When Dr. Kimberlyn Davis finds herself in the midst of an accident site, it's not just the thrill of saving a life that crackles in the air it's working with the irresistible Dr. Enzo DellaToro!
But when Enzo is revealed as her competitor for the surgical fellowship she's always dreamed of, Kimberlyn is determined to ignore their sizzling chemistry. Yet as tensions rise and Enzo throws down the gauntlet, can she resist the temptation of her rival's sinful kiss?
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The sound of screeching tires stabbed Dr. Kim-berlyn Davis's ear. One by one every one of her major muscle groups seized, stopping her cold on the Manhattan sidewalk, tensed for impact. One burst of sound, then another and anotherrubber on asphalt, metal on metalher every heartbeat shuddering in time with each bone-rattling sound.
Teeth gritted, she twisted toward the street in time to see a body arcing through the air, arms and legs flailing for purchase in the already warm morning sun. A man. A motorcyclist. He tumbled, rolled and came down chest first on the grille's edge of a still-moving black SUV. The second impact tossed him backa human pin-ball thrown and battered far more than flesh and bones could stand.
Her clamped jaw held back sounds she couldn't control enough to stop, a whimper that burned like a roarsearing her throat and blazing a trail down her chest to the still-bothersome scar that would forever mar her cleavage.
She should've run when she'd heard the first sound of squealing tires. Away from the danger. But she had taken an oath.
Before the cascade of car horns died off, before the vehicle he'd flown into had even managed to stop moving, Kimberlyn forced herself to start. One stiff step, then another, each step loosening her muscles and allowing the next to come easier, faster. Off the curb. Onto the street. Within three paces she was running.
Moving cleared her mind. One act of willful defiance in the face of her fear, her memories, let the next one came easier.
"Someone call 911!" she shouted over her shoulder.
Please, don't be dead.
She kept her gaze before her long enough to plot a course, then through the windows of every car she passed en route to the man.
Awake with head laceration.
Of course this was how her first week in New York should start.
By the time she reached the motorcyclist he was wholly beneath the SUV and several feet from where he'd landed. Dragged by the front bumper. The driver looked stunned through the shattered glass. He had a gash on his chin and another smaller cut above his left eye, but he was awake, moving
Over the past year she'd gone from running from accidents to running toward thembut it always felt wrong. Even the times she'd come on the scene after the carnage had been wrought, her very soul had vibrated with the wrongness of it.
Wrongful death. All her fault.
From the first wreck she'd passed on the highway after her accidentwhen she'd been three months post-op, still in a cast, and on the way to yet another session with her physical therapistshe'd forced her mother to stop the car so she could get out and help. And she hadn't stopped since that accident. Couldn't stop.
Only the top of her current patient's helmet showed his location under the SUV and the only thing she could feel at all good about was the lack of engine noises. It must have shut off during impact.
"Check breathing," she whispered to herself, words slipping in a steady stream through her lips as she talked herself through the things she needed to do. Order of operations. Mental checklist for emergency scenarios. Only action could keep her focused, let her ignore the tangle of emotion rotting in her gut.
It was also the only way to try to block out Janie's face, always with hercut, battered and swollenat the back of her mind. It became harder to ignore in situations like this.
"Bashing damage to chest. Get to his chest "
If his heart still beat, he had a chance. If she got to him fast enough Nothing could guarantee survival. Even if he appeared stable, some injuries just took longer to kill you than others.
"If the patient can't come to you, you go to the patient. Gotta get under the car "
She dropped her backpack as she fell to her knees and scrambled over broken glass. Craning her neck, she looked under the car to see if anything besides the helmet had been snagged.
She couldn't see much besides that he wasn't moving. To try to take control of her mouth, she began to narrate on purposethe habit drilled into her as an intern so that the patient knew what you were doing. And on the off chance that he could hear her.
"Sir?" Sir, because this patient wasn't Janie. Sir. A man. A man she didn't know. Not her fault. Not her fault, not this time. "Keep still, I'm going to come under there with you."
Her voice sounded shrill even to her own ears. Anyone would know she teetered on the edge of panic, but she wouldn't fall headlong into it. She had control. Always. Always. But if her patient could hear her, she should be comforting him. Making him confident she'd help him, not squeaking like a cartoon mouse. Her throat refused to loosen, but she forced a few more words through. "I'm a doctor We're going to get you out of there."
Her heart banged a couple times, popping out of rhythm as it tended to do when dosed with adrenaline. It would settle down. It was nothing, a flutter. Pay no attention
"Not answering not moving " The whispering started again, and something newthe slow, hard beats of her heart, an insistent reminder of the emotion she tried so desperately to ignore. He was never coming out of this. There was nothing she could do.
Straightening, she looked around the street to the closest group of people, eyes skating from figure to figure. No police to help yet.
Get under the car. Take a light.
Ripping open her backpack, she fumbled inside for the kit, glad for once that she had to keep it with her.
Once the dented silver case was in her hand, she flipped it open and snatched out the penlight. With only her light clutched in her hand, she looked around again for help.
Running toward her through the scene she saw a figure in ceil blue, the color of the scrubs she also wore.
Someone with appropriate skills coming to help.
She flattened to her belly and crawled under the SUV with her patient. When she was beneath far enough to reach his wrist, she felt for a pulse. Present but weak. She continued to narrate, as she'd been taught to do. The practice was supposed to help patients manage their own fear in emergency situations, but it saved her from drowning every time. Even now, when the man didn't move or answer her.
She ran her light up and down the motorcyclist's body, looking for points of contact with the vehicle. Nothing. No snags. No parts of his body pinned beneath wheels. It didn't look as if he had any points of contact with the underside or the vehicle, except for where the bumper had snagged his helmet.
"Is he trapped?" a man's voice yelled from beside her, his words only just registering above the noise of the street and the roar in her ears.
Kimberlyn backed up carefully, doing her best not to bloody herself on the broken glass. When she finally got out, she took the light out of her mouth and straightened to look at her helper. The embroidery on the left breast of his scrubs showed the name of her hospital, where she'd been headed for her first day.
The name DellaToro stood out on the tag beneath the logo for West Manhattan Saints.
Him. Enzo, her cousin Caren had called him. At least she knew he was knowledgeable and skilled. He'd help her.
From the narrowing of his gaze as it rolled over her own embroidered name, he recognized who she was, too.
Neither Caren nor her new friend Tessa had told her how good-looking the man was. Dark hair and olive-skinned, deliciously scruffy. Shockingly dark blue eyes beneath eyebrows built for brooding No wonder he was so used to people doing what he told them to. Difficult to argue with a jaw that squaremade him look hard and unyielding. Like granite. Sexy, sexy granite.
Perfect time to think about the man's attractiveness. Goodness, what was wrong with her?
The answer hit like a slap in the face. His face had blocked out Janie's. That was why she'd noticed, and why her cheeks tingled.
What she needed was for her patient's face to replace Janie's. He deserved all her attention. But DellaToro's scruffy good looks would serve as a guilt shield until she could get that helmet off.
"The helmet is wedged under the bumper." Breathlessness replaced her shrill tone. Was that better? "But it doesn't look like there's any crushed areas or snags. We have to get him out from under there."
"But the helmet is wedged?" He bent to look, then felt around to where it was caught, apparently coming to the same conclusion she had: there was no foolproof way to get him out from under there. "We need to be careful of his spine."
"I know, but a perfect spine never did anything for a dead man. I can't even tell how he's breathing like this. Or if his eyes are open." Or show her inner demon that the motorcyclist wasn't Janie, even though she logically knew that couldn't be the case. "We might be looking at head trauma, too. We have to push the car off him." She turned toward the sidewalk and the closest pedestrians and called, "Guys, we need some help pushing the car."
DellaToro straightened to look at the group she'd called to. The group that wasn't moving at all to help them. He then knocked on the hood and yelled to the driver, who had found cloth in his vehicle to put pressure on his bloody wounds.
"Put it in Neutral."
The man nodded, still mentally with it despite the blood on his face. Should she check on him? He could die from lack of attention while they worked on one man whose chances were much slimmer, by appearances.
She had to stop finding points of comparison. This wasn't her wreck. That man wasn't Janie, either.
Then, in a far more commanding voice, Enzo faced the rubbernecking pedestrians and pointed to two specific men. "You and you, help us roll the car."
The authoritarian edge to his voice seemed to work. The men who had ignored her just moments before came down onto the street, shedding jackets and dropping whatever they carried to come to the front hood.
Figures. Also not worthy of examination right now.
Ignore the handsome doctor's jaw, help the patient.
His attention turned to her and he continued giving orders. "Reach under and get your hands around the edge of the helmet. We'll push it. You hold his head in place as well as you can."
Kimberlyn maneuvered herself to the man's head. With her cheek mashed against the front bumper, she strained under the car to get her hands around the edge of the helmet. "Got it." A pause. "Don't let it rock."
If it rolled forward even an inch, it might also snap both their necks.
At least Dr. Granite Jaw had a plan for this. All she had was grime from the street, a lurking wave of panic and glass shards sticking to her scrubs.
With the three of them pushing the SUV, they managed to roll it smoothly back. Pressure was released from the helmet. She eased her hands loose and when his head held position she flipped the visor open.
Finally. Another face to quiet guilty echoes in her mind.
Young. Very young. Closed eyes. Fast breathing. Still no response.
Had that been how she'd looked? Blood loss sped up respiration and heart rate as tissues and organs became deprived of oxygen, so it stood to reason that it was. Except she'd been pinned inside a vehicle, and the blood loss had been mostly visible, not hidden inside the chest cavity.
As the SUV continued to roll, revealing the man's body, she reached for her bag again and her kit.
DellaToro joined her, unzipping the man's protective leather jacket. At least he'd had the protection of sturdy clothing.
"His breathing is labored," DellaToro announced.
Of course it was. She'd take comfort in him still breathing if she didn't know how quickly that could change, and give them all a really bad day. One heartbeat to the next, things could turn, and the person you thought was most stable
"I've got some "
She stretched to where she'd dropped her backpack and then tore into it. "Here, Dr. DellaToro." She produced a stethoscope and handed it to him.
"Thank you, Kimberlyn. Heard you were coming." He used her first name while taking the instrument.
Was that some kind of dominance display?
Not the time. Correct later.
She dug into the engraved silver kit again. The fact that she could act now steadied her. Those images of her wreck were still there, always there, even a thousand miles awaybut now they lurked on the periphery. The rabbit hole she never wanted time to go down.
Just a little longer.
She extracted the gauze scissors and began cutting down the front of her patient's T-shirt, exposing an already forming bruise. Deep purple stippling slashed across pale flesh, right over the sternum. Bad bruise forming. No way would it be unbroken, and a broken sternum didn't protect what was inside very well. Bruising organs at least. Heart. Lungs, maybe. Bashing damage could be more destructive than bullets.
She bent forward to listen to her patient's breathing as Enzo listened to his heart.
Enzo. She could do it, too.
"Steady, but fast and faint " he announced, pulling the stethoscope from his ears to hang from his neck, and bending to grab for the penlight she'd been using under the car.
"Faint?" She repeated the wordas if she didn't already expect that exactly to be the case. As if it could be anything else.
Her fingers searched his wrist, and she could barely feel anything but her own thundering pulse. "You're sure it's beating?" She fumbled beneath the edge of the helmet to find the carotid, looking for a stronger throb. Her fingers tracked over corded vessels. The jugulars stood out as if he was straining.
Distended veins in the neck. Symptom number two that she'd both expected and dreaded.
The carotid didn't stand out at all and she felt nothing pulsing in the general region. Blood backing up in the veins and not pumping through the arteriesreason for the distended veins.
"Pupils responsive," Enzo announced, then listened again. "Faint, but still fast. Maybe speeding up."
She should be doing that, announcing her findings as she went. Just one more second, one more symptom. Make sure.
He hadn't picked up on the diagnosis yet. She'd share as soon as she confirmed the third. Even if she was already certain what her fingers and eyes told her, she needed something solid to reference.
Her hand shot into her backpack again, but books and sundries blocked her search. She upended it and dumped the contents onto the pavement. The wrist BP cuff she still carried with her rolled freeher second guilty security blanket. She grabbed it and wrapped it around the man's wrist.
"You carry a cuff?" Enzo asked, but he was listening to her as he went back to the abdomen and began prodding gently, looking for injury.
Kimberlyn didn't answer, just pressed the button to start the automated machine and leaned forward to listen to his breathing again. "We need an ambulance. Did anyone call an ambulance?"
A beep announced the measuring of vitals had finished and she looked at the small display.
Pulse one twenty-nine. Pressure ninety-five over seventy-five.
"Crap. Crap, crap."
Enzo's eyes snapped to her and then to the display on the little cuff. "That's not good."
"No," she said, looking around again. "Did anyone call 911?" Repeated it louder.
No one answered. The ones who'd helped push the car had already abandoned them. Enzo fished his phone from his pocket and dialed.
"We need a large syringe, and I don't have one of those in my bag."
Either he wasn't worried by the situation or he didn't realize the extent of what was going on.
"Enzo, listen to me." She used his first name this time to capture his attention. When his eyes met hers, she had to force the words through her clenched throat. "Cardiac tamponade."
Attention captured. "How do you know?"
"See the veins in his neck? Fluid's coming on fast, filling his chest, and there's no time for the pericardium to stretch and accommodate it to let his heart beat right. Either blood or serum. Probably both. Preferably more serum than blood."
More blood would probably mean a tear, but serum could just be trauma.