An inexplicable ailment was striking down the children of Russia; in less than forty-eight hours, American medical missionary Sarai Curtiss had watched two young patients slip away, and she feared she might have an epidemic on her hands.
Yet how could she help anyone in the middle of a violent coup? The new leadership had demanded all foreigners leave the state—on pain of death.
Unwilling to leave her clinic, but unable to combat her enemies alone, Sarai had to join forces with an unlikely ally—Roman Novik, the rebel Cobra Captain who broke her heart. Faced with a corrupt government, a brutal military and the truth of their own deepest feelings, it would be a race against time to save the lives on the line—and an entire country at risk.
About the Author
She loves to be outdoors--hiking, fishing, canoeing, skiing, snowmobiling... even doing yard work! Married to a really cute guy with devastating blue eyes, she's also a mother of four children (she homeschools two of them), is in charge of her church's Children's Church program and is active in local and online writers' groups. She loves hands-on research; she once interviewed firefighters while her garage burned down. She can most often be found buried in a book, hiding out at her local library, or taking long walks, talking to herself as she works out a story. (Or maybe she's just looking for a moment of quiet!) She loves hearing from readers and can be reached through her web site at susanmaywarren.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Sarai Curtiss's best analysis, Sasha Bednov had less than twenty-four hours to live. Just long enough for his mother to watch him slip into a coma, for his governor-candidate father to win the election and for Sarai to hear the door of opportunity close with a soft and definitive click.
So much for trying to ease suffering and save lives in the vast wasteland of Siberia, Russia.
She'd trade everything she'd worked for over the past two years for the right medicines to save this thirteen-year-old boy's life. Medicines she would also like to have had to save the countless others she'd tried to treat.
She took his limp hand and pressed it against her forehead, frustration pushing to the surface, burning tears into her eyes. She closed them, fighting a whimper. Sasha lay in the bed, his pallor gray, his shallow breathing giving off a sickly sweet odor. Maybe if she'd gotten here earlier. Then again, an earlier diagnosis would have meant intervention. Drugs, dialysis, maybe a transplant.
Not a chance of any of that in a country that still couldn't manage indoor plumbing for seventy percent of its inhabitants.
How did an otherwise healthy teen die of acute renal failure?
She heard conversation outside Sasha's bedroom door, where bodyguards and a maid murmured platitudes to his mother. Sarai set down his hand, ran hers over his smooth skin. Maybe, if she was in Moscow at the International Clinic...definitely if they were back home, at Johns Hopkins. Sasha would be heading home in a week, pink cheeks, a smile in those blue eyes.
Sometimes, despite her years invested in the backside of Russia, she hated the motherland. Loved the people. Hated the lack of resources.
Loved the friendships.
Hated her own limitations.
All she prayed for was that God would use her medical expertise to minister to the lost in Smolsk, and to be His tool, His girl. Instead she got heartache and failure. It made a girl wonder what she might be doing wrong.
She rose, hearing the muffled sobs from the next room. She stood above Sasha's bed, her throat thick. Genye was out there, Bible in his hand, hopefully speaking words of comfort to Julia Bednova. But what comfort, really, could he offer an atheist who had to say goodbye to her only son? Her only child.
Pain centered in Sarai's chest and she fought the grip of despair. God, please...intervene.
She opened the door, stepped out into the tiny hall. Even for a palatial Russian politician's flat, the penthouse apartment felt cramped. Sterile. Fake plants hung from the gold wallpapered walls, framing a beveled mirror. Under it, a mahogany-veneered side table held a Kazakhstani vase. On the black velvet settee in the next room, Julia sat hunched over, her head in her soft, manicured hands, looking every inch the trophy wife in her size four turquoise suit, her alligator stilettos. But her broken expression and the trails of mascara down her sculpted face as she looked up told Sarai the truth.
Grief would wedge through the hairline cracks in her composure and furrow scars that would mark Julia for eternity.
She understood scars. Sarai had never recovered from her own broken heart. Not really. In her darkest, most private moments, the day she walked away from Roman Novik still felt as raw, as searingly painful as it had thirteen years ago.
And she had a Savior who gave her life purpose beyond that moment. Julia had—what? A powerful husband, a bodyguard, a chauffeur, a glamorous apartment and enough fur coats to clothe every child in orphanage twenty-one back in Sarai's adopted village of Smolsk.
"Nu, how...is he?" Julia rose, extended her hand and Sarai caught it. Julia's long fingernails pressed into Sarai's palm and Sarai opted to pull the woman into a hug. She felt Julia's bones dig into her as the woman trembled. Sarai hung on a bit longer than Julia might have expected for a medical doctor.
Over Julia's shoulder, Sarai glanced at Genye. Beside him, his wife and fellow M.D., Anya, held the telephone receiver, calling for an ambulance. Sarai shook her head. It wouldn't do any good. Russians brought their sick to the hospital to die. They would find no hope in the barren, roach-infested, concrete-chipped halls of Balnitza eighty-three.
Sarai helped Julia to the settee and gave Anya a help-me glance, not wanting to make matters worse by delivering the news badly, in distorted Russian.
Anya crouched next to Julia and slowly, deliberately, gently told the woman that her son would die.
An hour later, Julia's wail still echoed off the sides of Sarai's heart. A wail that sounded painfully familiar, painfully close.
She'd heard that wail one too many times in her secreted, most frail places. The sound of being alone in her darkest hour.
Sarai prescribed a sedative, and one of Julia's bodyguards administered it along with a shot of vodka. Sarai tried to step in, to ease the shot glass from Julia's grip.
The woman glared at her.
They took the stairs down as they left, Sarai still elevator-shy after being stuck in a box the size of a telephone booth for two-plus hours the previous January. Genye seemed more subdued than usual. Anya reached for Sarai's hand.
Sarai had piled way too much hope into this meeting, and her Russian assistants knew it. She recalled the way her heart raced, her mind plowing ahead to opportunities and permissions this divine appointment might yield. Yes, she could admit she'd started to think like a Russian over the past two years. Friendships. Contacts. A favor here, another returned.
Helping the son of the governor-elect just might have given her desperately needed permissions for medicines and equipment for The Savior's Hands Medical Clinic. Maybe even funding.
Shame roiled through her. Since when had her help come with strings?
Never. Not now. Not in the future. Still, after a decade serving as a medical missionary around the world, it might put some significance to her 24/7, 365-days-per-year sacrifice to see lives changed.
Maybe God had simply forgotten the petite blonde trying to save lives in the middle of nowhere. It sure felt like it.
They emerged into the foyer of the apartment building, signed out with the storge, then exited to the street. The security door locked behind them.
A popping sound and an explosion made Sarai jump. "What was that?"
"Neznaiou! Get down!" Genye put his arm around Anya, and they crouched behind a shiny new Lada. Sarai ducked behind a black Mercedes and peeked over the hood. Overhead, cirrus clouds fractured an otherwise blue sky. In the distance, a plume of black rose beyond the skyline of nine-story buildings that ringed downtown Irkutsk. Smoke tinged the air and Sarai heard sirens wailing, as if in mournful response to the sudden chaos.
Crackling, like the sound of fireworks, raised the fine hairs on Sarai's arms.
"That's gunfire," Genye said.
Sarai glanced over at him, saw history streak across his aged face. Before becoming a man of God, Genye had done serious time as a Spetsnaz commando—special forces— soldier in Afghanistan. If he said gunfire, she'd believe him.
"What do we do?"
"Stay here." He rose, ran to the door of the apartment building. Pounded. "Let us in!"
Sarai watched as the storge shook his head. Oh, swell. Let the nice doctor and her friends perish on the street.
As if in response to her thoughts, a rumble, and the sound of metal grinding against itself rattled the air. She watched, paralyzed, as a T-90S tank rolled down the street. Thank you, Genye, for that military armament lesson last May Day parade.
Because, really she didn't need to know about the firepower, the thermal imagers and the Explosive Reactive Armor painted in camouflage to know that something was very, very wrong.
Right here, in the relatively quiet capital city of Irkutia Province, central Russia, population six hundred thousand. A nice city. A city where one might find Pepsi, or even Mountain Dew. A city that had working telephones, the Internet and even a decent pizza joint. And, on a good day, hot water and electricity.
This did not seem to be a good day. This day contained a tank. She stared at it, and the soldiers dressed in jungle green camouflage following behind it, armed with Kalashnikovs.
She rose, and a shot whizzed over her head, chipping concrete off the building behind her.
"Get down, Sarai!" Anya ran over, and Sarai's knees burned as Anya pushed her into the sidewalk.
"What's going on?"
"I don't know." Genye pulled out his keys. "But we must get out of here, back to the village. Come on."
He crouched, running over to their Nissan Largo van across the street. Keeping low, he unlocked the door, pulled open the sliding passenger door. "Poshli!"
Anya took off to his command to "move it," obviously completely trusting her soldier-turned-pastor husband. Sarai froze.
"Sarai—run!" Genye yelled. He pushed his wife in, turned and made to dash toward Sarai.
An explosion at the end of the street knocked Genye to the ground, smashing his face in the gravel. Sarai ducked. "Genye!"
Dirt rained down on the cars, a puff of residue blanketed the road. Gunfire erupted, sounding closer. Screams reverberated as background noise against the grumble of tanks and marching feet.
Sarai buried her head under her arms as her blood coursed hot through her. It was the Moscow coup all over again, complete with tanks and Molotov cocktails and Roman Novik lying in the street, bloodied.
Not again. She wasn't going to lose him again.
She found her knees, gathered her feet beneath her. "Roman!"
A hand fisted her hair, yanked her onto her backside. The flash of a knife, then dark eyes found hers. "American, go home," a man growled in English.
No, it wasn't the Moscow coup. Because, this time, Roman wasn't there to save her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's hard to beat Susan May Warren for heartwrenching romance and adventure. Sands of Time is no exception. The main character's situations and conflicting goals grab you from the first and never let go, as does their undeniable love for each other and God. I thoroughly enjoyed the play and counterplay between Sarai and Roman. Each of their wrestling matches with God is completely convincing, a feat that's not easy to pull off consistently. Warren makes her characters suffer deliciously through realizations and transformations that challenge readers right where they live.
Sarai is a missionary doctor. Roman is an FSB agent. 13 years ago they used to be in love. Now Roman is trying to get Sarai out of the country for her safety. Sarai doesn't want to leave because there is a illness that she cannot figure what the source is from. The two have to learn to put up with each other in order to get themselves into safety and away from the dangers that the government has put out against them. This book was just jammed pack with suspense. One thing keeps happening after another. You never get bored. I really liked both characters. Actually I liked Sarai a lot better than Gracie from 'In Sheep's Clothing.' Sarai was a lot stronger and able to handles things on her own. When Roman fell into the lake, I actually felt cold. And the fact that he kept his jeans on afterwards....blehhhh. I think there's a description of Roman written somewhere in the book, but I kept picturing him as James Bond a la Pierce Bronsnan. The scene at the chemical plant would have been perfect in a Bond movie. To me the most dramatic part was when Sarai screams that she hates Roman, and there's nothing Roman could do about it. It seemed so tragic. I really enjoyed this book. We are currently studying about the Cold War and Russia in one of my classes. So this book helped to see what Russian culture is like and how an American would fit into the country. I'd recommend this book for anyone who likes romantic suspense or would enjoy learning about Russian culture.
This is a fast moving, action packed, soul searching adventure. Susan has delivered another wonderful work filled with crooked politicians, hired thugs, honest & loyal secret police agents and missionaries.Roman knows where God wants him, Sarai has other ideas. Can they two resolve their differences before time runs out, before they both are killed? You won't want to put this book down. This is a must read
Susan has done it again! I totally enjoyed this action packed adventure from the very beginning. Roman is a man after God's own heart. He wants to do what God wants him to do. He finds out Sarai is in trouble and because of who he is - he has to help but how? You see, Sarai and Roman used to have a relationship about 13 years ago until Sarai walked out. So does he help or not? Why not read and find out.