The Promise

Thunder Point Book # 5
June 24, 2014
MIRA Paperback

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The Promise

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr returns to Thunder Point with an uplifting story about overcoming loss and finding unexpected love.

Scott Grant has a bustling family practice in the small Oregon community of Thunder Point. The town and its people have embraced the widowed doctor and father of two, his children are thriving, and Scott knows it’s time to move on from his loss. But as the town’s only doctor, the dating pool is limited. That is, until a stunning physician’s assistant applies for a job at his clinic.

Peyton Lacoumette considers herself entirely out of the dating scene. She’s already been burned by a man with kids, and she’s come to Thunder Point determined not to repeat past mistakes. When Scott offers her a job, at a much lower salary than she’s used to, Peyton is surprisingly eager to accept…at least for now. She’s willing to stay for a three-month trial period while she explores other options.

Scott and Peyton know the arrangement is temporary— isn’t enough time to build a real relationship, never mind anything with lasting commitment. But love can blossom faster than you think when the timing is right, and this short visit just might hold the promise of forever.

Excerpt

Chapter One
Peyton Lacoumette drove slowly down the main street of Thunder Point, past all the small businesses including the clinic. She drove all the way to the far end of the point where she was stopped by the ornate gates to what could only be a mansion. She could barely make out the structure behind overgrown hedges and untrimmed trees. She got out of the car to peer through the bars, but couldn’t see much. If she had been with a couple of her brothers they might want to scale the wall for a closer look, but that wouldn’t do in a sundress and sandals.

She turned the car around and went back through the town. It looked pretty well lived in but it was clean and it was obvious by the small groups of people who had stopped to chat here and there that people were neighborly. A lot of them paused to stare at her car. It was a shiny new black Lexus and had been ridiculously expensive.

People stopping to talk happened a little less often in cities like Portland and San Francisco and hardly ever in New York City, though she’d liked living in those cities. In Bayonne, France it was more common, almost required that you never be in too big a hurry. This place appealed to her on the surface, probably because it wasn’t unlike the closest town to her family’s farm. Or Bayonne, for that matter. A woman was putting buckets of long stemmed, colorful flowers in front of her shop; a man was sweeping the sidewalk in front of his door; two dogs were leashed to a lamppost at the diner’s door — a spotted Great Dane and a Yorkie, sharing a pan of water. The main street appeared well scrubbed and friendly.

She parked in front of the clinic and went inside. It was noon, there were no patients waiting and the young woman behind the counter stood up to greet her with a smile. “Hi. How can I help you today?”

“I was just passing through, wondering where the best access to the beach was…”

“Probably the marina. Or, Cooper has a beach bar on the far side of the beach, up on the hillside. There’s a road to his place from Highway 101 and he has stairs down to the beach and tables on his deck. Cooper’s place is the best spot in town to watch the sunset. When the sun sinks behind those big rocks in the bay, it’s really beautiful. I think he gets the best part of his business from people who stop by there for something to drink or eat when they’re out walking on the beach or waiting for the sunset.”

“I saw the beach access from the road but I didn’t stop. There’s some building going on out there…”

“That’s Cooper’s, too. He’s building a house and next door we’re building one, too. Me and my fiancé.”

“Oh, congratulations,” Peyton said. “On the engagement, not the building.”

She laughed. “You can congratulate me on that, too. I didn’t think I’d ever live in an oceanfront house like that.”

Peyton looked around the small office. “People must be feeling pretty healthy around here today.”

“This is an unusually quiet day.”

“Are you the doctor or nurse?”

She shook her head. “Just the office manager. Dr. Grant stepped out since there weren’t any patients. Do you need to see the doctor?”

“No,” she laughed. “It just seemed like the most logical place to ask about the town.”

“I’m Devon MacAllister,” she said, extending a hand across the counter.

“Peyton Lacoumette, nice to meet you,” she said. “I grew up on a farm up north, not too far from Portland in the Mount Hood area. I didn’t even know this town existed.”

“We’re a little off the beaten track and everyone seems to like it that way. There are only two ways into town — across the beach from Cooper’s place or a winding road north of here from 101. That’s probably how you found us — there’s an exit sign. Folks around here keep threatening to take down the sign,” she added with a laugh. “They won’t, but some tend to like the hidden quality…”

“What do most people do around here?” Peyton asked.

“Lots of fishermen, obviously. Then there are small business owners and people who work in those businesses, like me. My fiancé is the athletic director at the high school. A lot of the local population works out of town — Bandon, Coquille, North Bend.”

“I drove out to the point and saw a big house or building out there. Huge.”

“It’s a vacant house. The stuff of legends around here — the old Morrison place. It’s before my time here but I guess the family was rich once, went bust, declared bankruptcy and the son killed someone and went to prison. He was just a teenager. The only murder this town has ever seen, I’m told.”

“Why doesn’t someone do something with that place?” Peyton asked.

“I guess because it’s so big — no one can afford to live in it.”

“What’s big?”

Devon shrugged. “Country Club big. Lots of big rooms, a lot of bedrooms and bathrooms, a restaurant size kitchen, thousands of square feet on hundreds of acres right on the point. The only other inhabitant out there is the lighthouse because that point and its twin across the bay — very rocky.”

“Hm. Sounds like a clever person could turn it into a library or boarding school or nursing home or… It would be fun to see the inside,” she said.

“It would. I never thought about it, but a lot of people in town have been in that house.”

“Have you lived here your whole life?” Peyton asked.

“Oh God no,” Devon laughed. “Only a year! I’m originally from Seattle — a city girl, really. But there’s something about this town…. I like the people but more than that, it’s the feeling of the town in general. It feels safe, like it hugs you. Maybe because you have to come here on purpose, it’s not something you’d see from the highway and it’s not a thoroughfare. I’ve never lived in a little town before. And then I met my fiancé and found this job and,” she said, and smiled prettily.

“But who runs the office? Is there just the one doctor?”

“Just me and Dr. Grant at the moment, but he’s been looking for an associate or nurse practitioner. He doesn’t want a big practice but more than one person capable of writing scripts or putting in stitches… that would help a lot. It’s becoming a busy clinic. He’s hoping to expand — we have that many patients. This town could use a twenty-four hour Urgent Care, but that takes much more room and staff. He says that’s something for down the road.”

“And you like it?”

“I love it. I love Dr. Grant.”

Peyton lifted a brow and smiled. “Does the athletic director mind that you love your boss?”

Devon laughed. “Spencer loves Dr. Grant, too! This town and my job — it’s perfect for us. Spencer has an eleven year old son, Austin. And I have a 4 year old daughter, Mercy.”

“You like your soon to be stepson?”

“He’s a dream come true,” Devon said. “Mercy worships him and he’s very good to her.”

“Very lucky for you,” Peyton said. “I hear those things can be dicey — blending families like that.”

“We’re very lucky, that’s true.”

“What if you don’t find an associate?” Peyton asked.

“We’ll manage,” Devon said. “We make it work somehow. It’s just that…. Well, Dr. Grant spends a lot of time helping out at other hospitals, sitting on call almost every weekend, and that’s inconvenient for him. He’s a very devoted family man and needs more time with his family.”

“Devoted family man?” Peyton said.

“Absolutely. Plus he volunteers with Spencer to be the game doctor for the football team. This town doesn’t have a lot of money and football is very important to Thunder Point. School programs and sports are the main entertainment here and most of the student athletes are working hard for scholarships. At Spencer’s last school — a big Texas high school — had a certified trainer and sports medicine physical therapist. We don’t have resources like that here in this little town so it’s important to recruit volunteers like Dr. Grant. I wish you could meet him.”

“Devon, would you excuse me for a second? I just have to get something…”

“Sure,” she said. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“No thanks,” she said, smiling over her shoulder as she went to her car. She came back with a cloth briefcase. She opened it on the counter in front of Devon and pulled out a thin newspaper. “I was renting a cottage in Coos Bay for a short vacation. I happened to see this ad but didn’t know anything about the town. So, I thought I’d check it out and maybe drop off a resume.”

Devon glanced at the resume and her mouth stood open just as her eyes became very round with surprise. “Physician’s Assistant? From Portland?”

“I worked for a cardiologist. I was there for three years. Very busy practice. I was hoping for something a little quieter for a while.”

Devon didn’t speak right away. Then she said, “You’re not just passing through…”

“Well, I could have been. I haven’t started looking for my next job yet; I haven’t sent out resumes yet.”

“Why did you leave your former practice?”

“I was replaced, but I promise you my recommendation will be excellent,” she said. “Maybe you could give my resume to Dr. Grant and if he’s interested, my cell phone number and email address are right there,” she said, pointing.

“I’ll do just that,” Devon said. “Miss Sneaky Britches.”

Peyton laughed. “Don’t be offended, Devon. I wasn’t going to leave a resume if something about the town or the clinic or the doctor didn’t feel right.”

“You haven’t met the doctor.”

“But you love him,” Peyton said. “Even your fiancé loves him.”

“Who loves me?” a man asked.

Peyton looked up and there, standing in the space that would lead into the back of the clinic, was a very attractive man in his thirties. He was dressed in faded jeans and a yellow dress shirt, open at the collar, sleeves rolled up. Although he was clearly over thirty-five he had a boyish quality to his good looks. But not to his physique — he was broad shouldered and had strong arms and big hands. Even from where she stood she could see a depth to his blue eyes.

Devon looked over her shoulder. “Meet Dr. Scott Grant, who obviously just snuck in the back door.”

He came forward. “Pleasure,” he said. “Miss Sneaky Britches, was it?”

“Peyton Lacoumette,” she said, taking the hand. “I saw your ad. After getting to know Devon a little bit I decided to drop off a resume. I’m a physician’s assistant.”

“Is that so?” he said, taking the page, glancing at it. “I’ve been interviewing.”

“Well give me a call if you think I suit,” she said. “I’m staying in Coos Bay for a little while — just taking a breather before summer is over.”

Without looking up from her resume, he asked, “Do you have time for a conversation now?”

“I… I guess so,” she said. Then she laughed a little uncomfortably. “I didn’t expect… I didn’t dress for… Sure, I have time.”

And he said, “Good. Come on back.” And he turned that she might follow him.

~~~~~~~
Scott found himself staring down at the resume for a long time, looking for something imperfect. He knew if he looked across the desk he’d see only perfection and it unsettled him more than he had been prepared for. She was only a woman, after all. Not even the type he usually found himself giving a second look. She was very pretty, yes, but his eyes were usually drawn to blonds, like his late wife. This woman had dark hair and dark eyes and a slightly olive complexion. Her hair was long and straight and looked like a sheet of silk. Italian? Mexican? Sicilian? Her eyes were large and her eyebrows curved in a perfect arch. She was trim — she took care of herself. Very nice collar bones. He almost laughed at himself. Collar bones, Scott? Really? He was afraid to look up. He might lean over the desk to look at her feet and ankles, not that he gave a shit about ankles, but he hoped they were at least thick and weird looking. But he knew they would not be. “Lacoumette? Interesting name….”

“Basque. Originally from the south of France. Most of the Basque blood in our family is Spanish but the name originated in the northern Basque country and has survived for generations. My parents are second generation. They have a farm near Portland.” She was quiet a moment then cleared her throat. “Do you have any questions about my resume, Dr. Grant?” she asked.

“You seem to have a lot of experience,” he said. “This is one of the most impressive resume’s I’ve seen.”

“Twelve years,” she said. “Two practices and two hospitals plus a year at a small clinic in Bayonne, France.”

“France?”

“An old clinic right in the middle of Basque territory. I wanted to see where our people came from. I’m probably related to half of them.” And she smiled then, showing off a row of beautiful white teeth. She was stunning.

“What do you prefer? The private practice or the hospital?”

“For the hands on work, the hospital wins. For compensation, I’ll take the private practice every time.”

With her experience, she could very likely make more money than he did, in the right place. “Did you look around? This isn’t a rich practice.”

“That isn’t why I dropped by,” she said. “Are you frowning?”

Was he glaring at her? He shook himself. “I didn’t mean to do that, to be defensive,” he said. “It’s just that…” He took a breath. “Let’s be frank. I started this clinic on a shoestring. I run it on a tight budget. Where salary is concerned, I doubt I could meet your demands.”

She tilted her head and lifted her eyebrows. “I don’t recall making any. Yet.”

He realized he didn’t want her to walk out of here, yet he was sure he didn’t have what it would take to make her stay. He folded his hands on top of the exquisite, sexy resume and smiled at her. “What brings you to Thunder Point?”

“Just your ad,” she said.

Glancing at the resume again he said, “How did you see my ad in Portland? The search company?”

“No,” she said with a laugh. “When I left my last job I decided to take my time looking for employment because I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted to be. Plus, I didn’t take much time off in the past few years. So, I took a vacation — I spent a little time with my parents, then I drove down the coast, first to Canon Beach, then Coos Bay. I just happened to be looking through the employment section… I think it was the North Bend paper. I was just curious. I saw your ad and had never heard of Thunder Point. I thought in another couple of weeks I might contact an agency; I’m more comfortable in a big city. I didn’t expect this — a spontaneous interview in a little town. I was leaning toward San Francisco or Seattle…”

“Ah,” he said. “You like the Pacific Northwest.”

“I do, and I have family around. I was thinking it was time for a hospital,” she continued. “I was not interested in another practice right now — a little cozy, if you know what I mean. And small towns, they… I grew up in a small farming community and haven’t worked in a small town in years.”

“There are certain advantages to a small town, a small clinic,” he said. “I came from a large city to a small town as an experiment, hoping I’d take to it. It’s cozy all right — your friends are your patients and vice versa, but in the city the general practitioner is a good referral agency. In a place like Thunder Point we take care of a lot more — these people aren’t equipped to travel long distances to see specialists. In many cases their medical coverage is spotty. They need a good medical team.”

“And that’s why you’re here, to provide a good medical service? As altruistic as that?”

“And because I thought it would be good for the kids. Also because the grandmothers, both widows, get a little invasive and high maintenance. I need them in smaller doses. So, that was my original motivation but I like it here. Now, tell me why you would consider Thunder Point?”

“It’s quiet,” she said. “It’s possible something like this could work for me for a while…”

“A while?” he asked.

“If you offer me a job here and if I take the offer, I’ll make a commitment. And I’ll keep it.”

“Why did you leave your last job?” he asked her.

“I was replaced,” she said. “The doctor wanted to put someone else in my position.”

“When I call him, is that what he’ll tell me?”

“I’m not sure. He felt we had accomplished as much as we could as a team and it was time for a change. He’ll tell you my performance was excellent.”

Scott thought about this for a second. “And that’s what you’re telling me?”

“No. That’s what he’ll tell you.”

“And is there another story?” Scott asked.

“He’s dating an RN who convinced him she could do my job. I don’t know whether that’s true, only time will tell. Apparently they just can’t get enough of each other. I suspect she didn’t appreciated my continued presence in the office after they’d become an item.”

Scott could easily imagine that. “A little jealousy?” he asked.

“Or paranoia. I had no interest whatsoever in her boyfriend. That’s okay, it was time for a change. Let’s just clear the air on that, shall we? Before there’s a lot of curiosity and conjecture? I’m interested in work. And I’m not interested in men.”

Well, that cleared the air, all right. He coughed lightly. “That’s very honest,” he said. “No beating around the bush there.” And then he thought, excuse the pun. And he smiled. “You’re very up front about personal things.”

“I don’t mean to be rude… I hope that didn’t seem rude… I think it’s best if we’re all honest about issues that could be problematic. I don’t advertise that and it’s not something I feel like talking about but… Really, I don’t need the aggravation.”

He smirked slightly. “That will greatly disappoint the single men of Thunder Point,” he muttered.

“Oh please,” she said. “They’ll get over it.”

I suppose. Although not without a few…”

“Few what?” she asked, frowning.

He didn’t think it would be professional to say fantasies. So he said, “Regrets.” And then he went on to say, “You’ll find the cost of living in this town is low.” He wrote down a number on a piece of paper and slid it toward her. “It would have to be a year at this salary.”

She looked at it and choked. “Is the cost of living free?”

He stood from behind his desk. “While you consider that, I’ll give Dr….” he looked down. “Dr. Ramsdale a call.” He extended a hand. “Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about the position.”

She stood and took his offered hand. “Sure. I think this meeting was unexpected for both of us.”

“It certainly was. By the way, how are you with children?”

She stiffened as if offended. “I’m the oldest of eight and consider myself to be good with kids, though I’m in no way interested in taking on child care. How is that relevant to the position?”

He laughed softly and put his hands in his pockets. “It’s a small town and the people who seem to get hurt or sick the most often are the children and the elderly.”

Her face relaxed. “Oh. Right. Of course. I knew that.”

Scott followed Peyton to the reception area and stood by while Peyton chatted briefly with Devon. They acted like girlfriends, thanking each other for the time, said they’d see each other again. Maybe it was more than that in Peyton’s mind? Maybe she was attracted to Devon? But no… he wasn’t getting that vibe. Just that Peyton was more comfortable with Devon than she had been with him. And then Peyton left and went to the car that sat right in front of the clinic and climbed in.

“Wow, that’s some car,” Devon said.

“Uh-huh. I hope she’s not making payments on it.”

“Why?”

“Because on the salary I offered her, she’d have trouble. That’s a LS 600. Starts at over a hundred grand.”

Devon shot him a startled look. “Do you think she’ll take it?”

“Not a chance in hell,” he said. Then he turned and went back to his office.

© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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