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Her Hometown Hero (Unexpected Heroes #2)
Author: Melody Anne

PROLOGUE

“Hi, sweetheart, how are you doing?” Bethel asked in a frail voice, crossing her fingers that her acting abilities would carry her through this phone call.

“I’m fine, Grandma,” Sage said unsurely. “But you sound a little unlike yourself. What’s the matter?”

The girl’s voice was full of worry. Check, Bethel thought.

“Oh, I don’t want to bother you, dear. I know how busy you are.” Bethel couldn’t help adding a long-suffering sigh. “I was just wondering how the residency applications have been going. Have you had any offers?” If Sage had even the slightest clue about the amount of meddling her grandmother was planning, Bethel would be toast—very burned toast.

Of course, she couldn’t have done any meddling at all without the help of her friends Judge Martin Whitman, Eileen Gagnon, Maggie Winchester, and the ultimate meddler, Joseph Anderson—but her lips were forever sealed, for all their sakes.

“It’s great, Grandma. I have six interviews scheduled over the next two weeks. I’m really hoping to get in at Johns Hopkins. It would do wonders for my career.”

“That’s wonderful to hear,” Bethel said, and immediately began coughing.

“Grandma? Are you okay?”

Bethel felt a mountain load of guilt as she faked an illness she was far from feeling. “Just . . . a . . . minute . . .” she gasped, then put the phone on mute so Sage couldn’t hear her.

“Are you sure we should do this to Sage?” she asked her best friend, Eileen.

“It’s up to you. I’m feeling pretty guilty,” Eileen replied.

“I just worry so much about her,” Bethel said. “I want her home.”

“Grandma! Are you there? Do I need to call emergency services?”

Bethel quickly unmuted the phone.

“I’m all right, darling. Don’t you worry about me,” Bethel said weakly. “What about the hospital near home? Did you apply?”

“I struggled with whether to do that or not, but in the end I did. It would be great to get to see you more often, but it just feels like I’m giving up if I come home. People usually grow up and move away, not run back home the first chance they get,” Sage told her.

“Honey, it’s not giving up to come home. Sterling may be tiny, but the hospital has an incredible program. We have excellent doctors acting as mentors, and you’d also be here where you belong.” At least that was true—it was a prestigious hospital, thanks to its generous endowment from the Whitmans and the Winchesters.

“Yeah, I know all of that. There are several people in my class who are hoping to get in there. I just didn’t want to ever move back home unless it was for a terrific job. Then I could feel proud of myself—like I’d really accomplished something while out in the big, bad world.”

“You have accomplished something—something huge. How many of your fellow college students went on to medical school and were always at the very top of their class? How many kids from your own high school even went to college?”

“Not many, but that’s not the point.”

“Of course it’s the point. You are a success no matter what you do from this point forward. You’ve done so well, darling, and you set your sights admirably high. So be proud of that, but don’t miss out on interviewing here. Or are you afraid to try? It’s possible the hospital wouldn’t even offer you a residency.” Bethel knew pigs would fly before that happened—Sage was guaranteed an offer. But the girl’s grandmother was proud of her sly use of psychology. Suggest that Sage might not get something, and she’d jump to prove she could.

Sage didn’t take the bait. “That wouldn’t be the end of the world, I have to say. If I came home, I’d just be dealing with ranchers all the time instead of city trauma. It’s not exactly the most exciting place to continue my medical education.”

“Now, Sage, you shouldn’t speak so badly about the hospital here. It’s saved my life more than once. You remember when I had that stroke a couple of years ago? Well, they fixed me up real nice. Eileen says no one would have any idea that I almost died!”

“You didn’t almost die, Grandma. It was a minor stroke, though you scared me to pieces.”

“I don’t like frightening you, child,” Bethel said before forcing herself to cough pathetically again. It was a good thing they weren’t on a video call, because she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. She wasn’t one to brag, but surely she’d have made a big splash in Hollywood.

“Well then, don’t say you came close to dying,” Sage told her. “You know it would destroy me.”

“Okay, dear. I’m afraid I can’t visit too long—I’m just not feeling all that well, but I’m sure it’s nothing serious,” Bethel said in a quavering voice. “Besides, I don’t want to bother you . . .”

“You know you’re never a bother, Grandma. Please talk to me. I’m starting to really worry.”

“Well . . . The doctor did say he’s worried about my blood pressure. I just can’t seem to get around as well these days . . .” Bethel trailed off as if too weak to continue speaking.

“You should have called me right away! I didn’t know anything was wrong. How long have you been feeling ill?” Sage had begun to scold her grandma, but she immediately backed down, her voice lowering as quickly as it had risen.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I’m going to have to get off the phone, though. I’m really tired now. Just keep me updated on your choice for your residency.” Before Sage could say anything more, Bethel hung up, then grinned at her friend.

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