READ EXCERPT - Unlikely Angels



Unlikely Angels
by: Linda Windsor, Barbara Jean Hicks, Annie Jones, Diane Noble

Multnomah Publishers Inc.
ISBN: 1576735893
November 1999


Chapter One

"Does this mean what I think it means?"

Nurse Audra Anderson couldn't believe the giant hunk of diamond, surrounded by a cluster of smaller precious gems nestled in its satin lined case. With a wry twist of her lips, she glanced up at the handsome doctor who presented it to her. It was best to make a joke of it, just in case. She and Mark had been dating six months. Their colleagues said they were the perfect couple. Audra almost felt that way, save one twinge of insecurity. Dr. Mark Chadwick was from an old Southern Maryland family-- blue bloods; Audra was an orphan who'd changed bedpans to support herself through medical school.

"Well, it's phase one of what I think you think it is. I am asking you to marry me, Audra." Mark's smile stretched white against his golf-course tanned face, revealing a perfect row of teeth. Dr. G, the nurses called him behind his back, short for Dr. Gorgeous. He was sure of himself, sure of the ring, and knew her answer.

Well, not quite. Audra gave him a quizzical look. "Phase one?"

Mark slipped a reassuring arm about her waist as they stood on the balcony of her apartment, surrounded by the glittering lights of the city. "This is a pre-engagement ring," he explained. "According to Chadwick tradition, my sweet, sealing the agreement between the prospective bride and groom. You don't get the official one until it's been formally announced by our families."

"Oh. For a minute I was afraid I'd have to get a blood test," she teased.

Must be nice to have old family traditions. If Audra had them, she knew nothing of them, even though her father had come from an old Virginia family as prestigious as Mark's. His family, who had disowned him for marrying beneath his station, had never accepted his orphan as anything more than a burden. Audra's blood was tainted with that of a New York soap actress.

Mark lifted one brow and gave a wounded grunt. "This isn't exactly the reaction I expected."

Audra shook off the invasion of past insecurity, determined to savor the joy of the present. She'd come a long way from being an unwanted burden to her father's family. "Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!"

"Wait, put on the ring first. Then we'll seal this deal properly."

"Sounds like a contract." Audra snickered.

"It is," Mark slipped the ring on her finger. It fit perfectly.

"Well, half a contract," she amended.

Mark put aside the empty box and turned her into his arms. "Don't worry. My folks adore you. The fact that you hail from the Harvest Home Andersons doesn't hurt, but they'd love you anyway...just like me."

His whisper died as he drew Audra fully into his embrace and sealed the agreement with a fervent affection. Audra's discomfiture at the reference to her being of the "right" family melted. Dr. Mark Chadwick loved her, with or without her pedigree. This was what she'd prayed for on many a lonely, abandoned nightÑacceptance for who she was and, in later years, the perfect man for her. Love was good. Life was good. God was good.

So what was that annoying noise bleeping in the background of her rush of happiness? Mark pulled away abruptly with a muttered oath. Reaching inside his designer dinner jacket, he withdrew his beeper and read the bright red numbers flashing across the mini-screen.

"Of all the nights!"

Ah, the beeper. The curse of private life for anyone in the medical profession. Yet, not even that could dim the light shining in Audra's gaze. She pointed toward the telephone hanging in the kitchenette, which was part of her living room, and noticed for the first time since their arrival from the osteopathic department's dinner party that Mark was not the only one with a blinking red light demanding attention. Her answering machine signaled she had waiting calls.

Mark was needed at the ER for a pedestrian versus compact car case requiring surgery. With a reluctant smile and gallant kiss on the hand now boasting the expensive cluster of jewels, he took his leave.

It wasn't until Audra closed and bolted the door that she floated over to the answering machine and pushed the button. The weight of the ring felt foreign to her left hand. Next time she exercised, she could leave the wrist weights off that one, she thought, grinning from ear to ear. God was so good!