It was a question Catherine Wilson had asked
herselfwhen would she stop worrying about
her son and start focusing on life?
The truth was she was scared her son would
relapse; scared she had forgotten how to live;
scared the emotions one particular man brought
to life would lead to heartbreak.
Catherine wanted to be brave. And accepting
Nathan Conners into her family's life was
one of the toughest decisions she had to
make. Because if she wasn't careful,
Nathan would not only make Catherine
believe in herself again but also
in love .
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nathan watched as the puddle grew. Drip, drip, drip. At first held together by surface tension, the sheer volume of blood forced it to spread across the stark white floor.
Blood. His blood.
A buzzing sounded in his ears. His breaths quickened, the edges of his vision fading to a swirling gray-black. He closed his eyes, trying to banish the sight from his mind, as his stomach clenched around his breakfast.
Not that. Anything but that.
He swallowed against the inevitable, finding a shred of self-control in the part of his mind that remained detached. His eyes opened again. How could there be so much of it?
He stared, mesmerized in the most morbid sense, as the pool grew. Dark crimson against the gleaming white. He imagined he could feel the heat of it, still warm as it hit the floor with a plop.
And the smell. Was he only imagining it, or did the room suddenly become heavy with that sticky metallic odor?
His vision continued to swirl as the buzzing grew louder. He squeezed his eyes shut, tried to steady himself with a deep breath to keep from swaying.
"Mr. Conners?, The voice was thin, a wisp of reality reaching out to him from far away. He looked up and saw a hazy vision in white, the features indistinct against the brightness.
He swallowed, hard, and attempted to reach out. His hand turned to lead as it dropped heavily beside him. He opened his mouth to speak, thought he may have muttered something as the buzzing exploded in his head with an anticlimactic pop a second before he hit the floor with a thud.
Catherine Wilson muttered at the commotion coming from the closed room. She wasn't supposed to be here today, had come in only for a personal favor. Now she was stuck.
She jammed the pen into her pocket, clutched the clipboard tightly in one hand and took a deep breath. No sense in drawing it out any longer. It was her own fault she couldn't say no.
The bitter smell of ammonia stopped her midstride as she opened the door, and she wrinkled her nose in distaste while biting back a smile. A man was sitting on the floor, his legs drawn up to his chest, his head resting limply on his knees. Large hands curled protectively around his ankles and his shoulders heaved with his heavy breathing. Beside him, on the clean tile floor, was a small pool of blood.
Catherine observed the scene in the space of the few seconds it took her to close the door. Gwen was bent over the man, telling him to breathe deeply. She shook her head and glanced quickly at the chart.
The man released his grip from his ankle and waved absently in the air, brushing her off. Catherine took another deep breath, reminding herself it wasn't his fault she was here today. "Mr. Conners? I need you to take a seat on the table, sir." Her voice was brisk, businesslike. It was the tone she reserved for the possible troublemakers, and Gwen looked up at her sharply. The man released a loud groan and shook his head, muttering something into his leg.
"Mr. Conners, I really do need you"
"I said no." The voice was still muffled but louder, with as much force as Catherine's request. She stared at the figure on the floor, then looked questioningly at Gwen.
"Um, it seems that Mr. Conners had a slightaccident."
"Accident?, Catherine bit the inside of her cheek at the flash of amusement that sparkled in Gwen's eyes.
"Yes. He, um, fell off the table. When I was trying to draw some blood."
Catherine turned from the nurse to study the man on the floor, sympathy surging to the surface as she realized he must be embarrassed. She looked back at Gwen, her voice less brisk. "Did he hit his head at all?, The nurse shook her head.
Catherine placed the clipboard on the small table in the corner before leaning down closer to the man.
"Mr. Conners, are you feeling okay? Here, why don't we help you stand up." She motioned to the nurse and reached for one of the man's arms, surprised by the heat of his flesh. "Then we"
Catherine was surprised at the quiet demand in the man's voice as he pulled his arm from her grasp. But not before she'd noticed the hard muscle beneath her fingers and sensed the leashed tension thrumming through him. She took a breath then motioned for Gwen to get assistance.
Catherine settled on the floor a few feet from him and leaned against the wall, her arms folded in front of her as she studied him. Thick black hair fell forward, hiding his face, and his muscular arms were wrapped around sturdy legs. His hands were large, as well, with long, tapered fingers.
Normally she would be hesitant to stay by herself with a potentially difficult patient, but some inner instinct told her that she needn't worry with him. Yes, he was a large, powerful man. His physical build alone was intimidating, but she felt no threat. If she felt anything, it was empathy for the keen embarrassment that pulsated around him. She could certainly identify with humiliating reactions at the worst possible time.
Catherine took a deep breath and spoke softly in an effort to alleviate some of his embarrassment. "Mr. Conners, you'd probably be more comfortable if you weren't sitting on the floor. Why don't you let me help"
"Please. Just let me wait here until the doctor gets in." The voice was low, a faint twinge of resignation entwined in the mellow under-tones. Catherine raised her eyebrows in the man's general direction and let out a hasty sigh, her sympathy decreasing several notches.
"Mr. Conners, maybe I should"
The exam room door swung quickly inward, admitting Gwen and one of the men who passed for building security. "Dr. Wilson, did you need some help?, Catherine waved off the security officer's help, wondering why Gwen had called him for help when a strangled exclamation erupted next to her.
She turned suddenly in the direction of the voice and breathed in so quickly she nearly coughed. The man was staring at her with the fierce glare of a predator, his look all the more dangerous because of his eyes. A deep golden color fringed in a wealth of dark lashes, they were a lion's eyes.
Feral in their intensity, they traveled from the well-worn flats she had hastily thrown on this morning, along loose-fitting trousers and casual blouse, stopping finally to meet her gaze.
Catherine swallowed tightly and reconsidered her earlier assessment of any threat the man presented. She'd been wrong to think he wasn't dangerous. Very wrong.
"Doctor?, This time the word was uttered as a questioning groan. Catherine had endured plenty of surprised patients in the past but this man seemed genuinely shocked to realize she was a doctor. She swallowed her irritation at his chauvinism, cleared her throat and leaned slightly forward, forcing a smile.
"I'm Dr. Wilson. I'm filling in for Dr. Porter today. I thought he had informed all his patients about that." She offered her hand, felt it grow warm as it was suddenly clasped in the grip of his larger one. Her face flushed as the man continued to stare at her, and she self-consciously cleared her throat as she tried to remove her hand from his.
Instead of releasing it, he held tighter and she realized he was trying to stand, pulling her up along with him. He was merely using her as leverage to stand. She tightened her own grip and stood with him, watching as he slowly rose.
And rose. And rose.
She leaned her head back to look up at him, then blinked. Her imagination had kicked in again. He was only a few inches taller than six feet, not towering over her by a foot as she first thought in that single second when he had straightened.
"Dr. Wilson, do you still need me?, The uncertain voice from behind made her realize she had been staring. She cleared her throat and turned quickly to face the security guard, thankful for his interruption. Catherine shook her head and dismissed him with a quick word of thanks, then faced her patient, motioning again to the exam table.
"I think you might be more comfortable sitting down, Mr. Conners." She busied herself with studying his chart, cursing the heat in her face as she tried hard not to notice the play of muscles in his bare legs as he hoisted himself onto the table. "I'm sorry about earlier." His voice was deep, tinged with embarrassment. Catherine stepped next to the table and offered him a gentle smile, then placed a hand on his shoulder.
"No problem. Why don't you lie back while I have a look at your knee." His body relaxed under her touch as he laid back. She focused her attention away from his powerful thighs and on his left knee, gently probing around the kneecap, careful of pushing too hard around the recent incisions.
The flesh beneath her fingers was slightly swollen and warm to her touch. She studied the movement of the kneecap, slowly pushing it back and forth. The leg jerked slightly when she pushed in at the bottom of the kneecap.
"Did that hurt?, She turned to study his face for the telltale signs of a patient unwilling to admit pain. She didn't have to look too hard; it was there in his careless shrug, in his too-hard study of the hands folded across his waist.
"Not too bad."
Catherine nodded with a noncommittal murmur and continued her probing, this time pushing in slightly on the kneecap. Barely perceptible under her touch was a minor grating, resulting in another small jerk. She gave his leg a reassuring pat then retrieved his file from the countertop as he sat up.
"When was your surgery?"
"Two weeks ago."
"And you've started physical therapy?"
Catherine murmured and made a note in his file, the scratching of her pen loud in the silence.
"Isthere a problem?"
"Nothing to worry about." Catherine looked up from the notes she was scribbling on his chart and gave him a reassuring smile.
"Your knee is still a little swollen and there's some roughness under the kneecap, but it's early still. Make an appointment to see Dr. Porter next week. In the meantime, keep up with the therapy but don't overdo it."
He looked at her with an unreadable expression and Catherine waited patiently for the usual questions. Instead, he shrugged once and offered her a hesitant smile. She smiled back and turned, only to be stopped by the ever-present Gwen.
"Catherine, I didn't get a chance to draw the blood sample Dr. Porter had requested." There was a touch of subtle humor in her words, which were immediately followed by a nearly inaudible groan from Mr. Conners. Catherine bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from smiling at his pale face.
"I think we can probably get away without it this time, Gwen. If Brian really needs it, he'll get it next week."
Catherine closed the door behind her and allowed herself a small chuckle at the sound of Mr. Conners's huge sigh of relief.
Silence. Absolute silence.
Catherine leaned back in the oversize chair, propped her feet on the desk, and closed her eyes to enjoy the brief solitude. She had reports to dictate, files to review and a work schedule that needed to be revamped in order to fit in another dozen or so things that just had to be done. But for now all she wanted was to enjoy the solitude.
The harsh buzz of the intercom shattered the quiet and she bolted upright. Her foot slipped and she winced as her bare heel scraped the rounded edge of the desk. Muttering, she leaned over the desk and jabbed the intercom.
"Yes? What is it?"
"Dr. Wilson, Mr. Conners has asked to see you."
Taking a deep breath, Catherine counted to three then jabbed the button again. "Give me a few minutes"
Before she could release her finger, the door to her office swung open and the man in question walked in. "Never mind" Her voice trailed off as she lifted her hand from the machine. Catherine immediately straightened in her chair, searching with bare feet for the shoes she had kicked off just a few minutes earlier. She managed to slip a foot into one just as he approached the desk.
"Mr. Conners. Is there something I can help you with?, She motioned to the chair across from her desk, still searching for the other shoe. Her toe brushed against soft leather and she stretched her leg in an attempt to pull it closer. The curious glance from the man across from her didn't stop her as she leaned back in her chair and probed farther under the desk.