Happy Valentine’s Day. Hope you’ve had a love-filled day. Today was my third snow day, the fourth day the kids have been home from school. So after dropping my son off at work, the girls and I spent the afternoon at the mall, not my favorite thing but it beats going stir crazy.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a new romance novel and since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it’d be a good time to share it. I am over two-thirds done with it and expect to publish it in April. It’s called Speak Tenderly To Her and I’ve included the synopsis and an excerpt below.
Four years ago, Isobel Jamison walked out on her husband Tory, looking for something he couldn’t give her. Tory didn’t expect to see her again, but if her departure taught him anything, it’s that life is hardly predictable. Now she’s back, homeless and hurting, and though Tory would like nothing more than to let her sleep on the streets, he does the decent thing and allows her to stay with him. But Isobel is not the woman she once was; and as Tory teeters between the bitterness and anger he’s repressed for so long and the love he still feels for her, he realizes that if he’s going to have any kind of future – with or without her – he’s going to have to forgive her.
“She said ‘thank you’,” Janice said as she approached Doctor Tory Jamison. She was usually stoic in her duties at the pediatric clinic. Not today though. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears.
“Who did?” he asked.
“Hannah,” the nurse replied. The two-year-old rambunctious little girl who spent just as much time at the clinic as the doctors and nurses who treated her.
“So…what?” he said.
“She thanked me for giving her a shot,” the nurse exclaimed. “What child does that? Makes me want to cry for hurting her.”
“You’re getting soft in your old age,” he ribbed and picked up Hannah’s chart. She was the final patient of the day, and then he was gone. He had a date with Officer Rebecca Garner tonight – the beautiful Rebecca Garner, with straight, blonde hair and baby-blue eyes. She was taller than his five-foot-ten frame, but that didn’t bother him. She was perfect and he was looking forward to spending time with her.
Tory walked over to the little girl’s room. He knocked and entered. Hannah’s mother, Ashley, a young woman in her mid-twenties, was trying to keep the little girl on the examination table, more for her own sanity than Hannah’s safety. But she was quickly losing the battle: Hannah twisted her body and slid between her mother and the table, onto the floor, landing with an unceremonious thud. She had gained her freedom, though, and quickly crawled out of her mother’s grasp, towards Tory.
“Well, what do we have here?” he said, dropping the chart on the table and picking Hannah up. She fought him, until she realized who it was. Then she squealed and reached into his breast pocket. “What are you looking for?”
She reached deeper in his pocket, but looked confused when she came up empty. He pulled a lollipop out of his other pocket and held it up.
“Is this it?” he asked.
She squealed again and grabbed the treat. As she pulled on the wrapper, he set her down with a smile. He looked at all his patients as his kids, but of all of them, she was his favorite. He had been her doctor since Ashley brought her in for a skin infection that wouldn’t go away. He diagnosed her with eczema and began a regime of creams and dietary changes to get the disease under control. It didn’t always work: there were days Hannah scratched until she bled, but for the most part she had learned to live with the constant irritation. What impressed Tory most was her spirit. She didn’t let anything stop her …which often resulted in unplanned trips to the emergency room.
Tory turned to her mother and gave her a prescription sheet.
“Let’s see how she does with this cream. Call me if you don’t see a change.”
Ashley offered him a tired smile and said, “Thank you, Doctor Jamison.”
He smiled back and exited the room.
Tory whistled as he weaved through traffic on his bicycle. He owned a car, but because he lived only a few miles from the clinic, he chose to ride his bike. If he was really ambitious, he could walk to work, but as it was, he was grateful he didn’t have to drive and sit in traffic. He thought about Rebecca. He was on-call at the hospital the night they met. One of his patients had to be transported via ambulance and she had accompanied them. He took note of her, as she came in with the child, but it was only when the emergency was over, when she came to inquire about the patient, that he could fully appreciate her features. She could have easily been a swimsuit model. She had an hour-glass figure and curves in all the right places. She loved life and it showed in all she did. Plus, she had a smile that seemed to brighten up any room she was in. All else was forgotten in her presence.
Tory turned into his street, still whistling.
You are such a dork, he thought to himself, He couldn’t help it, though. He was in a good mood.
He arrived at the apartment complex and got off his bike to walk it the rest of the way. His apartment was in the back of the complex. He had lived here for the past ten years and though he had thought to move several times, he never did. The apartment he lived it was big enough for him, he didn’t need any more space. Plus he didn’t have to worry about yard work. Perhaps one day he was have a reason to move, but until then he was content where he was.
He was getting his mail out of the central mailboxes when he saw her sitting on the bench outside his apartment.
Tory stopped – walking, thinking, even breathing. Only his heart continued to beat, hard, as Isobel raised her head and looked at him. Her light brown eyes seemed to soak in the light around them and shine as the sun themselves. Her dark brown hair was short last time he saw her, but it had grown out, covering her shoulders and falling softly on her back. She had always been petite, but she had gained weight, giving her a full look that enhanced her figure and radiated sensuality.
Oh, what the hell am I thinking? he thought, giving himself a mental kick. She had left him and here he was thinking how good she looked?
He broke eye contact with Isobel and turned to the older gentleman quickly approaching him from Tory’s front door. It was Father Tate, his priest, a stocky, solid fellow, who spent the first half of his life in the Navy. And while traces of his former life slipped into his conversation every once in a while, there was no doubt whom he served now…which worried Tory.
“What’s going on?” he asked, bypassing the greeting. It was rude, he knew, but given the fact that Isobel was sitting at his front door after leaving four years earlier, Tory didn’t want to waste time patty-caking around the issue.
“Well how’s that for a how-do-you-do?” the older man said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “But I appreciate your candor, so I won’t beat around the bush. Isobel came to me earlier today needing help. She’s been through a lot and just needs a place to stay. We’ve got her on a waiting list at the mission, but nothing is available now. I’m asking you to take her in, just for a couple of weeks, until a bed opens up.”
Tory listened, but wasn’t sure he heard him right.
“You want me to take her in? After everything she did?”
Father Tate didn’t flinch, neither did he apologize.
Tory shook his head.
“You’ve got some balls asking me to do that.”
He should have been more respectful towards the man, but considering the hell he had gone through with Isobel, he didn’t feel too reverential at the moment.
“So I’ve been told,” Father Tate said, with a hint of humor in his voice.
The priest’s calm, almost indifferent attitude irritated him.
“I can’t believe you of all people would ask this of me,” Tory said, raising his voice. He didn’t care if Isobel heard. In fact, he hoped she did. She didn’t deserve his help, and by the look of her, it seemed she knew that too. He noted her body language, her shame-filled disposition and knew she was close to tears. Good, he thought. She had been knocked down a few notches since she left. “You know what she did.”
“Yes. She left. You’re right. But she’s changed. She’s not the woman she used to be and given the fact that she, like you, is a child of God, we can’t turn our backs on her.”
Tory wasn’t moved by the priest’s induction of God into the conversation. Obviously, the man wished to guilt him into letting her stay, but that wasn’t going to happen.
“I can. Find someone else.”