I am so grateful and excited about the well received “2nd Edition” of my book “Damaged in Service” and the glittery Christmas stocking-stuffer “Windy City Mistletoe”. Zeke and Anne have, again, warmed my heart.
For anyone who may be unsure about selecting either…or both of these stories, I thought I’d offer excerpts to sweeten the pot. In addition, I am happy to report that the second in the series “Defying Gravity” is enjoying the tender ministrations of Casey, my skilled editor. Very soon, I’ll start squeeing like a little piggy on Red-eye gravy (as a certain reviewer might say) when I present the new cover and a hopeful time of release.
Also, for all the amazing people who visit this site from every corner of the earth–Thank You, Danke, Merci, Gracias,– and please note my work is available in a dozen different locations go to Nuance.
Without further ado…
Excerpt from Chapter Twenty-One “Damaged in Service”
THEY MUST HAVE looked like blushing young lovers, enjoying the superb New Mexican breakfast spread at the Inn. The leisurely meal meant a little later start then originally planned, but it made no difference. Zeke believed this brighter than normal day blossomed with hope and promise.
The fall morning was crisp and cool when they started their tour of the Enchanted Circle. Zeke marveled at the majesty of the scenery of the northern mountains, dressed in their full array off all colors with snow-dusted peaks.
“I love these heated seats,” Anne said.
They turned on route 64 east and headed north toward Angel Fire through breathtaking mountain scenery and rural countryside.
Zeke had done her homework. She had studied the guidebook for hours before they left and had practically memorized the route and the many points of interest. She knew that the Enchanted Circle wound around the tallest mountains in northern New Mexico. “Did you know that Wheeler Peak is thirteen-thousand-one-hundred and-sixty-one feet? But the first ones we’ll actually see will be the lower peaks—Ranchos, Palo Encebado, and Capulin Peak.”
“My, my, you are not only a gifted lover but also quite well read. I’m impressed.”
“I do what I can.”
Anne trailed the backs of her fingers along Zeke’s face. “Yes, you do.” She looked at the guidebook Zeke had set in her lap. “Listen to this . . . ‘Circling Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in New Mexico, Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway loops four miles through the Carson National Forest. Highlighting astonishing wooded valleys, magnificent mountain passes, Enchanted Circle makes an exciting day trip or an amusing vacation destination.’ So, are you amused yet?”
“Oh, I am so much more than amused.” Zeke took Anne’s hand.
“You know, I’ve lived here for over fifteen years, and I’m always enchanted. But in the northern mountains, the beauty and the majesty are just so breathtaking to me. In the heartland, even a bump in the sidewalk used to be exciting. And our ski hills? Ha. Most weren’t over a few hundred feet tall, and I thought they were huge.”
“I guess you can imagine how amazed I feel, coming from Mississippi. For a southern gal, these mountains are mind boggling, just like you are.” Zeke thought about the perfect evening she had spent with Anne, the perfect blending of mind and body—musical with crescendos and lyrical interludes.
After several moments of quiet, Anne put her hand on the back of Zeke’s neck and lightly massaged it. “A penny for your thoughts . . .”
Zeke smiled and put her hand on Anne’s leg. Anne leaned closer, kissed her cheek, and continued to massage Zeke’s neck and shoulder.
“I was just thinking about how relaxed I feel. I can’t remember the last time I went this many hours without a headache.” Zeke looked at Anne. “I think you might be magical.”
“Yes, you found me out. Just like you, it’s a part of our training. Nurses are magical people.”
Zeke laughed. “Touché.”
“So, you want to hop in back and make wild monkey love?”
“Yes, but we have all weekend. Drive.”
Anne’s warm hand on the back of Zeke’s neck was soothing. The touch was like a balm for the rawness that Zeke thought was inaccessible. She felt good to be this relaxed. Near Eagle Nest, they followed route 64 to the Cimarron Canyon State Park on the shores of Eagle Nest Lake. Zeke switched on the GPS. “This looks like it’s about halfway. At this point, we should decide whether to continue or head back.”
The limo driver held the door, and Zeke stepped out.
Anne took her hand and stepped over a small pile of snow on to the curb. The entrance to the Ritz Carlton dazzled like a glittering snow globe. Twinkling white lights covered the portico and dozens of decorated evergreens lined the carpeted walkway.
“This is breathtakingly beautiful . . . and look, the whole street is lit up. In all the years I had lived here, I never came here. What a perfect choice.”
“Good evening, ladies. Welcome to the Ritz Carlton. My name is Henri. If you’d be so kind as to sign this registration, our bellman will escort you to your premiere room.”
The grand marbled lobby glistened with holiday decorations. Some lovely music played very softly in the background while everyone went about his or her business in a sort of hushed reverence as though they were in the Louvre. Anne glanced at Zeke, who simply smiled and winked at her. The long thickly-carpeted hallways were nearly silent. It was almost too much to take in.
The bellhop unlocked the door and switched on the lights. The beautifully decorated room provided a comfortable and welcome retreat, but the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Michigan astounded her. In a rush, a deluge of memories flashed through her mind. From her earliest childhood to the heady days before college graduation, the lakefront had always played a part of her life. Her eyes misted and her throat swelled . . . home.
She heard Zeke thank the bellman and latch the door. She turned into Zeke’s warm embrace. Those arms were her new home.
“What’s the matter? You look like you’re crying.” Zeke stroked her face.
“Nothing is wrong. In fact, everything is better than wonderful. I don’t know when I’ve ever been this happy.” Anne pulled Zeke closer and kissed her cheek. “This is the best Christmas present I’ve ever had—to be in this beautiful place, alone with you.”
“I’m glad. Your happiness is the most important thing to me. You endured some of the worst kinds of hell because of my job, and you never quit. I owe you my life, and I give you my love.”
Anne cradled Zeke’s face for several moments, lost in the tenderness she saw in those beautiful eyes, and then kissed her. “I love you, very very much. Come and look at this view.”
The reflection of the setting sun painted a line of distant clouds multiple shades of pink and orange. In the foreground, whitecaps broke as they rolled into shore. From their high vantage point, Anne could barely recognize the Lilliputian-size figures walking near the lake.
She sighed. “When we first came in, and I looked at this view I had a strong visceral reaction. It was kind of like my life flashing before my eyes, but in a good way. Lake Michigan has always been a character in the story of my life. I can vividly remember endless summer days spent at the beach on big blankets. The sand was so hot they had sprinklers to keep it cool enough to walk on.”
Zeke kissed her forehead. “Sit with me and tell me about little Annie. You never talk about those days.”
Thank you all for sharing this incredible journey. I will do my best to continue to provide reading enjoyment.