Second Time Around: A Christian Romance Novel (The Lewis Legacy Series, Book Two)
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by JoAnn Durgin
Description: God's Time is the Right Time
Marc Thompson is on top of the world--a newlywed with a beautiful wife, the owner of a thriving Boston sports advertising agency, and a century-old home they're renovating in the suburbs. Then the unthinkable happens. Two months after the wedding, Marc sits in a hospital emergency waiting room after Natalie suffers a horrible fall. One shock follows another. Not only does his wife remember nothing of their life together, but now he has a personal timeline to reconnect with her--seven months.
Marc's gold wedding band mocks him, a glaring reminder of a promise broken by a rotting basement stair and his own negligence. His renowned psychologist advises him to court his wife again--a daunting task the first time around. Then Marc's pastor suggests he call Sam and Lexa Lewis of TeamWork Missions, a ministry dear to Natalie's heart. Determined to help her reclaim her life, the young groom makes great strides until a ghost from the past surfaces, opening fresh wounds and threatening to destroy it all.
With Natalie's trust shattered and Marc's faith wavering, they head to Milestone Ranch outside Helena, Montana, with TeamWork for a two-week work camp. But instead of romancing his wife in the freezing November temperatures with warm fires and shared sweet moments, he's out in the cold and back at square one. Even if Natalie recovers her lost memories, will she forgive him? If not, can Marc come to terms with his deepest fear--the failure of his marriage?
You'll root for Marc and Natalie as they fight against the odds and discover that surrendering all at the throne of grace doesn't mean failure. It's simply called faith. And it might be the only way to finding their way back to one another . . . the second time around.
About the Author:
Second Time Around is JoAnn Durgin's second published novel, the follow-up to the popular Awakening featuring the adventures of Sam Lewis and Lexa Clarke and the lively TeamWork crew. A winner and finalist of several writing contests, JoAnn is a full-time estate administration paralegal and lives in southern Indiana with her husband and three children. She is an active member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and its Indiana chapter as well as Romance Writers of America. JoAnn's passion is writing contemporary Christian romance, and it's her desire to touch hearts with the redeeming love of Jesus Christ.
She'd love to hear from you at www.joanndurgin.com
eBook Publisher: Coscom Entertainment/Torn Veil Books, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: September 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [575 KB]
Reading time: 346-484 min.
It wasn't the bloodcurdling scream that made Marc's heart pound. Not even the sickening thud. It was the silence.
Rushing from the master bedroom on the second floor, he stumbled as he scrambled down the winding servant's staircase. Calling Natalie's name, he dashed into the kitchen.
"Where are you?" His voice echoed in the cold, eerie stillness of the century-old house. Based on the sounds he'd heard, Marc followed his gut instinct. With a rising sense of dread, he darted toward the open basement door. Switching on the light, he tried to see in the dim light. His eyes focused on something lying prone on the cement floor below.
On her stomach--her head turned to the right, arms outstretched--she made no sound, no movement. Marc's labored breath caught in his throat, and an anguished groan escaped from somewhere deep within. Flying down the stairs, he avoided the splintered step that must have caused her fall. The gaping, jagged hole in the wood mocked him. Cursing it under his breath, he sank to his knees on the hard, cold floor beside his bride. He didn't know whether he should touch her, but all he wanted was to pull her into his arms and hold her.
He put two fingers on her wrist. Warm. Beating pulse, but slower than normal. Being careful not to move her neck, he brushed aside strands of silky dark hair as he checked her forehead and then the back of her head. Slight relief radiated through him when he found no bleeding or open head wound. Leaning close, he whispered in her ear. That always tickled and got a rise out of her. "It's me, Marc. Speak to me, sweetheart." His heart pumped harder, and prickles of fear pierced him to his core. He reached for her, but lowered his hand to his side. He had to do something to help.
Managing to run back up the stairs on numb legs, avoiding the splintered step, Marc grabbed the phone from the kitchen wall. His hand shook so much, he almost dropped it. At least all he had to remember was 9-1-1. For a guy who thrived on numbers, he was incapable of anything more. He punched in the numbers, muttering under his breath, shifting from one foot to the other.
God, don't take her from me. It wasn't a request. It was a threat.
Ten minutes later, Marc mumbled halfway coherent answers to the EMT's questions as they hooked Natalie to several monitors and loaded her into the ambulance. She was stabilized in a viselike contraption, and the words head trauma stuck in his muddled mind. Climbing into the back of the ambulance beside her, he squeezed her hand. Although her fingers were warm, her eyes remained closed, unresponsive.
"Wake up, Natalie. Please." Her face, as beautiful as ever, was eerily calm and pale. Almost serene. Even with his limited medical knowledge, he knew every minute could be crucial. He swallowed his anger when the ambulance driver told him there wasn't enough room for him to ride in the back, and told him which hospital. At least an attendant would be beside her, monitoring and checking vitals. A frantic husband would be bothersome and do more harm than good.
With no choice in the matter, Marc rushed back into the house and up the stairs to retrieve his keys. Grabbing discarded workout clothes draped over a chair, he pulled them over his sleeping shorts and dashed back down the stairs. He didn't bother to lock the side door of the kitchen as he flew out of the house. They lived in a safe, upscale suburb with regular patrols. Besides, if anything happened to Natalie, none of their worldly possessions meant a blessed thing.
The siren blared as the ambulance reached the highway. On autopilot, Marc followed the same stretch of interstate and darkened city streets he traveled nearly every morning to his sports advertising agency in the towering Prudential Center. But this time, his destination was one of Boston's finest hospitals, hopefully with world-class physicians on duty near midnight on a Friday night.
Careening into the parking lot like a crazed madman, Marc jerked the silver Lexus to a halt outside the ER doors and jumped out, slamming the door. Even at night, didn't Boston hospitals have valets? Not a one in sight. For once, he could care less what happened to his new luxury car. Even so, tickets and towing weren't exactly foreign--the price he sometimes paid for his impatience. He'd deal with it later.
The ambulance sat nearby, back doors open, but the attendants and Natalie were nowhere to be seen as he rushed toward the sliding glass doors. Why were they so slow to open? "Come on!" Feeling something cold, he glanced at his feet. Great. In his haste, he'd forgotten shoes, but at least he wore socks. Considering he'd been climbing into bed while Natalie retrieved something in the basement, he was thankful he had the presence of mind to pull on the athletic pants and Red Sox T-shirt before jumping in the car. They were newlyweds, after all. Tears stung his eyes, and he blinked hard to keep them at bay.
Rushing through the door, Marc surveyed the quiet ER waiting area. No nurse waited behind the station. Where on earth were they, on a coffee break? "Unbelievable." His curled fist slammed hard on top of the desk and he tamped down a surge of anger. "I need some help here!"
Ignoring the stares of the other scattered occupants, a quick glance at the institutional wall clock reminded him it was nearly midnight. He should be home with Natalie, his arms wrapped around her, watching a movie like they usually did on Friday night. His jaw tightened and his fist rose in the air, ready to strike again.
"Calm yourself down, young man. Pitching a temper tantrum like a three-year-old isn't helping anyone. Especially you."
The clipped tones of a distinctive Bronx accent came from a dour-looking woman who moved at a pace slower than a snail in snow as she made her way toward the desk. Her lips were ruby red, her scrubs covered in a cornucopia of barnyard animals. Marc tapped his foot, chewed the inside of his cheek and counted to at least ten under his breath while she settled her ample frame behind the desk. It rankled to be compared to a three-year-old, but it irritated him even more that she was right.
"Now, let's start at the beginning. I take it you're referring to the young woman they just brought in here. Tell me her name."
"You saw her? Was she moving? Talking?"
Brown eyes peered at him over a pair of wire-rimmed glasses held together by masking tape at the hinges. "Let's take care of the details, sir, and then we'll see what we can find out." The way she said sir sounded less than respectful. Even three-year-olds commanded respect.
He avoided meeting the eyes behind the voice that sounded too much like old Junie Prunie Pritchard, his third grade teacher who questioned him on the first day of school about his parents' high profile divorce in front of the entire class. You'd think he might have learned a lesson in tact that day. Instead, he spent the rest of the year backpedaling, hiding behind a false pretense of Beaver Cleaver normal instead of being the only son of a former NBA champion who preferred being on the road to spending time with his offspring.
"Young man," the grim-looking nurse said, bringing Marc back to reality. "You're going to have to settle down and give us some information. It's important. Start by giving me her name."
She looked at him like he had undiagnosed ADD. Probably did. Focus. Don't let your guard down. Stay strong. He cleared this throat. "Natalie Dianne Thompson."
"Marcus Alan Thompson."
"Relationship to the patient?"
Marc grunted as he tried to infuse his voice with a confidence he couldn't quite muster. "I'm her husband." At least pride managed to find its way into his statement. He'd only been able to call himself her husband for eight short weeks. His fists clenched at his sides. He couldn't allow his warring emotions to gain the upper hand. Although necessary, he detested all the paperwork, procedures and the questions which accomplished nothing other than to establish Natalie's identity.
Running an anxious hand through already disheveled hair, Marc swallowed hard and fought for control of what remained of his shaky composure. In all his thirty-two years, he'd never felt this vulnerable. He wasn't used to it, and he didn't like it. Don't show your fear. His mouth dry, he licked his lips and tapped his fingers in a nervous march along the top of the desk.
"That's better, but stop the drum line." She put a firm hand over his. "Please." An industrial-looking bandage peeked out from beneath her right sleeve as she poised her hands on the keyboard. Some of the ladies in his agency wore them occasionally. He presumed they were a ploy to engender sympathy until his sister developed carpal tunnel and lectured him on its validity as a medical malady.
"Date and place of birth?"
Think. Same day as Kennedy's assassination, plus twelve years, minus twelve days. "November 10, 1975. Westport, Connecticut." Crazy number patterns worked like a charm to help him remember sports stats and scores. Most of all, it amused Natalie. She liked to try and stump him, but only managed to do it a couple of times. Another reason to love her all the more.
Time to employ self-calming relaxation techniques. Natalie hated it--called it New Age hooey--but it seemed to work for him. Closing his eyes, he deep-breathed. In and out, in and out. In his prior career, the practice soothed him in the bullpen before a big game just as it calmed him at the agency before conducting an important sales presentation. He prayed it might help him now.
The nurse cleared her throat. "I lost you again. Are you gonna help me out here or not?" Her voice registered impatience tempered with a modicum of sensitivity.
Marc's eyes flew open. Those ridiculously red lips upturned ever-so-slightly at the corners.
"That's better. You're much nicer looking with those blue peepers wide open." Her eyes traveled to his head. "That ratty blond hair of yours sure could use a comb, and don't even get me started on the fact you're not wearing any shoes. I realize it's warm for an August night, but this is a public building." Shaking her head, the woman clucked like a chicken.
Not sure whether to laugh or scowl, Marc stared. Maybe she was trying to lighten him up. "Yes, Mom. Let's get on with it, shall we?" Leaning on the desk, he fixed her with his most intense glare, which only prompted the stream of infernal questions. If it would help Natalie, he'd recite the Gettysburg Address--standing on his head. He could probably do it, both blessed and cursed with a photographic memory. It was the vision of Natalie prone on the basement floor he couldn't shake.
He turned his head when the nurse waved in front of his face again. You're losing it. You need to keep it together for Natalie.
After recording more routine information, the nurse took his insurance card and ran it through a machine. "Take heart. We're almost done." She handed back the card. "Do you know if your wife is allergic to any drugs or medications?" Her tone was once again professional, devoid of emotion.
Marc felt like screaming. Hadn't they wasted enough time? Shuddering, he crossed his arms across his chest and hugged himself since no one else was there to do it.
Marc shook his head. "No . . . none that I'm aware of."
"All right." She made another quick notation in the computer. The deep brown eyes peered at him again, and she appeared more sympathetic. "I don't suppose you know her blood type?"
"A-positive." He remembered from the time they gave blood together, about a year into their relationship. After nearly passing out on the gurney, it turned out to be a fantastic date when he milked it for sympathy and Natalie pampered him the rest of the evening. Even though she knew full well it was a ploy for affection, his wife was a born nurturer.
With a look of pleased surprise and a bob of her graying head, the nurse recorded the information. A couple of minutes later, she pulled herself out of the chair and tucked a clipboard beneath one arm. The heels of her rubber-soled shoes made an annoying squeak on the shiny floor as she marched out of sight.
"Wait a minute!" Marc called. "Don't you want to hear what happened?" Not that she needed to know. Maybe he needed to talk about it. But, no. Just the facts.
The nurse pushed through the swinging double doors marked Hospital Personnel Only at the end of the hallway and disappeared from view.
"Why don't you have a seat," a gentle voice said.
In the middle of the spotless, antiseptic-smelling hallway, Marc turned to face a blonde nurse with a round, pleasant face. At least this one gave him a genuine smile. She looked about the same age as his mom and wore normal-colored lipstick and plain pink scrubs. But he couldn't throw his arms around this woman, hug her tight and beg her to take away the pain in his heart. Not that he'd do it with his own mom, anyway. Sharing open emotion and affection had never been the thing to do in his family. Natalie's family was the opposite. He'd never seen such an openly loving, accepting group of people. Parents. He'd need to make some calls, but should probably wait until he had more information about Natalie's condition.
"I'm sure they'll tell you what's happening as soon as they can." The nurse gestured toward the chairs across from several vending machines. "Go get yourself a cup of coffee and have a seat. I know it's hard to be patient, but rest assured, they know what they're doing in there."
Competency wasn't the issue, but he nonetheless mumbled his thanks and slumped into the nearest chair. He ignored the equally worried stares of the other few occupants of the waiting room. In the back of his mind, he knew they awaited news of a loved one, too, but he didn't care. No, it was more like he couldn't take the time to care.
Natalie. Closing his eyes, Marc thought about her dark hair cascading to her shoulders in waves, curling slightly on the ends, framing her face. Luminous, deep blue eyes that could tease and adore, but also spout fire when she was angry or fighting passionately for a worthy cause. Natalie's smile made him taller, more important, more worthy as a man. One look could also stop him in his tracks and start his heart thundering.
An involuntary sigh escaped. Her bright smile charmed strangers, her gentle voice melted harsh words. Her caring hands could make the best blueberry cobbler in the world or corral twenty kindergarten students at a time. She managed to calm him with a simple touch on his arm, excite him with a feather-light brush of her fingertips. Although Natalie wasn't a saint, she was by far the best woman--the best person--he'd ever known. Other than the women in his family, no other woman ever accepted him without pretense or some hidden agenda. Then again, he never let anyone else close enough.
He had to win this one. It wasn't a choice. Three years playing minor league baseball had instilled a win-at-all-costs attitude, a tough-minded determination. Starting his own agency in Boston hadn't been easy, either, but he'd managed to make Thompson Sports Advertising a success in an already saturated market. But success and capability in the eyes of the world couldn't compete with medical science. That was a whole different realm in which he had no desire to tangle.
This one was between God and Marc Thompson. He needed God on his team, but he wasn't so sure He was. Blinking hard, he refused to succumb to the tears threatening to fall. Don't show your weakness. If his dad taught him nothing else, he drilled it into him that men don't cry. Ever.
"This can't be happening!" He didn't care he'd said the words aloud, anguished as they were and coming from a heart that hurt so much it might burst. Natalie shouldn't be in the emergency room. He shouldn't be wondering what was happening to her behind those closed doors. They belonged at home. Together.
Visions of the old home they'd started to renovate in their small Massachusetts town flooded his mind. It was their dream house where they planned to raise their children, plant flowers and maybe a few vegetables, host dinner parties, get a dog or two, cook holiday meals together, string Christmas lights the length of the wraparound porch and in the towering trees in the front yard . . . . Marc shook his head, closing his eyes in another vain attempt to shut out the horrible vision of Natalie lying on that cold, unyielding basement floor. Could she die? Be paralyzed? The possibilities were bleak, and he shivered, running his hands up and down his arms.
Another hospital staffer, a case worker, came and sat beside him for a few minutes, asking questions about the circumstances of Natalie's fall. Serious but empathetic, she nodded, jotting down his responses, pausing and waiting patiently when his voice caught. It was as if someone else inhabited his body as he answered her questions. Thanking him, the woman told him the doctor would be out to see him as soon as he could.
Not knowing what else to do, Marc hung his head to pray. God brought the two of them together in the first place. Perhaps He had a reason for this accident, although he couldn't fathom anything that could justify it. I'm not about to lose her now. It wasn't right to demand favors from the Lord. Since becoming a Christian, he'd listened to enough Bible stories and sermons the last few years to know that much. Still, he couldn't help his thoughts. He'd fought too hard against the odds to win her in the first place.
He snapped his head up, unable to pray. Not now. Not when he was so angry. That's often when people need the Lord most--or so he'd heard--but he couldn't bring himself to utter a rote prayer for healing, comfort or wisdom for the doctors treating Natalie. Like other things in his life, he'd deal with the Almighty. Later.
It's you and me, God. You're not taking her away from me. I'm not going to lose this battle.