Home > Surprise Delivery(8)

Surprise Delivery(8)
Author: R.R. Banks

“Doctor, actually,” he corrects. “I'm the Chief Surgeon of the Marpat Unit.”

I cock my head. “The Marpat Unit?”

That same flash of annoyance crosses his face again and seems to confirm my earlier thought that it has nothing to do with me.

“It's basically a unit for the hospital's big donors,” he informs me.

“You don't sound like you enjoy the job.”

He shrugs. “I don't enjoy the pretentiousness of it,” he replies. “Nor do I think this is the best use of my skills. I should be somewhere else. Somewhere I can make an actual difference.”

“So, why don't you?” I ask. “Can't you transfer to another unit?”

“Actually,” he confides, that sly grin on his face again, “I'm transferring to another country.”

“Oh?” I inquire, feeling a slight pang of disappointment flash through me.

“Yeah. I signed on with Physicians Worldwide. I'll be in Syria for about eight months or so.”

“Physicians Worldwide?”

“You've heard of Doctors Without Borders?”

I nod. “Yeah, I've heard of them.”

“Same thing, essentially.”

“Wow,” I say. “What made you want to do that? I mean, it's pretty dangerous. You must really be trying to pad your resume or something.”

He chuckles. “No, I just thought I could do some good,” he says. “I want to help people. That's why I went into medicine, to begin with.”

I have to say, I'm a little surprised, but actually quite impressed. Outwardly, he doesn't seem to be the type who'd volunteer in some third world country out of the goodness of his heart. If you judge him only by his appearance, you'd think he's a guy who enjoys being rich, loves the party circuit, and all the trappings that go with it. He's so impossibly handsome that he reminds me of a doctor you'd see on some television drama. He's definitely got ‘leading man’ written all over him.

I have to give myself another shake and try to pull my head out of the clouds again. I'm impressed that he's the kind of guy who'd voluntarily leave a life of comfort to go endure the harsh realities of a place like Syria.

His eyes meet mine and I feel something inside of me shift. It's like something falling into place, or a door being unlocked – or something. I don't know what it is, I've never felt anything quite like it before, but it's such a powerful feeling, it almost steals my breath.

There's an electricity burning between us that's almost palpable. I can feel it and judging by the look on his face, he can too. There's a connection I've never felt before that sends a bolt of bright, warm light shooting from my head, all the way down to my toes, stopping in every part in between.

I lick my suddenly dry lips and tear my eyes away. I can't be doing this. I can't let myself get overwhelmed by emotion. Not only is it not something I want, the fact of the matter is that he's leaving for eight months anyway. Maybe longer. I've heard some of the people who sign up for programs like that end up staying in them for years. The last thing I need to do is let myself get attached to anybody – especially somebody I can't have.

“Doctor Clyburne, nice to see you. You're looking sharp in your tux.”

I turn at the sound of Sabrina's voice, relieved at her sudden appearance, which saves me from myself. She's smiling wide as she approaches us, cutting me a knowing glance.

“Sabrina,” he greets. “I almost didn't recognize you in that mask. You look amazing.”

“And why are you not in Mardi Gras attire, Doctor Clyburne?” she winks.

“You know I don't do themes,” he says. “I'm just here to play my role – which is to charm the donors out of their money.”

Sabrina grabs my hand and squeezes it tight. “I see you've met my best friend?”

“I did in fact. Although, I didn't know she was your best friend,” he says. “She decided to pour a glass of champagne on me.”

“It was an accide –”

His laughter cuts me off mid-sentence as I realize he's teasing me again. My cheeks flush again, and I look over at Bri, whose eyes are sparkling mischievously behind her mask.

“Lexi here is going to be a nurse,” she says.

“Is that so?” he asks.

“As soon as she finishes her program, absolutely,” Bri says, a note of pride in her voice. “She's brilliant and I know she'll be a great nurse.”

“Bri,” I murmur softly. “Stop.”

“I see she's modest too,” he says. “What school is your program at?”

I let out a breath and look up at him. “I'm actually not in the program at the moment,” I tell him, my disappointment and shame coloring my words so thickly, I cringe when I hear it. “I hope to go back to finish it out though.”

“Oh,” he says, a hint of curiosity in his voice. “Why did you stop taking courses?”

I look over at Bri and see her staring back at me apologetically. I know she didn't mean to open up this can of worms, but in her overzealousness to sell Duncan on me, she's taken us down a path I'm not comfortable with. She knows how much I hate the fact that I can't afford to go back to school right now and she knows it's killing me inside. I know she'd never intentionally hang my private shame out in public like that, but here we are all the same.

“Honestly, I'd rather not talk about it,” I say, my cheeks burning with heat.

“Anyway,” Bri chirps brightly, doing her best to change the subject. “I heard you're hooking up with Physicians Worldwide?”

Duncan nods. “Yeah, I leave next week,” he informs her.

“That's amazing, Doctor Clyburne,” she says. “How did Janet take the news?”

“Not well,” he laughs. “But she said that she's going to hold my position open for me until I come back.”

“Well, that's nice of her,” Bri says, the sarcasm in her voice thick. “I never would have expected that of her.”

“Yeah, I was hoping she'd move on and name another Chief for the unit, but she apparently values my work with the donors a little too much to move on completely.”

As they continue to banter, I'm feeling more like a third wheel than anything. My shame is still burning like a bonfire inside of me and I feel like I'm starting to suffocate. At this moment, I want to be anywhere but there. I look around but don't see an avenue of escape. It's not like I know anybody here, so there's nobody for me to go check in with.

“Sorry,” I interject, uttering the first thing that comes to mind. “Can I have your jacket for a few minutes?”

Duncan looks at me and cocks his head. “My jacket?”

I nod quickly. “Yeah, I should really get some seltzer on the champagne before it sets and stains.”

“Oh, no big deal. Honestly,” he tells me. “Don't even worry about it.”

“No, please, I feel terrible. I insist,” I say.

“I'd rather you not make a big deal –”

“No, seriously,” I persist, setting my face and trying to prevent the embarrassment from leaking out any more than it already has. “I insist. Your jacket. Please.”

He looks at me for a moment, then shrugs, slips his coat off, and hands it to me. I take it from him quickly and start to hustle away.

“Sorry again,” I say. “I'll get this cleaned up and good as new. Just give me a few.”

“Thank you,” he says. “It's not really necessary though.”

“Of course, it is,” I call back to him.

I stop at the bar, grab a bottle of seltzer water, then scurry out of the main ballroom. I honestly have no idea if seltzer water will take a champagne stain out of a coat – I've seen people using seltzer water on stains in movies. I just need to get the hell out of there for a few minutes. I need to get away from the suffocating pressure that's bearing down on me and clear my head.

Mostly, I just need to get away from all the lurid thoughts and unchecked emotion running through my brain. Something about being around that man is stirring up a lot of strange, unusual, and uncomfortable thoughts inside of me.

I try a few doors before I finally find one that opens. Breathing a sigh of relief, I open the door, step inside, then close it softly behind me. I reach for the light switch but decided I prefer the anonymity of the darkness better. I walk around, realizing that I'm in one of the hotel's conference rooms.

I make my way deeper into the room, and after hanging the jacket on the back of a chair, I sit myself down on top of the table. Trying to get myself back under control, I sit there, staring through the wall of glass before me, taking in the view of the city spread out before me.

Bit by bit, my racing heart slows, and the adrenaline stops pumping. I no longer feel like I'm suffocating and feel far more in control of myself than I did a few minutes ago. I'm able to push away all those unwanted thoughts and regain control of my own mind and heart.

Letting myself get attached to somebody like Duncan Clyburne is only going to bring me misery – I repeat that sentence silently in my head over and over again. Eventually, if I repeat it enough, I'm hoping that I'll actually believe it.

It takes a few minutes, but I finally find myself back in control.

Thank God.



“She's really great, isn't she, Dr. Clyburne?”

I watch her walk away for a moment longer before turning back to Sabrina. I don't know Sabrina very well – our paths only cross in the hospital every now and then. But she's always been pleasant and professional. The few times she's assisted in the operating room, she's been smart and efficient. She's the type of nurse I appreciate having.

“Yeah, she seems pretty – great,” I agree.

“She's single, you know.”

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