Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday's Hero - Rafe from Shattered Dreams by Janet Lane Walters

“Manon!” Rafe Marshall leaped from the examining table in time to catch her before she hit the floor. He cradled her against his chest. “Didn’t mean to scare you,” he whispered. Why did she think he was dead? He knew news of his accident had been kept quiet because the police believed he’d been deliberately forced off the road. Who had told her? Had the informant been the driver of the dark car his rescuer had seen speeding from the scene?
The citrus aroma of her shampoo brought memories of years ago when he had buried his face in her sunlit hair before they made love. His body responded to her presence and the sensual recollections. Thank heavens the gown was cloth. The urgent rise of his cock would have punctured paper.
Carefully, he placed her on the table. He stroked her face with his fingers and brushed his lips over hers. Any anger remaining from the past vanished beneath the heat of desire.
Manon was beautiful and his. The knowledge rung true. Even if she wouldn’t admit the strength of the bond, he knew. How could he explain why he’d taken so long to find her? Would she believe that any trace of her had vanished in Europe three years after she’d begun touring with her father?
He stepped back from the table. He had many things to tell her. Some of the revelations would cause anger, denial and pain. At this moment, he didn’t know where to begin. She wasn’t the teenage girl who had loved him. Had her love morphed into hate? He could handle that but not indifference.
Why hadn’t she answered the letters he’d written after the amnesia had cleared enough for him to remember her? Those notes had been sent months after her eighteenth birthday. Had she received the messages? That was one question he intended to ask. He needed to clear the past so he could move forward.
He had to tell her about the accident, the multiple injuries, the surgeries and the months of rehab. He wanted her to know though he’d left on their prom night, he’d decided to come for her after her eighteenth birthday.
Those days after the accident had been filled with frustration, especially after he remembered who he was and why he’d left Fern Lake. After discharge from rehab, he’d stayed for several months in his step-grandmother’s house and then her vacation cottage. No one had known he was in town. The suspicions surrounding the accident had forced he and Gran to keep news of the accident a secret. Besides, Manon had left for Europe. He wondered how she had escaped her father’s plans for her life.
Manon opened her eyes. Blue-gray like the waters of the lake on a cloudy day. As she sat up, a flush spread across her face reminding him of a younger Manon.
Rafe watched her slid from the table. Her dark blue skirt slid over her thighs. He held in a groan of regret. Shame to cover those incredible legs. A moment of memory of her legs wrapped around his hips flared. He couldn’t repress a groan.
“Did you hurt yourself catching me?”
“I’m fine. That wasn’t the way I intended to greet you. I should have had your nurse warn you.”
Manon shrugged. “She must have had reasons for keeping quiet. She didn’t put your name on the intake sheet. A warning wouldn’t have helped.”
Rafe stared at the way her chest moved when she took a deep breath. Was she reacting to his presence the way he reacted to hers? There was no way to learn. Her lab coat acted as a barrier.
“Told her not to mention my name.” He looked away. “Maybe next time.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She reached for the chart. “She’ll hear from me.”
“Don’t blame her. Told her I was an old friend you haven’t seen for years and wanted to surprise you.”
“You did that. Why are you here?”
He grinned. “After losing track of your existence, I heard you were in town. I always though you’d found someone in Europe and married. You disappeared.” He met her gaze. “Where’s your father?”
“He died in January.” She turned away. “I stayed on the concert tour for three years. Those were the most miserable of my life.”
“How did you escape?”
“On my twenty-first birthday, I gained control of the money my mother left me. I came back to the states and enrolled in college using her maiden name.” She strode to the counter and opened the folder. “Enough about me. I’d like the nurse practitioner at Employee’s Health to do your physical and for you to find another physician. I’ll give you several names.”
“How can you ask that?”
Thoughts of her hands on his body sent a rush of blood to his groin. “Wouldn’t embarrass me. You’ve seen me in the raw.”
Her face flamed. Her shoulders straightened. “That was in the past and will stay there.”
“We need to talk about that time. There are facts you should know.”
She turned toward the door. “There’s nothing you can tell me I don’t know.” She glared. “What job are you applying for? Maintenance?”
Rafe laughed. “I start tomorrow as CNO, better known as director of nursing. Actually, I’ll be working with Gran Ruth, uh, Mrs. Patton until September.”
Her reaction startled him. “Men can be nurses just as women can be doctors.”
“I know that. What made you decide to become a nurse?”
“An accident. Happened the night I left.” Did she believe he had remained that teenager more in tune with motorcycles than with people? “Gran plans to retire and she recommended me. Since I was finishing my doctorate and a consulting job, I had a Skype interview and was hired.”
Manon whirled. “Haven’t you heard?”
“About what?”
“This morning Mrs. Patton was admitted with angina. We’re monitoring her condition and ordering tests.”
He slid from the table. “How is she? Is this an emergency?”
“She’s stable.”
“Why wasn’t I notified? I’m her emergency contact.” He had been since he’d come to live with her on the day his mother had left.
Manon frowned. “I was busy stabilizing her. I’m sure one of the nurses made the call. Emma said all her attempts to reach you to change your appointment went to voice mail.”
He reached for his jeans and extracted the phone. “Damn. Forgot to charge. Are you sure she’s stable?”
Manon leaned against the door. “I wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t. She’ll be undergoing a few tests so we can determine what’s going on. Why don’t I give you the list of doctors and notify the nurse practitioner you’ll be in tomorrow for the physical. Get dressed and I’ll handle matters.”
Though he wanted to see Gran Ruth, her illness changed matters. Tomorrow he had to be ready to work. He returned to the table. “I need to be cleared for tomorrow.”
“Check with the nurse practitioner. If anything she’ll come back to do the exam.”
“Why bother her when I’m here? One thing I remember is the physical must be completed before starting to work.”
Manon scowled. She closed the door and walked to the counter. “I’ll do an EKG, the EENT exam, check your blood pressure and your lungs. If I discover any problems I’ll have to refer you.”
“Whatever works.” Thoughts of having her near stirred his cock. The flush on her face convinced him she had noticed. Though she acted like an ice maiden, he believed with luck he could warm her.
Her gray-blue eyes flashed with anger. “Why did you return?”
“For a job.”
“Is that the only reason or are you back to show everyone you’ve become a responsible adult?”
“I’m here so Gran can retire and not worry about what happens at the hospital.”
He had another goal. Until he and Manon discussed the false reports of his death and his reasons for leaving so abruptly, he couldn’t tell her why he’d returned. He wanted her in his life. He wanted to know why she hadn’t answered his letters or if she had even received them. Though he ached to kiss and pleasure her until she cried his name, he would wait.
Manon stepped toward the table. “I’ll make this quick since I think you should head to the hospital. I’m sure Mrs. Patton is worried about your non-appearance.”
“After the exam I’ll visit Gran and come back for you.” He smiled. “We’ll ride to Fern Lake and recapture memories.”
“In your dreams.”
Her scent flowed toward him. He tamped the urge to kiss her, this time with desire. He would show her his need to possess her and find the future they deserved. Before that happened, she needed to know why he’d left. The story might cause anger and denial but he had to speak.
Manon approached. He braced not to react to the sensations evoked by her scent of her hands on his skin.

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