Книга - From Brooding Boss to Adoring Dad
From Brooding Boss to Adoring Dad
“We’ll look until we find Tadeo.” Erin held out her hand to Adam, and he took it.
“You’re too nice to me, Red. I don’t deserve it after the way I’ve acted.”
“You’re right. I am too nice to you, and you don’t deserve it. But we’re neighbors. You’re not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere, so getting along makes it easier. Otherwise we’d have to build a real fence between our properties, and I like the view on your side.” More than she would admit to him.
He chuckled. “You beat everything. Do you know that?”
“Is that a compliment?”
“It just might be.”
Hand in hand, they walked down the dark path, looking for Tadeo, calling his name. Occasionally they separated, went off in different directions to search, but always came back together in a matter of a minute or two. And each time the way her hand slipped so naturally into his … it felt right to him. Such a simple thing, yet such a significant one.
Many things come to mind when you think about Jamaica—tropical breezes, calypso music, soul-satisfying food, those exotic fruity drinks with paper umbrellas … But, for me, my first thought of Jamaica is family. Years ago I had the rare pleasure of meeting a beautiful family from Jamaica: husband, wife, seven children, all devoted to each other. Everything a family should be.
When I decided to set a book in Jamaica I knew the theme of my book had to be the strength of family. In FROM BROODING BOSS TO ADORING DAD I threw in some of those tropical breezes, some calypso music and that amazing island food, but I also brought together doctors Adam Coulson and Erin Glover, as well as a little island waif, Tadeo Reyes, and pitted them against some overwhelming and nearly devastating odds to become the family they were meant to be.
The late humorist and author Erma Bombeck said of family: ‘The family. We were a strange little band of characters, trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.’
That common thread is love. It’s where every family begins. Welcome to Jamaica!
Wishing you health and happiness
PS I love hearing from readers. Feel free to e-mail me at Dianne@DianneDrake.com
About the Author
Now that her children have left home, DIANNE DRAKE is finally finding the time to do some of the things she adores—gardening, cooking, reading, shopping for antiques. Her absolute passion in life, however, is adopting abandoned and abused animals. Right now Dianne and her husband Joel have a little menagerie of three dogs and two cats, but that’s always subject to change. A former symphony orchestra member, Dianne now attends the symphony as a spectator several times a month and, when time permits, takes in an occasional football, basketball or hockey game.
Recent titles by the same author:
THE BABY WHO STOLE THE DOCTOR’S HEART
CHRISTMAS MIRACLE: A FAMILY
FOUND: A MOTHER FOR HIS SON
DR VELASCOS’ UNEXPECTED BABY
ERIN looked at the letter she’!d looked at a dozen times before, huffing out an impatient sigh as she crammed it back into her purse. This was such a waste of time, and the one thing she didn’t have these days was time. She’d made the man a fair offer. Promised him every penny he’d asked, then raised that by ten percent when he’d refused … refused, after he’d accepted. But he’d refused the second offer too, then come right back and accepted it, yet refused her the deed when he’d been paid, and that’s what was making her angry. She owned that land now. It was hers, and he was trying to pull paradise right out of her hands, at least that’s what the letter stated. He was reconsidering. Reconsidering.
It wasn’t like he’d had another offer on the property that had come in late and beaten hers, because her Realtor had been very specific about that. Hers was the only one. No one had bested her. After all, how many people needed an old missionary medical compound on a beach? Not only that, but one located in one of the non-tourist areas of Jamaica? It was hidden away, not easily accessible. Those were fairly restrictive conditions, which were exactly what she wanted.
Apparently, Adam Coulson didn’t agree with her, though, because he’d dangled the perfect place like holding out a carrot for a hungry rabbit, and when she’d snapped at it, he’d pulled it back. And now, after the deal was done, he was reconsidering. Well, as far as she was concerned, there was nothing for him to reconsider, and she was here to get what was rightfully hers. All she wanted was her property, not a long, drawn-out court battle, since this Coulson had, essentially, swindled her by taking her money and refusing her the land deed. If he handed it over once she found him, good. She’d walk away. But if he didn’t … first, she’d have to find a way to calm her nervous stomach and mushrooming case of aggravation. Then she’d engage the man in the fight of his life. It was just that simple.
“Excuse me. I’m looking for Adam Coulson,” she said to the bartender. Good-looking man. Broad shoulders, casually long sandy hair. Eyes the color of the ocean, not green, not blue, but a little of both. All nice, all well worth looking at, but the scowl on his face and the fact that he turned his back on her, not after she’d spoken but while she was speaking, painted the real picture of him, and he certainly didn’t add up to the rest of the pleasant ambiance at Trinique’s.
Trinique’s was a beach-side shack. Rundown, but friendly … except for the bartender. Loud, calypso-type music played in the background. Plastic crabs and fish dangled on fishing line from the ceiling, along with fishing nets and green glass floats, none of which looked like they’d ever seen a drop of ocean water. Obviously, this wasn’t a place for tourists, like so much of the rest of the island was, as the drinks were served in plain glasses, not in the fine crystal seen in the exclusive resorts and convoluted glass pineapples and coconuts found in the more common tourist haunts. And the crowd in this particular bar … definitely not tourist. Not a camera in the bunch. To Erin, this looked like a local establishment that was well past its prime. Good-natured, well used, much appreciated. Judging from the expressions on the faces of the people enjoying their drinks, enjoying the music, enjoying the conversation, the ambiance didn’t matter but the camaraderie did. She liked that, liked everything about this area so far. Except … the bartender.
“Do you know who he is?” she persisted with the man. He still ignored her. Didn’t even pretend he was going to turn back round to talk to her. In fact, it seemed he was going out of his way to snub her. Maybe because she was a stranger? Or he thought her an unescorted female looking for some action? She didn’t know, and the reason didn’t really matter because he was doing it quite handily, keeping his attention fixed on wiping a single water spot off a clunky beer mug.
But Erin wasn’t to be thwarted. Time truly was of the essence here. “I said—”
“I heard what you said the first time,” he replied, twisting part way round then taking one dismissive, downward glance at her. “The thing is, in case you didn’t notice, I don’t have a sign hung out front saying tourist information.” He turned his back on her and refocused on that very same spot.
“So, what happened to that Jamaican hospitality you’re known for? This is supposed to be one of the friendly places in the world. You know, people with impeccable manners, good ethics.”
“Are you talking about this bar, specifically?” he asked. “Because I don’t recall reading that in any of the island literature.”
“All I wanted was to find out if you know Adam Coulson. It’s a simple request. I’m willing to pay for the information.” Erin plunked two one-thousand-dollar Jamaican notes down on the bar, the equivalent of about twenty-two American dollars or a little over fourteen British pounds. “Is that enough to buy an answer?” Her Realtor had told her to come to Trinique’s and ask. This was Trinique’s, she was asking. So far, though, she wasn’t getting what she wanted.
The bartender turned round, pocketed the money in one swift movement, then said, “Yes.”
“Yes, I know Adam Coulson.”
“And that’s what you asked, that’s what you paid for. I answered your question, the deal is over.”
“Meaning you want more money?”
“No. Two thousand was enough. And I appreciate it since I didn’t have to work hard for it.” He smiled, gave her a fake salute. Picked up another glass and started to polish.
Erin wasn’t going to be deterred by this man. Six months … she’d been working toward this for six months and nothing was going to stop her. Nothing! Time was precious now. Her father was going blind, slowly but surely. Being put off by the bartender, or by Dr Adam Coulson, wasn’t an option. “Well, I don’t appreciate it. You knew exactly what I wanted, and you took advantage of me.” She held out her hand, palm up. “Give it back. Or tell me where I can find Adam Coulson.”
He studied her for a moment, like he was weighing his options. Then he turned his back on her yet again and continued polishing. In the background, the Jamaican singer, a happy-looking young man with dreadlocks halfway down to his waist and a smile that nearly offset the bartender’s bad mood raised the level of the steel drums he was playing, causing the dozen or so people sitting at the tiny two-tops scattered around the open-style hut to raise the level of their talking.
This was a waste of time. A complete, absurd waste of time. And while so far, every islander she’d met had been friendly, this bartender, who was obviously not an islander, was the first one she’d met who was disagreeable. More than disagreeable, he was downright hostile. There was no point talking to him. She’d have to get her information elsewhere.
Without another word, Erin Glover spun around and marched out of Trinique’s, not so much angry over losing her money but over the fact that she’d been gullible, that she’d been taken advantage of. Her father had taught her better, had taught her how to get along in the world, no matter what the situation. She could almost see him laughing at her … good-naturedly. Laughing, and teaching her another life lesson … Don’t be so naive, Erin. People out there are always waiting for your kind.
Algernon Glover. Drs Algernon and Erin Glover. Adoptive father and daughter. They were an odd pairing to be sure. Full-blooded Jamaican father, full-blooded Irish daughter. As her father always said, the black and white of it. Some people considered it a pairing to stare at, but she considered it … normal. She’d met her father when she’d been five, and he’d saved her life many times since then, in both the literal as well as the emotional sense. She loved the man dearly, owed him everything she was and everything she had, and she wasn’t going to let one dimwit bartender stand in her way.
“He’s the one you want.”
Erin turned back to the door. “Who?”
“I heard the conversation. Saw the way he treated you. Shameful. But he’s got a lot on his mind these days, and he’s regretting his decision to sell his land.”
It was the singer. From a distance he looked older. Up close, he looked twenty, give or take a year. Decked out in rust-colored and blue-striped cotton pants and a white cotton shirt, he was simply standing there, waiting to give her information. And not holding out his hand for a gratuity. “I’m not sure I understand,” she said, trying to exercise the caution her father had taught her.
“Adam Coulson. He’s the one you want. You’re the doctor who wants to buy his land, aren’t you? Dr Glover? We got word from Port Wallace a while ago that you were coming here, looking for him.”
“Actually, I’m the one who already bought his land.” She was amazed how quick the news of her arrival had spread. She’d made the enquiries and word of her trip up to Regina had raced here faster than she could have gotten there.
“Well, that’s him.” He pointed to the bartender. “Over there. The one baring his teeth and growling like an angry dog.”
“Can’t be. The Adam Coulson I want to talk to is the local doctor. That guy looks more like the local malcontent.”
“One’s not exclusive of the other, you know. And that’s Adam Coulson, the full-time doctor and part-time malcontent.” He held out his hand to Erin. “I’m Davion Thomas, by the way. On my good days, I’m a singer here at Trinique’s. On my best days, I’m a future medical school student and a current paramedic being employed by Adam Coulson … the doctor, not the malcontent.” He pointed to the bartender again. “Him.”
“So when I asked him, why didn’t he tell me who he was?”
“Like I said, you’re the one who bought his property and he’s not fond of you because of that. He’s also having second thoughts.”
Erin blinked twice. “So I’m the bad guy here because I bought what he offered for sale?”
“Apparently, you are. And I’d like to tell you that he’ll get over it, but Adam’s a strong man with strong opinions. It could take him a while.”
“So, in the mean time, while I’m waiting for him to get over his strong opinion, I’m supposed to do what?”
Davion shrugged. “Stay out of his way, maybe. Let him adjust.”
“I don’t have time to stay out of his way. I’m here to complete the business transaction for my property.”
“Your property, his dreams. He’ll adjust, but you being here in person has set him off. He’s having a hard time reconciling to those dreams disappearing. That’s why he’s so …”
She knew what it was like to lose a dream and she did feel bad for him in that. But business was business, and she was on a timeline. “That’s why he’s being so grumpy,” she supplied. Watching him for a moment, she noticed that he was quite obviously avoiding looking at her. Going out of his way, in fact, to dodge eye contact. So much so it was obvious to anyone who cared to consider the dynamics. “So, he’s the doctor and the bartender?” Odd combination. In med school, many of her friends had held a variety of jobs to make their way through, but by the time they’d started to practice, most of those jobs had been discarded.
Davion stepped a little closer to Erin. Not so much as to be offensive but more like he was about to reveal a secret he didn’t want overheard. “He’s not the bartender, but he steps in when he’s asked to. He is the doctor, though, like I said. Treats everyone in Regina and all the area around it when they need medical attention. He’s a good man, Dr Glover. Takes care of us, never turns anybody away when they can’t pay, and most of the time they can’t pay. But he doesn’t want to get involved with people so much.”
Surprisingly, she had a flash of admiration for Coulson for what he did as a doctor. But as quickly as it had come, one look at his scowl and it vanished. “Look, I’m glad he has a good medical ethic, but that has nothing to do with me. All I want here is to get the deed to my property and be done with this.”
“Except he doesn’t want to sell it to you now.”
“But he already sold it. And took my money.” She liked Davion. He had a real charm about him, and a maturity well beyond his years. But as nice as Davion was, she would have preferred to have this conversation with Adam Coulson himself.
Davion shrugged. “I think sometimes he gets worried. Tries to figure out how he’s going to keep the clinic open. People here get sick like they do everyplace else, but they don’t have very much to pay him, so he’s limited in what he can do. Mostly, he’s the one who supports his clinic, and times are tough for him.”
This was more than she wanted to know. Davion was telling her things that, quite frankly, she wasn’t interested in. All she wanted was her medical complex—one main hospital building, a dozen outbuildings of various sizes. Near a beach. That last was the part she wanted the most. Her dream. Her father’s dream. When I can’t see any longer, I want to hear … the laughter of children, the sounds of the ocean … “Look, I need to talk to him, but it’s pretty clear he’s not going to talk to me. So, can you tell me where his clinic is? Maybe I can go there and wait until he’s finished with his job here.”
“He won’t be off until closing time. Three in the morning. And his clinic … I don’t think he has plans to go there today. Right now, people come here to Trinique’s to see him.”
Well, this was going nowhere and her aggravation level was ballooning. “Three o’clock?”
“Maybe a little later, if he stays to clean up. Usually, he does that the next morning, though.”
Erin glanced at her watch. “Fine, I’ll wait for him.”
“He’s not very friendly after a long shift at the bar.”
“He’s not very friendly now, so what difference does it make?”
Davion grinned. “More than you know, Dr Glover.”
She looked back over at Coulson for a moment, caught his eye. Saw … anger. But why was he taking this would-be business transaction so personally? Hating her for no apparent reason? That’s what she saw in that brief glance, though, before he turned away from her again. It didn’t make sense to her. None of it did. “Well, I’ll be back. Will you give him that message for me? I’ll be back, and I’ll keep coming back until he hands me my deed.”
“That could be a while. He’s pretty stubborn. In the meantime, have you got a place to stay?” Davion looked at her bags, sitting in the sand next to the door.
“Not yet. But I saw a couple of places back up the road, about an hour’s drive.” She’d hoped to stay in one of the cottages she supposedly owned, but that wasn’t working out, so far. “Or I can go back to one of the larger towns.” Port Wallace perhaps. It was not a tourist spot, but nice. Two hours away on a bumpy road, though, which wasn’t going to improve her disposition.
“You can stay here, at Trinique’s.”
“In the bar?” It wasn’t an offer she’d expected, but she was tempted since this trip wasn’t about her comfort or convenience.
He pointed to a little cottage sitting several hundred yards off the road. It was nearly hidden by palm trees. “That’s my mother’s house. She’s not here now. Won’t be back for several days, maybe longer. The place is empty, so if you’d like to stay there …”
Now, this was the hospitality her father had always spoken of. The Jamaica he loved, and the Jamaica she’d come to love through him. They’d traveled here often enough while she’d been growing up, to visit her grandmother Glover. This was the first time, though, she’d come without her father. The first time she wasn’t here as a tourist but as someone who would eventually live here, maybe spend the rest of her life here. And the idea of staying at Trinique’s cottage made her feel welcome. Certainly more welcome than Adam Coulson did. “If you don’t think she’d mind …”
“My mother would mind if you didn’t stay there. You’re part of us now. We take care of our own.”
Erin smiled brightly at the thought of belonging. It was something she never took for granted. “Then I accept. Thank you. And, please, tell your mother thank you when you talk to her.” She took one last look at Adam Coulson before she went to settle in. His back was still to her and he was … studying her in the reflection of the glass he’d just polished. She waved at him, and spun away just as the sound of shattering glass quieted the bar for a moment.
Pulling another thousand-dollar note from her pocket, she handed it to Davion. “Give this to the doctor. I waited tables when I was in medical school, and we always had to pay for the dishes we broke. Tell him that glass he just dropped was on me!”
“You told her?” Adam growled at Davion. “Why the hell did you do that?” He sat down on the step into Trinique’s and handed a bottle of soda to the young boy who sat down next to him. Tadeo. Aged eight. His shadow a good bit of the time.
“Because it was the right thing to do, and you know that. She made a long trip to come see you, to finish the business deal you started, and you owe her an explanation. Or her money back.”
“What I owe her is … nothing.”
“Nothing,” Tadeo parroted, assuming a scowl like Adam’s.
“See, even Tadeo agrees with me. And it’s not like I’m going to keep her money. As soon as I have time to go to the bank in Port Wallace, I’ll have it transferred back to her. Then the deal will be over with.” Even though having that money was tempting him in ways he detested being tempted.
Davion pulled a stool outside and sat down. “It’s not right, and you know that.” He glanced at Tadeo. “And don’t you go siding with Adam, you hear? Because Adam has to do the right thing.”
“He will,” Tadeo defended. “He’ll do the right thing.”
“Yes, he will, because he is trying to set a good example for you, Tadeo.” Davion grinned at Adam then took a swig of his own soda.
“Are you two ganging up on me?” Adam grumbled.
“For your own good,” Davion said. “Backing out on that deal isn’t right, and you know it.”
“A lot of things aren’t right. If I bothered myself worrying about all of them I’d never be able to drag myself from job to job.”
“OK, I get your point. You don’t want to be bothered with her. But did you see that red hair on her?”
Adam had. And he’d rather liked it. Lots of red hair … red, the color of an old penny. And wild, like the wind had swept through it once and decided to stay there. “What about her hair?”
“She’s going to be stubborn. One look at her, and you can tell she’s not going to give up. And you, Adam, are her target. Like it or not, you’re going to have to deal with her. Sooner, not later.” He grinned. “Which is why I gave her directions to your cottage. You need to get it over with, and quit being so miserable. You’re scaring the kiddies who come to the clinic. Even Tadeo’s looking a little worried.”
Adam regarded the boy at his side. No parents, and his mother’s cousin was raising him now. But he was neglected. Or more like overlooked. And he was so eager to please, eager to help. The son he would have, if he could. “You’re not worried about me, are you?”
“Some,” Tadeo said without hesitation. “You’re grumpy lately. Sometimes it scares me that maybe you don’t like me any more.”
Now, that made Adam feel truly terrible. He loved this kid. Tadeo had wormed his way into a special place in Adam’s heart and there was no way he wanted him to feel like that. “You know you’re my best friend, don’t you?” He tousled Tadeo’s scraggly black hair. “That’s not going to change, even when I’m grumpy.”
“Best friend,” Tadeo said, holding up his hand to high-five him.
“For ever,” Adam said, as their hands slapped.
“Now, maybe you should go high-five Dr Glover,” Davion suggested.
“Well, maybe I would, except, I’ve got to get back to work.” He stood. “And, Tadeo, come back later and we’ll have dinner together, if Pabla doesn’t mind.” Pabla Reyes, Tadeo’s guardian, never minded. “Conch fritters OK with you?”
Tadeo gave him a thumbs-up, handed Adam the empty soda bottle, then dashed off toward the beach.
“He needs better,” Davion said.
“At least we agree on something,” Adam responded on his way back to the bar. He worried about Tadeo, worried about Davion, too, but in a different way. Davion’s mother was Trinique, a salt-of-the earth kind of woman who had raised her son in the best possible way. She was saving to send Davion to medical school, and Davion was saving, too. But times were tough, and at the rate they were going, Davion’s medical education was a long way off. But with the money from the sale of his property, Adam was going to be able to help get Davion there sooner. Which was why, ultimately, he would turn over the deed to his property. He knew that, even though he couldn’t bring himself to admit it. His clinic needed supplies. He was out of all but a few of the necessary drugs, he needed a new stethoscope … couldn’t afford even the damned wooden tongue depressors, which were cheap. More than anything, though, the world needed the likes of Davion Thomas as a doctor.
Selling his little piece of land was going to make it all possible. Like it or not, he’d do the right thing by Dr Glover, because he had to. But he was still going to be grumpy for a while. He deserved that much.
“I know that look on your face,” Davion said, stepping up to the bar.
“There’s no look on my face.”
“Sure there is.” Davion grinned. “Look in the mirror, see it for yourself. It’s the look that says you’re going to give the property deed to Dr Glover and be nice to your new neighbor.”
“I might be thinking about finishing Stella, and selling her.”
“Ah, but you love that boat too much. You’d never sell her. Not even if you had to sell the both halves of your property instead of just one.”
He was correct in that assumption. That boat was a huge connection to his past, to his grandfather. It was the one thing in his life he’d never part with. “OK, if she’s there when I get home, I’ll talk to her. I’ll give her the deed then tell her to leave me the hell alone. There, does that make you happy? ”
“Or she’ll tell you to leave her the hell alone. She’s a strong woman, Adam. Like my mother. Once they know what they want, they don’t let anything stand in their way, and you’ve been standing in Dr Glover’s way.”
“I’m not even going to get into a conversation with you about strong women, Davion. You know how I feel on that subject.” His ex-wife had been a strong woman and look how that had turned out for him. Now strong women made him run in the opposite direction. He just didn’t have it in him to deal with them any more. Not that there’d really been a woman since … he wasn’t going to think about that discouraging part of his life since there hadn’t been a woman beating a path to his door since he’d settled here permanently.
“Well, the strong lady in question won’t be waiting for you at your house. She’s staying at my mother’s.”
“You asked her to stay here?” He swiped an angry hand through his hair. “Meaning she’s there right now, probably getting ready to waylay me on the way out the door when I get off work tonight.”
Davion grinned. “Probably. But you have it coming.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“I just want everybody to be happy.”
“And what, in all this, is going to make me happy?”
“The medicine you can buy for your clinic. You know it will. And I wouldn’t mind a new otoscope for the clinic to make me a little happier, if that counts for anything.”
“It counts.” Point made. It was hard being grumpy around Davion, even when Adam wanted to be grumpy, because Davion radiated happiness and enthusiasm. He never, ever saw the negative in any situation. “So, I’ll try and be happy. And I’ll even apologize to the lady. But I get the feeling that an apology won’t be enough for her. She’s going to want a pound of my flesh, too.” He looked out the window across from the bar, saw Erin Glover standing on Trinique’s front porch, leaning against the white column, arms folded tightly across her chest. It was breezy, her hair was blowing. Dressed in a gauzy skirt and a tank top, she was … well, unfortunately she was just about the sexiest thing he’d ever laid eyes on. Which was a problem because the last sexy thing he’d got himself tangled up with had taken him for a ride that, even after two years past its legal end, still stung. “And in the meantime, I’m going to wait on customers for the next several hours and make sure you study those medical books I gave you. Jamaica itself may not have a recognized paramedic program, but I’ve got pretty tough standards for my paramedic. If you expect to stay working for me, you’ve got to keep cracking those books.” Actually, that’s what Davion did in every spare minute he had. He studied harder than Adam had ever studied in medical school. Which was why Davion was going to be a great doctor. He was motivated. He had passion. And he was smart.
Davion rolled his eyes, then retreated to the rear corner of Trinique’s, where he had a table set up with all his books and study materials. When he wasn’t working in the clinic, he spent his days and nights studying part of the time and singing the rest of the time. It was his soulful voice that brought in the customers, and it was his soul that would make him a great doctor someday. Adam wanted to be part of that, part of something good, because good hadn’t really touched his life in a long, long time.
For a moment, his attention wandered back to the front porch of Trinique’s cottage, where Erin Glover was still standing, still looking rigid. Then he meandered down to the end of the bar to wait on a customer, trying to forget the image that just didn’t want to let go.
“IT LOOKS bad. Is Trinique here?”
The man standing in front of Erin was holding a child in his arms. A child with a foot wrapped in a bloody towel. Instantly, Erin wanted to see the wound. “Bring him into the house,” she instructed, pushing open the door.
“We want to see Trinique.”
“I’m sorry, but she’s not here. Davion said she would be gone for a while.”
“Then I have to go see Doc Adam. He’ll know what to do.”
“Is Trinique a doctor?” Erin asked, clearly confused.
“No, ma’am. But she’s been taking care of us for a long time. Before Doc Adam, and since he’s working at the bar today, I didn’t want to bother him.”
“Look, I’m a doctor. I take care of children. Could I have a look at your son’s foot? See what I can do for him?” She wasn’t prepared, really. Didn’t have her medical kit. Hadn’t even come here as a doctor. But a child in need … she couldn’t turn them away.
The man wasn’t convinced, a sentiment that shone clearly on his face. “Doc Adam will do it fine, since Trinique isn’t here. But I appreciate the offer.”
“Doc Adam isn’t being a doctor right now. He’s busy serving beer and rum,” she said, instantly regretting the cutting remark. She didn’t know his circumstances and he certainly didn’t deserve the professional slap. “Look, how about I just take a little look? You bring your boy inside then while I get the wound cleaned up a little, you can go and get Doc Adam.”
That seemed to appease the man, because he brushed right past Erin and ran straight to the daybed in the front room, where he laid his son down. “His name is Tyjon, and I’m Ennis. Ennis Clarke.” He extended a hand to Erin, and shook hard when she took it. “I appreciate your offer. Good afternoon, ma’am Doctor.”
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. The polite, customary greeting always used when addressing others. It was expected, especially in the more rural areas such as Regina. Her father had told her about this, told her to remember it. “Good afternoon, Mr Clarke. I’ll take very good care of Tyjon.”
Apparently, Ennis Clarke trusted that, because he turned and ran out the door, which gave Erin only a few minutes to assess the boy’s foot before Adam Coulson took over. She didn’t like that idea. But, then, she had no idea what kind of doctor he was. Didn’t even know if he was a real doctor, for that matter. “So, tell me what happened, Tyjon.”
“I stepped on glass. Broken bottle in the street. Cut my foot.”
“When? This morning?”
He shook his head. “Two days ago. It wasn’t so bad then. We washed it and it was OK. But now it hurts worse. And it started to bleed some more.”
She began unwrapping the towel, trying to be gentle because the dried blood had caused it to stick to his foot. When Tyjon winced, she slowed down the process, and as she peeled back the bulky layers and got closer to the wound, the smell of infection became noticeable. “Did you wash it with soap?” she asked.
He nodded. “My mother washed it very good.”
“And did you put on shoes and socks after you washed it?”
“No, ma’am Doctor. I don’t like shoes.”
Down to the last layer, she peeled it back carefully, and what she found wasn’t good. The cut was on his heel, almost the length of his heel. Very jagged, very dirty. And swollen. There was also pus, much more than she’d expected. General redness everywhere. On top of that, his whole foot seemed warm and slightly puffy. She needed supplies, something antiseptic to start the cleaning. Antibiotics at the very least. Suture materials. But she had … nothing at all.
Erin looked around. If Trinique was a healer of some kind, maybe she had a first aid kit. “I’ll be right back, Tyjon. I need to go and find something to clean up your foot.”
Water would work for starters. Get the dirt off. Give her a better look at what she had to deal with.
In the kitchen, she filled a basin full of water, grabbed two clean dishtowels then returned to Tyjon, who was laughing over something Doc Adam had apparently told him. Adam Coulson looked up at her. Saw the basin of water. “Fetching my cleaning supplies for me?” he asked.
“What I’m fetching is a basin of water so I can begin to clean Tyjon’s foot.”
“She’s a ma’am doctor,” Ennis Clarke explained quite seriously.
“So she says,” Adam snorted, standing then walking straight over to Erin and taking the basin of water from her hands. “My bag …” He pointed to it sitting next to the door. “Find my antibiotic cream in there. If I have any left. And I probably have some suture. See if you can also come up with a vial of lidocaine, too. I’m pretty sure I have some of that.”
He shrugged. “Supplies aren’t easy to come by. We have to make do, sometimes.”
“How do you make do without suture? Or lidocaine?” Lidocaine hydrochloride, more specifically, was the anesthetic agent he’d inject into Tyjon to dull the pain of the stitches.
“When you don’t have it, you don’t have it. So, you improvise.”
She wasn’t sure what that meant. Wasn’t sure she even wanted to find out.
“Davion,” Adam continued, “run back to the clinic and see if I have any antibiotic cream samples there so I can give them to Ennis. I think I might have a few left. Also, bring me a syringe and a vial of penicillin.”
“Penicillin?” Nobody used that any more. There were newer, much more effective drugs on the market. Occasionally, she’d prescribed one of the penicillin derivatives, but never penicillin itself.
“Good drug,” Adam quipped. “Highly underrated today, and even more highly underused.”
“And cheap,” Davion said on his way out the door.
“Well, that, too,” Adam agreed. He dipped the kitchen towel into the basin of water and started to wash Tyjon’s foot.
It had to hurt. She saw the poor boy grimacing, and wondered if the infection had spread beyond his foot. What she saw even more than that, though, was the gentle way Coulson was taking care of Tyjon. Soothing hands. It was a term her father used. He’d always said the best doctors didn’t get so tied up in the book learning that they forgot how to have soothing hands. He’d had those soothing hands for her all those times she’d been sick after her chemotherapy, during all those times she hadn’t been sure if she’d live or die. She remembered her father’s soothing hands and right now what she saw with Adam Coulson was what she’d known from her father.
“What can I do to help?” she asked, after a quick look through his medical bag produced a vial with barely enough lidocaine to do the job, a scant amount of fresh suture, a few pieces of candy, a package of sterile gauze strips and a stethoscope with shredded rubber earpieces.
“You a surgeon?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Pediatrician.”
“Then you’d be good at stitches because kids always need them.” Assumption made. It wasn’t a question.
“I’ve done my fair share.”
“OK, I’ll let you do the honors. In the meantime, freshen up the water in the basin.”
The water was nearly black with dirt, which made her cringe because all that dirt had come from Tyjon’s foot.
“Please,” Adam added.
“Please. You were standing there, staring at the basin, so I figure you were waiting for me to say please. So … please.”
She hadn’t been waiting for politeness. From Adam Coulson, whom she’d known for only an hour, she expected none. But her hesitance was … well, she couldn’t explain it. What she was seeing here wasn’t exactly a shock, because there were areas all over the world where the medical standard was different from her medical standard. What she didn’t understand was the doctor—his casual attitude, his lack of basic medical supplies. “Are you really a doctor?” she asked. “Educated in a regular medical school, licensed to practice?” The question just popped out of her.
He paused in his bathing of Tyjon’s foot, looked up at her, frowned for a moment, then broke into a broad smile. “A little while ago, Davion had almost convinced me to feel guilty about refusing to hand over the deed to my land. Honestly, I was feeling a little bad about the way I was treating you, and fully prepared to apologize for it. Like I said, that was a little while ago. But not any more. Now, the water, please.”
So, maybe she deserved that. She wasn’t about to apologize for asking, but she wasn’t going to take too much offense to his reaction either, because she shouldn’t have challenged him that way, especially not in front of Tyjon. So, before she said something else she’d regret, Erin picked up the basin, returned to the kitchen, and dumped out the old water. As she gave the basin a quick wash with dish soap and water, she thought about why she was here, and it was too important to let these skirmishes with Adam Coulson get in her way. Make no mistake, they could get in the way if she wasn’t careful. He was, after all, the local doctor. While she had all her permissions in place for the hospital, and all the legalities out of the way, having the doctor with her, rather than against her, was smart. So for now, she’d have to curb her temper. “For you, Dad,” she whispered, fighting the tears welling up in her eyes when she thought about the graceful way her father was accepting his fate. She didn’t have that same gracefulness about her in any sense, no matter how hard she’d tried to find it within herself. She was reactionary, quick to fight. On the verge of dumping the water on Adam Coulson, although there was no grace in that. However, the thought of it did come with some surprising satisfaction. This wasn’t about her, though. When she remembered that, everything else faded away.
“You crying?” Adam asked from the doorway.
“No!” she snapped, blinking hard then brushing the back of her forearm across her eyes. “I splashed soap in my eyes.”
“'If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out.'”
“What?” she sputtered, spinning to face him.
“That’s the kind of thing you’d expect me to say, isn’t it? I don’t have antibiotic cream, I still use penicillin, I make do with what I can find.”
“And the rubber earpieces for your stethoscope are wearing through.”
“You’ve judged me on several criteria that have nothing to do with my abilities as a doctor, so I thought telling you what to do with the soap in your eyes is what you’d expect from me. Especially since you haven’t seen my diploma from Harvard so you don’t know if I’m a real medical doctor.”
He chuckled. “Preconceptions are dangerous, Dr Glover. They can get you into all kinds of trouble. So much so that you’ll end up without antibiotic cream, decent rubber earpieces and a whole lot more trouble than you’d ever bargained for. Oh, and for your information, even though it’s none of your business, I’d use penicillin even if something out there was cheaper, because I like penicillin. Now, my water?”
The strains of the music wafted over to Trinique’s home, and Erin was finding herself strangely addicted to it already. It was calming. And happy. It transported her to the Jamaica her father had always told her of, the one she believed, with all her heart, was still there. Untouched.
“I wish you’d come with me,” she said over the phone. “Regina is a beautiful village. The cottages … they’re painted with all different colors. Reds, blues, pastels like pink and yellow. Every one a different combination. And they’ve all got so many types of tropical flowers in the yards … It’s like an artist’s pallet. Then, the people … they’re so nice. They just take you in and treat you like you belong, like you’re part of their family. Well, all but one, and he doesn’t count since he’s not Jamaican.” She wasn’t about to tell her father of the trouble brewing with the land purchase. As far as he knew, she had the deed by now and everything was moving forward. Oh, she was pretty sure Coulson would turn it over, but it was going to be in his own good time. Which wasn’t her time, as she had her dad fully involved now in the business plans for the new hospital, and the sooner those were finalized, the sooner he’d come to Jamaica … she hoped. It was her intention to put him in charge of the hospital, blind or not. Algernon Glover, Chief of Staff at the Algernon Glover Hospital. Maybe it would give him back some of his life. Maybe it would entice him to come out of his dark study, where he kept the shades drawn and the door closed. That’s the way he lived these days and it scared her. But soon, very soon, that would be over with. She hoped. “So, why don’t you come down? You can do everything you need to from here.”
“I’m fine where I am, and I have more than enough to keep me busy here.”
It was clear he didn’t like getting too far away from his comfort zone. That, more than anything else, was what made her feel sad. She and her dad had traveled to so many places together over the years, and done so many things. “But you could use a nice holiday, and the beach here is beautiful. Nicer than anything else I’ve seen in Jamaica. So pristine. No tourists.”
“There’ll be time enough for that in a while. Right how, I still have work to do right where I am. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find some time for a short holiday yourself. You wouldn’t want your father on your arm for that, would you? Especially if you meet a nice young man who’s in the mood for a little holiday, too?”
He lived in perpetual hope of that. Wanted grandchildren. But she’d … she’d never been that interested. It had been more than fifteen years since her last recurrence of leukemia, and the doctors had long since declared her recovered. Years and years of fighting the disease and all its nasty comebacks had taught her to be cautious. It had also taught her to stay focused on her goal … get through college, get through medical school, now this. Her life hadn’t afforded her the luxury of having more than one goal at a time because there had been so many times when even a single goal had been a struggle. So now she had a single goal to achieve, the most important one of her life, and she wouldn’t allow herself to think in terms of anything more.
“Dad, you know I’m not looking right now,” she told him.
“One of my big regrets, Erin, is that I have raised such a serious daughter. You were brought up in an old man’s world, I’m afraid, and you don’t know how to have fun.”
Her father was older, yes. But fun … her life had been filled with fun, filled with so many wonderful things. And this was her father’s standard argument, the one he used to make her feel guilty. “It’s not going to work,” she teased.
“What’s not going to work?” he asked, laughter just on the edge of his voice.
“You know what I’m talking about. And there’ll be plenty of time for grandchildren, if I ever do find the right man.”
“If you ever start looking.”
Oh, she’d looked. Come close to finding, actually. Then been jilted because a slight illness had brought up a cancer scare, which had scared a man she might have been serious about right out the door. And he had run so hard and fast he hadn’t even made the promise that he’d call, or see her again, or they’d work it out. He’d told her he loved her one week, then bolted the next. Like her high school sweetheart had when the cancer actually had returned. Or her childhood best friend had when the chemotherapy had claimed her hair. Oh, gross, Erin. You’re, like, going bald. That’s so disgusting. So, no more looking, no more expectations. Emotionally, it was easier that way. “On that note, I’m going to say goodnight. Love you, Dad.”
“Love you, too, Erin. Even if you are stubborn and too serious for your own good.”
He clicked off before she could get to her next comeback. And for a while after the phone call she sat with her feet propped up on the porch rail, enjoying the gentle, hot breeze, still listening to the strains of happy music wafting in. Thinking of Adam Coulson, not of her dad. Harvard education and without a decent stethoscope. On impulse, she dialed her dad back. “One more thing,” she said. “Could you send me a stethoscope?”
It was a small gesture, and she kept telling herself that it was for Tyjon, and anybody else needing treatment here. Not for Coulson.
“So, let’s just get this over with.” A voice came at her from out of the dark a while later.
Startled by Coulson’s intrusion into her pleasant solitude, Erin jumped. “Do you always sneak up on people that way?”
“I wasn’t sneaking.”
“And you didn’t exactly announce yourself either, did you?”
“Actually, I did. I said, ‘Let’s just get this over with.'”
Straightening in the chair and pulling her feet off the porch rail, she was a little sad to have her evening ended so abruptly. It was nice to relax for a while. The ambiance suited her, made her feel mellow. Lately, she hadn’t had time to relax, and who knew how long it had been since she’d felt mellow. “I agree,” she said, standing. “Let’s get this over with. Do you have my deed?”
He handed it over, without saying a word.
She didn’t look at it, though. He wouldn’t cheat her on this, and to look would be to insult him. No need to do that. No need to rub salt in what was obviously a very open, very raw wound. “Thank you,” she said, tucking the paper into her pocket.
“Just like that,” he said, almost under his breath.
“Like in a split second, it’s gone.” He shrugged. “So that makes us neighbors now, doesn’t it?”
“In proximity, yes, I suppose it does. But we don’t have to be neighborly. I know you didn’t want to sell your land, and I know you resent me for buying it. So it’s OK with me if we’re not friends, not even neighbors who wave.”
“And you think that makes it better for me?”
“I don’t know what makes it better for you, Coulson. I’m just making an offer. I’ll stay away from you, leave you alone, won’t even come to Trinique’s, if it’s better for you that way.” It wasn’t much of a gesture, considering the circumstances. But it was the best she could do.
“What’s better for me is getting my property back, but that’s not going to happen. You need it for whatever reason you may have, and I wanted it for whatever reason I had.
But in the end, my reason wasn’t going to happen. Don’t know if yours will or not.”
“What was your reason?” she asked him.
“To use it as it was intended … as a hospital. But as you can see, I barely manage a clinic, so the hospital was a …”
“A long way off. Money talks. You had it, I need it, and now one of us is happy while the other is better off. Fair trade, although I hate it to hell.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m going to open a children’s hospital.”
“Now, there’s an impractical idea if ever I’ve heard one.”
“You think a children’s hospital is impractical?” she practically growled, she was so angry.
“Not in the right setting. Which is someplace accessible, a place people can get to easily, where they’ll want to take their children. We’re not accessible here. You already know that. And nobody in their right mind will bring their children to a place where the only way in or out is on a rutted road. Put the hospital someplace where people can use it. Not here!”
“But here is perfect.” And her hospital wasn’t going to be just any ordinary hospital. It was going to be everything she hadn’t had when she’d spent so much time in various hospitals. It was going to be a place where being sick wasn’t the focus, but being normal was.
“Shows what you know about setting up a hospital. At least, when I wanted to start a hospital here, I had enough sense to know that the area would support a very small general hospital. General hospital, not a specialty facility.”
She tamped back her anger to face his challenge. With Adam Coulson, she had an idea that anger could turn into a steady diet, and she simply didn’t want to bristle then strike every time they met. So now was as good a time as any to start reining herself in. Because she wasn’t going anywhere. This was home. He was her shouting-distance neighbor. She didn’t want the strife on a lingering basis. Gritting her teeth, she smiled up at him. “Then I guess it’s up to me to prove you wrong, isn’t it?”
“Or the other way around.”
“Not going to happen, Coulson. I know what I’m doing.”
“The thing is, so do I, and I also know it’s a bad idea.”
“You’ll change your mind.” She hoped.
“You’ll change your plans.”
“I don’t think so.” Standing her ground with him was … stimulating. It made her tingle. So much so, she took a step back from him. “Look, there’s no point in arguing about it. I’m going forward with my plans, whether or not you like it, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
“Actually, I can stand back and watch you fail, then buy back my property for a fraction of what you paid me for it.”
He said it with a grin on his face, but she knew he was serious. The truth of the matter was, she didn’t blame him. Were she in his position, she’d probably be rooting for his failure. In a way, Erin respected his resolve. Too bad they both couldn’t have what they wanted. But that wasn’t going to happen. For her to win, he had to lose. For him to win, she had to lose, and that was something she just wasn’t going to do. The only thing was, he didn’t know how much she needed this hospital, how much she had to make the idea work. “Look, I don’t want to keep arguing, OK? We’re not going to agree, we might not even get along very well. But we’re going to be neighbors, and because of that I’d like to try for some civility between us. Even if it’s just civility on the surface for the sake of appearances.”
“So we smile and bare our fangs when we pass each other, and make sure we growl under our breath?”
She couldn’t help but laugh at him. The man did have his charm. It was coarse, and quite deviant, but she rather liked it. “Look, what can I do to smooth a little bit of the bumpy road between us so I don’t always have to bare my fangs? It causes wrinkles.”
“Funny you should ask, because I expect I’ll be seeing at least fifteen patients first thing in the morning at the clinic. That’s the usual number. I’ve promised Trinique three more days at the bar … she’s visiting her sick sister in Miami. And in between serving drinks I’ll see at least another dozen or so patients … in the back room. Trinique had it set up as a small clinic for me. Oh, and work until about three, when the bar closes. Meaning my days are getting pretty long. So, if you’re serious about your offer, I could use your help at the clinic. Then that way you can see where the real medical need is here.”
Honestly, his schedule surprised her. She’d pictured him more the hardly working type than the working hard type. “Do you work like that every day?” she asked, not really intending to seem so interested.
“No, sometimes I have more patients than that. You know, make a few house calls. Go up to Fontaine and squeeze in house calls there. Tomorrow seems a little light, which is why it’s probably the best day this week to have you see why general medical care is what the area needs.”
“Always plotting, aren’t you, Coulson?”
“I’d rather think of it as moving forward.”
She thought for a moment. Right now, there wasn’t much for her to do. She wouldn’t be meeting with her architects for a couple of days, and her plans were already far enough along that at this point there really wasn’t a whole lot more to work on. So, why not? Getting to know the people here was a good idea because she was going to be one of them, and what better way to do it than working in the clinic? Admittedly, she missed working. Somewhere over the past weeks it had taken a backseat to her hospital, so much so that she’d finally left her practice. She missed it, and this would help ease the dull ache that had been settling in. In her heart she was a doctor, and that’s what she needed to be doing. Adam Coulson might think he was handing her part of his plan for her failure, but she looked at it as just the opposite. “OK, I’ll work in the clinic.”
She stood to face him, drew every bit of her five feet eight inches up to his well-over-six-foot physique, and stared him straight in the eye. “Just tell me what time, and I’ll be there.” In the light from the single yellow bulb dangling on the other side of the porch, he was just about the best-looking man she’d ever seen. She’d looked from afar earlier, and had totally missed the detail in his eyes. The kindness there. The twinkling. Normally, she didn’t look at men this way and right now it bothered her that she was enjoying her long, rather cheeky look at him. Enjoying it too much. So she took another step backward, then two more just to be on the safe side. “But here’s the deal. For every day I work for you I expect a day in return where you won’t be plotting my demise … at least, where I can see it so obviously.”
“You drive a hard bargain, Red.”
“I’m offering you free labor, Coulson. You want me to see the real medical need here in the hope that I’ll back off? This is the only way it’s going to happen.”
“Then a day for a day it is.”
He held out his hand to shake on the deal, and when she took it, the jolt that passed between them passed all the way down to her toes. Did he feel it? She couldn’t tell by the expression on his face, but it was so real he had to. Or, maybe her imagination was simply getting away from her, being in a tropical paradise with a handsome man, and all. Whatever it was, she allowed the handshake to linger but a moment then pulled her hand back. Put up her imaginative safety net. “Tomorrow morning, Coulson.”
“Tomorrow morning … Red.”
The walk was short from Trinique’s cottage, down a long, winding jungle path, and each of her steps was deliberately slow. Sure, she’d seen the hospital compound online, knew the look of the buildings by heart. But there was a world of difference between the internet and in person, and she was actually a little nervous about this. She’d done it. She had her property—one hospital building, a handful of small cottages, and a stretch of beach. Paradise in a way most people would define it.
“He’s very grumpy this morning,” Davion said, catching up to her then falling into step. “When he came back to the bar last night, he broke glasses … on purpose. Threw a couple on the floor then took the money you’d given him earlier and put it into the cash register for my mother.”
She pulled the deed from the pocket of her skirt for Davion to see. “He didn’t give in without a fight. I know it wasn’t easy for him.”
“But he always does the right thing. Sometimes it takes him a while but, like I told you before, he’s a good man.”
“I think he’s a very … interesting man.”
Davion nodded. “That, too. And stubborn.”
“I’ve definitely seen that side of him.”
“And he’s seen that side of you, hasn’t he?”
“How did you get to be so perceptive at your age?”
Davion chuckled. “Being around Adam. He’s been in and out of half my life now, and I’ve been learning from the master.”
“Well, that’s what’s going to make you an exceptional doctor. You know how to read people. So, you say he’s been in and out of your life for most of your life. How long, exactly, has he been here?”
“Off and on, almost twelve years, I guess. Started coming when he was in medical school, came more often when he was out. Until he moved here permanently a couple of years ago.”
Well, she couldn’t fault Coulson for that. Jamaica was a wonderful place to visit. She’d been coming here almost from the day her father had adopted her, nearly twenty-five years ago. He’d bring her when she was well, and she’d feel guilty when she was sick because she knew she was keeping him from coming.
“So, is this your first time to the island, Dr Glover?”
“Please, call me Erin. And no. I’ve been here so many times I can’t remember. My father was from here … and my grandmother lived here until her dying day. Almost as far back as I can remember we tried to get here at least three or four times a year, more often if we could.”
“And where would here be, if I may ask?”
“In her later years, my grandmother moved to Kingston because of her health. But when she was young she lived in Alligator Pond. Ran a little fishing industry there, had a couple of boats.” That was being modest. Her grandmother had been a major player in the fishing business there, a woman well respected in her industry.
Davion arched his eyebrows. “Alligator Pond doesn’t have many … redheads.”
Erin laughed. “My grandmother wasn’t a redhead. Have you ever heard of Odessia Glover?”
Davion gave a soft whistle. “She was an honorable lady, well known for her generosity. She was your grandmother? ”
Nodding, Erin added, “And Algernon Glover is my father.”
“A respected gentleman. I’m impressed. Surprised, but impressed.”
“I was impressed, too, the first time I met him. And after all these years, he still impresses me.” She stopped, looked ahead, held her breath. “Is that my hospital?”
“That’s it. And all those buildings to the north. Adam told me that he’s put up a dividing line, and you’re not to cross over it. That everything on the other side is private property.”
“The rope?” She had to laugh. There was a slack rope tied loosely from palm tree to palm tree—in places it dipped into the sand. A lame, funny gesture, actually.
“I told you he’s stubborn. And if you haven’t looked at your bill of sale at the back of the deed he gave you last night, he’s added a provision on the end of it.”
She pulled the paper from her pocket, thumbed through the few pages and, sure enough, he’d penciled it in. A fence? “How like him!”
“Good fences make good neighbors!” Adam shouted, stepping out from a copse of palms. His side of the line, of course.
She jumped. “Why do you sneak up on people that way?”
“Why are you always so jumpy?”
“Look, I’ve got to go,” Davion said. “I’m helping in the clinic this morning and the patients are probably already lining up. They heard there’s a lady doctor here and they want to see her.” With that, he trotted off, crossed under the rope, and headed toward the larger of three buildings she could see on the other side of Coulson’s group of palm trees.
Erin strolled over to the dividing line, but didn’t cross it. “Are you serious about the fence?” she asked him.
His answer was a grin and a shrug. “Just trying to keep things honest between us.”
“It’s a rope, Coulson. Not even a taut rope.”
“A fence by any other name …”
“And how do I know this so-called fence is the true dividing line? Maybe it’s well over on my side and you’re cheating me of something I rightfully own.”
“What you rightfully own, Red, are the buildings, and the easement all the way down to the beach. I was being generous, giving you this little strip along the side here, because I thought, at some point, you might like to put in a better drive up to the hospital’s front door. But I could take it back, if you don’t want it.”
“And what do you want in additional payment, Doctor? A case of glasses to smash?”
“Stubborn, and with a temper, too. You’re actually pretty cute when you’re acting like that. It sets off the sparks in your green eyes.”
“Hazel. Not green.” She gave in to him with a laugh. “So, is this how the neighbor relationship is going to work between us? We’re going to stand back and spar at each other from across the … rope?”
“Unless you want to build a real fence. Doesn’t have to be a tall fence. Maybe six or eight feet.”
So, what was it about Adam Coulson that disarmed her? Here she was, standing on her side of this convoluted boundary he’d strung up, arguing almost into a seduction with him. It wasn’t that she wanted to be seduced, wasn’t that she particularly wanted to be friendly. But now they were practically face-to-face, and all she could think was how good he smelled—all masculine and tropical, maybe with a hint of lime.
“Look, I know you’re enjoying yourself playing gatekeeper at your rope, but am I going to have to ask permission to cross over so I can go to work? Provided you still want me to come and work.”
He swooped low, in a courtly gesture. “Permission to enter. And work.” Said with a grin. “Oh, and lunch.”
“You know, that meal that comes in the middle of the day?”
“You’re asking me to lunch?”
“Not a date, Red. A discussion. Since you’re going to be handling some of my medical load for a while …”
“Wait a minute. How did one morning at your medical clinic turn into me handling part of your medical load for a while?”
“I’m busy and it’s you who’s drawing them in, so it’s up to you to take care of them. I just thought I’d be civilized about this and go over some of the details with you.”
“I’m not taking over your practice, Coulson. Just giving you a couple hours of my time.”
“A couple of hours?” He pointed to the throng of people standing around one of the cottages on his side of the line. “They’re here for you, Red, and I don’t think you’re the kind of doctor who’s going to turn them down.”
She studied the people for a moment. Mostly women and children. A hard draw she couldn’t refuse to see, and she hated it that he had figured her out so well, so quickly, so easily. “When you say lunch, do you mean lunch as in two chairs at the dividing line, you on your side, me on mine?”
“Well, if that’s the way you’d like it, sure. Why not? But I was thinking we could go back to Trinique’s, have Kaven fix us his famous jerk nyamwich, I’d suggest the chicken, and bammy strips. Best on this side of the island.”
Food for the gods. Her mouth was already watering. “My father makes a good nyamwich … jerk chicken or beef, lettuce, tomato … Is Kaven’s served on coco bread?”
“What good nyamwich isn’t on coco bread?”
“And the bammy?”
Adam smiled. “Cassava flour and secret ingredients. He won’t tell anybody what they are, but I caught him smuggling yams in one day.”
“A yam bammy? That’s a new one on me. Guess I could be persuaded to try it.”
“So, that’s a yes?”
She nodded. “That’s a yes, but only for the yam bammy.” She stepped under the dividing line then looked back over her shoulder at her hospital. “I have a condition, too. You give me a guided tour of my property and all its buildings. Tonight.”
“That’s cruel, you know.”
“But who better than you? Besides, you get the fence, so I get the tour. It’s only fair.”
He sighed. “What’s fair is you selling me back what’s mine, and leaving me the hell alone.”
She laughed. “As they say, all’s fair in …”
“War and war.”
“That’s your version?”
“Not until this very moment. So, in the meantime, how long has it been since you’ve done an obstetrical exam? Because Breeon Edward is due anytime now.”
“I’m a pediatrician,” she said, following along behind him on their way to the clinic.
“That’s close enough.”
“Close enough? I haven’t delivered a baby since medical school.”
“But in the whole scheme of things you do know where babies come from?” he teased.
“Of course I know where babies come from.”
“Then Breeon will be happy to see you.”
“I don’t know, Coulson. All this for a yam bammy?” Of course, a yam bammy was unique. But, then, so was Adam Coulson. She had an idea, though, that he was an acquired taste, the way a good bammy was. Even so, she’d stick to the bammy! It was safer.
THE clinic wasn’t at all what she’d expected. Actually, she didn’t know what she’d expected, but this wasn’t it. It was sparse, just a tiny waiting room with several wooden chairs and two scantily stocked exam rooms. Basic, functional and neat. Tidy almost to perfection. Each exam room contained one exam table, a very old-fashioned type possibly fifty years out of date, one supply cabinet, a sink and a stool. There was room enough to turn around, barely enough room for much more. But the paint was fresh. White. Spotless. Everything very professional, including the white jacket Coulson handed her.
“We don’t have much in the way of medical amenities here, but looking the part gives our patients more confidence in us,” he said as he tugged on his knee-length white coat. “Shows respect for them, too. Like they matter enough for us to be professional.”
That was almost as surprising as everything else here. It was all bare bones. The cabinets she peeked into contained almost nothing. The locked medicine cabinet he showed her had so few medications to choose from there was almost no point in locking it. And as far as instruments … there was a dearth there as well. Bare bones, yet in some strange way impressive. An admirable doctor making do with so little. “It’s …”
“It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen,” he finished for her. “You probably didn’t even know that medicine existed on this level, did you? ”
“I’m not that sheltered,” she said defensively.
He chuckled. “Sure you are. Rich doctor, probably from a rich family … You handed me a few hundred thousand dollars for ten acres of land and some buildings that, in Jamaica, is worth much less than half of that. Which tells me until this very moment you didn’t know about medicine on my level.”
“OK, I’ve had advantages, and I’m not ashamed of it. My father came from a working family who did well for themselves, and I benefited from that. But that doesn’t mean I’m sheltered.” Although right now she did feel that way.
“Well, sheltered or not, we’ve got people lining up outside, waiting to be seen. You get the women and children, I get the men.” He pointed out the window to a group, all sitting in various types of plastic chairs. The ones she’d seen from afar earlier. Some were reading, a couple of the women were sewing, children were playing. Two of the men were engaged in a game of checkers. It was a casual, friendly scene.
“Then it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me, because the women and children outnumber the men three to one, which means I also get Davion to assist me.” She pulled on the white coat and almost drowned in it, it was so large. “Perfect fit,” she said, rolling up her sleeves, and, in fact, looking forward to seeing patients.
Adam straightened the jacket’s collar, his hand accidentally brushing over the line of her jaw. Goosebumps immediately leapt to her arms. “Davion’s good. The future best doctor in Jamaica. So.” He held up the one stethoscope. “This is it, and the tubing is brittle. I have one blood-pressure cuff, not calibrated, and not able to be calibrated it’s so old. So be gentle if you need to use them, and use them sparingly because they don’t have much life left in them.”
She noted the patches of tape on the stethoscope, and was glad she’d asked her dad for a new one. Next time she talked to him she was going to ask for a blood-pressure cuff and who knew what else. “The medical authority on the island doesn’t provide you with any kind of assistance?” she asked.
“Assistance goes to the public hospitals and medical facilities. And those are mostly in the larger cities, serving the majority of the population base, as well as the tourists. It makes sense, to keep the medicine where the majority of the people are. Out here … we’re on our own. We get lots of sympathy and emotional support from the health ministry and the rest is up to us. Overall, they’re doing a fairly good job of administering health care throughout the island, especially with the limited resources they have. But there are still areas like this where medical care is hard to come by, either because the people don’t want to travel to seek it out or they can’t.”
“So you’re the equivalent of the old-fashioned country doctor, the one who goes to the patient rather than having the patient come to him.”
“Something like that.”
And he supported his medical practice out of his own pocket. That, if nothing else, was certainly painting a different picture of him than the one she’d originally seen. “Look, Coulson, I think I had an attitude about your working at the bar. That’s before I knew …”
“It buys the penicillin,” he said, shrugging. “Sometimes, you do what you have to do.”
“I’m sorry about that penicillin remark, too.” She took the battered stethoscope from his hand then the blood-pressure cuff. “And to show you how much, I’ll buy the bammy. Now, I’m going to go see the pregnant woman first. She looks like she needs to get home and get comfortable more than anybody else here.” Erin glanced out the window, watched her sitting uncomfortably in a green plastic chair, watched the way she clung to her husband’s hand and the way he rubbed the small of her back with his other hand. It was nice. In a way, she envied the woman.
“First child,” Adam explained. “Due in a couple of weeks, and I’m hoping you can convince her to go to one of the hospitals, because I can’t. Oh, and I do have a speculum you can use to examine her. Davion will get it for you.”
Thirty minutes later, after as a good an exam as Erin could give Breeon Edward, she tapped on the door of the exam room where Adam was examining an older man. “Can you step out here for a minute?” she asked, when he opened the door a crack. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“Give me five minutes,” he said.
Erin used those five minutes to try out her powers of persuasion on Breeon. “Having your baby in a hospital is a good thing because they have different ways to help you, and your baby.”
Breeon shook her head. “My husband can’t take me. Leron drives the bus that goes to the villages and he can’t take the time off work. But that’s OK. We can have the baby here, and everything will be just fine.”
“What if I could find someone else to drive you to a hospital so Leron wouldn’t have to take off work?”
Breeon gave her head a firm shake. “My mother is here, and my sister. The hospital won’t let them help. Doc Adam can do this, and Trinique, if she gets back. And now that you’re here, you can help, too, if you want. But no hospital.”
That was the end of the argument. Breeon slid down off the exam table and headed to the door. “Doc Adam is checking me every two days now, so I’ll see you in two days. Good morning, ma’am Doc.” With that, Breeon exited, grinning from ear to ear as Leron met her in the hallway.
Only Erin wasn’t grinning when she met Adam in the hallway moments later. “It’s breech,” she said.
“Damn,” he muttered. “She’s had a rough pregnancy. Carrying too much baby for her small frame. But I didn’t expect this.”
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- Жанр: Современная зарубежная литература, Современные любовные романы
- Язык: Книги на английском языке
- Объём: 190 стр. 1 иллюстрация
- ISBN: 9781408924464
- Дата выхода книги: 01 января 2019
- Версия: 📚 Электронная книга
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