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Adam Brady’s pager sounded as he walked along the darkened corridors and he steered off towards the nearest phone. “Adam Brady.”
“Hi Adam, sorry, it’s Dan King. I hate to tell you this but–”
“Don’t,” cut in Adam, “You’ve got the bug too and want me to take over your on-call.” He stifled a sigh. It was his second call like this in the last hour.
Dan gave a grateful moan. “Thanks, Adam. I owe you.” The phone clicked quickly.
“You sure do.” Adam looked at the telephone receiver with another sigh.
The nurse at the station looked up and smiled. “Another one? We’ve had three nurses phone in with the bug for night shift tonight.”
He nodded. “It’s going to be a long night. Looks like I’m covering medical, surgical and peds.”
She groaned for him. “Oh well. At least you’ve finished here. I’ll let you know if there are any problems. Thanks, Adam.”
He nodded and walked along the corridor, heading for the stairs. He actually quite liked moving between specialties and didn’t mind covering at all. It was one of the reasons he’d come to Marietta. Working in the city was different. You were confined to one specialty with everyone on a high-powered career path. But Adam wasn’t a traditional doctor – he liked doing a bit of everything, and that’s where it got complicated.
He didn’t want to work in the ER. There was no follow up – no after care. And although he’d considered general practice for a while he preferred the pace in the hospital. That’s why he was here, in Marietta. Working in Marietta General was the perfect job. A huge variety of hospital work with no pressure to specialize in only one area.
He slowed his steps as he entered the ped ward and held out his hand to stop the swing of the doors. Most of the patients would already be sleeping. He just needed to check with the nurse in charge if anyone needed reviewed.
Mary walked out of one of the treatment rooms as he approached. “Hi Adam. Didn’t expect to see you here.”
He smiled. “Dan King just phoned in sick.”
Mary raised her eyebrows. “The dreaded bug?”
He nodded. “I’m just here to see if you want me to check on any patients.”
Mary walked over to the desk and handed him some charts. “I need a prescription for pain relief for Jonah, antibiotics for an infected pin site for Jodie and,” she sighed, “a whole new attitude for Kayla, our teenage diabetic.”
“Anything I can help with?”
She shook her head as she handed over the medical notes for each kid. “I don’t think so. I’m thinking of sending our guardian angel in to speak to her – to see if that can make a difference.”
He frowned. “Guardian angel? Who is that?”
Mary looked up at him and pointed to the room across the hall. “You haven’t met Lisa, our volunteer?”
He looked over into the room. There was a spotlight above the bed beaming down onto a book in the volunteer’s hand. She was perched on the bed with her arm around the little girl she was reading to. It was obvious the little girl was comfortable around her. She had her head resting on her shoulder and was murmuring along with the story.
He’d never seen Lisa before. She was dressed entirely in black – black yoga pants and a black t-shirt, her dark hair twisted on top of her head in some kind of knot. Pretty, in an understated kind of way. The only bit of color around her was her red-tinged lips.
She seemed completely and utterly at ease. And her melodic voice floated out into the hall towards him. “Cinderella couldn’t believe her eyes. Her rags were gone and in their place was a dress of blue satin with jewels that glistened in the lamplight.”
“Is that like the dresses in your shop, Lisa?” the little girl asked.
Lisa nodded and smiled. “Oh, I have lots of dresses like that, Faye. Once you feel a bit better we’ll get your mom to bring you to my shop and you can see them all.”
Adam turned to Mary. “Seems odd that your guardian angel is all dressed in black. What does she do?”
Mary laughed as she picked up the charts he’d signed. “Actually her nickname around here is the Fairy Tale Bride – not that she’s married. Lisa owns the bridal shop in Marietta and she always comes in here and reads the kids fairy tales. They love her. And so do we. Faye’s mother has two other kids at home and can’t stay overnight with her daughter. Lisa comes in every night and reads her fairy tales until she falls asleep.”
A buzzer sounded further down the corridor. “Give me a minute.” Mary said, waving her hand as she started walking towards the blinking red light. “I’ve got one more thing I need you to do.”
It was fine. It wasn’t as if he was in a hurry and to be honest, he hadn’t managed to pull his eyes away from Lisa. It was odd, he’d been in here nearly two months and thought he’d met most of the town’s residents, but he hadn’t seen Lisa at all. He was sure he would have remembered her.
The bridal store? He frowned as he tried to remember it. It wasn’t exactly somewhere he would visit. Ah…yes, he remembered it now. If he were on the right side of the hospital he would be able to see the store from the hospital windows. The bridal store was on Front Avenue, next to the Pizza Parlor. He gave a little smile. He wondered what the dresses would smell like in there.
He listened as she continued with the story, lowering her voice and gently stroking Faye’s hair as her eyelids drooped.
He’d always liked peds – even though he didn’t usually cover here – but most of the staff were in their fifties and sixties. Lisa was the first person he’d seen here who didn’t have grey hair.
Her voice was melodic and Faye’s eyelids started to gradually droop as the tale of Cinderella moved onto Sleeping Beauty and then Rapunzel.
Mary came bustling back along the corridor. “Sorry about that. I got waylaid.” Her eyes followed his gaze. “I can see you found something to pass the time.” Her smile reached from ear to ear.
Adam started. “What was it you wanted me to do?” He wasn’t exactly sure he liked being caught ogling one of the volunteers. In a place as small as Marietta they’d probably have him engaged and married before he even left the hospital tomorrow morning.
His last two fleeting dates had been met with a score of nosey questions by his colleagues. It seemed if you sneezed in this place someone knew about it.
Mary walked over to the trolley and pulled a film from its envelope pushing it up on the light box. “Can you check this x-ray? It came up just over an hour ago. Ryan Connor is still wheezing even though he’s on his nebulizers.”
Adam flicked the light on behind the x-ray and stepped forward. “There,” he said pointing to a little blur on the x-ray. “What was Ryan doing? It looks like he’s inhaled something.” He squinted a little more at the x-ray. “Is that a coin?”
Mary’s eyes widened. “It certainly looks like it. What do you want to do?”
“It needs to come out. If we take him down to endoscopy I should be able to get it out in a few minutes. Are his parents still here?”
Mary nodded. “Give me a few minutes to speak to them.”
Adam started writing some notes and phoned down to prepare the endoscopy suite. Lisa had just finished reading her final story and carefully eased her arm out, settling Faye on the pillows and pulling up her sheets. She tiptoed out of the room.
“Hey.” She smiled. “I don’t think we’ve met.” She held out her hand. “I’m Lisa Renee, one of the volunteers.”
He reached out to take her hand and was surprised by the firmness of her handshake. “Adam Brady.”
She tilted her head. “How come I haven’t met you before, Adam Brady? Are you new in town?”
There was a little sparkle in her pale blue eyes. In the dimmed hospital lights the black clothes didn’t seem quite so harsh. Her skin was slightly tanned and her dark brown hair had definite hints of red.
He nodded. “I’ve been here a few months, but I’ve learned in Marietta you’re considered a newcomer for about fifty years. I guess I’ve got a long way to go.”
She smiled. Nice, white straight teeth. Peds was becoming more interesting every second. “You can bet it on. You need at least three generations before you’re considered anything other than a newcomer. Have you found a place to stay or are you in the hospital residences?”
He shook his head. “I found somewhere really quickly thanks to Mary, the nurse here. She had a friend who was selling a house on Bramble Lane just ten minutes from the hospital. I closed on it and moved in last week.”
Something flitted across Lisa’s face and, if he wasn’t mistaken, her gaze swept over his hand.
“How do your family feel about moving to Marietta?”
Ahh. That was it. “There’s no family. Just me.” Bramble Lane was probably considered as houses for families. Detached three and four bedroom houses. Probably not single guy material.
She gave him a curious stare. “You don’t seem to have any accent. Where are you from originally?”
“Washington, DC. I graduated from University of Washington and worked in a few hospitals in Washington, DC, then Montana.” Was she smiling just a touch again?
“And you like it here?”
He almost laughed out loud. Was she going to start asking for references? “Well, I’ve bought a house. So I’m planning on staying a while.”
He glanced down at her well-worn pile of books. “Fairy tales? Do you always read them to the kids?”
She nodded and waved her hands. “Nothing better than a bit of make believe. Especially in a place like this.”
He felt himself bristle a little at her words. The ped department here was one of the warmest, friendliest places he’d experienced. He kind of knew what she was getting at; he just didn’t like someone saying it.
Her eyes had drifted back to one of the rooms that contained a kid having cancer treatment. “Sometimes make believe is better than reality.” Her fingers brushed over the well-worn books and she gave a little smile. “For adults as well as kids.”
What did that mean? Her phone rang and she pulled it from her pocket. “Excuse me.”
She started talking lowly. All wedding stuff – it must be a business call.
Mary came down the corridor towards him and gave a little nod towards Lisa. “Ah, good. You’ve met.” She had that twinkle in her eye. It didn’t take Einstein to figure out where her brain was going.
Mary was the central hub right now of the Marietta gossip tree in the hospital. If she didn’t know it – it wasn’t worth knowing. She glanced at Adam, even though it was clear she was eavesdropping into Lisa’s conversation.
“I told Ryan’s parents you would go over the procedure and get them to sign the consent form. They seem relieved to know what’s wrong with him.”
“Any idea how he ended up inhaling a dime?”
She grinned. “Oh, yeah. Ryan was balancing the coin on his nose and trying to flip it in the air and catch it with his teeth. Looks like he caught this one in more ways than one.”
Adam shook his head. Mary was still listening intently to Lisa’s conversation. She sucked in a loud breath. “Nancylynn Pruitt’s getting married here?” Her voice rose and Lisa’s head snapped round and she waved her hand at her to try and silence her.
“Who is Nancylynn Pruitt? And why is it a big deal?”
He was still trying to get his head around how a place like Marietta worked. Everyone seemed to know everything about everyone. Most people in the town seemed connected in some way.
Mary gave him a playful slap on the arm. “Everyone knows Nancylynn. Don’t you watch Sultry Suburbs? Nancy Parsons?”
Adam frowned for a second. Of course he’d heard of her. She was right up there with Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox. “Nancy Parsons is from Marietta?”
Lisa was continuing to talk. She was focused. She was professional. She also seemed to be bending over backwards for an extremely difficult customer. “Of course. If that’s what they want. It’s a little unusual, but I think I can manage that. I have other customers to deal with, but I’ll do my best.”
It started to annoy him. He didn’t know Lisa at all. He’d only met her for the briefest of moments.
Mary could hardly contain her excitement as Lisa finished the call. “Is Nancy Parsons getting married here, in Marietta?” She clapped her hands together before she even had the answer.
“Shh…,” said Lisa and glanced around. “I’m not quite sure how public the news is yet. All I know is the date – which is only a few weeks away – and the fact that Nancy has said she wants to use lots of the local businesses.”
Adam felt himself cringe and he took a step back. Publicity. In spades. In the middle of Marietta. The last thing he wanted. Marietta was his salvation. His sanctuary. He’d moved across states to get away from publicity.
A celebrity wedding? Reporters and photographers would swarm around here for miles. It would be a nightmare.
Lisa, however, looked thrilled. “Isn’t it great?” she said to Mary. “They’re coming to look at bridesmaid dresses tomorrow. Apparently the whole wedding party will be here in the next few days.
“Who are the bridesmaids, and where will they be staying? Do you think Nancy will introduce me to Jared, her groom? I’ve always wanted to meet a movie star.”
Adam was astonished. Mary was the most sensible woman he knew. But the first whiff of a celebrity and she was twittering like a teenager.
“Do you think they’ll use the Grand Hotel?” asked Lisa. “It’s gorgeous for a wedding. I would have thought Nancy would want to get married at the Four Seasons. I’m surprised she wants to come back to Marietta,” Lisa’s smile stretched from ear to ear. “But the more I think about it, the more excited I get. I think I’ll go back to the shop and see if there’s anything else I can do before tomorrow.”
Adam felt a little uneasy. This beautiful, peaceful town that he’d found and made a home in, was about to be invaded by press and photographers. There was only the remotest possibility that someone would make a connection to who he was, but it still made him uncomfortable.
He’d moved to a whole different state to escape the ‘lotto winner’ label. It hadn’t even been a huge amount of money. Enough to clear all his medical school debts, allow him to buy his new house outright and have some money in the bank. The ‘millionaire doctor’ label wasn’t entirely accurate anymore. But the constant harassment from the media had burned a permanent reminder in his brain.
The female attention – women with an interest purely in his bank balance – had been a whole new experience and one he didn’t want to revisit.
Lisa and Mary were still twittering away, rejoicing at the amount of people that would swarm into the town and the business it would bring to Marietta.
“Mary?” he said sharply. “Let’s get things organized for Ryan. The sooner we get him downstairs the better.”
Mary’s sentence was interrupted full flow and she blinked before glancing towards Lisa and giving a little nod. “Of course, Dr. Brady.”
He hadn’t meant to sound quite so blunt. But it was too late now. Lisa picked up her fairy tale books and gave him a careful look. “Nice to meet you, Dr. Brady,” she murmured before walking down the hall.
It was all he could not to follow every swing of her hips in those dark loose yoga pants.
End of Excerpt