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“Hey, Evan, long time no talk.” Chance Watson’s voice rang loud and clear over the phone.
“Hey, Chance. To what do I owe this call from my famous brother?” Evan hurried down the hallway toward the elevator, hoping it wasn’t full of visitors wanting to stop at every level. He was running late enough as it was, but that little boy in the emergency room couldn’t wait. It was only when he stabilized him that Evan became confident enough to leave his care to another doctor and head off to his meeting.
“Hold it.” He held his hand up and hurried through the closing doors, managing to squeeze in between a nurse pushing an elderly patient in a wheelchair and a man carrying a huge bouquet of flowers and a balloon that floated up against the ceiling. Evan hit the button for the top floor before giving his attention back to his phone.
“Thought it was about time. I wanted to let you know that Rory is getting married and we want you to come home for the wedding.”
“Huh? Really?” Wow, never thought I’d see the day. “Well, that’s great news. Look, I’ll have to call you back. I’m on my way to a board meeting at the hospital. I’m shortlisted for the job as medical director in emergency. Sorry, I have to go.” The elevator doors opened and he rushed out before anyone else could slow him down, his focus entirely on the glass doors of the boardroom at the end of the corridor.
“I wanted to tell you about my w—”
Evan hung up ignoring Chance’s next words and dropped the phone into the pocket of his white coat. He pushed open the double doors of the boardroom, noticing everyone already seated. His gut knotted up and he glimpsed the smirk of his competition already sitting opposite the person who would ultimately have the last word on which of them got the job.
“Late again, Doctor.” Head of the board, Dr. Sinclair raised his eyebrow and glared at Evan.
“Unavoidable of course, as I’m sure you’d understand, Dr. Sinclair. I was in emergency doing my job.”
“Yes, well that may be the case. I thought as a slightly more senior doctor you would have handed the case over to a junior resident and made yourself available on time. You knew this meeting was happening and I don’t like to be kept waiting.” Dr. Sinclair glanced at the blood spurt on the front of Evan’s coat, a sneer on his lips. Another cross against Evan’s name from the impeccably dressed senior doctor. “Considering the gravity of the outcome, I would have expected more enthusiasm for being on time just this once.” He continued to glare as Evan hurried to take a seat.
His heart sank with dread as he wondered if he’d ruined his chances by being late again. Evan listened to the doctors discuss the other matters on the agenda. He let his mind go blank to the hospital business and wondered when Rory was getting married. After the meeting, he’d call Chance back and see if he could arrange time off. It would be nice to go home for a visit. How long had it been since he’d had any quality time with his brothers? He tried to bring himself back into the conversation before Dr. Sinclair came to the reason he sat here.
“We have discussed this long and hard between ourselves and have made a decision.” He paused and looked at Evan and Jonathan Duggan, the other doctor vying for the position. They both sat forward in their chairs, eagerness suddenly overtaking the dread.
“We have decided to bring in an older doctor with more experience from outside the hospital, one that has the necessary skills to keep up with the administration side of the position. I know this will come as a blow to both of you, but hear me out. We appreciate the job you young doctors are doing, but we have agreed that someone with more experience and better time-management skills”—he glanced at Evan—“would suit the hospital and the members of the board better. Let me assure you both that this measure is temporary. We’ve offered a twelve-month contract which will be renewed if we feel it is in the best interests of the hospital.” He put down the papers he held and clasped his hands behind his back. “I would like you both to re-apply when you have, ah shall we say, broadened your skills with regard to the business aspects of the hospital.”
Evan bit the inside of his cheek and sat back in his chair, deflated. He’d thought this job was his and never for one moment did he think it wasn’t possible. The only saving grace here was that Dr. Duggan didn’t get this one over him. Jonathan sat stunned, his mouth working although no sound came out. Not like him to be lost for words. In Evan’s experience, you didn’t get anywhere at this hospital by constantly sucking up to management, and that’s all Jonathan had done since the applications came out. Meanwhile Evan methodically worked as he always did—with the hope that Dr. Sinclair would see how careful he was with his patients. Seems that time management would have been a better way to go. Damn it, it’s more about the patients, not the bloody money in my mind. Just as well I didn’t get it then. Dr. Sinclair would probably ride me every single day and make my life intolerable.
“Right, that concludes the meeting for today. Thank you for attending, gentlemen. I won’t keep you from your patients.” With that, Evan and Jonathan were dismissed.
They both walked out of the boardroom together, eager to escape the confines of the room. Jonathan stormed off with his hands clenched at his sides without a backward glance and hurried down the fire exit stairwell. Evan strolled to the elevator and pushed the button, giving the gloss on his black leather shoes more attention than it deserved. When the door pinged and opened, he stepped in and smiled half-heartedly at the lady pushing her IV pole. He turned his back on her and glanced at the shiny stainless steel doors of the elevator letting his mind drift.
Maybe I’m just not cut out for the business side of things. Perhaps Dr. Sinclair’s right; I need to learn more about the business or stick to what I do best. But that would take away the time I give to my patients and I don’t think I’d like that. It’s not the reason I became a doctor.
The elevator gave a small shudder and stopped at the ground floor. Evan hurried out and headed back to his department. Instead of going into the triage station, he walked to the staff room intent on having a double shot of coffee.
The very beautiful and unattainable daughter of the head of the hospital board, Dr. Denver Sinclair, sat at a small table, a takeaway container of salad in front of her and an open laptop. She ran her finger over the mouse pad and concentrated on what filled the screen. After a moment, she scowled at it and slammed the lid shut, the look on her face turning to one of annoyance.
“Looks like we’re both having a shocker of a day, Doctor.” Evan held up a coffee mug in her direction, offering to make her one while he poured his own.
She paused and then nodded her head, her blonde, perfectly styled hair swaying with the movement. “Thank you.” She closed her salad container and placed the plastic fork on the lid, watching Evan make the coffee. He turned and put her mug on the table in front of her and went back to pour his own.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Sure.” Denver took a deep breath. The last thing she wanted was company. She needed to read the email, digest it properly, and she couldn’t do that with another person sitting at her table. What she’d seen so far gave her the idea she might have the job, but there wasn’t a contract attached which had the possibility of ruining everything if she couldn’t meet the conditions. It looked as though she would have to wait until she got home or managed another break to see what the position was.
“So, Dr. Watson. Why the long face?” Denver took the coffee and lifted it to her lips for a sip. It was black and bitter. Just the thing for an overworked doctor who needed the caffeine to keep them on their toes through the long shifts.
“Call me Evan, please. It’s not like we’re strangers.” He gave her a lopsided smile. “We’ve worked alongside each other for well over two years now.”
“Fine, Evan then. What has you looking so down in the dumps?” Not that she really cared what the other doctors were up to, but since he’d been kind enough to make her coffee, being polite was appropriate. Denver focused so hard on what she was trying to achieve, everyone else at the hospital was placed just outside her peripheral vision unless they were a patient. Her job was all she was interested in. Not men. Not right now.
“I don’t really know what to think of it. I failed in my attempt to become the director of emergency.” He frowned and then shrugged his shoulders. “I have the qualifications, but unfortunately for me they wanted an older person with better time-management and paperwork skills. Told me to reapply next year when the contract comes up for renewal. Guess there’s not much I can do about that, is there?”
“I’m guessing not. At least they didn’t say you weren’t really suited to the job. Perhaps there’s a chance further down the track if you apply again.”
“Not sure it’s really my thing after all. Your father might have done me a favor.”
“I doubt he had that in mind when he turned you down. Father is all about what’s best for the hospital. We both seem to be in the same position, our contracts up for renewal.”
“Of course, we started at the same time. I wonder if they’ll keep us on.”
“A change could be in the air for more than one member of the hospital staff, I’m thinking.”
“Surely your father wouldn’t not renew your contract? You’ve done so well in the last couple of years.”
“I thought I had too but family connections don’t mean anything to the management team here, I’m afraid. I might be begging for my job the same as you.”
He looked at her and slapped his forehead. “Heck, I was supposed to call my brother Chance and I forgot. You just reminded me.” Evan took his phone from his pocket and thumbed in the number. “Sorry, back in a minute.” With a heart-melting smile, he stood up, walked over to the window, and looked out at the courtyard as he spoke.
Denver lifted the lid on her laptop and checked the email again while she had a moment alone.
Dear Dr. Sinclair,
It is with pleasure the board would like to inform you that you have made the short list for the position of Hospital Director of Marietta Regional Hospital. Interviews will commence shortly and we will advise you of the date we wish to see you and your husband for a face-to-face meeting as per the job requirements.
We look forward to meeting with you both when you arrive in town.
Dr. P. D. Dunlop.
Denver closed the lid and sighed. She almost had the job, thank goodness. After reading the renewal stipulations in her contract for the next two years that had arrived in her email box last week, she’d been praying this job would come through. The first step in her ten-year plan to come back and be ready to take over this hospital when her father retired. Not that she would tell him that. No way. It was her secret and hers alone.
His constant reminder that she was a mere female had been like a hair shirt since she was a teenager. He had plans for her, plans that she rebelled against every chance she got. Denver knew he was trying to push her to the point that she would quit and do as he wanted – stay home, play the dutiful wife and daughter, and breed the next generation.
Medical school had been the first major battle they’d had. Father was determined that she become a society wife, preferably to someone he approved of. Denver had other ideas. She’d booked into med school and told him about it later. With no choice but to let her have her way or make a public fuss, he’d kept a tight rein on her career. Or so he thought. Behind the scenes, Denver had planned and plotted to get where she wanted to be and nothing was going to derail those plans.
The job in Marietta was merely the second step along the way to reaching her goal. When she came back to Seattle, it would be with the right experience to take over from her father.
Now all she needed was the proof she could be considered a local before she took over and things would be sweet. But being such a small hospital in a country town, they were bound to be easy to persuade to take on a single woman of her ability. Seriously, how many people with her qualifications would apply to go work and live in Marietta anyway? They’d be lucky to get her.
Evan dropped back into the chair and grinned. “Sorry about that. He called just as I was going into the meeting and I almost forgot. Looks like I’m going home for a wedding.”
“Congratulations.” Shame it’s not mine, but then I wouldn’t want to stoop to those depths for a job but it’s the only way this little black duck would tie herself to a man. “Your brother Chance is the rodeo rider you told us about a while ago, isn’t he?”
“You do have a great memory, don’t you? Yes. The wedding isn’t his though. It’s my other brother, Rory. He’s a town deputy and is finally getting hitched again. His first wife died in a terrible car accident. I’m very happy for him.” He gave her a wistful look triggering a warning signal in her brain.
“That’s wonderful. I hope you have a good time.” Denver grabbed her laptop and placed it under her arm, ready to stand up and go back to work.
“So what was the frown on your face when I came in?” He looked at her with such an earnest expression, Denver almost wanted to tell him. Dr. Evan Watson was one of the most empathetic doctors she’d ever met, and it would be too easy to open up and tell him all of her problems. Too bad she wasn’t that type of person.
“Oh, nothing worth worrying about.” She brushed the gloom aside and plastered a smile on her face, doing her best to be professional.
He looked disappointed and she regretted her answer for all of five seconds. He couldn’t help her, nobody could. This time she’d overstepped the confidence mark thinking her fantastic grades in med school and the research she’d done around premature birth and underweight babies as well as the hours she put in at the emergency department would be enough to tempt the board to give her the top job. She should’ve known better than to think she could avoid meeting all of the job requirements. Now to prove she was a “local,” and Denver had no idea how she would make that work when she’d never stepped foot in the place before.
“Hey, how about a drink tonight? Dinner maybe? Looks like we could both do with cheering up even if you’re not ready to share.” Evan gave her his normal winning smile and Denver melted just a little. “You keep turning me down when I ask for a date and I don’t know why. How about you take pity on me just once and say yes?”
End of Excerpt