The Doctor's Former Fiancee(5)

By: Caro Carson

President of Research and Development

His business card was very impressive, if one admired money-making over life-saving. She did not. She never had. It had crushed her when Braden had decided he did.

Lana pretended not to look at Braden as he patiently listened to the resident explain slide number two. Braden’s tie was a subtle symphony of colors on silk. His watch was worth as much as her worn-out car, she was certain. But his face no longer reflected enthusiasm for life, and his mouth no longer lifted in an easy smile. Chasing the almighty dollar had not been a happy way for him to spend the past six years, apparently.

Lana had made the right choice by breaking their engagement. She could not have been the right wife for this executive. He’d been heading in that profit-driven direction then; she wasn’t going to regret it now.

No—she was going to ignore him for the duration of the PowerPoint presentation, because she needed to read every slide and learn all she could about this study. Her one goal, her only goal, was to keep PLI’s funding coming into this hospital.

She slid another look at his painfully familiar profile. He was handsome, classically handsome, but her eye went to the imperfections, the ones she’d known and loved. His eyes had some crinkles at the corners, as they’d had even six years ago, from a youth spent ranching in the relentless Texas sun. His chin had a scar from being cut open too many times for him to recount them all to her. Being thrown from a horse. Getting sacked in high school football. Attempting some prank with his brother. He looked like an urbane city man now, a business tycoon in a Savile Row suit, but that scar on his chin revealed the man he’d been. Lana knew him, under that suit.

Under that suit, he was...

Warm skin and hard muscle. Every inch of him.

For God’s sake, Lana. You’re the department chair. Pay attention.

More than a million dollars were at stake. West Central was counting on her to achieve one simple goal: renew PLI’s contract.

Perhaps she ought to set a second goal. She was going to keep her heart well guarded from the dreamy Dr. MacDowell.

* * *

“Thank you for that thorough presentation,” Lana said.

She would coach Dr. Everson later about making her presentations less lengthy. In front of PLI’s president, however, Lana would point out only the positive for the sake of West Central Hospital. Thankfully, the study in question had turned out to be for a medicine she’d also been studying in Washington. Lana felt a little more secure in her knowledge. “It’s exciting that pentagab has met the midpoint goals.”

Which meant it’s exciting that we’ll be extending our contract with PLI.

“I regret that PLI will not be continuing this study.” It was the first thing Braden had said in forty minutes. Lana heard that familiar voice, still masculine, but no longer infused with affection for her. It took a moment for his words to sink in through the miasma of emotional memories.

“You’re not continuing this study?” she asked. “But this drug shows such promise.”

“I don’t believe it does.”

“But the numbers—let’s go back to that last graph—”

“The graph looks impressive, yes, but it’s just drawn cleverly. The raw numbers make the treated group appear to be doing better than the placebo group, but where is the p-value? There is no statistical significance.”

Startled, Lana looked at the screen. The bar graph looked straightforward, but sure enough, the standard line that stated the p-value between the groups was missing. The p-value was a mathematical calculation used to determine if the difference between two groups mattered. If one hundred patients responded to a medicine but ninety patients responded to a placebo, that ten-patient difference was not really a difference. Not in the world of science.

“The statistical analysis was on another slide,” she said, stalling for time. It was on one of forty-three slides. Lana flipped through her paper copies of the PowerPoint presentation, doing some frantic speed-reading. “Here it is,” she said with relief. “P equals point-zero-five. Statistically significant, and it looks like the data are trending toward a more robust end point.”

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