Mitch Tenney's reputation preceded him. He was a miracle worker in surgical scrubs, a hunk and a half with riveting blue eyes and a really bad attitude. The dazzling doctor had offended one official too many and was now this close to being fired—unless Samantha Ryan could ...
Mitch Tenney's reputation preceded him. He was a miracle worker in surgical scrubs, a hunk and a half with riveting blue eyes and a really bad attitude. The dazzling doctor had offended one official too many and was now this close to being fired—unless Samantha Ryan could set him straight.
or did it?
With Sam's disposition and powers of persuasion, she was sure she could get Dr. Mitch back on track. But somehow the brooding bachelor got to her instead—body and soul. Now Sam had a baby on the way with a man who had no interest in playing house. What was a good girl to do?
He was getting ready to face death.
Samantha Ryan watched Dr. Mitch Tenney's expression change from bored and barely tolerant to fiercely intense when the call came in: drowning victim. ETA, five minutes.
He snapped out orders to the nurses behind the desk. "Page everyone. Get the trauma team down here. Paramedics are rolling with a kid. Pulled out of a pool. Not breathing. They've got an airway but couldn't get an IV. That means we need a cut-down tray. Get the crash cart and intubation tray—everything open and ready to go. I want respiratory and a ventilator. And the lab. We'll need blood gases stat." Intensity simmered in his dark blue eyes as he leveled a glare at everyone within glaring distance. "Move, people. This kid is two years old."
Sam felt her heart catch, followed by an adrenaline spike as he moved in her direction. She wanted to jump into action and do something even though she had no useful medical skills whatsoever. Besides, he hadn't been talking to her. She was there to observe him. Her job was to shadow him and take notes.
The E.R. manager had been notified that someone from Marshall Management Consultants would be there, and she had a temporary badge that kept her from being thrown out by security. But Dr. Tenney hadn't acknowledged her until now when he brushed past and ordered her to get the hell out of his way. She felt less useful than the fern at the nurses' station and just about as noticeable. But everyone noticed the dynamic doctor. Partly because of his looks.
The man could get work as a model or movie star if he walked away from medicine. Unlikely, since by all accounts he was brilliant—followed closely by the adjectivesabrasive, condescending and belligerent. There were more, but those were the top vote-getters that were fit to print. He'd ticked off one too many people and his job here at Mercy Medical Center was in jeopardy. Her consulting company had been hired to salvage it with an attitude intervention ordered by his medical group and hospital administration.
Then the double doors whooshed open. Sam pressed her back into the wall, making herself as small as possible to keep out of the way as paramedics wheeled in a gurney and updated the E.R. staff. They rattled off numbers and words that didn't mean anything to her. The child was secured to a back board and a paramedic beside him was intermittently squeezing a bag. Sam had seen enough E.R. episodes to know that was to help him breathe. Mostly all she could see was matted brown hair that framed an impossibly small, frighteningly pale face. Then the glass doors closed off the trauma room and the child was surrounded by the platoon of professionals, led by Dr. Tenney, in the battle for his life.
Everyone was in blue scrubs and she had no idea who was who except Mitch. She couldn't hear anything, but it was like E. F. Hutton on crack. When he talked, they didn't just listen, someone jumped into action.
Sam wasn't sure how much time passed before he came out. And with staff still surrounding him, she couldn't see the boy.
Mitch walked up to the desk. "Is the family here yet, Rhonda?"
The buxom, blond E.R. nurse/manager looked up. "Mom's on the way, stuck in traffic on the Fifteen coming across the Strip. The teenage brother's here. He was babysitting."
Mitch's already grim expression tightened more as he nodded. "Okay."
Sam followed him through the double doors that separated the E.R. waiting area from trauma rooms. The brother wasn't hard to identify. He was the one in wet jeans and a white T-shirt with elbows braced on his knees and head bowed. He had a light blanket draped around his hunched shoulders. When she saw the doctor, the teenage girl beside him put her hand on his arm and he looked up.
He stood when Mitch stopped in front of him, feet set wide. There was another battle looming. Sam didn't want to see it, but she had no choice. Part of the reason she was here was to see how the doctor handled confrontation, then her boss could work out strategies to help him change the offending behavior. She moved off to the side where she could observe without being intrusive.
"How's my brother?"
"I stabilized him and he's on a ventilator to help him breathe."
"Is he going to be okay?"
"Looks like it. The paramedics got to him in time."
"I pulled him out of the pool."
The teenage girl moved beside him. "He did CPR. I called 9-1-1."
"Notify the mayor," Mitch snapped. "They'll throw a parade in your honor."
"What's your problem?" she demanded.
Mitch studied both teens before saying, "What are you on?"
"Nothing, dude." The boy looked away and shuffled his feet.
Sam knew the doctor was right when the kid didn't even ask what he meant. Drugs were involved in whatever happened.
"Right. Your pupils always look that big when the sun's up," Mitch said sarcastically. "Your brother had no head or body trauma. What happened to him?"
"Ty was there one minute, then he was gone."
"Basic common sense. You never turn your back on a child, especially near a pool."
"We didn't do anything."
"You can say that again."
"Lighten up." The boy pushed shaky fingers through hair the same shade as his brother's, but wouldn't look up.
"Reactions sluggish. What were you smoking? Grass? Crack?" When they started to protest Mitch cut them off with a curt, "Sell it somewhere else. It's my job to know this stuff.And I'm really good at my job. So are the cops. They're on the way."
"Cops? What for? We just went inside for a minute—the phone rang," she defended.
"It takes two to answer it?" He shook his head as he fisted his hands on his hips. "Even if I believed you, no phone call is so damn important that you had to take your eyes off a two-year-old by a pool. Ever."
"Hold on, dude—"
"Don't call me 'dude.' It's 'doctor' to you. And you hold on. Think about this. That child should be playing with toys and watching cartoons." He pointed an accusing finger at both of them. "You were supposed to protect him. You screwed up."
"But you said he'll be okay," the girl said, looking less defiant.
"We'll get an EEG to make sure. And he's still at risk for the next thirty-six to forty-eight hours. I want to know when his mother gets here." He glared at them one more time, then shook his head and disappeared back through the doors.
Sam let out a long breath. So that was the infamous Mitch Tenney in action, she thought. The hospital had a "three strikes and you're out" policy. Two complaints had already been filed and she may have just witnessed number three. It was a lousy situation and she was on his side, but he'd have been wiser to keep his opinions to himself and let the police handle it.
It was a relief that Darlyn Marshall, her boss, would be Mitch Tenney's counselor of record. Sam was a newbie at the up-and-coming company and he was the first client from Mercy Medical. With over two thousand hospital employees, it could be a lucrative contract. She didn't want to be responsible for blowing the situation because she had a mild case of hero worship.
He'd cheated death. In less gifted hands that child might not have been saved. Now it was up to Marshall Management Consultants to save him.
Mitch looked at the name plate on her desk—Samantha Ryan. He remembered her from the E.R., the day he'd worked on the kid, the drowning victim he'd almost lost. The memory tightened and twisted inside him. Stuff happened. He knew that. But some stuff didn't have to happen and his tolerance for stupidity was at an all-time low.
He met her gaze. Somehow the name fit her. Samantha— Sam—had sun-streaked brown hair and warm brown eyes that oozed optimism. When his gaze lowered to her mouth, a shot of lust went straight through him. Somewhere he'd heard the term "Cupid's bow" to describe a woman's mouth and he'd never quite gotten what that meant. Until now. Until looking at Sam Ryan.
He had the most absurd desire to see what her Cupid's bow mouth felt like, tasted like. If it was half as good and sweet as he was imagining, it could be a kiss of biblical proportions. Since biblical and kiss smacked of being an oxymoron, he figured his attention could be better concentrated elsewhere. Like messing with Ms. Ryan.
Or continuing to mess with her head. He'd just walked into her office and they'd been staring at each other across her desk, and the moment was stretching into awkward territory. He and awkward were old friends so he could keep it up indefinitely. But she looked tense and ill at ease. The question was how long before she folded under the pressure of needing to fill the silence with words. When she cleared her throat and swallowed, then shifted in her chair, he knew the wait was almost over.
"So, Dr. Tenney—"
"Call me Mitch."
She hesitated, then said, "Would you be more comfortable if I do?"
"Do you really care whether or not I'm comfortable?"
"Are you always so challenging?"
He folded his arms over his chest and looked down at her. "You think this is challenging?"
"I'm simply trying to learn more about you and your management style."
"Is that so?"
One corner of that fantasy mouth curved up. "If you insist on answering every question with a question, this process could be less productive than everyone hopes."
Good. Everyone was wasting his time. This appointment had been scheduled with top consultant Darlyn Marshall, but apparently she'd gone home sick. That worked for him. He didn't want to be here anyway, but the receptionist had shown him into this office. Looking at Sam Ryan was a hell of an entertaining way to spend this waste of time.
If he had to guess, he'd say she didn't share his sentiment. The phrase acutely uncomfortable came to mind and she was doing her level best not to show it.
"Have you been in the executive coaching business long, Ms. Ryan?"
"Why don't you call me Samantha?"
The question made him want to smile, but he held back. He suspected she was pretty green at this whole consulting thing, but she caught on to the game quick.
"How about Sam?" he asked.
"Would you be more comfortable with that?"
"Then Sam it is. Won't you sit down?" She held out her hand and indicated the chair in front of her desk.
"Thank you," he said politely. Politeness would confuse her, he thought. He wasn't sure why he felt the need to be a son of a bitch, but that's the way it was.
He glanced around the small office, located in a large building on Horizon Ridge Parkway, which was practically around the corner from Mercy Medical Center. There was no window in this glorified cubicle. She had an L-shaped desk with a computer to her right and a spindly tree struggling to survive in a pot in the corner. Mahogany frames lined the walls, but instead of pictures they contained motivational sayings. One boldly proclaimed Success is the Intelligent Use of Mistakes.
He couldn't afford to make mistakes. If he did someone died. Beside it was another one that read Obstacles Are Those Frightful Things You See When You Take Your Eyes Off Your Goals.
His goals weren't that complicated. Keep patients alive and don't get personal—with patients or anyone else. It worked for him.
On the wall behind her was a large picture of a suspension bridge at sundown. Underneath were the words Be a Bridge. Problems Become Opportunities When the Right People Join Together.
She looked up and saw him studying the print. "What do you think about that?"
He was going to hell for sure, but the kind of joining he imagined when he looked at her mouth had nothing to do with success in the workplace.
He shrugged. "It's a swell idea with no relevance in the real world."
"I'm glad to see you've come here with a completely open mind. How's that working for you?"
"Sarcasm," he said. "I like that in a woman."
Her lips pressed tight for a moment and she pulled nervously at the gold turtleneck sweater beneath her suede blazer. Her eyes now could only be described as brown because the optimism switch was turned off. He must have touched a major nerve.
"It's irrelevant whether or not you like me, Mitch. You need to focus on the goal."
"If keeping my eyes on you will get me there, I'm all for it."
When he grinned, she shifted her gaze from his and picked up a pair of black, square-framed glasses. After settling them on her nose she glanced at the paperwork in front of her. "All right then. Do you know why you're here?"
"Care to elaborate?"
Her lips compressed for a moment before she asked, "Are you familiar with the hospital's three-strikes policy?"
"You mean the one where it's three strikes and you're out? As in don't let the door hit you in the backside when you leave the building?"
She nodded. "That would be the one, yes."
"I'm familiar with it."
"Are you aware that you're halfway out that door and it's just about to " Her gaze lowered and if his back was turned, he knew what part of his anatomy she'd be looking at. Her cheeks flushed pink. "Hit you in the hiney."
The blush made his view even better. This was starting to be less a waste of time and more fun by the minute. "Why, Ms. Ryan—Sam—I'm shocked and appalled. Is hiney official consulting terminology?"
"You're the doctor, Doctor. Is it the anatomically correct term for 'if you don't start taking this seriously your ass is grass'?"
He laughed. "Touché."
"The thing is you have two strikes. But you're in a class by yourself because you have two strikes in two different categories—patient complaints and employee complaints." She removed her glasses and met his gaze. "You already know that because your signature is on the paperwork, a clear indication that you've been apprised of the deep doo-doo you're in."
"Tough talk, Sam."
She shrugged. "It seems the only way to get your attention."
"You've got it." And how. She was beautiful and smart, a dynamite combination. "Now that you've got me what are you going to do with me?"
"Save your job."
"As goals go, it's a good one," he agreed.