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Authors: Alexandra Richland

Frontline

BOOK: Frontline
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Frontline

 

Alexandra Richland

 

 

Copyright
© 2013 by Alexandra Richland

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior written consent of the publisher is an infringement of the copyright law.

 

Richland, Alexandra

Frontline/Alexandra Richland

 

ISBN:
978-0-9880047-5-7

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locals, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Published by Alexandra Richland

 

Cover Designed by FS Meurinne.

www.fsmeurinne.com

[email protected]

 

Edited by Lauren Schmelz of Write Divas.
http://www.writedivas.com

 

 

 

Additional Novels by Alexandra Richland

 

Gilded Cage

Starlight (Book #1 of The Starlight Trilogy)

Starbright (Book #2 of The Starlight Trilogy) – coming soon

Stardust (Book #3 of The Starlight Trilogy) – coming soon

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you to Amanda, Chelsey, Deb, Flor, Lauren, Jen, Kat, Kellie, Maggie, Nicola, SR, Tiffany, and everyone who supported this story from the beginning.

 

 

DEDICATION

Mike, I couldn’t have done this without you.

 

Chapter One

The emergency room at Manhattan General Hospital is especially busy for a Friday night. Holidays tend to bring out the worst in people in terms of sickness and injury, and Memorial Day weekend is no exception.

With a sigh, I tighten my ponytail and survey the waiting room. No matter how many people I usher through Triage, the crowd keeps growing. My shift began at seven thirty this evening, it’s now almost midnight, and I haven’t had a break. It’s going to be a long one.

I pick up the top folder in the pile at the Triage nurses’ station and read the preliminary information on the next person in line, taken by my co-worker, Lindsay, who has the unfortunate job of screening people when they walk in the door and weeding out the minor cases from the serious ones. We’re not a trauma hospital so most of the cases we receive are relatively straightforward.

I step out from behind the desk, adjusting the stethoscope around my neck. “Mr. Ronald Collins?”

Eager faces shoot from behind year-old magazines, frowning again as quickly as they brightened. Most of them were here when I started my shift. If they’re lucky, they’ll be seen before I leave in the morning.

A man in the back stands and saunters toward me, looking every bit the
Mommy-I-don’t-feel-well-I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school-today
type. His medical chart states he’s forty-two years old.

I smile. “Mr. Collins?”

He nods and moans at the same time, as though words are too painful for him. I usher him through the swinging double doors toward the main area of the emergency department and have him sit down on one of our available beds before drawing the curtain for privacy.

“Now, what brings you to the hospital tonight?”

He sniffles. “I have a sore throat and fever.”

I withhold a sigh and remove a pen from the pocket of my scrubs. I’m going to personally thank Lindsay for not directing him to the nearest drugstore for some over-the-counter cold medication.

“How long have you had these symptoms?”

“Since this morning.”

I record this information in his chart for the doctor. “When you last took your temperature, what did it read?”

He hunches his shoulders. “I haven’t taken my temperature.”

As required, I check his vital signs.

Blood pressure: 122/84.

Heart rate: 82.

Oxygen saturation: 99%.

Respiratory rate: 18.

Temperature: 99.3.

His throat is a little red, but not swollen. Lungs are clear.

My hunch is correct. He has a mild cold.

“Do you have any other symptoms, Mr. Collins?”

“No.”

After fifteen minutes, I’ve finished taking his health history and I tell him that the doctor will see him shortly. Nurses are not allowed to diagnose a patient, no matter how obvious the conclusion from their assessments.

I politely excuse myself and set Mr. Collins’ chart down at the nurses’ station, ready to head back to Triage to collect the next person in line.

“Sara,” a man whispers behind me.

I stiffen.

I don’t need to turn around to see who it is: Dr. Harvey Shore. He has flirted with me endlessly in the last six months since I started at Manhattan General, my first job after graduating from nursing school.

Dr. Shore peers over my shoulder at the opened folder on the desk. I stifle a gag as his pine-scented cologne assaults me.

“Another cold, huh?” he says into my ear.

I step aside and turn to him, forcing a smile. Dr. Shore is a thirty-four-year-old bachelor and graduate of Columbia Medical School. He’s Manhattan General’s very own McDreamy
—known as McFantasy here—with coiffed blond hair and a movie star smile. He casts a spell over every nurse in the hospital, which leaves them panting and starry-eyed—except the nurses who work alongside him in the ER.

“Yes,” I say.

Dr. Shore inches closer.

I relax as my friend, savior, and the full-time ER night receptionist, Derek, approaches.

“Dr. Shore, there’s a never-ending nosebleed in Room Six. Angela needs help.”

Dr. Shore looks annoyed by the intrusion, since it happens often, and deliberately. He regards Derek pointedly. “Tell Angela to grab an epistaxis tray. I’ll meet her in the room in five.”

Derek stays put.

Dr. Shore scowls. “I have new orders to relay to Miss Peters about a patient she saw earlier.”

Unfortunately, the phone rings at Derek’s desk. He shoots me an apologetic look before leaving to answer it.

Dr. Shore rests his palm on the desk and leans in. “Now, as I was saying, Sara . . .”

The double doors swing open and the nurse manager, Valerie Hendrix, rushes into the ER from Triage. She wears a smart navy blue pantsuit. Her wide eyes dart around the vast room.

Valerie has been a nurse for over two decades
—away from the bedside for ten of those years in a managerial capacity—and nothing seems to faze her. I’m curious as to what has her so worked up. She rarely leaves her cozy office to mingle with us common folk, especially when she works nights.

Valerie walks straight toward Dr. Shore and me, her high heels clicking along the floor. Her presence commands the interest of everyone in the room. She stands in the middle of the nurses’ station, claps twice loudly, and gestures for the rest of the staff in the area to approach.

“I need everyone’s attention, please.”

“Is this a nurse thing?” Dr. Shore asks. “Because if that’s the case, this isn’t my
—”

“We’ll need your assistance.” Valerie looks around the group and drops her voice to a whisper. “Is anyone here familiar with Trenton Merrick?”

Most of the people in the circle nod, including me. I’m aware of him and what he looks like, but we don’t exactly run in the same social circles. Trenton Merrick is rich—very rich—and the poster boy for such publications as the
Wall Street Journal
,
TIME
magazine, and
Forbes
. He’s only about thirty years old, but he’s the CEO of some major company, and I think, once, he was in
People
magazine’s Most Beautiful People issue.

“Well, he’s here.”

“Here?” Michelle, a newbie like me, echoes. Her eyes widen.

“Yes, Mr. Merrick is here at our hospital,” Valerie says. “He has a laceration on his forehead. Lindsay put gauze over it and placed him in a chair in Triage. We can’t have him waiting there long.”

I arch my eyebrows. “Why not? Everyone else has to wait at least six hours before they’re seen. It’s a holiday weekend and—”

Valerie’s icy stare silences me.

“Mr. Merrick is a very wealthy man,” she says, her voice low. “We are not a wealthy hospital. It’s not rocket science, Miss Peters. I don’t know why he chose to come to Manhattan General, but we must make him feel welcome. He is very charitable and perhaps if we pull out all the stops, we may, one day soon, be on the receiving end of his generosity.”

Harriet, a veteran nurse who’s worked in the profession even longer than Valerie, folds her arms across her chest. “I’ve dealt with my share of celebrities in the past. There’s no way I’m going out of my way to cater to this Merrick character.”

“Harriet, please.” Valerie’s tone shifts from scolding to begging. “I need you and Karen to assist Dr. Shore in treating Mr. Merrick. You’re the most experienced nurses we’ve got.”

Karen nods. “I’ll do it.”

After some additional coaxing, Harriet also agrees.

“Wait a minute,” Dr. Shore says. “I’m more than capable of handling this guy on my own. After all, I come from an affluent background, too. If anyone can relate to him, I can.”

I refrain from rolling my eyes. Derek, who hovers outside the circle, sorting through papers, doesn’t.

“Like I said, Harriet and Karen will assist you, Dr. Shore,” Valerie replies. “We must show Mr. Merrick that all of the medical staff here at Manhattan General are expertly trained. I’ll have another physician cover your patients. Plus, you may need the extra hands and the nurses will come in handy. According to Lindsay, Mr. Merrick needs stitches.”

Dr. Shore sighs and turns to Harriet and Karen. “Ladies, it’s best if I do all the talking. We high society types are accustomed to a certain level of conversation and—”

The two women scowl at him and he shuts up. They leave for Triage.

“Wait a minute,” Valerie says. “Miss Peters will greet Mr. Merrick first and escort him to Room Three.”

I gasp. “Me?”

“We must show Mr. Merrick that we work as a team. I would greet him myself, but we don’t want to look too obvious now, do we?”

Before I can protest, Valerie addresses Dr. Shore. “While Miss Peters greets Mr. Merrick, you, Harriet, and Karen will gather the supplies needed to treat a superficial head wound and set them by the bedside for maximum efficiency.”

Dr. Shore holds his hands up in defense. “That’s a nurse’s job. I’m a medical practitioner.”

Valerie grits her teeth. “Now, Harvey.”

Dr. Shore mutters something under his breath and walks toward the supply room, Harriet and Karen in tow.

Valerie faces me. “Quickly, Miss Peters. Time is money.” She leaves me standing with the remaining RNs who offer sympathetic smiles before dispersing.

Derek approaches and slaps me on the back. “Work it, girl. Show that billionaire who’s boss.”

I swallow hard and nod.

On my walk to Triage, I look down at my baggy scrubs. I’m not wearing any makeup and my hair is a mess. And Valerie wants
me
to greet the VIP in the next room?

So much for a donation.

I smooth out my top and straighten my shoulders before pushing open the double doors. Triage has exploded in my absence. Lindsay rushes around the room trying to keep up with patient screening. I glance at the pile of charts at the nurses’ station. Mr. Merrick’s file coincidentally sits on top.

As I step out from behind the desk with the folder in hand, a young woman rushes up to me, holding an infant in her arms.

“Please, help my son! He has a fever and I fear it’s getting worse.”

“Yes, of course.” I look over her shoulder. “Lindsay! I need help here.”

A firm hand grabs my forearm. It belongs to Valerie.

She glares at me. “Attend to Mr. Merrick.”

I open my mouth to object as the young mother weeps in my ear, but Valerie speaks first. “Please have a seat, ma’am. A nurse will see you shortly.”

“But my son!”

Valerie smiles thinly. “Please, have a seat.”

The young mother staggers toward a vacant chair and sits down. Tears cascade down her cheeks. Anger encourages me to stand my ground and advocate for her son to be seen first, but I know arguing with my boss is futile. Valerie gives me another glare, and then vanishes.

I sweep my eyes across the room in search of Mr. Money Bags. He sits in a chair in the corner, swiping his thumb over his cell phone screen. A bloodstained gauze is taped to his forehead.

Mr. Merrick looks up as I approach. I inhale sharply when I meet his vibrant blue eyes, inviting his dark, spicy scent into my lungs.

“Hello,” he says.

I survey all of him at once: mussed brown hair, fancy suit, shined shoes. My throat seizes so I can’t speak while my mouth hangs wide open. He holds me spellbound until a shrill cry from a child in the waiting room reminds me of the hysterical mother and her sick infant still waiting to be seen.

“Mr. Merrick.” I square my shoulders. “Right this way, sir.”

He holds my stare and makes no move to follow me. I swallow the lump in my throat.

“Mr. Merrick,” I say, louder this time. “The doctor will see you now.”

The corners of his mouth lift into a smirk. My heart launches into a frantic pace, as though I’ve received a shock from a defibrillator.

“Thank you, Miss . . .” His eyes roam to my breasts. “Peters.”

I blush, realizing he was only reading my identification badge.

You’re an idiot, Sara.

Mr. Merrick looks like Mr. GQ, while I’m modeling the latest in frumpy nurse fashion. I curse myself for buying my scrubs two sizes too big just because they were on clearance.

Shaking my head, I try to refocus on the task at hand. Mr. Merrick looks amused by my hesitation. I assume he receives this kind of reaction from all women and thrives off of it.

And I thought Dr. Shore’s ego was massive.

I gesture for him to follow me. “Sir, if you please.”

Mr. Merrick stands and buttons his suit jacket. He’s tall, around six feet, and his build is strong and lean. I try and pinpoint what it is about him that has me scrambling to put a coherent sentence together. My answer comes easily, even though I’ve had only one serious romantic relationship in all of my twenty-two years, which was short-lived and mediocre at best.

Trenton Merrick exudes pure sex: chiseled features, bedroom eyes, delicious smirk. Everything about him screams confidence and sexual prowess. Even more, it seems effortless.

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