Life is a Game…and Love is the Prize

Love Romance Novels Ladies?
Take a sneak peek into Chapter 1 of the second book of one of the best romance series!

“Christmas Valley Romance Series”
by Chastity Sinclair

“His face glowed in flickering candlelight and the air hissed with promise.”

The days blew past like phone poles on the highway and Ann was exhausted.
But there was so much to do. Packing, errands, details and saying goodbye to
everyone. After wading through a pediatric residency, all she wanted was to
sleep…but there wouldn’t be much of that, at least not now. And it
wasn’t as if living in San Francisco had involved a lot of fun either, let
alone dating. In fact, in that department, you could describe it as a total
drought. Med school had been grueling and insane, every moment accounted for
with night after night of caffeine-fueled study, mind-numbing exams and more
sleep-deprivation. And residency was even worse–the crazy hours making
rounds and constant struggles to hold her temper with the senior doc’s
egos. But in the end, the sacrifices were all worth it. Yes, it was a heady
feeling to add the title of MD to her name, and more than once, she caught
herself mouthing it under her breath, like trying on a new outfit.
“Ann Lamb, MD,” or, “Doctor Ann Lamb, Pediatrician.”
It was still new and hard to believe, but she was about to embark on living
her dream. Gazing from the hospital’s balcony out to the Golden Gate, the
loudspeaker’s rude crackle broke the spell.
“Dr. Lamb, to Neonatal ICU, STAT! Dr. Lamb…”
That moment of precious solitude would have to wait–a preemie was
struggling to breathe and she raced down the stairs, unwilling to wait for
the elevator. A red light flashed outside the baby’s cubicle and his heart
monitor beeped with an urgency like no other. The first-time father stood on
the other side of the glass, furrowed and ashen-faced.
“He’s going to be ok,” she told him. “I’ve got this. Why don’t
you go sit with your wife and I’ll be out soon.”
The man shuffled away, vague and disoriented. For the next few minutes, she
snaked a tiny breathing tube into the infant and let him grip her finger
while his blood pressure stabilized.

“It’s a condition called Bradycardia,” she explained. “It’s comes
with being premature. His heartbeat slowed a little bit, so blood flow to
his lungs decreased and he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. But he’s doing
fine now and he’ll outgrow this. Your son is a tough little guy.”
Although the frightened dad tried to be stoic, he was overwhelmed and a tear
escaped.
“Thank you doctor. Thank you so much,” he said, his voice catching. “I
know my boy is in capable hands. Maybe I can learn how to be tough too.”
And when she hugged him for support, he couldn’t stop trembling.

Even after a decade of study, the feisty red-head had boundless energy and
managed to retain the timeless blush of youth. Trim and lithe, with an
impish grin, she was perfectly suited to the profession. Kids liked and just
naturally trusted her. And it didn’t hurt to be pretty, or maybe it did.
All through her residency, there were professors and old school docs who
couldn’t or wouldn’t take her seriously. But worse, were the guys
convinced women made inferior doctors. It was maddening beyond belief. Some
of them, especially the surgeons, had egos the size of Manhattan and they
hit on her at every opportunity. It always seemed like she had to work
harder and stay later just to survive, and harder still, was letting these
jerks think they were heroes.
“Oh doctor Obnoxious! You’re so brilliant—what an amazing
diagnosis,” she’d fumed so many times. “How could I ever hope to be as
smart as you? I should probably quit right now and stay home to watch soap
operas, don’t you think?”
And why was it the men addressed one another as “Doctor,” but she was
routinely referred to as, “Raggedy Ann,” or “Little Bo Peep?” Well,
finally, all that was about to change.

But as proud as she was to have accomplished so much, it came with a serious
price tag, all funded by student loans and now it was time to pay the piper.
The cost of tuition, books, rent and other living expenses was staggering.
When she looked at the final tally, she realized she’d be working almost
seven years before digging out of debt.
“There’s got to be better way,” she thought, glumly.
And there was. In the entire hospital, there was only one other woman
physician, a psychiatrist named Lola Tabucci who had become Ann’s closest
friend and confidante.
“Do you know about the Fed’s Rural Doctors Program?” the shrink asked
over a rushed lunch in the cafeteria. “I’ve already signed up. The way
it works, you agree to practice in a small rural town where they need docs,
you stay five years—and eighty percent of your loans are forgiven.”
It was the fix from heaven. She’d sent query letters all over the country.
Most of the practices never replied, and those who did expected her to work
for nothing. And what no one explicitly said–but was clearly understood,
was that there no openings for a woman under any circumstances. Lola’s
advice was the magic charm that would change Doctor Lamb’s life now and
into the future.
It was a terrific opportunity. The only question was, where?

On the map, Christmas Valley looked like nothing but a
blink-your-eye-and-you’ll-miss-it wide spot in the road. The closest
hospital was an hour away, and although the town had an ancient GP eying
retirement, there wasn’t a baby doctor for fifty miles. There were plenty
of choices listed in the program’s brochure, especially for pediatricians.
“Hmmm…Christmas Valley,” she mused. “Why do I like the sound of
it?”
The encyclopedia didn’t offer much, except to say it was situated on the
banks of the Little Bigfoot River and that it was known for equestrian farms
and breeding setups. Budweiser operated a foaling and training facility in
the next county over. And that there was a river tipped the scales. Since
she was a little girl, she’d loved to fish or just laze on a Sunday
afternoon as the water rippled by. There were black and white photos too,
and although some were hazy, she found herself drawn in. One picture showed
the town’s Main Street and a hair salon with a group of smiling women
gathered outside with scissors and combs. And there was another of
Johnny’s Tack and Feed, with old pickups parked out front and cowboys
playing cards on the porch.

“I’m joining a psych practice in Iowa,” Lola told her excitedly. “So
we won’t be that far apart. I’ll bet we can figure out a few weekends
for some girl time.”
And so, on nothing but faith, she jammed every piece of clothing she owned
into her faded VW and hit the road. It was a long trip, especially alone,
but really there was no hurry, and it would be an opportunity to see the
country, something she’d always wanted to do.
It was falling into place nicely. Before leaving, she phoned the real estate
company and arranged to lease a small office next to a place called the Clip
Joint Salon.
“At least there is a salon,” she thought, relieved.
And a bit of serendipity sweetened the pot too–the new office had a tiny
studio apartment upstairs, which was just perfect, since tiny was all she
could afford. The young doc marveled at how friendly Christmas Valley folks
were on the phone. She was feeling at home there already.

Those hours at the wheel were a sweet luxury– time, time alone to think and
plan. It had been all night shift rotations and hurried meals on the run for
so long.
Now, the open road whispered to her.
“Slow down and relax,” it said.
And as she steered toward the future in a new place filled with new people,
her thoughts turned to the past, to home and family and coming of age in
Minneapolis.
For a long while, it was an idyllic childhood on the banks of the
Mississippi, not far from downtown. Then, to the joy of the family, Joey was
born–a blue-eyed bundle of energy. But at seventeen months he died
mysteriously, alone in his crib. The doctors could only shake their heads
sadly, unable to explain it. Soon after, they moved to another neighborhood
but life was never the same. She wanted to do something, to help—to find
out what happened to him, and why, spending countless hours at the library
in search of an answer. There were so many theories, it was mind-boggling.
And while she never discovered the cause, her destiny was forged.

Making detours to take in the sights was balm for the spirit. But having
only a short time to do it was frustrating—trying to see the Grand Canyon
in the space of an afternoon was like seeing a movie trailer and expecting
the whole story.
Crossing through Texas, with its desolate stretches of sagebrush and
Prickly-Pear seemed never-ending, until she came to a spot called Turkey. A
mile back, a billboard implored her to eat at Mama’s Diner, where they
guaranteed the best damn food for a hundred miles. There were trucks parked
all up and down the road, a testament, the doc thought, to Mama’s
unequivocal promise.
The place reverberated with good natured catcalls aimed at the teenage
waitress, and the aroma of brewing coffee and buttered biscuits filled the
air.
“Hey Gracie,” a trucker whooped from across the room. “You ‘bout
ready for a real man?” Another let out a wolf whistle as she passed.
“You’re all losers,” she shot back without breaking stride.
And from the jukebox in back, Dolly Parton wailed about lost love. The walls
were hung everywhere with black and white publicity photos of the Hollywood
film star, Angelica Shepard. There were autographed scenes from all her
movies including the most recent, a blockbuster western entitled Barbed
Wire, with her arms and lips wrapped around her co-star, and Tinsel-town’s
newest heartthrob, Bobby Singletary.
When the girl in cutoffs stopped to refill her customer’s coffee, Ann
remarked, “You must hear this all the time, but you look a lot like
Angelica Shepard.”
“I sure do, she’s my sister. That’s our mama over there,” she
pointed to a lithe, grey haired woman in tortoise rim glasses. “This is
her place.”
“Really? She’s my all-time favorite actress, not that I’ve had much
time for movies,” she lamented. “But I did manage to catch the new one,
Barbed Wire.”
“I love that movie too. It was Will’s first picture…um, I mean
Bobby’s first,” she stammered, correcting herself. “And I was at his
wedding in a little place called Christmas Valley last year.”
Ann blinked at the second coincidence. “That’s where I’m headed now.
I’ll be the new pediatrician.”
Waiting in line at the register, she watched the waitress huddle with her
mother, and a moment later the matriarch approached.
“Well now hello honeychild, my daughter tells me you’re gonna’ be the
baby doc in Christmas Valley.
“That’s right,” she said, taking Mama’s hand. “I’m Ann Lamb.”
“Mama Shepard and glad to meet you. You know, my other girl out in
California is godmother to the cutest twins in the world—and they’re
living in Christmas Valley. My goodness, Jess is driving an hour to see a
baby doctor, so they’ll be glad to hear the cavalry is comin’.”
She’d never pictured herself as the cavalry exactly, but maybe there was
some truth in it. Well, anyway, it had a nice ring to it.

Two days on, she wasn’t more than twenty miles from her new home, when the
engine began to sputter. First it sounded like a coffee grinder, erratic and
loud, then it quit altogether.
When the car came to a stop, she turned the key again and beseeched it.
“Just another half an hour, please…can’t you try a little harder?”
But it wouldn’t budge. She sat helpless and immobilized, and when night
fell, the whole thing became more urgent.
“Where is the cavalry now?” she wondered.
And barely a minute later a battered blue pickup pulled up behind. In the
creepy darkness, all she could make out was the silhouette of a cowboy hat.
The truck’s door opened with a squeak, and slow, even footsteps advanced,
crunching gravel on the road’s narrow shoulder.
“The tall drink of water under the Stetson tapped her passenger side
window. “Howdy Ma’am, you in some trouble here?”
She was about to speak, to apologize for her irresponsible car with
something like, “It’s never stranded me this way before, really…”
But when she caught sight of his chiseled face, the words evaporated.
“I guess I am,” she admitted, grateful for the help. “I’m Ann Lamb,
the new pediatrician in Christmas Valley.”
“Hubble Diamond, but Hub works too. I’ll grab a flashlight and have a
look. I guess this sorta’ makes you a little lost lamb, doesn’t it?”
he chuckled, pleased as punch.
It made her blood boil. But at this moment, she needed him and quickly
realized he couldn’t possibly know how much that line made her want to
strangle him.
He had a slow, deliberate way of speaking and seemed friendly enough,
sincerely willing to help–and the fact was, she was all alone on a dark
road, and Hubble was her only ticket out. But there was an edginess about
him too, a slightly mocking tone coupled with killer good looks that knocked
her off balance. His dark wavy hair and sensitive mouth surrounded by a
two-day stubble were almost hard to look at, he was so beautiful.
“You’ve got bigger problems than I can fix,” he said from behind,
hunched over the engine. “Looks like your motor’s frozen up. Tell you
what, I’m headed into town, so hop in Doc.”
Did she have a choice? And when she fumbled for the suitcase his long,
tanned arm reached right past her. “Let me get that.”
She had to admit, the man radiated confidence. As they navigated twisty
Mistletoe Road through pines and scrub oaks descending to the valley’s
floor, and Main street, she told him about the rural doctors program and how
she’d chosen Christmas Valley mostly on intuition. She would have liked to
let him know, too, what she’d been through with the good old boys back in
San Francisco, but not after that lost lamb crack.
And for his part, he talked about how the family’s farm had fallen on hard
times since his younger brother died in a car accident.
“My folks can’t manage the place themselves anymore, so I’ve come home
to do it.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
It had been a long day though, and all she wanted was a quick meal and a
place to sleep.
“Is there a motel in town?”
“Sure, that would be the Christmas Valley Lodge. But can I take a doc to
dinner first?”
A welcome tide of relief dissolved the frustration of the car’s betrayal.
After a day like this, dinner with a gorgeous, interesting cowboy sounded
perfectly lovely.
“You’re a prince,” Ann told him, meaning it. Maybe the offending
little lost lamb jibe could be forgiven, maybe.

The restaurant was a funky roadhouse a mile out of town called the Garden
Path. It was paneled in dark wood and flocked red velvet, and at the next
table a starry-eyed couple held hands, whispering softly. It had been so
long since she’d shared a meal with anyone not wearing a white coat, it
was unfamiliar territory. Hubble took the lead though, and her awkwardness
disappeared.
“All I know is the families in town are pretty excited to have a
pediatrician. Old doc Morton should have retired years ago. Now don’t get
me wrong, he’s been godsend–but he’s slowing down.”
Across the table, his face glowed in flickering candlelight and the air
hissed with promise. His were the bluest eyes she’d ever seen and when he
spoke, watching his lips move made her squirm. Maybe I ought be thanking the
car instead of cursing it, she considered.
“You’re smiling, is it the food—or the company?”
“Am I?” She blushed, as if he were reading her mind. “I guess I was
thinking I’m glad you came along. I don’t know what would have
happened…”
“But you didn’t answer the question.”
She was long out of practice and feeling woefully inept at the art of
flirting.
“Both. The pasta is delicious and so is the company.”
All through the evening, white hot chemistry sparked in the air. They
traded quips and opinions on small town life compared to big city living,
and when she looked at the time, it was almost midnight.
With drooping eyelids she told him, “I need some sleep.”
Minutes later, they were parked in front of the Christmas Valley Lodge. But
with the hour so late, the check-in office was dark.
“Well see, that’s the thing about livin’ in a small town,” he
drawled, with a hint of sarcasm. “The hotel belongs to my aunt Hilda and I
know right where she hides the key.”
He disappeared around the back for a few minutes, and with the flip of a
switch, the lodge lit up like the Fourth of July. He gripped her bag with
one hand and with the other, he threw open the door to a lavish suite.
“Hub, I can’t afford this—not even for one night. It’s beautiful,
really, but…”
“No charge when there’s a doctor in the house,” he said.
And when she turned, his soft mouth found hers. A lifetime of rules flew out
the window that night and scattered on the evening breeze,

Chastity Sinclair, Author

Chastity Sinclair, Author

About the Author,
Chastity Sinclair

When asked to pen a bio by her marketing team, storyteller and  romance fiction author Chastity Sinclair found it difficult even knowing where  to begin. A private and slightly reclusive woman by nature, she wasn’t much  inclined to bare her soul to the reading public. That is, until she realized  there was so much of herself, her own crazy life, thinly disguised in her torrid  tales, that it was simply too late—those beans were already  spilled.

Living and working in the wine country, north of San Francisco, California, Chastity is unmarried and raises horses on a small farm surrounded by vineyards. In many ways, her life mirrors that of her characters…By day, she tends to the animals, including Sam, a wickedly smart Border Collie with his own ideas about what’s appropriate, and Buster, an enormous, willful, spiteful Maine Coon cat who manages to make her laugh at every opportunity.

But at night, when the day’s work is done and the stars come out,  she turns to the thing she loves best—sharing stories of delicious, erotic dream  states and powerful romantic characters in the fictional hamlet of Christmas  Valley, a locale based on the town she grew up in, and on the quaint villages  dotting the wine country landscape.

Ms.  Sinclair is the author of numerous short stories, articles and memoirs.  She is currently hard at work on the  next book in her acclaimed Christmas Valley Romance series as well as a  collaborative effort on an upcoming screenplay. She loves to hear from readers  and may be reached at: chastitySinc@aol.com

Follow Chastity and her romance novels at chastitysinclair.com

Comments

  1. Lil' Miss Gossip says:

    Thank you for sharing your novel with us! I will have to now go and read book 1. I am sure you will make many girls happy with your novels. Every girl needs to be swept away in romance, so thank you for being the one to take us on this journey with you.

    • Dear community–thank you for taking the time to read. Sincerely. It’s humbling. I saw a nice bump in sales at Amazon and of course, and I’m grateful. I hope those readers will enjoy the first book in the series…I’ll be anxious to hear. And if Lil will allow it, down the line, I’ll publish the next chapter.

      C. Sinclair

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