Chapter 1
 

Mia

 

“Wow. I’m actually here.”

Tilting my head back, I took in the giant red-brick building. The grin on my lips slowly stretched into a full-on smile. I’d wanted this for too many years to count. And by this, I meant working here at Memorial Hospital. Or more specifically, working on Dr. Sebastian Ryker’s team.

I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I had a stack of photos of five-year-old me carefully treating my fuzzy friends as evidence. But it wasn’t until my third year of medical school that I knew I wanted to specialize in diagnostics.

One of my favorite professors—he had coincidentally been Dr. Ryker’s professor too—had come into class one morning, just about bursting at the seams with excitement. He’d reached into his leather satchel and pulled out a paper. When he started reading the article Dr. Ryker had written about how the H1N1 virus could’ve been identified a lot earlier, I’d been transfixed. Something inside of me clicked into place and I just knew diagnostics and I were meant for each other.

That was how my obsession with Dr. Ryker’s work was born. There wasn’t a paper he had written that I didn’t know about or an article about him that I hadn’t read. He was my professional hero. I didn’t just want to work for him, I wanted to be him.

Oh, it was also possible I had the tiniest crush on him too. He might’ve been twelve years my senior, but the man was one beautiful specimen. Pretty sure I was just one of a whole string of women who thought that, but I was most likely the only one who’d never do anything about it.

I was there to work. Nothing more, nothing less.

My gaze shifted to the bright blue sky hanging above me and a sliver of sadness touched my heart. I couldn’t feed it; he wouldn’t have wanted me to.

Instead, I closed my eyes and whispered, “I made it, Daddy.”

A soft breeze brushed over my face and I allowed myself to believe it was my father telling me he was proud of this accomplishment. Cancer might’ve claimed his life, but his soul would forever be alive in me. Following my dreams—like he’d told me to—was my way of honoring the man who not only raised me but turned me into the woman I was today.

Opening my eyes, I turned my attention back to the imposing building in front of me; taking in the lush green grass and the giant shrub shaped in an m+. I hiked my bag higher over my shoulder and after smoothing my palms down my denim-covered legs, I walked through the sliding doors.

The glass parted with a hiss, the distinctive hospital smell immediately washing over me. Stepping inside felt a lot like coming home. As if every cell in my body knew this was where I belonged.

My eyes roamed over the interior, taking in every single detail I could. The long L-shaped check-in desk tinted light blue with the hospital name stamped on it in bold white letters. The gray chairs that made up the waiting area were arranged back-to-back in three neat rows.

Dropping my gaze to the shiny floor beneath my feet, I grinned. It was about two shades lighter than the chairs, but I still could make out my blurry reflection in it.

A fierce sense of accomplishment fell over me once more. With hard work and a lot of determination, I’d set off after my dreams and I was so much closer to making them a reality.

Behind me, the door whooshed open again right before someone politely asked, “Excuse me.”

 “Sorry.”

I was so transfixed that I hadn’t even realized that I was standing inside the entrance.  I moved to the side, giving the man and his paraplegic companion enough room to pass by.

My gaze followed them as they made their way to the nurse sitting behind the check-in desk. She smiled sweetly at whatever the man said before handing him a clipboard. Flicking my wrist, I noted that I still had another forty minutes before I had to check in with Gillian on the fourth floor.

The diagnostics floor.

My floor.

For the next three months, and hopefully permanently after that. Because Memorial didn’t have a pressing need for so many diagnosticians, they hired us on a probationary period. After three months only one of us would remain on the diagnostics floor while the other three would be transferred to different departments in the hospital.

I released a puff of air from my lungs, the action drumming my lips together and producing a brr sound before making my way to the elevators. I’d only been on Memorial’s diagnostics floor once before, on the day of my interview, but even before that, I knew that there were only 14 beds because Dr. Ryker believed the fewer patients in your care at one specific time, the better treatment they’d receive.

Stabbing the upward pointing arrow, I turned to scan the emergency room one last time while I waited. It was pretty full, but that could be expected. People didn’t always come to the ER with ‘real’ emergencies. If I had to guess, I’d estimate about 1 in 4 cases were life-threatening or at least close to being serious.

Looking from person to person, nothing seemed major—to the naked eye at least. That was until I spotted an older man sitting by himself in the corner. Even from where I was standing, he looked a bit gray around the edges. His fist was curled tightly into the left side of his shirt and his chest was rising and falling at an alarming pace.

Ice worked its way down my spine. Dropping my bag to the floor, I set off running toward him. He was trying to get up now, swaying on the spot. His face contorted; confusion evident in his elderly features. I forced my legs to go faster, but I still wasn’t fast enough.

It happened in a split second; one moment he was upright and the next he’d collapsed into a heap on the floor. Panic took over and people immediately started crowding him.

“Move! Get out of the way!” I yelled, pushing my way through the throng.

When I finally made it to the man, I dropped to my knees and gently moved him onto his back. Bending over him, I held my ear against his mouth. Nothing. I needed to start doing chest compressions, and I needed to do it immediately.

I placed one hand on top of the other and laced my fingers together before pressing the palm of my bottom hand in the center of the man’s chest. Keeping my arms straight and my shoulders directly over my hands, I started pushing hard and fast.

One… two… three… four…

I spotted movement in my peripheral vision before I saw a flash of light blue. Keeping up with the compressions, I whipped my head up in time to see a nurse rushing toward me.

“I need to get him to a bed. Now!” I barked before she had time to open her mouth.

Twenty-one… twenty-two… twenty-three… The crowd surrounding us parted like the red sea to make way for the nurses barreling through with the gurney. The patient still wasn’t breathing, and I knew that every single second mattered.

I halted my compressions long enough to allow them to get the man onto the bed before I hopped on too. Straddling him, I immediately resumed working on his chest.

“Uh… ma’am,” the male nurse stuttered. “We’ve got it from here.”

Still counting in my head, I looked up and spared him a smile. “It’s okay, I work here. Now, you better move so we can get this man to a crash cart!”

He looked a bit bewildered, but thankfully he had the good sense to make his feet move. My arms were in a world of hurt by this time, but I refused to stop.

Come on, come on. Please don’t die.

Witnessing death was inevitable in my profession and according to most doctors, you grow kind of immune to it. I wasn’t most doctors. I believed in helping people and prolonging life—unless it wasn’t what they wanted, but that was neither here nor there right then. Most importantly, I took an oath.

We made a sharp turn into an exam room which was flooded with medical staff a second later. Confident that these people could handle it from here, I removed my hands from the patient’s chest and jumped off the bed.

Walking backward, I kept my eyes on them as they ripped open his shirt and prepared him for the defibrillator. They moved fast, wiping his chest and attaching the pads.

Everyone took a step back and one of the doctors yelled, “Clear!”

Just as the man’s back arched off the bed, mine connected with something hard.

I spun around and let out a little gasp when I found dark, intense eyes trained on me. It wasn’t just any pair of eyes. They belonged to none other than Dr. Sebastian Ryker.

The Dr. Sebastian Ryker.

My hero and new boss.

Behind me, I heard the distinctive beep-beep-beep of a heart finding its rhythm and a little swell of pride bloomed in my chest.

I helped save a man today.

My mouth twitched, a smile just begging to be set free. But one look at the man I’d admired for years and I immediately pressed my lips together in a thin, tight line.

He did not seem pleased. In fact, he looked pretty pissed off. Dr. Ryker’s jaw ticked with unmasked irritation, his eyes sweeping over me in a quick, dismissive manner.

What the hell?

“You’re one of mine, right?” The north pole had more warmth than his tone.

I stood a little taller. “I am.”

“You can’t do that.”

“What? Save a man’s life?” I cocked my head and narrowed my eyes. “I thought my job was doing exactly that.”

Tone it down, Mia… You don’t want to get fired before you even start.

A storm brewed in those dark, dark eyes; the intensity of his stare stealing the air from my lungs. I swallowed the lump stuck in my throat. This was it. He was going to tell me to march my butt off the premises.

His nostrils flared, and his mouth opened.

Before he could utter a single word, another doctor appeared behind him and smacked a palm against his shoulder blade. If Dr. Ryker resembled a thunderstorm, the newcomer could be called a sunny day. His blond hair was tousled in a way that made me think he’d just rolled out of bed. The line of his jaw was sharp and chiseled and his eyes were bright blue.

“You picking on the newbies again, Seb?”

I bet that British accent had all the ladies swooning like idiots. He focused on me and even though I didn’t think it was possible, his face lit up even more.

“Dr. Simon Hogue.” Sidling up next to Dr. Ryker, he stuck his hand out. “Nice to meet you.”

“Dr. Mia Phillips.” Wrinkling my brow, I asked, “How did you know I’m new here?”

Dr. Hogue took a step back and nudged Dr. Ryker’s shoulder with his own. “Oh, Seb here has all your faces on a board in his office.”

A weird sound rumbled through Dr. Ryker’s chest. It sounded like a cross between a huff and a growl. He trained his dark eyes on me again.

“I’m sure Gillian is waiting for you.” One equally dark eyebrow slowly arched.

Right, that was my cue.

“Pleasure to meet you, Dr. Hogue.”

Without sparing the other doctor another glance, I side-stepped them both and made a dash for the elevators.

At least I still had a job… for now.

 
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