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By Farrah Rochon
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2007 Farrah Roybiskie
All right reserved.
Chapter One"You'll have to spread your legs wider," Elijah encouraged softly. "Don't be afraid. I do this several times a day, and I've never had any complaints."
Her breathing escalated, the hot breaths fanning his face. Eli tried to maneuver his shoulders into a more comfortable position. No easy feat in the backseat of the compact Nissan Sentra.
"Tell me your name again, sweetheart."
"Cassandra," the teenager let out in a rushed gasp. The hem of her sundress had rolled down her thighs. Again.
"This is in the way." Eli bunched up the material and pushed the dress over her shoulders. "That's better. Now just relax. I know it's scary, but it'll be easier if you stay calm."
Eli ran his arm across his brow. It was hot, but the summer storm raging outside the car prevented him from opening the door. A rivulet of sweat followed a path from the matted hair at the girl's temple, then sluiced down her jawline. The valley between her breasts glistened. Eli captured her knees and spread her legs as far as the small space would allow.
He had to open the door. He couldn't do anything cramped up like this.
Eli reached behind him and opened the back passenger-side door. The hot rain pelted his legs assoon as he stepped onto the slippery gravel. It wasn't the most ideal environment, but he'd have to work with what he'd been given.
The young girl who lay before him cried out in pain.
"Shh." Eli quieted her with calming words while his fingertips rubbed the area giving her the most pressure. Expertly he soothed away the ache, but he knew at any moment it would return worse than before. He could no longer wait. Neither could she.
He reached down between her legs. "This is going to hurt."
The girl gasped, her back arching. "Oh, God. I can't take this."
"A little more. That's it. It won't be too long."
Her earth-shattering scream pierced the air.
"Okay, Cassandra, I need you to push. We're almost there."
Where in the hell was the ambulance?
Eli freed one hand and reached into the pocket of his khaki slacks, retrieving the sleek cellular phone. He touched the speed dial for Methodist Memorial Hospital and waited impatiently for the operator.
As soon as he heard the click, he barked into the phone, "I requested EMS twenty minutes ago. Tell them to get to the 2700 block of Pine Street now," then slammed the phone shut and shoved it back into his pocket.
"Why isn't the ambulance here yet?" the girl asked between rushed breaths.
"They'll be here soon." He smoothed the damp hair back on her forehead. "I told you not to worry. I've delivered more babies than I can count. I won't let anything happen to you."
Eli rubbed the base of her torso with gentle circles. He felt the muscles contorting underneath his palm.
"Okay, Cassandra, this is going to be a big one. Grab on to the headrest and push as hard as you can."
She did as she was told, gripping the driver's side headrest and nearly pulling herself off the seat with the force of her push.
"That's perfect. Keep pushing until I tell you to stop."
The tiny brown baby entered the world riding a wave of fluid. Eli caught him in the palm of his hand and turned him over, quickly wiping away the film from the baby's mouth and nose. The baby's cry filled the car.
"You've got a son."
He heard the high-pitched shrill of ambulance sirens coming down the street.
"Great timing," Eli muttered under his breath. He made swift work of unbuttoning the white Bill Blass button-down. He'd managed to keep his upper body out of the rain, but sweat still caused the shirt to stick to his back. He peeled his arms out of the sleeves, then wrapped the damp material around the newborn, placing the baby in the cradle of his mother's arms.
Eli backed out of the car. He stretched his six-foot-one frame and sighed as the muscles in his back loosened. He'd maintained that crouched position for more than half an hour.
He closed his eyes, relief washing over him like the late-summer storm beating down on his bare chest and shoulders. His pants were drenched, but it didn't matter. He'd helped bring another life into the world.
Eli raised his head to the heavens and let the warm rain hit his face, opening his eyes to stare at the darkened New Orleans sky.
The ambulance pulled into the alley, its blue and white lights illuminating the bricks of the dilapidated buildings they were sandwiched between. Two paramedics jumped out of the rig, one carrying a bright orange box, the other pushing a gurney.
"Dr. Holmes? I didn't realize you were the one who'd called this in. Where's the pregnant woman?"
"She's not really a woman, and she's not pregnant anymore, either. She just delivered a baby boy. They're in the backseat of the car," Eli informed him, tilting his head toward the decrepit vehicle.
The paramedic with the box opened the car door and went to work.
"How'd you find her?" the other medic asked as she unfolded a sheet of plastic. She quickly spread it over the gurney and tucked in the corners.
It wasn't until she'd spoken that Elijah realized it was Abby Douglas. The low-slung baseball cap covering her forehead and eyes had prevented him from recognizing one of the first women he'd met when he started at Methodist Memorial. It hadn't taken long before Eli found himself breathing rapidly over her sweaty, naked body in an empty storage room.
"I was on my way to the little snack shop on the corner when I heard a scream coming from the alley. I found her crouched behind those garbage cans. She was at least six hours into labor."
"She's lucky you had a snack attack." Abby shot him the sly grin that had snagged him the first time. She was still pretty hot. Eli wondered if she was seeing anyone.
The two medics strapped the teenager and her baby onto the gurney, covering mother and child loosely with a sheet to shield them from the rain.
Eli leaned against the ambulance's open door. "I'm going to run home and clean up, then I'll go down to the hospital."
"Are you on tonight?" Abby called from deep inside the vehicle. She was hooking up a saline bag to the portable IV stand.
"Nah, but I want to make sure they're okay." He motioned his head toward the teen, who was staring reverently at her newborn. "Besides, they can always use an extra pair of hands at the hospital since so many still haven't returned since Hurricane Katrina."
"Tell me about it. Only about sixty percent of EMS is back." Abby pulled her cap more snuggly onto her head. "I'll tell them to expect you in OB recovery. I'm sure they won't be surprised that Super Doc has struck again."
Elijah smiled and gave the pretty paramedic a wink, then stepped out of the way as she closed the door.
A loud crack reverberated through the air, and the torrential rain poured harder from the dark sky. Eli hardly took notice. With a satisfied smile he watched as the ambulance made its way up the city street.
He should have known better. When had he ever come to this hospital and not gotten sucked into the never-ending wave of chaos?
He'd promised himself he'd check on the teen mother and her baby, visit a few of his other patients, and be back home in one hour.
Nine hours later, Eli stretched out on a bed in an empty delivery room. His shift started in a little more than two hours. What sense did it make to go home?
Eli sleepily cocked open a single eye. One of the floor nurses hovered over him, half of her face illuminated by the strip of light filtering in through the crack in the door. "You asked to be woken at five."
"You gotta be kidding me." Eli groaned. Hadn't he just closed his eyes five minutes ago?
"Five oh two, actually. I'm a couple of minutes late. We need you. There's a breech in room six."
It was mornings like this that made him rethink his career choice.
Eli shook his head and threw his legs over the side of the bed. He hadn't chosen his career. It chose him. The story had made headlines: MEDICAL STUDENT DELIVERS TWINS IN ELEVATOR." And Super Doc had been born. After that, could he really choose anything but obstetrics?
The door opened again. "Dr. Holmes, room six."
Eli shoved his arms into a pair of scrubs that had been left by the nurse-they took such good care of him-and pulled them over his head as he left the room.
The patient's scream met Eli before he got to Delivery. It was a surprise every piece of glass in the hospital had not shattered.
"How are things going over there?" Elijah asked. He spread his fingers as a nurse quickly slipped latex gloves over his hands; then he made it to the wailing woman's side. "I'm here now," he assured soothingly. "Everything's going to be okay."
The woman's eyes opened wide with fear. One nurse held her hand while another adjusted the fluorescent light that extended high above the bed.
"The nurse said I'd need a C-section. I-I don't want a C-section."
"Shhh ..." Eli whispered. He checked her dilation. "I wish this little one could come out naturally, but it doesn't look like that will happen."
Her brows rose as concern washed over her face.
"Just trust me," Eli said.
Her lips pursed as she was gripped with a contraction. Eli waited for it to fade, gently rubbing the underside of the woman's stomach.
"Okay," he said softly, knowing the calming tone would put her at ease. "In a few minutes, you'll have a brand-new baby." Eli performed a precise five-inch slit and in less than three minutes pulled out a screaming, squirming baby.
"Is she okay?" the new mother asked.
"He is just fine. I told you to trust me." He winked. "Dr. Tanner will take it from here," Eli said, regulating the remaining duties to the first-year resident. "Nurse Robinson, let Recovery know that Mommy and her new baby are on their way," Eli called out as he shucked off the gloves and the gauzy light green drape. He slam-dunked them in the garbage on his way out the room. Methodist Memorial's highly capable nursing staff could handle the rest.
Elijah took off in the direction of the empty delivery room, hoping to catch a few more hours' rest. Otis, the janitor who'd worked in OB since Jesus was a child, walked toward him, pushing an industrial size load of linens down the hall. He held his hand up for a high five.
"Another success, Dr. H?"
"And"-Eli pointed at the clock on the opposite side of the hallway-"it's not even six o'clock."
Eli felt as if he'd walked a minefield when he made it back to the room without being noticed by anyone else. Just as he prepared to celebrate his feat with an hour of uninterrupted sleep, a high-pitched voice called out, "Dr. Holmes, room three!"
Elijah's head fell forward, his chin hitting his chest.
Sleep would have to wait.
Monica Gardner had stared at the mountain landscape hanging on the wall behind the chief of staff's desk for so long that she'd made up a pretend family for the snow-covered cabin nestled deep in the trees. She could practically smell the aromatic pot roast the mother pulled out of the oven as she called the family to dinner.
After Monica was sure she'd spotted a three-inch man skiing down the mountain slope, she forced her gaze away from the painting. She rose, walked over to the window, and watched as a fire engine red streetcar made its way up the street.
For the umpteenth time, Monica told herself this was the right decision. New Orleans was a city in dire need. It had been brought to its knees nearly a year before when Mother Nature had unleashed her wrath on the Gulf Coast. Monica remembered her obsession with watching CNN as the news channel brought Katrina's devastation to the world's attention. She'd written checks to the Red Cross and donated to the clothes drive at her church, but it had never felt like enough. She'd wanted to do more.
This job was the more she'd been seeking. To live here and take care of the people working tirelessly to bring their city back to its former glory was worth more than any checks she wrote.
Besides, St. Louis had nothing left to offer her-except the occasional bout of depression and heartache, of course. Occasional as in three to four times a day.
Monica took a deep, reassuring breath. She refused to fall victim to another bout of self-pity. If she tried hard enough, she could put Patrick Dangerfield and his lies out of her mind and out of her life. She would start an entirely new life here in New Orleans.
Monica jerked around when the door opened.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Dr. Gardner." Dr. William Slessinger looked as if he'd gone three rounds with the world heavyweight champ. Monica felt honored that he'd even bothered to interview her personally. He could easily have foisted the hiring duties onto the human resources department.
Shaking his head, he continued, "I can just about guarantee something else will come up before we're done here. Take my advice: Stick with practicing medicine. Administrative work isn't worth the headache."
With an understanding smile, she said, "I plan to be on the shop floor for a very long time. I love the ER too much to give it up."
"Excellent," Dr. Slessinger answered, lowering himself into the high-back leather chair behind his desk. "I'm excited at the prospect of you joining the staff here at Methodist Memorial. This is one of the top hospitals in the Southeast. Our head of oncology, Dr. Collins, was in the running for the Nobel Prize in medicine last year for her research on abdominal cancer."
"I've read several of her papers in JAMA," Monica said, referring to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"You would be an exceptional addition to our staff, Dr. Gardner. You've built an impressive reputation in a short amount of time."
Though not as impressive as it could be, Monica thought. In fact, her reputation would have been shot to hell if not for a fellow resident's stepping into a trauma and saving her behind. She wouldn't dredge up those memories today, either.
Monica gave him a gracious smile. "I owe a lot of that to the staff back in St. Louis. They've taught me so much."
"I'm sure they have. Carl Weller sings your praises."
"He's been a wonderful mentor."
Rising from behind the desk, Dr. Slessinger guided her out of the office. "If it's all right with you, I thought we'd go to lunch, then on a tour of the hospital."
"That sounds wonderful," Monica answered, her spirits buoyed by the choice she'd made to move to New Orleans. She didn't need time to think it over; she was ready to accept the job here and now.
They walked a few feet down the hall to the bank of elevators. Dr. Slessinger turned to her, a knowing look on his face. "I hope I'm not being presumptuous in saying this, but welcome to Methodist Memorial, Dr. Gardner."
Monica couldn't help but smile.
Excerpted from Deliver Me by Farrah Rochon Copyright © 2007 by Farrah Roybiskie. Excerpted by permission.
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