Table of Contents
MORE TITLES BY JULIE GARWOOD
Fire and Ice
Come the Spring
The Clayborne Brides
For the Roses
The Lion’s Lady
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Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, August 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Julie Garwood
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The ideal man / Julie Garwood.
ISBN : 978-1-101-53552-3
1. Government investigators—Fiction. 2. Women physicians—Fiction. 3. Witnesses—Fiction. 4. Kidnapping—Fiction. 5. South Carolina—Fiction. I. Title.
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To Macy Elyse and Kennedy Paige for all the joy you’ve brought to my life.
Thank heaven for little girls.
he first time she slit a man’s throat she felt sick to her stomach. The second time? Not so much.
After she cut five or six more, the blade in her left hand began to feel like an extension of her body, and she started to take it all in stride. The exhilaration subsided, and so did the nausea. There was no longer a rush of anxiety, no longer a racing heartbeat. Blood didn’t faze her. The thrill was gone, and that, in her line of work, was a very good thing.
Dr. Eleanor Kathleen Sullivan, or Ellie as she was called by her family and friends, was just four days shy of completing a grueling surgical fellowship in one of the busiest trauma centers in the Midwest. Since trauma was her specialty, she had certainly seen her share of mangled and brutalized bodies. It was her responsibility to put them back together, and as a senior fellow, she had the added duty of training the first – and second-year residents.
St. Vincent’s emergency room had been full since 4:00 A.M. that morning, and Ellie was finishing what she hoped was her last surgery of the day, a repair of a splenic rupture. A teenager, barely old enough to have a driver’s license, had decided to test the limits of the speedometer in his parents’ Camry and had lost control, rolling the car over an embankment and landing upside down in an open field. Lucky for him, he had been wearing a seat belt, and luckier still, a man following some distance behind him had seen the whole thing and was able to call for an ambulance immediately. The boy made it to the emergency room just in time.
Ellie was observed by three second-year surgical residents, who hung on her every word. She was a natural teacher and, unlike 90 percent of the surgeons on staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital, didn’t have much of an ego. She was amazingly patient with the medical students and residents. While she worked, she explained—and explained again—until they finally understood what she was doing and why. No question was deemed too insignificant or foolish, which was one of the many reasons they idolized her, and for the male residents, the fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous didn’t hurt. Because she was such a talented surgeon and supportive teacher, all these fledgling doctors fought to sign up for her rotation. Ironically, what they didn’t know was that she was younger than most of them.
“You’re off duty this weekend, aren’t you, Ellie?”
Ellie glanced over at Dr. Kevin Andrews, the anesthesiologist, who had asked the question. He had joined the staff six months before and, since the day he’d met Ellie, had been hounding her to go out with him. He was an outrageous flirt and yet very sweet. Blond hair, blue eyes, tall and well built with an adorable smile, he could turn the head of almost every woman in the hospital, but for Ellie there just wasn’t any spark.
“Yes, I am. I have the whole weekend off,” she answered. “Charlie, would you like to close up for me?” she asked one of the hovering residents.
“Absolutely, Dr. Sullivan.”
“You better hurry,” Andrews said. “I’m waking him up.”
The resident looked panic-stricken.
“Take your time, Charlie. He’s just messing with you,” she said, a smile in her voice.
“Tuesday’s your last day at St. Vincent’s, isn’t it?” Andrews asked.
“That’s right. Tuesday’s my last official day. I might help out on a temporary basis later on, but I’m not promising anything yet.”
decide to come back permanently.”
She didn’t reply.
He persisted. “They’ll give you anything you want. You could name your price, your hours . . . you should stay here, Ellie. You belong here.”
She didn’t agree or disagree. In truth, she didn’t know where she belonged. It had been such a hard road to get this far, she hadn’t had time to think about the future. At least that was the excuse she used for her indecision.
“Maybe,” she finally conceded. “I just don’t know yet.”
She stood over Charlie, watching like a mother hen. “I want those stitches tight.”
“Yes, Dr. Sullivan.”
“So Monday night is my last chance to take you to heaven?” Andrews asked in a teasing drawl.
She laughed. “Heaven? Last week you were going to rock my world. Now you’re going to take me to heaven?”
“I guarantee it. I’ve got testimonials if you want to see them.”
“It’s not going to happen, Kevin.”
“I’m not giving up.”
She sighed. “I know.”
As she checked the last suture, she rolled her shoulders and stretched her neck to one side then the other to get the kinks out. She’d been in the OR since 5:00 A.M., which meant she had been bent over patients for eleven hours. Sad to say, that wasn’t a record for her.
She felt wrung out and stiff and sore. A good run around the park would get those muscles moving, she decided, maybe even rev up her energy.
“You know what would help you get rid of a stiff neck?” Andrews said.
“Let me guess. A trip to heaven?”
One of the nurses snorted with laughter. “He’s awfully persistent, Dr. Sullivan. Maybe you should give in.”
Ellie removed her gloves and dropped them in the trash bag by the OR doors. “Thanks, Megan, but I think I’ll just go for a run instead.” As she pushed the doors wide, she untied her surgical mask and pulled off her cap, shaking her blond hair loose to fall to her shoulders.
Twenty minutes later she was officially off duty. She changed into her workout clothes, a pair of faded red shorts and a white tank top. She double-tied her beat-up running shoes, grabbed a rubber band and swept her hair up in a ponytail, slipped her iPod into one pocket and her cell phone into the other, and she was ready. Walking a maze of corridors to get outside, she avoided the direct route through the ER for fear she’d get waylaid with another case.
There was never a lack of patients rolling through the doors. Along with the usual emergencies—the car accidents, the heart attacks, the work injuries—the ER saw a steady stream of victims of violent crimes. The vast majority were young men. Gangs roamed the area east of the highway, and shooting one another seemed to be a nightly sport. Since St. Vincent’s was the largest trauma center in St. Louis, all the serious cases came to them. Weekends were a nightmare for the staff. There were times, especially during the hot summer months, when gurneys lined the halls of the ER with patients handcuffed to the railings while they waited to go into surgery. Additional police had to be routinely called in to monitor them to make certain one gang member hadn’t been placed too close to a rival.