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Following is an excerpt from B.R.A.G. Medallion winner The Vision—Green Stone of Healing® Book One. This sweeping speculative fiction series is packed with romance that spans multiple lives and chronicles the explosive clash of passion, politics, and piety in a doomed island nation called Azgard.
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First-generation heroine Helen Andros is a physician with a gift of healing and a green gem with hidden potentials in a land sharply divided by race, rank, and wealth inequality. Her life has just turned upside down due to the very public revelation of the identity of her father, a powerful Toltec lord whose secret affair with Helen’s Turanian mother ended tragically decades ago.
Helen struggles with her feelings about her new-found parent. She also refuses to acknowledge her deep love for her commanding officer, Col. Jackson Orlando, since becoming involved with a despised half-breed could ruin his promising military career.
She has just brought Orlando back from the edge of death and is treating him privately during a dinner for the political allies of her father….
Healing a Secret Love
Several footmen carried Orlando to a bedroom near the servants’ quarters. Helen accompanied him, happy to have a legitimate excuse for leaving the drawing room. Lord Justin went with her, also wanting to escape notice and to be helpful.
After they departed, Prince Enoch turned to Sudras. “Why did you not intervene earlier, Grand Master?”
“My lord prince, if I am ever in the same condition as that unfortunate young officer, I hope the person treating me is Doctor Andros,” Sudras replied. “Her abilities as a physician far exceed those of anyone I have ever witnessed, including my own.”
He located the empty syringe and retrieved it. “My lords, Lady Consort, Judith, I don’t use this word very often, and certainly not lightly. Tonight you witnessed a miracle. That man was a corpse; there’s no doubt in my mind. I gave up on him, but not Doctor Andros. There’s no rational explanation for how she did it, yet she brought him back.”
Sudras took a glass of pepper brandy and swallowed the contents in one gulp.
“To answer your question, my lord prince, the best thing I could do for the colonel was stay out of her way until I could provide very specific assistance, which I was honored to do.”
Helen directed Lord Justin and the servants to remove Orlando’s shirt and place him on his stomach so she could get a good look at his back. Just as she suspected, some of the welts were oozing fluid and pus.
“Infection,” she murmured. “What a surprise.”
She would have to lance, clean, and close the contaminated wounds. She wondered how much of his body was covered with welts. Two weeks ago she would have simply looked for herself and no one would have cared. Things were different now.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” she said to Lord Justin. She explained what to look for and then turned away.
“There’s one infected welt on his upper left thigh,” Lord Justin said.
She had her kinsman turn the colonel on his back to make it easier to insert the catheter into his wrist. As they were preparing, Orlando opened his eyes and blinked, trying to focus.
Having taped the catheter in place, Helen stopped and smiled. She moistened a cloth and used it to wipe the sweat from his face and neck.
“Welcome back, Jackson.” She spoke as if she were addressing Lillie or some other young child.
She poured the water into a glass and offered it to him, placing her arm behind his head to hold it upright so that he could drink more easily.
“You died, Colonel,” she replied. “But you cannot get away from me that easily. Face it, you’re stuck with me: the medical officer from hell. Which, come to think of it, is somewhere I almost got to visit earlier this week.”
Helen put the glass back on the table after he had consumed the entire contents. Orlando tried to sit up. “I’m on duty, Lieutenant.”
She put her hands on top of his shoulders, pressed him back down onto the bed. “We’ve already had this argument, Colonel. You lost.”
He gave her another warning look. He was close to putting her on report, again. “Do I have to remind you that I outrank you, Lieutenant?”
“That’s not much of an accomplishment, Colonel. Everybody and his dog outranks me.”
Damn your impudence, woman.
Lord Justin could not help smiling. He was in a chair on the other side of the bed, his long legs stretched in front of him.
Helen retrieved a fluid bag and hung it on the stand she had set up. “And may I remind you, Colonel? Any medical officer may remove any officer of any rank from active duty, if, in that medical officer’s professional opinion, the aforesaid officer is unfit or too ill.”
He scowled, pretending, as usual, that he was angry with her. All he really wanted to do, even in this miserably afflicted condition, was take her in his arms and kiss her.
“I know you may find it hard to believe, Colonel, but I have read every volume of the military code of conduct, and all the officer regulations handbooks.”
“Indeed, Lieutenant, very hard to believe.”
She searched in the box of medical supplies for a syringe and an anesthetic. “I just tend to ignore the really stupid rules, which leaves out ninety-five percent of everything written.”
“A soldier simply cannot pick and choose which rules to obey, Lieutenant, and which to ignore.”
“How boringly consistent, Colonel.”
She filled the syringe with the anesthetic. She did not want to risk putting him under; he might not wake up from it. She would have to numb the areas around the infected welts in order to work on them.
He saw the needle. “What are you doing, Lieutenant?”
“Taking full advantage of the situation, Colonel. After all, not every lowly lieutenant gets to stick it to her CO.”
Lord Justin guffawed. Orlando did not trust himself to speak.
Helen decided to go for the shoulder wounds first, until the slow-acting sedative that she had mixed in with the solution had a chance to take effect. After Orlando turned on his stomach and they arranged the drip stand, Helen studied the locations of the infected welts in order to know where to inject the anesthetic. She inserted the needle so skillfully he did not feel it.
The wounds were essentially untended; she opened and cleaned most of them, even some of the uninfected ones that looked especially deep. She used the sealer she found in the medical bag to close them to minimize scarring.
She worked from the top of his back to the welt on his thigh. By the time she was finished, the sedative had put her patient to sleep. Lord Justin placed the colonel on his back, removing the rest of his outer clothing, dressing him in a nightshirt.
Before leaving, Helen sat next to the bed for a few minutes, holding Orlando’s hand in hers, feeling the anger and gratitude she had held in check in order to treat him. She was incensed over his unnecessary suffering and thankful he had refused to reveal anything.
She kissed his forehead. “Get better soon, Jackson. I don’t know who I’m going to torment until you do.”