Would they get their trip down the aisle or would death do them part?It had been two years since she'd last come face-to-face with Luke Freeman--and the heartache small-town doctor Roxanne Peters vividly recalled. Bringing in the medical expert was Raven's Cliff's best hope of solving a mysterious illness, but keeping things professional was vital to surviving both this reunion and an elusive stranger's newfound interest in her. Still working long hours in close quarters led to sizzling tension making Roxanne imagine a future that no longer seemed possible. But when Luke's smoldering gaze met hers it was clear he too remembered all they'd once shared. And this time there was no backing down...
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June 09, 2008
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Excerpt from With the M. D... . at the Altar? by Jessica Andersen
Overtired, overworked and frustrated beyond belief, Dr. Roxanne Peterson pressed her cheek to the cool glass door of her small-town clinic. Even after nearly seventy-two hours of fighting the mysterious illness that had overtaken isolated Raven's Cliff, Maine, she still couldn't believe her town was in the throes of a deadly outbreak.
And it was her town, whether or not the intransigent locals accepted her as one of them rather than a newcomer.
She'd chosen this place, these people, despite the seaside town's remote location, nearly perpetual over-cast gloom and the curse that supposedly haunted the area. Honestly, she'd chosen Raven's Cliff partly because of those things, and because her years of relief medicine in third-world countries had made her want to settle down somewhere, amidst people who needed her.
She'd never expected to be thrust back into desperate working conditions in Raven's Cliff, fighting a mysterious deadly disease with too little help and not enough equipment or supplies.
Yet that was exactly what was happening, she thought on a long sigh, looking through the glass door of the clinic to the world beyond.
It was pitch-black and raining outside, and thick fog made it difficult to see the shops lining the main street of the seaside town, which led to the town square on one side, the boardwalk and fishing docks on the other.
In past years, even this late on a rainy night, a few locals and tourists would have been window-shopping, exclaiming over the moored fishing boats, or leaning over the cliffside railing to catch a faceful of sea spray from the breakers that pounded the rocky Maine coastline.
There was nobody out tonight, though. Not with death stalking the streets of the quaint fishing village in the form of a strange disease...and what it made its victims become.
The locals were calling it the Curse, referring to a local legend about the town's sea-captain founder. Rox didn't put much stock in curses, but the disease certainly had terrifying consequences. Some patients became seriously ill. Others went psychotic.
Thinking of the things that'd happened over the past few days, Rox shivered as she stared out into the rain. During her five years in medical relief work, she'd seen her share of infectious outbreaks and environmental poisonings, yet she couldn't detect any pattern in this disease. The townspeople were getting sick without apparent rhyme or reason, with symptoms that didn't match any known disease and had so far proved impervious to the broad-spectrum antibiotics and antivirals she'd tried in the way of treatment.
At the moment she was fighting a rearguard action with supportive, symptom-based therapies. Worse, she didn't have enough manpower to do the work that needed to be done. Her two full-time staff members had been among the first to get sick, and the other local doctor, who filled in for her when she needed help, was out of the country. Worse, the local hospitals--the closest of which was some forty miles away--were refusing to take patients from Raven's Cliff, and had barred their doctors from entering the town. She couldn't blame the hospital administrators for their decision. In fact, she supported it. With only one road leading into the town, and the only other access from the sea, the town was eminently suitable for a lockdown quarantine that would keep the disease from escaping and spreading to other portions of the state, while the experts worked to identify, contain and cure the disease.
Unfortunately, she was currently the only expert in town, and she was running out of steam.
She was working flat-out trying to keep her patients alive, treating individual symptoms rather than the illness itself because she had no idea what was causing a flu-like disease in some patients, and violent rage in others. Were the townspeople infected with something? Were they being poisoned? Was it some sort of allergin? An environmental toxin? She had no idea, and she was nearly dead on her feet trying to keep up with the work.
She couldn't stop now, though. The death toll was up to four, the eight clinic beds were full with nonvio-lent patients and three of the violent patients were currently locked in the basement of the Raven's Cliff Town Hall, in the RCPD jail.
With no response yet from the plea for help she'd sent the Center for Disease Control, she was on her own.
Tears threatened--grief for the dead, for the dying. For herself and the fact that she felt completely, utterly alone in the town where she'd spent the two happiest years of her bounced-around childhood.
"Knock it off," she said aloud, hearing the words echo in the waiting room. "Feeling sorry for yourself isn't going to change a thing. Getting some sleep might."
Sometimes her subconscious did a better job than her waking self when it came to shuffling puzzle pieces into place.