Maryanne ducked into the allergy clinic the next morning and pulled up her patient list on the computer. She had several patient notifications to catch up on before the allergy patients filed in for shots. Priya hit the switch that rolled up the steel shutters to the waiting room. No receptionist was on duty but patients had checked in with Bariatrics across the hall.
“Ahh… chooo!!!” Someone sneezed and blew a nose.
“Wait, you can’t leave that here.” Priya’s voice rose. “Hey, come back here.”
Maryanne glanced from her table. A colorful mixed bouquet sat on the receptionist’s counter, probably for Vera. She was petite and beautiful with a string of suitors, although none the marrying type. Her last boyfriend ended up in state prison for kidnapping and accessory to murder.
More sneezes followed by coughing emanated from the waiting room. Maryanne hurried to the waiting room followed by her boss, Dr. Lee. A young woman was hunched over struggling to breathe.
“She’s having an asthma attack,” Dr. Lee said, helping the patient onto a gurney. “Nebulize her with albuterol. And if that doesn’t resolve, a shot of epinephrine.”
“You’re going to be okay.” Maryanne prepared the medicine and strapped the nebulizer mouthpiece over the woman’s head. “Take a deep breath and hold it as long as you can, then breathe normally. Meanwhile I’ll get your blood pressure.”
The patient nodded weakly, her eyes wide open, but her breathing stabilized. After the patient was discharged, Maryanne hurried through her e-mail and replied to patients wanting clarification on their test results.
Dr. Lee’s firm hand rested on her table. “Get rid of them.”
“Huh?” Maryanne hit “send” on the email and opened the chart for her first patient.
“The flowers. The patients are getting sick.”
“Yes, sir.” She pushed away from her workstation and bumped into Vera at the door.
“You’re late,” Maryanne said. “Dr. Lee’s pissed, and you have to remove those flowers. I’ve got more charts to work on before Mrs. Soto comes in for her breathing test.”
“I had to drop off my niece and the traffic was horrible.”
“Yeah, yeah, save it for the boss.”
“Hey, I covered you yesterday. You took a long break. Jerry from Security said you saved a patient’s life. What happened?”
“I’ll tell you later.” Maryanne went back to her computer and navigated to her patient schedule. Lucas Knight’s booming laughter echoed from the day before. He hadn’t respected her, thought she was easy. Jerk!
A few minutes later, Priya tapped her shoulder. “Your first patient’s here, and those flowers are for you. Vera took them to Bariatrics to hold them.”
“Who are they from?”
“I didn’t open the envelope,” Priya said. “But you better tell whoever it is to stop it.”
Maryanne thanked Priya, the senior nurse who’d convinced Maryanne and Vera to quit sex in hope of a marriage proposal. All that resulted were several men who went all out and lost interest when she wouldn’t put out. Not that they had bodies worth compromising for. Not like an athlete’s firm, taut muscles. She shook off the image of Lucas’ inviting chest and picked up Mrs. Soto’s paperwork.
Maryanne greeted Mrs. Soto and led the way to the examination room. She turned the corner and bumped into an open file drawer. The charts scattered to the floor. She grumbled under her breath and felt like punching the wall. Why was she so easily frustrated these days?
“You feeling okay?” Mrs. Soto said. The motherly-looking woman was a long-time patient and always gave the younger nurses advice. “Men trouble?”
Maryanne attached a blood pressure cuff and pressed the button to start the reading. “No, just the usual jerks hitting on me.”
Mrs. Soto’s eyebrows bent in a quizzical angle. “Well, you hold out for the one who’s different. Remember what we talked about last time?”
“Yes, don’t give in.” Maryanne detached the cuff. “Normal 125/76, you’re doing great.”
Mrs. Soto rubbed her arm. “There’ll be someone who thinks you’re special. Mark my words.”
If only there were. Maryanne entered the data for the breathing test and cheered on Mrs. Soto as she took a deep breath and blew into the tube.
She left Mrs. Soto in the doctor’s office and picked up another patient for a skin test. She had nonstop allergy shots the rest of the morning and used her break to catch up on patient e-mails. She was the last one in the clinic when lunchtime rolled around.
Maryanne slung her purse over her shoulder and pushed the button to lower the rolling shutters to the waiting room. She swept a few plant and flower fragments on the counter into the wastebasket. A light brown hand slipped under the corrugated metal right before it hit the counter top. Maryanne tripped over the receptionist chair and missed the switch, but the shutters reversed itself automatically.
Lucas Knight stood there, rubbing his upper arm. “My arm’s swollen and I wonder if you could take a look at it.”
“Sorry, I’m on lunch break.” She pushed the button to lower the shutters. “And don’t try that again.”
She locked the clinic and strode past him, keeping her eyes averted. His footsteps paced right behind her. The automatic doors opened, and bright sunlight assaulted her. She fumbled in her purse for her sunglasses and dropped her EpiPen.
Lucas picked it up and handed it to her. “Ever poke yourself with one of these?”
“Haven’t had the pleasure.”
One side of his mouth twitched and lifted. “Want me to try?”
She put on her sunglasses and marched toward her car. Maybe if she ignored him, treated him like a pesky mosquito, he’d get the hint and leave. That scene on the hospital floor wasn’t funny and neither were his pick-up lines.
He tailed her to the side of her car. “Nice wheels, a Ford Focus Electric? I’ve never driven an electric.”
“Dealer’s down the street.” She crossed her arms. This guy had the social skills of a gnat and the body of a stallion. Her eyes involuntarily settled on his too tight jeans. And why did he have to wear those tight racing jerseys? The kind with a single zipper down the front.
“I’d rather drive around with you. I’d feel safer. My own nurse.” He put his hand out. “Miss Torres, I presume.”
He tried too hard. And suave, he wasn’t.
“You presume too much, Mr. Knight. I have only thirty-five minutes left for lunch, so if you’ll kindly return to the waiting room, or better yet, check yourself into the ER, I can have a bite in peace.”
“Sure you don’t want to bite me instead?”
Maryanne unlocked the car. “Where’d you learn those lines? Saturday night comedy? No, don’t bother answering.”
He opened the door and she slid into the driver’s seat. He bent toward her, closing in on her face. Maryanne held still, not backing away. Her insides tingled. She’d bite first, and talk later.
Wetting his lips, he stared into her eyes. “Call me Lucas, and I’m sorry.”