SWTS

Stranded with the Surgeon

Surgeon Aidan Stowe’s hands will never fully recover, and he wants nothing more than to escape from the city and wallow in self-pity. When the plane carrying him to the Yukon crashes in the Canadian wilderness, only his knowledge – and nurse Kerry MacIntyre’s hands – can save the lives of the injured passengers until help arrives. Both of them have sworn off romance for their own reasons, even though they can’t deny the chemistry between them. But when they are rescued and the danger is past, can they leave their mutual attraction behind?

 

Read an excerpt …

 

Chapter 1
     The plane shuddered. Kerry MacGuire sucked in a shaky breath as her fingernails dug into the leather armrest. She shot a worried glance around the cabin. Why didn’t any of the other passengers seem overly concerned? Was she the only one who’d felt the tremors?
          Calm down. Relax. Breathe.
     Exhaling slowly, she willed the taut muscles in her shoulders and arms to loosen up. The plane wasn’t really disintegrating. Turbulence, that was all.      It was just her – her and her white-knuckle fear of flying. She’d be fine. Nothing to worry about.
     As she released her death grip on the armrest, she gazed out the window. Which was weird in itself, according to her friends back in Toronto. People who were terrified of flying weren’t supposed to enjoy looking out into space. Yet whenever she did fly – which she made a point of doing as rarely as possible – she always chose a window seat.
     Below, the boreal forest of Canada’s Yukon Territory stretched to the horizon, where the snow-capped peaks of the St. Elias Mountains glistened in the August sun. A ribbon of dark blue – the Yukon River – snaked its way through miles of tamarack pines, fir and spruce.
     The toddler in the seat across the aisle from her sniffled and let out a small sob, drawing her attention away from the panoramic vista before her. His hair tousled, his cheeks flushed, the little boy had his arms wrapped around his mother’s neck. He’d been perfectly happy before takeoff, but he’d been whiny and clingy from the minute the small aircraft had taxied down the runway in Whitehorse on the 45-minute flight to Bonanza.
     “Is he sick?” she asked the woman. “Maybe I can help. I’m a nurse.”
     An oncology nurse, she could have added. Not a pediatrician. Still, her medical training might help a little if the boy was ill.
     No, she reminded herself, she wasn’t even an oncology nurse. Not any more. Right now she wasn’t a nurse at all, only a daughter whose mother needed her. She was finished with nursing, at least for the foreseeable future.
     The child’s medical problems were none of her business.
     “No,” the toddler’s mother answered. “He doesn’t like to fly. I didn’t think he’d be so miserable, though.”
     “Don’t worry. It’s a short flight.”
     The plane rumbled, this time seeming to come from directly beneath her seat. The noise grew louder until it was a deafening roar inside the cabin.
     This wasn’t paranoia. Something was definitely wrong!

***
     “Please fasten your seat belts.” The flight attendant’s voice, calm and controlled, crackled over the intercom into the cabin.
     Dr. Aidan Stowe opened his eyes just as the plane lurched to one side. The young woman in the seat beside him let out a terrified squeak as she tumbled into his lap, slamming her forehead against his denim-clad knee. Shimmery pink painted nails sank into his thigh, her fingers clutching a handful of tender flesh. Another couple of inches … He didn’t even want to think about where those fingernails would have ended up.
     The plane righted itself, and the woman scrambled back to a sitting position, practically cowering in the corner. Their eyes met, and a horrified expression filled her face.
     A very interesting face, he determined. Pale creamy skin tinged by a flush of embarrassment, a scattering of freckles dotting an upturned nose, and long lashes surrounding eyes the shade of grass after a summer shower.
     “Oh … I’m so sorry …” she sputtered. A thick strand of caramel-coloured hair tumbled down over her forehead, and she quickly tucked it behind her ear. “I didn’t mean to … oh, are you all right …?” She uncurled herself, making a move to run her fingers over the injured area, then apparently realized the consequences if she did. The blush of pale pink on her face deepened to crimson.
     Aidan actually felt sorry for the woman, which was more emotion than he’d been able to conjure up lately. His thigh stung, and he’d have bruises in the morning from where her nails had almost pierced his skin, but she was so obviously upset, he didn’t have the heart to tell her that. Besides, this was the closest he’d been to having finger marks anywhere on his body for the past few months. “I’m fine.”
     “Are you sure? I didn’t have time to put my seatbelt on before–”
     The plane jolted again. This time, she clung to the armrest until it leveled off.
     Clutching the two seatbelt straps, she tried to jam the ends together, but her fingers were shaking so badly she couldn’t fasten the buckle. She couldn’t stop the curse that slipped past her lips.
     Aidan had no desire to be on speaking terms with anyone, especially a damsel in distress, but the woman was obviously on the way to hysterics. “Here,” he offered, taking the metal ends out of her hands and slipping them together. One of the few things he could do with his hands these days.
     She gave him a wobbly smile. “Thanks,” she said. “I’m not a very good flyer.”
     “I noticed. How’s your forehead?”
     For a moment, she seemed confused, then apparently remembered her head-on collision with his thigh. “Oh,” she replied, “it’s fine. No damage. I’ve been told my head could break concrete,” she joked.
     “Oh.” This was that time in the get-acquainted stage of a relationship where he should laugh and give her a compliment. But he had no intention of getting to know anyone. He was making this trip to be alone, and alone he was determined to be.
     “Are you on vacation?” Her voice was quivery, as if it was taking every ounce of her self-control to keep herself from falling apart. Something stirred to life inside him, something he was determined to tamp down.
     He slid her a glance. Her fingers were intertwined in her lap, and she was sitting so rigidly, he was sure she’d snap in two if she so much as moved a muscle.
     “No.” He shifted slightly, but enough that she would get the message he wasn’t interested in making small talk.
     Before … he would have enjoyed the attention of a beautiful woman. Not now.
     “Me either,” she went on, apparently missing the change in his position. Or ignoring it. “I’m going back home. My mother broke her hip, so I took a leave of absence from the hospital where I work to come home and look after her. She’s getting on in years, and –”
     The plane shivered again. “Oh …” she squeaked. “I really don’t like to fly … but I had no choice if I wanted to get home quickly, you see …”
     Aidan couldn’t stand it any more. If he didn’t stop her now, he was convinced she wouldn’t stop rambling on until they reached Bonanza. “Miss …”
     She gazed up at him, her green eyes huge. “Oh, I’m sorry. I should have introduced myself. My name’s Kerry MacGuire.” She held out her hand.
     He had no choice but to take it. “Aidan Stowe.”
     “Aidan. That’s a beautiful name. Is it Irish?”
     He shrugged. “I’m not sure.”
     “It sounds Irish–”
     “Miss MacGuire.”
     “Yes?”
     “I’m sorry flying is so traumatic for you, but I’m not really interested in having a conversation right now.”
     Again, her face flamed, and a twinge of guilt pricked him. He wasn’t usually so unsociable. At least he hadn’t used to be. But now …
     “Oh … I’m really sorry … I tend to babble when I’m nervous … and I’m so nervous … did you feel the way the plane was shaking … I’m sure I’m just being silly. It’s probably my imagination … I’ve been told I have a vivid imagination–”
     “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong. We’ll be landing in twenty minutes. Just try to relax.”
     Aidan leaned back against the headrest and closed his eyes, tamping down the slivers of guilt still piercing his conscience. He should talk to her, at least try to take her mind off the way the plane was groaning and listing to one side. But he was in no position to help anyone else. Hell, he couldn’t even help himself these days.
     Moments later, he felt a hand clawing at his arm. Opening his eyes, he met his neighbor’s terrified gaze. “What–?”
     She didn’t speak, only pointed through the window. For a brief moment, only brilliant blue sky and a few billowy clouds filled his field of vision. Then he saw the source of the woman’s panic – smoke and orange flames licking at the wing of the plane.
     The bitter irony of the situation didn’t escape him. He’d survived the incident that should have killed him — that he wished had killed him. And now that he was well enough to leave the hospital, the city and his well-meaning friends and family behind, he was probably going to die.
     He should care. He should be worried, or at the very least have some reaction, some emotion.
     But he didn’t. He couldn’t honestly say he was concerned one way or the other whether he lived or died, since he’d already lost the only thing that made his life – made him – worthwhile.
     He had nothing left to lose.

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