From the desk of Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
As a little girl I dreamed about weddings. Almost every Sunday when my cousins came over to play I wanted to play wedding so I got the older kids to gang up on my year-older male cousin (I’ll leave his name out to save his reputation) to make him play the groom. He never wanted to pretend to marry me but it never bothered me he got dragged kicking and screaming to our makeshift altar. As long as I could pull one of my mamma’s white lacy slips or discarded dresses on, drape something lacy over my head, and grab a bouquet of fake flowers, I became THE BRIDE.
After I made my First Communion the way we good little Catholic girls do my first communion veil transformed into a bridal veil for my weekly weddings and if I didn’t get enough bride fantasy, I owned a beautiful bride doll and even bride paper dolls. I cut out bride pictures from the Sears and JC Penney catalogs and dreamed of the day I’d be a ‘real’ bride.
Since Valentine’s Day is this week I figure I need to tell a romantic story so here we go. At the age of nine I fell head over heels in love with, well, I guess I won’t tell his name either since he works at a big time university with a fancy title and a good job. He might not want the world or his wife to know about our summer flings. For the sake of story, we’ll just call him ‘Johnny’.
So I fell hard and fast for Johnny. He lived next door with his many brothers and sisters (yep, another big Catholic family) to my aunt and uncle. We spent a lot of time there so we joined in the never ending baseball game in Johnny’s back yard. Before long I ran through Johnny’s house with the other kids (his mother probably never noticed a stray) and we decided to take over the unused apartment over the free standing garage for our ‘club house’. We talked his mom out of some old furniture, put a couple of pictures on the walls, and hung out there together. Since we were just nine and ten it stayed clean but imagine what could’ve happened if we’d been just a little older…oh, my! Eventually one of his older brothers realized the sagging old couch and relative privacy offered endless possibilities so he kicked us out and brought his girlfriend over.
But I dreamed of marrying Johnny to an almost obsessive degree. As teens we played more than a little tackle football but in time my affections turned elsewhere and so did his. But the sweet fantasies I spun in those long ago summers when the days lasted longer, the heat didn’t seem as hot, and the sunlight sparkled golden remained in my consciousness.
I sat down to write a Valentine’s Day novel for Rebel Ink Press and my memories of Johnny popped up. He inspired me – how’s that for sweet and romantic – to write A Patient Heart. Now Johnny isn’t Connor Donavan and his life doesn’t parallel Connor’s in any way.
But Johnny is who inspired this opening for my new contemporary Valentine’s Day release:
Here’s the blurb:
As a little girl Catherine dreamed she'd marry Connor Donavan one day and as teenagers, that dream seemed within reach until Connor ended their relationship, left town and broke her heart. Ten years later, far from the old hometown, Catherine reports for work as a nurse one snowy January evening and learns that her new patient is none other than her old love, Connor. When he recognizes her, all the old feelings stir but a few sparks fly too. As Connor recovers from an accident, Catherine realizes she loves him more than ever and he seems to love her too. But after he leaves the hospital and convalesces at her home, his real life intrudes into their idyll. Connor leaves, Catherine stays until his message sends her speeding to Kansas City, Kansas and Connor's club....on Valentine's Day.
Connor nodded as he let his eyes fall shut. He’d be totally out in a few minutes so she didn’t move, still held his hand. Catherine waited until his breathing evened out slow and easy. She watched the monitor and decided he slept deeply now.
“Connor, you’re the last person I ever expected to turn up,” she said, softly, “but I’m glad you did. I wouldn’t tell you when you’re awake but I don’t think I ever quit loving you.”
For a second, she regretted saying that. He might recall what she told him but then she shook her head. The morphine would prevent that, she thought as she unwound her hand from his. She released him and stood there for just a moment or two more. On impulse, she bent down to press her lips against the uninjured side of his forehead. It wasn’t erotic, just the kind of kiss you might give a child but it made her feel like she’d crossed. “Sweet dreams,” she said, as she hustled out of the room.
Catherine reported to the desk and kept a hectic pace for the rest of her shift. At six a.m. when she should be going home, she stopped in Connor’s room. He slept but his vitals were strong and when she put her fingers on his right wrist, his pulse beat steady and slow, just right.
“You’re doing really well,” she said, even though he wouldn’t hear her but his eyelids fluttered and he opened his eyes to look up at her. For a moment, confusion clouded them and then he blinked twice.
“You’re still here?” It wasn’t a complaint.
“I’m back,” Catherine said. “I sat here until you went to sleep and checked on you through my shift. It’s morning now and before long, the doctor should be up.”
“Will you be here?” His dark brown eyes stared into hers with intensity.
She shook her head. “My shift just ended.”
His face fell. “Oh.”
“I’ll be back tonight.”
His sigh ruffled his shoulder length hair, now in disarray across the pillows. “Okay.”
Catherine read his disappointment and she said, “I can find out what time your CAT scan’s scheduled and return so I’ll be here when you’re back from it – if you’d like me to.”
Connor brightened so much she almost could swear he didn’t look as pale. “I’d like that since you’re the only person I know here.”
But maybe you don’t know me now and I wonder if I still know you, Catherine thought but didn’t share it.
“Then I’ll be back in a little while,” she promised “and I’ll be here when they bring you up from your scan.”
Connor met her eyes and nodded, “Thanks, Catherine.”
At the nurses’ station she determined his scan time, even spoke with the doctor who would perform the procedure. Dr. Craig didn’t seem to think her inquiry strange and she thought, with a wry grin, he must assume her interest was professional, not personal.
Outside she stepped into a world of white, snow above her ankles and she wondered if she could make it home. Street crews scraped Jefferson Street outside the hospital to the pavement but once she left it, some of the other streets remained snow packed and slick. At home, she fed her dog Henry, changed from her scrubs into comfortable old jeans, a favorite sweatshirt and boots. Catherine watered her house plants and took time to make a cup of tea. Each little task kept her from thinking, from wondering what she might be getting into with Connor.
I’m crazy, she thought as she headed back to the hospital, he could be married; he might have a girlfriend or more than one. But he wants me and he seems to need me at least for now so I’ll be there.
And besides, she reminded herself he said he didn’t have anyone.
For right now, this moment in time, he did even if it was just her
On February 14 so somewhere between the roses, the chocolates, the lingerie treat yourself to a saucy read about an old love brought out of the past and into the present…A Patient Heart!
Available at All Romance Ebooks, Bookstrand, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon: