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Southern Nights and Secrets
A Boys are Back in Town Novel
By Robin Covington, Alethea Spiridon
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Robin Covington
All rights reserved.
Beck was going to fucking kill somebody.
Yes, as a doctor he'd taken an oath to "do no harm," but whoever had taken a boot to a little boy and sent him to this Level One Trauma Center deserved to get a fast track to hell. Beck would be happy to help get him there, but first he had to make sure this kid didn't get there first.
"Come on, buddy. Work with me here." He flicked a glance up at the monitors, noting the stats and tracking the kid's vitals while he figured out what exactly had happened to him.
Although, he had a pretty good idea.
The kid's caramel-colored skin was covered in old bruises — mostly where they wouldn't show under regular clothing — with evidence of fresh ones festering under his clammy flesh. The boy had finally settled down with the morphine, but he moaned when Beck hit a tender spot. It was a damn sight better than the pitiful crying and screaming he'd done when they first rolled him into the ER of the Shenandoah Regional Medical Center.
"What's his name?" Beck asked Tricia, the nurse beside him as he continued to assess his injuries.
"Marcus. He's ten years old," she answered with a tight edge to her tone. They saw a lot in this job, but kids were the worst.
"Okay Marcus. I'm gonna feel around your tummy and see what's going on." Beck palpated the bloated area knowing he'd feel the telltale signs of internal bleeding and winced when the boy lurched a little under the restraints and cried out for his mama. Beck wasted no time turning to the other nurse hovering just over his shoulder. "Keep pushing the IV fluids, normal saline 'wide open' and O neg blood until we get back his type. Call for a trauma surgeon, open an OR, and type and cross for four to six units packed red blood cells."
The nurse acknowledged his order and scurried off to get the OR ready for Marcus. Beck glanced at the monitor, disliking how his blood pressure wasn't holding steady. Not surprising when a patient was losing a lot of blood, but not something to fuck around with, either.
"Dose him with dopamine to counteract the BP issues and call to get the sheriff here as soon as possible," Beck barked out, too tired after a full shift to even try to be charming. When no one moved he glared at another nurse standing by as if waiting for an invitation to do her job. "Wake up and get moving. Now."
Trish glanced over her shoulder as her colleague scurried off before giving Beck a sour look from the other side of the table. "Dr. Sutherland. Didn't your mama ever tell you that you get more flies with honey than vinegar?"
"My mama didn't stick around long enough to teach me shit, and you know my tongue can be mighty sweet when I want it to be." And she did. He'd spent a few nights in her bed keeping her up way past curfew and then making her late for work in the morning. He checked the monitor again. The numbers weren't getting any better. "Help me get him intubated. I'm worried about his breathing."
"Yes." Trish worked efficiently as she talked, gathering the necessary equipment and moving alongside Beck at the head of Marcus's stretcher. "You know hospital policy is to inform administration before we call law enforcement except in the case of emergent circumstances."
"I'll let the people in the adminisphere know as soon as I save this kid's life and make sure the asshole who brought him gets a hard look from the cops." He pointed to a couple of fresh bruises, the abrasion on the skin perfectly matching the tread of a boot, before getting in position to put the breathing tube into his young patient. "I got a look at the guy who came in with Marcus's mother. Angry and swinging his big dick around like he was daring somebody to question the dumbass story he gave about this kid falling off a swing set. I don't want him to disappear."
Tricia sighed, her hands moving swiftly to switch out the bag of fluids connected to the IV drip. "You don't know he was the one who did this."
"Yes. I do." He knew firsthand what an abuser looked like when he was worried about getting caught. Over the years his sixth sense when it came to the shittier side of humanity had been honed to the accuracy of a GPS — more a curse than a gift — but he knew what he knew. Marcus's monitors suddenly started going off. Not in a good way. "Fuck. He's crashing."
The sound of the Code Blue signal over the PA system was barely audible over the rush of blood in his veins and the roar in his ears as his own blood pressure rose while Marcus's plummeted. Beck cleared the rolling carts away from the bedside as he got in position to start chest compressions just as the shrill alarm from the monitor sang out the flat notes that beckoned all the nearby angels to come and get the boy with a dimple in his right cheek and a "Phineas and Ferb" T-shirt.
"Marcus. I'm not letting you do this today, buddy." Beck kept talking as he continued the chest compressions, stopping at each required interval to see if his patient had taken over the breathing part of getting through this ordeal. Beck watched the monitor. Nothing. He began a new set after Trish used the bag covering his mouth to give Marcus oxygen. "I've got a date with a sweet BASE jump and then this blonde I met at a dog park. I don't have a dog because I work too many hours but I borrowed my buddy Teague's new puppy and that dog brought all the pretty women over to me."
Beck kept talking, convinced that Marcus was still nearby just waiting for a pull back to this life. Many patients had told him that they heard people talking to them as they hovered between life and death for him to doubt it.
The monitor blipped and stuttered for a few breathtaking seconds before the computerized mimic of the sweetest little heartbeat filled the space, and Beck eased back a little. He barely got a deep breath before the monitor went crazy again and all hell broke loose around him. Again.
"Is that OR ready?" he shouted, continuing the chest compressions as he hopped onto the gurney and straddled the stretcher, leaning over his young patient. It had been a couple of years since he'd "code surfed" but he wasn't letting up on this kid until they got him to the OR. He'd learned the hard way that patients didn't always make it if he didn't stay with them.
When he received a noncommittal response from the nurse on the phone he nodded for one of the staff to start wheeling them toward the elevator. Ignoring the stares of the staff and the people in the other ER bays, he kept up his steady rhythm as he shouted over his shoulder. "Tell them to get an anesthesiologist there because I'm coming up right now."
Thirty-five minutes and one more life-threatening crash later, Marcus was in the able hands of the surgeon, and Beck headed back down to the ER. Still buzzing with adrenaline, the idea of calming the fuck down before he went to talk to Marcus's parents didn't even qualify as a thought, it was in his mind for so short a time. He rounded the corner to the familiar ER and caught sight of Sheriff Burke standing at the nurse's station. Catching the older man's eye, he beckoned for him to follow as he kept up his steady pace.
"Dr. Sutherland," the sheriff called from behind him, his warning loud and clear. "Beck!"
Ignoring him, Beck walked into the almost empty waiting room where he found the ashen-faced mother and the asshole she let put a hand on her son. She saw him and stood, her hand flying to cover her mouth and tears making her eyes glassy. Braced for the worst, she barely acknowledged the shove the man beside her gave, along with the terse direction to "keep her fucking mouth shut."
"Mrs. Jones?" Beck stepped around the mountain of man in front of him, knowing that it would piss him off. With the cops just over his shoulder he wanted Mr. Asshole to lose it and show his hand. "Would you come with me? I'd like to update you on Marcus's status."
"You ain't taking her anywhere without me," Mr. Asshole said.
"And you are?" He made sure that he maintained eye contact with the guy, letting him know that he wasn't some kid or woman he could push around. "I didn't see any other parent listed on Marcus's paperwork."
"My money puts food on the table and clothes on his back."
"Do you also put the bruises on his body?" Beck kept his tone even in spite of the flaring burn of anger in his belly and ache to hit something — preferably Mr. Asshole's face. "Because I'm pretty sure he didn't get them falling off a swing set."
Mr. Asshole took a step forward, bringing his bulk as close to Beck as he could get without touching him. Come on, buddy, just give me a reason to beat the shit out of you. As if he could read his mind, Beck felt the sheriff move closer in behind him. He knew Beck well and probably saw he was spoiling for a fight.
"Can you please just tell me how my boy is?" The small voice of Mrs. Jones eased the tension slightly, and Beck broke eye contact with the man, a little shame-faced that he'd let his anger distract him from tending to this distraught mother.
He softened his tone, taking the hand she extended out to him. He told her straight, knowing she needed to hear it all. "Marcus is in surgery to remove his ruptured spleen. He's lost a lot of blood, and it was touch and go there for a bit. Marcus isn't out of the woods yet."
At his last words, her face scrunched up in pain as she sank back down into her chair, tears streaming down her face as she whimpered with fear and pain. She held on to his hand, and he had no choice but to fall to one knee beside her.
"Mrs. Jones. There are bruises all over Marcus's body, and they weren't caused by a fall from a swing set." He leaned in closer, keeping his voice low and soothing, trying to coax the truth from her. "Whoever did this almost killed your son. I need to know the truth."
The small woman — with black and blue bruises peeking out from the edge of her long-sleeved shirt — shuddered with the impact of her tears. He didn't want to push her but this was the best time to get the truth out of her. She might be so scared for her son that it would overcome her terror of the man looming over them both.
"Mrs. Jones. He's just a little boy, and his body can't take much more of this. I need you to tell me the truth, and we'll get you the help you need," he cajoled, hyper alert of what he was doing and the consequences. "You tell me what happened, and I'll get you help. I swear it."
"I don't like what you're implying there asshole," the man growled over his shoulder.
Beck ignored him, keeping his gaze fixed on the large, scared eyes of the woman in front of him. She was terrible at hiding her feelings and he watched as fear, anger, anxiety, despair, and a few other emotions scrolled across her face like a movie.
"Is my boy going to be okay?" she asked, her voice trembling under the weight of her terror.
"I don't know. He's with the best and they are doing everything they can. He won't be so lucky next time. His body can only take so much." He squeezed her hand and went for it, she was either going to tell him now or keep her secret and continue the cycle. "Did Marcus fall off a swing set?"
Beck took a breath, tamping down the flare of anger so that he didn't frighten her off. Mrs. Jones had lived her life in fear and her survival instinct had programmed her to shut up when threatened.
"What happened?" When she dropped her gaze from his face he urged her on with a leading question. "Did someone hurt Marcus?"
She nodded still looking down at the floor between them. He tightened his grip on her hand as he asked again.
"Who hurt Marcus?"
"I need a name."
"Damon ... Damon Jones. My ... m ... my husband."
Beck knew the punch was coming. Mr. Asshole aimed straight for him and his fist connected with the side of Beck's head, and he saw not just one or two stars but the whole fucking universe as he reeled back from the blow.
But Mr. Asshole made a mistake. Beck was used to taking a punch — growing up with his old man was a doctorate level course in the school of hard knocks, and he'd been top of his class. Beck shook it off and came up swinging, clipping the bigger man on the jaw hard enough to stun him and bring him down to the hard, tile floor of the waiting room with a mixed martial arts move that he'd spent lots of time perfecting.
Beck flipped Mr. Asshole like a pancake, subdued him with a rear naked choke, and pressed down on his carotid until he stopped trying to elbow Beck's nuts up into his chest cavity. Beck shoved down the pain still shooting around his skull and looked up at Sheriff Burke.
"You think you might want to jump in here law enforcement officer?" He grunted as Mr. Asshole levered off the floor and elbowed him again, barely missing the family jewels. "I could seriously use some enforcement over here."
"Dr. Sutherland what are you doing?"
Beck peered beyond the sheriff, toward the man who always looked like he'd forgotten to remove the stick shoved up his ass — Douglas Bent — Vice President of Operations for the hospital. His disapproval of everything about Beck was reaching legendary proportions among the gossipy staff, and Beck knew this man was the one thing that stood between him and the open position of ER Team Leader.
Lying on the floor choking someone out wasn't going to go over well with Mr. Bent. Even if the guy was a child abuser.
"He's assisting the apprehension of the suspect in the aggravated abuse of a child." The sheriff nodded to his deputy to take custody of his temporary prisoner. "Dr. Sutherland alerted us to the situation." The older man leaned down and assisted his colleague as they both struggled to get the handcuffed man on his feet. The eye roll was a clear indicator that he also thought Bent was a tool.
Beck levered off the floor, rubbing his aching head as he handed over the scumbag he hoped would get a very big guy name Bubba as his cell mate. He glanced over at Bent, trying to assess how this was all going play out when he spied the people standing next to him. Alex Rifkin, the Director of Security, and a woman. "I just did what any —"
He must have a concussion. Head trauma. Something, because the woman standing next to Bent was the last person in the universe he ever expected to see again.
Long toned legs that were partly due to genetics and partly due to a five-mile-per-day running habit. A sexy black suit with a hint of cleavage, skin the color of rich toffee, dark hair that felt like spun silk, and even darker eyes you could just sink into for several hours.
Virginia ... Ginger Crawford.
More beautiful than his traitorous mind could ever make up.
And she was just as shocked to see him.
"Ginger?" He stepped forward, a little wobblier from the head shot than he would have liked when seeing an ex-lover for the first time in nine years.
"Beckett," she said, her voice even and cold enough to make an ice cube shiver. Only a slight tremor in her delivery betrayed that she wasn't as calm about this as she pretended. He was glad because he felt like all kinds of jackass standing here holding his throbbing skull in dirty scrubs and a two-day old beard.
"Ms. Virginia Crawford is the newest Director of Operations for the hospital. Your new boss," Bent interjected, his face puzzled. "Do you two know each other?"
Fuck me. Beck stared at her, unable to quickly process the question but he recovered enough to answer. "We knew each other at school."
The amount of information that simple statement left out was staggering. But he was never going to discuss the hours he spent with this woman in his bed with a jerk like Bent. This close he could smell her sweet perfume — the same expensive French scent her father had always bought her — and it took every ounce of willpower to not reach out to see if the skin of her cheek was a soft as it was in his memory.
"It was a long time ago. We used to hang out," Ginger said, any warmth in her eyes disappearing at the same time she repeated the words he'd used when he'd dumped her all those years ago.
The words still made his stomach seize even though he wasn't the one saying them this time. They ranked up there with the biggest lies he'd ever told, but they were the best thing to do at the time. He still believed that.
Excerpted from Southern Nights and Secrets by Robin Covington, Alethea Spiridon. Copyright © 2016 Robin Covington. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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