Skip to main content

Excerpt - CRESSENT CITY COURTSHIP by Elizabeth White

Crescent City Courtship
by
Elizabeth White


Abigail Neal dreams of someday escaping her life in the slums of New Orleans. But how can a woman alone and unprotected ever fulfill her dreams of becoming a doctor? Then young medical student John Braddock comes to pay a call on a neighbor. Though the scars left on her heart have taught her never to trust anyone, Abigail is drawn to John's caring nature. Soon an unlikely friendship develops between the son of privilege and the poor daughter of missionaries. But when Abigail's mysterious past comes back to haunt her present, will she call upon her faith to help right a wrong and make a new life with her very own Prince Charming?

Excerpt of chapter one:

New Orleans, November 1879

Gasping for breath, Abigail Neal pounded on Charity Hospital's enormous oak front door, bruising her fist and driving a splinter into the heel of her hand. She'd covered the six blocks from the District at a flat-out run, but no one had offered to pick her up and take her to her destination. Not that she'd expected it.

"Come on, come on," she muttered. "Someone answer the door." She pounded again, this time with the flat of both hands. The sound echoed off the tall columns and wooden floor of the porch and reverberated through the hallway inside.

Where was everyone? Yanking the splinter out of her hand and sucking away a welling drop of blood, she peered through the little pane of glass in the door. Why lock the door of a hospital? To defend against marauding sick people?

Tess wasn't going to make it if a doctor didn't come soon.

Abigail was about to bang again when a pair of filmy, protruding eyes met hers on the other side of the window. The latch scraped back and the door opened, revealing a short, barrel-chested man with a pockmarked face. "You'll have to go to the back door," he said, squinting up at her. "Nurses are all in evening prayers."

"I don't need a nurse. I want a doctor." Abigail forced herself to stand still, clutching her fingers together to keep from wringing her hands. People often wouldn't help a person who seemed desperate.

The man scratched his head, disturbing the few wisps of gray hair clinging to his shining scalp. "Ain't no doctors here to the front. That's why I says go to the back and wait—that's where the clinic is." He looked her up and down. "You don't look sick, no ways."

"I'm not sick," Abigail said, striving for patience. "I want you to fetch a doctor so that I can take him back to the—I want him to come with me."

"Ain't none here right now," the guard repeated stubbornly. "Doc Laniere's teaching a surgery lesson—"

"Doctor Laniere?" Abigail grabbed the man's arm. "He's the one I want. Someone told me he's very kind and he's the best doctor in the city."

"He's the best all right. But he's busy, and—"

"Take me to him immediately." Abigail straightened, well aware of the intimidating effect of her full height. "What is your name?"

"They call me Crutch." The man glanced uneasily over his shoulder. "Mayhap I could see if Nurse Charlemagne—"

"I told you I don't want a nurse. I want the doctor." Abigail found herself on the verge of frustrated tears. Every moment of delay endangered not only Tess's life but that of the baby. Pride hadn't done a bit of good so far. "Please, Mr. Crutch. My friend is having her baby—she's been laboring all day and most of last night. She's getting weak, I don't have a way to get her here and I don't know what to do."

An enormous sigh was followed by a clicking of tongue against teeth. "He's gonna squash me like a mosquito," Crutch muttered, then to Abigail's relief, disappeared through a white pedimented doorway beyond the staircase.

Even though Crutch left the door standing wide, allowing an unobstructed view of the unadorned entryway, Abigail remained on the enormous two-story porch, unwilling to risk expulsion. She stood watching horse-drawn carriages rattle down Common Street. Some turned on Baronne before reaching the hospital, some continued to Philippa, where they rounded the corner of the beautiful green sward of grass which gave Common Street its name, then disappeared beyond tall rows of businesses. The scene was infinitely refined and orderly.

And she was going to bring the great doctor back with her to a tenement in the District. Well, he would just have to take her and Tess as he found them. She sat down on the broad top step of the porch and linked her fingers across her knees.

An interminable time later, Abigail heard the clatter of footsteps on the stairs behind her. She jumped to her feet and turned, expecting to see Crutch returning with the doctor. Instead she found a young man striding toward her with a black leather case in one hand and a fine felt hat in the other.

"I'm John Braddock," he said with curt nod. "I understand you need a doctor."

"Yes, but—" Wide-eyed, she stared at him. That name. What an odd coincidence. She blinked. "Mr. Crutch went for Dr. Laniere. He should be right back."

"I sent him to bring the mule cart around for us."

"But—I wanted the house surgeon. Where is he?"

Braddock frowned. "Dr. Laniere is conducting a surgery. Do you or do you not need a doctor?"

"I do, but—"

"Then we'd best hurry. Here's Crutch with the cart." He ran down the steps to the drive path, where the messenger was alighting from a small wagon pulled by a lop-eared mule.

Abigail picked up her skirts and followed. "But are you a doctor?" He was very young, perhaps in his mid-twenties.

Braddock vaulted onto the seat of the cart and took the reins from Crutch. "This is a medical college," he said, reaching a hand down to Abigail. "I'm a second-year student, top of my class. Professor Laniere wouldn't have sent me if he didn't think I could deliver a baby. Come on, get in."

Abigail stared up at him. A student? But Dr. Laniere was in surgery and Tess needed help now. She allowed young Braddock to pull her up onto the narrow seat, settling as far away from him as she dared without pitching herself onto the pavement.

"Where is the patient?" he asked, glancing at her.

"Tchapitoulas Street."

"That's a long street. Which part?"

"The District," she managed, burning with humiliation. "We're next to the saloon on the corner of Poydras."

"I might have known." He flapped the reins to set the cart into motion.

Abigail refused to look at him again, although the jostling of the cart forced her elbow to brush his again and again. She gritted her teeth. By the time they traversed the short distance to the tenement room she shared with Tess, her nerves were a raw jangle of anxiety, fear and resentment.

The young doctor spoke not another word to her until he stopped the cart in front of the saloon and lightly jumped down to tie the mule to a hitching post. He reached for his bag, then offered a hand to Abigail. "Perhaps you could tell me what the trouble is and who I'm to treat."

Disdaining his hand, Abigail got down from the cart on her own. "My friend Tess has been laboring to deliver her baby all day and most of last night. She was so weak and frightened… I didn't know what to do."

"When did contractions start?"

Abigail hurried for the door of the tenement. "About this time yesterday."

Braddock grabbed her arm. "She's been in labor for twenty-four hours and you're just now asking for help?"

"I've delivered babies before." She jerked away from him. "It's just that I've never encountered this difficulty." Not for the first time she wished she'd had the opportunity for training this rich boy had. Then she'd have known what to do without incurring his disdain.

"Never mind. Which room?" They were in the tiny ground-floor entryway. Narrow unpainted doors opened to the right and left and the treads of a rickety staircase wobbled straight ahead.

"This way." Abigail turned to the door on the right and lifted the door latch. There was no key because there was no lock. "Tess?" She entered the dark, shabby little room, frightened by the silence. She could sense the silent young doctor behind her.

A soft moan came from the shadows where Tess's pallet lay against the wall.

Relieved, Abigail hurried over. "Tess, I've brought a doctor. He's going to help us bring the baby out."

"I can't… I'm too tired, Abby." Tess's voice was a thread.

Abigail fell to her knees and laid a gentle hand on Tess's distended belly. "Yes, you can. Dr. Braddock is going to help you." She looked over her shoulder to find him setting his bag on the table.

He looked up. "We'll need all the extra linens you have. You've a way to boil water?"

Abigail swallowed. "Of course."

"Abigail? Abby?" Tess's voice sounded terrified. "It's starting again. The pain—" A scream interrupted her words, ripping from the center of her being.

Torn between compassion and the practical need to attend to the doctor's wishes, Abigail hurried to find the pile of clean rags she'd been collecting against Tess's lying-in. As she mended the fire she'd left burning low in the tiny cookstove that squatted against the only exterior wall of the room, she was conscious of Tess's inhuman, wailing accompaniment to Braddock's rather jerky movements.

He laid out a collection of shining instruments on one of the rags, arranging them with fastidious neatness. He seemed slow, reluctant.

She watched him with resentment. She should be the doctor, not him.

By the time she had a tin pot of water boiling to her satisfaction on the stovetop, Tess's screams had subsided to whimpers. Abigail gestured for Braddock's attention. "Now what?"

He got to his feet. "We need to let the water cool a few minutes. I want to wash my hands and instruments. Do you have lye soap?"

She frowned. "We need to hurry. She's not going to be able to stand another contraction like that."

Braddock scowled. "I'll remind you that you came to me for help. Professor always washes everything."

Abigail stared at him. If she argued with him, he would stand there until Kingdom Come, and Tess would die. Tight-lipped, she found him the soap, then knelt beside Tess to bathe her head with a cool cloth. "Hold on," she murmured. "Just a few more minutes."

Behind her John Braddock doused his instruments one by one in the boiling water, then returned them to the clean cloth. After removing the pot from the stove, he stood waiting for it to cool, hands in the pockets of his trousers, staring at nothing.

Abigail watched him. His body was tall and strongly built inside those fashionable clothes. He'd laid the beautiful hat on the shaky pine table, revealing a headful of wavy golden brown hair. She supposed one could call him good-looking, although her perspective on handsome men was admittedly skewed. She had yet to see him smile, but his nose was firmly arched, with fine nostrils, and the eyes wide-set and intelligent.

His brain was the most important part of his body as far as she was concerned.

Finally, just as Tess started screaming again, he decided the water was cool enough to the touch and proceeded to thoroughly soap and rinse his hands. Catching Abigail staring as he dried them, he gave her a mocking bow.

"Now, your ladyship, I'm ready."

John knelt beside his moaning patient and stared at the baby in his hands. For the first time in his life he uttered the name of God in prayer. He'd never lost a life before— at least not on his own.

He laid the stillborn infant on a ragged towel, then turned to the woman who had been quietly hovering behind him for the past two hours. He held out a shaking hand. "Give me that needle and suture."

She handed him the implements he required, watching his every movement with vigilant, protective eyes.

He began the job of sewing up the woman's torn body. "Here, hold this sponge."

His provisional nurse knelt and followed his gestured instructions. "What about the baby?"

"You can bury it later. It's more important to take care of your friend."

Abigail gasped, dropping the sponge. "The baby's dead? How could you let it die?" She picked up the infant and cradled it against her bodice. Her face twisted and silent sobs began to shake her thin body.

John swallowed against a surge of sympathy but kept stitching. Crying wasn't going to bring the baby back to life. He finished the sutures, efficiently mopped the wound and sat back on his heels. He studied his patient's chalky face. At least she was still breathing, harsh painful gasps between bloodless lips. Her eyes squeezed shut as he drew her dress down over her knees. She would live.

"Where's her husband?" He got up to rinse his hands in a bowl of sterilized water, wiped them on the last clean towel, then opened his bag to stow his instruments.

"I'm not married." The gritty whisper came from his patient. Grunting, she tried to sit up. "Abigail, let me see the baby."

"Here, lie down or you'll start the bleeding again." John knelt to put a hand to her shoulder, which was almost as thin as the skeleton that sat in a spare chair in his boarding house bedroom.

The patient speared him with pain-clouded eyes. "I have to see him."

"It's—it was a girl," John stammered. "She didn't make it."

"A girl. Please, let me hold her just a minute."

John met Abigail's eyes for an agonized moment. She looked away.

"Give it to her," he managed.

His patient took the infant's naked, messy little body against her own, cuddling it as if it were alive and ready to suckle.

What was a fellow supposed to do? He was no minister capable of dealing with these depths of grief. Inarticulate anger seized him as he took a deliberate look around. The tiny, shabby tenement room was scrupulously clean—apparently the lye soap had been put to use—but the odor of mildew and age infused every breath he took. This was no place for two young women to live alone, no matter what their morals.

Dr. Laniere would have known exactly how to deal with the situation. But back at the hospital, Crutch had interrupted the professor demonstrating the amputation of an infected finger for a ring of medical students. The professor had sent John, assuring him he was perfectly capable of delivering a baby.

Eagerly he'd accepted the assignment. John had always assumed he could do anything he set his mind to. But his confidence had diminished as he realized the breech presentation had left the baby in the birth canal too long.

Capable. A crack of despairing laughter escaped him. Lesson learned.

Unfortunately, there was nothing more he could do here. Snapping the latch of his bag, he turned toward the door.

He'd taken no more than a couple of steps when he found himself deluged from behind by lukewarm water. It streamed down the back of his neck, plastered his hair to his forehead and nearly strangled him as he took a startled breath.

With a choked exclamation, he turned to find Abigail glaring at him, the cracked pottery bowl held in her hands like a battle mace.

"Where do you think you're going?" she demanded, looking as if she might fling the bowl at his head, too.

Speechless, John dropped his bag and swiped water out of his eyes with his sleeve. Intent on getting to the patient, he hadn't properly looked at the woman who had summoned him.


Buy from Christianbook.com
Buy from Amazon.com

Comments

Popular Posts

Merry Christmas! Enjoy The Spinster's Christmas

As a Merry Christmas gift to all my blog readers, I’m going to be posting my Christian Regency romantic suspense, The Spinster’s Christmas , for free on my blog! I’ll be posting the book in 1000-1500 word segments every Tuesday and Friday. (When I do the calculations, it’ll finish around the end of May.) Why am I posting a Christmas story when it won’t be Christmas in a week? Because I can! :) The Spinster’s Christmas is the prequel volume to my Lady Wynwood’s Spies series . Right now I’m editing volume 1 of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, and it’s on track to release in 2020. (If you’re on my Camille Elliot newsletter , you’ll be sure to hear when it’s available for preorder.) I anticipate that the Lady Wynwood’s Spies series to be about ten volumes. I think the series story will be a lot of fun to tell, and I’m looking forward to writing up a storm! Below, I’ll be listing the links to the parts of The Spinster’s Christmas as I post them. (I created the html links by hand so please l

Tabi socks, part deux

Captain's Log, Stardate 07.25.2008 (If you're on Ravelry, friend me! I'm camytang.) I made tabi socks again! (At the bottom of the pattern is the calculation for the toe split if you're not using the same weight yarn that I did for this pattern (fingering). I also give an example from when I used worsted weight yarn with this pattern.) I used Opal yarn, Petticoat colorway. It’s a finer yarn than my last pair of tabi socks, so I altered the pattern a bit. Okay, so here’s my first foray into giving a knitting pattern. Camy’s top-down Tabi Socks I’m assuming you already know the basics of knitting socks. If you’re a beginner, here are some great tutorials: Socks 101 How to Knit Socks The Sock Knitter’s Companion A video of turning the heel Sock Knitting Tips Yarn: I have used both fingering weight and worsted weight yarn with this pattern. You just change the number of cast on stitches according to your gauge and the circumference of your ankle. Th

How can I pray for you?

Photo credit: lalalime.blogspot.com 日本語訳は下をご覧ください。 I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, taking time to be still and remember God’s grace. My IBS has gotten a little better, but I’m still not entirely in control of my symptoms. There are simply too many things I don’t know if I can eat or not, and when I try things, if they affect my IBS, then I’m out for about a week at a time. My writing has slowed down more than I’d like. Please pray for God to heal my IBS, and for me to learn what God wants me to learn by allowing these struggles. Just as I’m struggling, if you are too, remember that God is with us and has a reason for everything that happens to us. Lord, thank You that You are always with us and have control over everything that happens to us. Help us to surrender to You and do Your will, no matter what is going on in our lives. Amen How can I pray for you today? Please leave me your prayer requests! Prayer requests can sometimes be private things, so to keep your

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

Grace Livingston Hill romances free to read online

I wanted to update my old post on Grace Livingston Hill romances because now there are tons more options for you to be able to read her books for free online! I’m a huge Grace Livingston Hill fan. Granted, not all her books resonate with me, but there are a few that I absolutely love, like The Enchanted Barn and Crimson Roses . And the best part is that she wrote over 100 books and I haven’t yet read them all! When I have time, I like to dive into a new GLH novel. I like the fact that most of them are romances, and I especially appreciate that they all have strong Christian themes. Occasionally the Christian content is a little heavy-handed for my taste, but it’s so interesting to see what the Christian faith was like in the early part of the 20th century. These books are often Cinderella-type stories or A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) type stories, which I love. And the best part is that they’re all set in the early 1900s, so the time period is absolutely fasci

Camy Tang's November newsletter

My Camy Tang (Christian Contemporary Romantic Suspense) newsletter went out this week, but in case you missed it, the link is below. In my newsletter this month, there’s an update on my personal life and publishing schedule, and I also linked to a blog post about what the TV show Supernatural has to do with GONE MISSING, the 6th book in my Sonoma series Click here to read my Camy Tang newsletter for November. I also forgot to post the link for the October newsletter, so you can click here to read it.

ひとり寿司第25章パート2

「ひとり寿司」をブログに連載します! ひとり寿司 寿司シリーズの第一作 キャミー・タング 西島美幸 訳 スポーツ狂のレックス・坂井 —— いとこのマリコが数ヶ月後に結婚することにより、「いとこの中で一番年上の独身女性」という内輪の肩書を「勝ち取る」ことについては、あまり気にしていない。コントロールフリークの祖母を無視するのは容易だ —— しかし、祖母は最終通告を出した —— マリコの結婚式までにデート相手を見つけなければ、無慈悲な祖母は、レックスがコーチをしている女子バレーボールチームへの資金供給を切ると言う。 ダグアウトにいる選手全員とデートに出かけるほど絶望的なわけではない。レックスは、バイブルスタディで読んだ「エペソの手紙」をもとに「最高の男性」の条件の厳しいリストを作った。バレーボールではいつも勝つ —— ゲームを有利に進めれば、必ず成功するはずだ。 そのとき兄は、クリスチャンではなく、アスリートでもなく、一見何の魅力もないエイデンを彼女に引き合わせる。 エイデンは、クリスチャンではないという理由で離れていったトリッシュという女の子から受けた痛手から立ち直ろうとしている。そして、レックスが(1)彼に全く興味がないこと、(2)クリスチャンであること、(3)トリッシュのいとこであることを知る。あの狂った家族とまた付き合うのはごめんだ。まして、偽善的なクリスチャンの女の子など、お断り。彼はマゾヒストじゃない。 レックスは時間がなくなってきた。いくら頑張っても、いい人は現れない。それに、どこへ行ってもエイデンに遭遇する。あのリストはどんどん長くなっていくばかり —— 過去に掲載済みのストーリーのリンクはこちらです。 *** ビーナスはベンの視界をさえぎった。「ここは大丈夫だから、もう帰っていいわよ」 「でも——」 ビーナスは、また彼の目の前でドアを閉めた。 「何——」 ビーナスはレックスの言葉をさえぎり、ドアの隣の窓から外をのぞいた。「よかったわ、レックス、エイデンが来てくれて。あなたの巻き爪を全部切ってくれるわよ」ビーナスの声が小さい部屋に響き渡った。 どうやって礼儀正しく答えようかと決めかねているように、エイデンの表情は少し硬くなった。多分、(そうなの?)とか(それはおもしろいね)とでも言う

Join Camy's Patreon!

At the moment, I’m releasing all my books in Kindle Unlimited, which requires my books to be exclusive to Amazon. However, I wanted to accommodate readers who prefer other ebook distributors and also reward my fans who might like my books a little ahead of schedule. ​So I started a Patreon where patrons will get BookFunnel links to download my latest ebooks about 2-3 weeks ahead of the release date. The ebook files are DRM-free and BookFunnel is great about helping you to load it onto your ebook reader or phone/tablet or computer. My Patreon is “per creation,” which means you won’t be charged every month. You will only be charged when I’ve posted a new book. For example, if I post a book on April 15th, you’ll be charged on May 1st. But if I don’t post a book in May, you won’t be charged on June 1st at all. This is because with my health problems, and since some of my books are over 100,000 words each, I’m not able to write a book a month, and I certainly don’t want to charge my

Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 6

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series. Year of the Dog serial novel by Camy Tang Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year. While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier. Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Aunt Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Chri

One-Skein Pyrenees Scarf knitting pattern

I got into using antique patterns when I was making the scarf my hero wears in my Regency romance, The Spinster’s Christmas . I wanted to do another pattern which I think was in use in the Regency period, the Pyrenees Knit Scarf on pages 36-38 of The Lady's Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work, volume 1, by Jane Gaugain, published in 1840. She is thought to be the first person to use knitting abbreviations, at least in a published book, although they are not the same abbreviations used today (our modern abbreviations were standardized by Weldon’s Practical Needlework in 1906). Since the book is out of copyright, you can download a free PDF copy of the book at Archive.org. I found this to be a fascinating look at knitting around the time of Jane Austen’s later years. Although the book was published in 1840, many of the patterns were in use and passed down by word of mouth many years before that, so it’s possible these are p