Two Doctors & a Baby

By: Brenda Harlen

Chapter One

 After six years at Mercy Hospital, Dr. Justin Garrett knew that Friday nights in the ER were inevitably frenzied and chaotic.

 New Year’s Eve was worse.

 And when New Year’s Eve happened to fall on a Friday—well, it wasn’t yet midnight and he’d already seen more than twice the usual number of patients pass through the emergency department, most of the incidents and injuries directly related to alcohol consumption.

 A drunken college student who had put his fist through a wall—and his basketball scholarship in jeopardy—with fractures of the fourth and fifth metacarpal bones. A sixty-three-year-old man who had doubled up on Viagra to celebrate the occasion with his thirty-six-year-old wife and ended up in cardiac arrest instead. A seventeen-year-old female who had fallen off her balcony because the Ecstasy slipped into her drink by her boyfriend had made her want to pick the pretty flowers on her neighbor’s terrace—thankfully, she lived on the second floor, although she did sustain a broken clavicle and had required thirty-eight stitches to close the gash on her arm, courtesy of the glass vodka cooler bottle she had been holding when she fell.

 And those were only the ones he’d seen in the past hour. Then there was Nancy Anderson—a woman who claimed she tripped and fell into a door but whom he recognized from her frequent visits to the ER with various and numerous contusions and lacerations. Tonight it was a black eye, swollen jaw and broken wrist. Nancy wasn’t drunk, but Justin would bet that her husband was—not because it was New Year’s Eve but because Ray Anderson always hit the bottle as soon as he got home from work.

 More than once, Justin had tried to help her see that there were other options. She refused to listen to him. Because he understood that a woman who had been abused by her husband might be reluctant to confide in another man, he’d called in a female physician to talk to her, with the same unsatisfactory result. After Thanksgiving, when she’d suffered a miscarriage caused by a “fall down the stairs,” Dr. Wallace had suggested that she talk to a counselor. Nancy Anderson continued to insist that she was just clumsy, that her husband loved her and would never hurt her.

 “What did she say happened this time?” asked Callie Levine, one of his favorite nurses who had drawn the short straw and got stuck working the New Year’s Eve shift beside him.

 “Walked into a door.”

 Callie shook her head. “He’s going to kill her one of these days.”

 “Probably,” Justin admitted grimly. “But it doesn’t matter that you and I see it when she refuses to acknowledge what’s happening.”

 “When she lost the baby, I honestly thought that would do it. That her grief would override her fear and she would finally tell the truth.”

 “She fell down the stairs,” Justin said, reminding her of the explanation Nancy Anderson had given when she was admitted on that previous occasion.

 Then, because talking about the woman’s situation made him feel both frustrated and ineffectual, he opened another chart. “Did you call up to the psych department for a consult?”

 “Victoria Danes said she would be down shortly,” Callie told him. “Did you want her to see Mrs. Anderson?”

 “No point,” he said. “I just need her to talk to Tanner Northrop so we can figure out what to do there.”

 “Is that the little boy in Exam Two with Dr. Wallace?”

 “Dr. Wallace is still here?” He’d crossed paths with Avery Wallace earlier in the evening when he’d sneaked into the doctor’s lounge for a much-needed hit of caffeine and she’d strolled in, wearing a formfitting black dress and mile-high heels, and his eyes had almost popped right out of his head.

 She’d barely glanced in his direction as she’d made her way to the women’s locker room, emerging a few minutes later in faded scrubs and running shoes. It didn’t matter that the more familiar attire disguised her delectable feminine curves—his body was always on full alert whenever she was near.

 She’d moved to Charisma three and a half years earlier and started working at Mercy Hospital. Since then, he’d gotten to know her pretty well—professionally, at least. Personally, she wouldn’t give him the time of day, despite the definite sizzle in the air whenever they were around each other.

 Although she wasn’t on the schedule tonight, she’d assisted him with a procedure earlier in the evening because they were short staffed and she was there. He’d expected that she would have gone home after that—making her escape as soon as possible. Apparently, he was wrong.

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