Read an Excerpt
By Brenda Coulter
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. All right reserved. ISBN: 0-373-87223-2
Chapter One"Oh, now, that's just perfect!"
Behind the wheel of his silver Mercedes, Dr. Charles Hartman swore viciously.
Then he flung open his door and leaped out to confront the driver of the older-model Ford that
had just run into him. "Are you out of your mind?" he bellowed.
Although the hospital parking lot was nowhere near full, this idiot had come screeching around
the corner on two wheels, making a beeline for the space right next to him, just as though there
weren't a hundred others to choose from. Charles was backing out at the time, and his
Mercedes had been smacked neatly on the left taillight.
Now his jaw clenched in exasperation as the driver of the Ford, a young woman, hurtled
towards him. A slender but sturdy-looking female in faded jeans and a turquoise T-shirt, her
long almost-black hair was caught up in a bouncy ponytail. In the brilliant midday sun her dark
blue eyes sparkled with tears.
That she was crying did nothing at all to lessen Charles's rage. Sheer exhaustion was effectively
dousing that fire. He meant to stay furious, but when he turned to slam his car door, a shooting
pain in his lower back caused his shoulders to sag. He sighed and the anger leaked out of him
like air from a punctured tire.
The past twenty-four hoursat the hospital had been grueling. Two of the lives he'd battled for
had been wrenched from his grasp. It was now barely one o'clock in the afternoon, but all he
wanted was for this day to be over. If he could reengage his weary brain long enough to string
together a few coherent sentences, he'd give this careless kid a stern lecture
and be on his way.
"I'm so awfully sorry!" the girl wailed. "It was completely my fault. Here - take this," she said
cryptically, thrusting a small object at him. "I have to go!"
His hands came up reflexively, trapping a thin leather wallet against his chest. His eyebrows
drew together and his mouth fell open as he gazed at the lunatic girl.
Charles was virtually never at a loss for words, especially acerbic ones, but just now he was too
fatigued to come up with any of the caustic remarks he was known for. His tired mind worked
to understand what the young woman expected him to do with her wallet.
She was babbling as she backed away from him. "Put it under the front seat and lock my car,
okay? I'm so sorry! I'll pay for it, I promise. But I really have to go now!"
Still openmouthed, he watched dumbly as she pivoted on the balls of her feet and sprinted away
from him. The girl had some speed, he noted absently, but then she was all legs. Her dark
ponytail bobbed wildly as she dashed across the street, charged up the steps and crashed
through Lakeside Hospital's main entrance, heading straight for the information desk.
Charles stared at the wallet in his hands. What was he supposed to do with it? Did she expect
him to copy the information on her driver's license and report the accident? He had neither the
time nor the patience for that.
Curious, he opened the wallet. According to her license she was twenty-three-year-old Hope
Evans. No middle name. Five feet, five inches. Brown hair and blue eyes.
A stickler for accuracy, he'd have said dark chestnut hair and sapphire eyes. Not that it
mattered, of course; she'd have to be a good ten years older and in a much higher tax bracket
before he'd have looked at her with anything approaching masculine interest.
It was a nicer picture than what was usually found on a driver's license. She was smiling. And
while she wasn't what he would have called beautiful, there was a definite sweetness to her face.
Not that "sweetness" was a quality that had ever appealed to him.
In addition to the license, her wallet contained a credit card, a University of Chicago student ID
and two one-dollar bills. Nothing else.
He inspected her car, but apart from an almost microscopic dent and a dab of his own car's
silver paint, the Ford was undamaged.
Charles leaned against his own car and closed his eyes. With his thumb and index finger he
pinched the bridge of his nose. He was almost grateful for the steady throbbing of his head
because it helped take his mind off the stabbing pain in his back.
He opened his eyes, thoughtfully tapping his chin with the wallet. Directly in his line of sight was
the parking attendant's booth, on the side of which the lot's hourly fees were clearly posted. A
practical man, Charles wondered how the girl expected to pay for parking here.
He reached for his own wallet. A quick look inside revealed that, like the girl, he was down to
his last two bills. His were in a more convenient denomination, however: he had two fifties. He
removed one and folded it around her one-dollar bills.
She had asked him to leave the wallet in her car, but he couldn't bring himself to do that. This
was Chicago, and not the very best neighborhood, either. Heaving a mighty sigh, he turned back
towards the hospital. Maybe somebody at the information desk would remember which patient
she had asked for.
He dragged himself across the street and up the steps, resenting with every footfall the young
gazelle who had lightly leaped up this same hill just a minute ago.
Well, she wasn't thirty-five. And it was a safe bet that she hadn't been on her feet all night long
and all morning, too, doing back-to-back surgeries on three people who had been in the wrong
place at the wrong time. Neither had she watched helplessly as the life ebbed out of a gunshot
police officer and then just a couple of hours later, a teenage pedestrian hit by a speeding
Charles sighed again. It galled him that some lives just couldn't be saved, not
even by a genius like himself.
He gave an involuntary grunt as he fought a gusting early-May wind for the right to pull open
one of the tall glass doors of the hospital's main entrance. He thought grimly that somebody in
building support should be informed that the doors were far too heavy for old people, sick
people and bone-weary trauma surgeons to manage. He made a mental note to use the
handicapped entrance the next time he was this tired.
The elderly volunteer at the information desk didn't remember which patient the ponytailed
menace had asked for, but the room number stuck in her mind because it happened to be the
last four digits of her daughter's telephone number. She was eager to discuss this remarkable
coincidence with Charles, but he thanked her gruffly and headed up to room 6120.
Twice he was waylaid by colleagues who didn't sufficiently grasp the concept of being "off
duty." It was some fifteen minutes before he poked his head into the room where the girl was
visiting an old man.
"Excuse me - Ms. Evans? May I speak with you?"
She looked puzzled but she nodded politely. He backed out of the doorway and waited in the
She followed immediately. "Yes?"
It was apparent she had forgotten his face. Without a word, he presented her
She flushed. "Oh, it's you! I'm so sorry about your car. It was all my fault,
completely my fault."
"I agree," he said dryly, wondering how many more times she was planning to say that. "But it's
not important. Forget about it." He turned away.
"But it is important!" she called after him. He didn't look back, but she
followed him, chattering maddeningly.
"Please wait - I feel just awful. I was in a terrible hurry, so I didn't take time to look, but I
know there was some damage. I felt a nasty crunch and I definitely heard some smashing and splintering and ..."
Excerpted from Finding Hope by Brenda Coulter
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.