A Doctor's Confession
Deep South Docs! Swapping the Big City…for the Bayou!After tragically losing a patient, former doctor Alain Lalonde has come to the Bayou to forget his past. But he can’t help being drawn to intriguingly beautiful nurse Maggie Doucet! And when a difficult case unexpectedly makes them foster parents they find themselves not only bonding with the child – but with each other too…!
Praise for Dianne Drake: (#ulink_e264d75d-ffe1-5302-ba3a-b587968616f2)
‘A very emotional, heart-tugging story.
A beautifully written book. This story brought tears to my eyes in several parts.’
—goodreads.com Community Review on P.S. YOU’RE A DADDY!
‘An excellent story written with emotional depth and understanding.’
—millsandboon.co.uk Community Review on FIREFIGHTER WITH A FROZEN HEART
A Doctor’s Confession
Table of Contents
Praise for Dianne Drake: (#u3b78d10e-844f-5d14-a5d6-36d0be2712b6)
Title Page (#u5228d63b-d8df-547b-9db6-4c6488467a2a)
CHAPTER ONE (#uf011d8ec-fbaa-5b26-ae1a-6f13f2bc3371)
CHAPTER TWO (#u7e91ce2c-c381-5bf4-8585-4c907651daf9)
CHAPTER THREE (#u690a670f-9a91-5cfa-bca4-4e77c4080681)
CHAPTER FOUR (#litres_trial_promo)
CHAPTER FIVE (#litres_trial_promo)
CHAPTER SIX (#litres_trial_promo)
CHAPTER SEVEN (#litres_trial_promo)
CHAPTER EIGHT (#litres_trial_promo)
CHAPTER NINE (#litres_trial_promo)
CHAPTER TEN (#litres_trial_promo)
CHAPTER ONE (#ulink_8b4270e1-36fe-55c5-881e-b9932ad8175d)
“HE’S HANDSOME ENOUGH,” Magnolia Loraine Doucet—Maggie—commented. It was one of those hot, hot August days in Big Swamp, where her preference was to sit on the front porch swing, fan herself and sip a tall, cool lemonade. Which was exactly what she was doing with her sister Mellette on the front porch of Eula’s House.
Inside, Mellette’s husband, Justin, was arguing with Amos Picou on just how much larger the clinic extension should be. Amos wanted to keep everything as it was, and Justin wanted things bigger—a surgery for minor procedures, a cubbyhole where he could escape to write pages for his latest crime novel. It wasn’t a lot in terms of square feet, but changes were met with resistance in these parts.
And while the argument with Amos, who was in favor of leaving things be, was not nearly as heated as the noonday sun, it had seemed the perfect time for the sisters to go outside and take a break.
“You mean drop-dead-gorgeous carpenter man without his shirt, and all sweaty. And look at his …” Mellette Bergeron teased.
“You’re a pregnant lady with a husband just inside the door. You don’t get to look at his anything.”
“Hey, I can still look … a little.”
“You’ve got a looker. Got him hook, line and six months into your pregnancy.”
Mellette smiled the smile of a very contented woman as she laid a protective hand on her belly. “Don’t I know that.”
“So stop looking at that guy over there.” Maggie nodded her head, indicating the big hunk of a carpenter working on framing the additional room that would be used as a minor surgery at Eula’s House.
“Because you want him?” Mellette teased.
“Please. You know I’m not into relationships.”
“Ah, yes. School and work, and more work. An exciting life.”
“It is exciting.”
“Then why are you looking?”
“I’m not looking so much as … as … admiring the physiology. And I was involved not that long ago.”
“Marc the Bland and Raymond the Terrible. You do know how to pick ‘em.”
Maggie Doucet envisioned Marc for a moment—nice man, no wow factor. When his image disappeared she conjured up Raymond the Terrible—man’s body, pig’s head.
“Marc was okay, just not … not conversant or interesting. And if you recall, Marc the Bland dumped me. He dumped me because I wasn’t interesting enough for him.”
Maggie and Mellette both laughed, then Mellette continued, “Then entered Raymond the Rebound, who turned out to be Raymond the Terrible. Misogynist pig of a man.”
“I know, I know. You warned me, Mother and Daddy warned me.” So had her other five sisters. “I met a street performer down in Jackson Square who was dancing for coins and even he warned me in a mime sort of way.”
“Yet you didn’t listen to any of us, did you?”
No, she hadn’t. Because that’s just the way she’d been, looking for absolution and as stubborn as the day was long. Not a good combination. Sure, it was a long, tired story about how she’d been stupid. One known to women the world over. And yes, she’d already admitted it freely. What she’d done hadn’t just been stupid. It had been double stupid! Head-in-the-sand time, being dumped by someone she considered bland, then turning to Raymond.
Lesson learned from all that—she wasn’t ready to jump back into anything for a long time to come. What she had suited her, kept her as safe as she needed to be. “Not doing it again for a long, long time, if ever.”
“Not even with Mr. Tool Belt over there?”
“Especially with Mr. Tool Belt over there. He’s …”
“I’m not looking.”
“But you took him lemonade yesterday, didn’t you? Did you take lemonade to any of the other workers or just him?”
“Just him, but … I did make a pitcher full and left it out there in case any of the others wanted it.”
“But he got his from you? Correct?”
“What are you trying to imply?”
Maggie snapped, “I just gave the man some lemonade, so don’t make a federal case out of it, okay?”
“Which means you are interested, being so defensive and all.”
“And just where do you get that?”
“You also said he’s sexy, did you not?”
“I said the way he drank his lemonade is sexy. That’s not saying he’s sexy.” Although he was. Very.
“Same thing,” Mellette argued.
“No, it’s not.” Maggie turned and scowled at her sister. “Your pregnancy hormones are acting up again, which is making you irrational.”
“You want everybody to be as deliriously happy as you are right now. Even if, like me, they don’t want to be. Or if, like me again, they’re satisfied with their life the way it is.”
“Maybe you want to be happy the way I am, and you just don’t know it yet. I was like that when I first met Justin. Wasn’t ready to let go of the past and move on. It took me a while to come round, but when I did …”
“You decided the whole world has to act just like you did. Except my world is complicated.”
“And mine wasn’t?” Mellette asked. “I had to remove a wedding ring given me by someone I loved very much in order to make room for Justin. And I also had a daughter who was very much involved in my move forward. And you have …” She folded her arms across her fat belly and faked a contemplative frown.
“Let’s see. You have none of that. You’re moving away from a boring boyfriend, followed by a chauvinist rebound, you’re at the top of your law school class, you have a killer job that you claim to love. And that sweaty guy over there keeps looking at you out of the corner of his eye. Nothing about that sounds complicated at all. In fact, it seems pretty straightforward to me.”
“I’m in transition. Give me some time.”
“Seriously, Maggie? That’s the best you can do?”
Maggie took a quick peek at the guy in the jeans, then concentrated on her lemonade. “I’m sure his story is a long, sad one. You know, dumped by the love of his life who ran off to marry a rodeo clown, and now he sits at home alone every night, sniffing the scent of her left on the pillow while petting FruFru, the fluffy white poodle over which they fought for custody.”
“First thing is, he’s definitely not the poodle type. German shepherd, I think. Yes, he’d definitely have a German shepherd. And, Maggie, if you think he sits home alone every night, you probably don’t deserve to serve him lemonade. He’s one catchable hunk of man if I’ve ever seen one, and the only reason he’d be staying home is because he wants to.” She took a sip of her lemonade.
“Or he’s a serial killer.”
“A serial killer with drop-dead-gorgeous blue eyes,” Mellette continued.
“They’re green,” Maggie corrected.
“And I saw his sandy blond hair, wide shoulders and six-pack abs. Sure, I noticed, and that’s not counted as looking. It’s being observant. And I’ll have a good description ready for the police if he is a serial killer.”
“He’s a sexy drinker with drop-dead-gorgeous green eyes you can describe right down to his abs. So does he have a birthmark?”
“You said they’re drop-dead gorgeous,” Maggie challenged. “I didn’t.”
“And you’re going to contend they aren’t, madame lawyer?”
“Not a lawyer yet. And I’m not contending anything other than the fact that they’re green.” A very nice, tranquil green. “And that he is handsome.” With coloring that nearly matched hers, with green eyes just a shade lighter than the green in her eyes.
“Because you were gazing longingly into them.”
“If you weren’t so pregnant, I’d challenge you to a fight, right here, right now,” Maggie said in good-natured fun. “The way we used to when we were kids.”
“Remember how Daddy would encourage us, even lay down bets on who’d win the wrestling match? So then we’d go at each other for a while, then Mother would come in and Daddy would pretend he knew nothing about it? Then he’d get all stern and try correcting us, and we’d jump all over him.”
Both sisters laughed over the memory.
“Between you and me,” Maggie said, “I’m glad you’re having a girl. I like the idea that Leonie will have a sister the way I had all of you, and I love the idea of having another niece since the first one I got was so great. I mean, boys are nice, but I don’t know how one would fit into the family. We’re so used to girls.” She was referring to her six other siblings. At age thirty-three, Maggie fell middle in line of the seven Doucet girls. With long, honey-blonde hair and green eyes, she stood out as the different one—she being fair while the others ranged in skin complexion from medium dark to dark.
Being the fairest of the group, people had taken for granted she was also the weakest or most vulnerable. Except that wasn’t true. There wasn’t a weak, vulnerable Doucet girl in the bunch. Admittedly, Mellette was probably the strongest of them all, and that had helped her through the death of her first husband and into a life with a new love.
Maggie wasn’t far behind Mellette in strength, though. Only hers was directed at her career. First a nurse, and now studying to be a lawyer who defended medical malpractice suits—a career change that had come about after her hand, placed directly on a patient’s heart with the intent of squeezing the life back into him, had saved him but also caused him an infection.
The ungrateful man hadn’t thanked her for saving him but he had sued her for infecting him, which, for a while, had shattered her world and her desire to be in medicine. But like the typical Doucet she was, she’d come back swinging, decided to go to work as a malpractice investigator and, true to her strong nature, decided after that it wasn’t enough. Now, with just over nine months to go, she’d be the lawyer fighting back on behalf of the doctors and nurses who got sued unjustly.
“I think Justin’s glad it’s a girl, too. He loves Leonie, and while he’s never said as much, I think he likes the fact that Daddy reigns over an empire of girls. Maybe sees himself in a similar position.”
“You want seven, like Mother had?” Maggie questioned.
Mellette shook her head vigorously. “This one, maybe one more. Although I will say that Mr. Drop-Dead-Sexy Carpenter over there looks like he’s got some boys in him, in case you want to change the direction of the Doucet family.”
“Pregnant or not, I am going to wrestle you to the floor,” Maggie said, giving her sister a pretend slap on the arm.
“Over what?” Justin Bergeron asked, stepping out onto the front porch. Justin, a general surgeon and part-time general practitioner at Eula’s House, was also a medical crime novelist, with a burgeoning screenwriting career added to his résumé.
Both sisters looked up at him and started laughing.
“And I’ll take that as my cue to go back inside,” Justin said.
“You can stay,” Mellette said. “We were just … You know, sister talk.” She glanced over at her sister, who was glancing out at the carpenter. “About silly things. You and Amos are welcome to join us out here for lemonade.”
Amos Picou, an old Bergeron family friend, stepped past Justin and hurried down the steps. A direct descendent of African lineage, he was a part of the local legend, a friend to all and an all-round good man. “Sorry, ladies, but I’m off to catch me some crawdads for a nice gumbo Justin’s going to be fixing later on. Gotta hurry since he’s got to get that gumbo on to simmering pretty soon, but later, after I get back, that lemonade will sure hit the spot.”
Maggie’s eyes opened wider. “Did I hear someone say gumbo? And did I hear an invitation to dinner to help eat some of that gumbo?”
“I’ll bet Justin will fix enough for one more, if you want to go over and ask Mr. Tool Belt to join us,” Mellette said.
“I’m not going to go ask Mr. Tool Belt anything!” Maggie said, almost too defensively.
Mellette smiled and poured a glass of lemonade. “Just give this to him. Ask him if you want to, or don’t.” With that, she hurried inside, then watched her sister from the front window.
They were watching him. Probably talking about him. The fact was, he hated lemonade. Had hated it all his life, hated it yesterday when the looker had brought him some, and would hate it just as much this time she brought him a glass. But it was a kind gesture, and he didn’t want to seem ungrateful. After all, they’d given him work and, as it turned out, he needed work. He had living expenses to meet and his own house to renovate. Although he was finding it tough working at a medical clinic, being that close to medicine again.
When he’d answered the ad, it had read that this was to be a room addition. He’d assumed a house, as the ad had said to apply at Eula’s House. So if he’d known … actually, he’d have probably applied, anyway. But at least he’d have been prepared to spend his days around doctors and nurses. That was the tough part, being around them and not being part of them.
Well, money was money. And lemonade was lemonade. “I appreciate it, ma’am,” he said to Maggie, as she handed the glass to him.
“There’s more, if you want it,” she said. “Up on the front porch. Help yourself. And tell the other workers to help themselves.”
“I’ll tell the others, but I think one will hit the spot for me, thanks.”
“My name’s Maggie Doucet, by the way,” she said, smiling at him.
“And I’m Alain Lalonde,” he replied.
“You’re from around here, aren’t you? I can tell from the drawl.”
“Just moved back from Chicago.”
“Chicago? Really? That’s where my sister’s husband was living when she met him. Justin Bergeron. You’ve met him, haven’t you? He’s the doctor on call here.
“Yes, ma’am, I’ve met him,” he said, handing her back the empty glass after downing the lemonade in nearly one gulp, like it was bad medicine. “Now, if you’ll excuse me …”
He turned his back and started to walk away. But Maggie called out to him, “Alain, would you care to stay for gumbo tonight? As your drawl indicates you’re from around here, I think you’ll appreciate a good gumbo for what it is, and my sister’s husband is making enough to feed an army.”
“Appreciate the invitation, ma’am, but I have other plans.” Said politely, because he was grateful for the offer, but he wasn’t in a social mood and he didn’t want to drag the others down with his attitude. In other words, he knew he’d throw the proverbial wet blanket on the party and he didn’t want to do that. “Maybe another time.”
“Well, if you change your mind, you’re always welcome …”
“Again, thanks. Look, I’ve got to get back to work, ma’am. The job foreman isn’t paying me to stand around and talk. Thanks for the lemonade.”
Well, that went badly, Maggie thought as she walked away. Talk about a polite dismissal.
“So?” Mellette asked, even before Maggie was inside the clinic.
“What did he say?” Mellette asked. “I saw you two talking, so what was it about?”
“He didn’t ask me out, if that’s what you mean. In fact, I asked him to gumbo tonight and he turned me down.”
“Seriously, you asked him to dinner after you told me you wouldn’t?”
Maggie shrugged. “I was trying to be friendly. That’s all.”
“There are six other men on the job site. Did you ask them all, too? Or did you just single out Mr. Tool Belt?”
“His name is Alain Lalonde, and he’s the only one I asked. And that’s the end of the conversation, as far as I’m concerned because—” she glanced down at the floor “—have you looked at how swollen your ankles are? I want you to go sit down, elevate your legs and leave my love life to me.”
“So you’re thinking about Alain in terms of your love life?” Mellette teased on her way to her favorite chair.
“I don’t want a love life!” Maggie retorted. “Let me repeat myself. I don’t want a love life. I have work, I have school, I have my volunteer work here. I have a pregnant sister who needs me to help her. That’s enough. No love life!”
“Yes, right,” Mellette said, as she changed her mind and headed to the stairs, deciding to go to one of the two bedrooms on the second floor for a real rest. “Oh, and Billie Louviere will be here in half an hour for her three-month checkup. Pregnancy’s normal, she’s doing fine. Justin’s available if you need him, but if you don’t, tell her hello for me. Oh, and keep an eye on her blood pressure. It hasn’t been high but something tells me she might be a candidate for hypertension the further she gets into this pregnancy.”
“After a couple of miscarriages. She’s pretty nervous.”
“And I’m pretty nervous about your swollen ankles. So go put them up, and call me if you need anything.”
“Like lemonade,” Mellette teased.
“Leave the lemonade out of this.”
Once back outside, Maggie tried not looking for Alain Lalonde, but that was nearly impossible as all the building activity was directly in her line of sight as she sat on the porch. “Okay, so he’s good to look at,” she said as she poured herself another lemonade. Good to watch, good to turn into a little midday fantasy. After all, there was no harm in looking, was there?
After Billie Louviere’s checkup, a couple of walk-ins presented themselves at the clinic, and by midafternoon Maggie had actually seen enough patients that she was getting tired. Not exhausted, but with just the right amount of weariness setting in that she really felt she’d done a good day’s work. It was time to go home, though. Eat a quick bowl of gumbo and head on back to town.
Even though she was taking the summer off from school, she still had casework for a couple of legal clients to go over this evening, and she did want to read a chapter in one of her law textbooks, if she stayed awake that long.
“Time to get up,” she called down the hall to Mellette, who was still napping in Justin’s former bedroom. While no one actually lived at Eula’s House anymore, named for Justin’s grandmother, they kept the upstairs as a residence, hoping that one day it might be turned into a very small hospital ward. The downstairs had been converted into a clinic that maintained a portion of Eula’s herbal practice, as well as a proper medical clinic. To outsiders it might seem a confused mishmash of traditions, but to the people of Big Swamp it was where they could seek medical help in whatever form they chose.
“Come on, Mellette. We need to eat, then I’ve got to get out of here. Go home, go over some case files.” She pushed open the bedroom door to look in on her sleeping sister. Then gasped. Her ankles were puffier than before. So were her hands, and even her face, especially around her eyes, looked puffy.
“You okay?” she asked as she approached the bed.
“Headache,” Mellette said. “A little nauseous. Think the heat’s done me in.” She started to sit up, but Maggie gently nudged her back down.
“Stay there. Don’t get up yet.”
“Why?” Mellette asked. Mellette, a nurse herself, had worked in emergency medicine at New Hope, where their mother, Zenobia, was chief of staff.
“Because you’re tired, and tiredness and pregnancy aren’t a good combination. I’m going to go downstairs and get you a drink of cold water, so don’t get up. Hear me?”
“Hear you,” Mellette said, as she dropped back into her pillows and shut her eyes.
Two minutes later Mellette had a blood-pressure cuff strapped to her sister’s arm, and two minutes after that she was on her way back downstairs to find Justin.
He was outside, talking to Mr. Tool Belt. “Something’s wrong with Mellette,” Maggie interrupted, not beating around the bush for a more tactful way to approach it. “I don’t do obstetrics so I can’t tell for sure, but she’s awfully swollen, her blood pressure is on the high end of normal and—”
“Where’s she swollen?” Alain Lalonde cut in.
Both Justin and Maggie gave him an inquisitive look. “Feet, ankles, eyelids …” Maggie answered, not sure why she was giving a symptom list to the carpenter.
“Urinary output normal?” Alain went on.
Maggie shrugged, quite surprised by the carpenter’s line of questions. “I didn’t ask her.”
“Nausea, vomiting, headache?” Again from Alain.
“Nausea and headache.” More than surprised, she was confused.
“This afternoon,” Maggie said. “Why do you care?”
“Alain was probably the best high-risk obstetrician in Chicago,” Justin answered.
“You knew?” Alain asked. “And you didn’t ask why I’m here, doing carpentry?”
“A man has a right to his privacy. I didn’t want to invade yours.”
“So Mellette … I think it may be preeclampsia. If it is, we caught it in time. But I think you’d better be getting your wife to her obstetrician pretty damned fast.”
Justin turned to run to the clinic, then paused and signaled for Alain to accompany him, leaving Maggie outside to wonder what had caused a doctor to quit and become a carpenter. Not that there was anything wrong with being a carpenter, because there wasn’t. But why had Alain put himself through so many years of medical training just to quit? It made no sense, especially as he was so highly regarded, according to Justin.
So what made a doctor give it up to come to Big Swamp and bang out a clinic expansion? It was a question for which she had no answer. And it was a question for which she was going to find an answer, especially as this man was about to touch her sister. Darned straight, she was going to find an answer.
Instead of going upstairs to Mellette, Maggie went straight to the computer in the office and entered the name Alain Lalonde into a search engine. The first thing that turned up was a headline about a wounded army doctor who saved the lives of his men and women. They had been under siege and he’d drawn the fire away from his escaping crew and patients. Had been shot in the leg in doing so, spent several weeks in the hospital in rehab. Received a medal.
“Amazing,” she said, as the second thing that turned up was of an obstetrician accused in a malpractice suit. Something about performing a Caesarean when it hadn’t been necessary. The article said he’d gone against orders from the woman’s personal physician and performed an emergency C-section when a normal delivery would have worked.
“And someone sued you for that?” Maggie whispered. It didn’t make sense to her as long as the baby had been healthy, which it apparently had been. Was it the lawsuit that had made him quit, or had he just burned out?
“Who are you?” Maggie whispered as she clicked out of the articles. “Alain Lalonde, just who are you? And why are you working as a carpenter and not an obstetrician?”
CHAPTER TWO (#ulink_c8bc9d82-4bc5-5a93-a583-83880d8e4d16)
“HOW FAR ALONG are you?” Alain asked as he checked Mellette’s blood pressure.
“Twenty-four … no, twenty-five weeks now.”
“And when did your symptoms start?” He pumped up the blood-pressure cuff and deflated it slowly.
“A couple of days ago, but only swollen ankles. I honestly didn’t think anything about it because of the heat.”
“In this heat, swollen ankles are common.”
“How high is my blood pressure?”
“One-forty over ninety. Not extremely high, but I wouldn’t want to see it going any higher.”
Mellette gasped. “And the baby?”
“I don’t have anything here to do any tests, but I heard the heartbeat, and it was strong.”
Justin and Maggie, who’d finally joined them, sighed in relief.
“Look, you need to be in the hospital at least for the night so your doctor can get tests done. I think you have a mild case of preeclampsia, which can be controlled by drugs and lots of rest, but we need a blood panel, and most of all we need to get a fetal monitor on you. The problem is, the trip out of here is rougher than I want you to take.” He looked up at Maggie. “Is there any way to get a helicopter in here?”
“No!” Mellette gasped.
“It’s for your own good, Mellette,” Alain said. “But most of all it’s for the baby’s safety.”
Mellette shut her eyes and a tear squeezed out the side and trickled down her cheek. Immediately, Justin was at her side, pulling her into his arms. “Alain’s a good doctor,” he said. “If he thinks we need to evacuate you by air, that’s what we’ll do.”
Even before Mellette had a chance to agree, Maggie was on the phone, making the arrangements. “Thirty minutes?” she questioned. “We’ll get her down to the pickup spot as fast as we can.”
“Already?” Alain asked, clearly impressed.
“Done deal. We need to get her down to the grocery in Grandmaison where an ambulance will take her out to Flander’s Meadow where she’ll be picked up. The ambulance will be there in half an hour, so I’d suggest we get going. If that’s okay with you?” she asked Alain.
“Perfect plan.” He gave her an admiring glance as she helped Justin bundle up his wife for the trip.
“Please,” Mellette said, “I can walk down the stairs.”
“And I can carry you down just as easily,” Justin said.
“I want you to come along, as well,” Alain said to Maggie. “I don’t anticipate anything happening, but I want you to keep watch on her blood pressure while I drive.”
“I can do that.”
“It’s going to be that proverbial bumpy ride.”
Maybe it was, but Maggie was glad with everything inside her that Alain was there taking charge. No matter what the article said, she trusted him.
Maggie stared up into the sky as the helicopter lifted off, carrying Justin and Mellette. She’d already called her parents, who would be at the other end when it landed. And she’d called her sisters, as well as Pierre Chaisson, Mellette’s brother-in-law from her first marriage, who would watch Leonie when everybody else was at the hospital. “You never think in terms of a pregnancy having difficulties when the mother is in such good shape. I mean, prenatal problems are for other people.”
“They’re for everybody, Maggie. Sometimes they can be predicted, sometimes they can’t, sorry to say. I mean, Mellette doesn’t seem to carry any of the risk factors, but you see the results on someone who’s perfectly fine. It’s frustrating for everybody.”
“But Mellette’s going to be okay, isn’t she?”
“Once they get her blood pressure stabilized she’ll be much better. The thing is, she’s really going to have to be careful now, because she’s not far enough along to deliver. But we have our ways of taking care of these problems, lots of new drugs and techniques, and odds are your sister is going to do just fine and deliver a healthy baby at the end of her pregnancy.”
“Wish you could make guarantees,” Maggie said on a sigh, as Alain slipped an arm around her shoulder. “Or promises.”
“Wish I could, too. But the one thing I can guarantee is that you did a good job, catching it quickly and responding the way you needed to. A lot of women think all that pregnancy puffiness is just part of the course. Mellette got lucky.”
“That’s what nurses are supposed to do.”
“You’re a nurse? I guess I’m not surprised because of the way you responded, but I didn’t know that. I’d heard you were in law school.”
“I am, but I’m a nurse first.”
“Busy lady. But a very astute one. Your training shows.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I come from a long line of medical people. I think it comes naturally when your name is Doucet.”
“Doucet, as in …?”
She nodded, enjoying the feel of his strong arm. It was steady, something to give her comfort. “Yes, that Doucet family. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we’re known far and wide. Or should I say my parents are.” She smiled. “The rest of us just try to maintain the family reputation as best we can.”
Alain chuckled. “Well, you maintained it today. Did it proud. So I wonder if that gumbo is still simmering, because I could sure go for a bowl of it right about now.”
“I’ll bet it is,” Maggie said halfheartedly.
“You want to go to the hospital, don’t you?”
“Then here’s the plan. Gumbo first, and that will give the doctors enough time to get your sister looked at and under treatment. Besides, she’s not going to be allowed any visitors for a while—just her husband, and I’m sure your mother. So you might as well wait a little while here with me, then I’ll drive you in to the hospital.”
“You’d do that?”
“It’s not out of the way. My … house is just a few blocks from New Hope, which is where I’m assuming she’ll be going, so it’s no big deal.”
“Then I say let’s go have some gumbo.”
“So here’s the thing,” Maggie said to Alain over gumbo. “I’ve been giving this some thought. We need a doctor here. I’m here part time, and my sisters manage to squeeze in some hours, along with my dad when we need him. Mellette and Justin are the driving force, though, and that’s over with for a while now. So I need someone who, first, is licensed here, which you are, according to the internet, and also who can guarantee me something near full-time hours for a little while, as Justin’s going to be staying home more to watch over Mellette. With both of them gone, that leaves the clinic closed a good bit of the time, and since you’re not working as a doctor right now …”
“I’m not working as a doctor, period. Hence the hammer in my hand.” She’d been reading about his past and he wasn’t sure if he liked that or not. It was all still so … touchy with him.
“But I read up on you. You’re an obstetrician and a war hero. You ran a military hospital in Afghanistan so I’m sure you’re up to some work here, in this clinic.”
“Ran a hospital, past tense. And if you read up on me, you’ll know why.”
“You were involved in a lawsuit and I’m sorry about that. Sincerely sorry it happened to you. But if every doctor who got sued stepped away from medicine, there wouldn’t be any doctors left.”
He cringed. “It wasn’t that simple. But that’s the bottom line, yes. I did get sued, and the hospital stepped back from me because the people suing me are, shall we say, prominent. They make big donations to the hospital. I did what I believed was right, which left a perfect bikini body with a scar, and the hospital walked away from me. Took a step back, threw collective hands into the air and told me I was on my own.”
“Which is enough to make you bitter, and I understand that. And like I said, I’m sorry about that,” Maggie said in earnestness. “It’s never easy, getting sued. I saw how it devastated my parents the few times they were sued. But they were lucky that the hospital stood behind them and they came out victorious. I take it you’re not doing so well in your lawsuit?”
“To say the least,” he repeated. “And it’s not just the lawsuit itself. It’s all the other things on the periphery that get to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t get it off your mind. You go over everything you did, wondering if you missed something or left out something that was crucial. You wonder what you could have done differently that might have changed the outcome. But, damn, in the end it was just a scar. She has a perfect baby boy to show for it.”
“Well, your insurance company should figure it out. They don’t pay out on bad or false claims.”
“That’s the other part. I took two years off and went to serve in the military before the lawsuit was filed and the hospital revoked my insurance in that time and fired me while I was laid up in rehab, trying to figure out whether or not I’d ever walk again. So I’m hanging out there on my own in this. Welcome home, Captain Lalonde”
Maggie’s eyes widened. “I did read about your injury, and I’m sorry.”
“Old news,” he said. “I recovered. But while I was focused on that, the hospital did me in. And the thing is …”
“There’s no loyalty,” Maggie said. “It was owed you, and they took it away. But after that long?”
“Statute of limitations in Illinois is generous. The thing is, I talked to the woman who’s suing me—”
“Your attorney let you do that?” Maggie interrupted.
“I don’t have an attorney. Can’t afford one.”
“And the hospital where you worked really, truly isn’t backing you up at all?”
“They claim my insurance coverage ended when I went into the military and became a military doctor, therefore they’re under no obligation to cover me in a suit that was filed after I left the military. I mean, there was almost a three-year lapse in there.”
“Seriously?” Maggie said indignantly. “That’s what they’re trying to pull?”
He shrugged. “I got some pro bono advice, which was basically to try to reach a settlement. But the settlement they want is higher than I can afford. I damaged a model’s perfect body with a scar and they want a bite out of me.”
“But the baby was healthy.”
“It was in fetal distress. Her own doctor wasn’t responding to the calls. They came in, I got assigned and knew there was no way she was going to push that baby out in time, maybe not at all because her pelvis was so small, so I did what I had to do. And now, with the lawsuit hanging over my head, no one back in Chicago will hire me because along with the lawsuit they went after my reputation, so here I am working as a carpenter, probably not inclined to ever go back into medicine, anyway. Bottom line is I appreciate the offer you gave me, but I come with built-in liabilities.”
“Maybe you do, but are you contented to stay a carpenter? After all your years of education and experience, are you ready to simply throw in the towel and keep that hammer handy?”
“I’ve had a couple of friends who were knocked to their knees by malpractice suits. It was ugly. And while the insurance usually pays up one way or another, there’s no way to fix a damaged reputation. For me, that’s as important as anything in this whole mess.”
“And it’s a stigma for life, if you don’t have the right people representing you. My parents have both been unjustly sued—my mother on behalf of the hospital more times than I can count, and it’s always a horrible time for her. For Daddy, too, when he got sued, because of all the emotions involved.”
“Then you understand.”
“More than know, Alain. That’s what I do.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m a registered nurse, and I work part time in medicine just to keep up, also because I love patient care. But I’m also a medical malpractice investigator, and within a few months I’ll be an attorney who’s going to specialize in med malpractice cases, not representing the people doing the suing but the medical personnel being sued. Besides putting on a vigorous defense where it’s deserved, I also want to do some reputation fixing. The thing is, insurance companies are so eager to simply give in and settle, but that doesn’t vindicate the doctor or nurse being sued who doesn’t deserve it. Like you, for example. You’d never seen this patient before, and she presents with fetal distress. Yet she’s wanting to get into your pockets for something that wasn’t your fault.”
“It’s not about the money. They have enough for two lifetimes. It’s all ego. I suppose they want a story to tell. And they sure as hell got it. On top of that, he wants to run for some elected office and campaign on medical reform as part of his platform. He just happens to want to build that platform on my back.”
Maggie paused for a moment, then a smile slowly spread to her face. “Then here’s what I propose. I’ll have to check with my superiors first, because I’m just the investigator. But if I can convince them to take you on as a client, in return I’d like hours here at the clinic. We’ll pay you, of course. Not much, but some kind of stipend for living expenses.”
“You can work in Illinois?”
“We have a registered agent in Illinois so yes, I can work there. And the thing is, Alain, while this isn’t the kind of action that’s going to put money in your pocket, unless you want to countersue, which I wouldn’t recommend since you turning around and suing back turns you into some kind of aggressor you don’t want to become, it’s one that will prevent you from having to go through this alone. And there’s a good possibility we can restore your reputation once we win it and it’s over with.
“In other words, the best outcome would be giving you some peace of mind, and maybe the will to go back out there and practice medicine on a full-time basis. So … interested?” Her heart really did go out to the man. He was taking a beating he didn’t deserve. Even without all the facts, it sounded as if he’d unwittingly stepped in then gotten hammered with a situation that couldn’t have possibly been salvaged.
“Maybe,” he said cautiously. “The thing is, if they sue me they can’t really get anything. I wasn’t kidding when I said I needed this job as a carpenter to get by. So wouldn’t it be just as easy to let them sue then find out I’m not worth two nickels? I mean, I’m living in my aunt’s house, fixing it up for her. She’s moved to Florida and told me I can do with it what I want. She’ll deed it over to me in due course if I want the place, but I don’t want it right now because if I’m being sued I don’t want them taking her house.”
“Your reputation’s worth more than a couple of nickels, isn’t it?”
“It used to be.”
“You’ve got a mighty good reputation in the military. Got a medal of honor, didn’t you?”
“Are you just full of facts about me?”
“Just read the headlines, not the details.” She smiled. “And that headline needs to be protected, Alain. You did something good, and you deserve to be proud about it rather than simply giving in to defeat.”
“I’m not defeated. More like practical.”
“Which is why I want to practice medical defense law. Someone’s coming at you, going to ruin you if they can, and you don’t deserve it.”
“So what if you do get your law firm to take me on? What happens?”
“First, they’ll assign me to investigate the case. And if I do say so myself, I’m the best at what I do.”
He chuckled. “And modest, too.”
“Only when I have to be.”
“Anybody ever called you a pit bull?” he asked.
“A time or two. The thing is, I believe in what I do. Doctors and nurses are an easy target, especially doctors who are required to carry so much insurance. My mother runs a hospital where doctors are sued unjustly all the time, and it takes so much away from the patient care she should be giving because she has to get involved in the legal proceedings.
“The worst, though, was my dad. He suffered a huge suit, and it depressed him for weeks. He didn’t do anything wrong, and the hospital eventually just settled on his behalf. He wanted to defend himself, though, and he never felt good that by settling it seemed like he was guilty of medical negligence. It broke his heart, and that hurt all of us.”
“Which is when you decided you wanted to be a crusader?”
“Not a crusader. Just someone who wanted to make sure that the innocent weren’t being punished. And I’m not saying that all cases are unfair, because I’ve seen some that are well deserved. But I’ve seen too many that are not.”
Alain took a sip of his water then squinted up at the sun. “So what you would want in return are hours at the clinic, doing what I’m assuming will be general medicine.”
“Are you good with herbal medicine? Because we do a bit of that, as well.”
“I’ve never gone near the stuff.”
“Then that’s where I can help, because Mellette’s been teaching me.”
“You’re going to be my nurse?”
“Probably. But I do have my other work, as well as law school.”
“Meaning you never sleep.”
“Meaning I sleep only when I have to.”
“Well, I do have a commitment to work on the addition, and Tom Chaisson—”
“Mellette’s other brother-in-law from her first marriage,” Maggie interrupted.
“You keep things very cozy down here, don’t you?”
“We try to,” she said.
“Anyway, Tom just made me project foreman. He’s got another job in Baton Rouge that he’s got to oversee, so he asked me to take on this project for him. And I can’t back out on that. So if I agree to this, when I don’t have a stethoscope around my neck I’ll be wearing tools on my hips. Can you deal with that?”
Could she deal with that? The fact that she could still watch him in carpenter mode was an added bonus. “I can,” she said, her voice just a bit on the wobbly side.
“Then I guess we have a deal. You take my case to your law firm and see what they have to say about it, and I’ll work here as your doctor on call.”
“You can live here, too, if you want,” she added. “Upstairs, in one of the bedrooms.”
“Might not be a bad idea, as I’ve got my aunt’s house practically gutted and I’m reduced to living on a cot and cooking on a hot plate. Her house was one of those projects that the more I got into it, the more I found that needed fixing.” He grinned. “And it’s a big old plantation house, turning into a big old plantation money pit.”
“Well, no promises or anything, but I do have some pull at New Hope, which could be a consideration for you after we get your lawsuit straightened out.”
“Anyway, I think it’s time to get you on the road. I expect that by the time we get there the doctors will know more about what’s going on with your sister.”
Maggie reached over and gave his hand a squeeze. “You’re a good man, Dr. Lalonde, and it’s my intention to make sure you hang on to that reputation.”
“I like your passion,” he said.
And she liked his abs.
“So you’re a doctor?” Mellette said. She was on bed rest now but allowed to travel out to Eula’s House with Justin when he took calls there. Her condition had much improved in a couple of days and for now she was allowed light activity.
“Depends on the time of day,” Alain said as he eyed her ankles.
“They’re much better, Doctor. Swelling’s gone down, and they’re almost back to normal. You caught it in the early stages and my physician is treating me for preeclampsia. He doesn’t think I’m going to have any strong complications, though. And while I have to curtail my activities, I’m not on total bed rest yet.”
“As long as you’re sensible,” Alain warned.
“That’s what everybody keeps telling me. And with six sisters, trust me, I’m never alone to do something insensible, not that I would. But I just wanted to thank you for helping me, and for taking over the clinic.”
“Your doctor’s aware you’re coming out to Big Swamp?”
“He’s aware, and he’s consented, provided I strictly limit my activities to giving advice from a lounging position. Got to have someone to oversee the medicinals,” she said, smiling. “Maggie’s coming along in her knowledge of herbs, though. I expect she’ll know everything she needs to in the next couple of weeks. She’s awfully smart.”
“Nurse, herbal practitioner and lawyer-to-be. I’d call that well-rounded.”
“Somebody talking about me?” Maggie asked, as she took a seat next to her sister on the porch swing.
“Saying horrible things,” Mellette teased.
Alain liked the way they interacted. He’d never had brothers and sisters. In fact, his parents had been very old when he’d been born—one of those menopausal miracles that happened to a couple who’d been barren for twenty-five years and had adjusted their lives accordingly.
While he loved his folks dearly, there’d never been any youth in his life. With a mother who had been near fifty when he was born, and a dad in his mid-fifties, he’d been raised in an older world than most of his friends, and as a consequence he’d always seemed too old and stodgy. There’d been no youthful pranks, not even when he’d been in college. No frat parties. No wild and crazy dates. Just seriousness, studying and responsibility.
Yet when he saw the way Maggie interacted with her sister, it caused him to realize what he’d missed out on. And made him feel a little envious. Stirred something up in him. “She told me what a bad girl you were when you were young.”
“Maybe just a little bit. But I wasn’t in it alone. There was always another sister joining in, then blaming it all on me.”
“Who, me?” Mellette asked, laughing and holding her belly to stop it from jiggling.
“You, Sabine, Delphine, Ghislaine, Lisette or Acadia.”
Alain shook his head. “It’s hard to imagine your mother having seven of you and still running one of the best medical centers in the South.”
“We’re strong women,” Maggie said. “Had parents to support that in us.”
“Strong, as in overachievers?” he asked.
“Call it what you want,” Maggie went on. “But that’s who we are. My mother was raised in an era where women were just on the brink of coming into their own, only in her family, because they were of a certain social status …”
“And from a very traditional Southern family,” Mellette added.
“That, too,” Maggie agreed. “Anyway, what was expected from her was to be just like her mother, who was … I guess the best way to describe our grandmother is a social butterfly. That’s the way she was raised, and it was the world in which she raised our mother. For my grandmother, who is involved in more charitable work than anyone I’ve ever seen, it works. Her life exists for her causes, and she works hard at them, but she also finds time to sit down to tea with various friends every day of the week.
“But for my mother … that social hour of tea was wasted when there were things to do. She was hard-driven, I guess you could call her. So instead of following in the family tradition, she started one of her own. And we all seem to be following her example in one way or another.” She smiled, then added, “As overachievers.”
“So what about your family, Alain?”
“Teachers. My mother taught high school math and my father taught college chemistry. They’re both retired now, living in a condo on a Costa Rican beach.”
“No brothers or sisters?” Maggie asked.
“Just me. A late-in-life kid who surprised the hell out of my parents when I popped into their lives.”
“Sounds like an interesting story,” Mellette said.
“More like typical. We were just an ordinary family. No prestige. No bells and whistles.”
“But close?” Maggie asked.
“More so now than when I was younger. But I’ve grown up. It happens to most of us sooner or later.”
“And what do they think about you not practicing medicine any longer?” Maggie asked.
“Actually, they don’t know I’ve given up the stethoscope for a hammer. They think I’m in Louisiana practicing medicine, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way I want to leave it.”
Maggie gave him a questioning look. “Because they’re older?”
“Because they made a lot of sacrifices for me when I went to medical school, and I sure as hell don’t want them knowing they wasted their money.”
“It wasn’t wasted,” Mellette said, as Justin stepped out on the porch. “Look what you did for me. That, in and of itself, says a lot about your ability. Now all you need to do is let my sister get to work on your case and get you back where you belong on a full-time basis, rather than squeezing it in while you’re letting your drywall spackle dry.”
“My wife’s opinionated,” Justin said, taking Mellette by the arm and leading her down the stairs. “And on that note I’m going to wish you both a good afternoon and escort her home. The waiting room is cleared, and barring any emergencies or walk-ins, you’re free for the rest of the day. Although I wouldn’t count on it, because I heard that Ivy Comfort may be having a bout of rheumatism.” He smiled. “As they say, heard it through the grapevine, which is alive and well in these parts.”
Alain’s expression turned to panic. “I don’t treat rheumatism.”
“But I do,” Maggie said. “And it’s me she’ll want to be seeing for some special tea and maybe a liniment we make that’s—”
Alain held up his hand to stop her. “I’m going to trust that you know what you’re doing, and leave it at that. If Miss Comfort would like any medical treatment, I’ll be glad to see what I can do. Maybe prescribe a mild anti-inflammatory drug or—”
“She won’t take your prescription,” Maggie warned as Justin and Mellette walked away. “It’s been a real challenge here to prescribe traditional medicine. Most of the people are willing to tolerate it, since it’s all they can get without leaving the area. But we have a few holdouts who absolutely refuse to give in to modern ways, and Ivy Comfort just happens to be one of them. So Eula gave her some herbs that seemed to help, then Mellette took over after Eula died, and now that end of the practice is being passed along to me. Along with any regular nursing duties that come up.”
“Your family’s gotten so involved here. I wouldn’t have thought that, given your mother’s status, you’d have been inclined to.”
Maggie shrugged. “Initially, it was because my sister came to help out Justin’s grandmother, who was an herbal practitioner. The people here trusted her for over half a century, and when she died the position of herbal practitioner sort of fell to Mellette because the people here trusted her, too. They didn’t trust Justin, who wanted to practice nothing but traditional medicine, and a lot of them still haven’t come round to his way of thinking. But I suppose because Eula trusted Mellette, and I’m her sister, that’s why they trust me.”
“Then what’s that say about me? I’m just an interloping medical doctor who’s not going to put forth any kind of effort to prescribe herbs.”
“What it says is that you’ll have a tough time. There will be some who accept you unconditionally because you’re a doctor, and some who’ll accept you marginally because they trust Mellette, Justin and me. Then there will be those, like Ivy Comfort, who won’t even acknowledge you.” She smiled. “Ever.”
“Even if I prescribe an anti-inflammatory for her that does more for her than her herbs?”
“Even if you prescribe an anti-inflammatory for her that cures her rheumatism. That’s just the way she is. The way a lot of people here are, and you’ll have to accept it. As in not taking it personally when Ivy walks in that door and instructs you to fix her a cup of coffee.”
Alain laughed. “Actually, I make a pretty mean cup of coffee, so Miss Ivy and I might just hit it off.”
“Don’t count on it,” Maggie warned, smiling. She liked this man. Liked his seriousness, liked the way he fixed on his task. And, Lord knew, she’d watched a good bit of that these past few days.
“So what you’re telling me is that in order to get along in these parts, I’d be better off sticking to my carpentry work?”
He smiled, and arched wicked, sexy eyebrows. “Then I guess that’s what I’d better get back to. If you need me …” He raised fingers to his mouth and faked a whistle.
“Trust me, I will.” With a fair amount of pleasure, actually. “Oh, and, Alain, I’ll know more from my law firm tomorrow on whether or not they’re going to take on your case. The partners are going to have a meeting on it first thing in the morning.”
“Any indication, one way or another?”
She shook her head. “Although I can say that they usually go with my recommendations. In fact, the only thing they ever fully reject is my suggestion for the office Christmas party. I like glitz and glitter and all the trimmings, and they like to keep it … sedate.”
“You don’t like sedate?”
“For a holiday, it’s boring. And why be boring when you can be over-the-top?”
“An over-the-top overachiever.” He gave her a slight bow as he stepped off the front porch. “I bow to your abilities.”
“And I accept that bow,” she said, laughing. Yes, she really liked this man. Now all she had to do was get him out of the mess he was in. Which meant, if the partners took him on as a client, no mixing of business and pleasure. Too bad, as she had an idea the pleasure part could have been way over-the-top, as well.
CHAPTER THREE (#ulink_211b1751-910e-5ce5-b337-8d0c28bfe3d5)
SHE HELD OUT her hand for him to see a grouping of the tiniest marks. They hurted her, she told him. “My ouchie.” In reality the wound was from the common stinging nettle, a very uncomfortable plant with which to make contact. But it was nothing that required medical attention, which made Alain wonder why she was here.
“And you came to me all by yourself?” he asked, quite touched by the girl. Her big brown eyes were sad, and huge fat tears welled up in them.
“‘Cause you’re the doctor. Aunt Gertrude told me to come over here, that you could fix it for me.”
He was flattered and angry at the same time. Lilly, as she called herself, couldn’t have been more than six, maybe not even that old, and a child that age had no business wandering around the bayou all by herself. “Well, your Aunt Gertrude was right about that. I can.” A nice stream of hot water usually did the trick, or a generous coating of calamine lotion.
“Dandelion works,” Maggie offered as she entered the exam room, carrying a glass of juice for the child.
Alain shook his head. “Nothing herbal …”
“Just saying,” she quipped as she handed Lilly the apple juice.
He nodded as he led Lilly over to the sink and held her hand under the water while she was distracted, drinking her juice. “So no one’s with her?” he asked, trying to sound matter-of-fact.
“Not a soul. Miss Lilly Anna Montrose was a big girl today and came all the way here from Grandmaison by herself.”
Grandmaison, a good two-mile walk. Now he was downright mad, angry enough to spit nails at someone. “Well, then, I’d say Miss Lilly was one brave little girl today. That was a mighty long walk for her to take all by herself.”
“People around here are independent,” Maggie said, but not in defense of Lilly’s aunt, who’d sent her off alone. “They start that independence young in some cases.”
“Too young,” he said, looking at the hand where the nettles had stung the child.
“Can’t say that I disagree. I was as surprised as you when she showed up here a little while ago. Oh, and she also brought payment.” Maggie held it up. It was a quarter.
“Is that your money?” Alain asked the girl.
She nodded. “I’ve been saving up. Aunt Gertrude told me I had to use it to pay for my ‘pointment. Is it enough? ‘Cause I have two more at home.”
“As it turns out, that’s exactly what I charge for fixing a nettle sting.”
She handed the empty glass back to Maggie. “Thank you,” she said. “That was very good.”
“Would you like some more?” Maggie asked.
The little girl nodded shyly. “All we ever get to drink is water. Sometimes tea, if we can afford it.”
“Look, Lilly, I need to go get some special medicine to put on your hand. Would you mind sitting up on the table until I come back?”
“Okay,” she said, then smiled. “It doesn’t hurt so much now. Maybe it was the apple juice.”
“Then I think we should give you some apple juice to take home with you, in case it starts hurting later on. Do we have enough to send some with Miss Lilly?” he asked Maggie.
“Full supply of it, Doctor,” she said, stepping back as Alain lifted the child up onto the exam table.
“We’ll be right back,” he said to Lilly, then followed Maggie into the hall. “She’s malnourished, unkempt, I doubt she’s ever seen a dentist or a doctor and God only knows what kind of parasites or other bugs she’s infested with. And a two-mile walk?”
“I need to figure out what to do about her,” Maggie said. “Because if her aunt’s house is like what I’m expecting …”
“Then we can’t put that child back in there. Do you know her aunt, by any chance?”
Maggie shook her head. “But I know a child social services worker and I think I’ll give her a call before we decide what we need to do about Lilly.”
“What I need to do is not send her back into a home where an adult would allow her to come here by herself.”
“Don’t jump the gun, Alain. We haven’t even seen that house, and we sure don’t know the circumstances …”
“Yeah, well, I can only guess!” he snapped. “I saw those conditions in Afghanistan, where children were robbed of their youth, like Lilly is. So much poverty, so many health problems …” His eyes went distant for a moment. “Landmine victims … just children. You can’t even begin to imagine …”
Maggie laid a comforting hand on his arm. “No, I can’t,” she said softly. “And I’m sorry you had to see such atrocities.”
“Seeing them is one thing, but living them is another.” Said in bitter despair. “And not being able to do anything to fix it.”
“I can’t say that I even have a clue what you’re talking about. My life, for the most part, has been pretty sheltered. Never any hardships, never any threats.”
“Then you were lucky. Because a lot of the world out there is ugly. Like I think Lilly’s world is probably ugly, too. Look, she needs a bath, Maggie. And a good head scrubbing as I’m pretty sure she’s got lice. Could you do that for me and give her a good going over to see what else we can find?”
“And clean clothes,” Maggie said, knowing there were no little-girl clothes at Eula’s House. “I’ll call my dad and see if he can bring something out for her. Shoes, too. I’m betting there are still some things left over from one of our childhoods stashed away in the attic.”
“He’d do that?”
“My dad is a real softie when it comes to little girls. He always threatened to trade a few of us in on boys, but I think he liked sitting at the head of an all-female kingdom, being adored by his flock.”
She truly liked Alain’s sympathies. More than that, she was surprised how easily they were jostled to the surface. He seemed more like a man who held everything in, yet the instant Lilly had walked into the clinic and held out her tiny, grimy hand, he’d melted. And not just a little. “I have money,” she’d proclaimed. But she’d had more than that. In that very instant she’d had Alain’s heart. And a very tender heart it was indeed.
“So what’s the prognosis?” Alain asked an hour later.
“Lice, like you thought. I did the treatment, and cut her hair a little to get rid of some of the mats. And she’s about ten pounds under her ideal weight, a little on the small side for a child her age. She has very bad skin, lots of bruises and cuts. Missing some baby teeth. No education, no attempt to teach her to read. But she’s very bright. And she loved her bath. I found an old bottle of bubble bath left over from Eula, and I think this child would have stayed in the water and played all day long if we’d let her.”
“Any health concerns?”
“Nothing significant that I could find. Heart and lungs sounded good, eyes are clear, ears turned out fine after I cleaned them. She does have a few open sores, probably infected bug bites. No real signs of physical abuse. More like extreme neglect. All in all, I think she’s a healthy child, but I would like her to be seen by a pediatrician at some point for a complete exam.”
He sighed heavily. “So what do we do in the meantime?”
“I’ve talked to my friend from Child Services and she’s going to come investigate, but that may take a couple of days. If we think the child is in imminent danger we can surrender her to the authorities and they’ll put her into the children’s home until the case can be investigated.”
Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Получить полную версию книги.
Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес».
Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/dianne-drake/a-doctor-s-confession/) на ЛитРес.
Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
Deep South Docs! Swapping the Big City…for the Bayou!After tragically losing a patient, former doctor Alain Lalonde has come to the Bayou to forget his past. But he can’t help being drawn to intriguingly beautiful nurse Maggie Doucet! And when a difficult case unexpectedly makes them foster parents they find themselves not only bonding with the child – but with each other too…!
Как скачать книгу - "A Doctor’s Confession" в fb2, ePub, txt и других форматах?
- Нажмите на кнопку "полная версия" справа от обложки книги на версии сайта для ПК или под обложкой на мобюильной версии сайта
Полная версия книги
- Купите книгу на литресе по кнопке со скриншота
Если книга "A Doctor’s Confession" доступна в бесплатно то будет вот такая кнопка
- Выполните вход в личный кабинет на сайте ЛитРес с вашим логином и паролем.
- В правом верхнем углу сайта нажмите «Мои книги» и перейдите в подраздел «Мои».
- Нажмите на обложку книги -"A Doctor’s Confession", чтобы скачать книгу для телефона или на ПК.
В разделе «Скачать в виде файла» нажмите на нужный вам формат файла:
Для чтения на телефоне подойдут следующие форматы (при клике на формат вы можете сразу скачать бесплатно фрагмент книги "A Doctor’s Confession" для ознакомления):
- FB2 - Для телефонов, планшетов на Android, электронных книг (кроме Kindle) и других программ
- EPUB - подходит для устройств на ios (iPhone, iPad, Mac) и большинства приложений для чтения
Для чтения на компьютере подходят форматы:
- TXT - можно открыть на любом компьютере в текстовом редакторе
- RTF - также можно открыть на любом ПК
- A4 PDF - открывается в программе Adobe Reader
- Сохраните файл на свой компьютер или телефоне.