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From the Publisher"An excellent read... a moving story"
-RT Book Reviews on FLYING HIGH
U.S. marine Colonel Nelson Wainwright was lucky to make it back from Afghanistan alive after his helicopter went down in a blaze of machine gunfire. Now he's bent on denying the excruciating pain he still feels months after the crash, fearing it will keep him from attaining the only thing he wants—a promotion to four-star general. But when he meets the distractingly beautiful Audrey Powers, his world is rocked. Could there be ...
U.S. marine Colonel Nelson Wainwright was lucky to make it back from Afghanistan alive after his helicopter went down in a blaze of machine gunfire. Now he's bent on denying the excruciating pain he still feels months after the crash, fearing it will keep him from attaining the only thing he wants—a promotion to four-star general. But when he meets the distractingly beautiful Audrey Powers, his world is rocked. Could there be something Nelson desires more than four stars?
As a physician, Audrey knows the pain in Nelson's neck could mean trouble—and when her interest in him becomes more than medical, she's got some trouble herself. Scarred by an early heartbreak, she wants nothing to do with a romantic involvement. Now, as their lives intertwine, the two find it's time to face old wounds, and discover whether new love has the power to heal their hearts forever.
Nelson Wainwright, Colonel, United States Marine Corps, glanced at the overcast sky, dropped his briefcase and switched on the television. He hated getting wet when he was fully dressed; in fact, he disliked untidiness and considered a wrinkled uniform the epitome of it. He turned on the television to check the weather and read the news beneath the picture: sixty-eight and cloudy. Rain likely. Cooler than usual for May.
"What will a man endure to achieve his aims?" the motivational speaker said, as Nelson reached to switch off the television. The question mocked him, enticed him to linger and listen. "How much will he sacrifice? What will he give? What will he gain? And what can he lose?"
Ordinarily, Nelson did not allow media gurus or self-styled motivators to impress him, but those words hounded him as he drove from Alexandria, Virginia, to his office in the Pentagon. He had spent twenty-four of his forty-five years in the Marine Corps, and as recompense for working so hard and shaking hands with death more times than he wanted to remember, he intended to retire with four silver stars on his collar. He'd love to retire with five stars, but nothing less than becoming a four-star general would satisfy him.
Nelson knew two reasons why, even with good fortune, hard work and shrewdness, he had a less-than-even chance of retiring as a full general. His superiors did not know that an injury to his neck pained him sufficiently to make him unfit for duty, nor did they know of his failure to report a corporal whom he'd discovered asleep while on guard duty in Afghanistan. He didn't doubt that if his superiors knew of the unremitting pain he suffered, they would force his immediate retirement. And if he managed to camouflage that, he could be dismissed or at least disciplined for not having reported that marine's misconduct. Either meant he would finish military life as a colonel.
He parked in the space reserved for officers of his rank, and as light raindrops spattered his shoulders, he dashed inside the Pentagon. But as he entered his office, an eerie feeling settled over him, and every pore of his skin jumped to alert as if he were back in Afghanistan anticipating a missile strike. He rushed to answer the telephone even as dread washed through his system.
"'Morning. Wainwright speaking."
"Good morning, sir," a female said. "This is Lieutenant McCafferty in the Commandant's office, and I'm sorry I have to give you this sad news."
Nelson leaned forward, mentally bracing himself, and listened as she told him that his brother had perished in an automobile accident that morning.
"You're listed as next of kin, sir, and as guardian for Commander Wainwright's child, Richard Wainwright. Let us know what we can do for you. This office will send you an order for two weeks' leave effective immediately."
He sat there for an hour dealing with his emotions and collecting his thoughts. Joel, his younger brother and only relative other than little Ricky, had been looking forward to a great future in the Navy, and now Well, what was done was done. The Navy would take care of Joel; he had to look after four-year-old Ricky.
As the days passed, Ricky didn't respond favorably to the succession of foster mothers with whom he placed the boy, and Nelson couldn't help noticing negative changes in the child's behavior, from bright and cheerful to sullen and quiet.
"That does it," he said to himself when, on one of his daily visits, Ricky clung to his leg in a fit of tears and wouldn't let go. He picked the child up, paid the foster mother for the remainder of the month and took Ricky home with him.
He wasn't a religious man, but he gave sincere thanks when Lena Alexander, whom his secretary had recommended, walked into his house. She greeted him, looked down at Ricky, who loitered behind, dragging a beach towel, and her face lit up with a smile as she bent to the child and opened her arms.
"My name is Lena, and I love little boys. What's your name?"
When Ricky smiled at her and told her his name was Ricky Wainwright, Nelson relaxed. Seconds later, Lena was giving Ricky a hug and the child was telling her about his imaginary friends. The next morning, Nelson moved her personal belongings to his home and settled her in a guest room.
It had been years since he had shared his living quarters, not since the four months during which he'd lived with Carole James, the woman who had brought another man—his closest friend—to the bed they shared, and had cared so little for Nelson that she let him catch her cheating. The woman who would have been his wife within six weeks. In the more than five years that since followed, he enjoyed the quiet, though not the loneliness, and hearing Ricky's joyful noises and Lena's humming as she worked buoyed his spirits. Home was suddenly a pleasant place, especially at dinner when Lena and the boy were company for the delightful meals Lena prepared.
"What's the matter with your neck, Colonel?" Lena asked him at breakfast several days after joining his household. "Looks to me like you always favoring your neck. Better get it looked after. Trouble don't stand still in this world, either gets better or worse. You know what I'm saying?"
He did, indeed. Didn't the pain in his neck get worse daily? "I'm dealing with it, Lena. Don't let it bother you."
"Ain't bothering me none, Colonel. You the one that's uncomfortable. I declare, I wish somebody'd tell me why men so scared of a doctor. In the almost thirty years that I worked as an LPN—you know, licensed practical nurse— I never yet saw a male patient who didn't wait till he was half dead before he went to the doctor. You better do something before you get a problem with your spine."
He didn't have to answer her, because she left the breakfast room humming what he suspected was her favorite hymn.
"What's the name of that tune, Lena?" he asked when she came back with a carafe of hot coffee.
"If you don't know that song, you in trouble. Even the devil knows 'Amazing Grace.'"
He held his breath, watching while she filled his cup to the brim. He bent over and sipped enough so that he could raise the cup to his lips without spilling the coffee.
"That surprises me, Lena. I would have thought the devil was more creative than to "
He stopped. Her expression amounted to wonderment at his obtuseness. "Colonel Wainwright, I never said he sang the song. I said he knew it."
She walked with him to the door holding Ricky, who enjoyed telling him goodbye and getting a hug at more than six feet and five inches above the floor. "You go see a doctor today, Colonel."
"See a doctor, Colonel," Ricky parroted.
"Ricky, you have to call him Uncle Nelson," he heard Lena say as he headed for his car.
"You sit down here and build your castle or read your book while I tend to a little business," Lena said to Ricky one morning about a month later as soon as Nelson left home. Ricky talked to the pictures in his books and pretended to read.
She dialed the hospital. "Let me speak to Dr. Powers, please."
"Dr. Powers speaking. How may I help you?"
"Audrey, honey, this is Aunt Lena. I love my boss. He's a wonderful man, so good with his little nephew. I wish—"
"Aunt Lena, I am not interested in your matchmaking. I'm glad the guy is a good father, and I'm glad you like your job. Now—"
"Hear me out, Audrey. Something is wrong with this man's neck. If he's not holding it and rubbing it, he's got something wrapped around it, and I can't get him to see a doctor. It's free for officers at Walter Reed Hospital, but I can't get him to go. Last night, he stopped eating his dinner, got up and put something around it. I hate to see him suffer like this. Come over one night or maybe this Sunday when you're off and have a look at it. He's such a good man."
"If it bothers him enough, Aunt Lena, he'll do something about it. I'd rather not meddle in that."
"Well I I just don't know what to do. It's not like he was hiding from the law." Lena hung up. She would find a way to get him to a doctor, he could bet on that.
"You didn't commit no crime, did you, Colonel?" she asked Nelson one night at dinner. When he stopped eating and stared at her, she pretended not to notice. "I mean, you not hiding out or something? You know what I mean, don't you?"
He half laughed and pointed his fork at her. "No, Lena, I don't know what you mean, and stop needling me." Then he laughed outright. "It just occurred to me that you're a blessing to my ego. I get so damned much deference at the Pentagon that I've started to believe I deserve it, but I can count on you to bring me down front and keep my feet to the fire, so to speak."
She turned her back in order to get the piece of celery that had lodged in the gap between her front teeth, then turned back to him. "I didn't mean to get familiar, but—"
He laughed, and he wasn't bad-looking when he wiped that stern expression from his face. "I don't believe you said that."
"Well, truth is I care about what happens to you, and I've had plenty experience with people who've been injured, so I know that neck of yours is a serious problem."
"That's right. Sometime I forget you're a nurse. Lena, I'm not entirely foolish. A missile hit the helicopter that I was piloting in Afghanistan and when the copter crashed, I got some injuries, and this whiplash was one of them.
My other injuries healed. This one is taking a little longer. That's all."
"Hmm. You had that before I came here, and I've been working for you for over three months. That's more than long enough for whiplash to heal. Why don't you go over to Walter Reed and let them take care of it?"
"I can't do that, Lena. If my superiors find out that my neck is still giving me trouble, they may force me to retire. It's bad enough that I'm still on desk duty."
"Oh, dear. I see what the problem is, and if you go to a private doctor, it'll be reported. Well, I'll pray for you. I sure will."
He seemed relieved to get that subject out of the way, but he didn't know that she wasn't used to accepting defeat. She put Ricky to bed, and while Nelson read the child's favorite story to him, she called her niece.
"Audrey, could you do me a favor?" she asked after they greeted each other. "I want to go on my church's outing Saturday, day after tomorrow. They're going to Crystal Caverns down in Strasburg, Virginia, and I always wanted to go. Year before last when they went, I couldn't get away from work. Could you look after Ricky—" she didn't dare mention Nelson "—for me Saturday? Just give him lunch and read him some stories. He's no trouble, and sweet as he can be."
She listened to the silence until she thought she would scream. Finally, Audrey said, "What time do you think you'll get back there?"
"All right. I'll do it this once, but you know I don't cook."
"Sandwiches will do just fine." She hadn't planned to take the excursion, but she phoned the organizer and got her seat. Maybe she could kill two birds with one stone. Nelson Wainwright was a catch for any woman.
Audrey Powers did not relish the thought of babysitting, not even for half an hour. But her aunt had been so supportive during her struggles—first to get through college and then to complete her medical training—that she could think of hardly anything she wouldn't do for Lena. She stuffed half a dozen Chupa Chups into her handbag and stepped out of her house at barely sunup. The drive from her house in Bethesda to Alexandria, circling Washington on the Beltway, took her only twenty minutes in the sparse Saturday-morning traffic. She parked in front of the beige-colored brick town house at 76 Acorn Drive. Lena greeted her at the door.
"You're just in time. My taxi will be here in fifteen minutes." She turned around and pointed to the little boy. "This is Ricky. Ricky, Audrey is going to stay with you today."
Audrey looked down at the child who stared at her with an almost plaintive expression, and her heart seemed to constrict as she knelt beside him. "Hello, Ricky."
"Do you like little boys? Miss Lena loves little boys." His expression had changed to one of challenge.
"I love boys, especially little ones, and since I don't have a little boy, I can love you, can't I?"
He nodded, but kept looking at her. Suddenly, he smiled. "You can play with my bear and my blanket."
Realizing that that meant acceptance, she hugged and thanked him.
"Nelson will be down for breakfast around eight-thirty," Lena said as the horn blast signaled the arrival of her taxi.
"He'll be Well, if he's here, why am I ?" Audrey said as the door closed after Lena.
Audrey took Ricky's hand and followed him to the refrigerator. When she opened it, he pointed to the milk. "Chocolate milk, please."
She poured the milk, thinking that she couldn't wait to give her aunt a piece of her mind. "I've been had," she said when she didn't see any cooked food in the refrigerator. "I'm thirty years old, and I let my aunt hoodwink me."
He held the glass up to her. "Sugar, please."
"I don't believe anybody puts sugar in your milk, but since nobody gave me any instructions, have a field day."
She put a teaspoon of sugar in the milk, stirred it and watched his eyes sparkle with delight. Now what? Her search for cereal or anything else a child would eat for breakfast proved futile.
"What do you eat for breakfast, Ricky?"
"Don't even think it. Try to bamboozle me, will you?" She found some bread, toasted it and, aware that he had a passion for things sweet, slathered the toast with butter and raspberry jam, poured a glass of orange juice and sat Ricky down for breakfast.
"How old are you, Ricky?"
He held up four fingers. "Five."
She wondered if that was another of his games aimed at addling her, and it occurred to her that she might have to spend ten or twelve hours dealing with Ricky's little shenanigans. While he ate, she looked around for a coffeepot and the makings of a good cup of coffee. She didn't remember having gone so long after waking without her caffeine fix. As soon as the smell of coffee permeated the kitchen, Ricky held out his glass.
"Can I please have some coffee, Audie?"
She would look back one day and know that was the moment when he sneaked into her heart. "You little devil," she said, as laughter spilled out of her. A lightheartedness, a joy, seemed to envelop her, and she lifted him from his chair and hugged him.
"No, you can't have any coffee, and you know it."
His lips grazed her cheek in a quick, almost tentative, kiss, delighting and surprising her. "Now be a good boy and finish your milk."
"Okay. I'm four."
She was about to thank him for telling the truth when the sound of heavy steps loping down the stairs reminded her that they were not alone, and her belly tightened in anticipation.
Posted December 9, 2008
Marine Colonel Nelson Wainwright hides his neck injury sustained when a missile hit his coptor in Afghanistan because he fears that revealing it would end his career. After almost twenty-four years in the service, Nelson still hopes to retire as a Four-Star General, but knows his chances remain slim. On top of that he grieves the death of his brother a Navy Commander, who named him as guardian to look after his four-year-old nephew Ricky. Nelson hires Lena Alexander as Ricky¿s nanny.<P> Lena notices how often Nelson massages his neck so she calls her niece Dr. Audrey Powers who tells her aunt to stop the matchmaking. When Audrey and Nelson meet, sparks fly and they fall in love, but she wants to help him with his whiplash problem while he stubbornly thinks in terms of love vs. his career.<P> FLYING HIGH is part of a four book miniseries by different authors. The only book this reviewer read is Gwynne Forster¿s terrific tale but if the other novels are anywhere near the quality of this one, the collection will be one of the year¿s best. The story line is a crisp military relationship drama that emphasizes the characters while showcasing what our real heroes must do to thrive in a world where ¿out of bed¿ (even when not dodging bullets) is the norm. The lead couple is a delightful pair and the support cast (the military brass, the hospital staff, and his nephew and her aunt), enhance the look inside the lead pair. This is a strong tale that fans will enjoy, but note that I am biased because I hold in high esteem Ms. Forster writing skills.<P> Harriet Klausner
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I was completely disappointed in this book. I have read this author before and this was a let down. The writing, in my opinion, was terrible. The author used too many big words. I also thought the dialog was unrealistic. I don't know anyone that speaks like that. This left the characters box-like. The subplot ended disappointingly. I thought the entire thing was a bit unrealistic.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.