She’s in love with her best friend.
He’s in love with her cousin.
But when the war reveals a gift so rare,
will they be saved by a hope and a prayer?
As Head Nurse at 2d Hospital in Nancy, France, Lieutenant Hope Dennehy is known for her healing touch, especially when it comes to mending the wounds and spirit of her best friend, Lieutenant Bren O’Neill. When Hope’s cousin breaks Bren’s heart, Hope is always there, helping to heal him with a friendship so anointed and deep, it threatens to break her heart too.
Flying high as a daredevil aeromedical evac pilot in the European Theatre, “Lieutenant Love” O’Neill crashes and burns when the woman he loves falls for another. Depending on the support and prayers of Nurse Hope Dennehy to save him, Bren re-evaluates his free-wheeling lifestyle when he witnesses the heinous atrocities of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Suddenly nothing in life is as important as taking care of those he loves … or is it? Battling demons from his past, Bren learns that only one thing can truly save him from himself.
SETUP FOR SCENE: It’s VE-Day 1945 when news of Germany’s surrender is announced, unleashing celebration all over Europe, especially in Nancy, France, where our heroine, Lieutenant Hope Dennehy, is a nurse at the 2d military hospital. Her best friend, Lieutenant Bren O’Neill, storms the hospital ward with other aeromedical pilots, announcing the news with great fanfare along with bottles of champagne and beer.
Boom! The doors of Ward B flew open with a loud crash, causing several nurses to jump with a squeal while Hope stood with mouth agape, nearly dropping the bedpan in her hands.
Whoops and whistles ricocheted off the walls as Lieutenant Brendan O’Neill led a small band of noisy soldiers into the dimly lit ward where the night shift of nurses were just putting patients to bed. “It’s time to celebrate, ladies and gents,” he shouted with a grin, waving two bottles of champagne while his fellow pilots Michael Graves and Devin O’Malley and others carried armfuls of Schlitz beer in the requisite olive-drab cans. “The Jerries have surrendered!”
More hoots and hollers sounded as the soldiers handed out beers while Bren strode to where Hope stood in joyous shock, barely aware she still held urine in a pan. Handing off the two bottles of champagne to Nurse Helga, Bren promptly plucked the bedpan from Hope’s hands with a scrunch of his nose and laid it down on an empty bed.
And then before she could even blink, he picked her up in his arms and whirled her around and around, his husky laughter warming her as much as his intimate hold.
Hand clutched to her nurse’s cap, she could do nothing but giggle as he spun her again and again, the tight press of his body making her as dizzy as his spin.
“It’s over, Hope,” he whispered as he set her down, arms looped to her waist, and she detected the faint smell of beer.
She leaned away, assessing the intensity in his eyes. “Are you drunk?”
“Naw,” he said with a shake of his head, giving her another squeeze. “Just a little happy. But come on, St. Hope, even if I was drunk, this’d be the night for it, wouldn’t it? Because just think—once we nail the Japs to the wall, it’s over for good.”
Japan. Some of her elation slowly siphoned out, dissipating like a balloon with a pin-sized leak, reminding Hope that “her other self,” her twin brother Henry, was still in the thick of it in the Pacific theater.
Cutting loose with a loud cheer, Bren spun her around one final time. His husky laughter was warm against her skin, muffling her gasp when his mouth feathered the lobe of her ear.
Her heart began to pound. Accident? Or alcohol? Sweet mother of mercy—how much drinking had he done? When he set her back down, his handsome face was flushed, either with alcohol, euphoria, or both. Obviously dizzy with delight, he wobbled on his feet as much as she, a close second to the wobble of her heart as he hugged her once again.
His laughter rang loud in the ward along with the excited chatter and singing of patients and nurses alike, following the lead of the soldiers who’d obviously stayed at the PX far too long. But celebration was definitely in the air as Big Mike wielded a busy can opener up and down the aisle and Bren let out a loud whoop while he shook Hope’s patient’s hand, pumping it wildly.
He let out another deafening cheer as he shook another patient’s hand before turning back to Hope. The barest slur of his words were lost in the joy and jubilation of the moment. “Just think, Hope—today, May 7th, mere hours ago, General Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of all German forces. And tomorrow, it’s official—nearly six years of this godawful war is finally done! Holy Joe, Dennehy, I’m so dog-gone happy, I could kiss every nurse in this blasted ward!”—she caught her breath when his glazed eyes locked onto hers, his intent far clearer than his focus—“starting right now, St. Hope, with you!”
And dipping her back in his arms, he did just that, the taste of beer and Bren stunning her body as his mouth took hers with a vengeance, the tease of his tongue paralyzing her pulse. Right before it took off in a frantic sprint, unleashing a blast of heat that tingled all the way to the tips of her toes.
She’d known Bren was a good kisser because Gabe had told her so, his skill obviously fine-tuned through vast experience with women. And she’d certainly experienced it for herself from that brief kiss in the car the night he passed out, when he thought she was Brigid. But she wasn’t prepared for this, the shock of her best friend kissing her with such potency, she literally gasped, parting her lips enough for him to explore all the more.
“Hey, do I get one of those?” Cindy called, and Bren drew Hope back up with a wicked grin, completely oblivious that he had just altered her world.
“Oh, you bet, Nurse Hyatt. You and every female in this ward or my name isn’t Brendan Michael O’Neill.” And wheeling around, he proceeded to dip Cindy back with the same abandon as he had with Hope, eliciting a moan from Cindy’s lips while he gave it his all.
“Holy Mackerel, O’Neill,” Cindy said in a near gasp when he finally brought her back up, fanning her face with a blush that surely matched the heat in Hope’s own. “T.J. who?”
Bren laughed and chucked her on the chin. “Likewise, Nurse Hyatt, but I could never two-time one of my best friends, so you’re safe.” Delivering a salute as off-kilter as he, he nodded toward the other nurses before taking off down the aisle, tossing a wink over his shoulder. “But they’re not.”
No, they’re not. And the wild race of Hope’s pulse confirmed it as she stood staring in a near trance, her body still buzzing from his touch. Her eyelids trembled closed as she pressed a hand low to her abdomen, unsettled by the heat pooling within, a strange sensation she’d never felt before.
Her heart skipped a beat. Except two other times. The night he’d nuzzled her neck at Monet’s and the kiss in the car when she’d driven him home—results of inebriation to excess both nights.
Cindy’s voice jerked her back from her thoughts, the realization of what just happened flashing her skin hot and then cold. “What?” she whispered, her voice little more than a rasp, breathing so shallow, she thought she might faint.
“Are you … all right?”
Hope swallowed hard. “I … yes, of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” she said in a rush, fingers shaking as she adjusted her skirt.
Cindy ducked her head to study her with a wary scrunch of brows. “Uh, because you’re pale, out of breath, and clutching your stomach? Are you nauseous?”
Yes, sick to my stomach over what this might be …
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A lover of all things Irish, Julie Lessman writes close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.
Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, Isle of Hope, Silver Lining Ranch, and The Cousins O’Connor series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 21 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017-2020, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction.
Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.
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