Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday - My Heroes, Heroines and Villains - The Doctor's Dilemma #MFRWauthor #medicalromance

The Doctor's Dilemma is a sweet romance. The heroine wishes for a settled life. The hero believes in being a rolling stone.

Nora is the heroine.

Streams of people eddied around Nora Harte, the pile of luggage and the double stroller.  She scanned the faces of the crowd.  A babble of voices filled the air.
      Where was he?
      He knew the flight number and the time of arrival.  The plane had landed on time.  Since Thursdays were almost a universal doctor's day off, the trip had been scheduled for today.
      She groaned.  This simple baby run had become anything but easy.
      The loudspeaker crackled.  "Would passenger Nora Harte pick up one of the courtesy phones?"  She looked around.
      The second time the words blared, with a start, Nora realized the message was for her.  "Yeah, right."  She stared at the four suitcases, two diaper bags, and the pair of car seats.  She'd need a multitude of New York minutes and the arms of an octopus to fulfill the request.  What had kept Dr. McKay from the meet?
      One of the twins puckered his mouth and added his screams to the cacophony in the baggage claim area of the Dallas airport.  Nora crouched and stroked the baby's cheek.  "We'll be out of here soon, honey."  At least, she thought they would.  "It's just a short delay."
      The strident voice issued the command again.  "How?"  she asked.  The logistics of the move defeated her.  She couldn't abandon the twins and the luggage to search for a phone.  She'd been deputized to deliver Molly and Tod Jamison to their guardian and she took this duty seriously.
      The sight of a man in a gray uniform pushing an empty baggage cart solved the problem.  "Sky cap, over here."  She used the voice that had parted crowds on busy New York sidewalks.  The one she hadn't used since she had moved upstate.  "Take these bags and the infants."
      "Don't load babies on the cart, ma'am."
      "I know that.  I meant the infant seats.  I have to answer the phone."
      "Excuse me."  He stared and his expression projected the idea he thought she'd flipped.
      Maybe she had.  "The page.  Nora Harte.  That's me."
      He nodded and pointed to the far wall.  "It's over there.  The blue phone."
      "Thanks."  Nora gripped the stroller handle.  She pushed through the crowd like a subway rider aiming for the last seat.  The noise level made her wonder if she'd be able to hear the message.
      An easy trip, she thought.  A way to add to her dream house account.  Just fly to Dallas and deliver the babies to their guardian.
      So far nothing about the trip had been a snap.  Why had she thought her experience as a nurse would make the mission a breeze?  A three month tour of duty in a busy city hospital nursery hadn't prepared her for the reality of caring for twins.
      She hadn't counted on the surround-sound screams the twins had raised in protest of being airborne.  Or of juggling two infants in the compact airplane bathroom.  Not finding their guardian at the airport had been the final episode in her nightmare of the week.
      She lifted the courtesy phone receiver.  "Nora Harte speaking.  I believe you have a message for me."
      The voice on the other end of the line explained that Dr. McKay had been unavoidably detained.  Nora was to proceed to the car rental desk to pick up a car and the directions to the doctor's house in Prairie, Texas.
      She gritted her teeth.  The deviation from her agenda added another problem she should have expected.  Why had she believed anything about this trip would work?
      A touch of anger rose.  If Dr. McKay had attended his foster sister's funeral, this disaster would have been avoided.  He could have taken custody and faced the journey from hell on his own.
      She waved to the sky cap.  "Where's the car rental desk?"
      "This way, ma'am."
      He pushed the cart with the finesse of an obstacle course champion.  Nora threaded the stroller through the gaps he opened.  Tod's cries changed to gurgles.  Molly's began.
      Nora patted the infant.  "Please, honey, no more tears."
      She groaned.  Now she sounded like a commercial, but life had no easy solutions like the ones found in an ad campaign.
      The sky cap halted in front of a counter.  "Want me to wait?"
      Nora nodded.  "Until I learn where to find the car."
      He grinned.  "You sure have cute babies and they sure favor you, what with that yellow hair and them big blue eyes.  Their daddy sure must be proud of them.  Bet he can't wait to see you all."
      Right, Nora thought.  "They're not -- I'm not --"  She closed her mouth.  She was only a courier on this baby run but there was no need to explain this to a stranger.
      She stooped and wiped Molly's tears.  In coloring, the babies did resemble her.  What if -- An ache of longing filled her chest.  She shook her head.  Not these babies.  Someday, she'd find a man who wanted the same things she did -- a family, a home, roots.  As yet, she hadn't found a man who made her heart rate accelerate or one who brought dreams of forever.
      She gave her name, driver's license and credit card to the clerk behind the counter and received the keys to a four door sedan and a detailed set of directions.  Prairie, here we come.  Dr. McKay had better be waiting.  Her plans called for her to be in Santa Fe by tomorrow.
      The sky cap pushed the baggage cart outside.  Nora and the twins followed.  A breath of hot air seared her lungs.  In New York, the temperature had been in the seventies.  Here, it must be near ninety.
      Once the luggage had been stowed in the trunk and the car seats in place, Nora looked at her watch.  Before starting the trip, the twins needed to be changed and fed.  She pushed the stroller inside and found the nearest rest room.
      She picked up Molly, changed and cradled the little girl.  Then she did the same with Tod.
      Adorable, sweet, loveable.  She sighed.  She couldn't let these babies steal her heart.  In two hours, she'd be in Prairie and on her way out of their lives.  She pushed them to the door.
      Thirty minutes later, Nora strapped the twins in their seats.  She studied the map.  Seems like a straight shot south and west, she thought.  Maybe something about this trip would go right.  She backed out of the parking space.  "Babies, we're on our way."

Neil is the hero

Neal McKay put the last suture in the jagged cut on his patient’s calf. He stripped off his gloves and stepped back from the table. He glanced at the clock. Nearly three PM. He should have been home an hour ago, but the day hadn’t gone as planned. As the only doctor in town, this was the norm.     
            As usual, his day off had been filled with emergencies. A fractured tibia, a case of congestive heart failure, an acute allergy attack and now this.
            They -- his wards -- should be at the house. He groaned and felt no more prepared for parenthood than he’d been the day he’d learned about his foster sister’s death -- a week after her funeral. Even if he’d known, he wouldn’t have been able to leave his patients to attend the service.
            He groaned. The thought of being responsible for the twins’ care brought waves of insecurity. None of his experiences in the past had prepared him for this day.
            “Do you want to do the dressing?”
            Neal looked at the red-haired nurse. “He’s all yours.”
            “Thanks, buddy. I owe you one.” Jack Gardner glared.
            “If you’re talking about the patch job, just doing my thing.” Jack’s reaction made Neal chuckle. In college, they’d spent hours one-upping each other. He missed the days when they’d been like brothers.
            Jack raised an eyebrow. “Is there a problem you need solved?”
            “You might say that.”
            “I’m not sure I’m qualified.”
            “I don’t know about that.” Neal watched Patty Sue Crawford’s gaze center on his friend. He grinned. Maybe today was the turning point. Since his arrival in Prairie ten months before, she’d pursued him like a wrangler after a runaway steer.
            “Can I go back to the ranch?’ Jack asked.
            Neal frowned. “Only if you promise to avoid horses and cattle until the stitches are out.”
            “How long?”
            “A week.”
            “I can do that.”
            Neal doubted the truth of the statement. Since Jack’s return to the ranch last month, he seemed bent on proving he was Cowboy of the Year.
            “I’d rather admit you for the night. Give you some intravenous antibiotics and injections for pain. Once the local wears off, you’re going to know you’ve been hurt.”
            Jack slid to the edge of the table. “No hospital. What if I stay at my grandmother’s?”
            “Might work, especially after I tell Miss Hattie to tie you to the bed. Your injury is nothing to take lightly.”
            Jack laughed. “Grandmother will see that I obey orders. She should have been a general. You coming to the barbecue Saturday?”
            “I wouldn’t miss it,” Patty Sue said.
            Jack looked away. “Honey, your presence is a given. I meant Doc here.”
            Neal shrugged. “I’ll see how things go. My wards arrive today. I’ll probably be too busy learning how to be a daddy.”
            “I can’t imagine you with a pair of doggies.”
            Neither could Neal, but he wasn’t about to admit it. “I don’t have a choice.”
            “Guess not. I kind of envy you. You’ve achieved fatherhood without the M word.” Jack chuckled. “Bring the doggies with you. The ladies will love them.” He shook his head. “Never thought you’d be saddled with kids. They’ll make big changes in your life.”
            Patty Sue opened a dressing kit. “I think Neal -- Dr. McKay will be a wonderful father.”
            How did she manage to make a deliberate slip of the tongue seem natural?  “Thank you, Ms. Crawford. See that Jack has a copy of the discharge instructions and make an appointment for Friday.” He waved to Jack. “I’ll call the prescriptions to the pharmacy and have them delivered to Miss Hattie’s.”
            “See you and the doggies Saturday,” Jack called. “I’m sure Grandmother expects to see you there.”
            Neal nodded. He’d be at the barbecue with the twins or Miss Hattie would come for him. The town’s matriarch was used to having her way.
            He strode down the hall to his office. Parties at the Gardner mansion were events to be experienced, but he wasn’t sure he could handle an evening of listening to the benefits of life in Prairie.
            He had to go -- home. But there were things he had to complete before he left. He welcomed the delay in facing this new responsibility and sat at his desk to phone the drugstore and write a note on Jack’s chart.
            Home -- the twins -- his legacy. He groaned. Jack was right.
            Two babies would force changes in his lifestyle that he wasn’t ready to make. He wasn’t even sure where to begin.
            Instead of heading home, he reached for a stack of letters he’d received in response to his queries about another temporary position. The time to move had come. A year was long enough to stay in one place.
            But he had a family now. His choice of where to head next had to include them.  How could he make a home for the twins?  He’d been raised as a foster child in a series of placements. A football scholarship had allowed him to escape the last foster home where he’d endured three years of being treated as an outsider. He slammed up barriers against the memories of those days.
            Those memories brought no answers to his current dilemma. His lifestyle didn’t lend itself to an instant family. The longest he’d stayed in one place had been the four years in college and the same amount in medical school. Every time he considered staying in one place, his anxiety level peaked.
            He shoved the letters in a drawer and left the office. He’d do his best for Sherri’s babies but he couldn’t promise them a stable life and a real family. With this thought firmly in place, he left the clinic and jogged down the street toward his rented house to face his foster sister’s attempt to turn him into a family man.

Patty Sue is the villainess.

He heard his name called.  His shoulders tensed when he recognized the voice.
            Why of all the Prairie residents had she picked today to visit the mall?
            He ignored a second hail, ducked into the paint store and grabbed the stroller.  “Nora, are we ready?”
            “Oh, Neal, whatever are you doing here?  Are these your babies?  Aren’t they the cutest thangs?”  Patty Sue chucked Molly under her chin.
            The baby girl let out a shriek that brought Nora running.  She picked up Molly.
            Patty Sue grabbed Neal’s arm.  “I didn’t mean to scare the darling little thang.”
            “Don’t cry, Sweetie,”  Nora crooned.  She glanced at the woman who looked like she wanted to inhale Neal.
            Get your hands off him!
            The thought thundered in her head.  She gasped.
            Are you bonkers?
            Neal was her employer, nothing more.  She had no reason to care if twenty women surrounded him.
            He looked like a boy who’d been forced to ask a girl to dance.  Nora smiled and patted Molly’s back.  “Would you sign for the paper?”  she asked.  “You know we have a busy evening planned.”
            The redhead eyed Nora and then turned to Neal.  “You must have had a good laugh on us.  Thought you were their guardian.”
            “I am.”
            “So who is she?  Anyone can see she’s their mother.  Why is she dumping them on you?”
            “Nora is the nurse who flew with the twins from New York.  She’s staying until Emma returns from El Paso.  She’s not their mother.”  He looked at Nora.  “This is Patty Sue Crawford who works at the clinic.”
            Patty Sue’s expression registered disbelief.  “I see... Guess you’ll both be at Miss Hattie’s tomorrow.  Of course, Nora might be uncomfortable seeing how she’s a stranger and not the babies’ mother.”
            Nora put Molly in the stroller.  “Mrs. Gardner invited me when we had dinner with her last night.  I didn’t think I’d be here, but since I am, I’ll see you there.”
            She looked for Neal and saw him at the counter.  He lifted the rolls of paper and headed for the door.  Nora picked up the bag with the curtains and followed. 
            Once they were outside, she laughed.  “She’s quite taken with you.”
            “And with every available man in Prairie and the rest of the state.  Thanks for the save.”
            “Any time.”  Nora strapped Tod in the infant seat and reached for Molly.
            Who was going to save her from the things this man had made her want?

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