Series: Diagnosis: Love #3
When every day is a battle between life and death, can two warring hearts find healing in each other?
I don’t know who I am anymore.
I thought I’d found a man who was right for me, someone with whom I could build a life . . . but all the reasons we should work don’t mean much when I realize that I can’t love him the way he deserves.
And then there’s the other guy in my life—the one who broke my heart and ran away. The one I can’t stop wanting and needing. The one who makes me feel so alive each time we’re together.
When it comes to my patients, I’m an eternal optimist. Maybe that’s why I’m determined to try for happily ever after again.
As long as there’s life, there’s hope. And hope is all I have.
I don’t know what to do.
I thought I’d lost the woman who haunts me, body and soul. I was sure that she was in love with someone else. I was prepared for the pain, again. I was braced for the hurt. But I was wrong.
I have one last chance with her. If I screw it up this time, I’ll lose her forever, and if that happens, I know I’ll also lose my only hope for happiness.
I never give up on a patient. And I’m not giving up on us.
She cleared her throat and stared down at the floor between us. “We, um . . . Noah and I aren’t seeing each other anymore. Romantically, I mean. We’re friends, but we’re not—dating. We decided that we both want different things from life right now and that we’d only end up hurting each other if we didn’t end that part of our relationship now.”
“Oh.” Well, that was even better news than I’d hoped to hear. And I hadn’t had to push for answers, either. “I’m sorry if that was painful for you. I guess making that kind of decision is never easy.”
“No, it’s not, but we’re okay.” She smiled, and this time, her eyes met mine and held. “It wasn’t unpleasant or hurtful. We just talked, and we both admitted that while we wish we were right for each other, the fact is that we’re not. Not now. Noah needs . . .” Emma pressed her lips together. “Honestly, I don’t know who Noah needs. Maybe someone like Angela who made him her focus and her passion. I love him, but I don’t want to give up my own world to become part of his.”
“That makes sense.” I shifted in my chair. I was suddenly lighter than I’d been in a long time, and my body was excruciatingly aware of Emma’s nearness, as though what she’d just shared about her break-up with Noah made her fair game again. I knew I couldn’t do it, but the caveman in me was ready to jump over the desk, drag her against me and claim her as mine.
“Anyway.” She sat up a little taller and shook her head. “The music room being done was only one reason for wanting to talk to you.”
“Oh, really?” Was it too much to hope that kissing was the other reason? I assumed so.
“I had an email from the board about the cocktail party they’re planning to celebrate the opening of both the music therapy room and the new transplant suite. Would you be amenable to setting the date for that—I’m thinking about three weeks from Friday?”
Picking up my phone, I checked my calendar. “That works for me. I’ll make a note of it.”
“No hot dates that night?” Emma teased. “You know, you’re welcome to bring someone to this party. A plus one. It might make the whole thing more bearable.”
“I haven’t been on a date, hot or otherwise, since the last time I took you out.” I watched Emma’s face as I spoke. “So no, I don’t plan to bring a plus one. But if you’re not planning to bring someone, I’d be happy to be your date.”
Emma’s cheeks flushed. “I’ll take that under consideration, I guess . . . but do you think it’s a good idea?”
I gave a huff of laughter, short and humorless. “I think it’s the best damn idea I’ve had in months. Maybe years. At least since the first time I asked you out on a date.”
She lowered her eyes to her lap. “I need to give this some thought.”
“Absolutely. Give it as much thought as you’d like. I’m not going anywhere.” I stood up abruptly and moved around the desk, my steps rough and jerky. Emma’s eyes went wide; I was sure she was wondering what I planned to do next. I didn’t have a great track record when it came to making my moves in this office.
But I was smarter now, or at least, that was what I told myself. I didn’t reach out and pull Emma to her feet; I only dropped to my haunches next to her chair, staring up into her face.
“I’m not going anywhere, Emma. You can trust me on that. I’m here for the long haul. No matter what happens . . . you’ll never have to worry about me running away again. I’m not that man. Not anymore.”
The tip of her tongue came out to brush over her lips. She gazed down at me, and I saw uncertainty and need warring in her eyes. She wanted to believe me, but she wasn’t sure yet. She was still wary.
“Deacon,” she breathed. “I—”
A knock at the door made both of us jump. I rose to stand again, looking at the doorway where Mira hesitated.
“Hey, Mira. What’s going on?” I leaned against my desk, hoping that I seemed casual and not at all rattled by our head nurse’s interruption.
“Ah, Deacon.” Mira’s eyes darted to Emma, and her lips turned down. “I don’t mean to bother you, but I thought you should know we just had an unexpected admission.”
“Okay. Who is it?” Something in the way Mira was fidgeting and the grave expression on her face put me on alert.
“He’s not one of our regular patients. He came in through the ER, complaining of shortness of breath, but he insisted that he needed to be admitted to this floor. Apparently, he was already aware of his diagnosis, but since he’s not near his, uh, regular doctor, he came here.”
Mira was acting mighty cagey. I scowled at her. If she was going to interrupt a very important moment I was about to have with Emma, the least she could do was be straightforward about the reason why.
“All right. That’s slightly irregular, but not out of the ordinary altogether. What’s the problem, Mira? Do I need to see this guy? What’s his diagnosis?”
The nurse took a deep breath. “He claims he’s got small cell lung cancer. And yes, you need to see him.” She paused. “The patient is Ted Girard, Deacon. Your father.”
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