A Drummer Boy for Christmas? Really? As a nurse, Jane Cane is committed to her patients. She is also dedicated to helping her sister raise their younger siblings. So when it comes to dating, Jane remembers her mother’s flawed relationships, and she never goes all-in. Then she meets Tim.
Rock drummer turned youth pastor, Timothy James Steady, has made a few relationship mistakes. He wonders if God isn’t calling him to remain single. Then he meets Jane.
God just may have plans for hearth and home for them…if Tim can convince Jane that he’s good enough for her.
Slowing her pace, Jane inhaled frosty air until it felt as if her lungs would burst. She released the breath in a gusty sigh.
“Gorgeous,” she whispered, looking beyond the dark, lonely parking lot to the eternal sky above. It sparkled with stars that looked as big as her fist, as if God had spilled a purse of diamonds across a swath of black velvet. She shook her head at her silly self. Diamonds. Velvet. Good thing she was at the end of her rotation, not the beginning. She didn’t need a lot of shuteye to get by, but between doing her own shifts and covering for Monica, she actually felt a little sleep deprived. The tiredness was making her fanciful. Not her normal state. Not at all.
Jogging on the spot in front of her car, she stretched her arms over her head.
“You went running after a twelve-hour shift? I can’t believe you,” said someone behind her.
Jane recognized the voice—Margaret from Maternity—and turned, smiling. “I can’t help it. I’ve always been energetic. It’s a curse.”
“A curse I wish you’d share,” Margaret grumbled. “I’ve heard of exercising after work. I’ve just never seen anyone do it. I’m dead on my feet. But enough complaining.” Her tone brightened. “It’s Christmas, and I’ll be able to sleep for a few hours before the kids roar into my room with their stockings. I’ve got seven days off now. Merry Christmas, Jane!”
“Back at you, and drive safe. It’s icing up.”
Margaret blew on her hands. “I don’t have to go running around the streets to know that. Brrr.”
Jane started her car, but let it idle until the windows fully defrosted. Yes, she was more than ready to be home now, but there was no point rushing and risking an accident. Better late in this world than early in the next as her sister Candy would say.
Margaret was long gone when Jane pulled out of the parking lot, and the streets were fairly quiet, though Jane was always surprised by how many people were out late at night—or early, early in the morning.
She smiled as she shoulder-checked and moved through the last big intersection between her and home. Maybe Candy had left her a plate of goodies. She probably had. She was a great sister that way. Jane was trying to think of a special way to say thank you when she saw the headlights. A red pickup fishtailed around a corner and seemed to be coming straight at her.
She blinked, but it was no optical illusion. The truck was solidly over the yellow, totally taking up her lane. Another vehicle, also traveling toward her—in its correct lane—made it impossible for her to move over. There was nowhere to go.
She hit her brakes and lay on the horn. Her vehicle skidded to a stop, but it wasn’t enough.
Her last conscious thought through the noise of crumpling steel and the shriek of metal on metal was that the man driving still hadn’t seen her. His face through the windshield, freakishly clear to her, was confused and dopey-eyed, expressing the “What?” of someone just waking up.
The room was filled with the gloomy, gray light of tentative day, and the rustle of bedside curtains and rattling clank of the kitchen cart were familiar but confusing. Breakfast trays were being handed out to patients throughout the ward, but why was Jane there for it? They had kitchen staff for that.
Another nurse—it sounded like her friend Clarissa, actually—was describing injuries to a family member: broken ribs, punctured lung, broken wrist, possible damage to her spleen...
Tears pricked at the back of Jane’s eyes, and she tuned out whatever else Clarissa was saying and said a silent prayer for the victim. Whoever it was had a long, painful recovery ahead of them.
Jane reached out to take the cover off the plate and show it to her patient. It was so weird that she couldn’t see the patient’s face. And it was extra weird that she was back to kitchen duty. She hadn’t delivered food to patients since she was a teenaged volunteer.
Her hand wouldn’t move. She couldn’t lift the cover. Her other hand was being held? She shook her head a little. Heard a small croak-throated groan. Was that her?
One of her hands seemed to be tied down. Blankets heavy as concrete sheets weighted her to the bed. Everything hurt. Everything. And she couldn’t move. She still couldn’t move! Jane’s heart pounded, and itchy panic crawled over her skin.
Two glaring headlights popped into her memory. A grinding scream of metal on metal replayed in her head.
“That is kind of ironic,” she heard her sister Candy mutter.
“What is?” Jane rasped and then swallowed hard. The action felt like a knife sliding down her throat, but at least her voice worked again, sort of. “And why am I tied up?”
“Jane!” Candy turned quickly. “You’re awake!”
Cold, heavy dread settled in Jane’s stomach, and she broke into a sweat. It really was her. In a hospital bed. Injured. She couldn’t bear the concern in Candy’s reddened eyes. Everything flooded back, including pain, pain, pain. What had they given her, morphine or oxycodone? Either way, the meds were wearing off. She needed more.
She forced energy she didn’t feel into her words. “Merry Christmas, eh?”
Candy’s smile trembled, perhaps closer to tears than cheer. “Well, it’s getting better all the time.”
Jane was saved from having to utter anything else when the doctor on call appeared. Henricksen. Not her first choice, but not a complete numbskull. She tried to focus on what he was saying and hoped Candy was doing a better job than she was.
Giving medical information was completely different than receiving it.
Jane’s emotions kept her from processing the terms he bandied about so casually. Her brain stuttered and stalled over the details, at what they meant for her personally. She could hardly breathe, but now it didn’t feel like a side effect from the medication.
Her lung and ribs would heal. The blood they’d found elsewhere in her abdomen—she’d had blood in her abdomen? Apparently, yes—and they’d keep an eye on it? Well, thanks so much, she wanted to say scornfully, but he was rushing on.
His concern was her arm.