THE SURGEON

The SurgeonRT Reviewers’  Choice Award Nominee for Best Western of the Year!

Chosen as a study novel for several college romance writing programs

A wife shouldn’t be a surprise package. But Mountie surgeon John Calloway suddenly found himself saddled with a special delivery he hadn’t signed for – mail-order bride Sarah O’Neill. He had no room in his life for marriage! But why then did he feel compelled to protect Sarah from all things dark and dangerous – including her own unspoken past?

If John Calloway didn’t want her, fine! Sarah would survive – and thrive! – without him! The rugged, committed doctor dismissed his proposal as an elaborate prank. So how come the two of them kept finding themselves in each other’s arms? And what would Sarah be forced to deny in order to stay there?

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“THE SURGEON is a very entertaining read and I genuinely enjoyed stepping into John and Sarah’s world.” All About Romance

“…neatly combines a refreshingly different historical setting with some fascinating details about Canada’s mounted police.” Booklist

“A perfect 10… The pages of this novel sizzle with sexual tension as Sarah and John learn what love, compromise, and trust are all about. THE SURGEON is an extremely well-developed novel.” Romance Reviews Today


Excerpt from THE SURGEON

Copyright © Kate Bridges. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Calgary, early August 1889

It was a hell of a way to meet a woman.

Dr. John Calloway, a commissioned police officer and Chief Surgeon of the North-West Mounted Police, had just finished in the operating room and was striding down the hall of the officers’ quarters toward his bedroom, fighting exhaustion. Drenched in perspiration, John struggled with his white shirt collar, undoing another button. Damn, it was hot inside the fort. Even the air smelled hot. Dry pine planks and leather.

“Evenin’, Sir,” said two passing officers.

“Evening.” Was it John’s imagination or did they elbow each other and grin as he passed? John glared at them. “Something on your mind?”

“No, Sir.” The sergeant glanced down at the papers spilling from his youthful hands.

“Then I suggest you hightail it to the paymaster’s. He’s looking for the schedules you’re holding. As for you, Corporal Reid, we could use your help dousing those vacated beds.”

“Yes, Sir,” came the response.

John shoved a hand through the thick brown hair at his temple, swallowed the dryness in his throat and continued walking. His own fatigue never usually hit him until the worst was over. Under normal circumstances he’d be heading to his private house in town for dinner, then to sleep for the night. But in the past week he’d had six men in surgery at Fort Calgary and he’d been too busy for sleep.

It was still undecided whether the constable John had just operated on would lose his leg. There had also been the constable who’d lost his eye on a runaway bronco; two others with second-degree burns from fighting forest fires to the west; and finally the two discharged this morning with bullet grazes from an ambush ten days ago by that damn cattle-rustling gang. For John, their discharge brought back a wave of remorse and grief for Wesley Quinn.

John’s assistant surgeon, his friend, who was only doing his duty by racing to the ranch to help the injured, had been ambushed and murdered by the Grayveson gang. Blast them all to hell. Wesley Quinn had been a good man.

John rubbed his bristly jaw. He was starting to feel his age. He rolled his shoulders to loosen the stiff muscles.

Turning forty was a landmark, but why the hell did he feel so…unsettled?

The restlessness had started eight months ago, around Christmastime when Wesley had decided to get himself a mail-order bride.

No respectable man orders a woman from the newspaper,” John had argued. “What kind of woman would answer your ad? A desperate one, with little backbone and no self-confidence.”

But Wes had just laughed and placed the ad anyway, claiming it was hard to meet a woman—an English one—with so few in the West.

And then he’d gone and got himself killed.

With a sigh, John neared his bedroom door. He stopped at the linen laundry basket. Although he’d worn a surgical gown, a few blood drops had still soaked through to his shirt. He peeled it off and tossed it in, knowing the clerk would need to boil it, too. Down to his sleeveless undershirt, he burst into his private room, glancing to his desk for drinking water.

He was shocked to discover a strange woman inside, who’d reeled toward him at the sharp sound of the door.

“Ah!” he yelped. She let out a choked laugh.

Standing at his open closet, she’d been rummaging through his uniforms. She dropped his scarlet tunic from her fingers like a child caught with something forbidden. A pink stain infused her cheeks.

A wall of curly, reddish-blond hair, braided at the sides and clasped at the back, spilled down her shoulders. Finely arched brown eyebrows framed her clear gray eyes. Her lips parted in a pretty smile, revealing a front tooth that slightly overlapped its partner.

Her clothes were fancy for the West. Her heavily boned and corseted red jacket clung to her waist; a long red skirt with protruding bustle accentuated full hips. When one polished black leather boot peeked out beneath her hemline, he noticed a ridiculously spiked high heel. Why was she so dolled up?

He lurched back. His dangling suspenders slapped against the thighs of his tight black breeches. “How’d you get in here?”

She smiled but he didn’t smile back. “Corporal Reid let me in. I’m sorry for laughing. It’s just…I was so nervous to meet you…and here I’ve made you jump.”

If Travis Reid had let her in, she must be here for good reason. Was that why Reid had been chuckling in the hallway?

She took a step forward, holding out her hand. Happiness shone in her eyes. “I know this is a bit of a surprise, but I managed to pack up sooner than I’d thought. I’m Sarah.”

Was he supposed to know her? He racked his brain, but no recognition came. “John Calloway.”

Her grip was warm and soft and slippery, very different from the bulky, callused hands he was used to shaking. With the contact, his pulse took a leap. As their fingers parted, she glanced heatedly at his chest and he realized he was still in his undershirt. Good grief. What an indecent way to introduce himself to a woman.

She smiled timidly. “Sarah O’Neill,” she prompted louder, a deeper crimson flowing through her face. “I know I didn’t send a photograph, but I didn’t have one.”

What was she talking about? If he’d ever met her, he was damn sure he’d never forget.

“Hey, Doc?” Corporal Reid’s dark head appeared around the door. “Constable Pawson’s wakin’ up in a lot of pain.”

John addressed the corporal, but his gaze still held the pretty woman’s. “Give Pawson another drink of the laudanum by his bedside. I’ll be right there.”

The corporal glanced into the room at the woman, then cleared his throat. “I see you’ve met Miss O’Neill.”

John’s gaze pivoted to the corporal. Judging by the broad smirk on the tanned face, Reid knew something more.

“Can I speak with you outside, Corporal?” John nodded to the woman. “Excuse me, Miss O’Neill, you’ve caught me at a bad time. I’ve been in surgery around the clock.”

There was laughter in her voice. “John, you can call me Sarah.” Why was she smiling so much at him? Not that he minded, in fact, he was enjoying it…but who was she?

The minute they were out the door, John growled at Reid. “What do you know about her?”

Reid squirmed. “I have to get the laudanum.”

John cursed. “You better tell me right now. Who is she?”

Reid’s face paled. He lurched and hurried down the aisle.

“Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea,” he called over his shoulder. “Come to think of it…” Reid gulped and John felt a shiver of dread race through him. “Maybe it got out of hand…. We all chipped in for the newspaper advertisement and her train ticket…and ordered her for you.”

John raced after Reid. “Ordered her?” Was she a painted lady?

Reid began to run toward the doors of the hospital ward.

John shouted after him. “What the hell does that mean? You ordered her?”

Reid dove through the doors, escaping John’s fury, shouting the explanation just before the thick door slammed in John’s face. “She’s…your mail-order bride!

What? Stumbling back, John slumped against the hard wall.

What…in hell…had his men done?

They’d sent for a mail-order bride? For him?

After his criticisms to Wesley, was this some kind of joke? John had thought he’d seen it all in the fifteen years he’d been here. The pranks, the initiations, the tricks on the new recruits…

So help him God, he’d string them up one by one!

What decent man could do this? This was someone’s life they were playing with! Maybe they thought it’d be a funny prank to play on him, but what about the poor woman in his bedroom?

He groaned. She was too innocent-looking to be a painted lady, to be part of a hoax. And Reid had been too scared to be lying.

Where had she come from? What was he supposed to tell her? How could a simple apology be anywhere near enough?

And why should he have to do it? The men responsible should. But…they were busy, and she was waiting.

She deserved an explanation—right bloody now.

Bracing himself, John walked back down the hall, rapped on his bedroom door, then entered.

She was standing at the window, letting the breeze roll over her face. Turning around, she met his awkward gaze with an awkward one of her own.

That’s why she was so dressed up, he realized, glancing at her cinched waist. She thought she was coming to meet her groom. Just watching her, he felt his muscles tighten.

The air grew still between them. When her gaze hesitated over his bare shoulders, he wondered what she was thinking. That they would soon be married? That the two of them would soon be very intimate?

The thought brought a surge of heat to his own flesh. Then shame found him again, for how his men had tricked her. Looking down into her expectant eyes, he felt the hairs at the back of his neck bristle.

He tried to ease the news. “I’m not who you think I am.”

“You’re not?” Her generous mouth opened and she colored fiercely. “But you’re John Calloway.”

“Yes, but—”

They were interrupted again, this time by a sergeant running through the open door. “Dr. Calloway! You better come quickly! Pawson’s tryin’ to get up! The stitches in his legs are comin’ apart!”

John leaped into action. “Get two more men to help us. We’ll need to hold him down.”

He grabbed a clean shirt from his closet and tugged it up his arms. “I’ve got to go,” he yelled to Miss O’Neill, leaving her standing in his turbulence. “Wait right here till I get back! Don’t go anywhere!”

(…continued…)

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