It's finally time for Dinah Davis to go home. The worldweary correspondent wants to settle down with the sweet guy she left behind in South Carolina's Low Country. Instead, she's confronted by his blacksheep brother, and--despite her longing for serenity--sparks fly.
How can she possibly trade her perfectly safe backup plan for a risktaking guy like Cordell Beaufort after all the dangers she's already faced? But to Dinah's dismay--backup plan or not--her heart has its own ideas.
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January 01, 2011
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Excerpt from The Backup Plan by Sherryl Woods
Her producer was tiptoeing around bad news. Dinah could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. After a decade of working in TV journalism with basically the same news team, she'd learned to recognize the signs.
Ray Mitchell was an outstanding producer, but he was lousy at subtle communication. Barking out directives was more his style. In fact, he belonged in another era, one of hard-drinking, cigar-smoking journalists and legendary war correspondents such as Ernie Pyle, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. They had brought battle coverage to new heights through shrewd performances. Watching Ray try to sheepishly soft-pedal whatever was on his mind was painful.
"What is it you're trying so hard not to tell me?" she finally asked. "Is there something wrong with the piece I just turned in? It was a great interview."
The pictures had been good, too, even if they weren't as great as her previous cameraman's would have been. But they were better than adequate.
Ray looked even more uncomfortable. "For somebody else, maybe," he said with the familiar bluntness Dinah had always respected. "Not for you."
On some level Dinah had been anticipating that comment. Still, she stared at him in shock. She wasn't used to being even gently criticized for her work. The many years of accolades from her colleagues in the field and her superiors in their lofty New York towers made her expect praise. "What are you saying, Ray? Just spit it out."
It was hot as blazes without air-conditioning in their makeshift newsroom, but Dinah knew that wasn't the reason Ray needed to mop his round face with a handkerchief. He was so nervous that he looked miserable.
"Okay," he said eventually. "You want the truth, here it is. You've lost your edge, Dinah. It's understandable, given what happened a few months ago, but--"
Dinah tuned him out. Nobody ever mentioned the incident in front of her anymore. Not being able to talk about what had happened had been difficult for Dinah. Whenever she brought up the subject of that tragic nightmare, everyone's eyes filled with pity as they murmured soothing nonsense and then cut off any further discussion.
That was partly because for weeks after the episode, Dinah had listened dry-eyed to everyone's sympathy or made the kind of impersonal, caustic comments that all reporters made to keep their fears and grief at bay. They'd all taken their cues from her and had stopped discussing it. Now that she was finally able and eager to talk, their grieving was over and they didn't want to be reminded that only through the grace of God had they not been on that deadly roadside. They no longer wanted to face their own mortality, or consider the risks inherent in this hellish assignment.
War correspondents were a special breed of journalists. The burnout rate was high for those who favored ambition over self-preservation.
"They're asking questions in New York," Ray continued.
That got her attention. "What kind of questions?" she asked testily. She'd grown complacent about the network's hands-off approach to most of her pieces.
"They want to know whether you shouldn't be taking a break, you know, just until you've had time to deal with what happened," Ray said carefully. "You're due some time off, anyway. More than a little, in fact. No one can remember the last time you took a vacation."