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Fifteen

Goldies death grip had my hand turning white. Make that made my hand as white as his pale face. Suga, Suga, Suga, he moaned.

I leaned forward and kissed his forehead. Im going to tell Neal that all bets are off on your surgery for today. You changed your mind.

Noooooooooo! Despite the fact I thought it impossible, his grip tightened. No, Suga. Im just being melodramatic-

So whats new? a male said from behind me.

I swung around to see Miles, holding a bouquet of red roses.

I thought that voice sounded familiar, but had no idea that youd plan to come today. Then again- I looked at Goldie, who was now smiling. My numb hand had been released. -I should have known.

He knew, Miles said, walking into the room and setting the roses on the bed next to Goldie.

I swung back to Gold. What?

He shrugged. I didnt want the guy whod be cutting me to pieces to be thinking his date might cancel tonight.

So you called Miles to come all this way.

Like I could have stayed home, Miles said, kissing Goldie on the forehead. Who better to replace you tonight than an O.R. nurse-

Who I know will take the worlds best care of my patient. Group hug, guys.

We all leaned in to hug each other, and I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my head. Goldie swore he really didnt want to change his mind yet again. I bought his story, and Miles settled into the room since hed spend the night.

While I was touring Newport with the doc.

One could only hope he knew his way aroundeveryplace.


Im going to ask if they can give you a little something to calm you down, Gold. A pre-op cocktail of sorts. They usually dont like to give too much prior to surgery, so you wake up faster, but no one should be too worried and uncomfortable. I touched his hand. How I hated seeing my friend like this. Wed been waiting for what seemed like hours for them to take him to the O.R.

Goldie, snuggled under the duvet in the fetal position, merely looked at me and blinked as if hed forgotten how to talk.

I felt horrible putting him through this, so I told Miles to stay there-as if hed leave-and headed out to find the anesthesia people.

When I came up to the front desk, my eyes grew teary. Ian should have been working, but instead the evening receptionist had filled in, I guessed until they found a permanent replacement.

Excuse me. I looked at her name tag. Kimberly.

Kim. She stuffed a few papers into a folder. Damnedest filing system Ive even seen. I cant work like this.

I wanted to say that since Ian was dead, she probably could do what she wanted, but before I could, she said, Thank the good Lord Im not going to be here much longer.

Hm. Oh? Have they found a permanent replacement?

Yeah, Pauline. Me.

I looked toward the door behind the reception desk to see Lydia standing there. In her black slacks and white blouse she looked a few years older, but not any happier.

Hey. Great, Lydia. Youre taking overthats great.

Yeah. Ians job. Will wonders never cease? With that she walked past me and said, Kim will help you. Im officially in orientation, and its my tea break. See ya.

Interesting.

If her aunt owned this place and was so wealthy, why would poor Lydia have to work here as a receptionist-when obviously gigolo husband Devin didnt punch a clock for anyone.

Kim, I need to talk to whoever is doing the anesthesia for Mr. Goldie Perlmans eleven oclock rhinoplasty.

She looked as if my just standing there annoyed her, and now that I had a question that needed answering she was even more pissed. Geez. Folks around here were very complicated.

Maybe thats what money did to people.

Me, I wouldnt know.


Okay, Gold, Im going to give you a little sedative that will ease your anxiety. I lifted the IV tubing, wiped the rubber stopper part with an alcohol pad and stuck the needle in.

Shouldnt I count or something?

Miles and I chuckled. Sure. Count if you want, but this may not knock you out, merely relax you. I pushed the medication in slowly.

Within a few minutes Goldie snored like a sailor, Miles was watching The View, and I sat by the window praying to Saint Theresa that all would go well for Goldie.

Even from the second floor I could see Lydia walk past the window, and right on her heels wasOlivia Wheaton-Chandler. Although I could see they were talking-make that arguing-I couldnt read lips. However, Lydia looked furious.

My heart thudded.

The last person Id seen arguing with Olivia was Ian, who promptly ended up dead a few hours later.

Yikes!

I added a quick prayer for Lydia as the door opened. An orderly said, Were ready for Mr. Perlman, and the day began.

Tears were shed (mine). Goldie snored. And I insisted that Miles be allowed to walk to the O.R. with us.

When we got to the double doors of the surgical suite, we nudged Goldie awake, kissed him on the lips and turned to hug each other. Hes going to do spectacular, Miles. Spectacular.

He sniffled and nodded as they wheeled Goldie in. Not that I was happy Ian had been killed, but I was glad he wouldnt be there to snoop on Goldies surgery. Sounded way too perverted.

When I let go of Miles, a hand touched my shoulder. Half expecting Jagger to be standing there, I spun around ready for a friendly hug.

Ill take good care of him, Pauline, Neal said.

My heart did a little dance, which was a hell of a lot more fun than the earlier thudding experience. I know you will. Thanks, I muttered, and then introduced him to Miles.

Thats perfect. Well have a wonderful time tonight. Goldie will be in good hands and wellmake the rounds of the town.

Well, damn, didnt that just make my day?


He looks like a sleeping angel, Miles said as he tucked the duvet under Goldie, who snored away with his nose covered in bandages and packed like a travelers suitcase-only with surgical cotton packing.

I nodded. At least hes comfortable. I couldnt stand to see him in pain, and I know neither could you.

Miles wiped his finger across Goldies forehead. No.

Gold had to go to surgery sans drag, and without his wig, makeup and fantastic smile, he looked so very different, yet so very familiar. I almost suffered a maternal moment. Almost.

Miles turned toward me. Dont you need to go get ready for your big hot date? Hell be fine.

I know he will and my date is not a date nor is it hot. Its just a friend showing me around town.

Miles looked me in the eye. Pauline dear, straight guys do not want to be friends with chicks.

I knew he was right but out of principle smacked him on the arm. Okay. Im off. Ill have my cell on if you need me, but I know you are capable of caring for him.

Go.

I nodded, leaned over and kissed Goldie on the forehead. You did great, Gold. Just great.

He muttered something, and I smiled at Miles before heading out the door.


If I thought I changed my outfits a lot to not embarrass myself in front of Jagger, the pile of clothing (every stitch that Id brought with me including my pink scrubs) lay on the floor at my feet. Naked feet that went with my body. What the hell was I going to wear?

And was I really trying to impress Dr. Neal?

Jeans. I should just wear jeans and clean underwear without worrying about matching colors. The clean part came from-who else?-Stella Sokol. You know the drill. Clean underwear in case you got into an accident. I smiled to myself, missed my family a bit and decided I neednt make such a big deal about what to wear. After all it was merely a tour of Newport-with a swanky, sexy, hot doctor.

I flopped onto the bed.

You about ready for dinner, Sherlock?

For a second I thought Id dozed off and was dreaming. Then I looked to see that I had on nothing and, knowing Jagger, he probably could see through the wood door.

I flew up from the bed, grabbed the closest things I could-my jogging shorts and tee-stuck them on and walked toward the door.

When I opened it, Jagger looked at me. Was that a grin?

What? Do I have spinach in my teeth or something? I held the door and leaned against it, not inviting him in. Hopefully he couldnt see the pile of my belongings on the floor-because then thered be questions with embarrassing, I was sure, answers.

He leaned closer. Or something.

I pushed at his chest so he wouldnt come in. Youre not making any sense.

He gave me the once-over. After my toes uncurled, I allowed myself to be ticked. Guys.

Men dont have to make sense, Sherlock.

There was a grin. Jagger was in some kind of mood!

I actually laughed. True. Look, about dinner-

Theres a great local place I want to go to. Portuguese. You up for Portuguese?

I almost said Sure, but instead my sanity returned and I said, No.

Okay. You pick. He tried to step inside, all the while looking at my outfit.

Maybe the colors didnt match, but there was no need for him to stare like that. Men in all black were not exactly fashionadas. Sexy as hell, yep. What I meant was, Im not picking anything and stop assuming Im going out to eat with you every night. I have a life.

Id never noticed any hint of being taken aback in Jagger, but right now there was a teeny, tiny hint in his eyes. Jagger was surprised that I was busy.

Good!

He moved closer.

I stepped back.

Wrong move. Before I knew it he was in my room, noticing the pile of clothing and about to say something.

I waved my hands in the air. Dont even ask. Im busy. Reorganizing. I tried to turn him to push him toward the door, but he didnt budge. Not that that surprised me.

Busy?

I let out a long sigh. Okay, Jagger. As if you didnt know, I have a date. Yes. A date with Dr. Neal Forsyth, Goldies surgeon.

And youve gone through your entire wardrobe several times and came up with red shorts and a purple tee.

It wasnt a question, but I started to explain, but only managed to dig myself deeper. Im going to be late. Ill see you tomorrow.

He did turn, and over his shoulder said, You might want to rethink the underwear issue.

When the door shut, I yanked off my clothes.

No wonder he was staring.

OhmyGod.


Id settled on black slacks, a white top (thanks to Lydia today) and as much silver jewelry as Id brought with me. When I stepped back from the bathroom mirror, I pronounced myself done. Goldies past makeup techniques had made a world of difference for my looks. Very natural. I loved it.

It was then I realized I hadnt had any makeup on when Jaggerd surprised me.

I sighed and thought, So what is new?

The announcer on the radio said it was nearly seven. I decided this small room was nowhere for Neal to come get me so I hurried to get my wallet, cell phone and a tissue, stuck them in my pockets and went outside my room to go downstairs.

Jaggers door was open. He sat with his legs up on a cushioned ottoman and looked directly at me over his sailing magazine.

Then he gave me a thumbs-up.

I flew down the stairs in delight until I got to the bottom. A thumbs-up to go out on a date with someone else? What nerve!

I hope old Samuel haunts you tonight, I mumbled.

The front door swung open. I half expected Neal to be standing there but would have actually been surprised that he would shove the door so. Insteadthere was no one.

Yikes.

In my head I offered an apology to Sam, telling him to do what the heck he pleased even if it meant hanging all my clothes back up. Before I could shiver at the thought, Neal, in fact, did appear, looking very suave and handsome in navy slacks, an off-white silken shirt, and Im sure very expensive sunglasses.

We looked like two flight attendants.

Hey, I said. Hows Goldie?

He put his hand on the small of my back to guide me down the porch stairs and said, Perfect. Hes a perfect patient. Doing all that he is supposed to do.

No bleeding? I couldnt help myself. Once a nurse, always a nurse. Damn it.

He chuckled. None. Normal swelling. Normal temp. Normal vitals, Nurse Sokol. Your patient is recovering nicely and Miles is only inches away.

I smiled. Thanks.

He leaned over, kissed my cheek and whispered, No thanks needed.

When I went to step into Neals black Porsche, I noticed the curtains in the upstairs room, Jaggers room, move.

Hm. Samuel or Jagger?


So this is the church where the Kennedys got married, Neal said as we pulled in the parking lot of the unpretentious St. Marys Roman Catholic Church on the corner not too far from the center of town.

Neal held the door as I walked in. Oh, my, I whispered. You can almost feel their presence and picture them walking down the aisle. I stepped inside the seats and knelt down.

Neal joined me.

When I bent my head to say a quick prayer for Goldie, I noticed Neal doing the same. Hm. Nice guy. Good looking. And spiritual?

Stella Sokol would be stuffing almonds in lacy fabric for bridal shower table favors if she knew this.

Truthfully, even I was impressed with the doc.


We did a little walking tour around Bowens Wharf, which was filled with shops and eateries-and also where Id shared a meal with Jagger last night.

Damn.

Wish those reminders didnt pop up at such inopportune times. Neal was the perfect gentleman. Actually he reminded me a lot of Nick the freelance investigator, whom Id dated a bit. And Neal certainly knew his way around this swanky town. He gave me a bit of culture along the tour.

Slavery was actually very popular in this seaport, he said, sipping a glass of very expensive wine once wed stopped for a drink.

Good thing because the brick and cobblestone walks were getting to my feet. What on earth made me wear heels?

Wow. Slavery. Huh? Stuff like that really fascinates me. I sipped on my wine, which Neal had insisted I get instead of beer. Not that I minded, but I wondered if Neal was the possessive male type. At first glance Id have said no. But there were little hints.

However, after a self-imposed dating drought, a wee bit of possessiveness felt nice. Someone cared. Someone had taken the time to take me out. Yes!

We finished up, walked toward the marina section and back to Neals car.

Well take Ocean Drive out past Fort Adams State Park. Ill show you Hammersmith Farm too. He again guided me by placing a hand on the small of my back.

I sighed.

Isnt that where Jackie Kennedy grew up?

And the Kennedys reception was there. He opened the door, I got in, and after Id buckled up, he shut the door. How cute.

The drive was beautiful, especially when we got halfway out and the ocean popped into view. Neal continued his tour with all the local folklore then stuck on a Sting CD and paid attention to the road.

For a few seconds I thought Id doze off in sheer relaxation.

Then I realized why I was there. Not there in Neals car on a tour but there in Newport on a case. I looked at him from the corner of my eye and forced myself to say, I see a new receptionist has been found to replace Ian.

Neals hands tightened on the leather steering wheel.

Damn. It had to be painful for all the employees at Highcliff to accept that one of them had been murdered.

With his eyes straight ahead he said, Lydia wont last long.

He knew her. He knew her? Why do you say that? I thought the question would force his hand and hed have to say how he knew her.

Spoiled rich kids dont have work ethics, Pauline.

Yikes. Was he generalizing about them or did he really know Lydia personally?


Fourteen | Nip, Tuck, Dead | Sixteen