“Can I fetch you anything to drink?” Rosemary asked with a strained look on her face. She rearranged herself on her chair as if she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to get up. From across the room, Kenton looked at her, trying to decide if the pain Rosemary was obviously experiencing was related to the fact that she was eight months pregnant or rooted in something else entirely.
“No, no, I’m fine, but you are clearly in some discomfort. Tell me how you feel, Rosemary,” Kenton said in what he hoped was an assertive but calming voice. He had only been the resident doctor in Park County, Wyoming, for a month and was still trying to make a good impression.
“Oh, I’m feeling alright. Just some … you know.”
Kenton wasn’t sure he did know but had a feeling that it had something to do with premature contractions. Perhaps it was because her husband was still in the room or because Kenton himself was practically a stranger, but Rosemary seemed uncomfortable on more than one level. If he was going to get to the bottom of whatever Rosemary was suffering from, he would have to make her feel at ease enough to open up to him.
“My love, Kenton is the doctor, not a guest. You don’t have to be the perfect hostess anymore. Just tell him what hurts.” Hal Daniels, the closest thing Kenton had to a friend in Park County, tried to comfort his wife, whose eyes were starting to fill with tears. From Rosemary’s white knuckles wrapped around her husband’s reassuring hand, Kenton could tell that she was in some serious pain.
“I don’t mean to be cryptic; it’s just that I know I shouldn’t be feeling like this yet. The cramping has been going on since last night, and just this morning I noticed some blood. The baby won’t be coming for another four weeks, though! What does it mean, Doctor Cook?” Rosemary asked with a wince.
“Well, I’m not quite sure, but once I examine you, I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it. Before that, I need you to relax, Rosemary. It’s completely normal to go through all sorts of mysterious pains throughout pregnancy. No one knows that more than you do!” Though he hadn’t had too much experience in the realm of obstetrics, he knew that deferring to the mother whenever possible made the most sense. They always knew what their body was going through better than anyone else ever would, and that was something to be trusted.
“I certainly do. I swear, I watched as my mother was working in the fields up until the day she gave birth to my younger siblings, but I can hardly bring myself to get out of bed sometimes. I feel terribly lazy. The headaches and nausea are just too much for me to take. Aah!” Rosemary cringed with pain, and Kenton stood up quickly.
“These symptoms are very common with a first pregnancy, but we want to be sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep you and the baby comfortable. Now, why don’t you change into your nightdress? I’ll make sure that everything’s alright with the baby, and then I can leave you both in peace. I know you need to get back out to the fields, Hal,” Kenton said to his new friend with a nod.
“Don’t worry about that at all. I’ll stay with you for the rest of the day if need be. The crops will still be there tomorrow, Rosemary.” With a reassuring smile, Hal helped his wife toward the bedroom.
“Thank you,” Rosemary answered in a pained but grateful tone.
Kenton watched them go, arm in arm, and a pang of jealousy rushed through him. It wasn’t a rational jealousy, seeing as Rosemary was in serious pain, but what he felt was envy for their relationship. For years, Kenton had watched his friends get married and start families, but had yet to make the leap himself. He’d had plenty of time to ponder his status as a confirmed bachelor on the long train ride from Maine, but ever since arriving in Park County, he hadn’t even had a second to count his own toes.
“She’s lying down and feeling a bit better,” Hal reported back once he got Rosemary settled, interrupting Kenton’s thoughts. It was for the best; the longer he had to dwell on his loneliness, the more he felt it.
Everything seemed normal when Kenton examined Rosemary.
“I think I just felt the baby kick! That’s a good sign that the infant is healthy, and we just need to make sure that you feel comfortable as soon as possible.” Kenton pulled up a chair beside the oak four-poster bed and looked up at Hal, who was nervously watching from nearby. Rosemary groaned in pain.
“As much as I love to hear that the baby is healthy, it would mean more to me if Rosemary wasn’t in so much pain. It’s alright, my love,” Hal said softly as he moved to the bed and started rubbing his wife’s back.
“I understand this can be a confusing time. There is still so much that’s impossible to know. Even though she’s had a difficult pregnancy, I’m not worried about Rosemary or the baby. From what I’ve seen today, both are very healthy.”
Hal nodded, though there was still an undeniable look of worry in his eyes.
“Do you hear that, my love? Dr. Cook thinks there’s nothing to worry about,” Hal said, repeating Kenton’s words to his wife, who was reposed in pain along the bed.
“I do feel a bit better, now that I’m lying down,” Rosemary responded, and it heartened Kenton to hear the strength that had returned to her voice.
“It’s for that precise reason that I’m going to advise that you stay in bed from now until the birth. I read a paper just last month written by an eminent English doctor named John Braxton Hicks, and he’s discovered that there can be phantom contraction pains that may appear any time in the third trimester of the pregnancy. Not to say that what you’re feeling isn’t a real contraction, but that you haven’t actually commenced labor. For now, it’s best to make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water, and I think you’ll find that staying on your left side will bring you the most relief. I know it’s likely very uncomfortable, and the prospect of being confined to bed for potentially four weeks may seem drastic, but it will all be worth it in the end. I’m sure you know this, but first births are often the most difficult. I don’t say that to scare either of you, only to reassure you that some difficulties are to be expected. The good news is that your baby is very healthy and will soon be helping Hal here plow the fields in no time!”
Rosemary laughed, and Kenton breathed a sigh of relief. There was always a high percentage of uncertainty involved with pregnancies, but he’d had enough experience to know that no pregnant woman in serious pain would have the energy to laugh. It was evident that Rosemary was already feeling better, which was a very good sign for things to come.
“I’m sorry I won’t be much help around the house,” Rosemary said weakly to Hal, reaching for his hand.
“That’s alright, my love, we’ll work it all out. You don’t have to worry about a thing. We’ll get your brother to help out with the harvest, and I’m sure my mother would be thrilled to spare us some of her food.” Despite the strength of his voice, Kenton could tell that Hal was concerned about all the extra work he’d have around the homestead with Rosemary out of commission for close to a month.
“You let me know if you need any help, and I’ll see what I can do. I can’t say that I know the first thing about a corn harvest, but I can take direction!” Kenton added, trying to be helpful. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Kenton regretted offering his help. Luckily, Hal already knew that the young doctor was taking on more than he could chew.
“Kenton Cook, I appreciate the offer, but you know just as well as I do that you don’t have the time! You have an entire town to care for, and I understand that that is a job that doesn’t allow for any time off. I know my father has been doing his best to see if any other doctors would consider relocating, but it’s a tall order. Not every physician from the East coast is interested in moving thousands of miles away to start a new life.”
Kenton smiled. It hadn’t been an easy decision to come to Wyoming, but when it had come time to choose, Kenton had known he needed a change. Since then, he hadn’t even had time to regret it. As a growing town, Park County had almost five-hundred residents, and it was getting bigger every day. Wyoming didn’t have the goldrush that neighboring Colorado was experiencing, but ever since the railway had been built to reach Cheyenne, there had been a steady stream of East Coasters like Kenton, curious to find out more about the state. For years, there had been stories about the stunning Yellowstone Park that had reached Kenton all the way in Maine, many of which seemed too incredible to believe. Kenton had yet to explore the park himself, but he was very much looking forward to getting the chance. Everything about Wyoming seemed wild and raw, which was exactly the kind of perspective shift he had been looking for.
“I don’t know why every doctor in the country isn’t dropping everything and running for Wyoming. Your father is the best mayor this town could ask for, Hal, and judging by the townsfolk I’ve met so far, Park County seems to be the perfect place to call home. It’s wild, that’s for sure, but I appreciate that side of humanity. Not to mention it matches the landscape!”
Kenton enjoyed the moment of relaxation as he sat with his new friend and his wife, but he knew that his time was limited. He was due at three more homes before the end of the day, and that didn’t include any unexpected cases that might come up along the way and keep him awake into the wee hours of the morning.
“Well, on behalf of my father, myself, and the whole town of Park County, we’re very happy to have you here. It was a difficult two months without any doctor at all. We had to go all the way to Powell if there was any kind of emergency. I don’t know how we would get through this last month of Rosemary’s pregnancy without a doctor to consult. Maine’s loss is our gain. Out of curiosity, what made you want to leave the East Coast?” Hal asked.
Kenton knew he needed to get on his way if he would make it to his next appointment on time, but any chance to get to know Hal and Rosemary was precious. As much as he was dedicated to his work, he wanted to make sure that he was making Park County the home he wanted it to be, and that meant connecting with his neighbors.
“It’s a long story that I’ll bore you with properly sometime, but essentially I just got sick and tired of how closed off and dishonest most of the people there were. It’s different in Maine than it is here, but suffice to say there’s a truthfulness to the townsfolk here that I was missing out East.”
Though she was facing the other direction, Rosemary responded to Kenton’s cryptic answer.
“That sounds like there’s a fascinating tale there, to be sure. Why don’t you come back for dinner this evening, and you can recount the tale properly?”
Both Kenton and Hal laughed.
“You know, if she’s inviting people over to dinner, then she must be feeling better. I’m glad for it, my dear. Truth be told, you had me worried. I’m happy to hear that you’re feeling better, love, but what on earth are we going to feed the good doctor? If you’re supposed to stay in bed …” Hal trailed off, clearly a bit intimidated by the thought of hosting a dinner guest if he needed to be in charge of the menu.
“Then you’ll have to throw something together yourself, Hal. Don’t worry, we have leftover stew that you can prepare easily enough, and then we’ll start your culinary lessons tomorrow,” Rosemary teased her husband.
“I’m easy enough to please, I promise. If it’s not too much trouble for you, Hal, I’d love to take you up on the offer. That way I can check back on Rosemary here and make sure she’s feeling better. I’d be happy with some bread, butter, and company.” Though he knew in advance that he’d be tired, he also knew how important it was to make inroads with the community. Hal’s father was the mayor of Park County, and if Kenton was going to solidify his place in the town, he knew that the Daniels were a good family to get to know. More than that, Kenton’s own house was still only half set up and didn’t really feel like a home quite yet. Though he was very happy to be starting a new life, he still had a sense of loneliness that hit him every night as he tried to fall asleep. The more time he spent with new friends, the less that loneliness haunted him.
“It’s settled then,” Rosemary said softly, continuing, “we’ll see you around six-o’clock, and Hal here will have dinner ready on the table! I suppose I’ll have to eat in here, but you all have to promise that you’ll come talk with me and keep me company. I don’t know how I’ll get through these next long weeks otherwise.”
With time pressing on, Kenton took his leave of the Daniels, promising to see them both in just a few hours. When he’d first met Rosemary, she had been full of vim and vigor, so it was nice to see her get a bit of her spark back, even if she was to be confined to bed for the weeks to come.
The rest of the day passed by in a blur as Kenton rushed around the small town to see all his patients. He spent every morning in the office that he leased along the main street (thanks to a good word from Mayor Daniels) where patients from neighboring towns came to see him, and then he took the afternoons to make house calls. For the most part, the area was so spread out that it made more sense for local residents to come to him, but he liked to make exceptions for anyone that lived within a half-hour ride of Park County’s center.
He spent the afternoon treating the blacksmith’s son’s sprained wrist and a case of pneumonia that had unfortunately turned into pleurisy. He also made an exception to his usual mandate of treating humans only, and he made a splint for James Evans’ beloved dog who had broken a leg. From what he’d understood, James had just recently lost his mother to cholera, so Kenton understood how difficult it would be for the young man to handle the loss of his dog so soon after the loss of his mother.
By the time he walked back up to the Daniels’ front porch, he knew he was late but was sure they would understand. Sure enough, Hal was struggling to find the right sized bowls, and Kenton’s lateness was deemed a bit of a blessing.
“Ah! It’s the esteemed doctor. How wonderful to see you again! Tell me, Dr. Cook, do they teach you in medical school about where to find large bowls? I’m suddenly realizing that I’m not even sure I know my way around my own house if you can believe it.” Hal looked frenzied but happy, which Kenton took as a good sign.
“Yes, we spend a whole second-year course on the subject. Let’s see if I can’t find something that will work. Sometimes you just need an extra set of eyes to see what’s right in front of you,” Kenton said, taking off his hat and rolling up his sleeves to get to work once more.
He found the bowls within seconds of opening a cupboard, and Hal was suitably grateful and embarrassed that he hadn’t been able to locate them.
“Dr. Cook to the rescue, again! Thank you. Oh, I forgot to mention that my mother and father will also be joining us. They’ll also be bringing some kind of dessert to help make up for whatever dismal meal I put together for us. All I know right now is that I need all the help I can get around the house and the farm,” Hal said, finally stopping for a moment to catch his breath.
“Your father is a very resourceful man, and I’m sure that he and your mother will round up the entire town to help with anything you might need.” Kenton had only had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Daniels once previously, but he already sensed that he was a very conscientious civic leader who was passionate about his constituents. It could be difficult bringing some kind of civility to a part of the world that was only just starting to settle, but if there was anyone up to the job, it was Mayor Daniels.
“Dr. Cook, you’re too kind! This is how I like to walk into a house, overhearing compliments about me as I do.”
Kenton turned around just in time to see Mayor Daniels himself strutting into the small farmhouse. He always looked dressed for dinner and kept his large mustache groomed to perfection.
“Please, call me Kenton,” the young doctor protested as he greeted Mayor Daniels.
“I’m afraid the misses won’t be joining us this evening. As soon as she heard about Rosemary’s state, she immediately started cooking and canning away, so you can expect your food stores to be filled in no time.” As the Mayor spoke, he patted his son on the back, and there was visible relief in Hal’s eyes.
“Well, I’m sorry that she won’t be joining us, but I can’t deny that it’s nice to hear that supplies are on the way.” Hal spooned the stew out of the cast-iron pot, handing the bowls out to his father and Kenton to go with the hearty sourdough bread and sharp cheddar already on the table.
“You speak as if you’re preparing to go into battle, Hal,” Kenton teased.
“It does feel just a bit similar to that, yes,” Hal replied in a dry and earnest tone. He really did seem to be considering the coming month to be a trial of biblical proportions. Kenton knew from treating new families, however, that the real struggles started once the child was born. Hopefully, Rosemary would be on her feet again shortly after giving birth, but there was no saying how long she’d have to stay in bed to recuperate properly.
“Oh, you’ll be fine, son. My three boys are the light of my life and worth every ounce of difficulty along the way. You’ll see, it will all be worthwhile in no time at all. Besides, what’s life without a bit of conflict? I’ll tell you what it is. It’s boring, that’s what. Think about it this way, even the richest, most worry-free members of our society still manage to get themselves into trouble, and boredom is to thank for it.” Kenton wasn’t sure if the mayor truly meant what he was saying, but it certainly lightened the table’s mood. Clearly the mayor was very excited about the prospect of meeting his first grandchild, and he wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that.
“This meal is hearty and nicely filling. Thank you, Hal. I see great things in your culinary future,” Kenton said, changing the subject.
Hal just shook his head and laughed.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that. My future ought to be out in the fields. We should all be terribly frightened if I’m to be left in charge of the kitchen much past the next month or so. Still, it’s always good to learn new skills and so forth. That way if .. .if it’s ever just me here, then I’ll be alright.”
All of a sudden, Kenton wished he hadn’t said anything at all. Clearly Hal was very nervous about the state of his wife and the prospect of her giving birth. Kenton couldn’t blame him. Bringing a new life into the world was no easy feat, and it took the lives of many women and newborns if even the slightest thing went wrong during the birth. Still, it did no good to dwell on what he couldn’t change just then.
“I did something I’ve never done before this afternoon as well,” Kenton announced with a smile, hoping once more to divert the conversation.
“Oh? What was that?” Mayor Daniels asked, apparently just as eager as Kenton was to cheer up his son.
“I put a splint on a dog’s leg. I truly feel like a country doctor now. I can safely say that I would never have been asked to do anything like that in Maine, and honestly, I appreciate the experience. No saying whether or not it will work, but it was worth it to see the light come back to its owner’s eyes.” Kenton avoided telling the table the part of the story where he’d only treated the dog because the owner’s mother had passed away earlier, and he needed some hope to carry on.
“Is that right? Well, what a heartwarming tale. Park County is lucky to have a doctor like you. I apologize that the workload has been so heavy recently. Who would have known that caring for such a spread-out population would be so taxing? Still, you’re rising to the occasion brilliantly, young Kenton, and if there’s ever anything I can do for you, just give me a holler.”
Kenton nodded in response to the mayor’s kind words, grateful for the offer of support.
“Ah yes, you were going to tell us the tale of why you decided to leave Maine in the first place. Here we are, with good mead, great company, and a passable meal. What better time to regale us with the story?” Hal asked.
Kenton knew he had to oblige, though he still wasn’t entirely sure how to talk about what had happened in Maine or what exactly had pushed him to make the big move in the first place. Maine was filled with painful memories, and part of him wanted to pretend that he hadn’t had a life before Park County at all.
“I suppose I should start by explaining a bit about my family, then. My father is a man of industry. He started a very successful shipping business in London, England. Once he felt that he had conquered the business world there, he decided to expand into the new world. Unlike his other peers, he decided that he couldn’t trust anyone else to manage the expansion as well as he would, so he packed up my mother and headed across the Atlantic. I was born two years later, the eldest of four.” As Kenton regaled them with the tale of his not-so-modest beginnings, he thought back with some fondness to the first house they’d inhabited in Augusta, nestled along the bank of the Kennebec River. Augusta certainly hadn’t had half the vistas to offer that Park County had, but still, it held a special place in his heart.
“Oh my, so you were born into quite the family business then, I presume?” Mayor Daniels noted, sitting a little straighter in his chair as if he were in the presence of royalty.
“Yes, I admit I was, though I never got a taste for it myself, much to the disappointment of my father. He had his heart set on me taking over the business when I came of age, but I had no interest in shipping and receiving, especially when I saw its toll on the workers. I’ve always wanted to help people from an early age, and I didn’t see the value of a business that broke its workers’ backs. I told my father as much, and of course, he was deeply offended. He told me I ought to be grateful for the fortune I had been born into, and it was true. I owed everything, even the clothing on my back to him and the business he built.”
Somberly, Mayor Daniels and Hal nodded.
“I can only imagine how your mother must have felt, to see such a rift growing between her son and husband,” Hal added.
“She did her best to try and bridge the gap between us, but in the end, there was no covering that divide,” Kenton said, continuing dryly. “I thought that by the time I finished my medical schooling, my father would see the error in his ways. At the very least, there was my younger brother, Edward, who was itching to take over the company. I would have been happy to let Edward take the reins, but my father was having none of it. As the eldest, he thought it was my duty to step into his shoes, almost as if it were a question of honor. Finally, when I graduated and announced that I had no intention of going into business, he disowned me. I’ve been cut out of the family tree, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“All because you became a doctor instead of a businessman?” Hal asked, shocked.
Kenton nodded. “It’s a little more complicated than that, but essentially, yes. I tried to start up a practice in Maine, but it was as if my father had poisoned the water against me. He tried to threaten anyone who came to me for treatment, and since he owned one of the major shipping companies in town, his clout was not to be taken lightly. Every time I walked through the streets, I heard people whispering about me, and eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. Here, in a place like Park County, I feel like the townsfolk have really had my back even though I’ve only been here for four short weeks.”
Mayor Daniels grunted in a proud sort of agreement.
“I do concur. The people who come out here want to start an honest life. Of course, there are the good-for-nothings who roll through town, taking what they can and hightailing it out again, but I almost respect that kind of thievery. It’s an honest kind of crime if you know what I mean.”
Kenton wasn’t sure, but he thought he did.
“I think I understand. I saw the way my father talked about his workers as if they were pawns in a game. He discussed manipulative ways of avoiding taxes and taking advantage of his employees, all with a tone of voice that indicated he thought he was the most civilized person in the room. At least the outlaws and bandits of the West don’t pretend to be anything they’re not.”
“That’s right. They practically announce themselves upon arrival,” Mayor Daniels said with a chuckle, continuing, “I suppose we’ll have to forgive you for your English blood, seeing as it turns out you’re quite a talented young doctor.”
“I try to do the best I can. That’s what I admire so much about the people who come out this way. Every man and woman is building a new world from the ground up and trying to take care of one another, instead of stepping over each other for clout and reputation.”
“I like to think that Park County certainly has that kind of atmosphere, though I can’t say the same for the folks down in Colorado. One speck of gold on a riverbank seems to send everyone into frenzied rage,” Hal said, slurping up the last of his stew.
Kenton laughed. “Yes, but it’s an honest, frenzied rage, wouldn’t you agree? If something like that happened in Maine, everyone would pretend they didn’t want the gold, but behind the scenes, they would manipulate everyone they could to get their hands on it. I appreciate the hard work that everyone puts into everything they do here and how open and friendly everyone seems to be. Seems like the perfect place to start a family.”
“Ah! The doctor has family matters on his mind. Well, goodness, do any of our fine Park County bachelorettes catch your eye?” Hal asked, sending a self-conscious blush rising up Kenton’s cheeks.
“No, I only seem to meet new people on my rounds, and thus far, most of those people seem to have been the elderly or foolish young children who have fallen out of crabapple trees. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll have time to court anyone while keeping up my schedule. Speaking of work, do you mind if I go and check on Rosemary for a moment?”
“Always on the job, aren’t you, Doctor Cook?” Hal teased.
“What can I say? I try not to take that oath lightly,” Kenton replied, pushing his chair in and nodding his head towards the men before adjourning to the bedroom, where he hoped he would find Rosemary sleeping. She wasn’t sleeping, but she was in fine form, and they chatted up a storm while listening to the roaring laughter of Hal and Mayor Daniels coming from the other room. The mood had wonderfully improved since the terror of the afternoon, and for the first time since his arrival in Wyoming, Kenton felt truly at home.
“The Healing Touch of his Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Ginny Hill’s life plan is to work hard as a seamstress until she’s saved enough money to go to college. When her uncle runs away with the family fortune, she cannot believe how her life took a turn for the worst in a single day, as it looks like she’s going to be stuck in Wyoming longer than she ever intended to be. The only bright spot in her predicament comes in the form of the town’s new doctor, Kenton. Ginny is immediately smitten with the handsome medic and suddenly, she is not so anxious to leave town after all. When a terrible misunderstanding threatens to drive them apart, will Ginny manage to swim through the endless waves of his suspicions and be his lifesaver?
Kenton Cook comes from a family devoid of love but full of wealth. He chooses to work in the west because he wants to prove to himself that he can live independently of the privileges his parents provide him. After escaping his judgemental family, Kenton is keen on making a fresh start. He gets even more reassured of his decision when he meets Ginny and finds himself surprisingly stricken with her wit and unique beauty. To his disappointment, with a shockingly large caseload keeping him busy, the young doctor has barely any time to court Ginny, though he grabs any opportunity to talk to her. What starts as a mutual flirtation, however, becomes tense when Kenton’s trust issues come to the surface. Will Kenton pass the ultimate test and trust her heart, even if all the evidence points against her?
Ginny’s family will be at stake when Kenton accuses her father thoughtlessly, creating a hurtful strife between them. Will the affection that Kenton and Ginny have for each other be enough to survive the truth? Can the young couple find a way to accept their differing aspirations to build a life together?
“The Healing Touch of his Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.