Nurse to Forever Mom

By: Susan Carlisle

CHAPTER ONE


“LIZZY, HONEY. STAY STILL.” Dr. Cody Brennan squatted on his heels in the hallway in front of the day-care suite to re-tie his daughter’s hair-bow. He couldn’t keep his frustration out of his voice as he fumbled at forming a loop with the slick ribbon. Suturing he’d learned in medical school, not securing bows.

“Dadd-yyy, it has to be right,” Lizzy’s whine echoed off the hallway built of glass.

“Hey, mind if I give it a try?” a sweet-sounding feminine voice beside him asked.

Cody looked over his shoulder. Two large, sympathetic green eyes with thick dark lashes met his gaze.

“Dadd-yyy,” Lizzy moaned.

Not giving him a choice, the woman moved in close. A hint of peach tickled his nose as she tugged the ribbon from his hand, hers brushing over his. With a quick side step he moved aside, giving her better access to Lizzy’s ponytail.

As if by magic Lizzy went statue still and the woman in a deft twirl of fingers secured the bow.

“There you go,” she announced with such fanfare that she might have been giving Lizzy an award.

“Thanks,” he muttered.

Lizzy pulled on his hand. “Let’s go, Daddy.”

“You need to tell the lady thank you first.” He used his stern father voice.

“Thank you.” Lizzy obeyed with uncharacteristic shyness.

“No problem.” The woman smiled.

The beautiful upturn of her mouth captivated him. Her full lips surrounded white straight teeth, creating a unique sunbeam that pulled him toward her, making him feel good. A sensation he’d not experienced in a long time.

Lizzy tugged on his hand again. Seeing she had regained his attention, she towed him into day care. When he walked out a few minutes later he looked for the woman. There was no one in sight. She’d been wearing a knit top and jeans, so she must be making an early morning patient visit. Why she had grabbed his attention so, he couldn’t fathom.

He’d been off women for what seemed like ages now and that suited him fine. After the years of anguish and constant distress his ex-wife Rachael had put them through, his children and he had finally found contentment. Throughout his life he had admired his parents’ marriage.

He’d always wanted one like theirs but that dream had been destroyed by the reality of a wife struggling with a drug addiction. Supporting her and raising two small children while at the same time completing his medical training had made him want to find a simpler life. Moving to Maple Island had given him that. It had taken years but he now had the peace he’d hoped for and the ability to give his girls the attention and security they deserved. Bringing someone into their world would only disrupt what he had so carefully built.

After a car accident, his ex-wife had become hooked on painkillers. He seen the signs, had done everything he could think of to try to help Rachael. She had gone in and out of rehabilitation but nothing had seemed to work. Life had become a round of clinics, counseling, begging and shouting. After finding one of his prescription pads missing, he’d known the crisis Rachael had created had to end. He’d finally accepted defeat. Their marriage was over. He had the girls to consider. Unable to save Rachael, he had to think of Jean and Lizzy and his own sanity.

He’d filed for divorce and full custody. With years’ worth of documentation against Rachael, her parental rights had been permanently revoked. Being a solitary parent and a surgeon with a demanding job hadn’t been part of his life plan, yet here he was.

Soon after the custody trial he’d met Alex and the answer to his problem had been born. Every day he was grateful for that serendipitous bar conversation he’d had with Dr. Alex Kirkland about the perils and the pitfalls of solo parenting. During their mutual commiseration, the dream of a first-class, cutting-edge clinic with an equally state-of-the-art day care for employees was created. Faster than Cody had imagined, he’d become Alex’s partner and co-founder of the Maple Island Clinic off the coast of Massachusetts.

The day care had been a lifesaver, but Cody’s problem this morning had been that children were supposed to show up already dressed for the day and in his five-year-old daughter’s mind that included a properly tied hair-bow. Lizzy didn’t consider herself dressed without a ribbon in her hair.

Like this morning, Cody sometimes worried he might not be enough for Jean and Lizzy. He often felt they needed that special attention that only a woman could provide. He shoved that thought away, his teeth clenching from the force of his resolve. He couldn’t risk a repeat of the hell Rachael had put them through. What if he chose wrong again?

Enough of those thoughts. He didn’t have time to review ugly memories. Besides being a single parent, as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in knees and legs, he had a busy clinic and a full surgery schedule this Monday morning to occupy his mind. Some attractive woman visiting a patient shouldn’t even be a concern.

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