Книга - A Boss Beyond Compare


A Boss Beyond Compare
Dianne Drake

Enter into the world of high-flying Doctors as they navigate the pressures of modern medicine and find escape, passion, comfort and love – in each other’s arms!In her boss’s special care Dedicated doctor Grant Makela faces a fight to save his clinic from a faceless medical corporation. Meeting beautiful holidaymaker Susan Cantwell is a bright spot in his day – until she turns out to be from the company in question…Their reluctant attraction is mutual, and Susan finds herself agreeing to his proposal: to work at the clinic and see how important it is. As Susan and Grant work side by side, Susan realises that this amazing Hawaiian doctor has given her courage to follow her heart – even if that means staying at the clinic…and staying with Grant!Top Notch Docs He’s not just the boss, he’s the best there is!


He’s not just the boss, he’s the best there is!

These heroes aren’t just doctors, they’re life-savers.

These heroes aren’t just surgeons, they’re skilled

masters. Their talent and reputation are admired by all.

These heroes are devoted to their patients.

They’ll hold the littlest babies in their arms,

and melt the hearts of all who see.

These heroes aren’t just medical professionals.

They’re the men of your dreams.

He’s not just the boss, he’s the best there is!

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.

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“YOU can’t just walk out like this!” Walter Ridgeway stepped away from the end of the conference table where, only minutes before, he’d just merged two small medical facilities into one larger one. He walked toward his daughter. “We’ve got too many things going on right now, and I need you here.”

“I’m not just walking out,” Susan said, on a weary sigh. “And you don’t need me here right now. You just want me here because you need someone to bully.” That was said affectionately. Her father really didn’t bully her, but he was demanding, used to getting his way.

“So what’s wrong with having my daughter by my side? We’re a team, Susan. I depend on you.”

She laughed. He was so good at the art of negotiation, yet he was failing miserably here. And he knew that. Yet he didn’t give up, which was what made Walter Ridgeway so successful at what he did. No matter what the situation, he went at it to win. “You depend on yourself and nobody else, Dad. But you’re right, we are a team, and this half of the team needs a holiday.” It was overdue. In fact, the last real holiday she’d had had been, what? Nineteen years ago? She’d been fifteen and her father had taken her away to Switzerland to ski. Of course, it had been a business trip, too. For him, it had always been a business trip.

But that week in Switzerland had been the last time she’d had any kind of a holiday, and having one now wasn’t just overdue. It was long overdue. “Dr O’Brien told me that if I don’t take a little downtime he’s going to put me on stress pills.” Her father was a doctor, she was a doctor, yet for her medical care she still relied on the kindly near-octogenarian who’d been her doctor all her life. It galled her father a bit, seeing that Ridgeway Medical employed some of the best doctors in the world, but there was something nice about going to a doctor who knew her, one who cared. It was a personal kind of medicine she didn’t get to direct in her capacity as chief medical officer for Ridgeway Medical, which was why she hung on to Dr O’Brien so fiercely, even though he was in semi-retirement. For Susan, the old family practitioner was like a cozy warm blanket and a good, hot cup of tea. Comfort items, all of them. “So, I’m going to follow doctor’s orders and take a holiday.”

“After the Hawaii deal is sealed. Then you can have all the time you need.”

Ah, the same old story. She knew he meant it when he said it, but it never came to pass. Which was the problem. She didn’t thrive on tension and having every last nerve ending in her body stretched to snapping point, the way her father did. He not only thrived on it, he invited it—the more the merrier. But her temperament was a bit more subdued. “Which is what you said after the Atlanta deal, and after the Chicago deal. Now here I am, still no holiday and it’s three years later. I need to go, Dad. Just for a few days.” She had some thinking to do and she needed time and space to do it.

Stopping three feet short of his daughter, Walter crossed his arms over his chest. There was no give in his expression. Glowering all the way. So much so, anyone looking on would not have been able to tell that this was a father looking at his daughter. “You can be replaced,” he warned.

This was the same argument he’d used last time she’d wanted a few days away. Only this time it wasn’t going to work. He was a formidable man, but she had her own amount of formidability, too. “If that’s what you want to do…” Susan shrugged casually. “Then do it.” He wouldn’t, of course. And he knew that she knew he would not. But this was just part of the relationship, part of the long-standing dynamic they had going between them. Her father was a controlling man, and he was used to getting his way.

Today wasn’t going to be his day, though.

Taking in a deep breath, Susan took those three steps that separated them, kissed her father on the cheek, then walked out of the office, and out of the building, without a notion in the world of where she was going, or what she was going to do for the next ten days.

Grant Makela caught sight of her. This was the third morning she’d come to the beach. Same time, same spot, same stupid hat.

He’d noticed her that first morning, picking up shells. Pathetic little shells, broken bits and pieces. Yet she’d seemed so delighted by them. Almost like a child finding a treasure. He’d really hoped she would find something good washed ashore, but that rarely happened on this beach.

So the next morning, for whatever reason he still couldn’t explain, he’d bought a little mesh bag of shells from one of the local souvenir dealers, and dumped them in a pile near the spot where she’d been sitting the day before, hoping she’d return.

She did come back, and when she found those shells she scooped them right into her pockets. She was a woman who was thrilled with a simple prize, and she didn’t question anything about it. That showed an innocence Grant found appealing. At a time in his life when so many things were going wrong, that was nice. Even if only for a few moments in the morning.

“Don’t do it,” he muttered to himself, as he prepared to take his first wave of the day. “Don’t even think about getting involved with her.” No time, no interest… He was about to say no sex drive either, but that wasn’t the case. It was there. Just not so noticeable these days.

Turning back to the surf, Dr Etana Grant Makela kicked his sandals into the sand and took his first steps into the water. Three. That’s what he’d allow himself this morning. Three waves, then he had patients to see.

Her surfer had left the beach an hour ago, same surfboard tucked under his right arm, same bold strides across the sand she’d watched for three days. And now she was impatient to leave, too. Impatient, like her father, which was exactly why she didn’t get up and walk away. She was on holiday now. The one she’d fought for. She’d walked out the door, gone straight to the airport and come to Hawaii, since this was the site of their next meeting anyway. Yet, as much as she hated to admit it, the impatience with so much leisure time was beginning to trickle in. “Read a book, take a nap,” she said aloud, as a reminder. “Watch the surfers.” Even though not one of them held the same appeal as the surfer Adonis she watched every morning. He was perfection, and the rest were…unremarkable.

A group of five young boys running toward the water, all with surfboards tucked under their arms, did catch Susan’s attention for a moment, though. They were having so much fun. Young, probably college-aged, all of them taking a break, doing some surfing, looking at the pretty girls, probably drinking too much, sleeping too little. The follies of youth, she supposed, picking up her book and hunting for the page where she’d left off.

The follies of anything, that’s what she missed. That had been part of her confusion lately, and the whole reason why she’d come on holiday. There were things to think about, life decisions to make. Turning her attention to the book, Susan was staring at the page more than reading it, when, suddenly, something in the distance caught her attention. A number of people on the beach were running toward…well, she couldn’t make it out, but she could hear the far-off shouts, could see more and more people moving in that direction. Then people were huddling about something, and screaming.

The warning hairs on the back of her neck suddenly prickling, Susan jumped up, dropping her paperback into the sand, and started off toward the gathering group, which was growing larger by the moment. A few moderate steps, followed by a few faster ones, then she broke into a full run, her bare feet burned by the hot sand as she fought through the growing group, shoving herself to the front of it, where she nearly stumbled over a young man, probably not more than twenty years old, sprawled on his back. Mullet haircut, cartoon-character tattoos on his chest, he wasn’t moving.

Without a thought about it, her true nature took over. “Stand back,” she shouted, dropping to her knees next to the boy. “I’m a doctor.” Magic words. Everybody stepped back and the noisy crowd hushed, except for another young man who appeared to be the same age as the one in distress. Normal brown hair, no tattoos.

“Do something!” he cried. “You gotta do something.”

Susan did. She began an assessment of the boy in the sand. First discovery—no pulse.

“Board came back up and hit him,” the other young man said. “He couldn’t have seen it coming.”

Second discovery—no respirations.

“He went under, but he didn’t come back up right away. I went under looking for him.”

Third discovery—blue lips, ashen pallor, pupils unresponsive.

Time to perform CPR. “How long?” she asked her patient’s buddy.


“How long was he under? How long ago did he stop breathing?”

“He’s not breathing?” the buddy sputtered.

“How long?” Susan shouted, trying to get through to him. “Tell me how long?”

“I don’t know. Maybe four or five minutes.”

He was right on the cusp of either living or dying and could so easily tip one way or another, she thought as she did a quick exam of his neck. Surfboard injury could mean head trauma or even a broken neck. She couldn’t move him if his neck was broken. “No more than that?”

“Uh, I don’t know. Could have been. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

She nodded, not satisfied with the answer. But wasting more time asking was futile.

Gently, she probed one side of the young man’s neck, then the other. Nothing visible, nothing to feel. No air moving in or out. No pain response to her sternal rub either.

Susan felt the boy tipping toward death, and she dragged in a shaky breath to steady herself. “We need to roll him over,” she said, bracing her hands to splint his neck. She needed the water to drain from his mouth so she could begin resuscitation. Yet she had to pay attention to positioning his body, in case there was a serious spinal injury. A wrong move could make him a paraplegic or a quadriplegic.

“Don’t over-think,” she whispered. No time to think. No time to weigh the options.

She gestured to three men standing in the crowd, watching. “You, you and you…I need you to help me get him over on his side. Slowly.” She pointed to the positioning she wanted from the men, then continued, “On the count of three, roll him gently onto his left side. No sudden movements, and don’t jerk him.” Brave words for what she was beginning to think the outcome might be, given all the options. But he was dead already as it was, and without moving him she couldn’t perform CPR.

That was always the dilemma—to risk further, possibly permanent injury to save a life. Something, in all her years of being a doctor, she’d never had to deal with. Something she’d never had to put to the test until this very moment, as she braced the boy’s neck with her hands, desperately wishing she’d had more experience in direct patient care. “One, two, three…”

In unison, the men moved the boy to his side and a substantial trickle of water drained from his mouth. But he didn’t begin to breathe on his own, sputter a bit of it out and gasp for a replacement of air, as she’d hoped he might. That did happen. Drain the water and spontaneous respirations began. But they hadn’t, and a huge thorn of dread jabbed her spine. “Okay, roll him back over, same way,” she instructed. “One, two, three…”

As the youth went back into the supine position, it was becoming obvious to the crowd watching on that they were losing ground. Time was almost gone.

Not to be daunted, however, Susan felt for a pulse in the boy’s neck…still nothing. Then the pulse in his groin artery. Nothing again. Absolutely nothing.

The full knowledge was assaulting her now. It was too long. He was probably already past the point of return, too long without oxygen, but, still, it could happen, couldn’t it? She’d read medical accounts of these situations, where better results were recorded. It might not be too late. It just couldn’t be…

Susan started chest compressions and prepared to do mouth-to-mouth breathing, too, when a stranger emerged from the crowd and took over that duty. For the next several minutes, the two of them performed CPR quietly and skillfully. It was a frantic scene in which the crowd had stepped even farther back and a few people who didn’t want to watch the final outcome had skittered away. No one standing around Susan and the stranger spoke either, no one moved. Susan almost wished they would make some noise, something to cover up the stark sound of silent death settling in, because with every chest compression that failed to produce a heartbeat, and with every breath the man across from her put into the boy that failed to draw out one of his own, her optimism diminished.

After five minutes of this, her arms were aching and burning, on the way to going numb. And nothing was happening.

But he was so young…too young to die. Somebody loved this boy…his mother, his father. A girlfriend waiting at home for him, making dreamy plans for their future. For the people who loved him, she wouldn’t quit.

But she knew the rules. Ten to fifteen minutes without any response whatsoever meant it was hopeless. In her heart she did know this young man wasn’t going to be resuscitated—her first patient in so many years she couldn’t even remember, and she could not save him.

Yet she still couldn’t quit. She looked plaintively at the man across from her, who was busy feeling for a pulse, and couldn’t read his face. Maybe, like her, he was hoping that with the next compression of the boy’s chest…maybe one more breath…maybe a miracle. Please, God, a miracle! “Don’t do this,” she whispered, as she continued to work frantically on the lifeless body. “Don’t die.” Empty words, but as long as she kept saying them there was hope. “Don’t die…”

“It’s time,” the stranger finally said. He reached across the body and laid a gentle hand on her arm. “We’ve done everything we can do. It’s time.”

This was her resuscitation, not his! He didn’t have the right to call it done. “Leave me alone!” she choked, shrugging off his touch.

“It’s been too long. You can’t save him.”

“Go to hell,” she snarled, continuing the chest compressions with a newfound strength and preparing herself to take over the rescue-breathing the stranger wasn’t going to do, as he was moving away now.

“You tried, but he was under too long from the start.” Behind her now, the stranger tried to take hold of her shoulders and pull her away, but she flailed out, struck him, and bent back over the boy for a round of mouth-to-mouth. Tears were streaking down her cheeks now. And her own breaths were coming in sobs.

“It’s not too late!” she cried, going back to her chest compression position once she’d delivered the breaths. But this time the stranger succeeded in grabbing her, pulling her firmly away from the lifeless form, as someone from the crowd stepped forward and covered the boy with a beach blanket.

Susan still fought the man who held her back, though. Tried to get away from him, tried to get back to her patient. But the man held her away, held her tight. Pulled her into his arms and locked her there in his grip.

“It’s time,” he said, his voice so quiet it wasn’t even a whisper. “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing you can do for him now. He’s dead, and he can’t be resuscitated.”

He was right. She knew that. The doctor in her knew that. There wasn’t anything to be done now. The boy really was…

A sob so heavy it racked her entire body caused her to go limp in the man’s arms, and she was grateful for the strength in his embrace, and for the gentleness, even if from a stranger. She needed it. Needed something to hold on to. Needed someone to hold on to her.

Susan laid her head on the stranger’s chest and shut her eyes, listening to the sound of his beating heart, listening to the strength and vitality in it, taking comfort in the life she could hear, could feel against her cheek. “I tried,” she said, sudden heavy lethargy washing down over her. She was so tired now. Exhausted with a bone-crushing weariness like she’d never known in her life. “I tried to save him.” To her own ears her voice was thick, distorted.

“I know you did. But this wasn’t your fault.” He stroked her hair with the gentle hand of someone who cared. Of course, she knew he didn’t. He was merely a stranger on the beach, doing what any compassionate stranger might do. But she was glad for his attention anyway, and craved it for a moment longer.

“Someone needs to notify—”

“Shh. It’s not for you to worry about now. You did everything you could.”

Easy for him to say, because he hadn’t been the one who’d failed at the resuscitation attempt. He hadn’t been the one to let the boy die. She was the one who had started it and she was the one who’d failed. Which made this man’s need to calm her seem so…trivial. She didn’t want his compassion any longer. Didn’t want his arms around her any more, so she pushed herself away from him. “Don’t you think you’re taking this whole thing rather lightly?” she choked, pointing to the boy’s body. “He just died, for God’s sake! And you’re behaving like…like…” She steadied herself with a deep breath. “I need to see the local doctor and find out if I need to sign the death certificate since I’m the one who…” Who’d let him die. She couldn’t say the words out loud, though.

“Three blocks. That way.” He pointed in the direction leading away from the beach. “White building. South side of the road. You can’t miss it.”

She thought about thanking the man for his comfort but didn’t as he disappeared into the crowd when she took her last look at the boy. However it worked out from here, this definitely marked the end of her holiday.



From his desk, Grant Makela smiled up at Susan. “Are you feeling better?”

“What are you doing here?”

“You said you had to come see the local doctor about a death certificate, so here I am, the local doctor.”

“Couldn’t you have told me that on the beach?”

“Would you have heard me if I had? You were pretty upset.”

“Were? I still am.” A lump as hard as the slick volcanic pahoehoe stone she’d found on her walk to the beach that morning grabbed Susan by the throat, threatening to choke her. She swallowed hard, willing the anxiety to dissipate, willing the memories of that frightful scene to break up and go away. Yet the more she tried to not think about it, the more she did. All the while, that abominable lump in her throat was enlarging to the point it hurt. And the tears starting to slide down her cheeks felt like drops of molten lava burning a sharp path from her eyes straight to her heart as she thought of how someone who’d loved that young man must have been crying the same bitter, stinging tears for him, too.

Of all the times to be silly, here she was, doing it in front of him. Dr Makela, according to the nameplate on his desk. “I, um… Could I just sign whatever I need to, so I can go back to my hotel?”

“You’re not driving, are you? Because I’m not sure you’re in any shape to drive so soon.”

She nodded, almost to the point of biting her inner lip to stop her emotions from gushing over.

“Well, maybe you should have a rest here before you go. Take a little time to calm down.”

“I’m fine,” she argued. “Just a bit…upset, like I said.”

“No,” he said in such a soft-spoken voice it caused her to shiver—the voice he’d used to comfort her on the beach.

It was amazing how quickly she’d come to like that voice, come to believe it.

“You’re not fine. And upset is an understatement for what you’re going through, judging by what I’m seeing. What happened out there…it’s not an easy thing. And what you tried to do…your after-effects are natural, and I’d really like for you to stay until you’ve had time to get over it, to recover.”

He did have a nice way about him, and she thought he was probably genuine in his concern, but right then she didn’t want concern. All she wanted was to be alone. “I’m a doctor. I know very well what I am.”

Dr Makela gave her a compassionate, patient smile. “I’m also a doctor, and I know very well what you are, too. You’re feeling like emotional hell. Your hands are shaking, your head is probably woozy and pounding like crazy, and you hate me at this very moment because you’d rather go off to yourself and have a good cry, and I’m not letting you do that. Am I right about that?”

“The papers, Doctor? I know there are papers to sign so please, just let me do that, then you won’t have to waste your time diagnosing someone who doesn’t want to be diagnosed.”

“But you do need to be diagnosed, Doctor…” He waited for her to divulge her name.

“Cantwell. Dr Susan Cantwell.”

“Medical doctor?”

In a manner of speaking, yes, as that’s the way she’d been trained. Technically, she was an internal medicine specialist. She also had a little background in general surgery, too. Both had been prerequisites for her position as medical director over any number of internists and surgeons. But here, after her failure, it seemed like such a bitter pill to swallow, admitting that she was a medical doctor. “Medical doctor,” she said almost under her breath.

“A medical doctor who’s not feeling so well right now. Would you like to go lie down for a while? I have a private room empty, and maybe after a little rest…”

“Apart from the humiliation at showing just how bad my skills are, Dr Makela, I’m just dandy!” she snapped. “Thank you for the offer, but I’m not in the mood for medical attention or sympathy right now.”

“I can’t say that I blame you. But you’re not in any shape to drive yet, and unless you want to go back to the beach and rest there for a while, you’re going to have to stay here, in the room I offered. I’d be remiss in my duties here if I allowed you to do anything else.” He gave her a straight-on, provocative stare. “And I’m never remiss.”

He was a little more insistent this time, his voice taking on a little harder edge. Forceful words, yet kind. Sexy eyes staring right through her. He was right about it, of course. She was in no shape to drive and she knew that. Her hands were shaking so hard she doubted she could even insert the key into the ignition. Just look at her! One failed resuscitation and she was a total wreck. Did he wonder about her emotional stability? Did it seem odd to him that a doctor would go to pieces the way she was doing? He’d been there, working on the resuscitation, too, yet he was the picture of tranquility, the antithesis of what she was. But he worked with patients, practiced medicine in its purest form, while she performed administrative duties and hadn’t seen a patient, other than in passing on a stroll down one of her hospital’s halls, since she’d left her residency.

Such a vast difference in the same profession. Part of her longing, and her need of late to rediscover her medical roots.

Suddenly, redeeming herself in this man’s eyes seemed important. She didn’t want him thinking of her as a total washout, even though that’s how she felt. “I, um…I don’t practice medicine,” she said. “I guess that’s why this hit me so hard. I don’t do patient care at all. Just administrative work.”

“Well, I do practice patient care, and death always hits me the same way. Especially when it’s so senseless. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about here, Doctor. And nothing to explain. I think the doctors who don’t feel anything are the ones who should explain.”

She gave him a weak smile. “Maybe I should go lie down for a little while, just to compose myself.” The truth was, her initial reaction was to run away and hide, but now that she’d felt a little of his compassion seep into her, she didn’t want to walk away from it yet. “After I sign the death certificate.”

“I was there, too. If you’d prefer, I can sign it.”

Susan nodded. “Thank you,” she said. “And I’m sorry about being so…”

He held up his hand to stop her apologizing. “Nothing to be sorry about. You did a good job out there, Susan. Fought hard to save him. You have a right to whatever it is you’re feeling.”

Maybe she had the right to what she was feeling, but that didn’t make her feel any better about it. She appreciated his support though. More than anybody could know.

The room Grant offered her was small and basic. One bed, one television, one telephone and little else. But it was clean, and the bed, as Susan gave in to the urge to lie down, was comfortable enough.

“Need anything?” Grant asked from the doorway. He seemed a little hesitant to enter.

“Maybe prochlorperazine. My stomach’s a little upset.”

“I’ll have it sent right up,” he said, still lingering there, not making a move one way or another. She watched him with a mixture of mild interest and wariness, waiting for him to leave, yet glad he didn’t. He simply stood there…stood long enough for her to finally have a good look at him. Definitely tall—much more so than she’d thought at first, when she’d all but collapsed in his arms. Broad shoulders. Gorgeous bronze skin, black hair. He wore khaki shorts that hung to his knees and a loose-fitting flowered shirt, typical of what just about all the native islanders wore—and as far as she could tell he was a native islander.

“I know you’re a doctor, but what kind? Family practitioner? A local, from the area here?” Strained, inept question, but she wanted to make conversation with this man. She wasn’t sure why, though. Could it have had something to do with his good looks, and the fact that she didn’t often have time to make idle chat with the opposite sex any more, and there was something about him that made her want to? Or just to keep him there just a bit longer?

He nodded. “Yep, a very local family doctor, born and raised right here. General family medicine is about all the clinic is set up to handle, unless it’s an emergency, then we have a small emergency department. Nothing fancy there, though. We send the big cases to Honolulu.”

“So, do you own the clinic?”

“No. I just run it.”

“But you have a full-time staff? Other doctors, nurses…?” she asked, stopping short of requesting a full profile from him. My, wasn’t she just the queen of useless chatter today?

“I’m the only full-time doctor but, yes, we’re full service here, and we do have others coming and going. All the usual staff needed to run a forty-bed clinic,” he said, looking mildly amused.

The next questions on the tip of her tongue were about the size of his average patient load, then about the profitability margins here. But she succeeded in stopping herself before she got them out, remembering this was not an interview to ascertain medical feasibility in the likelihood of a buyout. She was a temporary patient here, and he was her temporary doctor. It wasn’t at all about business but, it seemed, that’s all she was about. Even now. “Look, I’m sure you have other patients to see. I don’t want to keep you, so if you could have someone bring me the prochlorperazine, I’ll be out of your way within the hour.”

He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth. “It could make you groggy. Too groggy to travel.”

“Or it might not.” He was trying to be nice and she appreciated that. “And I don’t want to be taking up bed space here any longer than is necessary.” She was thinking in terms of dollars and cents again, the corporate side of her ticking away so fast she couldn’t control it. Which got to the heart of the problem she had to figure out. Did she really want to be all about corporate business? Or was there more out there for her? “It’s not efficient, especially when I’m not really ill. You might have other patients…”

“If that becomes the case, I’ll kick you out. But until then, how about you just relax? I’m getting the sense that it’s something you don’t do very often.”

He didn’t know the half of it. She never relaxed, and it appeared she didn’t even know how. “How about I’ll promise to try, and we’ll leave it at that?”

“How about you put your head on the pillow and close your eyes?”

“And when I do I’ll see that boy on the beach.”

He finally entered the room in a casual swagger, propped himself on the wide windowsill, then twisted to face her. “For what it’s worth, according to his buddy, Ryan Harris had been out drinking all night with his friends. He was hungover this morning, maybe he was even still a little intoxicated. His friends admitted that. On top of that, I seriously doubt he was all that experienced on the surfboard to begin with, seeing that he was a haole.” Meaning foreigner. “From Chicago. No surfing there. Then when the big wave hit…” Grant swallowed hard, and a look of deep pain flashed across his face for a second, then disappeared. “It happens. A malihini…tourist… comes here for a short holiday, gets the idea that all he needs is a board and a good wave and he’s a surfer.” A sad sigh crept from his lips. “People think they know what they’re doing, or overestimate their abilities, and they get careless. Add something else to the mix, like Ryan’s condition, and it turns into a tragedy that probably could be prevented in most cases, if people acted smarter. But there’s something about coming to Hawaii and losing inhibitions…”

“You deal with fatalities all the time?” The darker side of paradise, she supposed. The anguish it caused him was obvious. Dr Grant Makela was a man who cared deeply.

“Not all the time, but it happens often enough. We’re the only medical clinic on this part of the island. There’s no other help for miles, and I’m the only doctor who actually lives here, which makes me the one who gets called in most of the time. To the beach, to the hotels…” He shrugged, but it wasn’t a shrug of indifference. More of acceptance. “There’s more good than bad, though. Most of my encounters have a much better outcome than what you experienced. Like meeting you. That’s definitely good.”

To avoid his engaging smile and sensual mouth, she focused her gaze on his cheek.

Then she noticed dimples, and her quick glance froze in place. The man had honest-to-goodness dimples! And the most gorgeous onyx eyes. Grant Makela was a handsome man. Beyond handsome. Breathtaking, rugged, charismatic good looks. Natural charm. Natural ease. Not even one tiny speck of self-consciousness, she thought as she moved her stare down to his half-bare legs—nicely muscled, well bronzed like the rest of him. Her appraisal came to a stop at his sandals. Exposed toes. For some strange reason, that almost made her giggle. She’d never seen a doctor on duty with exposed toes. “I appreciate your understanding,” she said. “I’m really just here as a tourist, not a doctor.” Her shells. Her mornings on the beach. Three glorious days of paradise and now it was all over. She couldn’t go back there.

Maybe it was time to call her father, apologize for leaving, and go back to doing what she was good at. Which wasn’t saving lives. Dr Susan Ridgeway Cantwell was nothing if not pragmatic. She knew where her true value existed, and it wasn’t languishing in a bed in an island clinic, talking on and on about nothing to the most positively gorgeous man she’d ever seen in her life.

Susan glanced down at Grant’s toes again, of all things, and a rush of giddiness overtook her. Fatigue from emotional letdown, most likely. “Are you on duty right now?” she asked. One of her doctors would be reprimanded, or even dismissed, for dressing that way. For exposing toes.

“Twenty-four seven, at your service,” he said, pushing himself off the window-ledge and sweeping into a courtly bow. “Like I said, we have a number of part-timers coming and going, but I’m the one and only full-time doc here.”

“And they allow you to work dressed the way you are?”

He bent to look down himself, as if he hadn’t been aware of the way he was dressed. Then he shrugged. “Island casual. That’s the way we are around here. Patients are comfortable with it. Much more so than they would be with something more traditional—dress slacks, white shirt, tie, white lab coat.” He faked a cringe. “What’s good for my patients is good for me, too, actually.”

She was good with it, too. At least, here on the island. She wouldn’t have minded staying around for a while so she could watch a little more of Dr Makela’s island-casual medicine, but she couldn’t. Perhaps, in a way, that resuscitation attempt had answered some of her questions and made her decision for her. Where and how she worked now, making practical business decisions and never being called on to do CPR…maybe that’s where she belonged. Maybe all her crazy feelings lately, about wanting to leave her admin duties and try patient care, were just that. Crazy.

“Look, I appreciate your helping me. What happened out there on the beach… Like I told you, I haven’t been involved in patient care in a very long time and it got to me. I shouldn’t have involved myself and maybe if I hadn’t, someone else… you…could have had a better outcome. But I want to thank you for helping me, and if you send your bill, I’ll sign it and write down all my contact information. Bill me there, and I’ll see to it that you’re paid immediately.”

“No payment necessary,” he said. “We haven’t really done anything for you except give you a bed and a pill that will be here shortly, and that’s not worth very much.”

No payment? What kind of an odd clinic was this, that they didn’t require payment for their services? “I don’t expect charity, Doctor. I may not practice medicine but I’m fully able to pay for my medical care.”

“We don’t call it charity,” he said. “We call it medical service with no strings attached.”

“You’ve got to have strings attached,” she argued. Strings, translated to mean money. She wasn’t opposed to charity at all, and her facilities did make arrangements for those situations. But medicine was for profit. It had to be, to operate it on the large scale on which Ridgeway Medical operated—just closing in on one hundred medical properties in total. In fact, their Hawaiian acquisition would send them over the one-hundred marker. “How else can you operate if you don’t expect your patients to pay?”

“We do have some private funding sources, many patients do pay, some have insurance. Basically, our needs are simple here, and people are as generous as they can be. But sometimes it’s not money that constitutes generosity. And we accept that, too…generosity in other forms.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Treatment for a minor sinus infection paid for with a good haircut if that’s all the patient can afford. Not what you’re used to as a medical administrator, I’m sure, but I happened to need a haircut that day so it worked out.”

“You do know you’re every medical corporation’s nightmare, don’t you?” she said as she slid back into bed, finally putting her head down on the pillow. That spoken like the true corporate head she was. Bottom line, profit margin—the terms of her medical world on any given day, with the need of a good haircut not ever taken into account. They needed money in order to run all their medical facilities, to pay wages, to dispense medicine and perform surgeries, to make people better. A good haircut didn’t get any of that done, but she did admire the sentiment. Just couldn’t relate to it. Or incorporate it into her clinics and hospitals.

“A medical corporation’s nightmare maybe,” he contended, “but every patient’s friend. That’s the part I like. It’s the way medicine should be practiced, and it isn’t done much that way any more.”

Interesting man. Handsome like she’d never imagined in a man, and with ideals, too. She liked that. Liked it a lot.

She liked him, too. “But is it the part your clinic’s owner likes?”

“I’m not sure what she likes,” Grant admitted. “Especially lately. Look, why don’t I go see about those pills? You need to rest, and I need to go see a patient. I’ll catch up with you later, after you’ve had a nap.” He chuckled. “And if you’re a betting woman, maybe we could make a little wager on whether or not the prochlorperazine will make you groggy.”

“Normally, I might take you up on that, but I’m afraid you’ll win, and I’m not a very good loser.” Thirty minutes later, after taking her pill, Susan shut her eyes and conjured up the image of her surfer Adonis while she drifted off to sleep. But just on that edge between full awareness and dream his image changed, then she was rocked gently into her bliss with the image of Dr Grant Makela fluttering around her fading consciousness.


IT HAD been an awfully long day, and not a particularly good one at that, all things considered. Death had a way of flattening out the rest of the day, no matter how many good things came after it. The death of that Harris boy had been no exception even though, technically, he hadn’t been the physician to work on him. Still felt the same, though. Still filled him with that down-to-the-bone tiredness that took a long, slow toll.

Dragging himself through the door of his home, a tiny cottage sitting directly adjacent to the clinic, Grant kicked off his sandals and dropped down into his bed. “Call me in an hour,” he’d told the floor nurse as he’d left, even though he doubted he’d actually fall asleep. Not with images of that boy’s death so fresh. Not with images of Dr Susan Cantwell’s pain so vivid.

But not sleeping was okay, because he was doing it outside the clinic walls, which was what he needed from time to time…to get away. Even if only a few feet away. In his life, there weren’t very many separations. Work, personal life, personal life, work…it was all pretty much the same. All of it relative to the fact that he kept his needs simple. Give him a good wave to catch once or twice a day, a great board for riding those waves, a few weeks a year to spend working with Operation Smiling Faces—a volunteer group of medics who did facial reconstruction for children living in areas where those services weren’t available—let him have an occasional plane to fly, and his medical practice. That’s all it took to make him happy.

A year ago, he’d thought Alana was part of that mix, but he’d been wrong about that. Damn, had he been wrong! So wrong, in fact, that he’d sworn off the finer sex for the foreseeable future. She’d had a beautiful face, nice curves, big goals. But none of those goals were his. On top of that, she’d had more needs than any one person had a right to.

A year of that and he was glad to be alone again. Still feeling the sting in a bad way, though.

Fluffing the pillow behind his head, trying to forget about Alana, Grant pushed his ex out of his head with thoughts of Susan Cantwell. Kekoa. Brave, courageous. That would be her Hawaiian name because she was brave and courageous, even if she wasn’t feeling like it right now.

Susan… He’d enjoyed watching her on the beach these past few mornings. Certainly, he’d never expected that she was a doctor. A good one, judging by the way she’d worked so hard to save that boy when the inevitable had been obvious. That was dedication above and beyond the call of duty. And showed a refreshing passion.

Of course, he’d had his fair share of death to deal with here on the island, which had shaken him to the core each and every time. Some were catastrophic, some natural, but none ever nice. So he knew how she was feeling—knew that emptiness, that sense of loss, the feeling that you weren’t good enough.

Yet the way she’d gone at the CPR—with such a vengeance. Definitely kekoa. Too bad she wouldn’t be here long enough for him to help her understand that. But she was impatient. Someone who lived a complicated life. He could see, right off, that her mind was clicking away on a faster track than she showed on the outside. It was apparent in her eyes, in the way she’d looked at him, yet, at the same time, had looked far past him to something else that pulled in her deepest attention.

Once she felt steady enough, she’d be gone. Back to whatever kind of stressful life she lived. People like that came here all the time—came to relax, to get away from their tensions and look for something slower. They spent fifty weeks a year in a nerve-fraying lifestyle then figured that two laid-back Hawaiian weeks would cure everything. That was something he saw here every day, saw those people stretching out on the beach with their cell phone in one hand, popping antacids with the other, thinking that was unwinding. They got away from their life, yet they didn’t.

Yes, that was Susan, or his first impression of her, anyway. And he usually trusted his first impressions. After all, he’d watched her wrestle with that damned floppy hat for three days now, always fighting the urge to do something more than merely take the holiday she’d planned for herself. It had been obvious, even from afar, that she wasn’t the type to spend leisure time on the beach. She ached for more, lived and breathed a frenzied life. And now that he was up close…well, if he were a betting man, she’d be a sure thing. But his preference was the ones who fooled him, the ones who put that cell phone away and tossed their antacids into the trash. They were the long shots, but he’d take a long shot for the best results any day.

Unfortunately, he didn’t see Susan as a long shot. Too bad because she needed to loosen up more than anybody he’d seen in quite a while. She wouldn’t return to the beach, wouldn’t wrestle with that hideous hat any more. And unless he missed his guess, she was already thinking about going right back to whatever she’d been trying to get away from.

Already, he missed that part of his morning where she watched him from afar as he watched her. Well, that was a stupid thing to do, anyway, so maybe it was for the best that it was over. Getting attached to Susan on any level was a mistake. Getting attached to any woman was a mistake. Just look what the last woman in his life had cost him!

Stupid or not, though, Grant drifted off to sleep wondering what it would be like to work with Susan, to have her stay there at Kahawaii for a few days.

She felt rested this morning, which was hard to believe, having spent the night in the rather small hospital bed. She struggled to keep her eyes shut against the light streaming in through the window. She didn’t want to look yet. Didn’t want to wake up, or see the activities of all the early beach-goers off in the distance, swimming, relaxing, collecting shells…


There was no amount of rest sufficient for that, so she just wouldn’t look. Out of sight, out of mind. Amazingly, as Susan indulged herself in avoidance for the next few moments, keeping her eyes shut to the world, the face of the young man on the beach she feared would pop into her mind didn’t. Neither did the face of her surfer Adonis, even though she’d never seen his face…only fantasized it. But Grant Makela’s face was there, as plain as if he were standing over her.

Grant Makela? Now, that shocked her. Why him?

Because he was kind to me, she reasoned almost immediately. Because he was her doctor, and people got attached to their doctors. Because he was the first person she’d really gotten to know, if only a little, here in Hawaii. She had her list of reasons, as anything else imitated interest, and if there was one thing Susan was not, it was truly interested in a man. From a distance, fine, but not up close, and absolutely not personal. Once was enough, a lesson she’d learnt sufficiently with that brief and, oh, so boring marriage.

At the time she’d gotten involved it had seemed like the right thing to do. She had been approaching thirty, the clutch of not being married and a ticking biological clock getting to her, so she’d said I do to a nice man in a not too well thought-out decision. He was reasonably handsome, very successful with a fair amount of wealth in his own right. But bland… Good lord, the man’s personality was like lumpy oatmeal, and the lumps were the only interesting part.

So she’d ho-hummed herself through six long months of bland with Ronald Cantwell before they’d come to a mutual understanding that they didn’t work for each other. It had been one of those things that had seemed like a good idea at the time because there had been nothing at all offensive about him, although nothing about him had totally bowled her over either. Which, in retrospect, had been her first mistake, not being head over heels in love with the man with whom she’d intended spending the rest of her life.

One of life’s little foibles was what she called it now. She and Ronald had gone their separate ways on reasonably good terms for a divorcing couple, and as a souvenir of her brief folly, she kept a name that wasn’t her father’s. That was actually a brilliant idea, keeping the Cantwell name, as working under her father’s name did have certain disadvantages as in everyone’s assumption, like father like daughter. Susan definitely wasn’t like her father. Not in any aspect. So she’d hung on to her married name, promising herself that next time she married… Actually, there would be no next time, so the promise to choose herself a man who made her pulse race and her nerves tingle didn’t mean anything. She wanted goose bumps, too. But there would be no man, so no racing pulse, no tingling.

And no goose bumps. That had such a sorry feeling to it.

Stretching, and finally giving in to the sunlight tempting her to take a look outside, Susan opened her eyes and glanced out the window, studying the people out there hurrying around. All of them had a sense of purpose, the way they were coming and going, it seemed. Or maybe that’s just what she wanted to see since her own sense of purpose felt like it was slipping these days. “What to do with my life…” she whispered, turning away from the window.

Ridgeway Medical was her father’s corporation, handed down to him by his father, and he’d spent years raising her up to take control of it. This is all for you, Susan, he’d always said. It had been just the two of them most of her life—her mother had died when Susan had been but a toddler—and her life had become, by default, an extension of her father’s. She shared his interests, lived his life. Stood right behind him to do his job, and had been glad to do it.

But since her divorce she’d been…restless. Discontented. No particular reason why, especially given the life and all the opportunities she had. Hence the reason for her holiday. To get the old feeling back. To re-dedicate herself to what she did best. Except she was enjoying languishing here in bed—something she never did in her other life. And she liked sleeping late. Again, that was something that never happened in her real life.

Damn, she hated the mushy thoughts. They’d been creeping in so much lately, breaking up the normal way she thought. Usually, she was such a decisive person, yet recently…

“Aloha kakahiaka!” a cheery voice called from the doorway, breaking up the gloom already coming over her. “Good morning. My name is Laka.”

Susan smiled at the bright-faced young woman coming through the door. Hawaiian obviously, with long flowing black hair and a smile that nearly lit up the room, the woman glided over to the bed with the smooth flow of an ocean wave, and stopped short of it. “Doc Etana thought you might like some breakfast before you leave this morning, so I’m here to take your order.”

“My breakfast order?” Like in room service? As nice as Ridgeway hospitals and clinics were, they didn’t offer room service.

Laka nodded. “We can fix almost anything you’d like, but my suggestion would be pa’ipalaoa hala kahiki.”

They didn’t bill you for services here, and they catered your breakfast? She was growing to like this place more and more with each passing minute. “Pa’i pala…” She shook her head, shrugging. “I can’t pronounce it, but if that’s what you’d recommend, that’s what I’ll have,” she said cheerfully, amazed by how such a simple thing was brightening her morning.

“It’s a pineapple cake,” Laka explained. “A recipe from Doc Etana’s mother.”

“Who’s Doc Etana?” Susan asked. “I’ve heard that name mentioned before but I haven’t met him.”

Laka looked surprised. “He’s Dr Makela. His first name is Etana, and that’s what most of us call him.”

One name for the natives, one for the outsiders? Briefly, Susan wondered if Grant, or Etana, kept his lives separated that way, much the way she did. She was Susan Ridgeway, yet she was Susan Cantwell. “Is he around this morning?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant, even though she was anxious to see him.

“He’s never around this early. He has his morning routines, but he’ll be here soon enough. If you’d like to see another doctor, Dr Anai is here from Honolulu today. Should I call him for you?”

Susan shook her head. “No, that won’t be necessary.” It was a bit of a disappointment. She’d wanted to see Grant Makela before she left, to thank him and to…well, she didn’t know what else. It looked like that wasn’t to be the case, though. Maybe that was a good thing, because there was no medical need to see him. She simply wanted to, no reason. In a life like hers, there wasn’t room for any of that, so it didn’t matter, even though she felt a little let down.

“Would you like to have breakfast on the lanai?” Laka asked. “Lovely view of the water from there. And the gardens, too.”

The water. Another of her fantasies—her surfer Adonis. It was time for his morning visit to the beach, and she was missing it, which was a sure sign that matters were getting too far out of control with her. Come to paradise and forget all inhibitions, apparently. At least, that’s what she was doing. It was also what she was going to put a stop to this very instant. “The lanai sounds very nice,” she said, trying to mount resistance to fend off all these whimsies and wishes assaulting her. They were just another symptom of being overtired. The real reason she needed this holiday.

“Your clothes are in the closet,” Laka said on her way out the door.

Her clothes—a swimsuit, and a baggy shirt to cover it. That didn’t fit the occasion, but neither did the typical faded blue hospital gown she was wearing at the moment. “You wouldn’t happen to have a pair of surgical scrubs handy, would you?” she asked before the nurse got away.

“We do, but no one around here ever uses them.”

As Susan had noticed. Even the nurses wore Hawaiian-print dresses. “Well, if you could dust me off a pair…”

Ten minutes later, Susan seated herself on a white-painted bamboo chair at a white-painted bamboo table, glad to be outside in the fresh air again. Relaxing like this and getting outside was something she had no time for at home. Her communing with nature usually consisted of a minute or two on the way from the car to the building or the building to the car. So now any time spent with Mother Nature was a treat.

“Wonderful,” she said to Laka, after taking a sip of passion fruit juice and finally allowing herself to relax.

“We specialize in wonderful here,” Grant said from behind her, as Laka walked away.

A huge tingle crept up Susan’s spine as a slight smile crept to her lips. “What’s disappointing is that I may have to leave here, cut short my holiday and return to work,” she replied, trying to be cautious about her galloping shivers lest she did something else to draw his attention to the goose bumps rising on her arms.

“On the mainland?” Grant stepped out from behind the hibiscus and stopped directly in front of the table. He looked fresh from the shower…wet hair glistening in the sun, shirt open a few buttons down and a bare chest with a few lingering droplets of water. She caught herself staring openly, and shifted her gaze to her glass of juice, grabbing it in both her hands just to steady herself.

“Actually, I’ll be in Honolulu for a few weeks. On business. And I may get straight to that and skip the last of my holiday. There doesn’t seem to be much point in it now.” That much was true. There didn’t seem to be reason any more. Her heart for it was gone.

“You mentioned you were an administrator—is that for a clinic or medical practice?”

She shook her head. “I…um…I work for a company in Dallas that buys struggling medical facilities and brings them back up to standard. I oversee medical operations, but more from an administrative perspective.”

“That wouldn’t be Ridgeway Medical, would it?” he snapped, his friendly expression turning into dark thunder.

She looked up at him, saw the deep frown on his face signal the change in his mood. “You’ve heard of us?”

“Heard of you? I’ve done nothing but hate you for the past six weeks. You’ve made my life pure hell ever since I knew that you existed.” His words were angry, yet his voice was controlled and quiet.

That took her aback. Kahawaii Clinic wasn’t on her current acquisitions list. She was sure of that. So what was this about? “Why? What have we ever done to you?” she asked, trying to tamp down the surge in her own temper. No need to fight him when she didn’t know what it was about.

“Other than buying the clinic—what I hoped would be my clinic—and changing everything we’re about?”

“But we’re not! Yes, we’re in the process of a nice deal on Oahu, but I know what properties we’re looking at and this isn’t one of them.” It would be an ideal place for one of their clinics, she had to admit, but the Kahawaii name wasn’t on the list.

“The hell it isn’t! Mrs Kahawaii is in negotiations now, and she’s indicated to me that she intends on signing the deal within the next couple of weeks, if I can’t come up with a way to make a deal of my own. And she’s signing with Ridgeway Medical.”

“Kahawaii Clinic?” she asked, clearly perplexed.

“Officially, it’s Hawaii North Shore Clinic, which we renamed it unofficially after its founder when he died.”

That was a name she recognized. Susan sucked in an acute breath and immediately went on the defensive. “What’s wrong with Ridgeway Medical?” she asked. “We upgrade medical care in areas where it’s inadequate, and it’s good medical care. We have excellent standards. We keep hospital doors open that would otherwise close, depriving a community of medical care, and we equip small clinics like this with the best medical technology money can buy. What’s wrong with that?”

“You run roughshod over small clinics like this, forcing on them a standard that doesn’t fit. You don’t take into consideration the individual communities, and the people living there…what they need, what they want, what they’ll accept. Your emergency doctors won’t accept a haircut from a patient who can’t pay in money but who has too much pride to take charity, and I doubt that any of your patients love their clinic so much that they’ll volunteer to paint its exterior just as a matter of pride in the facility, like the people here did last year. You run institutional medicine, we run personal medicine. That’s what’s wrong with Ridgeway.”

She really didn’t have a defense for his argument because he was correct. But what he didn’t understand was that they operated the way they did because it was the best for the majority of their patients. This was the argument she’d heard so many times, when various hospital and clinic administrators had found out their facility was being sold. People often resisted the change, didn’t embrace it in any fashion. They fought against it, even though, like Grant, the decision wasn’t theirs to make. And she truly hated the arguments, because lives were disrupted by what she and her father did. In the long run, it was for the best. But in the short term, just getting to that point, it was difficult, and that was the part of this business she hated the most. She detested being disruptive, hated putting the fear of change into people like Grant, who devoted their lives to an ideal, only to have that ideal ripped away from them. “Have you been to one of our facilities? Because if you haven’t, I’d like to invite you—”

“Invite me to your indoctrination?” he interrupted. “Show me the proper corporate facility and tell me all this can be mine if I just adjust my attitude?”

Actually, that was correct. But she wasn’t going to admit that to Grant, because that would just fuel his fire, and he had such a big fire going already that adding to it would prove nothing. The truth was, she felt bad about this. Always did, when it became personal. This time more than usual, though, because she liked this clinic, and she did see merit in it existing as it did, without change. With Ridgeway, though, change was inevitable, which made her sad for the little Kahawaii Clinic because, if she could be honest with herself, she’d pictured herself working in a setting like this. Part of that discontent she’d been feeling for a while had been that she wanted to connect to medicine in a way she wasn’t allowed in her current capacity, and here, that connection would have been so easy.

But Grant was right. Kahawaii would change. She glanced down at his feet. He would have to wear regular shoes. No more bare toes. “Look, Grant, I know this isn’t going to be easy for you. But we…Ridgeway Medical…does have its place. Small private hospitals and clinics struggle against the larger ones for a lot of reasons, and unfortunately most of those reasons are purely business. They can provide outstanding care, have an exemplary medical staff, sterling reputation, everything you want in a medical facility, but if they can’t afford the latest MRI machine, for example, the patients who need an MRI for whatever reason go somewhere else, and it doesn’t take too much of that to affect the bottom line financially. Patients who go away rarely ever come back. They find it more convenient to bundle up all their medical needs together and keep them at the one facility that can meet all their requirements. So when the bottom line takes hit after hit like that, with people leaving to find more services, the facility suffers. That’s precisely why Ridgeway Medical is so important. We can keep that patient at that smaller facility and offer them everything they need there. In Indiana, for example, we own three small hospitals. Each, in itself, can’t afford an MRI scanner, and the patient load is such that it’s not warranted at any one of these facilities. All three were suffering when we stepped in, and the very first thing we did was buy a mobile MRI. It goes from facility to facility, and serves all three on a rotating basis. We’re not losing our patients who need an MRI, and they’re allowed to stay with the medical facility of their first choice because we pooled resources.

“I mean, people want to look at their medical treatment as something cozy and personal, but there’s a huge, demanding business behind it that makes it work, and what we do is try to find a way to allow people to have the kind of medicine they want yet make the business aspects work to keep it that way.”

“Is that in the company brochure?” he snapped. “Because if it’s not, it sure should be. You’ve got the corporate verbiage down perfectly. It’s a very good selling job if somebody wants to be sold, which I don’t!”

In the official presentation they made, this was the part where they usually went to a multimedia presentation—graphs, charts, movie, testimonials. Which made Grant correct. She did have the company verbiage down…another of the reasons she wasn’t so sure of her future in the company, as she was tired of the impersonal feel of it all. “Look, I don’t know what I could say to make it right for you. Most people don’t like the transition, and I understand that—”

“Do you, Susan? Do you really understand, or is that more jargon? Have you ever had everything you’ve come to count on transitioned right out from under you? And in the case of Kahawaii, have you even considered that you’re transitioning it right out from under its patients, too? Look out there.” He pointed to the gardens just off the end of the lanai, where Laka was helping an elderly woman take a walk down the path. The woman shuffled along on a walker, doing fairly well, actually, and Laka walked along with her, keeping a steadying hand on the woman’s back. “Her name is Pearl. Replaced hip. Aged eighty-nine. How would she fare in one of your clinics?”

“We have rehab facilities—”

“She lives at home, Susan. Not in a rehab facility. Laka, or one of the other clinic workers, goes over there twice a day to help Pearl walk. She’s living at home, where she’s happy and comfortable. We send meals over from the clinic, too. All Pearl needs is a little assistance, and I can promise you that if we were to send her to a rehab facility, she’d give up and die. For her, staying at home means everything so that’s what we’re helping her do, and she’s allowed her life and her dignity. It works out for us, too, as when we have children in the pediatric wards, she comes over to read stories to them. Or if we have babies staying here, she spends time sitting and rocking them, and singing to them when their parents can’t be here. It’s a valuable relationship, Susan, and I’m betting you don’t have anything that personal in any of the Ridgeway facilities, do you?”

His voice was softening now, going from anger to…well, it could have been pride because there was a lot here to be proud about. But maybe it was love. Grant did love this clinic, and he had a passion for the way medicine was practiced here. Watching Pearl make her way along the path for a moment, Susan finally shifted her gaze back to Grant. “No, we don’t, and I’m sorry. It would be nice to think that we could do something like that, but the truth is, when you have a hundred facilities to look after, it just can’t be that way.”

“Meaning the individual patient doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, the individual patient always matters, which is why we operate the way we do. We strive to give the best care to everybody who comes through our doors, but it’s just not so…”

“Personal,” Grant supplied.

“It’s nice to have an ideal, Grant,” Susan said, standing. It was time to leave. Truly, she did feel bad for what would of necessity happen at this little clinic, but it wasn’t under her control. Somebody other than Grant was selling the place, and if she and her father didn’t buy it, someone else would. Judging from the beautiful land on which it sat, that someone else might not be a company vested with medical interests. This would be the perfect place for a plush resort, or luxury condos… She wondered if Grant could see that handwriting on the wall, because it was written everywhere. Property this beautiful was scarce, and if Ridgeway didn’t seal the deal…well, she didn’t even want to think about the possibilities. “And I wish you well in yours. I’m sorry this won’t be turning out the way you’d like it to, but I really don’t make the deals. I just oversee the medical operations.”

“You don’t seem like the type,” he said, as she stepped away from the table.

“And what type is that?” she asked, starting to bristle again.


“And what is the corporate type supposed to seem like?”

“Not like you. Out there on the beach, when that boy drowned…the way you took it so hard…”

“I’m not unfeeling, Grant. I went to medical school just like you did, went through the same medical service rotations, learned the same procedures, dealt with the same kind of patients. And even though we don’t agree on anything that Ridgeway Medical does, it’s not fair to characterize me the way you’re doing. Saying that I can’t care, or that I don’t have compassion because I’m corporate is the same as my saying that because you’re only a country doctor you’re too simple to understand the reasons a corporation like Ridgeway exists. I wouldn’t do that because you do understand why we do what we do, even if you don’t like it. And being a country doctor certainly doesn’t make you backward, so I wouldn’t ever say anything like that.”

It was time to go, time to get back to the life she knew. She didn’t have a fight with Grant, and didn’t want to have one. He wouldn’t believe that, but she did admire his passion for the kind of medicine he practiced. She even envied him that. It had been such a long time since she’d felt that kind of passion about anything, and she only hoped that once Ridgeway took over his clinic, he would hold on to it. Doctors like Grant Makela were rare.

Men like Grant Makela were even rarer.


“WORK here!” Grant shouted at Susan as she was about to climb into her rental car.

She spun around, assuming that he was chasing after her, but he wasn’t. He was still standing on the lanai. Imposing figure of a man, she thought. That had been her first impression, and it hadn’t changed. Standing there, in his shorts, Hawaiian floral-print shirt and sandals, he absolutely took her breath away. Forcing him to wear anything other than what he did was tantamount to a crime, but that was one of the changes on the horizon. “What?” she called back, not sure she’d heard him correctly.

“I said, work here. You said you were on holiday, so spend the rest of it working here.”

He clearly wasn’t going to come to her, so she walked halfway back to the lanai, then stopped. “And what would that prove?”

“You’ve never worked in one of your facilities, have you?”

Was that a devious little smile on his face? It was hard to tell, staring into the sun the way she was, but she would have sworn she saw a smile cross his lips. “I oversee corporate medical policy, but I leave the individual hospital and clinic admin matters to the hospital administrators.”

“Not administration, Susan. That’s not what I’m asking. I’ll bet you’ve never donned a lab coat, hung a stethoscope around your neck and set off as a practicing doctor in any of your medical facilities. You know, treat strep throats, prescribe for bronchitis, that kind of thing? You haven’t done it, have you?”

Such a devious smile, and he was challenging her, as it turned out. He probably thought he’d get her to work here for a few hours, for her to see what the real medical world was like, then change her mind. Except it didn’t work that way. Too bad, too, because if she had it in her to give him his clinic, she probably would. “What I’ve done is make it possible for hundreds of doctors to treat thousands of patients with strep throats and bronchitis.” She liked his gutsiness, though.

“Then work here, as a doctor. Let me rephrase that. Work here like a doctor who isn’t encumbered by the dictates you put on the doctors working for Ridgeway Medical.”

“How long?” she asked, surprised she had. She really had no intention of doing this, but she was the moth being drawn into the flame. The closer she got the more she knew she would surely meet an awful demise, yet something in her was wired to keep moving toward the flame. And she was a heck of a lot smarter than that moth. “If I were to stay here and work, which I’m not going to do, how long would you expect me to do this?”

“How many more days left of your holiday?”

He was serious. Grant was actually serious about this! “Six, including today.”

“Then I’ll take six, including today.”

This was crazy. She was actually entertaining the invitation. “And what’s in it for me, if I do this?” Not only entertaining it, showing enough interest in it that his devious smile was growing larger.

“Awareness of what it’s like at the other end of the spectrum. You sit at a desk and make decisions for lives that never touch yours. Here, you’ll make decisions for lives that do touch yours and that will make you a better administrator.”

“You’re hoping that I’ll change my mind, aren’t you? That when I leave here in six days I’ll wave some kind of a magic wand and you’ll miraculously have your clinic the way you want it.”

“Yes. And I’ll take my opportunities wherever I can get them.”

It was an honest arrangement, but it occurred to Susan that Grant didn’t know she was one of the corporate officers. Not just one of the officers, actually. One of the owners. For now, perhaps it was better that he didn’t. Especially as she was tempted to take him up on his offer. Funny how it coincided with her restlessness to get back to regular patient care.

Well, what would it hurt to give it six days then see what happened? For that experience, she’d discover if her restlessness was a passing whim or a valid problem. Maybe she’d find out she was truly cut out for admin work after all. Or maybe it would show her, once and for all, that she could be a practicing doctor. Besides that, she’d be in a good position to make recommendations to the Ridgeway board about Kahawaii, not that anybody on the board would necessarily agree with her. So, however it happened, this seemed like a good opportunity for her. “No promises, because I don’t know how these next days will turn out. I may or may not make the recommendations you want. And the board may not listen to me if I do recommend what you want. If that’s agreeable, with no strings attached to the outcome, I’ll give you my next six days.” Those words surprised her almost as much as they surprised him, judging from the look on his face. But why not? She did have the time, and she could think of worse things to do than spend a few days with Grant, in paradise no less, even though it was pretty clear they weren’t going to get along famously. How could they, given that they were at odds?

“I’m in charge,” he warned, like he had to. Of course he was in charge. She wouldn’t have had it any other way, especially given her lack of regular doctoring these past years.

“You’re in charge.”

A tight little frown popped up between his eyes, like he was adding up a list of pitfalls in this arrangement he’d just proposed. First, she wasn’t well practiced. Second, she wanted to quash the current Kahawaii operation. Third, she wanted to infuse Ridgeway practices. Yes, that was the list Susan imagined he was beginning to form, one that could have gone on and on from that, but she didn’t want to think about it because, it seemed, she was about to be put to work. That’s what was making her nervous now. Agreeing to be a practicing doctor was one thing, but actually doing it…

“The locals tell me you have another name,” she said, deliberately changing the subject for a moment. She needed time to catch her breath, to think about what she’d just done. Maybe back out once the brunt of it hit her.

“You’re backing out already,” he accused.

“I’m trying to make polite conversation,” she counted.

“In the middle of a disagreement?”

“Are we still disagreeing? I thought we’d settled all that for now.”

He chuckled. “Nothing’s settled, Susan. It’s just being avoided temporarily.”

“And in the spirit of avoidance, I was asking about your name. No ulterior motives here, Doctor. I was just curious.” He walked across the lanai, then crossed over the parking lot, stopping just a few feet in front of her, where he studied her face for a moment, making her more nervous than ever as she knew exactly what was written there. If she’d had a mirror to look in, she’d have seen a virtual masterpiece of insecurity and self-doubt. The implications of this arrangement she’d just made were beginning to set in now, and the enormity of what she’d promised to do… Crazy! What was she thinking, agreeing to work as a practicing doctor?

“My native name—Etana. It means strong, or firm. It’s what my mother called me, so most of the people here still use it.”

“Which suits you,” she said rather weakly, as her hands began to tremble.

He shrugged. “Grant’s good, too. It was my grandfather’s name. He was a missionary to the islands.”

“A haole?” she asked.

“A foreigner, yes. For a time. But once he settled here he never left. People tend to do that here. Come for a little while and never leave.” He smiled, but this time the deviousness of it was missing. It was a genuine smile, and a gentle one. “The lure of the islands.”

“And you use his name now because…?”

“Let’s just say that I wasn’t the perfect child. Got into a lot of trouble. People here still remember that and associate it with Etana. So when I returned here after medical school I had the bright idea that changing my name made me a new person.”

“Has it worked?” It hadn’t for her, because Susan Ridgeway by any other name was still Walter Ridgeway’s daughter.

He laughed, shaking his head. “Do you hear anybody calling me Grant?”

“Well, maybe in time…”

“Or not. Sometimes, you are who you are, and nothing will change that fact. Not even a different name. I treat Omar Lahani for angina, he takes my advice, takes the pills I prescribe, but he never forgets that I was the one who broke the brand-new picture window he’d just had put in his house.”

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Enter into the world of high-flying Doctors as they navigate the pressures of modern medicine and find escape, passion, comfort and love – in each other’s arms!In her boss’s special care Dedicated doctor Grant Makela faces a fight to save his clinic from a faceless medical corporation. Meeting beautiful holidaymaker Susan Cantwell is a bright spot in his day – until she turns out to be from the company in question…Their reluctant attraction is mutual, and Susan finds herself agreeing to his proposal: to work at the clinic and see how important it is. As Susan and Grant work side by side, Susan realises that this amazing Hawaiian doctor has given her courage to follow her heart – even if that means staying at the clinic…and staying with Grant!Top Notch Docs He’s not just the boss, he’s the best there is!

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