Meghan and Sam . . . The Last One (Six Years Later!)

{Sam and Meghan’s story begins in The Last One, where they find their happily-ever-after. It continues through The First One, The Only One, The Always One, The Hard One and The Forever One  . . . and the pair are even mentioned a few times in some Crystal Cove Romances, too! But wait, there’s more! I have two previously shared extra epilogues . . . and now a new update on the pair right here.You might want to read the other two first. Enjoy!}

–Meghan and Sam at the Beach

–Fourth of July . . . Small Town Style

The peaceful quiet of my late-afternoon was pierced by a wail coming through the baby monitor that perched on the kitchen table, next to the bowl of green beans I was in the middle of popping for dinner. I grimaced, waiting for the inevitable, and I wasn’t disappointed: a second voice joined the first complaints.

I groaned and rested my forehead against my hand. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my sweet babies–I did, so much. But this time of day was tough for all of us. My mother had sympathetically called it the witching hour when I’d described how between the end of their last nap and the beginning of dinner,  nothing seemed to make the little ones happy.

The misery was compounded this time of year, too, because Sam was so busy, he didn’t get in from the fields until much later. During the winter, I loved that he was at the house so much. I’d gotten positively spoiled by having a second parent around to help me corral the kidlets. But right now, he was up to his neck in onions, tomatoes, and peaches.

The noise level from upstairs rose another decibel, and I pushed back my chair to comfort the twins before things got worse.

***

Twenty minutes later, we were all back in the kitchen. Daniella, my chestnut-haired daughter, was busy on the floor with a metal pot and a wooden spoon, while her red-haired brother Justin was in the high chair finishing his second banana. I’d learned from hard experience that not letting their hunger get ahead of me was key to survival.

I’d just settled back at the table with my beans when I heard a knock on the kitchen door, which was followed in short order by the knob turning as my sister-in-law’s face appeared.

“Yoohoo! Anyone home?”

Both of the twins stopped what they were doing, their attention arrested, and then in unison, they broke into squeals of delight. Aunt Ali was a favorite among my little brood. Happily for all of us, she and her husband, Flynn, along with their two children, had just moved back to Burton to live here full-time after years of dividing their time between New York City and the little house they’d built here on the farm. Ali had told me privately that she was sick of big-city living, but their official reason for making the move was that they were expecting their third baby and wanted to be closer to family.

I watched with a smile as Ali scooped up Daniella and loved on her before turning to Justin to blow raspberries in his neck. When she’d pulled out a chair and plunked down with Dani in her lap, I cocked an eyebrow.

“Were you in the neighborhood, or are you just here to check on my sanity?”

Ali laughed. “Both. I just left the stand in the capable hands of Matt Westin. He’s doing a terrific job over there, which is awesome because I don’t feel like waddling around this fall when I’m huge.” She patted the tiny bump behind my daughter. “But I’m here for a reason. I’m kidnapping your babies.”

I frowned. “What? Why?”

“Because I know what it’s like to have a toddler, and I can only imagine that two is double the . . . fun.” She winked.

“Did your brother put you up to this?” I narrowed my eyes.

“He told me that you’ve been worn out, and he was worried because he feels like he can’t be in two places at once. So . . . I offered to come take these little cherubs home with me for the night.”

“Are you sure?” I was dubious. “It’s not like you don’t have your own hands full.”

“Ah, but the difference is that I have Bridget. Never underestimate the value of a fourteeen-year-old girl who loves babies.”

That was true. My niece was wonderful with the twins.

“So go get the kids’ stuff . . . and then take a nap before my brother gets home.”

I suddenly had a burst of energy at the prospect of an evening alone with my sexy husband. “Just give me five minutes!”

I heard Ali giggling, but I was too busy taking the steps two at a time to care.

***

An hour and a half later, I was a new woman. I’d taken a long and leisurely bath, taking the time to shave all the interesting parts of my body that had been recently neglected. Over my smooth and sleek skin, I’d pulled on a floaty sundress . . . and nothing else.

Back down in the kitchen, I cleaned up Dani’s pots and spoons and Justin’s messy high chair. I was just rinsing my hands when I glanced out the window at a very arresting sight.

My husband stood in his usual position at the outside sink in the shed. He’d shucked off his T-shirt and was letting the water run over his hands, splashing it onto his sculpted chest.

With a wide grin, I dashed out the kitchen door and danced across the grass, slipping behind him to wrap my arms around his middle and press my cheek into his muscled back.

I was fairly certain that he hadn’t heard me, but he wasn’t surprised by my touch. His hands, still wet, covered mine.

“Who could this be?” His voice, teasing and low, rumbled against my ear. “Careful, my wife might be around somewhere.”

“Ah, don’t worry about your wife. She’s a mess. I’m much more fun. I’m the hot college student who’s just here for the summer. The one who’s been teasing you and flirting with you for weeks. The one who keeps you up at night, making you wonder what she’s wearing under her dresses.”

“Oh, really?” Sam turned in my arms, drawing me against him. His eyes, hot and wanting, bore into mine. “And have you been watching me out here?”

“Every. Single. Day.” I punctuated the words with open-mouthed kisses to his chest.

“Hmmmm.” He threaded his fingers into my hair. “You smell damn good, too. Good enough for me to scoop up and carry upstairs to my bedroom . . . where I fully intend to do dirty things to you all night long.”

I shivered in delight and hooked my arms around his neck. “I hope that’s a promise.”

“It is.” Angling his head, Sam lowered his mouth to mine, his lips and tongues giving me a tantalizing preview of exactly what to expect.

When he came up for air, he pressed his forehead to mine. “By the way . . . even though it was that sexy, teasing college girl I fell in love with, it’s my much sexier and even hotter wife who keeps me in love.” His hand framed my face.

I sighed, kissing his jaw. “Sometimes I forget that.”

Sam’s lips curved into a smile that was brimming with love and promise. “Then let me spend tonight reminding you, darlin’.”

And let me tell you . . . he did.

The second Diagnosis: Love Cover Reveal

 

Preorder here!

Coming July 28th . . .

He’s science and tradition. I’m nature and new age. We clash at every turn.

Emma

My first months on the oncology wing at St. Agnes Hospital were tumultuous. Between constant fighting with Dr. Deacon Girard–which led to some ill-advised passion in a break room–and losing a patient I’d come to care about too much, I’m beginning to wonder if moving down here was the worse mistake of my life.

But on the other hand, the friendships I’ve made in Harper Springs make the pain worth it. When one of those friendships begins to be more . . . well, maybe it’s time to move on and forget all about Deacon.

If only I can . . .

Deacon

I haven’t run away from a damn thing since I was a kid, but I’ll admit that’s exactly what I did after things got too intense between Emma and me. I took off for Eastern Europe, telling myself that I was there for kids who needed my brand of medical expertise. But the truth was that I needed to get away from Emma . . . because what I feel for her scares the hell out of me.

I’ve been down this path before, and I know the kind of pain love brings with it. I don’t need to do this again. So even when I go back to St. Agnes Hospital, I pretend nothing happened between us. I ignore my own heart.

For as long as I can . . .

Preorder here!

Are you ready for a little more Deacon and Emma?

I’m so excited! This is the second sneak peek excerpt of Informed Consent Book 1 of Diagnosis: Love. If you’ve been reading the serial Pretend You’re Mine, you already got a little taste of St. Agnes Hospital and Dr. Girard . . . and if you read the first excerpt, you know there are fireworks between Emma and Deacon. But now let’s check out Deacon’s point of view . . .

Preorder here! Coming July 21st


 

Deacon

The sun was setting as my truck bumped over the dirt road that my navigation app claimed was taking me to Emma’s house. I had my doubts. As far as I was aware, this area was completely undeveloped. I was all too familiar with the fields out this way. Unless she’d built a cabin in the woods that no one knew about, I would’ve heard some kind of buzz about it.

But I didn’t see anything . . . except, off to the east, an old trailer was set up among the weeds and grass. That couldn’t be it. Or could it? Squinting, I spied a blue sedan parked alongside the mobile home. There was definitely someone living there. It might be our naturopath . . . or it might be an anarchist with an arsenal who didn’t want to be disturbed. I figured I was going to have to take my chances.

I drove closer and squinted through my windshield, checking out the situation. There were curtains on the windows, and a small deck outside the trailer’s door boasted a bunch of potted plants. Yeah, this was a chick’s place, for sure. Anarchist, as a rule, didn’t care much about the niceties of life.

Still, I moved cautiously as I parked the truck and climbed out. And I stood near the front bumper as I called out before approaching.

“Emma! Uh, Dr. Carson!”

There was movement within the trailer, and within a few seconds, the door opened. Emma stuck her head out, and even from that distance, I could see her scowl.

“What are you doing here?”

I stalked over toward her, plowing through the weeds. “Is this where you live?”

She stepped outside onto the deck, closing the door behind her and crossing her arms over her chest. For just a moment, I let my gaze wander down her body. She’d changed from her work clothes into denim shorts that had definitely seen better days. But I wasn’t complaining since they showed off miles of long, tanned legs above an old pair of Keds. And the blue T-shirt she wore on top hugged her breasts like a lover.

“Hey. Eyes up here.” She pointed to her face. “What’re you looking at?”

“Sorry.” I dragged my focus up where it belonged. “Uh, I’ve just never seen you undressed. Not dressed, I mean. For work. You’re usually . . .” I made a gesture toward her legs. “You know. Fancy. Professional.”

“Good to know, because fancy professional is what I’ve been aiming for.” Her tone was arch.

“Do you really live here?” I repeated the question that she hadn’t answered.

She rolled her eyes. “No, this is my summer place. I come out here to get away from the hustle and bustle of my townhouse.” Sarcasm oozed from her words. “Yes, I really live here. I own this land. I’m in the middle of planning the house I’m going to build, which I hope to have started shortly.”

“Why here?” I knew it sounded wrong even as I said it. But I just didn’t get it. Why the hell would someone with her resources choose to live in a shack in the middle of nowhere? Housing wasn’t exactly plentiful in Harper Springs itself, but there were some decent neighborhoods in the nearby towns.

Emma’s tongue darted out to swipe across her lips, and I realized that I was making her uncomfortable. “I have plans.” She spoke softly but clearly. “I want to grow my own food, raise herbs and the plants I need for the oils and supplements I want to offer my patients . . . I want to put all of the research and learning I’ve done over the past years into practice here. I want this place to be a haven—not only for me, but for others.”

I could hear the banked passion and earnest longing coming through what she was saying. It was the first time I’d seen such vulnerability in her, and I was taken aback.

“The land’s good.” I cleared my throat and turned to stare off into the distance. “The soil . . . it won’t need much help.” I pointed toward the tree line. “I grew up on a farm just a mile or so over that way. My grandparents still live there. They grow tomatoes and corn and strawberries—it’s not a huge operation, but we did okay.” It had been enough to help me get through college and medical school, and for that, I’d always be grateful.

“I never would’ve pegged you as being a farm kid.” Emma sounded amused now. “Matter of fact, speaking of being out of uniform . . .” She paused and very intentionally trailed her eyes up and down me in an obvious imitation of how I’d checked her out. “Who knew that the impeccable Dr. Girard owned a pair of jeans?”

“Funny.” I took a step closer and braced one hand on a nearby patio chair. “Most folks around here are more surprised to see me in a suit, even now.” I angled my head down and peered through one of the trailer’s windows. “Do you have electric in that thing?”

Her eye twitched. “Not yet. Just gas and kerosene lights. I’m working on getting utilities out here, but I’m given to understand that it’s a process.” She gave the word air quotes and then shook her head. “Anyway, that doesn’t matter. What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to talk to you about Angela Spencer.” I dragged the chair back a little. “Can I sit down?”

Emma shrugged. “Sure. The bugs are going to get vicious pretty soon, but you’re probably okay for now.” She sank down to perch on the step, her eyes staying on me as though she expected me to make some kind of unexpected move. “What about Angela? If you hauled your cookies out here to yell at me again about the PICC line, you could’ve just waited until tomorrow.”

I eased gingerly into the porch chair, not quite certain it would support me. The wicker groaned a little, but I didn’t end up on my ass, so I decided I’d probably be okay.

“I didn’t come about the PICC line deal. Or—yeah, I guess I kind of did, but it was to tell you that I think you were right. I know I fought you about that whole thing, but I was wrong.”

Emma’s eyes widened dramatically. “Oh, my God, and here I am without a witness. The great and powerful Dr. Girard was wrong about something? Is this a first? Should I be filming it for posterity?”

I gritted my teeth. “I’m not the arrogant asshole you seem to think I am. Believe me, I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. I freely admit to that. And when I do, I own up to them.”

She stared at me, her expression inscrutable. “Okay. Good to know.” She shifted, leaning her hands back to rest behind her and stretching those endless legs forward. “Did you seriously drive out here to tell me that, or was there something else?”

There was something else. As a matter of fact, there were a couple of things I’d driven out to discuss with Dr. Carson tonight, but as twilight drifted over us and the crickets began to sing, I was tempted to just sit here with her and savor the peace for a little while. None of what I’d planned to bring up was going to make her happy. Maybe for once, it would be all right for us to enjoy a détente, no matter how tenuous and short-lived it might be.

As I brooded over this, Emma tilted her head, watching me, waiting for my response. A movement to her left caught my eye, and without stopping to think about it, I leaped to my feet and grabbed her arms, pulling her up and away from the trailer. Taken unawares, she teetered off-kilter, her hands gripping my shoulders to keep her from falling over.

I became painfully aware of several things at once. Emma’s long, lithe body was pressed up against me. Her full breasts rubbed my chest as she sucked in a quick breath. Her face was tilted up to stare into mine, and her lips were slightly parted in surprise.

And I wanted to kiss her more than I’d wanted anything in a very long time.

Preorder here! Coming July 21st

 

An early taste of INFORMED CONSENT

I’m so excited! This is the very first sneak peek excerpt of Informed Consent Book 1 of Diagnosis: Love. If you’ve been reading the serial Pretend You’re Mine, you already got a little taste of St. Agnes Hospital and Dr. Girard . . . but in this section, the new naturopath doctor meets the sexy guy in charge. But who’s really the boss?

Preorder here! Coming July 21st


“Oh, my God. Why didn’t you tell me he was back?” Darcy’s eyes went round as she whispered to the nurse next to her—I couldn’t remember the other woman’s name. Addy? Abby? Something like that.

“I didn’t know. He wasn’t scheduled to be here until Monday.” Both women’s eyes were fastened somewhere over my shoulder, and I had the irresistible human urge to twist in my chair to see the object of their excitement, even though I had a hunch that I already knew the answer. With a sense of fatalistic resignation, I ventured a glance down the hallway.

The man who stood outside of Angela Spencer’s room, reading from her file, had a . . . presence. I wasn’t sure why that was my first impression of him, but it was true. I could only see him profile, and the corridor was dim, since we hadn’t yet switched the lights to full brightness for the day shift, but even from this angle, I made out the breadth of his shoulders and the way his dark gray T-shirt hugged his chest. I noticed that his hair was longer than I’d expected it to be; the way everyone in this hospital talked about the revered Dr. Deacon Girard, I thought he’d be perfectly coiffed, with hair like my Ken doll used to have. Of course, old Ken’s ‘do had been molded plastic . . .

Dr. Foxy, I thought, remembering Jenny’s confidences with a smirk.

As though he felt the weight of my stare, Dr. Girard’s head turned slightly. I couldn’t tell for sure from this distance, but I thought maybe he was looking at me. My face grew warm, and I hoped like hell my cheeks weren’t flaming red.

With no little effort, I bent my head over the keyboard again and tried to remember what I’d been doing a minute ago. Frowning at the screen, I dragged my attention back to Mr. Crew’s latest bloodwork report.

“Dr. Carson?”

His voice was deep and nuanced, with just the faintest hint of the south woven into it. The eyes that rested on me were an almost shockingly bright green, framed by long, dark lashes. His nose was straight, his jaw strong and his lips were surprisingly full.

I realized that he was waiting for me to respond. Unfortunately, I was afraid I might have forgotten how to speak.

“Uh—”

“You are Dr. Carson, aren’t you? Our new naturopathic doctor?” He leaned his folded arms onto the counter in front of me, gazing down over the computer’s monitor.

I cleared my throat. “Yes. I’m Emma Carson.”

He chuckled softly. “That’s a relief. I’m pretty sure I know most of the people working on this floor, but I was taking a risk by assuming the person I didn’t recognize was the naturopath.” He extended his hand. “I’m Deacon Girard. I’m sorry I wasn’t on hand when you arrived.”

“No problem.” I slid my fingers into his, squeezing slightly. “I heard you were off saving the world while the rest of us were back here slogging away.”

The moment the words left my mouth, I knew they were wrong. I wanted to bite off my tongue.

Dr. Girard’s eyes took on a decided chill as he pulled his hand away. “I don’t know about saving the world. I was working with a group in South America—an organization that’s trying to eradicate childhood hunger. The doctor who’d been scheduled to work that tour was in a car accident, and they needed a last-minute substitute. If they’d been able to get anyone else, I wouldn’t have left. Going away two weeks after we opened this wing wasn’t exactly part of my plan.”

“I didn’t mean to—” I began, anxious to walk back my mistake, but Dr. Girard ignored me.

“I landed in Tampa a few hours ago and drove home. I planned to sleep all day today and come in here on Monday morning after I had the weekend to catch up, but then I read the messages from Mira. She said the new naturopath was trying to completely re-do Mrs. Spencer’s care plan. So instead of going to bed as I’d planned, I took a shower, got dressed and dragged my ass in here to make sure you weren’t screwing up all of my work.”

The embarrassment I’d been feeling morphed into indignation. “Hey, I’m not screwing up anything. I have no idea what Mira might have told you—” I gave her name special emphasis. “But I didn’t re-do anything. I just added my own recommendations and made some adjustments to her dietary plan.” I paused. “And we discussed some alternatives to some aspects of her treatment. Nothing that will affect the outcome.”

“And just how the hell can you be sure of that?” His jaw clenched. “You’ve been here for what . . . a week? And you think you know better than the doctor who’s been managing her illness for months?” He pointed a finger at me, like I was a child who’d misbehaved. “I’ve known Angela since she was diagnosed. She was referred to me by her primary care doctor, and I’ve been working with her out of the Calumbra Center until this wing opened. You had no right to make any changes without going through me.”

“Dr. Girard, with all due respect—”

He snorted and rolled his eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to haul off and clobber him. Instead, I pushed my chair back and rose to my feet, stiffening my spine and narrowing my eyes.

“It was my understanding when I took this position that my role would be as a full partner in the planning and implementation of treatment for the patients here. That’s how it usually works. I don’t know what your experience is with naturopathic doctors, but we don’t exist to do your scut work. We’re not window dressing to make your facility look like it’s forward thinking and innovative. I’m here to make sure the patients have every benefit of both worlds—of science and nature, of traditional medicine and natural remedies. That’s how this works.”

Dr. Girard’s eyes glittered with something akin to fury. “Dr. Carson, this is my hospital. My wing. My town. I’m the one who calls the shots. I’m the one who says how things work, and I’m here to tell you that the kind of partnership you envision is only possible if there is mutual respect. And that sort of respect begins with not making arbitrary decisions about care.” He smacked one palm flat onto the counter, making the two nurses who were staring at both of us jump. “This morning, I’ll be explaining to the Spencers that until such a time as I see the need for change, Angela’s chemo will proceed exactly as I originally prescribed. In the meantime, you will stay away from her unless I give you express permission to participate.”

I was so angry, so supremely pissed off that my head began to spin a little. Still, I held it together as I leaned forward and spoke in a tone my friends and enemies would’ve recognized as deadly.

“The hell I will. You may be the guy who made this wing possible, and you might be the big man on campus in this town. But you’re not my boss, Dr. Girard. You’d do well to keep that in mind before you go around issuing ultimatums and directives.” I eased back slightly and pasted an icy smile on my lips. “And until such a time as the board tells me otherwise, I’m going to keep on doing my job. So you can take all your bullshit superiority crap and shove it right up your fine ass.”

Preorder here! Coming July 21st

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