As Caleb Winstone rode the elevator to the fifth floor of Eastlake Community, the familiar aromas shouting hospital engulfed him. Though slightly different than the scents of his last placement, they smelled of coming home. Exhaustion threatened to swamp him but he had places to visit and things to accomplish before he sought sleep.
The indicator flashed five. The doors parted and he stepped out to face the nurses’ station. A half dozen women stared and collectively sighed.
“Enter the handsome doctor.”
Gasps and giggles greeted him.
Caleb felt his face heat. Had he really said that? He considered a strategic retreat but the elevator doors had closed. Though he’d been called handsome often enough, he had no reason for the blatant announcement.
A burst of male laughter interrupted his swirling thoughts. “Hello, Caleb. You certainly know how to make an entrance.” A tall blond man rounded the end of the desk and offered his hand,
“Alex Carter, good to see you again.”
Alex clasped his hand. “Are you in town for good?”
“Looks that way. I’ve joined Joe Grogan’s practice.” Caleb grinned. “Blame my announcement on jet lag. Arrived this morning from
where I spent three
months studying respiratory diseases in children.” London
“Have you been home?”
Caleb shook his head. “Came straight here. Decided to complete the paperwork and get my parking pass and then go to the office before I go home. I’m meeting Joe at one thirty at the office. Actually, I’m in no hurry to reach the stone mansion.”
Alex nodded. “Are they still upset over your career choice?’
“Naturally. They equate my straying from the financial sphere as a betrayal like they did when I chose swimming over football in high school.”
“Shame. Let me introduce you to today’s crew. Alex walked to the desk.
The nurses smiled. Were they hiding laughter? He felt sure his appearance and words would make the rounds.
Alex grinned. “Ladies, this is Caleb Winstone the newest addition to our staff. He’s joining Dr. Joe and vying for the handsome doctor award.”
Caleb shook his head. Years ago Alex had been a tease. His first wife’s behavior had soured him. The second marriage had brought a welcome change. “I’ll get you.”
Alex mentioned name after name until they reached the tall brunette at the end of the desk. Her lab coat marked her as the unit’s nurse manager.
“Caleb, Jenessa Bradshaw, acting nurse manager. Her husband is Director of Nursing.”
“Glad to meet you,” Caleb said. “Sorry about the grand entrance.”
She laughed. “You said what we were thinking.”
“Don’t encourage him,” Alex said. “Half the girls in high school followed him around.”
“The other half followed you.” Caleb turned to Jenessa. “Why are you just acting nurse manager?”
“Our newly hired one was to start two months ago but a family emergency intervened. She’s starting on Monday.”
“She must be special.”
“She is. She’s a nurse practitioner.”
Jenessa smiled. “Let me give you a quick tour.”
Caleb walked beside her. “Is the name of this new nurse a secret?”
“I forgot you weren’t here during the selection process. She’s a friend from my class at Grantley.”
Alex nodded. “She’s one of the infamous Grantley Gang. You were seldom home back then to know about their antics.” He turned to Jenessa. “Are we holding a welcoming party to celebrate the event?”
“I would tell you to ask your wife but just the Gang minus Rick,” Jenessa said. “She’ll be tied up at Rehab getting her brother settled.”
Caleb halted. “Just who is this person?”
“Suzanna Rollins,” Jenessa said. “She worked at City.”
Caleb held in a groan. Not her. Not here. He prayed his face didn’t show his feelings. Of all the women in the world to invade his space. Suzanna Rollins had no use for him. Their days of dating hadn’t ended well.
“Do you know her?”
Caleb shrugged. “I may have seen her a time or two.” Or more. They had dated for several months until the night he’d asked her to give up her job and move in with him. All her expenses would be paid. All she had to do was warm his bed.
His cheek still stung with the memory of her reaction. She’d walked away. He’d managed to avoid her and had leaped at the chance to spend three months in
on Respiratory Problems in Children seminar. London
He covered a yawn with his hand and followed Jenessa on a tour of the patient rooms. Most were semi-private. Two nurseries held four cribs each. There was one isolation room. She pointed out the playroom where children could escape their rooms. She pointed out the patients being cared for by his new partner. Several of them had respiratory problems. He needed to see their charts and decide what new ideas he could suggest. Of the twenty patients on the thirty bed unit, nine belonged to his new practice.
Before he left to have lunch in the cafeteria he reviewed the charts. As he ate, he thought of the irony of working with Suzanna. He was being drawn into a whirlpool with no escape. Could he see her every day knowing she was not his to touch? Not to mention facing the contempt he knew she felt.
He cleared his tray and drove to the office he would share with his new partner. According to the information Joe had sent him, the second floor of the five story building was theirs. Instead of using the elevator, he opted for the stairs.
Before heading home to crash, he wanted to spend several hours organizing his office and learning about the practice. He exited the stairwell and entered the waiting room. Several patients waited with their mothers.
The receptionist looked up. “Dr. Winstone, welcome. Dr. Joe is waiting.”
“Thanks.” Caleb walked down the hall and paused outside the room with his partner’s name on the door. He knocked and stepped inside.
Dr. Joe looked up. “Glad you’re here. Welcome.”
“Glad to be here.” Caleb sank onto the chair before the desk.
“You look like hell. When did you arrive?”
“Six AM. Then through customs and claimed my car. I drove straight here and headed to the hospital. Put in my paperwork and have my parking pass. What do you want me to do?”
The older man rose. “I’ll have Gloria show you around. Then, set up your office. There’s a stack of boxes that have been here for months. How was
“Great and I learned a lot.” Caleb paused at the door. “I can see patients and I want to talk to you about the asthma kids.”
“No need to see patients. It’s a light afternoon.” He reached for a chart. “The asthma kids are yours.” He paused beside Caleb. “Suppose you’ve heard about the new nurse manager. Bright young woman. Her being a practitioner is a plus.”
“I’m sure she’ll be an asset.” Though working with Suzanna would be a challenge, he must manage each encounter with grace. He pushed to his feet. “Let me organize my office and take the tour.” He yawned. If he sat any longer, he would crash.
“Do that, then go home.” Joe grinned. "You can make hospital rounds tomorrow and skip office hours.” He paused. “There’s a teenage boy arriving at the
fractures and burns. Rick Somers is handling the orthopedic side of his care.” Rehab
Caleb found his way to the office that would be his. For several hours, he unpacked boxes, hung his licenses and diplomas. He fitted reference books on the shelves and hooked up the computer sitting on the extension of the mahogany desk. When he finished, he found Gloria. She showed him the treatment rooms and supply closets.
When the tour ended, he walked to the door. Time to go home where he really didn’t want to be.