Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Promise Me by Mona Ingram Excerpt

Promise Me by Mona Ingram
$3.99 or FREE for Prime Members

Combat Hospital - Kandahar Airfield

What are the odds? Karen Hughes, an ER nurse, travels half way around the world only to meet someone from the other side of town. Brian Calder, a medevac helicopter pilot, breezes into her life like a refreshing ocean spray. Both from Vancouver Island, they find that they share much in common, and soon become an "item" in the closely knit medical community of KAF. Karen's tour of duty is up in a few weeks, and Brian will follow shortly, but now that he has so much to lose, he becomes concerned for his safety. He's been carrying his grandmother's ring, and uses his considerable charm to convince Karen that she she should take it with her and give it to his grandmother when she returns home.

Join Karen on a heartbreaking and ultimately satisfying journey as she searches for love from the heat and grit of Kandahar to the cool mountains and endless beaches of Vancouver Island.


Set-up: Trauma nurse Karen Hughes has returned home to Canada after serving at the Role 3 Hospital in Kandahar.

The line-ups at the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay were surprisingly long. Two lines of RVs waited to board; seniors heading for a holiday on the island before the summer rush started in earnest. But before long she was driving on, and made her way up to the observation deck. It was one of her favourite parts of the trip, watching the huge ferry pull out. A harbour seal was hauled out on a log boom beside the dock, its silver fur splotched with black and shiny in the afternoon sun. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the familiar tang of the ocean water. This was where she belonged; she was going home.
Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. The old Karen would have grabbed a quick bite at the snack bar, but instead she decided to treat herself to a meal from the buffet at the stern of the ship. In spite of the inevitable wait, the scenery would make it worthwhile.
Just one, ma’am?” The staff member offered a polite smile, but she could tell that the young man was trying to decide where to seat her. “None of our smaller tables are available at the moment, but if you would care to share a table with some other singles, I can seat you now.”
Karen hesitated, then returned the smile. “That would be fine, thanks.”
The young man led her past the buffet and wove his way through the scattered tables to a large circular table looking directly over the stern of the ship. He placed a napkin in front of her and pulled out the chair. “Enjoy your meal, ma’am. We’ve been seeing a lot of Orcas for the past few days. Perhaps you’ll get lucky.”
Thank you.” She nodded to the two other people at the table, two men who appeared to be deep in conversation. They nodded distractedly in her direction, their meals seemingly forgotten.
I’ll just go check out the buffet,” she murmured, wondering why she’d bothered. One of the men raised his head, and she found herself looking into eyes the colour of a deep mountain lake; dark green with glints of gold. For a moment she thought he might berate her for intruding on their conversation, but he merely glanced toward where the paper napkin lay on the table in front of her place and then back at her. It was unsettling, and she moved toward the buffet tables, where she chose from the generous selection of salads and cold meat.
The men had resumed eating when she returned, their conversation continuing on a more cordial note. Although they were both dressed casually, the quality of their clothing was unmistakable. A soft leather bomber jacket was draped over the arm of the chair beside Green Eyes. The older man had kept his jacket on. It was a neutral tan colour with leather elbow patches. It had seen better days, but Karen sensed that it was a beloved piece of clothing.
So,” Elbow Patches raised an eyebrow. “What did you think of Compton’s lecture on trauma surgery? I had a hard time deciding between that and the Bioresonance Workshop, but I’m glad I chose Compton.” He pointed his fork at Green Eyes. “The types of trauma injuries in major urban centers are something we’re unlikely to see, but there’s no doubt we should be more prepared.”
Karen looked from one to the other. They were doctors, and unless she was completely off target, they were returning from a medical convention. In spite of the fact that she wouldn’t have chosen them as table companions, their conversation piqued her interest.
Even the best trauma surgeon can’t help some of these patients,” Green Eyes murmured, his gazed fixed firmly on his plate. He must have been out on the deck, as his hair was unkempt. A warm, golden colour, it reminded her of the buckwheat honey her grandmother had searched out in the local farmers’ markets.
Elbow Patches leaned forward, pressing his point. “That’s true, but a highly trained trauma surgeon is always an asset. I agree with Compton that we need more training programs. Even if it means sending some of our young doctors to the States to spend time in cities with gang violence, for example. I mean how many stabbings or shootings did you treat last year?”
The man looked up with weary eyes. “You know the answer. None.”
That’s my point.” Elbow Patches held up a hand. “Now wait a minute. You’re going to argue that a trained trauma surgeon would be wasted in an area where there was no need for his skills, and you may be right. But what about our international obligations? What about Afghanistan, for example? Some of the doctors we send over there volunteer specifically to gain trauma experience.” Wrapped up in his argument, he didn’t notice the colour draining from his colleague’s face.
Canada isn’t the only country doing that.” The words popped out of Karen’s mouth before she could stop them. “Other countries send doctors for the same reason. They do great work over there while they’re learning to cope with horrific injuries. Ninety-eight percent of the patients who make it to the trauma bay with a pulse will survive. Those are pretty good numbers, wouldn’t you say?”
Green Eyes pushed away from the table, almost knocking over his chair. “What can you possibly know about Afghanistan?” he demanded, his voice harsh. “What you see in a documentary on television?” His hands were trembling as he picked up his jacket. “Let me tell you something about Afghanistan. It’s a miserable, dry desert of a place where our young men are dying.” The knuckles of his hand turned white where he clutched his jacket. “The Afghan people have been killing each other in tribal wars for centuries and we’re going to change that?” He glared at Karen. “Who do we think we’re kidding?” He turned and strode away, leaving most of his meal uneaten.
Karen watched him walk away, and then turned to her remaining table-mate. “What did I say?” she asked, stunned by the attack.
The man across from her had a stricken expression on his face. “It’s my fault, I’m sorry.” He glanced toward the exit as though to make sure Green Eyes wasn’t returning. “I don’t know how I could have forgotten, but he had a family member killed in Afghanistan.” He pushed his plate away. “I hope I can find him before we dock. I need to apologize for being so insensitive.” His eyes were kind as he looked at her. “I’m sorry we ruined your meal.” He looked at her more closely. “Are you all right?”
She nodded, tried to smile. “I’ll be fine, thank you.”
The doctor walked away and she picked at her salad, but the enjoyment had faded. Eventually she too pushed her plate away and held her mug of tea with both hands, cupping it for warmth. She’d just seen another aspect of the war first hand. Back at Kandahar, they’d all lived with the knowledge that families mourned at home when their loved ones were killed, but the despair and anger on the doctor’s face had moved her deeply. Under normal conditions he would be considered handsome. Tall and lithe, he moved like an athlete. She could imagine him skiing somewhere on the Island. Probably Mount Washington, near where she’d grown up. But these weren’t normal conditions and she couldn’t imagine how it would feel to lose someone the way this man had done. With all her heart she hoped it wouldn’t be too long until he found his smile again.

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