Noble Hearts (Wild Hearts Romance Book 3)

BOOK: Noble Hearts (Wild Hearts Romance Book 3)
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NOBLE HEARTS

Lose your heart to Wild Romance!

Kayla has always been a sucker for strays—baby gorillas, okapis, even rhinos—so when an American doctor shows up wounded at her door, with a story of being pressed into service as medic to a local militia unit, Mark LeSabre is just another stray to be taken in and taken care of.

Then Ushindi's controversial election tips the tiny nation into civil war, and Kayla’s beloved ancestral coffee plantation becomes a casualty of the escalating conflict. Forced to flee, Kayla’s determined not to leave any of her workers—or her strays—behind, including Mark, who's found his way into her heart...and her bed.

But a rich American doctor is too valuable a prize to let escape. Thwarted at every border access, with the militia hot on their tail, Kayla and Mark’s only option for freedom is to brave a treacherous jungle route across the Mountains of the Moon. Alone, they might make it to Uganda and safety, but their ragtag group of strays will surely perish if they’re abandoned.

How far will Mark and Kayla risk their lives—and their hearts—in the service of love?

 

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http://phoenixsullivan.blogspot.com

MORE BOOKS BY PHOENIX SULLIVAN

Wild Hearts Romance Novels

BRAVE HEARTS
(Book 1)
PROUD HEARTS
(Book 2)
NOBLE HEARTS
(Book 3)
TRUSTED HEARTS
(Book 4)

~

Medical Thriller

SECTOR C

Copyright © 2016 by Phoenix Sullivan

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without the written permission of publisher or author, except where permitted by law.

[email protected]

Author’s Note

You won’t find the nation state of Ushindi on a map—although the region it’s been located in this novel is very real. Its political tensions are echoed today in many sub-Saharan African countries such as Rwanda, Angola and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is these hotbeds of political unrest where rebel forces actively rove that Ushindi is patterned upon…

CHAPTER 1

Kayla

Today was one of those days where everything seemed
right
. A day full of promise, not only for the moment but for the future. Standing just outside my front door, on the lower slope of the Rwenzori mountain range with Mt. Stanley rising to the north and east, past and future collided in the tidy rows of low-growing arabica trees heavy with their apple-green berries that would be turning bright red soon. A second row of taller banana trees gently shaded the ripening cash crop beneath long, waving fronds.

Ill-timed rains for the last two years had not been kind, either to my beloved plantation—along with the other coffee growers sharing the southeast slope with me—or to the tiny nation state of Ushindi itself, shadowed in the same civil unrest that had plagued so much of Africa for generations.

This year, though, the coffee trees flourished, the coffee market was good, and Ushindi was only a week away from elections that promised a new leader and a new direction for just over half a million Africans struggling for relevancy in a world that was fast abandoning them.

Gus’s whine and nudge at my hand brought me back to the present. Across the garden, my foreman, Jamal, came, his normally exuberant bounce subdued. That put me on immediate alert. It was another six weeks before our migrant workers would return to harvest and rack the arabica cherries. For now, my foreman and the nine other families who were permanent residents here on Zahur—as my father’s father had christened the plantation—had time to tend their own crops, from the two-acre plots the families held individually to the ten acres held communally where they grew wheat, maize and beans, all destined for the open-air market in Hasa, about 20 kilometers downslope and to the south.

The same weather which had been kind to the coffee trees this season had favored other crops as well. For Jamal to look so dejected meant something serious had to be up. Especially when Gus bounded over to him as he drew close, and Jamal didn’t even acknowledge the big Rottweiler.

“What is it?” I called out before he was even near enough for polite conversation. His demeanor, looking worse to my eyes as he came nearer, made me anxious.

“Lisha.” His wife. “She is very sick today. I think it might be”—his voice lowered—“that new sickness from Sudan.”

The chill that ran through me chased all the
rightness
of the day away.

“You can’t be sure.”

He shrugged his tall, thin shoulders. Shoulders that had helped bear the burden of the plantation since my father had seen the potential of a young migrant Bantu worker 20 years ago, given him a permanent home with us and made Jamal his right-hand man. Shoulders I had relied on desperately during the past year and a half, first when Mama had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and my father had devoted himself to her care, then for the six months when Baba had been so devastated by her death, and in the six months since his heart had broken and he’d finally left us to be with the only thing he’d loved more than Zahur and me.

Now it was my turn to repay Jamal for his strength and loyalty. “Let’s get her to the clinic.” There was a small facility about 10 kilometers to the south and west, usually staffed with one of various medical professionals putting in a month or two of charitable time that mainly served the plantations, villages and indigents in the area, rather than having our kind take up valuable resources at the more modern facilities in Hasa. If whoever was at the nearby clinic couldn’t help, though, I would be sure Jamal and Lisha would get whatever help they needed in Hasa.

“Whoever’s working the clinic now can at least tell us whether it’s likely to be
Subs
or not.”

And if it was
Subs
? I hadn’t yet heard of anyone this far south with the Sub-Saharan virus, but all of Ushindi knew, deep in our collective bones, that we wouldn’t escape for long. Most thought it was some mutant form of West Nile virus, grown more virulent and more deadly in its mutation. Mosquito-borne. Prevailing winds, migratory patterns and whatever other shifts of fate that were responsible were carrying the mosquitoes and the virus our way.

Subs
was new. It was lethal. And as of yet, there was no vaccine—and no cure.

I thought of the three children Jamal and Lisha had—9, 10 and 13—and how the teenage girl, Inira, would have to forego her own childhood and become mother to her siblings if the worst should happen to Lisha.

Jamal had, of course, come for the keys to the jeep. I disappeared into the house, retrieved the key ring from its hook near the front door where all the permanent workers knew to find it in an emergency, and threw the ring to Jamal. “Stop back here before you leave and pick me up. I’m coming with you.”

He nodded, then hurried back down the dirt drive to his concrete dome home that bubbled up from the tilled acreage just outside the rows of coffee trees. High above, a helicopter circled, reminding me of a buzzard searching for an easy meal of carrion, something that wouldn’t fight back.

I was just turning around to head back inside to change clothes, with Gus at my heels, when a heavy whirlwind slammed into me, long black arms gripping my neck, strong legs wrapping around my waist.

Jengo.

My own arms circled the little 18-month-old gorilla protectively. He, like Gus, was always extra-sensitive to my moods, and my sudden distress and agitation likely frightened him.


Sawa-sawa
, Jengo.”
It’s okay
, I soothed, trying to reassure myself as much as him. “Everything’s all right. But I’ll be gone for a little while. And you’ll need to keep an eye on things until I get back.” I gave him a last, reassuring squeeze, his signal to clamber down. Taking his hand, I flashed him and Gus my bravest smile, then we walked into the house together.

I was just packing up my tablet and phone to take with me to the clinic when Gus growled, a low and threatening alarm, prelude to a series of deep barks that were all business, directed angrily toward the outer door.

Stiff-legged and stiff-tailed, he pressed protectively against my thigh, following me step for step to the front window. Just on its far side where I could barely see, a man in rumpled blue surgical scrubs slouched against the door jamb. I couldn’t make out his face, but the arm clinging to the wood was surprisingly Caucasian, well-muscled...and stained with blood.

BOOK: Noble Hearts (Wild Hearts Romance Book 3)
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