Rebecca Turner is divorced, shamed, and an affront to the sanctity of marriage, but at last she is her own woman! Life is good outside of the shadow of fear cast by her ex-husband. But when two of her children fall mysteriously ill, the kind and handsome doctor that treats them shows interest in healing her heart as well as her daughters. With so much on the line, can she learn to love or will she be making the same mistake that trapped her in a hellish marriage all over again?
Dr. Thomas “Seeks For Her” Smith has searched for love his whole life and finally found it in the brave and beautiful Rebecca. He is determined to prove to her that love is not a prison, but freedom itself. When a rash of sickness strikes the children of Cold Springs and the pond where the children swim, a place Rebecca loves, threatens to be shut down, Thomas will stop at nothing to defend it, even if it puts his reputation on the line.
When happiness and innocence is threatened, love is the only thing worth fighting for.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IHZBE4G
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00IHZBE4G
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/400266
Here’s a sneak peek:
It was the hottest summer in Cold Springs that Rebecca Turner could remember. Even with her hair pinned up and her sleeves rolled to her elbows, the heat was oppressive. She watched her children splashing in the coolness of Sobel’s Pond with their friends, shrieking and sending sprays of water into the air. Her oldest, Grover, hurled from the rope swing at the far end of the pond with the other boys. The two in the middle, Rachel and Lorraine, were among the girls on the dock, trading candy and gossip. Rachel sat on the dock dangling her feet in the water, mischief in her eyes.
A man with a huge moustache stood yards away near the gap in the trees that led to Mr. Sobel’s house. Since he was more interested in the landscape and writing notes in a small book than her, Rebecca hitched her skirt up a few inches and rested her elbows on her knees. She breathed in a contented sigh and smoothed Helen, her youngest’s, hair as she napped beside her. That had been her once, sleeping in the grass, splashing in the water. She smiled at the carefree memories of those days spent with friends long gone by this pond.
Peace had been hard to come by with everything that had piled up in her life, but for now, sitting in the shady grass beside the pond was peace enough. It was good to see her children smile. After nearly fifteen years of tyranny at the hands of their father, Bo Turner, they deserved it.
Bo. Her ex-husband. It still felt strange and wonderful to think about it. The final decree had come through early that spring, thanks to the hard work of Mr. Christian Avery. She was divorced, shamed, an affront to the sanctity of marriage and family in the eyes of half the town, and she had never felt so good.
“Mama! Mama, watch this!” Rachel called from the dock. She stood and jumped into the water, arms and legs flailing.
Rebecca laughed. The man at the top of the slope glanced up for a moment with a grin, then went back to taking notes. When Rachel popped her head above the water, she said, “Very good, sweetheart.”
“I can do it again,” Rachel insisted. She swam to the ladder that had been nailed to the side of the dock and climbed out of the water.
“Watch me, Mrs. Turner!” young Katie Twitchel shouted. She then proceeded to dive head-first into the pond.
Rebecca’s brow rose. “Why, Katie, I had no idea you were a fish,” she said when the girl’s head reappeared.
Katie laughed. Her mother might not have been that keen on keeping up her friendship with a woman soiled by divorce, but Katie didn’t care a lick. None of the children did. Two of the other girls got up and followed Rachel and Katie in a display of jumping and diving prowess. Only Lorraine and Claire Frye remained sitting in the sun-speckled shade of the dock, guarding the candy.
Rebecca watched the girls for a moment before her eyes drifted out over the pond. There wouldn’t be many more summers like this. Grover was fifteen, her boy almost a man. He may have laughed and joined in the games his friends played, but in the last year, since his father had landed in prison, he had stepped up to be the man of the house. It was a responsibility he took seriously, too seriously. He should still be young.
“It’s a fine day for swimming, isn’t it?”
The deep voice startled Rebecca right out of her thoughts. She raised a hand to shield her eyes and looked up at the man who had come to stand beside her. She half expected to see the man with the moustache, but instead her heart skipped a beat and a deeper flush of heat rushed through her as the stared up at Dr. Thomas Smith.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Smith.” She pushed her skirts down to cover her exposed ankles and scrambled to stand.
“No, no, don’t get up,” he insisted.
She sat back down. Her heart remained in her throat, especially when he smiled.
The expression made Rebecca feel as young and green as the girls jumping in the pond. Dr. Thomas Smith had been the talk of the town since he arrived, about the time Bo was finally imprisoned. In fact, Dr. Smith had been falsely arrested for the robberies Bo had committed, and for no reason other than that he was an Indian.
Thomas Smith was no ordinary Indian. He was a fine, educated man, one of the most handsome men she had ever seen. His long black hair hung in a plait down his back and his face bore the firm lines of a warrior, but he wore a regular suit. He had an Indian name, Seeks For Her. Rebecca secretly believed that it was as romantic a name as she’d ever heard, but now he went simply by Thomas Smith.
He always seemed to be where she was, making her heart speed up with the warmth in his eyes. She had yet to decide whether she liked the swirls of temptation he started in her or whether she feared them.
“Chaperoning the kids today, I see?” he asked, brushing his jacket open to rest his hands on his slender hips.
“I…well…that is, someone needs to.” She cursed herself inwardly. Tongue-tied over a man who was smiling at her!
“I would say that that’s noble of you, Mrs. Turner,” he said, “but I think we both know the real reason you’re here.”
“What…I…um….” Her mind went completely blank. The prickling sensation of his smile rippled out through her arms and legs, making her hands and feet numb.
“It’s because this is the coolest, shadiest spot in town,” he said with a wink. He followed that by shrugging out of his jacket entirely. He tossed it aside and began rolling up his sleeves
Prickles zinged back through her arms and legs and centered in her core. In his suit jacket, Thomas was as handsome and dignified as any businessman about town. In his shirtsleeves, he was a fine specimen of masculinity, with caramel-brown forearms and strong muscles across his shoulders and chest. Any woman would have to be dead not to notice. But when he kicked off his shoes and rolled up the hem of his trousers, he elicited an emotion in her that she didn’t dare to even put a name to.
“I’d strip down to my drawers to swim if there weren’t children present,” he confided in her as he rolled his pants. His long plait slipped forward over his shoulder. “It’s that hot today.”
Rebecca’s jaw dropped open, her mind caught on the image of Thomas Smith in nothing but his drawers.
“Why…I…if you’re sure.” She shut her mouth and swallowed. “Are you going swimming?”
She cringed. Of all the stupid things to say!
Thomas laughed, resting his hands on his hips. “Of course! That is what the pond is for, after all.”
“But…but you’re a grown man.” With his sleeves and trousers rolled up he had the carefree style of a boy. But no, Thomas Smith was most definitely a man.
“Being grown does not mean I will melt as soon as I touch water.” He followed his comment with a wink.
“No, no, of course not.” She cursed herself for babbling.
“My people have been swimming in spots like this for centuries,” Thomas went on.
“Oh!” Rebecca sat straighter. “Have they really?”
“They have,” he answered with a broad grin.
“I used to swim here as a girl.” She tried to form a real conversation. “Me and Millie Frye and Agnes Sobel. Her father owns the pond, but Agnes married and moved to Billings years ago.”
Inwardly, she shook her head. Why would Dr. Thomas Smith want to know about twenty year-old girlish friendships?
“You must have had great fun. Anyone would want to jump in a cool pond like this on a day like today. In fact, why not join me for a swim?”
Heat like a summer furnace infused her. She glanced around to see if anyone had heard his invitation. The only adult nearby was the stranger with the moustache and book, but he had moved several yards farther away, toward the other side of the pond.
“I can’t,” she explained with a weak smile. “It wouldn’t be proper.”
She blinked. “I’m the chaperone and an old woman.”
He laughed, the sound like bubbles in a stream. “Forgive me, Mrs. Turner, but you don’t look a day over thirty to me.”
She didn’t know whether to be flattered or mortified. Helen saved her the trouble of figuring it out by stirring awake. She crawled into Rebecca’s arms. Rebecca settled the girl against her chest where she could shake off the last of her sleep. Thomas smiled at her and Helen buried her face in Rebecca’s chest.
“I’m thirty-two, Dr. Smith, and a mother of four,” she said.
“Yes, I know. Four lively children who you care for all on your own.”
The familiar prickle of shame and self-consciousness returned in full force and Rebecca rubbed Helen’s back. He spoke as though that was something to be proud of. Yet, she was proud of it, perhaps more than she should be.
“I do what I have to do for my children,” she answered.
“And swimming is not one of those things?” he continued to needle her, a light in his eyes.
“Certainly not.” And how she wished it wasn’t so!
“Suit yourself, then.” He shrugged.
He gave her one final, dazzling smile before striding down to the dock jutting into the water. He walked with an easy grace, long arms and legs swinging with purpose. Even his feet seemed sure of themselves as he made his way to the end of the dock. The girls who had been jumping and splashing rushed to greet him. Even Lorraine and Claire stood up from their summer lethargy to follow him.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” he greeted them in a voice that carried up to where Rebecca sat.
She could hear the girls giggle and greet him in return, eyes shining. That must have been what she looked like.
With one powerful spring, Thomas dove into the pond. Hands above him and toes pointed, he made a lithe line as he cut into the water. Rebecca held her breath and watched the spot where he had disappeared, waiting for him to come up. The older boys gave up their races at the far end of the pond and swam to watch. After what seemed like an impossibly long time, Thomas popped his head above water. The older boys dashed to join him. He spoke to them, but was too far away for Rebecca to hear what he said.
Her attention shifted back to the dock as Rachel called for her. The cheery smile on her face dropped when she saw both Lorraine and Claire lying on the dock with the other girls around them.
“Mama! Come quick!” Rachel shouted.
Rebecca was already halfway to her feet. She held Helen in one arm and rushed down the sloping grass to the dock.
“What is it?” she asked. She handed Helen off to Rachel and knelt beside Lorraine.
“I don’t feel good,” Lorraine mumbled. She had enough energy to roll into Rebecca’s arms, which was half a relief.
Rebecca held her close, resting a hand on her forehead. “My poor angel,” she said with feigned calm. Lorraine was hot, but everyone was hot in that sun. She was flushed and her skin clammy as well. Again, it could have been the heat, but she knew it was more.
“I want to go home,” Claire moaned. She snuggled up to Rebecca’s side as if she were her mother.
Rebecca tested Claire’s forehead with the back of her hand. “Oh dear,” she sighed.
She sat up straighter and searched out over the water. The man with the moustache had gone. Thomas was at the far end of the pond near the swing with the older boys. Fortunately, Grover was still close by.
“Grover!” she called to him. Grover twisted in the water to face her. “Come here!”
As Grover swam arm over arm toward the dock, Rebecca stood, bringing Lorraine and Claire with her.
“What’s wrong, Mrs. Turner? What are you going to do?” Rachel’s friend Katie asked, hugging herself in spite of the heat.
“I’m going to take Claire home and then go back to Grandpa’s house and put Lorraine to bed,” she explained to the anxious knot of girls. “There’s no need to worry. You lot go back to playing. You still have half a bag of candy to finish.” She added a smile to her direction, even though her nerves were uneasy.
“You need me, Mama?” Grover asked as he reached the dock.
Rebecca started when she saw Thomas swim up behind her son. He grabbed the side of the dock and pulled himself out of the pond with one powerful gesture. Water ran down his neck and shoulders as he stood and his white shirt clung to a solid chest and thighs, hiding nothing.
She didn’t have time to appreciate the sight.
“Lorraine and Claire are feeling poorly,” she explained. “Too much sun, I suppose. I’m just going to take them home.”
“Let me see,” Thomas said.
He walked down the dock to her. The girls backed away, watching Thomas with awe and admiration. He knelt when he reached Rebecca and the girls and took Claire’s face in his hands.
“Hmm.” He continued his examination by feeling Claire’s neck and studying her skin. “Is it your tummy?” he asked.
Miserable, Claire nodded.
“How about you?” he asked Lorraine in a gentle voice.
Lorraine, too, nodded.
Flutters of anxiety filled Rebecca’s gut. “She didn’t mention anything earlier. I suppose she didn’t have as much of an appetite as usual this morning, but I figured it was because of all of the sweets my father has been giving to the children lately,” she explained.
Thomas merely nodded and stood. He was tall, but it was more the force of his presence than his size that left her feeling as though he towered over her.
“It could be a simple stomach bug,” he said. His frown deepened. “You look awfully dry for having been swimming in the pond,” he told the girls.
“They weren’t swimming,” Rachel answered.
“Yeah,” Katie backed her up. “They were just sitting there.”
“I see.” Thomas nodded, considering their input as seriously as any adult’s.
“I really had better take them home.” Rebecca bit her lip, worried over what she would do if all of her children got sick, worried what Claire’s mother would say when she saw her daughter was ill, worried about what Thomas Smith must think of her.
“I’ll stop by to check on both of them later,” Thomas said.
Of all things, that simple promise eased a fraction of Rebecca’s fear.
“Grover.” She peeked around Thomas’s imposing frame to where her son stood, arms crossed, his usual scowl firmly in place. “Mind your sister and the rest of the kids until I can send someone else down to chaperone.”
“I’ll stay and chaperone,” Thomas said. His look of concern softened into a kind smile.
“Oh, I couldn’t ask you to do that, Dr. Smith.” Rebecca blushed down to her toes. She didn’t have time to do more than that, though, before Lorraine was clinging to her skirts.
“It’s not a problem,” Thomas said. “I’m free this afternoon, and it’s the least I can do.”
“Well,” Rebecca bit her lip again, “if you’re sure you don’t mind.”
His smile grew. “You do so much already, Mrs. Turner, and without help. Please let me lend a hand.”
She didn’t know what to say. There he was, a handsome doctor, soaking wet, offering her help. She’d never seen anything like it.
“You can call me Rebecca, if you want to,” she managed to mumble.
He nodded, resting his hands on his hips. “Rebecca. And you are welcome to call me Thomas.”
A smile spread on her lips before she could stop it. “Thank you, Thomas.”
She turned to go, taking Helen from Rachel’s arms and leading the two sick girls on. Grover caught her eye. His scowl was sharper than usual and he stood with his arms crossed. He glanced from her to Thomas and back. Rebecca arched an eyebrow, warning her son to behave. Grover had been protective of her since Bo had gone—before that, too—but he had nothing to be wary of where Dr. Thomas Smith was concerned. The man was just being nice. There was no chance a man like him would take a fancy to a woman like her.
All the same, Thomas watched her with an enigmatic smile until she rounded the tree line to the road.