Emma Everhart's life is going according to plan. Finish nursing school with flying colours Check. Get a great job in the ER Check. Marry a handsome doctor and have two babies, three years apart Not quite yet. But with a dreamy new doctor joining the hospital staff, she's so close she can almost taste the wedding cake. Now is not the time to let the tall, dark and flirtatious paramedic Charlie Fletcher distract her! He may be the best date and best kiss she's ever had, but he's definitely not part of her plan. No matter how he makes her feel
About the Author
Amy Vastine has been plotting stories in her head for as long as she can remember. An eternal optimist, she studied social work, hoping to teach others how to find their silver lining. Now, she enjoys creating happily-ever-afters for all to read. Amy lives outside Chicago with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, three teenagers who keep her on her toes, and their two sweet but mischievous pups. Visit her at amyvastine.com
Read an Excerpt
"What kind of hospital is this? Why aren't you sewing my ear back on?"
Emma felt guilty for wanting to laugh. She thought she had seen it all. Working in the emergency room at Saint Joseph's was never boring. In the four years she'd been a nurse there, she'd seen a little bit of everything. Babies delivered in and just outside the waiting room. College students who took a dare to drink hand sanitizer when they ran out of beer money. Victims of car accidents. People afraid they were having a heart attack and those who were truly having one. This was new, though. The elderly gentleman was fretting about his missing ear quite unnecessarily.
"Your ear is securely attached to your head, Mr. Wilson. We don't sew something on that hasn't fallen off," Dr. Gavin reassured him. She finished putting the stitches in the old man's arm and took the gauze Emma held out for her.
"What?" Mr. Wilson turned his head and cupped his other ear. "I can't hear you, Doc, because my ear fell off! When are you going to put it back on?"
He had been brought in by his wife, who reported that he'd fallen on their front porch steps. X-rays came back clear. No broken bones, thankfully. Mr. Wilson had some bumps and bruises, and there was a nasty gash on his arm, but the bigger concern seemed to be his delusion that his ear had fallen off.
"We're going to find someone who can help you. I promise." Dr. Gavin lifted off her stool, removing her latex gloves. Her fiery-red hair was pulled back in a low ponytail, so different from the usual wild mess of curls. Her eyes fell on Emma. "I'm going to find his wife. Can you check on that psych consult? He should have been here by now."
"I think someone may be avoiding someone," Emma whispered as she cleared away the suture tray. Dr. Tessa Gavin was a third-year resident and Emma's favorite doctor in the ER. Spirited and tough, Tessa reminded Emma of her eldest sister, Lucy. Much like Lucy, Tessa was a man-eater. Her most recent victim was a sweet and handsome psychiatrist from the hospital.
Tessa sighed heavily. "Seriously. This is why I'm done. He's so sensitive, always wanting to talk about our" she cringed and made a face "-feelings'"
"Oh, no," Emma gasped in mock horror. "Not your feelings."
Tessa grimaced. She saved her compassion for her patients, not her boyfriends.
"What about my ear?" Mr. Wilson's fist came down hard on the side rail.
Emma yanked open the drawer with the petroleum jelly. "I've got some temporary adhesive right here, Mr. Wilson. We'll put this on while we wait for the next doctor to come check on you."
"Thank you," Tessa mouthed as she slipped through the curtain.
Dabbing the jelly around Mr. Wilson's perfectly attached ear, Emma glanced at the clock on the wall. She had twenty minutes before her shift ended. She needed to be out of there on time tonight. Big things were happening, and she was not going to miss any of it.
She pulled off her gloves. "There you go, Mr. Wilson. I applied some adhesive that should hold until another doctor can come examine you, all right?" The old man had tears trailing down his cheeks. "Is everything okay?"
He stared off as if Emma wasn't even there. Mrs. Wilson pushed aside the curtain and rejoined them.
"Is it okay if I come in?"
"I think you're just what he needs," Emma said, pulling a chair over so she could sit beside her husband.
"I want to go home." Mr. Wilson tried to sit up and swing his legs over the side of the bed. "This hospital is no help."
"Hold on, Joe," Mrs. Wilson said, encouraging him to lie back down. "They want you to talk to one more doctor."
"I'm falling apart and no one will help me." He pointed a finger at Emma. "You won't help me. You're useless!"
"Joe!" Poor Mrs. Wilson held a hand over her heart. "Please don't talk to the nurse like that. You're fine. The doctor stitched you up."
Mr. Wilson shook his head. "No one can fix me." He lay back down and the vacant look returned. Mrs. Wilson choked back her tears.
"I'll check on that consult," Emma offered.
Mrs. Wilson followed her out. "Excuse me, Nurse?" Emma spun around and she continued. "He didn't mean that, what he said about you not helping him."
"Oh, I know," she said kindly.
Mrs. Wilson wrung her hands. "He's not himself. He's the sweetest man I've ever known. Never raised his voice to me in all our forty-three years of marriage."
"Wow, that's a long time," Emma said, genuinely impressed.
"Should be longer," she lamented. "I didn't know a good thing when I saw it. I wasted so much time, thinking I was crazy to fall for a guy who worked in his parents' bakery. Thought I needed to marry a guy who wore a suit and tie to work. I never realized how short life was until we got here at the end."
Before Emma could say anything, Dr. Ian Huntley arrived, seemingly relieved that a certain redheaded doctor was nowhere to be seen. "Someone called for a consult?"
Emma gave Mrs. Wilson a smile and rubbed her arm gently. "Dr. Huntley is the best we've got at helping people who aren't feeling like themselves."
In a big city like Chicago, Friday nights in the ER were almost as popular as the city's hottest restaurants. One of those hot spots was a chic little Japanese place just off the Mag Mile. Emma happened to know the restaurant's manager. Max Jordan dated her sister, Kendall. Although, he wouldn't be dating her for much longer.
Emma had two patients to check on and a couple charts to update before her twelve-hour shift would be over. Emma, Kendall and Lucy had an eight-o'clock reservation at Sato's. Being late was not an option. She tried to finish her shift-change report while two nursing assistants gossiped at the nurses' station.
"I heard the new doc starting in a few weeks looks exactly like Leonardo DiCaprio."
"Wait, I heard he had dark hair and kind of looks like Zac Efron."
"No, blond. I saw him from behind when he was meeting with Dr. Lyons the other day. He was gorgeous from the back."
"Exactly how is one gorgeous from the back?" Emma asked without glancing up from her paperwork.
"I don't know, I could just tell. He's tall, blond and looks good from behind. He's got to be gorgeous if he looks like Leo. I hope he's single."
He was, but he wouldn't be for long. At least not if Emma had anything to say about it. She had a plan, and that plan included the new doctor.
Some people, like her sister Lucy, thought she was crazy for believing she could map out her entire life, but so far, she'd done just that. The plan was a way to let the universe know what she wanted and it allowed her to have some say in her fate. Sticking to the plan was the key, in Emma's opinion. She had learned the hard way that things could go terribly wrong when she didn't stay true to the plan.
Emma's life plan had included attending nursing school at Marquette and working at Saint Joseph's just as her mother had. Thanks to a volleyball scholarship, Marquette became a reality even after her parents had put two other kids through college. Top of her class, Emma had a job offer from Saint Joe's before she even graduated.
Phase two of her life plan had been carefully crafted more recently. Emma planned to marry a doctor before she was thirty. She had dated her share of accountants and engineers. Had dinner with a locksmith once. Spent a month being romanced by a guy who worked in human resources.
In the end, marrying a doctor made the most sense. Given the crazy hours at the hospital, working there together would let them see each other more often. He would also be an excellent provider. Anyone who made it through medical school and residency would have to be not only intelligent but also diligent and reliable. Those traits were important to Emma, both in a husband and a father.
After a year-long engagementso she would have enough time to plan accordinglyshe would have the most spectacular wedding Chicago had ever seen. She planned to take an extended leave of absence to raise her two children, the first of which she would have when she was no older than thirty-three. Her second child would be born three years later because three years would allow the children to be close enough in age to be friends but far enough apart that there would not be any rivalry.
It was the perfect plan for the perfect life. Emma had put a tremendous amount of thought into it. She had to because she didn't deter from her plans; she had only done so a few times. Every time she had, her life had nearly been derailed. Clearly, someone or something had been trying to tell her to get back on course.
None of that made sense to people like Lucy. How could Emma believe in fate if she also thought she could control her destiny? Emma's answer was simplefree will gave her the opportunity to choose her path. Her responsibility was to stick with it. Her plans could be outrageous; it didn't matter. Crazy things happened every day. Working in the hospital proved that. How many times had Emma seen a patient, who never should have lived, survive and walk out the door? Likewise, people with very treatable issues could take a turn for the worse at a moment's notice. Life had a plan for everyone, and Emma simply believed she was allowed to choose hers. The only catch was that once she chose, that was it. There was no going back.
With her plans set, Emma knew everything would work out. However, at twenty-eight, she was beginning to feel a little pressure from her self-imposed timelines. All the doctors she worked with were either old enough to be her father or married with kids. The new doctor's arrival seemed too good to be true, but Emma knew his being sent here was fate answering her call.
Dr. Scott Spencer was twenty-five years old and originally from Minnesota. He came from a family of doctors and, as far as Emma knew, he didn't have a girlfriend or wife. He did look somewhat like Leo, but Emma thought he had more of a young Brad Pitt vibe about him. He was the sign to keep the faith. All Emma had to do was get him to fall in love with her. She had plans for that, too.
"Can one of you make sure the patient in room three gets the extra pillow he requested so I can get out of here when I finish this?" Emma asked the assistants, effectively putting an end to the gossip surrounding her future husband. Time was ticking in more ways than one. Lucy would kill her if she was the reason they were late for dinner.
Emma got ready in record time, somehow managing to make it home, shower, get dressed and blow out her hair in less than an hour. Her display of superhuman speed went unappreciated, however.
"We need to get going!" Lucy shouted from the living room.
Emma grabbed her lipstick and mascara to apply on the way to the restaurant. "You act like our table will be given away," she said as she joined her sisters and slid her earrings in. It was a quick cab ride to the restaurant from her Lincoln Park apartment. They weren't going to be that late.
Lucy swept her bangs out of her eyes. She wore a to-die-for black dress that hugged every curve. Emma used to be jealous of her eldest sister's swimsuit-model body, flawless complexion and blondes-have-more-fun lifestyle. But beautiful bodies could betray just as well as any other. Lucy's battle with breast cancer a couple years ago had taught Emma to be thankful for the body she'd been given. Her waist might be the same size as her hips and her hair a boring shade of brown, but she had her health, and for that she was glad.
"I can text Max and tell him we're going to be late if you need more time," Kendall said, pulling out her phone.
"No!" Emma lunged for the phone, startling Kendall. Lucy's eyes widened in warning. She had always been much better at keeping secrets than Emma. "I mean, I'm ready. Don't bother him. Let's go."
The sisters chatted about work on the way to dinner. Lucy had had a busy week at the women's advocacy center. Emma had always admired Lucy's tenacity, but even more so when she used it to fight for someone else. Kendall's interior design company had landed another big job in the city, remodeling the lobby of some five-star luxury hotel. That was the reason Kendall thought they were out celebrating.
The hostess at Sato's recognized them immediately and sat them right in front of the mural Kendall had painted when she worked there. Had it not been for the remodeling job at Sato's, Kendall may not have met Max. The job and a little bit of fate had brought them together. Emma thought it was terribly romantic.
Kendall had inquired about Max's whereabouts twice. The last thing they needed was for her to go looking for him. The food was a welcome distraction and gave them something else to talk about. When they were finished, the waiter brought over a bottle of champagne and began to pour them each a glass.
"You guys didn't need to do this," Kendall insisted.
"It wasn't us," Emma said, smiling from ear to ear as the surprise unfolded.
Dressed in little suit coats and ties, Kendall's seven-year-old son and Max's four-year-old son appeared at the table, each holding a wrapped present.
"Simon, Aidan, what are you doing here?"
"Hi, Mommy. It's a surprise. Are you surprised?"
Kendall nodded. Simon gave his younger companion a nudge and bent down to whisper something to him. Little Aidan stepped forward and placed his gift on the table in front of Kendall.
"I like it when we all go to the zoo and when you make us brownies," he said. Kendall unwrapped the gift to find a framed photo of the four of them at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
She set down the picture and opened her arms for Aidan. "That is so sweet. I love going to the zoo with you, too."
Simon placed his present on the table. "I like it when we all watch movies on Max's big TV and have pizza-and-movie nights."
Kendall wiped the corner of her eye. "I like that, too, buddy." She opened the next present, which was a giant popcorn bowl with four smaller bowls nested in it, each labeled with their names. "Thank you," she said, giving her son a big hug. "I don't understand what you two are doing here past your bedtimes, though."
"There's one more present," Simon said with a big grin.
Emma watched as Max stepped up to the table empty-handed. Kendall's confusion quickly faded at the sight of him. In that moment, it was clear she knew exactly what was happening.
Max dropped to one knee and the two little boys followed suit. "I like how the four of us hold hands when we cross the street. I like how serious you get during innocent games of Go Fish," he said, causing Kendall to laugh through her tears. "I like that whenever you buy Simon something, you think about Aidan, too. I like that we rely on one another and that it's not nearly as scary as we both thought it would be. I like you, Kendall. And it may be weird, but I think liking you is even more important than loving you, which I also do. I love you more than I ever thought possible."
"I like you and love you, too," Kendall managed to choke out.