I was thrilled in December 2009 to be considered a “runner up” in the Hearts Crossing contest, and even more so when the acquiring editor said she’d like a story about the second brother, Pike, a large animal veterinarian, and bad-girl Daisy. (both have small roles in the first book.) To be honest, I have no real knowledge of large animal vets, so I stuck with what I did know: losing a black Labrador to inoperable cancer. Yup. Eight months after my own hero’s battle...and thus, Redeeming Daisy, the second book in the series, was born.
Pike nodded into Daisy’s dark imploring gaze as she knelt on the floor to grapple the black Labrador close. Her childish gesture and panicked eyes stoked emotions he’d just buried.
While he waited for her to get to her feet, Pike grabbed hold of every professional mannerism he could. Somewhat stiffly Mrs. Densmore reached out to comfort her daughter, but Daisy shoved away the embrace.
Pike took a deep breath. Well, he had offered to tell Daisy himself. “Daisy, between his kidneys, Elway’s got an inoperable malignant tumor. It’s called hemangiosarcoma.”
Wild-eyed, she grabbed Pike’s hand, and the touch scorched him. “What?”
He repeated the unhappy news.
“Inoperable? Why can’t you operate?”
The question stunned him. Did she really think he had some other choice? “It’s positioned too dangerously between the kidneys. And worse.” He sighed. “Worse, it’s metastasized. Spread. Trust me on this.
She bristled. “You think he’s going to die?”
Pike knew the odds and told Daisy what he hadn’t been able to tell her mother.
“I’m sorry. Yes.”
Her squeal of pain sliced into his brain like an earache. And he understood. The last innocent, uncomplicated part of her life would be gone too soon. He didn’t think he wanted it, but when she flung herself toward him, he gathered her in his arms, close enough to feel her pounding heart and smell her garden of long black hair.
Elway. Her Elway. The only living creature left who loved her unconditionally. Who never pointed fingers.
Who never yammered What have you done now?
Almost past control, Daisy sobbed against Pike Martin’s strong sculpted shoulders, drinking in his warm, manly aura. Ever the rancher, he wore the outdoors like a second skin even here in the sterile confines of the animal hospital, clad in white lab coat over Wranglers. It rang in her ears again, his soft, nonjudgmental voice last week when he helped her escape from herself.
That was something. Something he hadn’t had to do. But what did he know? He didn’t know Elway was all she had left.
No way could she bear losing this precious creature. She’d already lost her self-respect, her job, her faith. Her half-baked marriage. Oh, she’d married for love, but in such haste she’d regretted it every day since. But divorce was cruel, too. And everybody in Mountain Cove knew everything because she had no place else to go.
She wasn’t about to lose her best friend.
Before her mom could nag her yet again, Daisy pushed herself from Pike’s embrace. She’d liked it, but she didn’t want to, didn’t need it, didn’t need him or any man. Not after Tony. All she needed now was an experienced vet.
Still, part of her wanted to stay in Pike’s arms, and s
he didn’t like her reaction at all. It was a dangerous place to be.