Authors: Stephanie Bond
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Copyright 2000, 2011 by Stephanie Bond, Inc. All rights reserved.
Originally published 2000 in the U.S. by St. Martin's Press
Cover by Andy Brown at clicktwicedesign.com
eBook design by eBook Prep www.ebookprep.com
I dedicate this book to the teachers who made a difference in my life, who filled my world with books and art and
Ms. Alice Sue Dehart
Ms. June Ross
Ms. Stella Patton
Ms. Rosewood Napier
Ms. Janice Harris
Mr. Larry Carroll
Ms. Nancy McKenzie
Ms. Patty Carroll
Ms. Norma Cartee
Mr. Paul Webb
And to my greatest teachers of all:
Willis and Bonnie Bond
"I'll bet that trinket cost Raymond an arm and a leg."
Dr. Natalie Carmichael tore her gaze from the diamond solitaire pendant she fingered and glanced up as her nurse, sagging
from end-of-the-day fatigue, shuffled into her cramped office carrying a stack of yellow patient folders.
At the tired reference to her husband's prosthetic limb sales job, Natalie lifted one corner of her mouth. "Ha, ha. Wait,
here's a spot." She moved the phone to make room for the files, her husband's voice still fresh in her mind. God, she missed
him this week.
After lightening her load, Sara leaned forward and cooed at the large stone. "If you ever get tired of that generous man of
yours, I'll take him off your hands."
Her friend's words fed the guilt gnawing at Natalie's stomach. Yes, the pendant was exquisite, but something about it...
something about her husband over these last few months....
, she was just feeling hormonal and lonely. She swiveled forward in her soft leather chair and smirked. "Eat
your heart out, Sara. Raymond's a one-woman man."
"Dirty shame, too. That man is like a pot of warm honey, just begging to be spread around. Anniversary?"
"Six this weekend, but he always gives me gifts early."
"The man's a gem, I tell you." Then Sara's mouth drooped. "Unlike my Joey."
Glad for Sara's gabby distraction, Natalie dropped the long-chained pendant inside her thin sweater to keep it out of the
way while she finished her paperwork. "I thought you were growing rather fond of Joey."
"I was. I
. But... he cleaned my gutters last night."
"Is that some kind of lurid small-town Missouri analogy?"
Sara laughed. "No. He really cleaned my gutters."
"And he left his extension ladder in my garage."
Natalie blinked rapidly. "And?"
a guy like Joey doesn't leave his tools just anywhere. I think he's going to propose."
She bit back a smile at the woman's rationale, especially since her nurse had demonstrated an uncanny knack for sizing up
people in their six-month liaison. Sara could practically diagnose a patient's problem—psychological and physiological—by
looking at their teeth and fingernails. "Are you going to say yes?"
Sara perched a generous hip on the corner of the rosewood desk. "I haven't decided. But Joey's handy at fixing things, and
my house sure could use a new roof."
Natalie lifted an eyebrow. "You can't marry him for a few shingles."
"Of course not. I'll hold out for a gazebo, too."
Natalie wagged a finger. "Admit it, you like the guy."
Sara wrinkled her petite nose. "He's kind of crummy in bed."
"I don't think I want to know this. Besides, sex does not a marriage make."
"Hmm. Easy for you to say—you and Raymond are still on your honeymoon."
Longing pooled in her stomach at the mere thought of her husband's grin... he still moved her. "Being away from each other
so much keeps things new, I suppose." She dragged the folders toward her. "How many patients today? I lost count."
"Fifty-two. Did you get to eat lunch?"
"I found a bag of sunflower seeds in a drawer."