Read His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage Online

Authors: Patricia Davids

Tags: #Fiction, #Religious, #Romance, #General

His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage (21 page)

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
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Lee grinned. “I’d never ridden a horse before then, so I still have a lot to learn.”

Dr. Cutter managed a thin smile. “I see. All right, the animal has a fracture in one of the bones in the pastern joint between his ankle and his hoof.”

If Lindsey hadn’t been so upset herself, the look of horror on Lee’s face might have been comical when he said, “They shoot horses for that, don’t they?”

Dr. Cutter frowned sharply. “We are long past the days of shooting horses here. If an animal does have to be euthanized, we use humane methods.”

Lindsey sank onto the chair’s edge before her legs gave out and tried to gather her scattered thoughts. “What can be done for him?”

“You have several options but the best one is surgical arthrodesis. That means we fuse the joint using special pins and a bone graft from his hip. His recovery should take about four months.”

Lindsey bit her lower lip. Dakota wasn’t going to Washington, D.C. It was so unfair. Why had God given her a chance to do something special for her brother only to snatch it away?

Dr. Cutter raked a hand through his hair, giving Lindsey a clue as to why it looked unkempt. “Actually, I am hoping to begin trials of a new procedure using an experimental gene therapy that will speed healing, and this type of fracture is exactly the type I’m looking to study. Unfortunately, I haven’t received grant approval yet.”

The captain asked, “Will Dakota be able to return to duty?”

“A horse can lead a normal life after a fusion. Some horses have even returned to being successful athletes. There are, of course, risks involved, as with any surgery.”

Lindsey studied his face, hoping to see some encouragement, but there wasn’t any. “What are our other options?”

“We can try and cast the injury. You will need to keep him confined to a stall to rest the leg and hope for the best. He’s a calm fellow, so he may do well, but the recovery time will be much longer. The only other choice is to have him put down.”

Captain Watson crossed his arms over his chest. “What will the surgery cost?”

Dr. Cutter’s scowl turned into a look of sorrow. He said gently, “Around fifteen thousand dollars, depending on how well he does. Complications can raise the cost considerably. The clinic typically asks for half of the payment up front.”

“That much?”

“Or more.”

Lindsey’s heart sank at the expression on her captain’s face. She knew even before he spoke what he was going to say.

“I’m afraid the unit doesn’t have a budget to cover a medical bill like that. We are just scraping by as it is.”

“The costs for the cast and follow-up will be much less than the surgery. Is that the treatment you want us to use?”

Quickly, she said, “Couldn’t we at least try to requisition the money?”

“Of course I will, but with the budget cuts we’ve had, I doubt command is going to give up that kind of money for a horse. I’m sorry, Sergeant, I know how much he means to you. Can he be transported back to the fort, Doctor?”

“I’ll need to keep him here for several weeks to make sure the cast doesn’t need any adjustments and monitor his condition. After that, I’m sure the fort vet can manage his care. We’ll need follow up X-rays to make sure the leg is healing, but those can be done at your stable.”

Captain Watson held out his hand. “Thank you, Dr. Cutter. We’ll leave Dakota here until you think it’s safe to move him.”

Brian shook the offered hand. “Our equine services here at the Veterinarian Medical Teaching Hospital are among the finest in the world.”

It was his standard line when clients were worried about leaving their animals, but this time he was the one who was worried. The young woman was so pale he thought she might pass out at any moment. The horse must mean a great deal to her if she came straight from the hospital in her condition to check on him. Brian knew how much pain a broken bone caused.

She looked up. “Can I see him?”

“I’m not sure. You look like you need to lie down.”

Rising, she faced him with determination blazing in her eyes. “I’m not leaving until I see him.”

He looked to her captain, but all the man did was shrug and try to hold back a grin. Brian could tell he wasn’t going to get any help from that direction. He shoved one hand into his lab coat pocket and nodded toward the door. “All right, but if you pass out, you’ll just lie on the floor. I don’t do humans.”

“What a blessing for us,” she shot back.

He turned away without voicing the comment on the tip of his tongue and led the way to the door beside the reception desk. She was stubborn, irritating and yet pathetic at the same time. So, why did he find her so attractive?

It made no sense. The sooner she saw her horse, the sooner she would leave. Then maybe he could forget those beautiful eyes and the effect they seemed to have on his common sense.

He held open the door, but she stopped so close beside him that he could smell a subtle scent like peaches in her hair. He was tempted to lean closer to make sure. He didn’t, when he realized how unprofessional it would appear.

“What do you think his chances are without surgery?” she asked in a low voice as she stared at him intently.

Such beautiful, sad, green eyes. How could he add to her sorrow? This was the part of his job he dreaded most. He glanced back at the other unit members. They were watching him intently. The words he needed to say stuck in his throat. He sought to give her some hope. “Every patient is different. Only time will tell.”

“If he were your horse, what would you do?”

“If he were my horse and surgery wasn’t an option?”

“Yes.”

“I wouldn’t let him suffer. I’d spend as much time as I needed saying goodbye, then I’d have him put down.”

“No! I couldn’t stand that.” The last bit of color leeched from her face. She turned away, and the sudden movement caused her to lose her balance. His cane clattered to the floor as he caught hold of her.

Chapter Three

“E
asy, I’ve got you.” Brian held the slender form of the woman against his chest and struggled to keep upright for both their sakes.

Her hair did smell like peaches. Funny, he hadn’t pictured her as the type of woman to use a scented shampoo. She struck him as a soldier through and through. It was intriguing to know she had a feminine side. He steadied himself by leaning back against the wall.

“I’m fine. It’s just a dizzy spell,” she said quickly.

The tight grip of her hand on his lab coat lapel told him more than words how much distress she was in. If there was one thing he knew well, it was the signs of pain—in animals and in humans.

A second later her fellow soldiers reached them. Shane swept Lindsey up into his arms without a moment’s hesitation and Brian had no choice but to let him. Seeing how easily and gently the man lifted her made Brian acutely aware of his own physical shortcomings. Years ago he had carried Emily just as effortlessly. He thought he had come to terms with his disability a long time ago, but obviously he hadn’t.

His limp was only a small reminder of the tragedy his carelessness had brought about. In one night he had lost both his wife and their unborn child. His mistake had cost him everything he held dear and he had only himself to blame.

Lee quickly retrieved Brian’s cane and handed it to him. Taking the polished wooden staff, Brian nodded his thanks and ignored his feelings of inadequacy. He extended one hand indicating a door a few steps down the hall. “My office has a sofa in it. You can lay her down in there. Do you want me to call nine-one-one?”

“No.” The weak murmur came from Lindsey.

“Are you sure?” Shane asked, looking uncertain.

She nodded as if more words were beyond her.

“This way,” Brian said, and moved to open his door. Inside his office, he swept up a few papers and books from the brown leather sofa to make room for her.

Shane lowered her gingerly, then stood back. None of the men seemed to know what to do next. Brian cleared his throat. “Would you like a drink of water?”

“Yes, please,” she whispered. She still hadn’t opened her eyes.

Brian grabbed a paper cup from the dispenser on the wall and filled it from the bottled container beside it. Moving back to her side, he settled himself on the edge of the couch. He lifted her head and held the cup to her lips. She took a sip then sighed. He lowered her head back to the cushion.

She opened one eye. “I thought you didn’t do humans.”

“I make exceptions for women dressed in Civil War uniforms.”

For an instant a smile tugged at the edge of her lips before she winced in pain again. “How fortunate can a girl get?”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call nine-one-one?”

“Two rides in an ambulance in one day would be more than my ego can take. I don’t suppose you have some really good pain medicine handy. The pills they gave me at the hospital don’t seem to be doing much.”

“I’ve got a ton of good stuff here.”

She opened both eyes. “Really?”

He nodded. “I’ve got drugs that will knock out a horse.”

“Ha-ha. What does a girl have to do to get some?”

He was pleased to see her smile return, along with a bit more color in her cheeks. “She would need to grow two more legs and a tail.”

“Are you telling me I don’t measure up as one of your patients?”

“I never said anything of the kind. It’s actually nice to be able to ask a patient where it hurts and get an answer.”

“It hurts exactly where my horse landed on me.”

“From my vantage point that looked like almost all of you.”

“You are so right. If you aren’t going to supply me with drugs, can you help me sit up?”

Brian didn’t have a chance to help her. Her comrades were more than happy to oblige. He moved out of their way. When she was sitting upright she waved them aside. “I’m okay now. Don’t hover.”

The men backed up, but they didn’t look ready to leave her to her own devices.

Brian filled the cup again with more water and handed it to her. To his relief, he saw that her color was almost back to normal. “If you won’t go to the hospital, at least go home and lie on your own sofa so I can have mine back.”

Taking the offered drink, she sipped it and nodded. “Once I see Dakota, I’ll do just that.”

All of the men began to protest together, but she ignored their scolding and stood. Cradling her arm, she winced but remained steady on her feet. “Show me the way, Dr. Cutter.”

“He’s down the hall, through the doors at the very end and in the first stall on the left.”

He felt slightly cheated as he watched her fellow unit members guide her out the door, one on each side with her captain close behind. It wasn’t that he wanted her to fall into his arms again. Of course not. He simply wanted to make sure she was all right. But that was what her friends wanted, too, he reminded himself. And they certainly had more of a right to care for her than he did. He was nothing but a stranger.

The thought brought back his frown. He was more than that. He was the man who might have to put her beloved horse to sleep.

* * *

Early Monday morning, Lindsey begged a ride to the Large Animal Clinic with Shane. When they arrived, they saw Lee and Avery just going in. It seemed that all of them wanted to check on Dakota before they started their duties for the day.

As she approached Dakota’s stall, Lindsey was surprised to see Captain Watson had arrived before them. He was deep in conversation with Dr. Cutter.

When her captain caught sight of them, he smiled. “I’ve been talking to the doctor and he has a way to do surgery on Dakota at a reduced cost to our unit.”

Lindsey’s heart jumped as happiness surged through her. “How is that possible?”

Dr. Cutter cleared his throat. “Using a new surgical procedure that I’ve developed—I told you about it the other day. Dakota’s break is exactly the sort I’m hoping to trial this repair on.”

“But you said it wasn’t an option.” Shane frowned at the doctor.

“I received notice of my grant acceptance this morning. It is an experimental procedure. If Dakota is entered in the study, it will mean I will have total control of his care. My fees and much of his care will be covered, but that will still leave the bill for his boarding and supplies that the army will have to pay. Unfortunately, the grant isn’t a large one.”

“We can raise the money if we have to,” Captain Watson said.

“Absolutely,” Avery chimed in. “He’s one of our own. We won’t let him down.”

“Of course not,” Lindsey added. She had a little in savings. She would gladly give the money to help pay for Dakota’s care. “When you say experimental, Dr. Cutter, do you mean there is a chance that this won’t help him?”

“There is that chance, but I have every confidence that he will do well. If my procedure works, he could be out of his cast in as little as six weeks.”

Six weeks. That meant Dakota would be able to travel to Washington, D.C., in time for the Inaugural parade. Lindsey’s joy danced like a soap bubble in the wind.

Thank you, God, for giving Dakota into the care of this man.

Captain Watson turned to Brian. “You have my permission to enroll Dakota in your study.”

“Excellent. There are some forms you’ll need to sign. If you’ll follow me to my office, we can take care of that now.”

When the two men walked away, Lindsey opened the gate and stepped into the stall where Dakota stood quietly. He rested with his head lowered and his eyes half-closed. His dazed look worried her until she realized that they would be giving him pain medication and sedation to keep him quiet.

“Hey, Dakota. How’s it going, fella?”

His head came up at the sound of her voice and he whinnied softly. Delighted at his responsiveness, she stepped closer and began to rub the side of his face. “Don’t worry about a thing. Dr. Cutter is going to fix you up in no time.”

Behind her, Avery said, “Do you think an experimental surgery using gene therapy is the best way to go?”

Shane moved up to stand beside Lindsey. Reaching out, he patted Dakota’s neck. “It sounds a bit like science fiction to me.”

“I have faith that it will work. I think the Lord brought us here at exactly the right time for Dakota to get this care.”

Lee shoved his hands into his front pockets. “It would have been better if He had kept Dakota from breaking a leg in the first place.”

Lindsey didn’t answer. This, too, had to be part of God’s plan, but like Danny’s injury, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

She ran her hand over Dakota’s soft nose. Her faith was being tested. The words of Psalm 9:9 echoed in her mind.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

In her time of trouble, had she turned to the Lord as she should have? Perhaps that was what she was being shown. Little by little, she let go of the anger she had been holding on to.

I will try to listen with my heart for Your wisdom, Lord. Show me the path and I will do my best to travel it.

* * *

Three days later, Lindsey was struggling to use the can opener with her left hand when the doorbell rang. She stared at the container of corn that refused to fit in the opener. “We’re not done. I won’t be defeated by an inanimate object.”

She noticed the faint smell of burning mozzarella, but the oven timer said her frozen pizza still had five minutes to go. The doorbell chimed again. Leaving the tiny kitchenette of her apartment, she crossed the living room to the front door. She opened it and stared in stunned silence.

“Surprise!” Her sister stood on the stoop with a suitcase resting beside her. Speechless, Lindsey could only stare.

Looking uncertain, Karen said, “Say something.”

Shaking herself out of her stupor, Lindsey enfolded Karen in a one-armed hug. “Hello. This certainly is a surprise. What are you doing here?”

Karen returned the embrace. “I’m just visiting.”

Taking a step back, Lindsey studied Karen’s face. Her sister had always been the rebel in the family. Her shaggy, cropped blond hair haloed a heart-shaped face. Danny often said Karen’s big brown eyes and ready smile could make men weak in the knees, but her quirky wit was her greatest gift. Karen had a smile on her face now, but it didn’t erase the sadness that lurked in the depths of her gaze.

“From the look on your face I’d say this is more than just visiting. What brings you all the way from Washington, D.C. to Kansas?”

“Invite me in and I’ll tell you about it. Oh, you poor woman, look at you. You’re covered in bruises.”

“Having a horse roll over you will do that. Honestly, Karen, why are you here? Did Dad send you to take care of me?”

“No, although I’m sure he would have thought of it in a day or two,” Karen added quickly.

“You should be helping Abigail and Danny. I can take care of myself.”

Karen cleared her throat. “I just needed to get away for a while. I’m sorry I didn’t call. Showing up and surprising you seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn’t, was it?”

Lindsey reached out and took her hand. “It’s a wonderful idea. You know I’m always happy to see you. Come in and tell me why you’re here.”

Karen’s face brightened. “Later. You don’t happen to have some tea, do you?”

“I’ll tell you what. If you can wrestle open a can of corn for me, I’ll make you a whole pot.”

Inside the apartment, Karen followed Lindsey into the kitchen. At the entrance to the small room decorated with rooster wallpaper and rooster border above the few white cabinets, Karen paused and stared up at the large rooster-shaped clock on the wall. The avocado-green refrigerator began its noisy rumbling and Lindsey gave it a sharp shove to silence the sound. After a moment, Karen said in a tentative murmur, “You have a...nice place.”

“Don’t even try to be kind. It’s a rental and it’s cheap. I don’t care what the wallpaper looks like as long as the roosters don’t crow.”

“What a marvelous attitude.”

“I’m easy, what can I say?”

Karen wrinkled her nose. “I think something’s burning.”

“Oh, that’s just my lunch. Can you help me with this? I damaged a nerve when I broke my arm and my hand is completely useless. I can’t feel a thing.” Handing her sister the offending can, Lindsey indicated the opener with a tilt of her head.

Karen’s eyes widened in alarm. “Dad never mentioned that you had no feeling in your arm. Is it permanent?”

Lindsey rushed to reassure her, knowing she was thinking about Danny’s condition. “No, the specialist said in two or three months I’ll be as good as new. Dad didn’t say anything because I haven’t told him.”

“Does this mean you won’t be riding in the Inaugural parade?”

“I haven’t given up hope. I’ve got two months and then some to recover.”

“Lindsey, you should let the family know you might not be there. Everyone is making plans to attend.”

“By everyone, I assume you mean Danny, too?”

“It’s all he talks about to the nurses and therapists who come to the house. He is so proud of you. He insists he’ll be there to watch you and Dakota in person.”

“Now you know why I don’t have the heart to say anything yet.”

“Yes, I guess I do,” Karen said softly.

Lindsey hesitated. “There’s more.”

“What?”

“Dakota broke a bone in his front leg when we fell.”

“Oh, no!”

“He’s had surgery and we think he is going to be fine.”

Karen pressed a hand to her forehead. “No wonder Abigail thought there was something you weren’t telling us the last time you called.”

“I didn’t want to keep secrets, but I wanted to be sure of things one way or the other before I gave Danny that news.”

“Are you sure of things now?”

“Not really.”

“Lindsey, you have to tell him. Danny is stronger than you think. If you could only see the way he tackles his therapy sessions. He’s able to raise his right shoulder now and he’s up to almost two hours off his ventilator each day.”

“He’s working hard because he has a goal to reach. That is exactly why I’m not going to tell him yet. I can’t risk taking away his motivation. I have faith that Dakota and I will both be in Washington, D.C., and Danny will be strong enough to be there to see it.”

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
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