The Nurse’s Christmas Vow (Preview)

Chapter One

Amelia pushed open the door and was met by the usual smell generated by a lot of sick people. There was a cover around the first bed on the left, and she left her bag at the little office and pushed the curtain aside. Mary Pope was sitting with the elderly gentleman in the bed and holding his hand.

“How is he?” Amelia asked. Mary shook her head and said nothing because she knew the man could hear what she was saying. His eyes were closed, and his breathing labored.

“We are waiting for the medicine to take effect and ease the effort of taking a breath.”

“I can hear you girls,” the man on the bed said. “I know you are not saying I have not got long.”

“Tommy, try not to talk,” Amelia told him. “We will try to make you more comfortable. I will get another dose of the painkiller, and Mary will hold onto you until it takes effect.”

“Thank you, girls,” he said in a croaky and increasingly hard-to-hear voice. “You’re a couple of angels.” He paused and then added that he would see the angels soon. Amelia felt the tears spring to her eyes and knew Mary would be the same. They had been looking after the old man for several weeks, and he was a gentle soul who never asked for anything. They had both grown to like him. Amelia came back with the medicine, and he took the spoonful she offered. He settled back against the pillows and held out a hand to Amelia as she was taking away the spoon. She took it and knew he was trying to say something.

“I know that you girls run this place on next to nothing. I have told the lawyer to leave anything I have to the clinic. Henry Harman has written it up, and I signed it. There is not much, but what there is might help you.”

“Oh Lord,” Tommy,” Amelia said. “We will try to make you better, and then we will not need to take it. Thank you for trying to help us.”

“Try and sleep, Tommy. Thank you for being on our side,” Mary said and went out through the curtains to mop her eyes with a handkerchief. Amelia sat on the edge of the bed and held his hand.

“At least,” Tommy said between trying to take bigger breaths of air, “I have a good-lookin’ girl holding my hand.”

“Thank you, kind sir,” she said. “Not so bad yourself, you know.” That made the man smile, and she knew his breathing was getting a lot worse. There was nothing she could do but sit there and wait for the end to come. He squeezed her hand and took one last breath, and she knew he was resting in peace at last.

Amelia sat there for a few minutes, holding onto the hand, still warm, but the life had gone.

“Meet those angels, Tommy,” she whispered, laying his hands across his chest. She pulled the sheet over his head and went to tell Mary. The two girls stood in their tiny office and held onto each other. With a patient like Tommy, it was impossible not to feel it when they passed away. The man had no relatives, and they had looked after his final weeks as best they could.

The other patients had realized what had happened and asked them when they returned to the ward. The male patients were in the first part of the clinic, and through a door, the female ones were in a separate room. There was another small office or storeroom at the far end and another door to the outside so that women could come and go without being taken past the men in the clinic.

The two girls answered the questions, checked the patients, and made themselves busy. It was always hard to lose someone.

“Mary, you have done extra. Go home and try to get some sleep. See your little girl.”

“Thank goodness for my mom,” Mary said. “She just keeps Belinda until I can get there.”

“Call at the undertaker’s on your way home, please, and he will collect Tommy.” Mary nodded and collected her things.

After spending most of the day at the clinic, Amelia went home. She finished her meal with the family and told her mother that she would have to return and check on the clinic.

She picked up her cloak and bag she constantly carried in case of an emergency.

“If I have to stay, don’t worry about it. We are full of folk who need help.”

“It’s a pity that the doctor is not in the next town. It would be easier on you if there were one here,” Maggie Sanders told her eldest daughter as she cleared the dishes.

“We manage that alright because I did that study in Chicago, and if an operation is needed, we send for Doctor Turner. We seem to have a spate of accidents lately.”

“As well as all the babies you deliver,” her sister Ellen added. “That’s not my idea of a good job.”

“We are all different,” Amelia answered. “I love to bring new life into the world. If I had a clinic full of pregnant women, I would be happy.”

She grabbed her bag and hurried away to the small hospital. Her three younger siblings were playing outside, and her dad was coming in as she went out.

“The cattle okay?” she asked him, and he nodded and flapped his hat against his legs to get rid of the dust. I brought them all closer to the house. They are fattening nicely, and at least we’ll get a good price this year.”

“We will have enough money to be comfortable in the end,” she told him, kissing his cheek. “You are improving the herd every year.”

“I do appreciate your contribution, Amelia.”

“I enjoy a ride out to round up the ones that have strayed,” she told him. “It lets me enjoy the great land out there as a change from the clinic.” She took a breath and looked around. “Prestonacres is a good little town and is getting bigger by the day, but the clinic has more sick people as well.”

“Try not to overdo things, Amelia,” her dad said.

“Some chance of that,” she said with a smile and hurried off down the main street to where the white-painted wooden building was at the end of town to keep infection away from the main part of the community.

Amelia poured a coffee and sat in the office.

The rest of the patients were settled for the evening, and unless someone was admitted, it would probably be a peaceful night. The younger girl who helped Mary and Amelia was on duty for the night and could be left. The woman who cooked for the hospital was also there overnight, and one of them could come for Amelia if there were a problem. The kitchen was behind the small office, and Amelia went to check that all was well.

“Have a coffee, you two,” Amelia told them. “I will go home and get some rest. Mary has gone to tell the undertaker about Tommy, and he might come when the place is quiet.

“Can I order more vegetables?” Martha, the cook, asked. The staff all knew how tight finances were.

“Yes, we can find those sorts of expenses. It’s things like repairs to the roof and extra beds we are struggling to find. Maybe we can do a fundraiser of some sort. If you have ideas, let me know.”

“My mom was wondering about that,” Ginny, the young trainee nurse, said. “She thought maybe there could be a sale of donated things.”

“That sounds like something different,” Amelia answered. “Ask her how it would work and who she thinks would donate things. If she is prepared to help us out, it could be really useful.” She paused. “Tommy told me he has instructed the lawyer to give us anything he owns to help the clinic.”

“What a sweet man he was,” Martha replied. “There won’t be a lot, but he made a lovely gesture.”

“That is so true,” Amelia added. “I’ll leave you to it.” She picked up and bit into a small cake that Martha had made and went off eating the sweetmeat.

It was still daylight outside, and some people were on the main street. Several of them spoke to her because she was a well-known sight in the town. The main street was a mixture of small cabins and much larger stores. A quite large hotel close to the new railroad depot was bringing new people and new business to Prestonacres every month that went by.

My dad will be able to take his steers to the depot this year. That will be much easier, she thought as she drew level with the railroad buildings. She turned off at that point because her parents’ house was set back from the main street and gave access to open land where her dad ran the cattle. She passed the blacksmith shop where the man waved a hand as she went by. He was banking the fire in the forge so that it was easier to start in the morning. She opened the gate at her parents’ house and went inside.

“Everything okay?” her mom asked, handing her a bowl of soup.

Amelia sank onto a seat and took the spoon from the table to eat the hot and chunky food in the bowl.

“I needed that,” she said. “Thanks.”

“Come and sit with a coffee. That job half kills you.”

“I have a family to come home to. Tommy had nobody, and he was such a nice man.”

“He will be looking down and wishing you well,” Maggie said.

“At least he is peaceful now,” Amelia said. “On a lighter note, what would you think about selling things people donated to raise funds for the clinic?”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Maggie said, and the conversation turned to how it would work. Amelia finished her coffee and went off to bed.

Chapter Two

The sheriff and his deputy rode into town with prisoners tied to their horses.

Daniel Keepsake slid to the ground. He was normally a peace-loving man, but when the sheriff’s role called for it, he was very determined. He looked across at the forge and saw his friend Caleb. Daniel waved him across as the deputy dismounted as well.

“Thanks. An extra man is useful here. These three robbed the East Farm and were taking off with anything they could carry,” Daniel told him. He slit the leather tying the first robber to the pommel and pulled him to the ground, but the man jumped to his feet and took off down the street at some speed. The sheriff, though, proved that he should be in his job because he took off after the robber, made a flying leap for the man’s legs, and wrestled him to the floor. The man fought back but was no match for the man in charge of law in Prestonacres. Daniel pushed the man to the ground and felt for handcuffs. When they were on the thief, he pulled the man to his feet and shoved him back toward the others still at the office entrance.

“This one cracked Molly Dunn across the face when she tried to stop him taking her things.” He gave the man another push up the steps to the office. “Cannot stand men who hit women.” The man in question was propelled into a cell, and the door slammed. The other two were put in cells as well.

“The son rode off to find us, and we knew which way they had gone,” Cal, the deputy, said. The men breathed a sigh that the robbers were caught, and Daniel resumed his usual way of working. He was a tall, quiet man with light brown hair and green eyes. He moved slowly and gave the impression that he was a careful and slow-moving individual, but as he had just proved, he could spring into action and was a capable fighter who could overcome the criminals who came into his town.

“I’ll stay here,” Cal said. “Jake can take over in the morning. You go and relax, Daniel.”

“Fancy a drink, Caleb?” the sheriff asked. “All is quiet now.”

“Sure thing,” Caleb answered. “Let me wash my hands and face. Blacksmithing is a dirty job.”

He worked the pump handle, sluiced his face and arms, and then toweled himself dry and took off the heavy leather apron that protected him as he worked.

The two men strolled down the street and pushed through the swing doors of their favorite saloon.

“Howdy, Daniel, Caleb,” the barman said. “Usual?”

Both men said that would be fine and looked around the bar. It was still quiet in the early evening, so they took the drinks and sat in the corner. One or two others were having an end-of-day drink, and four men were playing poker at a table at the back of the room.

“How’s business?”  Daniel asked. For all he was off duty, he was still casting an eye around the room in case he had to deal with anything.

“I’ve been working with no clothes on today,” Caleb said conversationally.

“Really? Was it okay?” Caleb roared with laughter and slapped a large hand on the table.

“You never heard a word I said,” he told his friend.

“Well, I answered the question,” Daniel protested. “Why are you laughing?” Daniel was quiet and reserved and did not lose his temper except on rare occasions.

“I said I was working with no clothes on.” Daniel looked at him and took in what the man was saying. Then a grin spread across his face, and he joined the laughter.

“I know I tend to be on duty all the time. Sorry. What has business really been like?”

“I’ve been asked to make a very large wagon with an iron chassis that takes the weight of a full load.”

“Is that going to take a long time?”

“Yes. The pieces are heavy and have to be forged separately. It will be a big price for the Hanleys at the ranch because of the hours I’ll have to spend.”

“I wonder why they need a huge heavy wagon,” Daniel pondered.

“No doubt you will find out with that curiosity that you use and tell us that it is the sheriff’s job.”

“Some friend you are,” Daniel said but smiled as he said it and waved at the two men leaving the saloon and calling out good night. “If you keep on top of the little things, it stops the bigger crimes.”

“I must admit the place is usually quiet,” Caleb observed. “Has the new railroad brought more crooks in from other places?”

“It has, and you cannot chase an engine and carriages with a posse on horseback like the old days. I have Cal check out the depot every time a train arrives. We’re making sure we know who is arriving and leaving. I don’t want the place swamped with gamblers and hold-up gangs.” He hesitated. I know it seems over the top, but Cal thinks the same way as I do, and we make notes of everything we see that is out of the ordinary.”

“You do a good job, Daniel. That quiet manner fools a lot of bad folks into thinking they can get away with things.”

“I do like to surprise them,” Daniel said with a smile. “Another drink?”

“I had best go home and make some dinner,” the blacksmith said.

“Me too. Two old bachelors.” Daniel laughed. “Oh, I meant to ask who the blonde girl was that you waved to when you were clearing up.”

“Amelia Sanders.”

“The Sanders have the land behind there. Is she a cousin?”

Caleb laughed.

“You mean that the sheriff who misses nothing did not recognize the skinny kid with blonde pigtails? She went away to train as a nurse for two years in Chicago and has taken on opening the clinic and trying to save lives.”

“Good Lord. I did miss all of that. I knew someone had reopened the clinic, and Doc Turner came over to do operations.”

“She works day and night but is apparently a really good midwife,”

The two men had strolled back up the main street and parted company at the forge.

“See you tomorrow,” Daniel said and walked over to go behind the sheriff’s office, where he had a small house that went with the job. He put away the four horses he and the deputy kept for work and went inside.

He flipped a steak onto the griddle and reflected that the job had perks. The ranches appreciated his keeping an eye out for rustlers, and he often received the odd gift of steak or eggs. He broke an egg when the steak was cooked, fried it, and put it on a plate. Then, he sat on his lounger on the back porch and watched the sunset as he ate supper.

In the morning, he was in the office and looking through the mail left in the box for him. The door burst open without any knocking, and the blonde girl he had not recognized hurled herself inside the room. She stumbled across the floor to the desk and grabbed it to steady herself. The bag she carried fell to the floor.

“Whoa, whoa,” Daniel cried out and leaped to his feet to catch her as she slid sideways across the corner of his desk. “What’s wrong?”

Amelia was gasping for breath, and it took her a few seconds to be able to speak.

“The woman down the street is having a baby and screaming like anything. The neighbor ran to find me, and the husband won’t let me in. I need help to get into the house to help the woman. Can you help, please?”

“Sure can,” he said and grabbed his hat. He picked up Amelia’s bag and opened the door. “Come on.”

He didn’t run because Amelia was still breathing heavily, but she trotted along beside him as he strode out down the main street. It was early morning, and the stores were opening up. The people out there all looked as the sight of the sheriff hurrying somewhere with the nurse from the clinic was unusual.

“Need any help?” one man called. Daniel waved and called thanks, but they would see how things were. They turned off when they were halfway down the street and down between more buildings to some smaller houses almost on the edge of town.

“I see what you mean about the screams,” Daniel said, and they both ran toward the house. The neighbor was outside and trying to talk to whoever was behind the door.

“Oh, please let us in to help her,” Barbara Jones cried to the sheriff. “That husband is a great fool of a man.”

“And he will kill her without help,” Amelia shouted. “Open the door, you stupid man, and let me help your wife.”

“No. We need a proper doctor. She is just having a baby,” the voice behind the door came back, and Amelia turned to the sheriff.

“Can you get us in there?”

Daniel nodded.

“Jim, this is Daniel Keepsake, the sheriff. Open this door, and let us see how your wife is, or I’ll bring help to break it down.”

“No. Go away.” The response was almost drowned out by his wife screaming for help, and Daniel banged on the door.

A small crowd had gathered at the gate, and Daniel shouted to a man there to go and get Caleb and something to break down the door. The man took off at high speed, and Daniel banged on the door again.

“You have time to open the door before we break it down, Jim. Be sensible and think about your poor wife.” Daniel tried a few more pleas and ran around the back of the house to see if he could get in any other way. He came back and grabbed Amelia. “I’ll break the window and lift you inside.” She followed him around to the back of the house, and he picked up a rock and broke the window. He used the rock to break off the jagged edges, picked up Amelia, and lifted her through the gap. He passed through the bag and climbed inside as well. They were in a bedroom but not the one with the woman who was still screaming, but the sound was weaker.

“Dear Lord, she sounds weak. We might lose her,” Amelia whispered. He nodded and opened the door slightly.

“Run for her bedroom and leave him to me.” She nodded and grabbed the bag as Daniel opened the door and ran for the front of the house to stop the man from interfering with Amelia and his wife. Amelia had no problem finding the bedroom with the poor woman. She was on the floor, rolling in agony, but in between, was still asking for help.

Amelia dropped to the floor and forgot about anything happening outside.

“I am here, shush,” she told her. “The sheriff is dealing with your husband. Let me have a look.” Then the woman felt another strong pain and shouted out loud. She gripped Amelia’s arm, and the nurse waited until the spasm passed. Then she pushed the woman back onto the floor and looked at what was happening.

“The baby is stuck in an awkward position, but I can get it out if you can hold yourself still. Can you do that?” While she was talking, Amelia was looking in her bag for the forceps that she hated using, but she knew was the only way to ease out this poor child that was halfway between life and not surviving.

She heard a crash from the front of the house but took no notice. There was also the sound of people struggling, but the baby was the most important thing to deal with. A knock came at the door, and Barbara, the neighbor who had come for help, looked inside.

“Can I help? The sheriff has taken him away to a cell because he would not stop fighting.

“Hot water and towels, please, if you can find them. I am going to bring out the baby with forceps. It is the only way to save it.” Barbara went off to the kitchen and came back with water that was already warm and some cloths and towels.

“I have put on more water to boil, but this was in the tub.” There was another shout from the girl on the floor, and Barbara knelt beside her. “Hold onto me, Jeannie. It will be over soon.” Jeannie grabbed the hands that were offered, and the pain subsided.

“Right, let us release this poor little soul. Hold very still, Jeannie, even when it hurts. Barbara is hanging onto you.” As she reassured the mother, she put the forceps into position and felt the infant move slightly. That was a good sign, and she started to move the child toward her. She concentrated on easing the baby out of the slightly sideways position in which it was lying, then heard the door open behind her.

“I wish I was just a little bit stronger,” Amelia said to Barbara. “Hold onto Jeannie as I do this.”

“Will my hands help?” Daniel whispered quietly behind her.

“Please,” she answered without leaving go of the forceps. He leaned across and put his hands over hers. “Ease backward now,” she told him, and they felt the baby move toward them. There was a second where she thought it was not going to work and then the child slid out, and she grabbed a towel to fold around it.

“It’s OK, Jeannie. Relax until we cut the cord.” She took her scissors and released the child from the mother. Then she cleared the airways, and they all breathed sighs of relief as the baby cried and came to life. She handed the bundle to Barbara, and Amelia saw Daniel go back outside not to cause embarrassment.

“I just need to ensure you are not hurt and clean you up, Jeannie. Stay where you are for a couple of minutes more.” She knew Jeannie was so relieved to be out of pain that she lay there anyway as Amelia ensured she was comfortable.

“The pain will subside, but you’ll be sore for a few days. Let us get you onto the bed and see if your little girl will have something to drink.”

“A girl?” Jeannie asked.

“Sure is,” Barbara added and handed over the little red-faced bundle to the mother.

Jeannie looked at the baby and then at the two women.

“Thank you so much,” she said.

“Has she a name yet?” Amelia asked.

“Caroline. I decided Caroline for a girl and Carl for a boy.”

“She seems to be none the worse for her crazy entry into the world,” Amelia remarked. “I think we should see if she will drink, and then we’ll know that things are normal.”

Jeannie nodded, and Barbara took the baby to wipe her over and find a clean, dry towel to wrap her in. Amelia supervised Jeannie as she prepared to feed her newborn, and Barbara handed over the little girl.

“It is always a few minutes before both you and the baby are used to it,” Amelia said and then saw that little Caroline was eating really well. “That looks good. Does it feel that she is eating?”

Jeannie nodded and smiled at them both.

“You have both been wonderful.”

Chapter Three

“Good job Barbara heard you screaming for help. I will make sure the door is put right again.” She smiled. “Judging by the hammering out there, I guess that is already underway. I’ll stay until things are settled. Could you eat something now, Jeannie?”

“I could face some soup if you can heat up what is on the stove, please.”

“And I will go and give that husband of yours a piece of my mind. Let us hope he takes on board what folk say and looks after you,” Amelia told them and packed her bag.

“Let me know how much I owe you,” Jeannie said.

“Just get well and look after Caroline. There is plenty of time to worry about the bill.” Amelia left Jeannie in the capable hands of her neighbor and found Caleb, making sure the door functioned properly.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“Thank goodness, yes,” she answered. “Is the husband in a cell?” Caleb said he was, and she set off for the sheriff’s office with determination.

This time, she knocked on the sheriff’s door and put her bag on the floor.

“Everything okay with the baby?” he asked.

“Eating and seems none the worse for wear. Barbara is heating some soup for the mom, and the baby is called Caroline. Thanks for your help.”

“I couldn’t do that job as you do,” he admitted, “but at least I could help.”

“Is the idiot in a cell?” When he nodded, she asked if she could tell him what she thought.

He opened the door to the cells and saw that Jeannie’s husband, Marlon, was sitting on a bench. Amelia stepped toward the cell.

“I just have a few words to say to you. You are a fool, an idiot, and a very stupid man. If your neighbor had not come for me and the sheriff hadn’t broken into the house, your wife and daughter would both be dead.” She stopped and drew a breath. “I have never known such stupidity in my life. Your wife was screaming for help, and you actually said that women always did that when they had children. It just beggars belief that you could be such an ignorant, heartless man to leave the woman you are supposed to love in agony on the floor.” She took another breath and put her hands on her hips. “When the sheriff lets you out of here, I expect you to go and grovel in front of your wife and ask her to forgive you. Then you are to look after her and the baby. Do you hear what I am saying? You have a family, and as the man, you are supposed to care for them. Do you understand that?” She waited for a few seconds, and there was no reply. “Do you understand what I am saying? Your family was half an hour away from dying, and it is your fault.” She waited again, and the man on the bench nodded, and she saw that he was trying not to cry. At that point, she relented and told him that the baby was healthy but would have marks on the head for a little while, but they would disappear.

“I will tell Caleb to send you the bill for the door. He can give it to the sheriff; that way, the sheriff can check that you are doing what you are supposed to do.” She pretended not to see the tear in his eye and went out the door. The sheriff closed it behind her and took her arm.

“Outside,” he whispered.

She followed him baffled, and when they were out of earshot, Sheriff Daniel Keepsake burst out laughing. He tried to keep it quiet but could not, and after a few seconds, Amelia could not help laughing as well. When they had stopped, she asked why he was laughing. That caused more merriment, and a small crowd was watching them by then. He took her back inside.

“I am amazed at your telling Marlon exactly what you thought of him. It was a joy to listen to and exactly what he needed.” He paused and smiled. “You wanna job as a deputy?”

“The Nurse’s Christmas Vow” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the rustic charm of Prestonacres, Amelia Sanders, a passionate nurse, tirelessly runs a small clinic, a beacon of hope in this western town. Her striking blonde hair and commanding blue eyes belie the struggle she faces every day, running a small clinic, her dream realized yet constantly under threat. Amelia’s life takes an unexpected turn when she learns that the clinic’s existence hinges on the whims of Edward, a wealthy benefactor with an unspoken agenda. Torn between gratitude and a growing sense of unease, Amelia faces a crossroads.

Is her dream destined to be overshadowed by obligation?

Daniel Keepsake, the respected sheriff of Prestonacres, is unexpectedly taken aback by Amelia’s commanding presence when they are forced to collaborate on a critical incident. No longer just the skinny kid with plaits who left for studies, Amelia now exudes an authoritative air that leaves Daniel questioning his long-held perceptions. His life, devoted to upholding law and order, finds a new challenge as he grapples with his growing admiration for Amelia’s assertiveness. As he contemplates his feelings, he’s left to ponder…

Is his unspoken love for Amelia doomed to remain hidden?

As their lives entangle, they find themselves embroiled in a devilish scheme, and masking graver crimes. They face formidable adversaries, their newfound love tested against the backdrop of a sinister conspiracy. Will their relationship endure, emerging victorious against the malevolent forces that seek to undermine them?

“The Nurse’s Christmas Vow” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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