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"There is just something about that man that makes my uterus want to come out of retirement."
Intensive Care nurse Joni Thompson's gaze jerked away from the IV pump she was programming to gawk at the eighty-plus-year-old skeleton of a woman lying in the hospital bed. Mrs. Sain had severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was unfortunately a frequent flyer in the ICU when she lapsed into hypercapneic respiratory failure.
Joni didn't have to ask who her patient referred to. Apparently, even little old ladies two tiptoed steps from death's doorway weren't immune to his charm.
Dr. Grant Bradley, pulmonologist extraordinare.
Okay, so the man had it all. Brains, beauty, body.
Not that she'd noticed.
Oh, yes, much perfectly described how she'd not noticed Grant.
She'd not noticed much about his sky-blue eyes. Or much about his broad shoulders that couldn't be hidden beneath his standard hospital-issue scrub tops that perfectly matched those thickly lashed intelligent eyes. Or much about his narrow hips, and she just knew if she could pull his scrub pants tight to his body, he'd have a butt not worth much ado as well.
But his smile was what she'd not noticed the most much.
His smile lit up his face, dug dimples into his handsome cheeks, and made his beautiful eyes dance with mischief. The man's smile did funny things to her insides.
She closed her eyes and willed Grant out of her head yet again. Seemed like the longer he worked in Bean's Creek, the more she had to forcibly exorcise the man from her thoughts.
"It's his smile, you know."
Had Mrs. Sain read her mind or what?
Joni gawked at the white-haired woman fanning her face as if she really was having a full-blown hot flush brought on by a sudden surge of Dr. Grant Bradley-is-Hot hormones.
"When that man smiles it's as if he knows your every secret." Mrs. Sain's fanning increased, gaining good rhythm for a person in her frail condition. "As if he knows you're thinking about him, and he likes being the center of your attention." A soft sigh escaped thin, pale lips as her eyes closed. "Reminds me of my Hickerson."
Joni smiled at the woman's reminiscing of her late husband. Her patient often mentioned the devilishly handsome man she'd spent more than sixty-five years married to.
Was Mrs. Sain right? Was it Grant's smile that made him so irresistible? Joni considered the cocky sideways grin he frequently flashed her way. The man smiled exactly as if he knew what she was thinking and his arrogant self liked it that she wanted to rip off his clothes and lick him from head to toe and all in between.
Definitely all in between.
He expected no less than that reaction from women.
Why would he?
The man was a god when it came to the opposite sex. Women of all ages fell over themselves vying for his attention, vying for one of those half-cocked grins to be just for them.
No, he wasn't a god, more like a tempting devil crooking his finger to lure women to the dark side.
Biting back a frustrated sigh, Joni shook her head at her still fanningalthough rapidly losing momentumpatient. The woman had been on a vent less than forty-eight hours before. If Joni didn't know better she'd swear the IV fluid must have contained youth serum. Or one hundred-proof estrogen. Joni really liked the spunky older lady who somehow always managed to bounce back no matter how ill she was at time of admission.
"Not that he looks at me like that, mind you. But I've seen how he looks at you." Mrs. Sain placed her weathered hand on Joni's arm. "I think he may be a little sweet on you."
"I think your oxygen must be dropping because you obviously aren't thinking straight," Joni snorted, winking to soften her words because she'd been a bit more brusque than she'd meant to. Honestly, she just couldn't deal with Grant being "a little sweet" on her. She had her once messy life all straightened out. She didn't need Dr. Steal Her Breath throwing a curve into her life plan.
Mrs. Sain didn't appear in the slightest concerned about her oxygen levels, just laughed at Joni's remark and patted her arm with thin, clubbed fingers.
Trying her best not to react so she didn't encourage Mrs. Sain's current train of thought, Joni listened to the woman's heart and lungs. She noted the steady click of the woman's pacemaker and the coarse rhonchi and expiratory wheezing heard bibasilarly in both lungs anteriorly and posteriorly. As horrible as the woman's lungs sounded, they were still much improved from even the day before. Hopefully her breathing would continue to improve so Grant could discharge her back to the assisted living facility where she resided.
Grant sweet on her? Only in Joni's secret late-night fantasies was a man like Grant sweet on her.
No, that wasn't true. For some unknown reason Grant was interested in her. Although he'd seemed a bit standoffish with her at first, for the past few weeks he'd found reasons to seek her out, talk to her, touch her arm or hand, to make eye contact and smile that wicked smile at her.
He had asked her out.
For this weekend.
She'd immediately turned him down. Not that he'd accepted that. No, the great Dr.
Bradley had told her to think about it because they both knew she wanted to go out with him as much as he wanted her to say yes.
Ha! Who was he to say that she wanted to go out with him?
How much did he want her to say yes? Why?
If she had said yes, go where?
He hadn't even told where their supposed date would have been. Most likely the hospital's Hearts for Health fundraiser.
The last thing she wanted was to go to a hospital event and be lumped into the category of Dr. Bradley's latest bedroom babe.
No matter how long she thought about his question, no matter how tempted she might be, her answer wouldn't change.
She knew all about men like Grant. They played the field then moved on, leaving havoc in their wake. Grant was no different. Hadn't he already made his way through a good portion of the single population at the hospital?
Okay, so technically she only knew of a couple of hospital employees he'd been linked with during the few months he'd been in Bean's Creek, but there were probably more, right? It wasn't as if she was privy to his social calendar, but she imagined the man never lacked for female company.
She imagined lots of things in regard to Grant.
So okay, he was interested and, truth be told, she thought about him a lot. Too much really. But she wouldn't be changing her mind about going out with him. She knew better. Had learned that lesson the hard way years ago.
Dr. Mark Braseel had taught her well.
"I think you might be a little sweet on him, too."
Mrs. Sain's words had the effect of hot lava dropping onto Joni's face. Was her annoying fascination with the man that obvious? How long had she been in a thinking-of-Grant daze? No wonder he'd asked her out. He probably thought she was an easy score to add another notch to his proverbial macho-man belt.
No, thank you. Been there, done that. Not ever walking down that painful road again regardless of how much Grant might tempt her. Some scars ran too deep to risk reopening.
She met Mrs. Sain's curious gaze, held it without blinking. "You couldn't be further from the truth."
Which was true. None of her thoughts about Grant were sweet. If she were on that hot-blooded man, well, let's just say she wouldn't be sweet. Uh-uh, no way. She'd be a wildcat.
Hello! Where had that come from? Her? A wildcat?
She laughed out loud at the mere thought of her being wild, period. Not her. She was the perpetual good girl. The one and only time she'd stepped outside her good-girl shoes she'd paid too high a price.
A stab of pain pierced her chest and she blinked away the moisture that stung her eyes at the memory of her life's biggest mistake. She'd been so gullible, so stupid. No way would she ever let a man deceive her like that again.
"Now, Mrs. Sain, let's get back to important things. Like your health." She bit the inside of her lower lip, tasting the metallic tang of blood. Telling herself to get a grip, she refocused on the IV pump settings. "I'm so glad that your lungs are holding their own. Although they are still weak, you're doing wonderful to be so soon off the ventilator. Your saturations are staying in the low nineties."
"Only because of this." Mrs. Sain gestured to the nasal cannula that provided a continuous flow of concentrated oxygen. "But I'm not going to complain because at least I'm breathing without that tube down my throat."
"What are you not complaining about?" the subject of their earlier conversation asked as he invaded the room.
Invaded was the right word.
When Grant stepped into a room he encompassed and overwhelmed everyone and everything, all without putting forth any more effort than just existing. The man exuded charisma. Life could be so unfair.
"My oxygen." Mrs. Sain beamed at her doctor, encompassed and overwhelmed and obviously once again considering bringing her female organs out of retirement.
Grateful that her patient hadn't elaborated on what they'd been discussing, Joni tried to keep from looking directly at Grant. Keeping her gaze off his gorgeous face proved impossible. In mere seconds she was watching him grin at Mrs. Sain before he placed his stethoscope to her, carefully auscultating the crackling sounds the shallow rise and fall of her frail chest made.
Whatever his flaws might beand she was sure he had a few even if she'd yet to really discover what they might be other than that he was a playboythe man was an excellent doctor, one Joni would like on her side if her lungs ever failed.
Hello! Her lungs were failing right now, clearly not bringing in enough oxygen because when he looked up and their gazes met, she'd swear she felt. .something. Something hot and intense and so powerful that she had to look away. Had to.
Because she felt encompassed and overwhelmed and as if her own uterus was doing cartwheels, wanting to come out of the self-imposed retirement Joni had forced her body into after Mark.
Because she felt as if she needed that ventilator her patient had not so long ago been weaned off.
She closed her eyes, sucked a deep breath into her starved lungs, touched the raised bed railing to ground herself to reality.
"Joni," Grant acknowledged her presence. Or maybe he wanted her to look back up at him. Or maybe he thought she was about to pass out. She didn't know. She didn't look or faint. Thank goodness.
Okay, so there was a little something-something between them. A little something-something that was hot and intense and quite potent. She had felt it the first time she'd laid eyes on him. Yes, she had caught him looking at her several times as well, but she'd decided he must be trying to figure out why she was always looking at him.
When he was distracted, she did look.
Look? More like let her eyes feast on him, soaking up every morsel of his eye-candiness. Which meant she was quite pathetic and not nearly as immune to his charms as she liked to think. Then again, maybe she was just trying to figure out what it was about the man that messed with her head when she'd been getting along just fine all these years without once being tempted to get involved in another relationship.
"You sure got quiet." Mrs. Sain practically cackled with her delight. Definitely, her eyes held a knowing sparkle and an uh-hum, I knew it gleam.
Suppressing a smile in spite of her inner turmoil, Joni shook her head at the older woman who'd come so far in such a short time. "You sure talk a lot for someone who was just taken off a vent a couple of days ago. Shouldn't you be quiet? Save your voice?" she teased.
Her eyes not losing their twinkle, the older woman attempted to take a deep breath into her diseased lungs. She only managed to bring on a coughing spell that lasted a full minute and had both Grant and Joni leaning her forward to beat on her back before she calmed and nodded. "You should spend some time with me when I'm not hacking up a lung."
Glad the coughing spell had ended, Joni thought she'd like spending time with this feisty woman very much. "I'd love to."
Grant said something from behind Joni. She couldn't make out his words, but then he spoke clearer, louder to his patient. "You keep improving the way you have over the past forty-eight hours and you're going to blow this joint in a few days."
Mrs. Sain's scarce eyelashes batted coyly at Grant. "You make house calls, Doc?"
Joni suppressed an eye roll. Grant just grinned at the feisty woman.
"Only when I have a nurse to chaperone me. Gotta have someone around to make sure I behave." He winked conspiratorially at his patient. "Maybe we can convince Joni to accompany me to check on you."
Mrs. Sain seemed to think that a brilliant idea. Joni just gave a noncommittal answer, finished logging in the data she'd collected, then skedaddled out of the hospital room before the two had her committing to something she'd regretlike making house calls with Grant.
She paused outside the closed door, took a deep breath. Phew. What was it about the man that got her so flustered?
Why ask a question she knew the answer to?
Everything about Dr. Grant Bradley flustered herand apparently every other female on the planet.