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Authors: Dominique Burton

The Alaskan Rescue

BOOK: The Alaskan Rescue
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A Place For Wild Hearts To Heal

Sashi Hansen came to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, to work
herself closer to her dream: her own ballet studio. Instead, a wild bear has
landed her in a nightmare. Her leg is broken, and she may never dance again. Her
heart is broken with the loss of her best friend. And her mind…well, she’s
confused. Her savior, Dr. Cole Stevens, is sending mixed signals. She’s never
received such loving care—but it seems the healer needs healing, too, from his
own private pain and loss.

Sashi’s ready and willing, but can’t get close. With
everything that Alaska throws at him, why can’t this courageous doctor handle
his own heart?

Don’t lose your focus,
Stevens.

He had to make sure she was hemodynamic for transportation to
a hospital. Amazing that she’d survived the night. How many times had they found
people out here in the bush who hadn’t survived?

“I need you to tell me where you hurt the most.” Cole began
looking in her ears, mouth, nose, and then he pressed on her stomach to check
for internal bleeding. She seemed okay. “Where else do you hurt, Sashi? Can you
move your fingers for me?”

She looked at him with serious eyes. “What if I can never
dance again?”

“Sashi, never stop believing in miracles. You are alive,
miracle number one.”

Dear Reader,

Cole’s story is one that I have longed to tell since he
appeared into the novella “A Daughter’s Discovery” from
A
Mother’s Wedding Day
(American Romance #1302). I imagined his
character as an incredibly sexy doctor with a tortured past he couldn’t seem to
outrun.

Writing this story was an amazing adventure. I wanted Cole to
find true love, but his path to Sashi Hansen is one full of pain and soul
searching. In order for him to help Sashi overcome a horrific attack from a
bear, he has to deal with the loss of his brother as he fights for her love.

I hope you enjoy this book. It’s been a personal journey for
not just my hero and heroine, but for me as well.

Ciao,
Dominique

The Alaskan Rescue

Dominique Burton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a young girl with three brothers and a writer for a
mother, Dominique Burton lived in the imaginary world of books such as
Anne of Green Gables
and movies starring Indiana
Jones. Much of the time, she would write and act out her own stories with
Harrison Ford as the hero. Not too shabby for a seven-year-old! Dominique loves
Europe, and at the age of twenty, got the wild notion to buy an
around-the-world, one-way plane ticket. For six months, she circled the globe
alone, studying Italian, learning about other cultures, scuba diving and having
a blast. She graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in
history. She now lives in South Jordan, Utah, with her husband, two children and
three step-children, all of whom she dearly loves. If she’s not writing or
reading, she’s out running. A few years ago, Dominique had the privilege of
running the Boston Marathon. To learn more, go to
www.dominiqueburton.com
.

Books by Dominique Burton

HARLEQUIN AMERICAN ROMANCE

1302—A MOTHER’S WEDDING DAY
  “A
Daughter’s Discovery”
1376—THE FIREFIGHTER’S CINDERELLA

The Alaskan Rescue
was a
challenging book to write. The heroine’s bear attack and the hero’s past guilt
of losing a loved one developed into an intricate story line. Internet research
alone didn’t have all the answers.

First of all I want to thank my editor, Kathleen Scheibling,
for giving me the chance to write a book that explored these topics.

I want to thank Ben Walker, a real ranger of the Tongass
National Forest. He helped me to understand black bears, from their size to
their natural aptitudes.

My love and appreciation goes to Dr. Stephanie C. Gardner,
M.D., a dear old friend who explained the ABCs of Emergency Medicine. (Love
you!) My thanks goes out to my buddy, Dr. Ben Curtis, M.D., who took time out of
his schedule to explain orthopedic injuries and how physical therapy helps treat
them.

One of the main themes of the story is overcoming survivor’s
guilt. Plunging into this was more difficult than I had anticipated. This book
could never have been as dramatic if Dr. Michael A. Kalm, M.D.—a man who has
been one of the greatest influences in my life—hadn’t shared his wisdom.

I know there have been many more people who have influenced
this story. I want the reader to know that I take full responsibility for any
errors or inconsistencies. My hope is that all who read this book will take away
a little of the genius of the above individuals who made such a valuable
contribution to my book.

Chapter One

Dr. Cole Stevens looked out the window of his pontoon
Cessna, trying to get a better look at Marshall’s Fishing Lodge and Resort. The
large upscale property, nestled in a cove on the Inside Passage of southeast
Alaska, was set against the emerald rain forest of the gentle hills of Prince of
Wales Island.

Because he was a nature lover at heart, Cole did his best never
to take the splendor of the world he lived in for granted. As a bush doctor he
felt blessed to have a job he loved. He didn’t always know where his day would
take him. Sometimes he would be at the hospital. Other times he’d be helping
with search-and-rescue out in the middle of nowhere.

On this late August day he was here to find out what type of
illness had struck a group of fishermen from Kansas who were staying at
Marshall’s. As Cole expertly set his Cessna down on the choppy water and steered
it toward the dock, he thought about Frank Marshall and his family’s shabby
treatment of employees and the people who lived on the island.

A local, Cole was well aware that the Marshall family had a
hard time keeping employees, even though the pay was excellent. It took a tough
person to handle the brutal hours and the family’s habit of treating staff like
indentured
servants.
But if you needed
the money, he guessed it was worth it.

This got him thinking about the conversation he’d had earlier
in the day with his best friend—Jake Powell, the chief ranger of the Tongass
National Forest. Jake had been visiting Ketchikan where Cole lived, and had
taken him out to lunch, something that rarely happened these days. Normally if
Cole wanted to see his buddy, he had to fly from Prince of Wales Island to the
small town of Craig, Alaska, to visit him and his family.

“I’ve got about fifteen minutes for lunch,” he told Jake.

“Since when?” Jake took a swallow of beer and scowled at Cole.
“Come on. We’ve had this lunch planned for weeks.”

“Nature of my job.” Cole hurriedly ate his sandwich. “I’ve got
to fly up to Marshall’s and take care of some sick people.”

“Why don’t you tell Frank Marshall to take a long hike on a
short dock?” Jake said. “The Marshalls have ruined the sport of fishing with
that new technology, and you know it!”

“Not really. I’m a terrible fisherman.” Cole took a sip of his
soda. “And all the technology in the world wouldn’t make
me
a better one.”

Jake set his beer down and grinned at his friend. “Yes, you
are
a terrible fisherman. Remind me again why
we’re friends.”

“Beats me. Yet you’re here paying for lunch.”

Jake straightened. “Now why is that? You’re the rich doctor.
You should be paying.”

Cole shook his head. “Nope. You lost your bet. That last rescue
we did—I said it would take three days to get out, and you said two, but I was
right. Three horrible days.”

“I need another beer.” Jake swallowed the remains of the first,
then called out to the waitress. “I hated that rescue. That guy—” he shook his
head in disgust “—total jerk.”

Cole agreed. “Almost worse than Frank Marshall. What was his
name? Brek?”

“Brekker. Brekker Harris from Colorado.” Jake imitated the
man’s voice.

Cole burst out laughing. “The guy still thought he was some
mountain man even though we had to carry him out of the bush on foot.”

“I don’t know how you handle dealing with Old Man Marshall as
much as you do.”

“This trip has nothing to do with him. It’s about the lodge
guests who are sick at his place.” Cole studied his friend. “Tell me—has Freddy
been up to his old tricks lately?”

“Hey, are you asking me for info after you’ve only given me a
few minutes of your precious time?” Jake’s face broke into a grin again. “I’m
not talking. It’s part of my job.”

Cole finished his sandwich with one last bite. “Come on.”

Jake shook his head. “My lips are sealed.”

“Come
on
—” Cole threw his hands in
the air and leaned back, cocking his head at Jake. “Did Freddy bring girls up
from the lower forty-eight? He’s done it before.”

“You’re killing me, Cole. Okay. But this stays between you and
me.”

Cole ran a hand through his short sandy hair. “Oh yeah, because
I’m gonna gossip like a school girl. You know me better than that, Jake.” He
leaned forward. “I’m waiting.”

Jake sighed. “Well, I just happened to do a random check on
some of the Marshall boats while Freddy was out fishing. Every boat had fish
catches over the limit. I issued a lot of citations that day.”

“That’s nothing new. Go on. What else?”

“Rumor has it that Freddy, who’s been attending college in
Washington, D.C., brought four women there to work this summer at the
resort.”

“And?” Cole began to drum his fingers on the table.

Jake leaned in closer. “All the women thought Freddy was in
love with them. Apparently they each thought he’d brought her home to meet Daddy
and propose. It’s been a really nasty summer.”

“Instead, he brought them home to work like slaves for his
father,” Cole said flatly.

“You got it.”

“Typical Freddy.” Cole finished his soda. “Okay, pal, gotta
go.”

It had been good to see Jake. While Cole was still remembering
their conversation, the door of his plane was opened before he had completely
shut the engine down. It brought Cole back to the present in a hurry.

“Good to see you, Doc.”

“You, too, Randy. I didn’t know you were working here now.”

“Had to. The cannery let me go. Now Shirley is pregnant with
our third and ain’t feelin’ well. Fred Marshall made me an offer I couldn’t
refuse.”

“What’s the catch?” Cole knew there had to be one. Randy looked
exhausted.

“I get a day off every other week.”

“How many hours a day are you working?”

“Eighteen. But this talk is between you and me, right? Doctor
patient confidentiality and all.”

Aghast at Randy’s working conditions, Cole reached into the
rear of the plane to grab his bag and a few supplies in case he needed to
administer meds. When he turned back, he was calm enough to talk to Randy and
stay out of his business. “Yes, Randy. What you say to me is confidential.
You’re a good man and father. Just...take care of yourself.”

“I will.”

With that Cole climbed out of the plane, knowing Randy would
keep an eye on things. He always found it difficult to come to such a stunning
place where the rich and famous played, and see firsthand how much the staff,
hired for the wealthy guests’ care and comfort, suffered. Now he needed to find
Frank.

Cole walked into the main lodge. A large wooden structure, it
had lacquered beams that reached at least thirty feet high. The lobby was
centered by a rock fireplace rising to the roof. It took your breath away.

Today it was ablaze, creating a cozy atmosphere. For the
visitors’ convenience, leather couches, with throws of various animal furs, were
placed here and there, while the walls were covered with stuffed trophy fish,
animal heads and incredible photographs of Alaska.

In the back of each alcove, where either a concierge or bellhop
was stationed, was a mounted bear or mountain goat. A true fisherman’s and
hunter’s paradise. Cole’s mind, however, was on the sick people. He went to the
front desk, behind which stood a tall brunette. She smiled at him.

“Welcome to Marshall’s,” she said. “I’m Kendra. How may I
assist you?”

“I’m Dr. Cole Stevens. Frank Marshall called me earlier to fly
out and check on some guests who are ill.”

She nodded. “We’ve been waiting for you. Mr. Marshall has been
very worried. If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to him.”

* * *

I
T
WAS
OVER
AN
HOUR
LATER
when Frank Marshall finally caught up with Cole.

“How did it go with the patients?”

Cole eyed the man who’d fed a lie to him before paying him to
fly out here. Frank was a tall, handsome, charismatic man in his mid-sixties.
Yet Cole knew he could turn into a viper if things didn’t go the way he wanted.
His son, Freddy, was just as bad. “Luckily for you things are all right.”

“That’s great,” Frank said. “So nothing to worry about.”

“Don’t ever lie to me again. I don’t appreciate walking into a
room full of vacationers from another country who could all have had a serious
flu virus. You told me they were from Kansas! Fortunately what they had was
strep throat and a bad case of sea sickness.”

“I don’t like your tone.”

“And I don’t like not knowing what type of situation I’m
walking into. I’ve started them on antibiotics. Keep them away from the other
guests for a day or so, and everything should be fine. If something changes,
take them to the clinic in Craig to be assessed.”

“All right, Cole. Listen. I have a bungalow on the water. It’s
unoccupied. Why don’t you spend the night here on me? It’s eight o’clock and
dark outside. Dinner’s over, but Bubba’s still in the kitchen. I’ll have him
bring you something to eat at the bar. Everything will be on the house.”

“I’ll be sending a bill for the services rendered,” Cole
reminded him.

“And I’ll pay it.”

“All right. I am rather tired and hungry.”

“So you’ll keep this outbreak of strep between you and me?”
Frank seemed worried.

“I have to. No laws were broken. The guests have the right to
get sick. I want you to know I checked their visas, Frank. They have to be out
of the country by Sunday. Make sure they are.” Cole looked at him coldly. “If
you need me, I’ll be in the bar.”

“I’ll have one of the girls bring you the key to your
bungalow.”

Cole left Frank and followed the beautifully lit path
surrounded by ancient pines and ferns to the bar. He took a deep breath of the
invigorating air, the clean smell of wet earth and pine. The night sky was
glorious, brimming with stars.

He was grateful he didn’t have to fly back home on such a
magnificent night. He’d pulled an all-nighter at the hospital the night before
and was beat.

The bar looked like a saloon from the gold-mining days at the
turn of the twentieth century. He walked inside and could see people sitting at
tables and the bar laughing and talking, while a handful of others danced to the
music blaring from a jukebox.

* * *

S
ASHI
H
ANSEN
WAS
EXHAUSTED
as she headed to the bar. Her job was to
give a key to a VIP at the resort. Who
wasn’t
an
important guest here? Then she smiled. Everyone considered themselves important,
she supposed.

She lifted a hand to her nose. It smelled of soap. She often
worried she’d grown so used to the smell of fish on her skin that she couldn’t
smell it anymore. Sashi had been in Alaska only a week when she’d overheard how
much money could be made working down in the cannery. It paid three times what
other jobs paid, but you really had to work hard. Fourteen-hour days on your
feet cleaning, filleting and packing fish ready to be sent to places all over
the world. So she resigned from her original job as a hotel maid and went to
work in the packing plant.

Today Sashi had packed fish all day and the smell had been
dreadful. When wasn’t it dreadful? She was convinced she was slowly turning into
a fish, not realizing how vain she was. The boss had ordered her to wait tables
for two more hours. She needed to concentrate on that and then she could hit her
bunk bed.

As long as Sashi kept her vision in mind, the long days weren’t
that bad. She could scarcely believe she was so close to attaining her dream.
After working incredibly hard this summer, she’d earned enough money for a down
payment on her own dance studio back home in Alexandria, Virginia, and would now
be eligible to apply for a business loan. Soon she would be able to open it.

The long hours were draining, but she’d spent worse days
getting ready for performances at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. Not to
mention there were only three more days left at this place and then she and her
best friend, Kendra, would be flying home. She couldn’t wait!

Sashi walked into the bar, ducked behind the counter and found
an apron to tie around her waist. Reaching into her jeans, she grabbed a rubber
band and pulled her strawberry-blond hair into a ponytail. It reached halfway
down her back.

With that accomplished, she inhaled deeply.
Just think about tips.

First she needed to find a Dr. Stevens. Mac, the bartender,
would know him. The middle-aged Tlingit knew everyone who flew in and out of
here for whatever reason. “Yo, Mac,” she called. “I need some help over here.”
Over the past three months she’d picked up the easy local banter.

“How can I help you, New York?” he responded.

Sashi had grown accustomed to every employee calling her “New
York
.

After living in the Big Apple for the past ten years,
she’d picked up the accent, and here it had earned her the nickname.

“I need to find a Dr. Stevens,” she said.

“Really? Did you get lined up for a date?” Mac’s brown eyes
twinkled.

She blushed. “No. Mr. Marshall told me to give him the key to
his bungalow.”

“Not anything else?”

Sashi hated all the attention men gave her, even in a teasing
manner. “You’re shameless.” She put her hands on her hips and tried her best to
make a hundred pounds look tough.

“I know. But you still love me.” Then he gave her a hug. Sashi
found if she held herself stiffly, most men let her go pretty fast. And he
did.

“Just show me where the doctor is.”

Mac brought his face close to hers. He reeked of alcohol,
causing her to shudder. “He’s the blond guy in the sweater and jeans staring at
you.” He pointed.

BOOK: The Alaskan Rescue
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