her to be a nurse. Besides, Elliot wasn’t really a friendly sort even if he did have an excellent bedside manner with his patients.
Kate sighed. Her sister-in-law was raised in an upperclass family in Boston, where the entire focus of her life in the last few years had been on her whirlwind romance, marriage to Donavan, then moving to Texas and having Jeremy. How could she possibly understand Kate’s dreams? “I’m learning all I can about nursing and treatments so I can work more with Doctor Jensen,” she explained with as much patience as she

could muster. “He lets me help with some of the lighter cases and says I’m getting good at recognizing symptoms. Besides, I was thinking that the preacher would make a wonderful match for Erin.”

Sarah brightened at the thought. “That might not be a bad idea now that she is of marrying age. Erin would be a good wife for Seth and a good mother for their little ones. She loves little Jeremy and has been a big help to me in taking care of him.” She turned to leave. “I’ll look for you Sunday at church and then afterward for dinner out at the ranch. Now I need to rescue Auntie Mae from Jeremy.”

As if Aunt Mae needed rescuing. Kate waved her hand in the air to say good-bye. Dinner with the Muldoon clan meant much food and lots of laughter, but it also meant another boring afternoon listening to talk of cattle drives and auctions and horses by the men, and talk of babies and mothering by the women—none of which held any interest whatsoever for Kate.
Three older brothers—Brody, Donavan, and Ian—had ranches of their own, and that’s all they talked about. The fourth older brother, Cory, had his sights set on being a lawman and had moved into town to be a deputy for Marshal Slade. Erin, the baby of the family, still lived on the ranch. She’d just turned nineteen and was by far the prettiest of the Muldoon clan.
Kate welcomed Cory’s company and his presence at the boardinghouse. At least he wasn’t interested in finding a bride, and he didn’t pester her about finding a mate. He had his sights set on being a marshal himself one day and figured that job too dangerous to take a wife. Kate snorted. So it was OK

for a man to be unmarried and pursue his dreams, but not a woman.
She laid aside her book and sauntered down to the hallway to find the mail from Aunt Mae’s boarders. One of her jobs at Aunt Mae’s included taking care of the mail. With a start, she realized she’d have to hurry to get there before the afternoon train arrived.

One afternoon train from the west would be picking up mail headed for the East Coast. An earlier train had dropped off its delivery, and that mail waited for her now at the post office. Ever since the railroads had been completed, Kate had seen more men coming to town to work the ranches around the area as well as find their own land and start farming or ranching. All the land around Porterfield belonged to ranchers

and farmers, but in a state as big as Texas, there seemed to be plenty of land to go around.

She donned her wide-brimmed straw hat to ward off the sun’s rays and hurried out to complete her task. The Grayson General Store and Post Office beckoned her to hurry. The train would be here any minute. Her feet kicked up puffs of dust as she walked. Her shoes would need a good cleaning later, but she didn’t mind as she enjoyed the four-block walk to the general store that housed the post office.

When Kate stepped into the store, the balding proprietor grinned and tilted his head. “Is that mail from the boarders at your aunt’s house?”

Kate plopped the letters on the counter along with coins

for stamps. “Yes, it is.”

Mr. Grayson affixed a two-penny stamp to each envelope. “How many boarders are there now?”

Kate closed her eyes to vision the count. “Counting Cory and me, there’s eight. All but one of the rooms is filled, and Aunt Mae is happy as a lark. For some reason, men come to this town, like it, and stay.”
Mrs. Grayson joined her husband. Her blue eyes sparkled as she gazed at Kate. “And when are you going to choose one of these men here for your own?”
Heat rose in Kate’s cheeks. Everyone thought they had to ask that question. “I don’t plan on marrying anytime soon. I’m studying to be a nurse, and besides, who’d help Aunt Mae take care of the house and all the meals if I wasn’t around?”

The plump, rosy-cheeked Mrs. Grayson laughed. “She’d do fine without you, and I’ve seen how Mr. Fuller over at the bank looks at her. Wouldn’t surprise me if she takes a husband one of these days.”
“That’s hard for me to imagine.” The very idea of her aunt with another man after the love she shared with Uncle Patrick caused Kate’s insides to quiver like the branches of a justfelled tree. Aunt Mae did have a few of the men, including Mr. Fuller, looking her way, but she paid them no mind. If Aunt Mae did decide to marry, Kate wouldn’t interfere, but she’d have no part in bringing about that possibility.
As soon as Mr. Grayson dropped the envelopes into the outgoing mail bag, he headed outside and toward the depot. Mrs. Grayson handed her mail from the boardinghouse box. “Thank you.” Kate slid the envelopes into her pocket and wiggled her fingers at Mrs. Grayson. “Bye, now. It’s time to get things started for dinner at Aunt Mae’s.”
On her way back to the boardinghouse, the idea of Aunt Mae marrying danced through her head. Would Aunt Mae give up running the boardinghouse if she married? Kate knew how much her aunt loved visiting with the boarders and preparing their meals. It was impossible to think of her ever leaving the place. Certainly she had found her calling, and for once in this town it didn’t focus only on being a wife and keeping house! Still, when Uncle Patrick was alive, Aunt Mae had combined being a wife and managing all those boarders without much trouble. Perhaps Kate could do the same sometime in the far distant

future.
Daniel Monroe finished his letter and sealed it in an envelope. In a few days he’d leave for the greatest adventure of his life, and he wanted Seth to know when to expect him. He reread the post from his friend telling him that the mayor was more than willing for Daniel to come to Porterfield, Texas, and practice

law as they had no lawyers in the town. If lawyers were needed in Porterfield, then that’s where he’d head.

Seth Winston had gone to Texas last year to pastor the church where his cousin Sarah and her family were members. The idea of going to Porterfield had grown more appealing as Seth had described it when he’d returned to Briar Ridge for his sister Rachel’s wedding this past spring. True, Texas was a long way from Connecticut, but images of the untamed West and all the adventures Daniel could have outweighed the

distance.
He envisioned cowboys, gunfights, saloon brawls, and train robberies. The tales he’d heard about Texas rolled through his mind in an endless stream of pictures. All the action and excitement sounded much better than the quiet town of Briar Ridge where he spent most of his time writing wills and taking care of legal documents for land sales or contracts for service. He’d already reassigned all his clients to other lawyers in

Briar Ridge, and none had truly complained, which only served to emphasize the fact that he wasn’t really needed here. Daniel cleaned out his desk and put it all in a box to carry home. He planned to have the desk, a gift from his parents, shipped to Texas with him. Now all he had to do was purchase his train ticket and say good-bye to family and friends. Since his parents, especially his mother, didn’t approve the move, he didn’t expect a going-away party.

Father seemed on the verge of understanding Daniel’s desire to travel to new frontiers and make a life for himself. Mother, on the other hand, wouldn’t and couldn’t accept the fact that her only son wanted to leave home and move thousands of miles away. His sister, Abigail, would hardly speak to him, but that did not keep Daniel from making arrangements to leave. After his twenty-fifth birthday last month, the desire

for a change came over him, and Texas seemed the best place to do just that.
On the way home he stopped at the depot and purchased a ticket that would begin his trip. He’d have stops in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Dallas before the last leg of the journey to Porterfield.
The ticket agent handed Daniel his passage. “That’s a mighty long trip. I take it you’re heading out West to join Seth Winston. I can see the need for a preacher out west, but what’s a fancy lawyer like yourself going to do there?”

Daniel laughed. His mother had asked the same question. “Not sure, but I hope to help tame some outlaws.” How he’d do that he had no idea, but it sounded good when he said it.

“Well, now, just don’t go and get yourself shot by one of ’em.”
“I don’t plan to, Mr. Colley.” He tipped his hat and walked back out to his rig. At least he knew how to ride a horse well. With all his many long trips to Hartford by horseback, he figured he’d have no trouble riding in Texas. The rig today was simply a convenience for carting home his personal belongings from his office. Tomorrow the desk would be crated and shipped westward.

He entered the foyer of the comfortable, two-story home he still shared with his family. At his age, many other men had places of their own, but Ellie’s cooking and the free lodging had tempted him to stay.
After handing over his hat to Stevens the butler, Daniel turned toward the voices he heard in the drawing room on his left. He knocked then pushed open the doors. “Good evening, Mother, Father.”

His mother stood and hurried to him. She wrapped her arms around him. “Oh, Daniel, please tell me you’ve changed your mind and are staying in Briar Ridge. I can’t bear for you to leave us.”

He patted her back and glanced at his father, who simply lifted his gray bushy eyebrows and shrugged. He turned back to his mother. “I’m sorry you feel this way, Mother, but I purchased my train ticket on the way home this evening and will leave the beginning of next week.”
She pushed away from him and held a handkerchief to her nose. “I simply can’t believe it. I don’t understand why you have to go all the way to Texas to practice law. New Haven and Hartford are much closer. Why, even Boston would be better than way out West.”

“We have a multitude of fine barristers in the cities here in the East. As I’ve said many times, this will give me the opportunity to travel and see what is happening in the rest of our great country.” No matter how many times he explained, his mother would never truly understand his desire to move on. She had grown up in this town, as had his father, and she would never leave it or her beautiful home.
Stevens appeared in the doorway. “Mr. and Mrs. Monroe, dinner is served.”
Mother hooked her hand into Daniel’s arm. “Thank you, Stevens. Tell Ellie we’ll be right in.” She patted Daniel’s hand now resting on hers. Although she held her head high, he noted the slight tremor in her voice as she spoke. “I had Ellie prepare your favorite meal tonight. She’ll be serving all your favorites until your departure.” She swallowed hard as she walked beside Daniel into the dining room.
Daniel’s younger sister, Abigail, bounded down the stairs but stopped short when she saw her parents and Daniel. Her next steps were much more sedate. “Good evening, Daniel. I didn’t know you were home.”

Father waited to escort her into dinner. “And what is your great hurry, my dear girl? Is Ellie’s food that tempting?”

“No, Father, I’m just happy about my trip to see Rachel and Nathan in Hartford next week. I haven’t seen her since the wedding, and I’m anxious to visit and talk with her.”

Daniel assisted his mother in her chair at the table. “I’m sure you two will have much to talk about. What’s it been? Two, three months since the wedding?”
She turned to glare at him. A month ago she wouldn’t have minded the teasing, but since his decision to leave, she had been less than sisterly. “Three, if you must count, but it may as well be three years.” Abigail dismissed him and turned to her mother. “I truly miss having Rachel here in Briar Ridge.”

Father held her chair while she seated herself. He bent and brushed his lips across her hair. “Then I’m glad you will have this chance to visit Rachel in Hartford.”

After his father said grace, Ellie brought in a platter emanating the most delicious aroma. His favorite roast beef as Mother had promised. Along with it came perfectly creamed potatoes, buttered asparagus, carrots, fresh baked bread, and his favorite sweet pickles. “What, no soup tonight?”

Mother pressed her lips together. “You said you didn’t care for soup at every meal, and since this is your meal, we skipped it.”

“Thank you, I prefer to fill up on the main course and not the first one.” He glanced over at Abigail, who scrunched up her nose as the asparagus was passed to her. “Not to worry, dear sister, after I’m on my way to Texas, you won’t have to worry about asparagus. Ellie only cooks it because she knows how much I like it.”

“Humph, that will be one good aspect of your leaving.” She placed two stalks on her plate and handed the bowl to their father.

As his parents began discussing their day, he noted the total lack of reference to his leaving the coming Monday. His mother believed if she ignored it, that perhaps it wouldn’t really happen. Father cast a wistful eye Daniel’s way a few times, as though he wanted to talk with his son. Perhaps after dinner he and Father could have a conversation.
Daniel gazed around at the opulent surroundings. Sparkling crystal, fine china, silver cutlery, and damask table cloth and napkins reminded him of his parent’s wealth. He would find nothing like this in Texas.
Then he glanced again at his mother and swallowed a lump in his throat along with a bite of potato. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he could see in her face and the way she only moved the food around her plate without actually eating it that he had done just that.

How could he make her understand his desire to move away and seek a new life? Somehow between now and Monday he must convince her that God had called him to the frontier. He had spent many hours in prayer over this move, and now he gladly embraced the future and all it held in the grand state of Texas.

****NOTE*** It was great fun to catch up witn Martha Rogers at the ICRS conference in Atlanta this summer. I wish I would have had more time to talk with her. But Martha was doing a book signing at the time and the line had to move on!
This book does look good. It's in my TBR list. I'm looking forward to relaxing and checking out Autumn Song!

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org

LETHAL REMEDY by RICHARD L. MABRY, MD - FIRST CHAPTER

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Abingdon Press (October 2011)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard L. Mabry, MD, is a retired physician and medical school professor who achieved worldwide recognition as a clinician, writer, and teacher before turning his talents to non-medical writing after his retirement. He is the author of The Prescription for Trouble Series, one non-fiction book, and his inspirational piesces have appeared in numerous periodicals. He and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

An epidemic of a highly resistant bacteria, Staphylococcus luciferus, has ignited, and Dr. Sara Miles' patient is on the threshold of death. Only an experimental antibiotic developed and administered by Sara's ex-husband, Dr. Jack Ingersoll can save the girl's life.

Dr. John Ramsey is seeking to put his life together after the death of his wife by joining the medical school faculty. But his decision could prove to be costly, even fatal.
Potentially lethal late effects from the experimental drug send Sara and her colleague, Dr. Rip Pearson, on a hunt for hidden critical data that will let them reverse the changes before it’s too late. What is the missing puzzle piece? And who is hiding it?




Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (October 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426735448
ISBN-13: 978-1426735448

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

No one knew the man’s name. White male, probably in his late seventies, found unresponsive in an alley about two o’clock in the morning and brought to the emergency room. Just another homeless derelict, another John Doe.

“Pneumonia, late stages,” the intern said. He yawned. “Happens all the time. Drank himself into a stupor, vomited, aspirated. Probably been lying in that alley for more than a day. Doesn’t look like he’ll make it.”

“Labs cooking? Got a sputum culture going?”

“Yeah, but it’ll take a day or two to get the results of the culture. The smear looks like Staph. Guess I’ll give him—”

“Wait. I’ve got access to an experimental drug that might help. Let me start him on that.”

The intern shrugged. It was two in the morning. He’d been on duty for more than twenty-four hours straight—why’d Johnson’s wife have to go into labor today?—and he was bushed. The bum probably didn’t have a snowball’s chance of surviving anyway. Why not? “You’ll be responsible?”

“I’ll take it from here. Even do the paperwork.”

“Deal,” the intern said, and ambled off to see the next patient.

Three hours later, John Doe lay on a gurney in a corner of the ER. An IV ran into one arm, a blood pressure cuff encircled the other. Spittle dripped from his open mouth and dotted his unshaven chin. His eyes were open and staring.

“Acute anaphylaxis, death within minutes. Interesting.” He scratched his chin. “Guess I need to make some adjustments in the compound.” He picked up the almost-blank chart. “I’ll say I gave him ampicillin and sulbactam. That should cover it.”

* * *

The woman’s look pierced Dr. Sara Miles’ heart. “Do you know what’s wrong with Chelsea?”

Chelsea Ferguson lay still and pale as a mannequin in the hospital bed. An IV carried precious fluids and medications into a vein in her arm. A plastic tube delivered a constant supply of oxygen to her nostrils. Above the girl’s head, monitors beeped and flashed. And over it all wafted the faint antiseptic smell of the ICU.

Chelsea’s mother sat quietly at the bedside, but her hands were never still: arranging and rearranging her daughter’s cover, twisting the hem of her plain brown skirt, shredding a tissue. Sara decided that the gray strands in Mrs. Ferguson’s long brunette hair were a recent addition, along with the lines etched in her face.

Sara put her hand on the teenager’s head and smoothed the matted brown curls. The girl’s hot flesh underscored the urgency of the situation. Since Chelsea’s admission to University Hospital three days ago, her fever hadn’t responded to any of the treatments Sara ordered. If anything, the girl was worse.

“Let’s slip out into the hall,” Sara said. She tiptoed from the bedside and waited outside the room while Mrs. Ferguson kissed her sleeping daughter and shuffled through the door.

Sara pointed. “Let’s go into the family room for a minute.”

“Will she be—?”

“The nurses will check on her, and they’ll call me if anything changes.” Sara led the way into the room and eased the door closed. This family room resembled so many others Sara had been in over the years: small, dim, and quiet. Six wooden chairs with lightly upholstered seats and backs were arranged along three of the walls. Illumination came from a lamp in the corner. A Bible, several devotional magazines, and a box of tissues stood within reach on a coffee table.

This was a room where families received bad news: the biopsy was positive, the treatment hadn’t worked, the doctors weren’t able to save their loved one. The cloying scent of flowers in a vase on an end table reminded Sara of a funeral home, and she shivered as memories came unbidden. She shoved her emotions aside and gestured Mrs. Ferguson to a seat. “Would you like something? Water? Coffee? A soft drink?”

The woman shook her head. “No. Just tell me what’s going on with my daughter. Do you know what’s wrong with her? Can you save her?” Her sob turned into a soft hiccup. “Is she going to die?”

Sara swallowed hard. “Chelsea has what we call sepsis. You might have heard it referred to as blood poisoning. It happens when bacteria get into the body and enter the bloodstream. In Chelsea’s case, this probably began when she had her wisdom teeth extracted.”

I can’t believe the dentist didn’t put her on a prophylactic antibiotic before the procedure. Sara brushed those thoughts aside. That wasn’t important now. The important thing was saving the girl’s life. Sara marshaled her thoughts. “We took samples of Chelsea’s blood at the time of her admission, and while we waited for the results of the blood cultures I started treatment with a potent mixture of antibiotics. As you can see, that hasn’t helped.”

“Why?”

Sara wished the woman wouldn’t be so reasonable, so placid. She wished Mrs. Ferguson would scream and cry. If the roles were reversed, she’d do just that. “While we wait for the results of blood cultures, we make a guess at the best antibiotics to use. Most of the time, our initial guess is right. This time, it was wrong—badly wrong.”

“But now you know what’s causing the infection?” It was a question, not a statement.

“Yes, we know.” And it’s not good news.

Hope tinged Mrs. Ferguson’s voice. “You can fix this, can’t you?”

I wish I could. “The bacteria causing Chelsea’s sepsis is one that . . .” Sara paused and started again. “Have you heard of Mersa?”

“Mersa? No. What’s that?”

“It’s actually MRSA, but doctors usually pronounce it that way. That’s sort of a medical shorthand for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that’s resistant to most of our common antibiotics.”

Mrs. Ferguson frowned. “You said most. Do you have something that will work?”

“Yes, we do. Matter of fact, when Chelsea was admitted I started her on two strong antibiotics, a combination that’s generally effective against MRSA. But she hasn’t responded, because this isn’t MRSA. It’s worse than MRSA.” She started to add “Much worse,” but the words died in her throat.

Sara paused and waited for Mrs. Ferguson to ask the next question. Instead, the woman crumpled the tissue she held and dabbed at the corner of her eyes, eyes in which hope seemed to die as Sara watched.

“This is what we call a ‘super-bug,’” Sara continued. “It used to be rare, but we’re seeing more and more infections with it. Right now, none of the commercially available antibiotics are effective. These bacteria are resistant to everything we can throw at them.”

Mrs. Ferguson’s voice was so quiet Sara almost missed the words. “What do you call it?”

“It’s a long name, and it’s not important that you know it.” Matter of fact, we don’t use the proper name most of the time. We just call it “The Killer.”

“So that’s it?”

“No, there’s a doctor at our medical center doing trials on an experimental drug that might work for Chelsea.” No need to mention that Jack is . . . No, let it go.

“Can you get some of this? Give it to Chelsea?”

“I can’t, but the man who can is an infectious disease specialist on the faculty here at the medical center. Actually, he helped develop it. Notice I said ‘experimental,’ which means there may be side effects. But if you want me—”

“Do it!” For the first time in days, Sara saw a spark of life in Mrs. Ferguson’s eyes, heard hope in her voice. “Call him! Now! Please!”

“You realize that this drug isn’t fully tested yet. It may not work. Or the drug may cause problems.” There, she’d said it twice in different words. She’d done her duty.

“I don’t care. My little girl is dying. I’ll sign the releases. Anything you need. If this is our only chance, please, let’s take it.”

Lord, I hope I haven’t made a mistake. “I’ll make the call.”

“I’m going back to be with my baby,” Mrs. Ferguson said. She stood and squared her shoulders. “While you call, I’ll pray.”

* * *

“Mr. Wolfe, you can come in now.” The secretary opened the doors to Dr. Patel’s office as though she were St. Peter ushering a supplicant through the Pearly Gates.

Bob Wolfe bit back the retort he wanted to utter. It’s Doctor Wolfe. Doctor of Pharmacology. I worked six years to earn that Pharm D, not to mention two years of research fellowship. How about some respect? But this wasn’t the time to fight that battle.

He straightened his tie, checked that there were no stains on his fresh white lab coat, and walked into the office of the head of Jandra Pharmaceuticals as though he had been summoned to receive a medal. Never let them see you sweat.

Dr. David Patel rose from behind his desk and beamed, gesturing toward the visitor’s chair opposite. “Bob, come in. Sit down. I appreciate your coming.”

Not much choice, was there? Wolfe studied his boss across the expanse of uncluttered mahogany that separated them. Pharmaceutical companies seemed to be made up of two groups: the geeks and the glad-handers. Patel typified the former group. PhD from Cal Tech, brilliant research mind, but the social skills of a tortoise. Patel had been snatched from the relative obscurity of a research lab at Berkeley by the Board of Directors of Jandra Pharmaceuticals, given the title of President and CEO, and charged with breathing life into the struggling company. How Patel planned to do that remained a mystery to Wolfe and his co-workers.

Patel leaned forward and punched a button on a console that looked like it could launch a space probe. “Cindy, please ask Mr. Lindberg to join us.”

Steve Lindberg ran the sales team from an office across the hall. Lindberg could memorize salient scientific material and regurgitate it with the best of them, but Wolfe would bet the man’s understanding of most of Jandra’s products and those of its major competitors was a mile wide and an inch deep. On the other hand, Lindberg had his own area of expertise: remembering names, paying for food and drinks, arranging golf games at exclusive clubs. No doubt about it, Lindberg was a classic glad-hander, which was why he had ascended to his current position, heading the marketing team at Jandra.

Wolfe hid a smile. Interesting. The President of the company and the Director of Marketing. This could be big. The door behind Wolfe opened. He deliberately kept his eyes front. Be cool. Let this play out.

“Hey, Bob. It’s good to see you.” Wolfe turned just in time to avoid the full force of a hand landing on his shoulder. Even the glancing blow made him wince. Lindberg dragged a chair to the side of Patel’s desk, positioning himself halfway between the two men. Clever. Not taking sides, but clearly separating himself from the underling.

Wolfe studied the two men and, not for the first time, marveled at the contrast in their appearance. Patel was swarthy, slim, and sleek, with jet-black hair and coal-black eyes. His blue shirt had a white collar on which was centered the unfashionably large knot of an unfashionably wide gold-and-black tie. Wolfe wondered whether the man was five years behind or one ahead of fashion trends. He spoke with a trace of a British accent, and Wolfe seemed to recall that Patel had received part of his education at Oxford. Maybe he wore an “old school” tie, without regard to current fashion. If so, it would be typical of Patel.

Lindberg was middle-aged but already running to fat—or, more accurately, flab. His florid complexion gave testimony to too many helpings of rare roast beef accompanied by glasses of single malt Scotch, undoubtedly shared with top-drawer doctors and paid for on the Janus expense account. Lindberg’s eyes were the color of burnished steel, and showed a glimmer of naked ambition that the smile pasted on his face couldn’t disguise. His thinning blond hair was combed carefully to cover early male pattern baldness. The sleeves of his white dress shirt were rolled halfway to his elbows. His tie was at half-mast and slightly askew.

Patel, the geek. Lindberg, the glad-hander. Different in so many ways. But both men shared one characteristic. Wolfe knew from experience that each man would sell his mother if it might benefit the company, or more specifically, their position in it. The two of them together could mean something very good or very bad for Bob Wolfe. He eased forward in his chair and kicked his senses into high gear.

Patel leaned back and tented his fingers. “Bob, I’m sure you’re wondering what this is about. Well, I wanted to congratulate you on the success of EpAm848. I’ve been looking over the preliminary information, especially the reports from Dr. Ingersoll at Southwestern Medical Center. Very impressive.”

“Well, it’s sort of Ingersoll’s baby. He stumbled onto it when he was doing some research here during his infectious disease fellowship at UC Berkeley. I think he wants it to succeed as much as we do.”

“I doubt that.” Patel leaned forward with both hands on the desk. “Jandra is on the verge of bankruptcy. I want that drug on the market ASAP!”

“But we’re not ready. We need more data,” Wolfe said.

“Here’s the good news,” Patel said. “The FDA is worried about The Killer bacteria outbreak. I’ve pulled a few strings, called in a bunch of favors, and I can assure you we can get this application fast-tracked.”

“How?” Wolfe said. “We’re still doing Phase II trials. What about Phase III? Assuming everything goes well, it’s going to be another year, maybe two, before we can do a rollout of EpAm848.”

“Not to worry,” Patel said. “Our inside man at the FDA assures me he can help us massage the data. We can get by with the Phase II trials we’ve already completed. And he’ll arrange things so we can use those plus some of our European studies to fulfill the Phase III requirements.”

Lindberg winked at Wolfe. “We may have to be creative in the way we handle our data. You and I need to get our heads together and see how many corners we can cut before the application is ready.”

Wolfe shook his head. “You say this drug will save us from bankruptcy. I don’t see that. I mean, yes, it looks like we may be in for a full-blown epidemic of Staph luciferus, but we won’t sell enough—“

Lindberg silenced him with an upraised hand. “Exposure, Bob. Exposure. If we get this drug on the market, if we’re the first with a cure, our name recognition will skyrocket. Doctors and patients will pay attention to our other drugs: blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes. Our market share will go through the roof in all of them.”

Wolfe could see the salesman in Lindberg take over as he leaned closer, as though to drive home his point by proximity. “We’re preparing a direct-to-consumer push on all those drugs, ready to launch at the same time we release Jandramycin.”

The name didn’t click with Wolfe for a moment. “I . . . Well, I’ll certainly do what I can.”

“Do more than that,” Lindberg said. “Jandra Pharmaceuticals is hurting. We’re staking everything on Jandramycin.”

That was the second time Wolfe had heard the term. “What—“

“Stop referring to the drug by its generic name,” Patel added. “From now on, the compound is Jandramycin. When people hear the name Jandra Pharmaceuticals, we want them to think of us as the people who developed the antibiotic that saved the world from the worst epidemic since the black plague.”

Lindberg eased from his chair and gave Wolfe another slap on the shoulder. “This is your project now. It’s on your shoulders. The company’s got a lot riding on this.”

And so do I. “But what if a problem turns up?”

Patel rose and drew himself up to his full five feet eight inches. His obsidian eyes seemed to burn right through Wolfe. “We’re depending on you to make sure that doesn’t happen. Are we clear on that?”

* * *

Sara leaned over the sink and splashed water on her face. The paper towels in the women’s rest room of the clinic were rough, but maybe that would put some color in the face that stared back at her from the mirror. Her brown eyes were red-rimmed from another sleepless night. Raven hair was pulled into a ponytail because she could never find time or energy for a haircut or a perm. Get it together, Sara. She took a deep breath and headed for the doctor’s dictation room, where she slumped into a chair.

“Something wrong, Dr. Miles?”

Sara turned to see Gloria, the clinic’s head nurse. “No, just taking a few deep breaths before I have to make a call I’m dreading.”

Gloria slid into the chair next to Sara. The controlled chaos of the internal medicine clinic hummed around them. The buzz of conversations and ringing of phones served as effectively as white noise to mask her next words. “Is it one of your hospital patients? Got some bad news to deliver?”

“Sort of. It’s Chelsea Ferguson.”

“The teenage girl? Is she worse?”

“Yes. The cultures grew Staph luciferus.”

Gloria whistled silently. “The Killer. That’s bad.”

“The only thing that seems to be working in these cases is that new drug of Jack Ingersoll’s.”

“Oh, I get it. That’s the call you don’t want to make.” Gloria touched Sara lightly on the shoulder. “When will you stop letting what Ingersoll did ruin the rest of your life? I can introduce you to a couple of nice men who go to our church. They’ve both gone through tough divorces—neither was their fault—and they want to move on. It would be good for you—”

Sara shook her head. “Thanks, but I’m not ready to date. I’m not sure if I can ever trust a man again.”

Gloria opened her mouth, but Sara silenced her with an upraised hand. No sense putting this off. She pulled the phone toward her and stabbed in a number.

* * *

Dr. John Ramsey found a spot in the Visitor’s Parking Lot. He exited his car and looked across the driveway at the main campus of Southwestern Medical Center. When he’d graduated, there were two buildings on the campus. Now those two had been swallowed up, incorporated into a complex that totaled about forty buildings on three separate campuses. Right now he only needed to find one: the tall white building directly across the driveway at the end of a flagstone plaza. The imposing glass façade of the medical library reflected sunlight into his eyes as he wove past benches where students sat chatting on cell phones or burrowing into book bags. He paused at the glass front doors of the complex, took a deep breath, and pushed forward.

There was a directory inside for anyone trying to negotiate the warren of inter-connected buildings, but John didn’t need it. He found the elevator he wanted, entered, and punched five. In a moment, he was in the office of the Chairman of Internal Medicine.

“Dr. Schaeffer will be with you in a moment.” The receptionist motioned him toward a seat opposite the magnificent rosewood desk that was the centerpiece of the spacious office, then glided out, closing the door softly behind her.

John eased into the visitor’s chair and looked around him. He’d spent forty years on the volunteer clinical faculty of Southwestern Medical Center’s Department of Internal Medicine. For forty years he’d instructed and mentored medical students and residents, for forty years he’d covered the teaching clinic once a month, and today was the first time he’d been in the department chairman’s office. He swallowed the resentment he felt bubbling up. No, John. You never wanted to be here. You were happy in your own world.

John couldn’t help comparing this room with the cubbyhole he’d called his private office. Now he didn’t even have that. The practice was closed, the equipment and furnishings sold to a young doctor just getting started. John’s files and patient records were in a locked storage facility, rent paid for a year.

He wondered how many of his patients had contacted his nurse to have their records transferred. No matter, she’d handle it. He’d paid her six months’ salary to take care of such things. What would happen after that? He didn’t have the energy to care. Things were different now.

For almost half a century he’d awakened to the aroma of coffee and a kiss from the most wonderful woman in the world. Now getting out of bed in the morning was an effort, shaving and getting dressed were more than he could manage some days. Since Beth died . . . He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs that clogged his brain. The knowledge that he’d never again know the happiness of having a woman he loved by his side made him wish he’d died with her. What was the use of going on?

But something happened this morning. He’d awakened with a small spark of determination to do something, anything, to move on. He tried to fight it, to roll over and seek the sleep that eluded him. Instead, he heard the echo of Beth’s words: “You’re too good a physician to retire. People need you.” He remembered that conversation as though it were yesterday. She’d urged, he’d insisted. Let’s retire. I want to get out of the rat race and enjoy time with you. Retirement meant the travel they’d put off, the time to do things together. Only, now there was no more together.

This morning, he’d rolled out of bed determined that today would be different. It would be the start of his rebirth. As he shrugged into a robe, as he’d done each day since her death he looked at the picture on their dresser of him and Beth. She’d been radiant that spring day so many years ago, and he wondered yet again how he’d managed to snag her.

He’d shaved—for the first time in days—with special care, and his image in the mirror made him wonder. When did that slim young man in the picture develop a paunch and acquire an AARP card? When had the thick brown hair been replaced by gray strands that required careful combing to hide a retreating hairline? The eyes were still bright, although they hid behind wire-rimmed trifocals. “You’re too old for this, John,” he muttered. And as though she were in the room, he heard Beth’s words once more. “You’re too good a physician to retire. People need you.”

Fortified with coffee, the sole component of his breakfast nowadays, he’d forced himself to make the call. He asked his question and was gratified and a bit frightened by the positive response. John dressed carefully, choosing his best suit, spending a great deal of time selecting a tie. He’d noticed a gradual shift in doctors’ attire over the past few years. Now many wore jeans and golf shirts under their white coats. But for John Ramsey, putting on a tie before going to the office was tantamount to donning a uniform, one he’d worn proudly for years. And he—

“John, I was surprised when I got your call. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Dr. Donald Schaeffer breezed into the office, the starched tails of his white coat billowing behind him. He offered his hand, then settled in behind his desk.

“Donald, I appreciate your taking the time to see me. I was wondering—”

“Before we start, I want you to know how sorry we all are for your loss. Is there anything I can do?”

Perfect lead-in. See if you can get the words out. “As you know, I closed my office four months ago. Beth and I were going to enjoy retirement. Then . . .”

Schaeffer nodded and tented his fingers under his chin. At least he had the grace not to offer more platitudes. Ramsey had had enough of those.

“I was wondering if you could use me in the department.” There. Not the words he’d rehearsed, but at least he’d tossed the ball into Schaeffer’s court.

“John, are you talking about coming onto the faculty?”

“Maybe something half-time. I could staff resident clinics, teach medical students.”

Schaeffer was shaking his head before John finished. “That’s what the volunteer clinical faculty does. It’s what you did for . . . how many years? Thirty? Thirty-five?”

“Forty, actually. Well, I’m still a clinical professor in the department, so I guess I have privileges at Parkland Hospital. Can you use me there?”

Schaeffer pulled a yellow legal pad toward him and wrote a couple of words before he pushed it aside. “I’m not sure what I can do for you, if anything. It’s not that easy. You have no idea of the administrative hoops I have to jump through to run this department. Even if I could offer you a job today—and I can’t— I’d have to juggle the budget to support it, post the position for open applications, get half a dozen approvals before finalizing the appointment.” He spread his hands in a gesture of futility.

“So, is that a ‘no’?”

“”That’s an ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ Afraid that’s the best I have to offer.” Schaeffer looked at his watch, shoved his chair back and eased to his feet. “Coming to Grand Rounds?”

Why not? John’s house was an empty museum of bitter memories. His office belonged to someone else. Why not sit in the company of colleagues? “Sure. I’ll walk over with you.”

As the two men moved through the halls of the medical center, John prayed silently that Schaeffer would find a job for him. With all his prayers for Beth during her final illness, prayers that had gone unanswered, he figured that surely God owed him this one.

***NOTE*** I haven't read this book but it's on my TBR pile. Finding Hope Book Club is reading Medical Error for our book club pick for next month. It's book two in the series. Code Blue was his first book. This book sounds just as good as his other books. We will be talking to Richard next month. I can't wait!! I really enjoyed Medical Error. This author brings an insight to his books that only he can do because he is a retired Doctor, which makes his books all the more scary and real!

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org

SUNRISE ON THE BATTERY by BETH WEBB HART - FIRST CHAPTER

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Thomas Nelson (October 11, 2011)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
With a B.A. in English Literature from Hollins University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, Hart serves as an inspirational speaker and creative writing instructor at conferences, retreats, schools, libraries and churches across the country, and she is the recipient of two national teaching
awards from Scholastic, Inc. and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. She lives with her husband, composer Edward Hart, and their family in Charleston.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
She wanted her husband to attend the town’s society-driven church.

God answered her prayer in a radical way.

An emptiness dogs Mary Lynn Scoville. But it shouldn’t. After all, she’s achieved what few believed possible. Born in the rural south, she has reached the pinnacle of worldly success in Charleston, South Carolina. Married to a handsome real estate developer and mother to three accomplished daughters, Mary Lynn is one Debutante Society invitation away from truly having it all. And yet, it remains—an emptiness that no shopping trip, European vacation, or social calendar can fill.

When a surprise encounter leads her to newfound faith, Mary Lynn longs to share it with her husband. But Jackson wrote God off long ago. Mary Lynn prays for him on Christmas Eve...and her husband undergoes a life-altering, Damascus Road experience. As Jackson begins to take the implications of the Gospel literally, Mary Lynn feels increasingly isolated from her husband...and betrayed by God. She only wanted Jackson beside her at church on Sunday mornings, not some Jesus freak who evangelizes prostitutes and invites the homeless to tea.

While her husband commits social suicide and the life they worked so hard for crumbles around them, Mary Lynn wonders if their marriage can survive. Or if perhaps there really is a more abundant life that Jackson has discovered, richer than any she’s ever dreamed of.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 11, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595542000
ISBN-13: 978-1595542007

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Mary Lynn Scoville

December 24, 2009

It was the morning before Christmas, and Mary Lynn was preparing for her sunrise jog around the tip of the Charleston Peninsula. She stretched her thighs and calves in the gray light of her piazza, then bounded out of her South Battery home, traveling west toward the coast guard station like she did every morning as part of her effort to “finally get back in shape” since her fortieth birthday, six short months ago.

By the time she reached Tradd Street, the gray had turned to a soft, creamy light, and she hung a left and rounded the corner onto Murray Boulevard where she traced the west tip of the peninsula as buoys bobbed in the churning water of the harbor and pelicans—beak first, wings pulled tight against their large prehistoric bodies—dove for breakfast in a thrilling kind of free fall.

At her husband Jackson’s strong suggestion, she stayed clear of the darkened cars parked along the edge of the waterway leading up to White Point Gardens. Unseemly characters gathered along the water’s edge at night and often fell asleep there, not to mention the handful of homeless folks who made their berths on park benches. There had been a murder in one of the cars last year as well as a rape, but the light was too high in the sky for any of that now. As her friend from her bluegrass days, Scottie Truluck, boldly proclaimed the day after someone broke into her house and took off with her laptop and her sterling silver tea set, you couldn’t let fear get in the way of your city life.

Mary Lynn hit her stride, as usual, at the High Battery as a lone sailboat with little blinking white Christmas lights encircling its mast pushed through the choppy water. She felt her heart rate rising and she became conscious of her breathing, so she attempted to take her mind off of her workout and the pounding of the pavement on her knees by going through her to-do list for the day as she passed the Carolina Yacht Club where Jackson had been offered a membership after his second time through the application process. Hot dog! An invitation to join this exclusive, tight-knit club was a kind of proof that they had been officially accepted by Charleston society. Not an easy feat in this historic southern city that, after two brutal wars and a depression that stretched on for half a century, had good reason to be wary of outsiders. Of course, they both knew they had Mark Waters—an older friend with hometown ties—to thank for this and many of the doors that had been opened to them.

Still, Mark didn’t run the entire city (especially not the old-Charleston set) no matter how deep his pockets, and the yacht club membership meant that they had finally passed some sort of insider’s test after their move to the city ten years ago. And that, along with the invitation Mary Lynn received last year to join the Charlestowne Garden Club and another to serve as chairman of the board of the old and prestigious Peninsula Day School, made her feel like this truly was their home. Their real home. She smiled even as she panted. She and Jackson, two country bumpkins from Meggett, South Carolina, were somehow making their way into Charleston society. Who’d have ever thunk it?

But that wasn’t even the primary goal for Jackson, who was the sharpest, most focused man Mary Lynn had ever known. The real goal for him (and he had written it down and asked her to put it in her jewelry box in an envelope marked “family mission statement”) was to give their three girls the life he and Mary Lynn never had. This meant a top-rate education, exposure and immersion in the fine arts, and frequent opportunities to see the big wide world beyond the Carolina lowcountry or the United States for that matter.

“Not just education, baby—cultivation,” he would say as they lay side by side in their four-poster antique bed purchased on King Street for a pretty penny, Jackson resting some classic novel he should have read in high school on his chest. Then Mary Lynn would look up from the Post and Courier or Southern Living or lately, the little black leather Bible Scottie had given her after the birthday luncheon meltdown, and smile.

Every time Mary Lynn and Jackson discussed their children, she had an image of her husband tilling the soil of their daughters’ minds and dropping down the little seeds like he did every spring growing up on his daddy’s farm. “Just like the tomaters, darlin’,” he’d say in his exaggerated country accent. “Only now it is little intellects that will one day be big as cantaloupes!”

A pretty lofty mission. But a worthy one, Mary Lynn supposed. Though sometimes she grew nervous that he rode the girls too hard with their school work and over scheduled them with extracurricular activities—strings lessons, writing workshops, ballet, and foreign language. They sure didn’t have much time to lollygag or linger or strike out on an adventure as she had as a child roaming the corn fields on her uncle’s farm, climbing trees, building forts, or spending the night in a sleeping bag beneath a blanket of stars. Despite her mama’s missteps and mean old Mrs. Gustafson, who made sure the whole town knew every little detail about them, Mary Lynn had a sanctuary on her uncle’s farm. Much of her childhood she was ignorantly blissful of all the trouble and the gossip that surrounded her family as she played hide-and-seek in the corn husks with her mama, running fast through the papery leaves that gently slapped her face. Then crouching down as she heard the sweet voice of her only parent call, “Ready or not, here I come!”

But Mary Lynn had to acknowledge the fruit of Jackson’s labors. Thanks to his staying after them, the girls were well on their way to mastering a stringed instrument and they could carry on a conversation (and for their oldest, read a novel) in French and Spanish. Imagine!

Who would have guessed the upward turn their lives would take after Jackson’s daddy’s death revealed the little real estate gems up and down the South Carolina coast he had inherited from a great uncle? The timing was right and Jackson had been shrewd. He turned to Mark Waters, who showed him just how to go about it. This was in the early ’90s, well before the economic downturn, and Jackson sold each piece of property for five and even ten times what his great uncle had paid for it. Then he bought more land, bought several low-end housing projects Mark introduced him to, invested in some of Mark’s big commercial and condo development ventures, and did the same year-in and year-out for more than a decade as the market soared.

“Boy, you picked wisely,” Mama had said the first time she came to visit them at their new home on South Battery. She narrowed her eyes and looked up at Mary Lynn. “’Course I thought Mark was going to gnash his teeth when he got a gander at the skinny farm boy you had fallen for.”

“Mama, Mark was married by that point.”

“Not that nuptials ever meant much to the Waters clan.” She winked, then shook her head. Mary Lynn guessed her mama was thinking of her own engagement to Mark’s father, who had proposed after she ran his office for years. They never did make it to the altar. “But you saw something in Jackson no one else took the time to see, smart girl.” Then she walked carefully over to the portrait of some eighteenth-century British gentleman that their decorator had insisted they purchase for the foyer, rubbed the corner of its gilded frame, and shook her head in disbelief before turning back. “You saw the man in the boy, didn’t you?”

Mary Lynn had smiled. Then she walked over and kissed her mama’s made-up cheek. It felt cool like putty.

“I was just lucky, Mama.” And that was the truth. Jackson was the only boy in town she ever dated, though Mark Waters had told her more than once he’d wait for her to grow up. Of course, she wasn’t surprised that he didn’t.

Her mama had nodded her head as she walked into the foyer and rested her hand on the grand staircase’s large pineapple finial. Then she gazed up the three flights of intricately trimmed hardwood stairs, clucked her tongue, and said, “Everybody gets lucky sometimes, I reckon.”

Now if Jackson stuck with Mark and played it right, he might not have to work for the rest of his life, and he and Mary Lynn would leave a pretty penny to their girls someday. With financial security and intellects as big as cantaloupes, what more could their daughters need?

But back to the to-do list. Mary Lynn still had a few presents to wrap, and she needed to polish the silver serving pieces for the “show and tell” tea party they had hosted every Christmas afternoon for the last eight years. Jackson, who had taken up the cello a few years ago, was trying to get their three daughters to perform a movement from a Haydn string quartet (Opus 20, no. 4 in D major, second movement to be exact), and he had played the slow and somber piece on the CD player so many times over the last month that Mary Lynn found that she was waking up from her sleep with the notes resounding in her head.

She’d never really known of Haydn; she never knew a lick about classical music until they moved to Charleston and started going to the symphony and the Spoleto Festival events. Eventually they became supporters of the symphony and the College of Charleston’s music department, and now she found she could recognize a few pieces by ear, though in all honesty, she always daydreamed when she went to a concert. Sometimes it would be over, the audience would be standing for their ovation, and she’d be lost in thought about shelling butter beans on the back porch with Aunt Josey or sitting by Uncle Dale in the rocking chairs as he tuned his mandolin before they started in on “Man of Constant Sorrow” or “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” with him singing low and Mary Lynn singing the dissonant high lonesome sound while she twirled and twirled around. Uncle Dale said she had a voice that was pure sugar and more moves than a croker sack full of eels. And once when Mark Waters and his daddy, Cecil, were over, Cecil teared up over the singing and the twirling and then insisted on underwriting voice and guitar lessons from a famous country music writer who had settled in Charleston. Mary Lynn and her mother drove the fifty minutes into town for the next seven years until she graduated with two offers: one from her guitar instructor to join his newly formed bluegrass band as the lead singer, and an academic scholarship to USC-Beaufort. Since she was smart enough even then to know that an eighteen-year-old girl didn’t need to be traveling in a band, and since Jackson had proposed on bended knee, she did what felt right to her heart: she chose the scholarship and married her sweetheart.

But on those mornings when she dropped the kids off at school and had to run a few errands, she turned back to the radio station she grew up listening to, an old blend of rock ‘n’ roll and country and bluegrass, and tapped along to Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash or the Stanley Brothers as she drove through the historic streets with her windows rolled up as if she were in her own secret time capsule, transporting herself back to when she was thirteen, dancing and twirling with her mama to “Return to Sender” on the screened porch as Aunt Josey and Uncle Dale clapped and laughed.

Catherine and Lilla, Mary Lynn’s oldest girls, both played violin, and Casey, the baby by five years, played the viola. Their family quartet sounded all right, except for the cello, which made an occasional alley cat screech when Jackson came at it a little off angle. She imagined they’d be practicing all day to get it right for tomorrow’s performance.

The sun was beginning to warm Mary Lynn’s back when she turned from East Bay Street onto Broad where she planned to sprint all-out to Meeting Street, then stop and walk briskly home the rest of the way, her hands raised and clasped behind her head, her heart pounding, then slowing moment by moment as the brisk air chilled her sweaty body to the bone. What a way to wake up! She loved it. And she had shed twelve of the fifteen pounds she had been trying to get rid of since her big birthday.

But this morning, just after she bounded at full speed across Church Street and back onto the uneven sidewalk of Broad Street, the front tip of her left running shoe caught for a split second in a crooked old grate so that when she slammed her right foot down and lunged at a sharp angle to keep herself from somersaulting, she heard a tear just below the back of her knee and a pain blasted through her calf as though she had been shot at close range.

“Agh!” she screamed, falling hard on her side and grasping the back of her right leg.

She knew what had happened, and she wasn’t sure if it was her knowledge or the pain that was causing the intense wave of nausea. She spit and attempted to will her stomach to settle down as her aching muscle throbbed.

The injury, she was sure, was tennis leg, a rupture of the calf muscle on the inside of the leg. She had suffered the same kind of tear in the same place two other times before. Once when Scottie had taken her to a Joni Mitchell concert in Atlanta and she had danced a little too hard to “California,” and just two years ago, when she was standing on the top of her living room sofa, hanging a new set of silk drapes hours before hosting a Parents Guild luncheon.

Mary Lynn put her forehead on her knee and ground her teeth. The stones from the old sidewalk were cool beneath her legs, and a chill worked its way up her spine. At best, she would spend the next ten days on crutches icing down her leg every few hours. And then another six weeks in physical therapy. Or worse, she would have to undergo surgery—something Dr. Powell had warned her about after her last rupture. “Surgery means no bearing weight for four months,” he had said, looking over his tortoise shell bifocals at her. “So be cautious, Mary Lynn.”

The street was quiet on this early Thursday morning. No one was around to gawk or help her up, and she started to weep—more from the frustration, from the time she would lose in the days and weeks to come, and from the stupid grate that no one in the city had bothered to right in maybe one hundred years than from the pain that seemed to compound itself with every new beat of her heart.

She put her clammy palms on the sidewalk and rotated her body over to her left side toward the entry way of the Spencer Art Gallery, and then she slowly felt her way up the side of the stone building until she was upright. She would have to walk on her tippy toes until she flagged someone down or found an open store where she could use the phone to call Jackson.

Mary Lynn swung her head back and forth in an effort to shake off the stars she was seeing. She walked a good block, carefully, on the balls of her feet to the corner of Meeting and Broad singing “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” by Elvis just to keep herself going. When she rounded the corner where St. Michael’s Episcopal Church stood, she spotted Roy Summerall, the rector, chatting animatedly to a familiar-looking man who leaned against a parked taxi cab, steam rising from his coffee mug.

She recognized the man as soon as he glanced in her direction. It was Craig MacPherson, Alyssa’s father. (Alyssa was one of Catherine’s best friends.) He had lost his job as a real estate appraiser during the recent economic crisis, and he was forced to pull Alyssa out of the Peninsula Day School, the private school Mary Lynn’s daughters attended. Now she could see that the rumor she heard was true. He was driving a cab to make ends meet.

Then just as she relaxed the balls of her feet after her favorite line in the chorus—“Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse . . .”—in her relief over finding some folks she knew could help her, the pain shot through her leg, worse than before, and she leaned forward and vomited all over the base of the large white church column closest to Broad Street.

The men must have heard her retching. By the time she looked back up again, wincing and straining to get upright and back on her tip toes, they were by her side, gently placing her arms around their shoulders.

“You all right, Mary Lynn?” Reverend Summerall asked. She had been attending his church with Scottie every now and then, and she had met him once briefly at a Downtown Neighborhood Association gathering awhile back, but she was sort of surprised that he remembered her name.

She pulled her arm back around, wiped her mouth with the back of her fleece jacket, then placed it on his shoulder again. “Tennis leg.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I tore a muscle in my calf. It’s happened to me before.”

The men made a quick plan to carry her to the cab.

“On three,” Craig MacPherson said, and after he called out the numbers, she felt them lift her up and carefully scurry her down the sidewalk before setting her gently in the backseat of Craig’s taxi.

“Let’s get you home,” Craig said.

“Wait.” Roy put his hand on her shoulder and uttered a quick prayer. She couldn’t make out the words, but that didn’t matter. She had no problem with prayers. In fact, she was starting to like them. She’d been going with Scottie to a women’s prayer group at the church every Wednesday afternoon for almost two years now, and she had become downright used to listening to folks pray out loud for one another’s needs, though she’d never had the nerve to join in.

“Thank you.” She looked up and swiveled her head back and forth to meet both sets of sympathetic eyes. “I’ll be okay.” And then to Roy, “Sorry to leave a mess on your portico.”

The priest smiled. “Don’t worry about that. Just take care of yourself. I’ll check in on you later.”

Mary Lynn nodded, and Craig gently closed the cab door and walked around to the driver’s side. She was surprised by how clean the car was. It smelled like soap and maybe gardenias? Some sort of flower, anyway. And when she looked up to see Craig’s picture and license displayed on the visor, she noticed a drawing that Alyssa must have made for him. It was of the steeple of St. Michael’s with the sun shining through the second tier balcony. The one with the handsome arches. Then she saw the girl’s name inscribed in the far right corner.

Sitting down felt much better, and Mary Lynn was astonished by how much the pain receded when she took weight off of her leg. She needed to get ice on her calf as soon as she got home, and she would have to elevate her leg (up higher than her heart as she recalled) to stop the ache. That was how she would spend the whole afternoon—her leg in a pillow with a rope tied to the ceiling beam. That and calling all of the guests to cancel tomorrow’s tea.

But she felt so much better at this moment. Whew. Sitting down in the back of the clean cab with the bright sunlight shooting through the windows, she felt relief. As if, for a moment anyway, it had never happened.

As they turned off of Meeting Street onto South Battery, she could see her historic white clapboard home in the distance, particularly grand in its Christmas décor—fresh garland around the doorway and piazza rail, two magnolia-leaf wreaths with large gold bows on each piazza door, and even a little red berry wreath around the head of the statue in the center of the fountain in the side garden. That had been Casey’s idea, and it added a little whimsy to the decorations, Mary Lynn thought. To her it made the house wink to the passersby as if to say, There are children who live here! It’s not a just a photo from Architectural Digest. See? Every time Mary Lynn saw it, she grinned.

As Craig went around to help her out of the car, she turned to face him and still did not feel the pain. He took out his cell phone. “Should I call Jackson to meet us down here?”

“No,” she said. “He’s probably on his morning walk and I’m sure the girls are still asleep.” She reached out her hand. “If you help me out, I can make it in on the balls of my feet.”

Like Mary Lynn, Jackson had a morning ritual—walking their black Labrador, Mac, up King Street to Caviar & Bananas, munching on a scone and an espresso, reading the New York Times, preparing for a meeting with Mark or mapping out the day, the week, or the month—depending on how exuberant he was—and walking briskly home. Sometimes she ran into him a block from their house on her way home from her morning run. He usually brought something back to her—a muffin or a strawberry dipped in chocolate, which she discreetly gave to Anarosa, the housekeeper, to take home to her little boys. And now that the girls were out of school for the holiday, he brought something for them as well. Casey always enjoyed her treat, but the older girls were watching their weight and they, too, gave their treat to Anarosa.

When Craig leaned forward, she put her arm around his shoulder and let him hoist her up on her tippy toes. Then she took a step forward on the balls of her feet, still leaning on him, and she didn’t feel any pain. She took another step. Nothing. Her calf felt normal. She almost put her heels down, but she was afraid to.

When a horn from a driver stuck behind the recycling truck blasted just yards ahead, she was so startled, she leaned back and was forced to put her heel on the sidewalk.

The pain behind the back of her knee was not there.

She looked up at Craig. Her eyebrows furrowed. She rubbed the back of her leg. No tenderness. Nothing. What in the world?

“Hurt bad?” he said. He shook his head in an effort to commiserate. Then he stepped back and leaned forward with his hands on his knees to give her a little space. Maybe he thought she might get sick again.

She looked up at him. Had she dreamed the whole thing? No. She had heard her muscle rip. She had felt the shot of pain. It had happened to her two other times in her life, and she knew precisely what it was.

She decided not to answer Craig. It was just so strange. After a few seconds he lifted out his hand and she leaned into it expecting the pain to kick in, but it didn’t. Once she was on the piazza, she thanked him and he headed back to his cab. Then she unlocked the door, walked in the house with her heels firmly planted on the hardwood floor.

Was she fine?

She shook her right leg out. She walked. She did a few lunges, then jumped up and down several times, which caused Mac to bark and run into the foyer where he stopped, stared, and tilted his head as if he were as confused as she was.

Had Reverend Summerall’s prayer been answered?

“How was your run?” Jackson handed her a chocolate croissant in a waxy little bag. He was back sooner than she expected.

How many calories in a chocolate croissant? Way too many for a gal beating back a middle-age paunch in the midst of the holiday season. And how was her run? Well, she wanted to tell him the whole story, but something held her back. He had made it clear since she started going to church with Scottie that he had no interest in religion. He wasn’t going to stop her. It didn’t bother him that she went. He just didn’t want her to expect him to follow along with all of that. He had a mission, after all, and he was focused.

He cocked his head. “Your jog all right, baby?”

She looked into his bright green eyes. They blinked slowly. It was the first time they had made eye contact today.

“Amazing,” she finally said. She smiled and lovingly squeezed his shoulder. Then she gently accepted the little waxy bag and headed to the pantry where Anarosa kept her purse.

****NOTE***** This looks good!! I would have signed up for this tour but I'm behind on my reading right now. So, many good books so little time!! Grin! Thought you all might think this one interesting.

Blessings
Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org

A QUARTER FOR A KISS by MINDY STARNS CLARK - FIRST CHAPTER

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

With a touch of romance and a strong heroine, A Quarter for a Kiss offers more of the fast-paced and suspenseful inspirational writing found in A Penny for Your Thoughts, Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels, and A Dime a Dozen. In this fourth book of the Million Dollar Mysteries, Mindy Starns Clark weaves another tale of mystery and God’s touch on the lives of those who seek Him.

As a young widow, Callie Webber finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her growing romance with her employer, Tom Bennett. When their friend and mentor, Eli Gold, is shot, the search for answers as to who and why leads Tom and Callie to the beautiful Virgin Islands. There they face a sinister enemy among the ruins of an old sugar plantation—an enemy who’s willing to do anything to keep his identity secret and the past deeply buried.





Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929592
ISBN-13: 978-0736929592

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Come on, Callie,” Tom urged. “You can do it. You know how.”

Ignoring the burning in my calves, I kept my gaze on Tom, who had reached the top of the wall almost effortlessly and now waited there for me to join him.

“There’s a grip at two o’clock, up from your right hand about six inches,” he guided, speaking in the low, soothing tones I teasingly called his “rock climbing” voice. Glad for that voice now, I released my handhold and reached upward, my fingers easily finding and grasping the tiny ledge. “Now your foot,” he said. “Slow and easy. You’re almost there.”

As I went I concentrated on all I had learned about rock climbing in the last few weeks. It was Tom’s passion, and we had spent a number of hours practicing on a real rock face while he taught me the basic tricks and techniques. Now we were in an indoor gym, on a simulated rock wall, climbing much higher than we had ever gone in our practice runs. And though I was wearing a safety harness that was roped to the ceiling, that didn’t make it any easier or any less scary—particularly where the wall actually bent outward, pitching me at a difficult angle.

“You are one step away, Cal,” he said, excitement evident in his voice. “Most of the people won’t make it half this far.”

With a final burst of daring, I slid my toes against the next hold and straightened my knees, rising high enough to touch the ceiling at the top of the wall.

“You did it!” Tom cried, and only then did I allow myself to smile and then to laugh.

“I did do it!” I echoed, slapping a high five with Tom and feeling the rush of pleasure and relief he said he experienced every time he finished a challenging climb. Of course, to him “challenging” meant the Red Rocks of Nevada or Half Dome in Yosemite. For me, a big wall in a rock-climbing gym was a pretty good start.

We repelled down together, my legs still feeling shaky once I was on solid ground.

“That was great,” the teenage staffer said as he helped unhook me from the harness. “And to think you were worried. Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”

“Not that high and not indoors,” I said.

“Well, you’re a natural.”

“I had a good teacher,” I replied, glancing at Tom, who was busy removing his own harness. He and I had spent the last three weeks together vacationing in the North Carolina mountains. During that time, we had enjoyed teaching each other our favorite sports—climbing and canoeing—though I liked to tease him that my hobby was the superior one, because one false move with a canoe paddle wouldn’t exactly plunge a person hundreds of feet to their death. Tom had replied that if one were canoeing above Niagara Falls, that wouldn’t exactly be true, now would it?

As the teenager moved on to help the next set of climbers, Tom gave me an encouraging smile.

“Hey, what did you say this is called?” I asked him, pointing at my visibly wobbling knees. “Sewing legs?”

“Sewing-machine legs,” Tom replied. “A common climbing malady. Come on. You need to rest for a bit.”

He bought us two bottles of water from the snack bar, and then we found a quiet corner and sat on a bench there, leaning back against the wall. I felt thoroughly spent, as if I had pushed every single muscle in my body to its very limit.

I sipped on my water, feeling my pulse slowly return to normal, looking around at the activity that surrounded us. Across the giant room, a new group of climbers was being instructed by a guide while about ten more people waited in line for their turn. In the front window was a giant banner that said “Climb for KFK,” and beside the cash register was a table where pledges and donations were being accepted for “Kamps for Kids,” a charity that provided summer camp scholarships to impoverished children. Instead of a walk­athon, they were calling this event a “climbathon.” I liked the idea as well as the whole atmosphere of the place, from the easy joviality of the people waiting in line to the upbeat encouragement of the instructors who were manning the ropes and providing assistance as needed.

“So what’s up, Callie?” Tom asked. “You haven’t been yourself all morning.”

I shrugged.

“Sorry,” I said. “This is my work mode, I guess. You have to remember, we’re not just here to have fun. We’re on the job, so to speak.”

Tom nodded knowingly and then leaned closer and lowered his voice.

“So how does this happen, exactly?” he asked. “Do you just walk up to the people and say, ‘Hi, here’s a big whopping check’?”

I smiled.

“Oh, sure, that’s usually how it goes. I call that my Big Whopping Check speech.”

“Don’t be hard on me,” he said, grinning. “I’ve never done this before.”

I leaned toward him, speaking softly.

“Well, first of all, you have to wait for the proper moment,” I said. “Like just before you’re about to leave.”

“Okay.”

“Second,” I continued, “you have to have the full attention of the correct person. You don’t want to give that whopping check to just anybody.”

“Get the big wig. Got it.”

“Finally, the act of presentation takes a little bit of flair. It’s a huge moment for them. You want to help them enjoy it.”

“I think I understand.”

“You also want to bring them back down to earth a little. I actually do have a short speech I give every time I hand over a grant. I remind the recipient where the money’s coming from and what it’s for. That seems to go over well.”

I felt funny explaining how I did my job to Tom, because he wasn’t just my boyfriend, he was also technically my boss. Though he lived and worked on the other side of the country, far from our actual office, Tom was the kind and generous philanthropist behind the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. I worked for the foundation as the director of research, and basically my job was to investigate nonprofits Tom was interested in and analyze their suitability for grants. If they checked out okay, I then had the pleasure of awarding them grant money. That’s what we were doing here today. For the first time ever, Tom was joining me as I gave a little bit of his money away.

“Hey, Tom! Tom Bennett!” a man cried, interrupting my thoughts.

The fellow bounded toward us, grinning widely. He was tall and wiry, with deep laugh lines in a tanned face, and when he reached us, we stood and the two men shook hands warmly. “You said you might come, but I didn’t believe you.”

“I’m glad I was able to work it out,” Tom replied, smiling.

He introduced his friend as Mitch Heckman, owner of the gym and co-organizer of the event. I told Mitch how impressed I was with the gym and with the climbathon concept.

“Most of the credit goes to my wife,” Mitch said, shaking my hand. “I’m just glad we could use the gym to help out a good cause.”

“Have you raised much?” Tom asked.

“Our goal for today was twenty-five thousand dollars,” Mitch said. “You can see how we’re doing on that poster over there.”

He pointed to a drawing of a mountain with a zero at the bottom, amounts written up the side, and $25,000 at the top. Sadly, it had only been colored in about half of the way up—and the event would be over in another hour or two.

“Of course, we had a pretty big learning curve in putting the whole thing together,” Mitch said. “I’m sure we can make up the difference with some bake sales or car washes or something. We’ll get there eventually. Mai pen rai, huh?”

“Yeah, mai pen rai.”

They chatted for a few minutes more, and then Mitch was called up to the front. After he was gone, Tom explained to me their acquaintance, that they had met a few months ago while mountain climbing—specifically, while scaling the limestone cliffs off of Rai Ley Beach in the Krabi Province of Thailand. Tom had been working hard in Singapore and had taken a weekend off to visit the nearby mountain-climbers’ mecca, where he met Mitch atop one of the peaks after a particularly challenging climb. As the two men rested, they talked, and it turned out that they were both avid climbers and eager to explore an unfrequented jungle crag nearby. Together they had hired a guide and ended up having an incredible day of climbing. Though the two men hadn’t seen each other since, they had been in touch off and on ever since via e-mail.

“What were you saying to each other just now? My pen…”

“Mai pen rai,” Tom replied. “That’s Thai for ‘no problem’ or ‘never mind.’ The guides say it to encourage you while you’re climbing, kind of like ‘you can do it.’ ‘Don’t worry.’ Mai pen rai.”

“Does Mitch know about the foundation?”

“Nope. He thinks I’m just another rock jock.”

“He’s in for a nice surprise, then,” I said. “This is fun, giving a grant to someone who never even applied for one.”

This wasn’t our usual mode for doing business, that was for sure. But this particular charity was so new—and the amount we were donating so relatively small—that the investigation hadn’t been all that complicated. Since KFK had never applied for a grant from us, I hadn’t really had the authority to go in and do an extensive investigation. But they did belong to several good nonprofit watchdog groups, so I had felt confident doing the research from our vacation home in North Carolina, mostly over the internet and on the phone with the foundation’s accounting whiz, Harriet, the day before.

“Anyway, now you’ll finally have the pleasure of making a donation live and in person,” I added. “Something I’ve only been bugging you to do for two years.”

“Almost three years now,” he corrected. “And, yes, I’m hoping this might shut you up for good.”

“Oh, you want me to shut up, do you?” I asked. “What about—”

He silenced me with a finger against my lips, which he allowed to linger there.

“No,” he whispered, gazing a moment at my mouth. “Don’t ever stop talking to me. I want to listen to you forever.”

We looked into each other’s eyes as everything else in the room blurred into the background. My legs shivered again, but not from climbing this time.

“We need to get going,” Tom said gruffly, standing and then helping me to my feet. I squeezed his hand, and then we separated into the men’s and women’s locker areas to get cleaned up.

After a shower I dressed quickly in a pair of black slacks and a soft blue knit shirt. I towel-dried my short hair, combed it out, and took a moment to put on some lipstick and a touch of mascara.

As I looked in the mirror, ready to leave, I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness. In a few short hours Tom and I would go our separate ways, boarding two different flights to head toward our homes on opposite coasts—him to California and me to Maryland. For three glorious weeks we had done nothing more than shut out the rest of the world and spend time together, but we couldn’t hide out and play forever. Our work and other responsibilities awaited us, and as one week had turned into two and then to three, we had already stretched the length of our available time to the very max. Soon our idyllic vacation together would officially be over, and Tom and I would be back to our long-distance romance as usual.

Slinging my bag onto my shoulder, I decided to take this day moment-by-moment. Despite the difficulty of parting, we still had a job to do. We still had a grant to give out.

I emerged from the locker room to find Tom also showered and dressed, standing nearby and squinting toward the front of the room. He had in his hand a check from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, dated today and made out to the charity, though the amount had been left blank.

“Callie, can you read that figure?” he asked. “I need the exact amount they’ve raised so far.”

I walked a little closer and then came back to report that they were up to $11,043. Quick with numbers, Tom didn’t even hesitate before he filled out the check for $23,957.

“That’s ten thousand more than they need to bring them to their goal,” I said after doing the math in my head, not surprised one bit by his generosity.

“Yeah, but it’s the least we can do, don’t you think?”

He tried to put the check in my hand, but I pushed it back.

“No, you don’t,” I said. “Enjoy the moment.”

Carrying our bags, Tom and I walked to the front of the gym, where his friend Mitch was chatting with a woman that I assumed was his wife. We were introduced, and I liked her firm handshake and the way she looked me directly in the eye. She thanked us for coming and then moved on to speak with someone else.

“We’re going to head out,” Tom said to Mitch, “but I wanted to give you a check first. I talked my company into making a small grant.”

Of course, the way Tom had said it, you’d never know that it was his company, nor his money—nor that he was using “small” as a relative term. Mitch took the folded check without looking at it.

“Listen, buddy, every bit helps. Thank you so much, and thanks for coming.”

The two men shook hands, and then Mitch shook my hand as well. We said goodbye, and Tom and I departed, walking silently through the packed parking lot toward our rental car.

“You were right, Callie,” he said nonchalantly, pressing a button on his key chain to unlock the car. “Giving away the money in person really is kind of fun.”

I was about to reply when we heard Mitch calling Tom’s name. We turned to see the man running toward us, breathless, his eyes filled with disbelief.

“I don’t understand,” he gasped, holding up the check. “This is so much. Is it some kind of joke?”

“No joke, Mitch,” Tom said. “We’re affiliated with the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. That’s a grant.”

“A grant?”

“Yeah, we give them out all the time. Callie, what is it you like to say when you give grants to people?”

I smiled.

“Basically,” I said, going into my spiel, “we want you to know that the best way you can say thanks is to take that money and use it to further your mission. The foundation believes strongly in what you’re trying to accomplish, and we just wanted to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

To my surprise, Mitch’s eyes filled with tears.

“Your generosity leaves me speechless,” he said finally. “Won’t you come back inside? Let me tell my wife. She’ll be so excited. Maybe we can get a picture for the newsletter or the website or something.”

I looked at Tom, but he seemed decidedly uncomfortable.

“Mitch,” I said, “we really prefer to do this in a discreet manner. Just tell Jill that the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation gives the money with love and with God’s blessings. We’d rather not receive any individual recognition.”

Bewildered, he looked back down at the check.

“And you promise this isn’t a joke?” he tried one more time.

“No joke,” Tom laughed. “I give you my word, buddy. It’s for real.”

With a final sincere thanks, Mitch turned and headed back to the building. We stood there and watched until he went inside and the door closed behind him.

On impulse, I turned and threw my arms around Tom’s neck. Startled, after a moment he hugged me back.

“You are such a good man,” I whispered, feeling absolutely, utterly, and completely in love.

He laughed, pulling me in tightly for an embrace.

“Wow,” he replied. “This giving-away-money thing gets better all the time.”

Knowing the clock was ticking closer toward our flight times, we managed to pull apart and get into the car. He started it up and pulled out of the parking lot, driving toward the airport.

We were quiet as we went, both lost in our own thoughts. As we wove our way through traffic, I considered our relationship and the long and winding path my life had taken since my husband’s death. This coming summer would mark four years since Bryan was killed, and in one way it seemed like yesterday, and in another it seemed like decades ago. My husband had been my first true love, the sweetheart I had met at 16 and married at 25. We’d had four wonderful years together as husband and wife, but that had all come crashing to an end that fateful day when we went water-skiing and Bryan was hit by a speedboat. The boat’s driver went to prison for manslaughter, but I also went into a sort of prison myself—a self-imposed prison of mourning, of loneliness.

Only in the last six months had I allowed myself to consider the possibility that there might be life for me beyond my husband’s death. Tom and I had developed a good, strong friendship through our many work-related conversations over the phone, and then, slowly, that friendship had started taking on other dimensions. We finally met in person last fall, when Tom received word that I had been hurt in an investigation and raced halfway around the world to be by my side and make certain I was all right. We had spent a mere 12 hours together—just long enough to begin falling in love—and then we were forced to endure a four-month separation while he went back to Singapore on important business and I healed from my injuries and continued my work with his foundation in the U.S.

Then three weeks ago, in the very heart of spring, we had been joyously reunited. Showing up in a hot air balloon, Tom had swept me away to a gorgeous vacation spot in the North Carolina mountains, where we planned to stay a week or so and give ourselves the opportunity to see if our relationship really could work face-to-face. What we had found was that we were so compatible, so comfortable, and so suddenly and deeply in love that it was nearly impossible to end our vacation and return to our regular lives.

Now, however, our time together had come to an end.

“There’s the car rental return,” Tom said suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts. He followed the signs and turned into the lot, but instead of heading straight to the busy rental return area, he veered over to an empty parking spot nestled behind a big truck. He put the car in park but left the motor running.

“Maybe we should say our goodbyes here,” he told me, “instead of out in the middle of the busy airport.”

I nodded, surprised when my eyes suddenly filled with tears. I didn’t want to say goodbye at all. Tom’s cell phone began ringing from his gym bag, but we ignored it.

“Callie, have I told you that the past three weeks have been the happiest weeks of my life?”

The ringing stopped. In the quiet of the car, I held on to his hand, looking deeply into his eyes.

“They have been incredible,” I replied. There were many, many moments we had shared that I would relive in my mind in the coming days. “I don’t know if I have the strength to say goodbye to you or not.”

Tom reached up and smoothed a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Such tenderness was in his gaze that I thought it might break my heart.

“Callie, I have something for you,” he whispered. He started to reach into his pocket, and I swallowed hard, wondering what it could be. Then his phone began to ring again.

“You better see who it is,” I said, sighing. “It might be important.”

By the time he got the phone out from his gym bag, the call had been disconnected. Tom was pressing buttons, trying to see who had called, when my phone started ringing from my purse. I dug it out, surprised to see that the number on my screen matched the number that had just called his.

“Hello?” I asked somewhat hesitantly.

“Callie?” a woman’s voice cried from very far away. “Is that you?”

“This is Callie,” I answered. “Who is this?”

“This is Stella,” the voice said. “Stella Gold.”

I put my hand over the phone and mouthed to Tom, It’s Eli’s wife.

Eli Gold was my mentor, a friend of Tom’s, and the person responsible for bringing the two of us together.

“Stella?” I asked, trying to picture a woman I didn’t know very well at the other end of the line. I had met her the day she married my dear friend Eli, but she and I had not really spoken since, except for those times when I called their house and she had been the one to answer the phone. “What’s up?”

“Oh, Callie, I’m so glad I finally reached you. I need you. I need your help. I need Tom Bennett, also, if you know how to reach him.”

“What is it?” I asked, my heart surging.

“It’s Eli,” she sobbed. “He’s in the hospital.”

“In the hospital?”

“Callie, he’s been shot.”

***NOTE*** I signed up for this tour but it was FILLED UP by the time I entered my name. This looks good!! It's on my wish list. Just wanted to share it with you all!

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org