“Morning, Stella.” Allie’s at the nurses’ station when I arrive at Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room for my shift.
“Afternoon actually,” I say, snapping on my badge.
“I’ve been here too long. Winter is still approaching, right? I didn’t miss it because I’ve been here so long?” She forks her salad while clicking buttons on the computer.
One thing I’ve discovered about Allie in my first week here is that no one multitasks like her.
I chuckle. “You’re good. But thanks for the reminder. I’m worried I’ve lost my ability to drive in the snow.”
I check out the board to see which patients we have in-house and what sort of issues I’ll be dealing with.
Transferring hospitals in the middle of my residency left me feeling uneasy. Someone was looking over me when I sneaked into town without anyone knowing.
I’ve kept up with Kingston Bailey enough to know that he works for the Anchorage Fire Department, so there’s a possibility I might run into him here.
My only saving grace has been that he smoke jumps in the spring and summer, which allowed me to have a false sense of security these past months. But that’s done with now that we’re deep into autumn.
I still sneak in and out of Lake Starlight like a thief in the night.
I’m not scared of Kingston Bailey. Well, okay, I am, but not in terms of my physical safety. Kingston and I shared an attraction that terrifies me, yet we never even explored a relationship.
He’s the one guy who made me forget the consequences of my actions—and I most definitely prefer to stay in control.
I stayed away from Lake Starlight for eight years, and I’m only returning now because of my mom’s lupus diagnosis.
After I talked to her doctor—a phone call she still doesn’t know happened—I decided to move my residency.
Which is how I would up shifting from a crowded New York City hospital, where I’d treat anything from gunshot wounds to pneumonia, to Anchorage, where the cases are usually less life-threatening.
I won’t get the experience here that I would’ve had in New York City, but I never saw myself as a big city lifer anyway.
“It’s like riding a bike. Just make sure you get snow tires.” Allie chomps down on her salad. “How are you adjusting here?”
I shrug. “So far so good.”
No one knows that every time a paramedic brings in a patient, a knot forms in my stomach, worried that the medic on duty might be Kingston.
I never told him I was transferred to the hospital his fire station transports patients to.
I even stood across the street from his apartment like a creeper, but my bravado fizzled when he stepped out of his apartment with Owen.
I watched the two men whose friendship I destroyed once upon a time, and all that turmoil festered back up inside me. They laughed as they slid into a truck, and I didn’t want to ruin that.
Kingston’s new truck suggests he’s no longer a boy who has to drive his brothers’ hand-me-downs.
“We like having you here. The nurses talk about you more than Romeo.” She stabs her fork into the salad. “And believe me, we discuss Romeo all the time.” She rolls her eyes.
“Romeo?” I chuckle.
I’ve met a lot of new people over the past week, and I’ve always thought of myself as good with names.
I never wanted to be the doctor who didn’t refer to her patient by name, so I practice with the association game. There’s no way I would’ve forgotten a Romeo.
“You haven’t met Romeo?” Allie leans back in her chair and fans herself. “He’s one of those men who should be a model in a magazine or a cologne commercial or something.”
Having five more minutes before Ralph runs me through his patient list, I sit down next to her and laugh. “That sounds a little far-fetched.”
She shakes her head, eyes wide. “Just wait. You’ll know him when he comes in.”
“Okay, but feel free to point him out to me in case I miss this amazing guy.”
She waves her finger in front of my face. “You just wait. You’ll be sighing the first time you see him.”
“Okay.” I roll my eyes with a smile.
She laughs and picks up her salad bowl to face me. “Are you married? Engaged?”
I shake my head. “Neither.”
“I figured. Most doctors in their residency haven’t been in the dating circuit for a while.” She piles another forkful of lettuce into her mouth.
“Well, I did meet a promising guy last night.”
I look at her left hand and see no wedding ring. “My friend is obsessed with this blind speed dating thing and I met him there. We had a drink together after the event and exchanged phone numbers, but…”
I shrug. “It’s not like I have a ton of time.”
She quirks her eyebrow.
Yes, I have a lot more time than if I was in New York, but I’m not up for a serious relationship.
“Tell me about him.”
“He’s tall and good-looking. Bit of a flirt.” I bite my lower lip.
“One of those guys you have a hard time reading. You don’t know if he’s flirtatious with just you or with every girl he comes into contact with.”
“I always go by how they act with the waitresses. If he’s too flirtatious with them, then I’m out.”
I rack my brain for how he acted but remember that he went up to the bar to get our drinks.
“What does he do?” Allie asks.
“He’s a carpenter. He was talking about this house he’s working on, about the woodwork he’s doing with the banister. It sounded amazing.” Which it did.
Made me want to drag him to my mom’s B & B and see what he’d suggest to spruce up the place.
“A man who’s good with his hands.” She winks, and I laugh.
“Dr. Harrison, are you ready for rounds?” Ralph says behind me.
I quickly stand to face him. Allie turns to her computer as if we’re two school-aged kids getting scolded by the principal. But Ralph isn’t my boss.
He’s just another resident who thinks he’s a bigger deal than he is. But I guess when your family donated the pediatric wing to the hospital, you think you stand taller than the rest.
“Ralph,” I say. “Good afternoon. I already looked over the board.”
He takes his own dry erase marker out of his pocket because he only uses his. The shade of blue is a little darker than the community one the rest of us use.
“Dr. Harrison,” he says and waits because he wants me to call him Dr. Teller. Usually I would refer to my fellow residents as doctor, but I kind of like getting under his skin.
When I only smile at him, waiting for him to continue, he huffs and marks up the board. “I’m waiting on labs to confirm, but I think it’s just a gallbladder in room five.
“Room four is a case of the flu, so we’re waiting for the test to come back while we rehydrate him on an IV. When we discharge him, we should discuss the urgent care clinics he could use rather than the emergency room.”
“So it’s slow tonight,” I say.
“You should be happy you weren’t here last month with that pile-up on the interstate.” He’s mentioned that one instance more times than I can count in the week I’ve worked here. It’s like he’s proud.
People died and were injured in that pile-up.
“We got a few of the patients over at County.” I was at County hospital first, cycling through my labor and delivery, surgery, and cardiac residencies before I came to Memorial.
“Well, you didn’t get the triage patients. We got the ones hanging on by a thread.”
I smile, although I’m sure my eyes are rolled so far back in my head, he’s wondering if I need medical attention.
An ambulance calls in on their line, and Allie picks up the phone.
“Have a great night, Ralph.”
“You as well, Dr. Harrison. If you need me, you have my cell.”
I smile at Allie. “Oh, I’m sure we’ll be fine. Plus, you know Dr. Anderson is here.”
He nods and says nothing because Dr. Anderson is our Chief Resident and the person I would call if I needed anything, not Ralph.
I decide to visit the patients and make sure everyone is comfortable and to let them know I’ll be taking over for Dr. Teller. The first room I come to is room five, so I knock and walk in.
A woman lies in the bed with her husband at her side, on his phone.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Harrison. I just wanted to check up on you.”
“Margie,” she says, “and this is my husband Mark.”
I think of M&M’s and repeat their names in my head once more. I smile and nod at them both.
“That other doctor said they were waiting on labs, but it’s been hours,” she complains, which isn’t uncommon when people are in pain.
In high school, my mom had a gallbladder attack that had her keeled over in agony, and that woman can handle pain like a UFC fighter.
“Let me look at your chart. How is the pain level?”
I go through everything with her and see that her labs aren’t back yet, so I send them a quick note to see what the holdup is.
We talk for a little while and I promise her we’ll get some stronger pain meds in right away. Allie’s walking by as I leave the room.
“Can you get the patient in room five—”
“You’re in luck. Romeo just came in,” she says.
“Well, I have patients to see.”
“He’s a patient.” Her eyes widen. “Got injured on the job.”
“Okay, Allie, this isn’t The ~Bachelor.~ Can you please put the patient in room five out of her misery and get her some more pain meds? The notes are in her file.”
She nods. “Okay, but I suggest heading to room eight.” She shrugs like I’m stupid if I don’t.
I shake my head and continue on my path to room six.
If I get to eight, then so be it, but I have a feeling whoever this Romeo guy is, he doesn’t hold a candle to some guys I’ve seen walking the streets of New York.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Harrison,” I say, walking into room six.
Twenty minutes later, I’m outside room eight, and for some reason, butterflies hit my stomach.
I don’t even know if this guy is actually good-looking or what he does that they know him so well at the hospital, but he was injured on the job according to all the details Allie gave me.
I really need to get better at asking more detailed questions about people who aren’t my patients. Life in Anchorage is slower than New York. I can take a moment to breathe here.
I knock and walk into the room, my hand reaching for the antiseptic dispenser. It shoots cold liquid onto my hand.
“Hi, I’m the resident overseeing you today.” I scribble my name on the board. “How’s the pain? Anything I can get you?”
I look up to finally get a good look at this Romeo guy, and my heart skips a beat. I should have guessed he’d be their Romeo.
“Stella? Jesus, how hard did I hit my head?” He puts his hand on his head.
I step back. “Kingston.”
But even I hear the lack of surprise in my tone. I feel a sudden wave of relief that the moment I’ve been anticipating and dreading is over. It will come out that I’ve returned.
Now I just have to pull up my big girl panties and be clear about the reasons I returned—and they weren’t for him.
“Stella, dear.” Grandma Dori hugs me, her arms tight and welcoming. She never judged me as the girl who tore two best friends apart.
She’s treated me almost like a grandchild—to the point of sending me birthday cards while I was away.
“Hi, Dori,” I say, my eyes unable to pull away from Kingston’s. I’m not even close to prepared to see him again.
His gaze holds mine, and a soft smile crosses his lips.
“I’ll be right back.” I leave the room and press my back to the wall outside the door, inhaling deep breaths.
Allie whistles as she passes me. “Told you the minute you saw him, you’d be sighing.”
I say nothing but continue to mentally give myself the pep talk I need to go back in there and be a professional.
Get through this, Stella, and it’s smooth sailing from here.
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