A dedicated cardiac surgeon, accustomed to relying on his skills, learns a less invasive way to mend a dietitian's broken heart.
Haunted by her past, dietitian Andrea Martin is determined to start her life anew, away from the whispered sneers and pointing fingers of her last employment. All goes well, until the hospital's shining star, cardiac surgeon, Dr. Braeden Landry, returns from a leave of absence and sees her courting favor from his patients.
Part of chapter One
"Dammit!" Dr. Braeden Landry’s eyes spit fire. He leaned heavily against the frame of the patient’s door he’d just opened and abruptly shut. The image burned in his mind. One of the hospital’s staff had been sitting on the bed with an elderly man wrapped tightly in her arms. Her closed eyes indicated passion, not compassion.
"Sam, this is the second time this week I’ve entered a hospital room and found one of my patients clutched in the arms of that technician. I had medical students with me before, so I diverted them to another patient down the hall." Braeden glanced down the corridor from habit. "Has the hospital decorum around here changed that much while I’ve been away?"
Braeden turned to his silver-haired companion, Sam Jeffrey, Administrator of Bayview Heights General Hospital. "Who is she?"
"Well, in the first place, she isn’t a technician, she’s the new dietitian, and her name is Andrea Martin. She started working here about a month ago, just after you started your leave of absence to update your expertise with hands-on courses. She’s popular with the patients."
Sam's eyes twinkled, obviously enjoying the sight of the brilliant cardiac surgeon caught off-guard. The Administrator had been Braeden’s mentor all through the years of Braeden's medical study and looked on his protégé as the closest thing to a son he’d ever have. Occasionally, he’d take a break from his management duties just to watch Braeden in action on rounds.
"Hell, I can see why she’d be popular, but a hospital’s no place to cozy up that way. It’s downright embarrassing to walk into a room and see a staff member in a passionate clinch. Twice in one week is ridiculous. Makes me feel like an intruder when the patient is here for my help," Braeden hands gripped the patient’s chart with a white-knuckle clasp.
"Well, you’re the attending doctor now, so let’s open the door and go inside. We’re backtracking here; there are still other patients to see. Oops! Watch out for that gurney coming down the corridor full speed."
Braeden stepped aside and watched the two orderlies maneuver the bed past them. He drew in a deep breath and pushed open the door exactly at the moment the dietitian pulled the handle on the other side. His sudden action caused her to stagger backward as the door easily gave way pulling inward. Braeden leaped forward and caught her flailing body in the nick of time. The surgeon steadied the dietitian, then quickly moved back. To mollify the awkward silence and flushed faces, Sam stepped in to introduce them.
"Miss Martin, I’d like you to meet, Dr. Braeden Landry, Chief of Cardiac Services. Braeden, meet Andrea Martin, our new Therapeutic Dietitian."
Still ruffled from his earlier annoyance, Braeden scowled and mumbled a weak, "Hello."
Fused with crimson, Andrea’s emerald eyes darted up the six-foot-five frame of the scowling doctor who had almost toppled her. In a slightly trembling voice, she acknowledged the introduction. "H-Hello, Dr. Landry. This isn’t what it l-looks like. Mr. J-Jenkins and I..."
Her stammer reeked of guilt and aroused his suspicion even more. "Spare me the explanations, Miss Martin. It’s all right to hug in the hospital, but I think you were overdoing it." He deliberately kept his gravelly voice low so the patient couldn’t hear.
Before she could reply, Braeden turned his attention to the bright-eyed gentleman now wiggling under the white thermal sheet. The back of the patient’s Johnny shirt flapped open with the movement. Braeden glanced at the dietitian but in the process of exiting the room she didn’t catch the drift of bare buttocks.
"Hello, Mr. Jenkins. "I’m Dr. Landry, and this is the boss of the hospital, Mr. Jeffrey. Your cardiologist asked me to look in on you. I see by your chart that you’ve been here two weeks. Are you getting tired of us yet?"
"Damn right, Doc. I’m sick of the flowered drapes and that monstrous picture on the wall. I’d rather be out enjoying the countryside than looking at a cheap replica. Time you boys were gettin’ me fixed up and out so someone real sick can have the bed. At seventy, I don’t have time to waste in here."
Braeden checked the heart monitor and pulled his stethoscope from its drape around his neck. "Well, it seems the medication has failed to improve your angina; you’re still having recurring chest pains. By the way, do you accept hugs from all the females on our staff, Mr. Jenkins? Or only from the pretty ones?"
"At my age, and in my condition, I’ll take any hugs given out, Doc. Sure beats the hell out of sufferin’ with this infernal pain. You oughta try it some time. Hugs lighten the heart and might even put you in a better mood."
Sam laughed out loud as Braeden shifted his feet, uncomfortable at the chiding. Putting forth his attentive professional face, the surgeon proceeded with his examination, but camouflaged his concern at the patient’s fast and irregular heartbeat.
"Hmm. Guess the dietitian didn’t do much damage, Mr. Jenkins--we don’t want our staff breaking hearts; we’re supposed to be in the business of repairing them."
Dr. Landry’s satirical attitude was well known in the hospital. Often highly stressed and tired, his sarcasm lashed out easily at the nursing staff. They knew when to give him a wide berth. "I’ll take another look at your test results, then we’ll consider the best course of action."
"Just get me out of here soon. This IV hook-up and bleeping monitor is enough to drive anyone mad. At least you haven’t got a herd of students with you. I’m sick of feeling like a guinea pig."
"Then perhaps I should call the dietitian back to calm you down."
When they left, Braeden’s eyes skirted the hallway again, but beyond a group of nurses huddled near the lounge, no other staff was in sight.
The two men continued visiting other patients in the Coronary Care Unit. When Braeden’s last referral had been seen, and the patient’s chart returned to the rack in the nursing station, Sam pulled him aside. "How about lunch, Braeden? I’m famished."
"It’s not a good idea to be starved around here." Braeden snickered. "Sometimes the cafeteria food is plain unappealing."
Sam grinned. "Maybe Miss Martin can spice it up for you. The smell of the lasagna is floating off those two meal wagons by the elevators and spearheading straight toward my appetite."
"Ugh! That doesn’t suit my taste, and she’d better not spice up any more of my patients or she’ll be in trouble."
"Oh, give her a break." Sam shook his head and laughed. "I think you might find a few changes have been made since she’s joined us. Come on, the cafeteria is summoning my stomach."
As they carried their food-laden trays into the dining room, Braeden’s eyes widened in surprise. "I see what you mean. The place has had a face-lift. You find a flood of money at the gate, Sam?"
"Nope. It was all donated. One of our heart patients was a florist and so happy at the success of his angioplasty that he told Miss Martin to go to his greenhouses and pick out any hanging plants she wanted. She wanted a lot."
"And the new wallpaper?"
"Another satisfied patient."
"Let me guess. Our dietitian likes blue?"
"Her favorite color." Sam laughed when his companion rolled his eyes.
Choosing a table at the back of the room gave them the opportunity to watch the other staff employees eating their meals in select little groups. Nurses sat with nurses, technicians with each other, and so on, as if there were an unspoken hierarchy at play. Braeden couldn’t help but notice the dietitian broke this tradition when she entered and sat with the head nurse of CCU.
"There’s Miss Martin now. Do you want to put in a request for better food?" Sam asked.
"No. I’ll stay away from her... as far as I can get. It might be safer."
Braeden couldn’t help spotting a few other things about Andrea Martin as he flicked off the cellophane covering and bit into his ham sandwich. He’d bet she stood six feet without shoes, and even he had to appreciate her well-proportioned figure. Her opened lab coat revealed a bright green silk blouse combined with a navy pleated skirt; her skin radiated health. Now that he looked closer, she could be distinguished from a technician by the green name-tag above her breast pocket. He hadn’t noticed that landmark earlier. It must be the amount of green coloring in her attire that accentuated the brilliance of her emerald eyes.
Strong, smart, sensuous heroines