Book three, Sanctuary, featuring ranch foreman and oldest brother Hooper, also has a cancer theme. My soul told me I needed to put on paper a man’s survival, doubts, pain, and heroicism upon suffering with and surviving testicular cancer. Poignant is Hooper’s recovery from this horrible disease, him a single father of a little girl, doubting any woman would want him now.
But more poignancy entered this story. During Kenn and Christy's wedding at Hearts Crossing ranch, Hooper meets a beautiful guest, Mallie, herself battling brain cancer. Her inspiration came from my daughter’s dear friend and sorority sister, Jackie, who battled GBM for four years.
Writing this difficult story, I found out more about this killer than I cared to know. Hooper would live; Mallie would not.
Yet...I was unprepared for Jackie’s death three years ago. Since I had five more books to write after Sanctuary, I had to handle Mallie with care because..I could not, emotionally, write her death. Not while Jackie lived. Yet...by the time Book Eight is released in 2016, Mallie has returned to the Lord. I’m so glad she got to have a small measure of happiness with Hooper.
I was stunned when this book won the CTRR Award at Coffee Time Romance. I don’t enter contests now than I’m published, and this one I didn’t have to. It was an editorial award, making it unexpected and extra-thrilling.
After a loud sigh, Hooper chugged the coffee, kissed Ma’s cheek and headed out, and reminded himself of the chant that had gotten him through chemo. Each day is a gift from God.
“That’s why they call it the present.” He said out loud and then hurried out of the room so Ma didn’t think he was starting up a new conversation. Grabbed his gray beanie and gloves on the way. ‘Course he’d rather wear his Stetson but the temperature had been chilly lately, and wool felt better against that bald head in breezes off the mountains. As he heaved himself out the big front door, Hooper stumbled against a suitcase on the porch and smacked forward into the arms of a female so tall his chin brushed her nose. He was tall himself so that didn’t happen too often. Besides, she was holding him up!
“So sorry, ma’am,” he muttered, heat rising. “Please excuse me.”
“It’s all right. I like a man with a mission.”
Righting himself, he looked at her, breath tightening in his throat. Beautiful was the only word he needed. Short blond curls tight against her skull, raspberry lipstick he ached to taste, dark blue eyes bright with life. For a second, he couldn’t talk.
Still holding him, she leaned back and peered at him like she saw something he didn’t know about. “Hooper?”
The fact she remembered him from somewhere couldn’t help but flatter him. “Yep. How, who…?”
“I’d know you anywhere.”
He narrowed his eyes which only brought her into clearer focus as she continued. “Your eyes. A bit of a haunted look. Like your eyes are too bright, too hot. Tight somehow.”
“What do you mean?” Without any effort at all, he found himself visualizing her words as she stepped back.
“I’ve seen the look in my own eyes.”
“What do you mean?” He repeated.
“Kenn told me. You’re a survivor.”
He loved hearing the word, but it still had the power to race his blood. “Yep. T.C. Otherwise known as testicular cancer. Six weeks remission. Long term prognosis good.”
She held out her hand. “Happy to meet you, T.C. I’m G.B.M. Glioblastoma Multiform. My particular buddy is astrocytoma glioma. Otherwise, I’m known as Malia Cameron.”
Despite his numb fingers, her warm hand melted into his, but too many feelings rained on him to pick just one. Cancer? Her?