Mail Order Doctor, page 3
He turned over and tried again to go to sleep but all he saw was a beautiful red-haired woman with extraordinary green eyes taunting him. Telling him they were married. His body reacted to his thoughts and it was painful how much he wanted her. He’d never felt this way about anyone as quickly as he did about Julia.
He’d just met the woman, and he wanted to bed her. What was the matter with him? Had he been without a woman so long that the first pretty one to come along sets him on fire? Must be time to visit the Bird Cage Theater and take advantage of their “other” offerings…if he could just find a spare hour or two.
* * *
Julia awoke after a restless night. After she’d cleaned up the dishes from their dinner she’d gone to his office for something to read. He had mostly medical journals and texts, hardly any fiction. She finally found a novel and took it back to her room. Reading had worked. The book was so boring she’d fallen asleep.
She got up, dressed in one of her black bombazine skirts and a white blouse and knew she looked professional enough to be included in his office calls today, if he just would. Perhaps he’d introduce her to some of his patients. But what would he call her? Miss O’Brien? Maybe Nurse Julia, or perhaps he’d changed his mind over night and would call her Mrs. Reynolds? Who was she kidding? One night wouldn’t make a difference to Matthew Reynolds. He was as stubborn as she was, and that definitely was not a good thing.
He may not want to be married, but he was. He’d just have to accept it, because Julia wasn’t ready to give up. Goodness, she hadn’t even begun to fight.
She paused in the doorway of the kitchen to look upon her husband. He wore a white shirt and string tie with the black vest from his suit. The coat hung over the back of his chair. He looked rather handsome but she still saw the weariness in his eyes. He needed more rest than a couple of hours sleep.
“Good morning.” He put down his coffee cup.
“Good morning. You look a little more rested, though I bet you could use a few days off to do nothing but sleep.”
“I could, but being one of eight doctors in a town this size doesn’t leave much time for relaxation.”
“You need to keep regular office hours.” She pushed away from the doorframe she’d been leaning against. “As long as you allow it, people will keep coming in at all hours of the day and night.”
He shrugged. “Such is the fate of being a country doctor.”
“That’s just it.” She got a cup and poured herself some coffee. “You’re not a country doctor. This is a big city. I did some research before accepting your…er the…proposal. Because of the silver boom, upwards of ten thousand people live here in Tombstone. That is not a small town. It’s time you thought of how big the city has become and perhaps even think about bringing in another doctor to your practice.” She sat across from him. “Of course, I’ll help you in whatever way I can. Perhaps as triage, so you only see the sickest patients. I can handle colds and stomach viruses and the like. You would have to do the broken bones. And of course, I can take the pregnant women off your schedule. That should help some.”
Scowling, he asked “Are you done?”
“Yes, sorry. I’m a little passionate about some things. Medicine is one of them.”
“First, I do try to keep regular business hours. You’ll see them posted outside by the door as you come in. But because no hospital has been built, the other doctors and I stay busy. Second, I’m tempted to keep you just to have your help. But we’re still not married. Third,” his expression softened. “Are you hungry? I can make you eggs this morning if you like.”
She smiled. “Thank you. That’s very kind, but just coffee and some toast. I’ll make it. I like mine the best.” She bustled around getting the skillet, bread and butter. “Would you like some while I’m making it?”
“Yes, please, I find I like your toast as well. I’ve never had it fixed that way. In the icebox is a jar of homemade cactus flower jelly.”
“Cactus flower?” She grinned. “I’ve never had that before. They don’t have many cacti in New York.”
Matthew smiled. “People use cactus for all kinds of things here, not just jelly. They cook and eat it, which I don’t like, but they also make liquor from it and use the large stickers for needles.”
She finished the toast and brought it to the table. “Here you go.” She slid two slices of the buttery bread onto his plate and the other two onto a plate she grabbed from the cupboard. She got the jelly and brought it to the table and spread just a bit on a corner of her toast. “Mmm. This is good.”
“Thought you might like it.”
Julia thought they were acting like an old married couple rather than strangers.
Matthew smiled and set his coffee cup on the table. “I’m seeing Judge Blackstone today to find out how to get out of this arrangement.”
She put down her toast. “You’re not giving up are you? Well, neither am I.” I refuse to give up my dreams. “I came to stay.” She narrowed her gaze. “And I intend to let any lady friend you might have know that you are married and off the market.”
“I don’t have any lady friends,” he said quietly.
It was almost like he just realized it himself. She couldn’t help but be happy about the situation.
“There is never any time for courting. I already told you that.”
“Not all lady friends are the courting type, and I know you know what I mean by that. I’m not a little girl. I’m twenty-eight years old. I understand the needs that men have.” She felt heat in her cheeks. “Women have them, too.”
“Women have needs?” He cocked an eyebrow. “Well, maybe we can come to some arrangement, outside of marriage.”
“That won’t be possible. We’re already married.”
“We’re not, and I’m leaving to see the judge now.”
He stood, grabbed his coat and hat off the pegs on the wall by the door and stormed out.
“Well,” sighed Julia. “That went well.”
She finished her toast and put all the dishes on the counter by the sink. He said he had a woman come in to clean, so she’d let the woman earn her living. Then she went to her bedroom and got her doctor’s bag. After she opened it and checked that all her supplies were in order, she walked to his office. The inner door, inside the house, wasn’t locked. She assumed the outside door would be, and she was right. Julia unlocked the door and seated herself at the reception desk. She was ready for her first patient.
She’d been waiting about thirty minutes when the door opened and a lovely brunette, who was very pregnant, entered. She was accompanied by a handsome but harried-looking man. The father.
“Hello, I’m Julia Reynolds. How can I be of service today?”
“Julia…Reynolds? Are you Matt’s sister?” asked the extremely tall woman.
“No. I’m his wife.” Julia held out her hand.”
The woman shook it. “I’m Lizzie Brandon and this is my husband, Mal.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Mal.
“I can see you’re a few weeks from delivery.” Julia leaned on the little desk she’d been sitting behind. “I’m a nurse and midwife. I’ve delivered enough babies that I can tell right off you’re due very soon.”
Lizzie placed her hand on her belly and gently rubbed the baby with circles. “Yes, you’re right. The doc says about a month. Is he in?”
“No, he went to see Judge Blackstone. Please sit.” Julia pointed at the chairs in the little waiting room.
“That’s odd.” Lizzie looked at the chairs and shook her head. “We have a nine o’clock appointment and he never misses them.”
“I’m sure he just forgot. He’s got a lot on his mind this morning,” said Julia.
“So when did you get married. Matthew has never mentioned a wife before.”
“We married about six weeks ago. By proxy.”
“Proxy?” Lizzie cocked her eyebrow. “That’s odd.”
“It’s a very long story.”
Julia explained the whole situation, including Walt’s probable part in it.
“So you see, Matthew doesn’t believe we are married, but regardless of what he thought he was signing, he did in fact sign the proxy papers and I intend to hold him to that. I didn’t travel out here for nothing.”
“Julia, there are thousands of men here that would be happy to have you for a wife. Why would you force Matt?” asked Lizzie.
“Because…I fell in love with the man in the picture I received and from the letters and so far, Matthew is that man. His grandfather may have written them, but it’s Matthew he was writing for and about. I can’t leave without even trying.”
“We understand, more than you know.” Lizzie looked at Mal, took his hand and squeezed. “I say keep trying. Oh!”
Julia smiled. “The baby kicked?”
“Lizzie?” asked Mal. “Are you all right?”
“I think I’m having labor pains.”
“Let’s get you to an examination room and let me have a look. I’ll see if you’ve started dilating.”
“I don’t know, what about Matt?” said Mal.
“He’d want Lizzie to have the best care and I’m the best.” She looked at Lizzie. “I guarantee it. Let me help you.”
“Mal, why don’t you have a seat?” Julia watched him collapse in a chair. “We’ll be right back.”
They walked to the first examination room and Lizzie got on the table. Julia covered her with a sheet.
“Raise your knees, please and place your feet flat on the table.”
Lizzie did and then Julia lifted her dress and pulled down Lizzie’s bloomers. “You might want to stop wearing your bloomers. It’ll be easier when the baby comes to just lift your dress and not have to worry about losing the pantaloons.”
“All right. What do you see?”
Julia brought over a lamp so she could see. “Well, you don’t appear dilated at all yet. I think you’re having false labor. It happens sometimes, actually most of the time, when a mother gets close to her due date. Although by the looks of you, you could have this baby at any time.”
Julia pulled Lizzie’s bloomers back up and put her dress down before removing the sheet.
“You look to be in good shape. Is this your first baby?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“Just a guess.” Julia chuckled. “I’m pretty good at recognizing the signs of a first time father, and your husband has all the signs.”
Lizzie laughed. “Yes, it’s our first. I admit we’re both a little nervous. My mother says I don’t have anything to worry about. She’s small and she birthed me and my little brother with no problems.”
“Well, based on this cursory examination, I’d say your mother is right. I don’t think you’ll have any problems. Let me check some other things while you’re here.” Julia checked Lizzie’s pulse, listened to her heart and checked her eyes. “You’re in very good condition. I don’t see you having any problems with this baby.
“Thank you, I’m glad to hear that. Are you starting a practice of your own with Matt?”
She loved hearing from a potential patient that she was interested in Julia opening a practice. “I will if he’ll let me. We still have some things to work out.”
“Yes, I would say you do. I hope you can understand his feelings. This is a shock to him.”
“I know and Walter should be here to sort things out, but he’s not and I’m not going back to New York.”
A knock sounded on the door.
“Are you through in there?” Matthew’s voice came from the other side.
“We’re done. Be right out,” answered Julia.
She checked Lizzie’s clothing to make sure it was all in place.
“Ready?” she asked Lizzie.
“Yup. Going to put my husband at ease.” Lizzie stopped at the door before opening it and looking over her shoulder. “I hope.”
“He’ll be fine. He’s doing very well.”
They went out to the waiting room where Matthew was sitting with Mal Brandon. They both stood when Lizzie and Julia entered the room.
“So what did Judge Blackstone say?” asked Lizzie with a grin.
Matthew turned to Julia. “You told them?”
“Of course.” Julia jutted out her chin. “I’m not ashamed. I’m married…at least I think I am…to a very handsome and dedicated doctor. What woman wouldn’t be proud?”
Matthew reddened at the praise.
Julia persisted. “So what did the judge say? You can tell me in front of them since they know the whole story, including the part about Walt. I didn’t keep that out.”
“The judge says I’m married unless we agree to get an annulment,” said Matthew.
Julia shook her head, a glimmer of hope springing to life. “You know I won’t agree.”
“I intend to convince you,” said Matthew.
Julia sashayed over to him, grabbed his tie and brought his head down to hers. “And I intend to convince you otherwise,” she whispered before letting her hungry lips meet his.
Julia barely noticed the door close behind Lizzie and Mal.
Matthew automatically put his arms around Julia and kissed her back. Resisting her soft lips and curvy body was hard. She was beautiful and smart and willing. She’d already made friends with Lizzie and Mal Brandon. What am I doing? He pulled away like someone had burned him.
“Stop that.” Matthew put his hand over hers and forced her to let go of his tie.
“You liked it. Admit it.” She backed up a step.
He smoothed his tie. “I’ll admit it’s been a while since I had a woman, but I’m not starting with you. I’m not staying married. No matter how attractive you might be.”
“Well, in the light of day you still think I’m attractive. That’s progress.”
“Of course, you are and you know it.”
“I like to think so, but when the man I’m married to—”
“We are not married.” He said through clenched teeth.
She looked absolutely crestfallen, her eyes were glassy from tears and she frowned.
He felt terrible.
Then she smiled again. “We’ll see. I’m not giving up. If you move me out, I’ll still show up every day to help you. You need my help, Matthew or you’ll kill yourself from over work.” She placed her hand on his arm. “You need rest.”
He was touched that she cared. It was nice to have someone else who cared. He ran his hand around the back of his neck. “I’m tired. I’ve gotten used to it.”
“Your body doesn’t get used to it. You need rest. Let me help you. I saw Lizzie yesterday and it went well. I’m good with them and I have a lot of experience with mothers…and fathers. If I saw just those patients, would it help you enough to let you rest?”
“Well.” He was so tired he actually thought about taking her up on her proposition. “If you move to the hotel, you can work here.”
“And if I stay here with you, you’ll be stubborn and not accept my services. You haven’t even asked what I’ll charge.”
He smiled. “To be honest, I didn’t think we’d get this far. I admire your persistence.”
“Here’s the deal I have in mind.” She put her hands behind her back and rocked on her heels. “I’ll take all of your pregnant patients off your hands. I’ll work with you every day and triage the patients who come in, treat them if I can, make appointments for some if I can, and only have you see the sickest or those who are bleeding. Now I know that can get depressing, so I do intend for you to see some of the children, do all broken bones, and all surgeries, which I will help you with. I also expect you to help me on the difficult pregnancies.”
Matthew cocked his head. This arrangement sounded too good to be true. “And what will this cost me?”
“Room and board, and twenty-fi
“Room and board?”
“Yes. If you kick me out and make me live at the hotel you pay the bill for the room and any meals at the restaurant.”
“That could get expensive.”
“Yes, it could and the expense is totally unnecessary. I can stay here in the guest room and we can get to know each other. Although I have a head start in that area from the letters you…er…I received.”
He nodded. “Let me think on it. I’ll give you an answer tonight.”
She fought back a smile. “All right. Can I stay and help you today?”
“Yes, please. I want to see how well we work together.”
“We’ll work well together. You’ll see.” She went behind the desk, sat and looked through all the drawers. “Where do you record your appointments?”
“In here.” He pointed to his head.
“We need to start recording them in a book. I’ll make a list of things you’ll need. At the very least, we need a calendar.”
She pulled out a stack of paper from one of the drawers. “What’s this? IOU’s? Matthew you need to get paid. You have to make a living and a better one than you are now.”
“I do well enough. Get whatever you need for the office and put it on my bill at Smith’s General Store.”
She shook her head. “I’ll go do that first and then I’ll be back. We can revisit your lack of income later. Can you direct me to the mercantile?”
He wished he had half her energy. “Go up to Main Street and make a left. Go two blocks. It’s across from the hotel where the stage stops.”
“Oh, good, I shouldn’t have any problems finding that. I’ll be back very soon.”
He nodded went to the desk and sat. “I have some paperwork to catch up on.”
Julia left the office. The morning was beautiful for the short walk. It was cool and the sky was almost as blue as Matthew’s eyes. She found the general store and went inside. The screened door slammed behind her, making her jump.
“Does that to everyone. Don’t worry about it.” The distinctly feminine voice came from the back of the store. A gray-haired woman, in a black dress and boots, was on a ladder, stocking shelves behind the checkout counter. She climbed down as Julia approached.
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