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“If you got time, stop by after you finish up here.”

So that was how he ended up in Val’s barn. The mantel looked like it came out of the parlor that was now his tenant’s bedroom so Luke took it. While they were carrying it out to the truck, he mentioned Bridget.

“By the way, you hear from my niece?”

It was on the tip of his tongue to reply sarcastically, but he caught himself and just said, “No.”

“She’s in Kandahar.”

“Kandahar! I thought they’d pulled the troops out of Kandahar province last year. She was going to go to Kabul.”

“The civilian hospital needed nurses and Bridget and two of her friends volunteered to go.”

Luke didn’t reply, working at tying down the large mantel in the back of his truck. He had to ask one question, and then he’d drop it.

“Is she in more danger there?”

“They don’t say too much about it on the news anymore. Evidently, outside of the city is dangerous, but she’s with the Marines. They’re some tough hombres in Afghanistan. I searched online and couldn’t find much.”


The differences between the base hospital in Hemland River Valley and the civilian hospital in Kandahar were night and day. Working with the troops, monitoring their health and caring for their injuries was important work. But fewer troops left in Afghanistan meant less work for the fully staffed hospital. When they’d received the offer to transfer to Kandahar, Bridget, Connie, and Ben didn’t hesitate.

What they hadn’t counted on were the number of small children they would see coming in with horrible gunshot wounds and blast injuries. It’s estimated that five children are wounded or die every day. Considered one of the most dangerous countries for children, over twenty-six thousand children had been killed since 2005. Over three hundred attacks on schools had taken place in the last two-year period. They’d never get used to seeing a child covered in blood, crying out in pain, or worse, dead.

The work was nonstop and time flew. The week before Christmas, Bridget took care of a wounded teenaged girl who had been too close to a car bomb when it detonated. She was menstruating, and Bridget cleaned her up and put a pad in place as she attended to her acute needs. But when they were changing the sheets under the young girl’s body, it reminded Bridget that she’d missed something in her own life.

“I don’t think I’ve had a period since we’ve been here,” she whispered to Connie.

“I’m not surprised,” Connie said, folding a sheet under the patient. “Roll her toward me. This stress is shit.”

“Have you had one?” Bridget asked, holding on to the patient while Connie put clean sheets under her.

“I had an endometrial ablation last year so I rarely get them anymore. Could you be pregnant?”

“Yeah, I could be pregnant.”

For the first time in a while, she thought of Luke—sweet, kind Luke, whom she’d basically blown off. He’d given up trying to contact her.

“Have you had any symptoms?” Connie asked.

“No appetite, but I thought that was just the heat and the work. I must be in denial.”

They finished changing the sheets. “You won’t find an OTC pregnancy test here,” Connie said. “Why don’t you go to the lab and ask them if they can do a urine test?”

“And have the whole place know? I’m not sure about that.”

“What are you going to do then?”

“Nothing,” Bridget said, grabbing clean sheets to take to the next patient. “Ride it out.”

“Can you figure out how far you might be?”

“Oh yeah. I know exactly how far along I am,ifI’m pregnant, that is.”

“Do you realize how lucky you are that we’re here? If we were still at the base hospital and the powers that be discovered you were pregnant, they’d have you shipped home right away.”

Bridget looked up at Connie, her teary eyes shining. “Do you realize what you just said?”

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