Mac's Angels : Sinner and Saint. a Loveswept Classic Romance (9780345541659), page 1
Mac’s Angels: Sinner and Saint is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Loveswept eBook Edition
Copyright © 1996 by Sandra Chastain
Excerpt from Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus.
Excerpt from Taking Shots by Toni Aleo copyright © 2013 by Toni Aleo.
Excerpt from Long Simmering Spring by Elisabeth Barrett copyright © 2013 by Elisabeth Barrett.
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.
Mac’s Angels: Sinner and Saint was originally published in paperback by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. in 1996.
Thirteen years ago I came to Loveswept as a reader, feasting on the stories of Iris Johansen, Kay Hooper, and Fayrene Preston as if they were bonbons and I was a decadent lady to the manor born.
I laughed. I cried. For four years I was swept away by the ladies of Loveswept.
Then, eight years ago, a miracle happened. I came to Loveswept as one of those ladies. I’m still amazed at my good fortune. I’m in awe of the editorial staff who makes the decisions and the ingenious minds of the authors who create books that just get better and better.
I, too, have grown and reached for new horizons, and you—the readers—seem eager to support those changes. As a writer, I’m especially grateful that Bantam pioneered the concept of promoting the author’s real name as well as allowing us the freedom to explore new ideas.
My first Loveswept was published in February 1988. Since then I’ve written twenty more. I also write historicals, but there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Loveswept. And on my thirteenth anniversary with Bantam I hope to create something deliciously appealing and sinfully satisfying that will sweep all of you away.
Excerpt from Ruthie Knox’s Flirting with Disaster
Excerpt from Toni Aleo’s Taking Shots
Excerpt from Elisabeth Barrett's Long Simmering Spring
Friday the 13th—8:30 A.M.—Shangrila
When the phone rang, Mac closed the journal he’d been writing in and slid it into the desk drawer. He’d had a disquieting feeling since he’d awakened at dawn. Now he sensed that he was about to learn its source.
He lifted the receiver. “Yes.”
“Mac, this is Avery Marsh, administrator at Mercy General Hospital in New York. Sorry to call so early. I may be chasing shadows, but you’re my last hope.”
“What can I do for you, Avery?”
“We’ve got a comatose woman here at Mercy who won’t let herself wake up. There’s no reason for her to die, but she seems to have her mind set on it. I know you’re in the business of creating special miracles, and it’s gonna take one to bring her back. Can you help?”
Mac studied his angel assignment board. He didn’t have anybody in the complex available for a medical rescue assignment. “What’s her name?” he asked, racking his brain for a prospect.
Mac let out a sigh of relief and reached for a new computer disk. He had his angel. “You still have Nikolai Sandor on your staff?”
“Niko? Sure. When he came here six years ago, he stirred up a storm and settled like lightning in the middle of it. He’s an institution now, the resident sinner of the research department. But I don’t know about Niko. Mac, since his sister died, he has absolutely refused to deal directly with patients.”
“The resident sinner of the research department, huh?” Mac laughed. “Sinner or saint. In my line of work, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Let me handle it. I think Niko may be just what your patient needs.”
Suddenly Lincoln MacAllister felt a new energy come to life and begin to build. His smile widened as he pulled up Niko’s face on his computer screen. Yep, Karen Miller needed a reason to fight, and it was time for Dr. Sandor to come back to the land of the living.
A Gypsy, a woman, and the perfect lure—a sinner and a saint. Danger and desire.
Friday the 13th—Mercy General Hospital—10:00 A.M.
Karen’s dream came again.
The woman stood on the English moor in the damp fog of the late afternoon and waited. He’d come, as he’d promised. He’d put his arms around her and her heart would soar. Then, after he’d teased away her fears and worries, they’d climb on his white stallion and ride off into the night. He had always come before.
But this time he was very late. Growing colder, the woman began to fidget. What if he’d changed his mind? She couldn’t go back. She’d already closed the door on her past by running from the man to whom she’d been promised, the man who’d kill her for what she’d done.
Glancing around, she felt the finality of her action begin to gnaw at her. What would she do if he didn’t come? Where would she go? No. Her black-eyed Gypsy wouldn’t do that to her. He’d promise to keep her safe. No one would think to look in the Rom camp, he’d said. Everybody knew that no respectable woman would ever take up with those thieving vagabonds.
She rubbed her chapped hands together in growing despair. Resigned to accepting the monotony of her life, she’d never expected to take a lover. But from the first day he’d arrived at her back door, black eyes snapping, dark hair curling at his threadbare collar, she’d understood her life would never be the same.
Now she waited.
The fog swirled in, covering the heather, leaving her hair glistening with moisture and the ground spongy beneath her feet. She was having more and more difficulty seeing through the mist. Not even sound penetrated the curtain of gray. Their time to meet had long since passed, but still she waited.
He would come.
He had to.
But he hadn’t.
The dreamer let out a sigh. In her mind everything was a blur of reality and dreams. She didn’t know where one ended and the other began. The only constant through it all was the loneliness. It had become personal. The dreamer and the woman she dreamed about were the same. Now both were afraid.
Dr. Nikolai Sandor stood in the doorway of the glass-walled cubicle inside the intensive care unit studying the sleeping woman.
Even in her condition, Karen Miller was exquisite. Her silver-blond hair and alabaster skin made her look like some ice princess from a child’s fairy tale. She needed to be wearing ermine and snowflakes, riding in a Russian sled across a frozen lake with her eyes flashing, her hair loose in the wind. Instead, she lay cold and still.
Niko was surprised to feel a sudden awareness, a connection between them. Was it that he was tired? Was it because she was beautif
But most of all, he didn’t like coincidences. The one thing he’d carried away from his life as a Gypsy was an understanding that everything in life was preordained. If something was meant to happen, a man didn’t fight it.
Niko Sandor fought every obstacle that threatened his chosen future. He hadn’t always won, but he’d never given up.
He’d also never given in to flights of fantasy. Niko had forced himself to become a logical, organized person above all else. Such instant physical awareness of a strange woman was unsettling, even for a Gypsy who’d fought the lure of mystery all his life.
Hold on, Sandor. The woman is a patient, he told himself. He was there because she’d had a blow to her head, causing trauma. Now the temporary swelling of the brain was gone. The case was proceeding normally, except for one thing.
Karen Miller remained comatose. Her refusal to come back to the world had brought him to the treatment wing of the hospital for the first time in years.
“Tell me about her,” he commanded the nurse, who seemed awestruck at the presence of such a legend.
“According to her application to the library where she works, she’s twenty-nine—”
“I mean her medical history,” he snapped. “I read the chart, walk me through it, please.”
The attending doctor appeared in the doorway and answered instead. “Nothing unusual. She apparently stepped in front of a taxi four days ago. Got knocked into the curb. Hit her head. Brain swelled. Intensive care.”
The nurse said, “None, apparently.”
“Same story. Acquaintances, but nobody close.”
Niko swore. “Sometimes that’s the best way to reach them. Often they’ll come back for someone they know.”
“I think we’ve lost this one,” the nurse’s tired voice said. “And I’m always the optimist.”
“And I’m always the pessimist,” the younger doctor said sharply. “Wake up, woman. We need this bed. And you need to get out of here. Go back to your life.”
“Well, we haven’t tried that treatment,” the nurse admitted. “Telling somebody we need her bed is a novel approach, but I don’t think it’s working.”
Niko studied the chart. At this rate they’d have to go with a feeding tube. She’d lose weight, muscle tone, the ability to function. “Why in hell isn’t she waking up?”
The doctor on duty glared at his watch. “Beats me. I told you. We’ve done everything according to the book. She isn’t alive, but she’s not dead either. She seems to be caught somewhere in between.”
Niko slammed the chart against his hand. “You don’t call being in a coma dead? I do. And the longer she stays, the less likely she is to wake up.”
Niko knew he was being unnecessarily sharp, but six years earlier he’d watched another patient in a coma, another patient who didn’t want to live. In spite of all his efforts, she’d gotten her wish. She’d died.
“Listen, I hate to leave you,” the young doctor said, “but I have a trauma going to X ray. The nurse can answer any questions you have.”
Dr. Sandor waved him away. He knew the doctor didn’t understand what a research scientist from the ninth floor was doing in intensive care. There was a world of difference between gene splicing and head wounds. He didn’t understand it himself. If he tried to explain, they’d call the hospital shrink—for him, not the patient.
How was he supposed to reach a stranger who was so alone that she didn’t even have a friend to come and sit with her? Her arms were threaded with needles pumping fluids into her veins. Wires fed her vital signs to a monitor that announced a steady heartbeat and pulse. But she didn’t respond.
Niko leaned closer. She smelled clean, of disinfectant that almost concealed the faint scent of wildflowers. He lifted her eyelids and examined eyes that were a startling blue. Frosted eyes, he decided, perfect companions to her fair skin and blond-white hair. She came from some strong Scandinavian stock probably. But she was far too thin and far too helpless. And he still came back to the original question: How could he wake her?
Karen Miller lay on her back, arms at her sides, rigid in repose. He could almost feel her resistance. She seemed determined to float in what had been described by those who’d experienced the same thing and returned as a cocoon of warmth. The netherworld of twilight sleep took away pain, uncertainty, and worry. It made all things bearable.
“Ms. Miller? Karen.”
Go away. Leave me alone.
In spite of the void in which she’d drifted, she heard the low, impatient voice that seemed determined to intrude. The truth was, she liked where she was; she didn’t know anybody named Miller and she didn’t want to change anything. This place was safe. So long as she remained, everybody was safe.
At first there’d been pain as they moved her about, sticking her with needles, pressing her wrist and chest. Then finally came the quiet, peaceful quiet—until this man arrived.
“Okay, princess. Your chart says that your brainwave pattern is normal. Let’s check the monitor. Okay. EKG’s normal. Pulse is normal. What’s your problem?”
Nothing will ever be normal again. Only fear, deep pain. Lonely pain. Warm now. Safe.
“Light, please,” the voice snapped.
The voice was demanding, accustomed to being obeyed, dangerous even. She felt but did not react to an intrusive light shining into first one eye, then the other.
“Like I told you, no response,” the nurse said. “She sees nothing.”
There’s nobody I want to see now, not anymore. Leave me alone.
“Nothing. Try clapping.”
I won’t hear it. Go away. Please—just go away.
The nurse sighed. “I don’t understand. She’s not sedated. The brain swelling is practically gone. She really should be awake by now.”
Niko held back a sudden urge to shake the sleeping woman. “She’s certainly defying medical opinion. But we know the mind is a formidable enemy. It looks as though Karen Miller has made up hers. If she has her way, she’s going to leave us. I have to change that.”
“I don’t see how. We’ve done everything we can. What are you going to do?”
“Find an unconventional way.” He pulled the curtain, shielding the Plexiglas window from the nurses’ station in the center of the intensive care unit. Now they had complete privacy.
Nikolai Sandor had never been a superstitious man. But today was Friday the thirteenth, a day known for bad luck. His trouble had started early that morning with the ringing of the phone, his private line. It seldom rang. Anybody Niko cared to talk to had to wait for him to do the calling. The others didn’t matter.
He’d ignored it for more than an hour, until it was driving him and everybody on the floor crazy. Finally, he swept the papers from his desk until he could find the offensive thing.
“Sandor here,” he’d barked. “Who the hell is this?”
“Lincoln MacAllister” had been the answer, and Niko had felt his stomach rise up and slam him in the chest.
“What do you want, Mac?”
“There’s a little problem I could use some help with. I need a man experienced with medicine and women, a man who has a score to settle and won’t take no for an answer.”
Niko’s first inclination had been to hang up. Whatever it was Mac wanted, he had been reasonably certain that it was trouble. But he couldn’t refuse—and Mac knew it. He’d known this day would come. He could dance around the call, but it wouldn’t make it go away.
Still he’d waffled, trying to delay the inevitable. “Me, experienced with women?” He’d laughed, ignoring the reference to his having a score to settle.
“I’ve kept up with you, Niko. How else do you manage to raise all that money for your work?”
“Couldn’t it just be my work that brings in
That time Mac had laughed. “Not for a moment, Niko. I’ve heard about the way you take shameless advantage of all those society women—when you have to.”
“So, I’m good at finding money. It’s my Gypsy background. Charm them, disarm them, and con them. That’s the Gypsy way. Don’t tell me you’re running low on funds to operate that mountaintop hideaway you call Shangrila. If so, come join us at the hospital’s Winter Ball next week.”
“No, money isn’t a problem for me. What I need is someone with the kind of experience nobody else has.”
“All right. Tell me what you want.” That’s when Mac had hit him in the gut. “There’s a patient in your hospital I want you to see. A woman.”
“Mac, you know I don’t treat patients anymore,” he’d protested.
“This one needs you, Niko.”
“Because you are the only one who will understand.”
“She may have tried to commit suicide. She’s unconscious and doesn’t want to wake up.”
There’d been a long silence. He understood all right. And Mac knew that he did. Damn him, why was he doing this? Niko had put that part of his life behind him. If Mac needed help, he’d give it. But there had to be another way.
“So who is she?” he’d finally asked.
Mac’s reply had been a long while in coming, and his answer put the final screw in his hold on Niko. “Her name is Karen.”
Karen. Niko’s throat tightened. No, this couldn’t be happening. He’d known this day would come—payback time. But as the years passed, he’d let the thought of his obligation fade. Now it was staring him in the face. He couldn’t refuse and he couldn’t fight it. “What do you want me to do?”
“It’s simple, Niko,” Mac had said. “She needs an angel to save her life.”
So now he was standing in foreign territory, doing what he’d sworn he’d never do again, reaching out to another woman intent on dying, a woman named Karen.
“Come on, princess, open your eyes and let us have a look at them.”