Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Nursing of the Heart - NEW SERIES!

I'm so excited to be part of this new series about nurses. I have so many nurse friends, and in these troubled times with the virus going around, our nurses are doing all they can to help us. What would we do without them? I dedicate my story to all nurses who selflessly put their hearts into their work!

Here is the list of authors involved with this series, and of course, the Amazon series link -

My book, "A Nurse for Mitch" is book #2 and comes out 6/18.

Nurse Lydia Simmons is assigned to a hospital in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s dedicated her life to caring for the sick and wounded, but when she meets a soldier, known only as Mitch, she is particularly drawn to him. Mitch has lost his memories and is desperate to re-discover himself. Lydia strives to help him, and soon finds herself falling for this lost soul, despite the fact that her heart belongs to another. A part of her fears what will be discovered if she helps Mitch find his memories. What secrets lurk in his darkened mind? Does he have a wife? A family? As glimpses of his past begin to surface, Lydia begins to wonder if helping him uncover his memories will be his downfall... or hers?

Fort Laramie, Wyoming 1868

With both arms full of bandages and creams, Lydia Simmons hurried to the operating room to stock the cabinets. The room was long and filled with many tables. Several shelves and cabinets hung on the wall, all loaded with supplies. This evening, only one lamp was lit since most of the doctors had retired for the night.
Putting these supplies away was the last thing she had to do before going home, and she was anxious to complete her duties. Although she loved being a nurse at Fort Laramie Hospital, and had been for a few months now, tonight she and three other nurses were getting together and would attend a ball given by the governor. Lydia couldn’t remember the last time she had attended a ball. The Civil War ended when she was seventeen, and nobody wanted to hold social functions like that anymore. So many men had been killed or injured, and there weren’t many men to dance with.
Regardless, she and her three friends were using tonight’s ball as an excuse to dress up pretty and mingle with healthy people for a few hours. It was difficult not to hurry and still stack the supply cabinets neatly.
Doctor Hatchett stood at the doorway with his beefy arms folded over his very round middle. The older man was stern, but he taught the nurses well and was a good example to the other doctors.
Lydia paused. “Yes, Doctor Hatchett. Do you need something?”
“When you’re finished here, I need you to go upstairs to Captain Lewis’ room. He needs his bed changed.”
Her heart sank. Captain Lewis had been in and out of the hospital several times since the war ended, according to the doctors she’d talked to. Captain Lewis was a sweet man, but his mind wandered much too often, and most of the time she couldn’t get him to stop talking.
Tonight, she would need him asleep, but she doubted that was going to happen. “Yes, Doctor.”
She finished with stocking the cabinet and hurried out of the room and up the stairs to the third floor. Hopefully, her friends wouldn’t go to the ball without her. She wanted to fix her hair differently, and that would take a while, she was sure.
Nearing the room where the captain stayed, she adjusted the white apron with the red medical cross that pinned to her dress’ bodice, and smoothed her hands over the bottom portion of the apron as it covered her front down to her knees. She was finally used to wearing the apron, but the hat seemed to never stay on her head.
Captain Lewis had shrunk in size over the years, she was told. He’d once been a robust man who rode a horse perfectly and led his battalion with courage. A cannon had nearly blown off his leg. The army surgeon should have removed it, but for some reason, the captain kept his leg. However, infection kept setting in, and every time it happened, the man lost weight. Lydia feared the middle-aged man would be a skeleton soon.
A few other beds had patients, but they looked to be sleeping. She walked past the captain to the shelves against the far wall and pulled out some bed sheets. She peeked over at the man. His thinning blonde hair lay limply on his head, matching the rest of the man’s un-working parts on his body.
“Good evening, Captain Lewis.” She brought the sheets over. “Doctor Hatchett said you were ready for your bed to be changed.”
“Yes, I am.” He gave her a wide smile. “You look absolutely radiant this evening.”
A blush warmed her cheeks. “Captain, I’m appalled. What would your wife say if she knew you were talking that way to another woman?”
He chuckled. “She would thank you for not being twenty years older, that’s what she’d say.”
“All right, Captain Lewis. Enough flirtation. I’m here to change your bed.”
He scooted to the side of the bed. She set the sheets down before sliding an arm around his waist, helping him to stand and moving him to the closest chair.
“Thank you, nurse. I appreciate your help.” He cocked his head. “I cannot recall your name.”
“I’m Lydia Simmons.”
“Ah, yes. Miss Lydia.”
It was still hard for most men – and even women – to comprehend that she had a title. She’d gone to school and was trained by Clara Barton, as was many other women like Lydia. They all graduated with certificates in nursing. And yet, she still had to remind some people to call her Nurse Lydia. The urge to correct the captain was strong, but she fought it. She didn’t want to waste any time changing his sheets.
“Will you get me a newspaper, Miss Lydia?”
She took a quick glance around the room and spotted one on the other side of the eight-bed chambers. She hurried over and snatched it up, quickening her step to bring it back to the captain. “Is that all?”
“Yes, for now. Thank you.”
She was grateful that he would read it while she changed the bed. At least she wouldn’t have to hear him talking much.
After a few moments, he sighed heavily in sadness. She glanced at him to make sure he wasn’t getting ill or something. His expression was pulled into a deep frown as his gaze stayed on the newspaper.
“Is something amiss, Captain?”
“The war has been over for three years, but the newspaper still reports men who have deserted the army.” He shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder if these men are dead and their families don’t know.”
Lydia nodded. “It would be so hard on their families if they didn’t know.” She turned back to the bed-making.
He was silent for another second before he gasped loudly. This time she thought he was in pain, but he still stared at the newspaper.
“I don’t believe it.” He grumbled and shook his head.
“What’s wrong, Captain? Did you see a name you recognize?”
“This man, Peter Mitchell, is listed as a deserter. He was younger than most of us, but he had connections and made it to Lieutenant very quickly. I worked under him and he put his men through…” He cleared his throat. “Pardon me, but I won’t cuss around a lady.”
She smiled. “I appreciate it.” She turned back to the bed, tucking in the sheets under the mattress.
“This young man,” he continued, “was a cocky fool and thought he knew everything. Sometimes, he thought he could run the war by himself. He whipped us like animals and sometimes he starved us. He told us that was his way of teaching us a lesson.” He paused, scrubbing a hand over his unshaven face. “Before I was wounded, he was reassigned somewhere else.”
“How young was he?” she wondered, caught up in the conversation.
“At the time, he was probably in his late twenties. He came from a family with money, which is probably how he was able to work himself up in rank so quickly.”
“I remember Lieutenant Mitchell.”
One of the other men in the room sat up in his bed. “Most everyone hated him. He had a glare that made you want to crawl under a rock and hide.”
“I remember he thought he was God.”
Another man in the room stood from his bed and leaned against the wall. Mr. Heath’s face was covered in sores, and it reminded Lydia that she should give him some cream.
“He thought he was God?” she asked Mr. Heath.
“Mitchell’s father was a minster, and sometimes Mitchell was heard quoting scriptures that talked about hell and damnation. Some men in the regiment wanted to take their own lives just because they couldn’t bear Mitchell’s torture.”
“Oh, dear.” She held the pillow in her hand, pressing it to her chest. “And the deserter is still missing?”
Captain Lewis shook his head. “I pray he’s found and arrested… or he’s dead.”
“Do you think he’s in Wyoming?”
“Possibly.” The captain shrugged. “Why else would they have his name in the newspaper?”
It made Lydia nervous to think there was a madman walking the streets who was that dangerous. “What does he look like?”
Mr. Heath chuckled. “He was a woman’s man, that’s for sure. The young ladies thought he was quite handsome. He knew how to charm, but that was not his real side. He just showed the ladies what they wanted to see – a perfect and kind gentleman – but when he was away from them, he turned into the devil himself.”
“I heard he was married,” the captain said.
“The poor woman.” Mr. Heath shook his head.
“Well,” she said, releasing a heavy sigh as she turned back to finish making the bed, “I hope they find him soon.”
“He’d be easy enough to spot,” Captain Lewis added. “The authorities would have to look for a man with sandy brown hair.” He paused, tapping his finger on his pointy chin. “Oh, and Peter Mitchell also has the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen. The eyes of the devil…”
A half-hour later, Lydia left the hospital, clutching her cloak around her throat and rushing to her one-horse buggy. It wasn’t the small wind that night that chilled her, but the tale of the madman who was still on the loose. It was nights like this when she wished she didn’t have to return home by herself. The sooner she could get home, the safer she’d feel.
Curse you, Captain Lewis, for frightening me so.
It comforted her to know that her uncle and guardian, Albert Wilkinson, would be waiting for her, just like he always did on the nights she worked late. Albert’s wife, Beatrice, would be in bed. She wasn’t one who liked to stay awake after the sun had gone to bed. But Bea was like a mother to Lydia, since her mother had died during the war. Lydia always knew it was heartbreak for losing her father in battle that killed her mother.
At times Lydia wanted to experience that kind of love with a man – a love that was the reason you woke up every morning and went to bed every night… a love that made you happy and made your children happy. But then, Lydia never wanted to feel so heartbroken over the man’s death that it literally killed her.
She guided her horse around a bend. Through this section of town, the trees were extremely dense and shadows were everywhere. Her chest tightened with an eerie feeling, and she urged the horse faster. Thankfully, the sun hadn’t quite disappeared, and she could still see the road.
By the time the end of the road was in sight, she tried to calm her fiercely beating heart. But suddenly, a shadow moved in front of her buggy.
Panicking, she tried to stop the horse, yet at the same time, tried to keep the buggy from running the person over. Luckily, the horse missed the man, but she felt a heavy thump on the right side of the buggy. Her heart sank. She’d hit them!
Once she was able to stop the horse, she jumped down and searched for the person lying on the road. It was a man, and he lay motionless near the edge of the road, lying on his chest with his head turned to the side. She prayed she hadn’t killed him.
The blood oozing out of the side of his mouth and a spot of blood coating his shoulder and spreading quickly, kicked in her nurse’s senses and she hurried to his side, kneeling down next to him. His ragged clothes looked to be at least two sizes too big. His shoulder-length brown hair was dirty, and bits and pieces of twigs were stuck in his ratted locks.
“Sir?” She touched his hand as her fingers searched for his pulse. There was one, but it was weak. “Sir? Can you hear me?”
Gently, she turned him over as she continued to check him for injuries. His face was covered with dirt and he sported an unkempt beard that covered the lower half of his face and even hung lower to cover his neck. Obviously, he hadn’t shaved for several months, maybe even a year.
“Sir? Can you hear me?” she repeated, shaking him, but not enough to cause serious damage.
He groaned, but he didn’t open his eyes. This man needed a doctor, and yet, Uncle Albert’s house was closer than the hospital. Not to mention, she was a nurse. She could help him until a doctor arrived.
She stood and moved toward his head. He looked thin as if he hadn’t eaten for a while. Hopefully, she’d be able to lift him to her buggy. She bent and slid her arms underneath his shoulders. When her hand grazed the blood on the shirt, he moaned again. Blowing out a frustrated breath, she wasn’t sure how she could move him by herself, especially not knowing how serious his shoulder injury was.
“Ma’am? Do you need help?”
She released a frightened scream and stumbled back, turning to look behind her at the man standing so very close to her. When recognition hit, she sighed with relief. He worked on her uncle’s farm. He continued to wear the tribal headband of the Sioux Indians. He also seemed to be a good example to the others of his race who wanted to be part of the great state of Wyoming.
“Oh, Samuel.”
“Miss Lydia? Is that you?”
“Yes, Samuel. I need you to help me carry this man to my buggy. He’s hurt and I need to get him home to Uncle Albert.”
“But the hospital,” he motioned in the opposite direction, “is that way.”
“I know, but this man is hurt. I need to bandage him first, and then I’ll take him to the hospital.”
“But Miss Lydia, you cannot help this man. He has been living in these woods. He is not fit to be at the farm with you fine folks.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m a nurse, and I will help anyone who needs medical attention. He’s bleeding, and I don’t want him to lose too much blood or he will die. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Lydia.”
Samuel was tall and built like an ox. He lifted the stranger as if he was a sack of flour. He placed the man in the buggy as she climbed up and took hold of the reins.
“Miss Lydia? Do you want me to ride with you?”
“Yes, please.”
Since there was no place on the seat for Samuel to sit, he hopped on the back of the buggy and rode to the house with her. As soon as she stopped, Samuel jumped down and lifted the man in his arms again.
She hurried into the house. Uncle Albert walked out of the kitchen. When he saw Samuel and the unconscious man in the worker’s arms, he gasped.
“I don’t have time to explain,” she told her uncle. “This man is injured and I need to get his bleeding stopped before he dies.”
Nodding, Albert rushed into the guest bedroom and pulled down the blankets on the bed. Samuel laid the stranger on the mattress.
“Uncle Albert? Will you help me remove the man’s shirt?”
Between Samuel and her uncle, the man was stripped from the waist up while she prepared the water, and the soap, along with the bandages and ointment. Lydia turned up the lamp to get a better look at his shoulder wound. Immediately, she went to work removing the blood and the dirt. Once the spot was visible enough to see what kind of wound it was, she gasped and straightened. Her heartbeat hammered in a different rhythm.
The man had been shot! Her mind clouded with thoughts of what could have happened to him, but the one that stood out most was that he was running from the law. Inwardly, she groaned. Had she just brought an outlaw into her uncle’s house?

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