Title: Society of Benevolent Strangers
Author: LA Parker
LA Parker Bio
Between stints as a lion tamer and exotic dancer, LA Parker earned a degree in Art History from the University of Delaware.
After a harrowing experience excavating ancient ruins along the Amazon, she earned a second degree in Computer Science from East Carolina University.
Dabbling in the art of lying for fun and profit, she has published three works of fiction: Against the Grain, Stella's Sheets and Society of Benevolent Strangers.
Settling for a quieter life, LA is currently residing in North Carolina with her husband, son and dog, Tony, Zach and Max the Bandit, where she is happily dreaming up more fantastical and phenomenal lies for your entertainment.
Tags: contemporary romance, second chances, Kenya, Aid Workers, hope diamond, peace crane, Lake Baringo
Book Genre: Contemporary Romance/Adventure
Release Date: September 6, 2014
Buy Link(s): http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1499517157?pc_redir=1409554888&robot_redir=1
Dr. Kathryn Hastings felt the tremor in her fingers and hastily dropped the scalpel back on the tray. Her career as a neurosurgeon had just ended. One slip and her patient would have come out of surgery a different man than when he went in.
On the advent of her thirtieth high school reunion, with her life at a crossroads, Kate finds herself dwelling on the past and choices she made--particularly those having to do with Clayton Beech. Desperately needing to find a new calling and to correct past mistakes Kate sets out on a journey that takes her from North Carolina to London, from Paris to Kenya.
From a clinical perspective, Dr. Kate Hastings found acquiring a disease she had been treating for over twenty years fascinating. Emotionally it was terrifying. Especially when her access to the operating room was curtailed and her colleague has drastically cut her patient load.
The life-altering diagnosis coincides with Kate’s thirty-year high school reunion, a reunion that has Kate reminiscing about her first love and her plans to have Clayton Beech by her side through the rigors of med school, a lengthy surgical residency and the rest of her life.
An idealistic Clayton Beech, an expert in languages, a player of jazz piano and football, dreamed of saving the world. Exploring this calling, he signed on for a stint with the Peace Corp. Clay planned a life of service, always with Kate by his side.
However, futures cannot be planned. Neurosurgeons get sick, lovers leave with no explanation and saving the world might best be done alone.
A no-show at the reunion, Kate discovers Clay is the head of an important healthcare organization in East Africa. With time on her hands and the growing conviction that they should have always been together Kate follows his trail to London. It is in London that she discovers that it was she not Clay who made a serious mistake that destroyed their dreams.
After almost thirty years their lives are continents apart. Can Kate find a way to correct past wrongs? Can she merge into the life they should have had although Clay is adamant that he has no time to take her on safari and does not want her in Africa?
With the sole responsibility for a large NGO weighing on his broad shoulders and wanting to be with Kate weighing on his heart Dr. Clayton Beech knows that until he makes the most difficult decision of his life, neither weight can be lifted. Until he makes that decision, Kate is a distraction he just cannot afford.
Sitting in the airport, waiting to board her flight to London, trying to quell the butterflies in her stomach, Kate pulled out the envelope that Mrs. Lautenberg had handed her. It had been shoved to the bottom of her travel bag and forgotten until she discovered it while packing for Europe and decided to save it for something to do on the long overseas trip. Carefully, Kate ripped the seal open and slid the contents out.
Sorting through odds and ends, Kate discovered a postcard she had sent her father from her first summer camp when she was eleven. Ticket stubs from the last play they had gone to see in New York City, Le Miz. A photo of the two of them at the Deer Park, she remembered Paul, the bartender, snapping it on her twentieth birthday; they looked happy. Other pictures were of Evan Hastings over the years with grad students and colleagues she barely remembered.
A woman with a familiar face surrounded by curly dark hair, holding an infant, smiled up from a black and white Polaroid, gone sepia with age. Kate smiled at the picture, the face mirroring her own. Hi, Mom.
After a moment, she leafed through the rest of the stack. There was a packet of slit envelopes containing letters from colleagues. Kate recognized names but had never met them and did not bother to read their notes. The last letter in the stack was addressed to Kathryn Hastings c/o Dr. Evan Hastings, the script clear and familiar. The return address had been water damaged and was illegible. The stamp was from the Dominican Republic. She turned the envelope over slowly and looked at the seal.
A chill crept up her spine and her heart started to thump hard in her chest. As far as Kate could tell, the letter had never been opened.
Her hand shook as she tried to use a fingernail to slit the dry, aged paper. She stretched her fingers, willing away the tremor and taking a deep breath. She finally got her fingertip wedged under the corner and ripped the envelope across the top. One page of notebook paper, folded into a neat rectangle, had been tucked inside. Slowly, Kate unfolded the paper, smoothed it carefully, and then read the handwriting she still recognized after so many years.
I know you think that because my plans are more recent, yours should take priority. Believe me I heard you loud and clear, and I understand, but that doesn’t make mine any less important.
I have been pulled in the direction of the Peace Corp and the REAL work I could do there, and pulled toward you, to the most love and admiration I have ever felt for another human being. I have no doubt those two forces can move in the same direction. I can follow my calling and still be with you as you follow yours.
We can do it together. Just as we planned.
Calling. Does that sound corny? I cannot think of a better way to express how I have felt the last few months. I have read that people believe they are called to the ministry, to politics, to teaching. This is my calling.
You set me on this path and I am following it without fear or hesitation. It feels right. Like medicine, your calling, feels right to you. I know you understand.
Working with the foreign students really opened my eyes. Until now, my life has been narrow and safe, and too damn easy. Writing that, I notice that easy is a four-letter word. For many people, life is not easy, or just, or safe, or free. Lots of four letter words. For many, life is barely survivable.
I think everyone should be given the chance to survive. At the very least.
There is so much I need to ask you about the choice you made. Maybe your leaving me was right, but it doesn’t feel right. I only hope it’s not too late. It was just a stupid argument. I don’t understand why you left without telling me.
But I don’t care. I want to make it work for both of us. Whatever I have to do, I am prepared to do it. Just tell me what it is. I know I can make do without most things, but the one thing I can never give up is you. And I desperately need your love to sustain me on my life’s journey.
Please write back. Please. We can work this out. You are the love of my life.
Always and forever,
As she finished the letter, the call came over the intercom for first-class passengers to begin boarding. Tears filled Kate’s eyes as she stumbled through the gate onto the plane. She quickly settled into her seat, whispered water when the flight attendant asked quietly if she needed anything. And then she read the letter all over again.
His words did not make any sense at all.
How could he have written this letter? Nothing he had written made any sense.
Clay was blaming her.