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Authors: Casey Dawes

California Sunrise

BOOK: California Sunrise
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California Sunrise
Casey Dawes

Avon, Massachusetts

Copyright © 2015 by Casey Dawes.
All rights reserved.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher; exceptions are made for brief excerpts used in published reviews.


Published by

Crimson Romance

an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.

10151 Carver Road, Suite 200

Blue Ash, OH 45242. U.S.A.

ISBN 10: 1-4405-9201-2

ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-9201-0

eISBN 10: 1-4405-9202-0

eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-9202-7

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author's imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.

Cover art © 123RF/maxfx;



To Laura Burkey, coach extraordinaire, and Carolee Boger, extraordinary mother.


Carolee Boger has been my friend since college. I value her decades of friendship and her willingness to share the difficulties of raising a child who is different.

Susan Drake has been a friend for a shorter length of time, but I’m blessed by her continued support. She’s also the one who connected me with Ramon Resa, MD, author of
Out of the Fields
. When word got back to Dr. Resa and his wife that I was modeling a romance hero after him, his wife laughed hysterically.

Nonetheless, I am grateful for Dr. Resa’s willingness to care for our children and become a romance role model.

The Ledesma family, originally from Watsonville, California, took me into their hearts and holidays. I learned so much about what it meant to grow up in a small house in a farmworkers’ town.

Diane Guerrero, a star of
Orange Is the New Black
, shared her story on an episode of
All In with Chris Hayes
about coming home at fourteen to an empty house because her family had been deported. The pain of this experience gave me additional ideas for Raúl’s background.

To my editor, Julie Sturgeon, who has helped me create the best book I could.

My critique group continues to nurture and support me.

And, as always, my wonderful, supportive husband keeps me supplied with wine, chocolate, and love.



Chapter 1

Dr. Raúl Mendez entered notes on his last patient, a six-month-old girl with respiratory problems, into the laptop, his large fingers crowded on the keyboard.

“Your next appointment is ready.” Graciela Torres stood in the examination room doorway, her black skirt shorter than he preferred in an office setting. Her low-cut, red blouse revealed ample cleavage.

He’d have to remind his OB/GYN partner, Hadiya Patel, of their agreement: she dealt with the female staff, and he handled the more manly pursuit of hiring a plumber when it was needed.

“Thank you, Graciela. I’ll be there in a minute.”

As he headed down the hall to the next patient, his irritation with the receptionist diminished and his satisfaction returned. The clinic, designed to help mothers and children, particularly farmworkers, provided a safe, warm haven for the sick. His partner, Dr. Patel, emitted an aura that comforted even the most distraught mothers-to-be, while he was there to care for the newborns and young children. He was lucky to have her as a mentor in his newly opened practice.

The trim, peach walls were lined with offerings from local artists, and the gleaming equipment was the best they could afford. He’d insisted on a good, computerized medical records system from the beginning, and the time savings had paid off in their ability to see more people during the day.

His lungs expanded with pride. Who would have thought that a Mexican kid who’d grown up in a house with a dirt floor, chickens and pigs in the yard, and Christmases provided by well-meaning strangers would have the guts to make it all the way through medical school?

Now there was only one more thing to achieve: the return of his deported parents and siblings.

Raúl pushed open the door to the examining room.

The petite woman standing by the child on the examining table turned.

The strong bones of her face, full lips, and dark eyes matched the structure of her body. Attractive. Not that he was looking for anyone right now.

“Are you Dr. Mendez?” she asked.

And you are”—he checked the chart—“Alicia Fuentes.”

The boy on the table squirmed and let out a howl.

Raúl glanced back at the chart. No medical problem stood out, but the young woman had been to several doctors, including specialists at Stanford. Was it some type of Munchausen syndrome, or was there a legitimate illness?

“What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

“Luis is difficult.”

He was tempted to tell her all children were difficult, but the set of her jaw stopped him short. “In what way?” He leaned back against the counter, his interest piqued by what she might have to say. If the child wasn’t simply a fussy baby, it might be a chance to increase his behavioral development experience.

“He mixes up his days—sleeps during the day and wants to be up all night. He’s a fussy eater. I practically have to hand-feed him. He doesn’t seem to sit up well. And temper tantrums! I know all children have them, but his seem worse than other kids’. My grandmother says she’s never seen anything like it.” Snapping her mouth shut, she stared at him, as if defying him to tell her there was nothing wrong, that her child was normal.

In that instant, he knew there wasn’t anything normal about Luis.

Although he hadn’t seen a wedding ring, he asked the question anyway. “How is he with his father?”

“I’m a single mom.” Her chin went up. “He never sees his father.”

A too common answer. His heart crinkled with sadness for her and anger at the boy’s father. “He has no contact with his son?”


The finality in her voice warned him not to pursue the subject.

He ignored the warning.

“It must be very difficult for you, especially so young.”

“I’m eighteen.” She made her age sound as if she were in her mid-thirties.

He hid a smile. “The baby is twelve months, correct? What have the other doctors told you?”

“They don’t know what’s wrong. He’s too young for certain tests. They can’t help me.” Defeat crept into her words, and her shoulders slumped, but then she rallied and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m told you can."

He hoped her confidence wasn’t misplaced. “Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll take a look at your son?”

“Do you have children, Dr. Mendez?” She moved toward the chair but didn’t sit.

“Me? No. I’ve never been married.”

“Brothers and sisters?”

“Yes. Older brothers. Why do you ask?”

“It seems odd for a single man to be a pediatrician.”

“Like many of us, I come from a large, extended family. Lots of cousins. Lots of different problems—some the normal hazards of being a kid, some brought on by poverty. Giving kids a healthy start is a way to help our people.” He looked down at Luis and put his stethoscope in his ears. “Now let’s see what’s up with you, little man.”

The phone rang.

Yanking the tubes from his ears, he turned back to the desk and stabbed one of the buttons. “I told you not to interrupt me when I’m with a patient.”

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but your next patient is here, and her baby looks very sick,” Graciela said.

“She’ll need to wait.” He put the brakes on his temper. “Thank you, Graciela.”

He glanced at Alicia. Her face seemed paler. Had the call bothered her? Or had it been his short display of temper? “I’m sorry about the interruption. I tell the ladies out front each patient is as important as the next, but they have their own priorities.”

As if sensing something was going on, Luis began to stir and wail. Raúl touched the boy’s arm to comfort him, but the noise increased in volume.

“I see what you mean about being difficult.” He took a penlight from his pocket and waved it in front of Luis’s eyes.

The boy’s gaze followed the moving light, and he calmed down.

“Good boy.” Raúl patted the boy’s shoulder, then clicked off the light.

Luis’s gaze locked on the ceiling tiles, his eyes moving as he traced a pattern visible only to him. Raúl went through the vitals and tested the child’s reflexes. No scars or bruises marred his skin.

“Hi, Luis.” Raúl waved his hand in front of the boy.

No response.

He tried again. Luis squirmed and fought his way around the table so he could see the ceiling again.

Suspicions formed in his mind, but the other doctors were right: it was too early to confirm them. And if he was correct, Luis would always be difficult for his mother. She was young, but would never be able to share the freedoms that other women, even other single mothers, would have.

How could he support her?

“What’s wrong, Doctor?” the hovering mother asked. “How can I help my son?”

“Tell me how Luis acts at home.”

“I’m not with him most of the day. He stays with my grandmother while I go work in Costanoa. I was hoping to take a few business classes at Costanoa College to learn how to manage a store.” She looked at Luis. “But he’s getting more difficult for my grandmother to handle. No one else seems to be able to deal with him.” Her smile didn’t fully materialize. “I can’t stay home with him for the rest of my life.”

Like he had, she wanted to better her life, but she had an extra burden he hadn’t been forced to carry. He hated to tell her that her path to her dream was going to be a rocky one.

“What do I do with him?” The question held the same overtones as Luis’s wail.

“He’s too young to do the kind of tests it will take to determine what I think is the problem. He has some of the characteristics of Asperger’s, but I won’t be able to say definitively until he is about eighteen months or so.”

“What is Asperger’s?”

“It’s on the autism scale but not as severe.” He watched for her reaction, scrambling in his mind for words to reassure her that there were things she could do, even if he had no idea what they were.

The palpable drop in her energy saddened him. She’d been so determined to do right by her son.

And she still could.

“Many children with Asperger’s do well. They learn to live independently or in a halfway house.” He smiled. “Some are even lucky enough to find a spouse who will help them be the best person they can be.”

“It doesn’t sound easy.”

“It isn’t.”

“What can I do right now? How can I help him?”

“I have a book that might help. It has suggestions that will help you and your grandmother care for him.
Un momento

As he strode back to his office, the people and artwork he passed were blurs. How could he help Alicia and her son? For one, working with her more closely as she learned different strategies would enable him to apply the same strategies to other patients. She seemed driven to do the best for her son. Maybe she’d make a good partner in his exploration.

BOOK: California Sunrise
9.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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