Michael West bolted upright and stared at the clock. Almost seven. He
rubbed his eyes. Not the weekend. Not his city walk-up, where he’d collapsed
after a day in surgery and a night on call. He would be late for his first day
as junior partner of
As he showered, remnants of the nightmare circled in his thoughts. “Sorry, Mom,” he whispered. “No grandchildren for years.” Until the mountain of debts became a molehill he couldn’t take a wife.
With a towel around his waist, he shaved and charged into the bedroom. In five years he could recycle those debts. Then he would be ready to give the woman he selected the things he believed she deserved. He dressed in new gray slacks, a starched white shirt, tie, and a black summer weight jacket, grabbed his medical bag and strode from the apartment to his car.
Though he wished for time to eat a hearty breakfast, on the way to the hospital, he stopped at a deli for an egg and cheese bagel and a huge coffee. Ten minutes later, he sat in the doctor’s parking lot and ate like a starving man.
After stuffing the remains in the take-out bag, he slid from the sedan and brushed crumbs from his clothes. He scanned the lot. New car added to his list of wants. His fuel-economy sedan looked like a waif among the luxury sedans and sporty models. He strode toward the entrance.
“Michael, slow down.” The senior partner of the surgical practice waved.
Michael waited for Dr. Probst. “Good morning, sir. I didn’t expect to see you here so early.”
The gray-haired man smiled. “Always the first. Good to see you’ve the same habit. Three cases on the schedule. First one’s at nine.”
“Will I assist?”
“Eager to get your hands in?”
Michael grinned. “Sure am, sir.”
Dr. Probst chuckled. “How well I remember those days. Before we head to the OR, we’ll make rounds. I’ll show you the surgical unit.”
“Sounds good.” Though he had visited the hospital when he’d been recruited, he hadn’t been impressed with the unit.
“We’ve a new nurse manager. Young, efficient. Has performed miracles during her five months in charge. She’s cracked down on the staff. You’ll like her.”
Michael studied the older man. Was he being set up? Not going to happen. Casual affairs were his speed. He thought about the nurse manager he’d met when the guys in the practice had wined and dined him. She’d been old, steely-eyed, with a thin-lipped smile, making him think young doctors were to be trained like puppies. Young might mean any woman under sixty. If the new nurse manager was attractive and would be interested in a fling in the company of a man with a five year plan, he might give her a try.
They rode the elevator from the basement to the second floor. When he saw the nurse at the counter with a phone in her left hand and her right poised over a keyboard, he halted and fought the urge to run.
“No.” He groaned. “Impossible.”
“Something wrong?” Dr. Probst asked.
Michael cleared his throat. Don’t be an ass. “I never expected to see…” Help! His inner voice shouted the final word of his nightmare.
“Zelda, come and meet the new addition to our group.”
Michael sucked in a breath. The bane of his youthful existence left the computer and sauntered toward them.
His throat constricted. His gut churned. “You work here?” Duh. Could his foot fit any tighter in his mouth? Why else was she dressed in a white uniform? And the lab coat spelled administration. He took a second look. The uniform fit her slender body to perfection.
Dr. Probst beamed. “Guess you know each other. Zelda is our miracle nurse manager.”
Figured she would find a way to plague him. He didn’t like the ideas swarming like gnats in his thoughts. He batted them away. Sure, Zelda was attractive and probably efficient, but she was a cyclone centered on destructing Michael West MD. Like visions seen by a drowning man, incidents flooded him. She had swamped his high school romance with Allie, and sent depth charges into his summer fling with Bette.
Every time Zelda entered his space strange events occurred. He tripped over invisible cracks in the sidewalk, dropped drinks and plates of food. In her presence, he was an accident primed to happen.
His gaze focused on her. Boy had she changed. Short curly brown hair, bright blue eyes, slender figure with tantalizing curves. An urge to taste her kissable lips made him take a step toward her.
Whoa. This is Zelda. Not a chance. He enjoyed living. His hands fisted and he tore his attention from her to his partner’s briefing on the recovering patients and the ones awaiting surgery.