Even during the Civil War, Christmas is made with love.
Wounded in a skirmish, Callie Marsh’s disguise as a Confederate soldier is discovered by the doctor who treats her. Working with him in the hospital she learns no matter what color uniform a soldier wears, they all miss family during the holidays. And that an enemy doctor can be the man of her dreams.
Dr. Tom Kent knows the safest place for the woman is working by his side. Their constant interaction has him wanting more than is smart considering their division of philosophy. His determination to keep her safe is hindered by Major Henry Ash’s decision the young prisoner would make an excellent aide could put her in danger of discovery.
Will Callie be able to set aside her dislike of Yankees to make Christmas for the enemy and especially for the man she’s come to love?
Thomas Kent filled his tin cup with a stiff shot of whiskey and slipped the bottle back into its hiding place at the bottom of his satchel. He’d never been much of a drinker before he joined the Union Army. Now the haze of alcohol was the only way he could get any sleep.
What had possessed him to give up a thriving medical practice in Maryland? His fiancée had asked the same question in the one letter he received from her. She didn’t bother to wait for his answer. By the time he sat down to attempt to explain his determination to help save the Union, Beth married the shopkeeper in their small town.
The last gulp of the rot-gut tasted no better than the first, but it didn’t matter. Since they’d left the devastation of Atlanta, he’d gone through most of the stash he’d brought with him. With luck, the scavengers who went out each morning to purge the countryside would find a still. Granny’s hooch was better than nothing.
Whoever said “war is hell” had it right. Even if he wasn’t on the front lines facing life and death, he dealt with the results every day. The blood, the gore and the death. Some he could save; a lot of others he couldn’t. Those were the ones who kept him awake…them and the others who said they wished he’d let them die instead of taking their arm or leg.
Emptying the cup, Tom reached down to the bag beside the table he used as a desk. Shouts for Dr. Kent stopped him from pulling out the bottle his hand had been clasped around.
“Doc, we got us a wounded Reb here. Just a kid really.” Sergeant Johnny Oaks entered the medical tent with a young boy thrown over his shoulder.
Poor kid didn’t even earn the luxury of a litter.
But litters weren’t carried by scouting patrols. They needed to move as quietly and unnoticed as possible.
“Yeah, I told him not to bother, but you know how stubborn the sergeant is.” Corporal Sam Jones swiped a blood-crusted hand across his mouth, leaving a streak of blood, and looked in disgust at the sergeant. “I mean if the kid don’t bleed to death, he’s going to wish he had. Not only did he take a couple of bullets in the shoulder, but looks like he lost some of his man parts too. Think I’d rather be dead than gelded.”
“Put him over here, Sergeant.” Tom ignored the corporal’s comments and moved the stack of blankets from the cot where he wanted the boy.
Sergeant Oaks eased the kid down and Tom saw what Jones meant. Blood dripped on the dirt from the injured arm. Tom made a mental toss on which needed attention more from blood loss…the arm or the splotch of red covering the front of the boy’s pants.
“If it’s okay with you, Doc, I’m going to see about getting a bite to eat. We were gone longer than anticipated and ran out of rations.”
Tom nodded and Sergeant Oaks headed for the tent entrance. Jones, on the other hand, craned his neck for a better view. Some people were attracted to gore, a side of human nature Tom didn’t understand.
“Thank you Corporal. You should probably join the sergeant and get something to eat.”
“Yeah.” Jones hesitated and disappointment registered on his face that he wouldn’t get to see how bad the damage was to the boy’s private parts. He cast a glance in the doctor’s direction and shrugged. “Guess I’ll do that.”
Tom pulled the tent fly closed behind him. Jones would be spreading the news and a bunch of prying eyes weren’t needed.
Alone with his patient, Tom laid out the instruments he thought would be needed: sharp scalpel, the prod to fish for bullets if necessary, strips of cloth, a bottle of ether and opium for the pain if the kid came to.
He pulled the stool he used to work on patients up close to the low cot. He studied the boy for a brief minute then sprang into action.
Might as well start here. The shoulder looks pretty bad and is bleeding more than his other wound.
Tom didn’t waste time unbuttoning the shirt. He ripped it open, scattering buttons onto the dirt floor of the tent. If he was honest, he was delaying his examination of the mutilated organs between the boy’s legs. He needed time to adjust to the idea. He’d never had to remove someone’s manhood before and the thought made him uncomfortable.
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