Coming soon! The Doctor's Christmas Wish by Renee Ryan will be available Nov 17, 2015.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Renee Ryan grew up in a Florida beach town outside Jacksonville, FL. Armed with a degree in Economics and Religion from Florida State University, she explored various career opportunities, including stints at a Florida theme park and a modeling agency. She currently lives in Savannah, Georgia with her husband and a large, fluffy cat many have mistaken for a small bear. Renee can be contacted through her website at www.reneeryan.com
The house phone rang at 10:33 p.m. on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The high-pitched sound yanked Ethan Scott's attention away from the television screen and the football game he'd carved out time to watch live, no distractions.
Who would be calling at this hour?
The hitch in his breath was born out of a hidden fear he kept tucked deep inside his soul. When his parents were killed in a fatal car crash, Ethan had been the first to get the news. As the oldest of four, he had to identify the bodies, to inform his three younger siblings and to handle all the funeral arrangements.
He'd completed each task without hesitation, and had been forced to repeat an eerily similar process a year and a half ago when another deadly car accident had taken his fiancée.
The incessant ringing continued.
Like a shock wave, old memories rippled across new. Ethan's previously easy, relaxed mood spiraled into something darker.
He debated ignoring the call. Few people had his home number, and any medical emergency would either go to his answering service or come through on his cell phone.
The ringing stopped.
Banishing unwanted memories and the emotions they brought, Ethan sat back to enjoy the game. The Broncos were about to score a touchdown.
The ringing started up again.
Ethan's gut took a hard roll. Surely the Lord wouldn't deal him another blow, wouldn't make him suffer through another unexpected goodbye. He'd had enough sorrow for one lifetime. He put the game on mute, then made the short trek from living room to kitchen.
The sound of doggy toenails clicking on the tile floor alerted him that his treasured black Lab had followed him. He patted Baloo on the head and then glanced at the caller ID.
Keely O 'Toole. Ethan's gut took another hard roll, for an entirely different reason this time.
His neighbor was one of the few women in town he tended to avoid, for reasons he didn't want to explore tonight. Or ever.
Since Keely made a habit of avoiding him as well, he figured whatever had incited her to call the house—twice—on the landline—had to be important.
He snatched up the telephone receiver. "Ethan speaking."
A short, tense pause sounded on the other end of the line, followed by a weary female sigh. "Is Ryder around? He's not answering his cell phone."
"Hello to you, too, Keely."
She sighed again, the sound filled with frustration. "Is Ryder home or not?"
"Not. He's working the night shift at the hospital."
Something in her voice put Ethan on alert. He could practically feel Keely's agitation coming through the phone. Both his younger brothers were doctors. But where Ethan was a primary care physician and Brody was working for Doctors Without Borders, Ryder specialized in emergency medicine.
If she was calling Ryder this late at night...
"Talk to me, Keely. What's going on?"
"I need your help."
Four words Ethan never expected to come out the woman's mouth, at least not directed at him.
Something must be seriously wrong. "Are you hurt?"
"It's not me. It's Felicity. She's really sick and I don't know what to do. Should I take her out in this weather, to the ER waiting room, or do I hold off, pray it'll go away? I'm really, really worried."
She was also rambling. Another first.
Ethan mentally sorted through her words, stopping on an unfamiliar name. Felicity. Who was Felicity? His mind went blank. Then he remembered the little girl who had moved in with Keely over the holiday weekend. He didn't know the whole story, only that Keely was the child's legal guardian for an indefinite amount of time.
"What's wrong with her?"
"She's complaining of stomach pain."
In full doctor mode now, Ethan digested this piece of information. "Any vomiting?"
"Just once, about an hour ago."
"When did she last eat?"
He checked his watch, did a mental calculation between regular dinner hours and now. "What did she eat?"
"A hamburger, fries, oh, and a cinnamon roll. I know they aren't the healthiest choices, but she starts school tomorrow and I took her to the mall to buy her some new clothes. You might think it's odd I'm putting her in school two weeks before Christmas break, but I wanted her to meet other kids before—"
He cut her off. "Hold up. Does she have a fever?"
Keely blew out a loud hiss. "I checked it right before I called Ryder's cell phone. The thermometer said 99.7 degrees. Can you... Ethan, please, can you come over and look at Felicity?"
"On my way." He hung up the phone and headed for the mudroom just off the kitchen.
Baloo trotted past him and took up position at the back door, a hopeful expression in his coal-black eyes. Normally, Ethan would indulge the dog. He and the black Lab had been through a lot of hard times since Ethan rescued the animal during his tour in Afghanistan.
"Sorry, buddy, you can't come with me."
Baloo whined, the sound pitiful and well honed from years of conning Ethan.
"Hang tight, old boy. This shouldn't take long." Ethan scrubbed the animal's face between his hands. "I'll let you out when I get back."
The dog's ears drooped, but he obediently lowered himself to his haunches and rested his chin on his paws.
Ethan grabbed his coat and trod through the three inches of snow that had fallen throughout the day. He didn't have far to go. The backyard of Keely's childhood home spilled into his. They had that in common, both living in the houses they'd grown up in, having inherited them from their parents. Ethan, after his had died. Keely, after hers had moved to Arizona.
He was on her back stoop, stomping snow off his boots, when the door flung open. "What took you so long?"
Since she sounded like a terrified new parent, he forgave her for her rudeness. "Came as fast as I could."
"Don't just stand there. Come inside."
Holding his tongue, again, he climbed the steps. As was becoming a habit whenever they were up close and personal, he reminded himself this was Keely. Once upon a time she'd been just another skinny kid hanging out with his younger sister.
Despite growing into a beautiful woman with long, gorgeous red hair, amazing green eyes and a figure that jealous peers had once compared to Jessica Rabbit's, Keely was still that same annoying girl Ethan tolerated because she was his sister's BFF.
Except, lately, things had changed between them. Their relationship was morphing into something new, something charged with tension and awkward pauses. The initial shift had started nearly a year ago, right after she'd left her bigcity life in New York and settled back in Colorado.
Ethan moved deeper in the house.
The inevitable kick in his gut came right on schedule, as it always did whenever his gaze locked with Keely's. Tonight, the sensation hit him hard. It wasn't an altogether awful feeling, kind of reminded him of danger-induced adrenaline.
Precarious territory. "Where's the patient?"
"Her name is Felicity."
"Right." Ethan shed his coat, tossed it on a nearby bench. "Where is she?"
"Upstairs in her room."
Ethan recognized the panic in Keely's voice, which was mirrored in her wide, almond-shaped green eyes. Her long, wavy hair was also disheveled, as if she'd dragged both hands through the now tangled strands more than a few times.
At the obvious signs of her distress, everything in him softened. He gently touched her sleeve. "I'm here, Keely. I'll take care of the child."
She drew in a few unsteady breaths, her legendary hostility toward him diminishing with each exhale. "I... I believe you."
He dropped his hand. "One last question before I have a look at her. How old is she?"
"She turned seven last month."
His throat squeezed shut. His eyes began to burn.
What were the odds? He swallowed, hard. He'd barely regained his equilibrium when Keely took off at a clipped pace.
Ethan followed after her. They moved at the speed of light from kitchen to living room to stairwell. The smells of home filled him, a mixture of floral scents, furniture polish and freshly baked bread.
He hadn't been inside this house in years. Like a good neighbor, he'd left Keely alone. She'd done the same for him, a situation that worked for them both.
But now, as he followed her through the house, Ethan wondered why he'd kept his distance. He liked the grownup Keely, sometimes, when she wasn't being snarky or unnecessarily antagonistic. A couple of unfortunate incidents from the past didn't mean they couldn't find a happy rhythm going into the future. Maybe they could even be friends. Now that she was twenty-nine and he thirty-four, their five-year age gap didn't seem so large.
At the top of the stairs, she stopped outside the second room on her right. Hand on the doorknob, she swung her gaze to his. Slam. He told himself he was imagining the body blow. But, of course, he wasn't.
"Keely, after I'm through examining the child I'd like the two of us to—"
A little girl's whimper cut off the rest of his words. Ethan's pulse picked up speed. Blood rushed in his ears. Memories yanked at him, emptying his mind of everything but a miserable sense of grief and loss.
He hadn't expected this strong reaction. He saw kids every day at the office. No problem. Yet here he was, his heart pounding and his breath speeding up. He fought the urge to close his eyes. If he did, he'd be back at Fort Bragg, back to the time when he thought he would be a husband and a father. A split-second swerve to miss a skunk had taken away that future. This wasn't about him.
Mouth grim, he shoved aside the unwanted memories and walked into the room.
Keely couldn't figure out why Ethan's shoulders were bunched as he made his way toward Felicity's bed, or why he seemed overly tense. She'd take his behavior personally, but now that she thought about it, she realized he'd been relatively relaxed when he first entered through the back door. He'd only grown silent and progressively distant as she'd guided him through the house.
A tall, broad-shouldered man, he moved toward Felicity at the slow, steady pace of a graceful jungle cat. With his glossy black hair and pale blue eyes, Ethan Scott was entirely too good-looking for his own good. The two days' worth of scruff on his well-defined, square jaw gave him a dangerous edge.
Keely had no problem imagining him in the Army Ranger uniform he'd once worn. She shook away the thought, and lifted up a silent prayer that Ethan proved to be the capable doctor everyone in their small town of Village Green, Colorado, claimed he was.
With heavy, lumbering steps, Keely joined him beside Felicity's bed. Tonight he looked more like a regular guy than a former soldier turned successful doctor. He wore faded jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt that read Of Course I Don't Look Busy. I Did It Right the First Time.
Typical Ethan, the big, bad, frustrating bane of her existence.
"You must be Felicity," he said to the little girl in a low, rough voice that sounded slightly tortured. What was up with that? "I'm your neighbor Ethan. I'm also a doctor."
In her unnaturally pale face, Felicity's big blue eyes rounded. "You don't look like a doctor."
"That's because I keep my white coat at the office." He drew in an audible breath, then carefully sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes running over the child, gauging, measuring. "I understand you're not feeling well."
Felicity's blond curls bobbed up and down. "My tummy hurts real bad."
"Can you tell me where it hurts?"
She whimpered. "Everywhere."
He went still for a beat, his expression bland, giving nothing away. Keely had no idea what was in his head, but she knew what was in hers. Concern for the little girl she'd agreed to take into her home. The transition from carefree single woman to legal guardian of a seven-year-old had begun months ago, only becoming official this week. She was still reeling.
"Okay, Felicity, I'm going to—"
"You can call me Flicka." Cheeks bright pink, the little girl lifted a skinny shoulder. "But only if you want to."
The easy, affectionate smile Ethan gave the child was very different from the tight, barely tolerant ones Keely received.
"Okay, Flicka, I'm going to perform a few tests. When I press on your stomach, I need you tell me if it hurts."
The little girl nodded again. There was nothing but trust in her eyes, even while her hands clenched around the bedcovers as if she were preparing to embark on a wild amusement park ride.
Incredibly gentle, Ethan pressed on her stomach. "Any pain?"
"Nope." Felicity's death grip released, as did Keely's fear. But when Ethan moved his hands to the lower right portion of Felicity's abdomen, Keely's breath caught in her lungs.
"How about now?" he asked. "Does it hurt when I press here?"
"You're doing great, Flicka. Just a little bit longer and we'll be through." Ethan continued the rest of the exam with a firm but gentle manner.
When he held Felicity's ankle with one hand and her knee with the other, then rotated her hip, the little girl simply watched him in silent fascination. No gasp of pain. No clenched fists in the comforter.
Keely nearly cried in relief.
Eventually, Ethan stood, said goodbye to Felicity, then motioned for Keely to follow him into the hallway.
The moment they were alone, she asked the question burning in her mind. "Is it her appendix?"
"Nothing indicates that particular diagnosis."
What kind of cryptic, unhelpful answer was that? "Are you certain?"
"She's not experiencing swelling in the abdomen or pain in the lower right region. At this point I don't believe an ultrasound or additional lab work is necessary."
He'd pitched his voice low, as if to calm her fears. Keely wasn't appeased. "If it's not her appendix, then what's wrong with her?"
"She has a stomachache."
His matter-of-fact tone increased her distress. "Is there something you can give her to make her feel better?"
"For now, there's nothing to do but continue supportive measures. Keep her hydrated and resting. If the symptoms persist or worsen, call me and I'll come back over."
Why was he so calm? Didn't he understand how worried she was? "I can't bear seeing her in pain."
"Keely, relax. Flicka has a stomachache, probably brought on by stress or the consumption of junk food or both."
"You're saying this is my fault because I let her eat junk food."
"That's not what I'm saying. Kids suffer stomachaches all the time. I'm confident she's going to be okay."
Why didn't she feel better? Why this terrible spasm of guilt in the center of her heart? "I feel so helpless."
"You did the right thing calling me."
Actually, she'd called Ryder. Ethan's younger brother by two years was so much easier to take. Though he was just as good-looking as Ethan, nearly identical actually, with Ryder there was none of the friction and hostility she experienced in the company of this particular Dr. Scott.
"I mean it, Keely. You can call me anytime, no matter how late."
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Book Description Love Inspired. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0373818793 Ships promptly. Bookseller Inventory # AUD4568RMIF102116H0864
Book Description Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Brand New! We ship daily Monday - Friday!. Bookseller Inventory # 1EY82M00796A
Book Description Love Inspired, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373818793
Book Description Love Inspired, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110373818793