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Holiday Illusion (Amazon Adventure Series #3) (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #126) Mass Market Paperback – November 11, 2008
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About the Author
Lynette Eason grew up in Greenville, SC and now lives in Spartanburg, SC. She is married and has two precious children, Lauryn and Will. Lynette is a stay-at-home homeschooling mom and full time writer. Lynette loves to ice skate, visit the mountains of NC and surf the web. She gives God the glory for her giving her the talent and desire to spin stories that bring readers to the edge of their seat and to the throne of Christ.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The boy was going to die.
Lucas stared down at Paulo, the nine-year-old child in the hospital bed, listening to the heart monitor blip and beep, the sound echoing through his brain as though amplified by a hundred microphones. An innocent child with no one in the world to care whether he lived or diedexcept the staff at the Amazon Orphanage in Tefe, Brazil.
With compassion crimping his heart, Lucas reached out a hand to brush a finger down the silky soft skin that, in the absence of a miracle, would never know a whisker. His knuckle bumped the oxygen tube attached to Paulo's nose and he stirred, eyelids flickering up, down, then back up. The brown eyes focused in on Lucas, and the boy smiled.
"Hey, Paulo. How are you doing? Hanging in there?" The Portuguese fell from Lucas's tongue with practiced ease.
"Sim," the boy breathed. "I will get a new heart soon, right, Doctor?"
"Soon, Paulo, soon." I hope. But here in Brazil, it wasn't likely. Even in some of the bigger cities where health care was improving, a heart transplant was a rare occurrence. The boy's best hope lay in the United States. He'd had Paulo on the list there for four months now. Paulo's time was running out.
"If I don't, I will die, yes?" Speaking drained his energy, but the look in Paulo's eyes told Lucas he'd better be honest. Paulo knew all about death as he came from the slums of Brazil. A place that made the slums of America look like high-class living.
Instead of answering with a yes, Lucas asked, "How would you like to take a trip to America?"
Brown eyes shot wide, hope mingling with disbelief as he stared up his beloved doctor. "America?"
Lucas nodded. "That's the only way you're going to be able to get a new heart."
"As soon as I can arrange for someone to take you."
"Will I get to build a snowman? I've always wanted to build a snowman. And see snow on Christmas day."
It was all Lucas could do to keep the tears from his eyes. He'd been a doctor for a few years, even had patients he'd become fond of, but Paulo He stroked the boy's hair. "Sure thing, Paulo, as soon as we get to America and get your new heart, we'll build a snowman for Christmas. It'll be here before we know it."
"He needs to go to the States?"
Lucas whirled to face the quiet voice from the door. "Anna." As always, his heart kicked into overtime as he watched her come into the room. She'd been his best friend for three years, but lately he found himself wondering if their friendship could become something more. And yet, he was hesitant to push it further for a couple of reasons. One, he knew her faith in God was her mainstay, and he didn't put stock in religion. You could depend on yourself and that was it. Still, he had to admit, as he'd watched her over the past few years, he was becoming more and more interested in God, simply because he saw something in her he'd never seen in anyone else. And two, she was hiding something, holding something back. And until he figured out what that was
Short, sassy curls framed a perfect oval-shaped face that held stunning blue eyes, high cheekbones and full lips. He watched those lips stretch into a sad smile as she zeroed in on the sick child. "Hi there, Paulo."
She didn't ask how the boy was feelingit was pretty obvious. Walking around to the other side of the bed, she leaned down to press a kiss to his brown cheek, brushing black curls back from his forehead with her right hand.
The sound of Paulo's rasping breaths filled the room, but his entire countenance lit up when he saw her. "Miss Anna, you came to see me. Thank you. I love you. I'm going to build a snowman for Christmas, will you help me?"
Her eyes went wide as her breath caught on a suppressed sob. "Oh, Paulo, honey, I love you, too. And if we're together on Christmas Day, playing in the snow, you bet I'll help. Just try and stop me."
Lucas reached across Paulo to take Anna's hand and squeeze. Slender fingers gripped his, her throat working, lips trembling. Lucas watched her gain control and stroke Paulo's cheek, much in the same way he'd done earlier.
Paulo's lashes fluttered shut, sleep claiming him after the effort he'd just expended. Anna's blue gaze fixed itself on Lucas. "When?"
"As soon as possible. A week max. He's fading pretty fast. I've had him on the list for a while and he's moved up to the number two spot. I think it's time to go." He stood and motioned for Anna to follow him into the hall. "I made some phone calls and managed to get a plane on its way. A craft specifically designed for transporting medically fragile patients. It's got all the bells and whistles, almost better than an operating room. I just need someone to take him."
"Where's he going? Why didn't you tell me?"
Lucas blew out a sigh, rubbing a hand through his reddish-blond hair. "I'm sorry. I haven't really had a chance. All this came together so fast."
"No, it's okay," she rushed to assure him. "I want what's best for Paulo. I knew he was on the list, I'm just a little surprised it's actually happening, that's all. Where are you taking him?"
"Rocking Wave Beach, South Carolina. They've offered to do the surgery for free. If you can travel with Paulo, then I feel confident about sending him to one of the best hospitals in the countryTravis Memorial." He studied her, wondering if he should ask. But the thought of leaving her for an extended period of time did weird things to his emotions. He took a chance and blurted, "I know that since the orphanage is considered Paulo's guardian, one of the higher-level staff will have to accompany him, and I was hoping that would be you. If I can arrange it, would you be willing to go with me?"
"Rocking Wave Beach?" She didn't like the squeak in her voice but couldn't seem to help it. "I'd rather go anywhere than there. What about another hospital, in another state?"
Lucas frowned, hope drooping at her negative response. "No, my buddy from college has offered to do this at no expense. Everything is already arranged."
"And you want me to go with you?"
"Yes. Rocking Wave is perfect. It has one of the best heart-transplant hospitals in America. I pulled some strings and got Paulo lined up on a transplant list and he's almost at the top. There's only one other person on the list who's as sick as Paulo. And the surgery will be free."
She narrowed her gaze, rubbed her chin. Nightmares from her past paraded through her thoughts, mocking her, daring her. Could she finally face her fear?
Lord, what do I do? Taking a deep breath, she said, "Okay, I'll go with him you." Almost as though to reinforce the thought, she gave a decisive nod. "Yes, I'll go."
Lucas scrubbed a hand down a cheek. "You will? You're sure? He'll need round-the-clock care until he arrives at the hospital."
"That's where you come in, right?"
Lucas furrowed his brow. The indecisiveness on his face made her wonder what was going through his mind. "Yes. I grew up not too far from Rocking Wave Beach."
She blinked at the sudden switch in topic. What did his hometown have to do with Paulo? "So you said. I remember you telling me that during one of our little talks. Haven, North Carolina, right?"
Home to the comfortably wealthy about two hours from where she'd grown up. A complete and utter contrast to her childhood of poverty and struggle. Could she really go back there? To the place where her life had fallen apart?
She had no doubt that Shawn de Chastelain, the man who wanted her dead, didn't have a clue where she was right now or she'd have seen evidence of him a long time ago. But while he may be in jail, he still had his connections to the outside world. If she returned and he found out, her life would be in danger. She'd just have to keep him from finding out. She could go, be with Paulo, and when he sufficiently recovered, return home with him. Piece of cake, right?
Anna said her goodbyes to Paulo and told Lucas, "Let me know when you have the official dates. I'll start making arrangements to leave."
She left the hospital to head back to the orphanage, her mind swirling with memories breaking to the forefront of her thoughts. Pulling into her parking spot, she leaned her head against the steering wheel to gather herself together before climbing out of the Jeep.
Shawn de Chastelain and Rocking Wave Beach. The combination was enough to send her heart crashing against her chest in sheer terror. Bringing images from the dungeons of her mind to swirl in front of her, causing bile to rise to the back of her throat. She swallowed hard and gave up fighting the memories.
Four years ago, she'd been undercover on a sting operation for the FBI, and she'd barely escaped the city with her life. Just being in the same state would be diving headlong into the memories that became nightmares the moment she lay her head on the pillow at night.
Anna sucked in a deep breath. Lord, I can't go back.
I'm not strong enough to face those memories. Just setting foot back in the United States will bring it all back and I don't want to remember!
Chewing her lip, she pondered the fact that Rocking Wave Beach was a pretty big city. Surely, with a population of a couple hundred thousand, she wouldn't run into the killer that stalked her dreams; the one she'd allowed to nose-dive her career and almost cause her to have a nervous breakdown. For a long time, she'd hidden, bogged down by depression, despair dogging her every waking moment. It had taken a long time for her to stop wishing the bullet that had pierced her uterus and left her barren had been about a foot higher to go right through her heart.
But God had allowed her to live. By trusting Him to be faithful, to get her through that awful time, she'd beaten the depression and He'd led her to the children at the orphanage in Brazil. Children who had no mother, no father and no one to tell them they were beautiful and loved. But she'd done that and slowly she'd healed at least she thought she had.
Until she'd been asked to return to the city that haunted her dreams.
The thought brought into clarity the image of the man she'd...
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Lucas, introduced in book 2, has to get his young patient to North Carolina to see a doctor who can give him a new heart.Read more