Mentally I reviewed the symptoms of a heart attack-because getting caught right now, I believed I was having one. Chest pain, neck pain, shortness of breath, no heartbeat! Yeah, I could pass out right about now.
Quickly I slipped off my gloves then turned around to see Neal standing there. How the hell had he gotten back in? Duh. There had to be a staff entrance. That’s right. Doctors and nurses came in through a door that was on the south side of the building where their parking lot was located. Geez. I never parked there since I always walked here.
“Oh, hey.” I stepped forward. Thank goodness he was smiling…or make that ogling me. Maybe the all black outfit looked weird. Sure it did.
“Hey. Is there a problem, Pauline?”
Problem? How did he know? Oh, wait. “Problem with Goldie?”
Neal shook his head. I realized he looked oh so casual for him. Brown suede jacket. Blue jeans, snuggly fitting in all the right places, and brown boots. Yum. He looked yummy.
“Did he call you or something?” Neal stepped forward and placed his hand on the small of my back.
“Oh, yeah. Something. I better go see him. I didn’t want to wake anyone so I was sneaking around. Like I’m some kind of spy!” I laughed and thank goodness he joined me. “Oops. We should be quiet.” I leaned forward and forced myself to kiss him on the lips. Really. It was forced.
He eased me back and looked around. I guessed he didn’t want any of the staff to see us…you know. Then he guided me toward Goldie’s room, and I suddenly realized that my patient was snoring away. What the hell was I going to use for an excuse?
It was then that I realized it paid to be a good person in one’s life. Kerie Cetin walked around the corner and saw us. She hurried closer and said, “Oh, Dr. Forsyth. This is so strange. I was just about to page you. Mrs. Seymour is having some excessive swelling. Can you come take a look at her?”
“Excuse me,” Neal said to me.
I nodded and smiled. “No problem. I hope she’s fine.”
Kerie hurried away with him.
And I looked upward and winked. “Thanks.”
I turned and walked back to the elevator, realizing I wouldn’t have to crawl out of Goldie’s second story room window. I’d use the staff entrance-and no one would be the wiser.
With Jagger MIA, I gave myself a mental “atta girl,” knowing he’d do the same. However, it really didn’t feel the same. In other words I didn’t feel it down to my toes.
The digital clock said two and I groaned, realizing it was actually 2:00 A.M. Jogging back after my Neal scare had me revved up and falling asleep didn’t come easily. I’d have to nap in Goldie’s room tomorrow at the rate I was going.
Thank goodness the night had turned out profitably…and having nearly slept with the guy who caught you sneaking around had to be a plus.
I smiled, turned over, hugged my pillow and decided I’d force myself to sleep, and before I knew it the sun was glaring in my window, the damn clock had only moved four hours, and I had to get up for the day.
“Are you shitting me, Suga?” Goldie asked, then made some kind of surprised noise. It was difficult to identify sounds with old Gold.
“No. Neal caught me right outside your door. You do snore like a lumberjack, Gold.”
We both laughed and went over the evidence that I’d found last night. Goldie was so proud of me, I felt like a little kid getting a gold star on my homework.
“So, Jagger disappeared, huh?” Goldie asked.
“Don’t start on him, Gold. I have no idea where he went. All I know is, I don’t need him.”
Goldie gave me a nod, but it was followed by a “but you want him” kind of look. Thank goodness he didn’t verbalize, cause there was no way I could lie to my best friend.
I waved my hands in the air. “Enough about that. What the hell am I going to do about my date with Neal tonight?”
Goldie walked to the window, sat in the chair and looked at me. “Do, Suga? I’d think you would know what to do.”
“If you were closer, I’d smack you, but I’m too tired to get up.” I rolled over onto my side as I pulled the duvet up on Goldie’s bed. “I mean, I should be wrapping this investigation up, Gold. I really don’t have time for a date.”
“A $255,000 date?”
I peeked at him from under the duvet. “I hope I don’t have to spring for the damn dinner!”
What does one wear to a 255 grand date? I asked myself that question a gazillion times and even looked around my empty room and asked Samuel. “You’re no help, Sam,” I said then laughed.
A gentle breeze touched my face.
I laughed again. “Okay. You’re a guy anyway. I’m sure we’d never agree on what looked good for me to wear. Only Goldie and Miles have that market cornered.”
I lifted my black dress and decided that was the only decent thing I had. Then again, I’d worn it the other night and Neal never did say how dressy we were going to get. There was nothing worse than showing up for a date under- or overdressed.
I flopped onto my bed, pulled my cell from my scrubs top and poked in the numbers.
“Hey,” I started to say then realized it was Neal’s voice mail. So I left the “what to wear tonight” message, flipped the cell closed and pulled the blanket over me. There wasn’t much I could do until I heard from him.
For a few seconds I stared at my cell phone, and then picked it up. “Damn it. I shouldn’t do this, but-” I pressed the contacts button, scrolled down and pressed Talk.
“The Nextel subscriber you are trying to reach is not available,” the disembodied voice said in my ear.
I slammed the phone shut-as if Jagger could see that I’d tried to reach him.
Strictly for business purposes.
My eyes flew open to see the red light blinking on my cell phone. I had a voice-mail message. Jagger? I pressed the button, listened to the female voice go through her rigmarole and then heard, “Casual. Jeans are fine. Bring a sweater or jacket.”
Okay, he wasn’t Jagger, but my stomach fluttered at the sound of his voice and my mind flashed back to imagining a near-miss of pretty damn decent sex (remember, I had no recent comparisons). I sat up in bed-feeling as if Samuel were right next to me, jeering.
“Damn it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re a long lost descendent of none other than my Jagger.” I laughed and realized how easily the word “my” had come out. Then I jumped out of bed and headed for a shower-a cold one.
“You look fantastic, Pauline,” Neal said as he put his arm around me and kissed my cheek.
I purred. Purred? Geez how unlike me, but it felt kinda good. “Thanks. You don’t look so bad yourself, although for 255,000 bucks, I’d expect maybe a tuxedo.”
We both laughed, and I realized the little crow’s-feet at the ends of Neal’s eyes deepened significantly when he laughed-and the damn things were way too sexy. He probably spent a bit too much time out in the sun, and guys were notorious for not using sunscreen. But then again, it did look good on him.
“So, Doc, where are we headed in our casuals?” Neal’s hand moved to the small of my back and he led me out the door. I could get used to this. Really.
“It’s a surprise.”
Yikes. He’d leaned closer to my ear, as if I couldn’t hear normal talking, and when his breath tickled my cheek, I sighed and mumbled, “A surprise sounds…surprising.”
A surprise sounds surprising?
What the hell? I really needed to take a deep breath and to get out more. I let Neal guide me to his car. After I got in, I took several long, slow breaths to get my wits about me. This was way too much excitement for a gal from Hope Valley.
Newport. Money. House with a name. Handsome doc. Wow.
As we drove along Bellevue, Neal cranked up the CD on his stereo. Not much into music except the few country songs I liked by Trisha Yearwood and Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying,” I was not any kind of expert.
By the time we made it down to America’s Cup Avenue, I couldn’t stand the suspense. “Come on, Neal. Give me a clue.”
My heart danced and hormones surged.
“We’re almost there. Patience is a virtue, Pauline.”
“Ha! You just enjoy being in charge!” We laughed some more and soon Neal turned into a parking lot at the marina. “We’re going on a boat?”
Yikes. Water. Not a good swimmer. Maybe seasickness.
“No.” He shut the car off, leaned near, touched my hair, gently pushing it behind my ear, and said, “We’re going on my boat.”
“Oh…my…God…that sounds…fantastic,” I whispered, as if I could swim to save my life if the boat capsized.
Something that large is not going to capsize, Pauline, I told myself, looking at the gigantic white yacht bobbing gracefully before me, all the while twisting my pink locket in my hands. I’d forgotten to take it off when changing, but it came in handy for nervous energy.
Neal bustled about with lines and carrying stuff from the car. A picnic basket of sorts that I wondered might be filled with food was the first thing he’d brought out.
The boat bobbed.
My stomach lurched.
Damn. “I wish I had some Dramamine in my purse,” I mumbled.
“Prone to seasickness?” Neal asked.
I swung around, ready to jump in the water and drown myself. “Umm.”
“We could head back to a drugstore and get some, but then I’ll be late making my post-op rounds tonight.”
I thought of Goldie. “No. I don’t want you to do that.” I opened my purse and started to look inside.
“Well, what do you have in there? Anything of use?” he asked.
I dug around until I found my pill case, opened it and took out a little pink and white capsule.
“Well, there you go. Benadryl. Should help. Take that,” he said and eased my hand toward me. “Good thing you had it.”
“I carry Benadryl in case I ever have some weird allergic reaction.”
“Even though it’s not for motion sickness, Pauline, it might help alleviate any nausea because it has the histamine blocker ability.” His eyes kind of sparkled when he said it. I smiled to myself. Doc Neal looked so proud of himself. Then again, maybe he just wanted me to enjoy the boat ride.
Made sense coming from a doctor, so I promptly popped it into my mouth.
He looked at me and smiled.
I smiled back then thought, Shit. I only hope the Benadryl doesn’t make me sleepy!
The pictures on the wall shifted-as did my stomach.
I looked up from my comfy spot in the cabin near Neal and watched him sail or drive or whatever the yacht until we were out in the Atlantic far enough that I couldn’t see any land.
How romantic…if I didn’t barf.
If I didn’t watch the pictures sway, hear the swells of water outside the front window or acknowledge that this teeny, tiny boat could actually flip over like the Poseidon, I would be enjoying myself.
Then I yawned.
“Is it the company?” Neal asked, turning around to look at me.
“Hey, keep your eye on the road, water, whatever. And, no, it isn’t the company.” I yawned two more times. “I think yawning is a sign of lack of oxygen.”
He did something with some parts on what I called the dashboard of this vessel and walked over to me, bent down and took my hands in his. “Then we need to do something about that. Maybe mouth-to-mouth?”
As his delicious lips covered mine, I muttered, “Shouldn’t someone be at the helm…what the hell is a helm…or…”
Neal took my head in his hands, kissed me several times and kissed me again. “No need. We’re fine.”
“Umm. Fine. We’re…” Suddenly he lifted me up and all my motion worries vanished.
The bright sun had settled below the horizon, casting a reddish-pink glow across the sky and water. The waves seemed to calm in order to give us a few special minutes to…
I figured Neal knew what he was talking about by letting the boat float around all by itself. What’s the worst that could happen anyway?
We’d drift out to sea and have to spend more time together?
“I seem to be getting my money’s worth-” I kissed him behind the ear and amid his moans finished with, “-out of this date.”
A deep chuckle tickled my cheek. Neal’s arms were around me, over me, and like some testosterone-soaked octopus, on every wonderful part of me. Getting a little rough, but guys will be guys.
This time we moaned in pleasure together.
“Ever made love out at sea?” he asked against my cheek.
I paused. There was that one cruise I’d taken, but with all the murders, making love had not been on my itinerary. “Nope.”
Neal lifted me up and carried me toward the stairs, which led down to a cabin-the likes of which were fancier than my condo at home, and I’d never tell Miles that since he owned and decorated it.
The sandstone walls were circular, as were the mahogany dressers built into said walls, which surrounded a-you guessed it-circular bed. Gold, brown and navy striped covers neatly sat on the mattress with pillow shams, with drapes and two stuffed chairs to match.
Very nautical bachelor.
“Beautiful,” I said as he set me down on the duvet. “You the interior decorator?”
He chuckled. “Surgeons-make that most men in general-are not very good at that stuff.”
Then who was? Damn it! I had no business asking that question.
While I chastised myself, Neal busied himself with removing my jacket, unbuttoning my blouse and slipping it off. He then very gently set it on the bedside chair. How cute.
Not the most spontaneous person around, I asked again, “Are you sure no one needs to be upstairs driving this thing?”
“I’m sure, Pauline. I’ve been sailing since I was about nine.” Oops. I thought I’d just insulted him. He gently undid my pink locket and carefully set it on the pile of my clothing.
“But you’re not sailing.” He nuzzled my neck at the spot just below my jawline. Oh…wow. Good thing he’d taken off the locket or it might have accidentally sprayed him. That would be a real sexual deal breaker for sure.
“She’s well-equipped with instruments, lights, an anchor and all kinds of fancy stuff so that we can…do what the hell we want down here. Besides, it’s a quiet night, but with the bright full moon any other boats that pass by will clearly see us. Stop worrying.”
I hadn’t even thought of another boat ramming into us. “Thanks for that,” I said.
Neal lifted me up slightly to yank the duvet and covers down. The sheets had to have been woven with a thousand thread count. I felt as if I could slide right off the side with the tilt and roll of the boat.
And my mind had been too preoccupied with Neal to remember that earlier I’d felt like seasick crap.
I did yawn again.
“No, it’s not the company,” I said as I undid the zipper on Neal’s jacket.
Soon he was only in his jeans-and I realized I had a real “thing” for shirtless, well-built jean-clad guys.
I, however, had my jeans gingerly removed in one sensual moment by Neal. Hey, he was a doctor for crying out loud!
My vision blurred a bit as another damn yawn snuck out. Although I didn’t want to admit it, the damn Benadryl had knocked me for a loop. Shit. I decided staying “active” would help keep me awake.
Neal bent over to lift his jacket and shirt up from the floor. I had to smile to myself at the guy’s perfection qualities. Jagger would have walked all over both of our clothing without a thought.
But the doc pulled his red shirt from the jacket, folded it, stuck it on the bedside stand and started to fold the shirt.
“Force of habit. I’ll be right with…”
Neal was talking. I knew it because I could hear his voice. But I wasn’t comprehending a thing as I watched him fold his shirt so carefully.
Shirt with the one side pocket…missing a tiny piece.