Unlocking the surgeons h.., p.17
Unlocking the Surgeon's Heart, page 17
“No, it isn’t,” she said flatly. “We have so many potential problems ahead of us. It wouldn’t be fair to ask him to face those when he doesn’t have to.”
“Don’t you think he’s already weighed the pros and cons? He’s an adult and can make his own decisions,” Gail informed her. “He doesn’t need you to think for him.”
“I know, but how can I be sure he won’t change his mind when the going gets rough?”
“Some things you have to take on faith.”
Unfortunately, when it came to something this important, her faith was practically non-existent.
“Are you worried about your doctor’s appointment? Is that why you can’t think reasonably?”
“I’m concerned, not worried, and I am thinking reasonably.”
The sympathy in Gail’s eyes suggested that she didn’t agree. “You’ve been feeling okay, haven’t you? You don’t have any symptoms that you’re not telling me about?”
“No symptoms and, yes, Mother, I’ve been feeling fine. Thanks for asking.”
“I’m sounding mother-hen-ish, aren’t I?”
“A little, but I know you mean well.” She hugged her friend. “I’m glad you’re back,” she said sincerely, because she had missed her. “Thanks again for the opportunity to look after your kids. We had a wonderful time and I’ll never forget it.”
“I’m glad. We couldn’t have enjoyed ourselves as much as we did if we weren’t confident Derek and Emma were taken care of.”
Linc walked in with a suitcase in each hand, his brother behind him equally laden. “I hate to rush away without hearing about your time in France, but Christy and I have a fall festival to attend.”
Gail snapped her fingers. “That’s right. The dance competition is tonight. I’d forgotten.”
“We haven’t, because, oh, by the way, we’re going to win.” Linc grinned.
Christy laughed. “Spoken like an overconfident surgeon. Seriously, though, we’re quite good.”
“I left four tickets on the counter if you decide you’d like to watch our performance,” Linc informed his brother and sister-in-law. “We’re the very last couple on the schedule, so it’ll be close to nine o’clock. After that, the disc jockey will provide music and open the dance floor to everyone.”
After a quick round of goodbyes, Christy allowed Linc to escort her and Ria to her car. Her suitcases were already in the trunk and as soon as he opened the passenger door, Ria bounded inside.
“I guess this is it,” she said.
“Only for now,” he said firmly. “I’ll pick you up at your house in two hours. That will give you time to rest before our big evening.”
“You mean time to get nervous?”
“You aren’t nervous, are you? This can’t be coming from the woman who assured me this fundraiser was all in the spirit of fun.”
“I lied,” she said promptly.
“Surely my fearless partner—the same lady who jumps out of airplanes and rides the rapids—isn’t suffering from cold feet, is she?”
“As crazy as it sounds, yes.”
“Silly woman,” he said with obvious affection. “Win or lose, we’re going to be great.”
She eyed him carefully. “Somehow I’d always imagined that I’d give you the pep talk tonight. Are you the same Lincoln Maguire who had to be coerced into participating?”
“One and the same, but we’ve practiced until we could both dance our steps in our sleep and sometimes I have. If we trip or miss a step, we’ve already practiced that, too.” He grinned. “We’ll recover.”
His humor was infectious. “We will, but why don’t I save time and meet you at the convention center?”
“I seem to remember having this same discussion once before,” he said sternly, although the twinkle in his eye minimized the sting, “but now, like then, my answer is no. We’re partners. We’ll arrive and leave together.”
His description made her realize how badly she needed him to understand what a partnership with her would mean. Somehow she had to make certain he looked at a future through regular lenses and not rose-colored glasses. However, she’d save that discussion for later.
She gave in. “If that’s what you want to do.”
“It is. Now, drive home safely, and I’ll see you soon.”
She couldn’t stop her pulse from leaping with anticipation, although she knew tonight’s dance competition might only be the beginning of the end.
LINC strode into his house and hardly noticed the quiet. He was too busy replaying the last few hours they’d spent together. From the moment they’d got into the car and headed to the airport, he’d sensed Christy’s mental withdrawal. At first, he’d thought it was because she simply didn’t want to say goodbye to the kids, but his gut warned that it went much deeper. She intended to distance herself from him, probably out of an altruistic notion that she would save him from himself.
He wasn’t going to let her because he intended to stick to her like glue. The only way she’d get away from him would be if she moved to another city, and he wasn’t averse to following her. In the space of a few weeks he’d come to the point where he wanted her to be a part of his every day. He didn’t want some steady, dependable sort, although Christy was all that and more. He wanted the Christy who fearlessly faced life with joy and grace because…
Because he loved her.
The realization hit him hard, but it was true. He loved her, and he’d do anything within his power for her, just as his father had done for the love of his life. As he looked at his childhood with new eyes the weight of his old resentments dropped off. He couldn’t let the day end without telling Christy how he felt.
She’d probably tell him he was mistaken or try to convince him of her shortcomings, but she didn’t understand the most important thing. He needed her just as she was.
* * *
They were by no means late and, in fact, had arrived at the convention hall a little early, but Christy was amazed by the crowd of people who’d already gathered.
“You’re at table five, near the front,” the woman at the check-in desk informed them. “Enjoy yourselves and good luck with the competition. We have a packed house tonight.”
The news didn’t come as any surprise. Christy had suspected people would come in droves and it was nice to know she’d been right.
“Let’s find our table before we mingle,” Linc said in her ear because the noise level already made hearing difficult.
“Good idea,” she said, conscious of his hand on the small of her back as they wound their way through the tables and groups of people. The skirt of her red silky dress, purchased specifically for tonight’s occasion because it flared and flowed in the right places, swung provocatively over her sashaying hips. The spaghetti-strapped bodice was covered in glittery sequins and would sparkle like diamonds under the spotlight. The garment fit perfectly and although Linc’s hand didn’t stray from the base of her spine, her skin sizzled under the heat of his fingers.
She’d proved her mother’s belief about clothing, she decided. She felt as sensational as the dress, and Linc’s admiring gaze when he’d arrived at her house had told her it had been money well spent.
Linc had earned her admiring gaze, too. She’d seen him wearing scrubs, casual work attire as well as workout clothes, but, as wonderfully as he filled out those garments, he was positively awesome in his black tuxedo pants and the long-sleeved dress shirt he wore open at his neck.
Christy meandered past various groups and mingled with others, conscious of Linc remaining at her side. She was surprised he didn’t veer off to visit with his own friends and colleagues and leave her to her own devices. Instead, if he wanted to speak to someone, he’d grab her hand and drag her along. If she saw someone and headed tow
The truth was she was thrilled he didn’t leave her. At this moment they were a couple. A pair.
I’m not going anywhere, he’d told her on several occasions, and since then he hadn’t. For the first time she began to believe that it might be true—that he wouldn’t leave her when or if the going got rough.
By the end of the hour the hall was packed and they took their seats at the same table as several of Linc’s partners and their wives.
Janice Martin, a distinguished lady in her mid-sixties, who was seated on Christy’s left, leaned close. “I’m pleased you convinced Linc to participate in this event. The man is too young to work twenty-four seven. He needed an interest outside the hospital and I’m delighted you gave him one.”
“Thank you, but it was more a case of bullying him into it rather than persuading him to volunteer.”
Janice patted her arm. “However you managed this miracle, I’m glad you did. Why, he looks like a new man.”
Christy glanced at Linc, who was chatting with Dale Zorn, a cardiologist, on his right. The version of the Lincoln Maguire beside her bore little resemblance to the man she’d known a few weeks ago. That fellow had been tense, extremely focused, and didn’t smile. Now his face was animated and his body relaxed, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
“Being a temporary father to his nephew and niece had a lot to do with his transformation,” she told Janice.
“Ah, yes. My husband told me you two were looking after his brother’s kids. How did you enjoy being parents?”
How could she possibly describe the best experience in recent memory? “I had the time of my life,” she said simply.
As soon as she’d voiced those words, she realized how appropriate it had been for Linc to choose that particular song for their dance routine. It was a fitting end to their two months together.
Selfishness suddenly reared its head. Because of all the potential obstacles facing them, ending their relationship might be for the best, but every fiber of her being warned that it would be a mistake—one she would regret for the rest of her days. Truth was, she wanted what the Connallys had—a partnership that saw them through the good times as well as the bad.
Their partnership was more than a simple agreement between two people. Love had knit them together; love had made the difference—the same type of love she felt for Linc.
Then you know what you have to do, her little voice chided her. Take the risk.
She wanted to ponder her choices and replay all of her what-if scenarios, but the master-of-ceremonies interrupted her thoughts as he began the event. Linc turned to her. “Nervous?”
“A little. You?”
For the next thirty minutes Christy and the rest of the guests were entertained by the various teams who performed. Some were good, others fair, still others were perfectly awful or downright hilarious, but through it all she was conscious of Linc’s arm resting on the back of her chair, his hand curled around her shoulder.
She simply couldn’t imagine going back to the way things had been before. In the hours prior to tonight’s event, her apartment had seemed so sterile and lifeless and the thought of facing that existence day after day was too horrible to imagine.
She wanted to be with Linc, morning, noon, and night. She wanted him to tease her about how she squeezed her toothpaste, rave over her meals, and pamper Ria as much as she did. She needed him in more ways than she could ever list, and she needed him like she needed air to breathe, because she loved him.
So focused was she on her epiphany, she hardly noticed he’d moved until he whispered into her ear, his breath warm against her neck. “We’re next.”
She nodded. The butterflies in her stomach suddenly settled as she resolved to express her feelings during their song. She realized how diligently he’d been working to convince her to trust him and now seemed the perfect opportunity to show him what lay in her heart. The words would come later, when they were alone.
The performance ended, although Christy had been so focused on her private thoughts she hadn’t paid attention to her competition. After the applause died down, the MC announced their names.
Linc grabbed her hand and led her to the dance floor. Before he left her to stand alone center stage, he squeezed her fingers and winked.
She laughed at his irreverence while he moved to stage right. The crowd fell silent as the familiar melody began.
Christy allowed the music to wash over her, paying careful attention to the lyrics as she poured out the emotions that matched those expressed in the song.
Through the basic grind that brought a few catcalls, then the flamenco, various dips and spins, the spectators faded into nothingness as she focused on Linc.
He clearly did the same because his gaze had locked on hers. Easily, effortlessly, she glided through the steps. As the music drew to a close, the final spin brought her into Linc’s embrace.
Barely conscious of the thundering applause, she only had eyes for Linc. He traced her jaw, then bent his head and kissed her in such a lingering manner that her toes tingled and the crowd went wild.
As the announcer came to the microphone, Linc broke contact and they made their way back to their table. Christy’s heart pounded as much from his kiss as from the exertion and she felt so marvelous she was certain her feet didn’t touch the floor. People nodded to her as they clapped while others pounded Linc on his back for a job well done.
“Okay, folks. Based on the amount of applause, I think it’s easy to tell which team is our winner. Dr Lincoln Maguire and his lovely partner, Christy Michaels!”
The hired DJ began a music set and encouraged everyone to participate. The mood in the building was high and from the numbers of couples who took to the dance floor, they’d been energized by Christy and Linc’s performance.
“Do you want to stay?” Linc asked her.
She hesitated, trying to read him and failing. “Would you mind if we didn’t?”
His slow grin was the answer she wanted. “Not at all.”
Although Linc graciously accepted everyone’s congratulations on their way out, he chafed at the delay. He wanted to simply toss Christy over his shoulder and walk through the throng, but he’d already pushed his limits when he’d kissed Christy in front of five hundred spectators. People he knew and those he didn’t remarked on his memorable performance, although he didn’t know if they’d been impressed by his dancing ability or because he’d kissed his partner with such fervor.
Either way, the first Dancing with the Docs event would go down in hospital history.
“Would you like to come inside?” she asked as he pulled into a parking space outside her apartment.
“I’d like that.” His gut warned him that something monumental would take place and, if his suspicions were correct, it wouldn’t be good.
“My selection is limited tonight,” she said as she headed for her kitchen. “Would you like water or wine?”
The wine could wait until they had something to celebrate. “Water, please.” As she handed him a glass and they headed into the living room, he asked, “What’s on your mind? And don’t say ‘Nothing’ because I can read you too well.”
“Okay.” She placed her glass on the coffee table before she sank onto her sofa. “Here’s the deal.
“This afternoon, I’d contemplated how we should go our separate ways.”
He nodded. “I suspected as much.”
“It seemed the right thing to do. You want things out of life that I might not be able to give you—two point five kids, a minivan, becoming soccer parents, and the potential to celebrate a fiftieth anniversary, to name a few.
“My mother told me I was trying to protect myself from being hurt, and deep down I was.
After bracing himself for the worst, relief swept through him to the point he couldn’t speak.
Her mouth trembled as she met his gaze. “Whatever happens next is up to you.”
Rather than act on her cue to leave if he so desired, he drew her against him. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’re sure? Think long and hard about your decision,” she warned.
“I already have. I love you too much to be intimidated by the obstacles we might face.”
Tears glistened in her eyes. “Oh, Linc.”
“You should know that I’d anticipated this conversation ever since you left Gail and Ty’s. In fact, I’d intended to seduce you if that’s what it took to persuade you of my sincerity.”
She chuckled. “Wow.”
“In fact, I may do it anyway.” With that, he kissed her.
When Christy finally came up for air, she scooted away. “Before we take this to its logical conclusion, I want everything perfectly clear between us. My cancer could return. Derek and Emma might never have a cousin or two. We could—”
“Whatever happens, I’m going into our relationship with both eyes open,” he assured her. “Do I need to sign your list in blood or is my word good enough?”
She smiled. “Your word is enough,” she said simply.
“Good. While we’re tossing out worst-case scenarios, I could develop a life-threatening disease in five, ten or twenty years. I had mumps as a child and could be sterile. What if I walk into the hospital parking lot and a runaway car runs me down? Could you deal with my issues if they ever happen?”
His points made her realize she might be making more out of her worries than necessary. “Yes. However, there’s one more thing for you to consider.”
“Christy,” he said kindly, “whatever your concern, it isn’t as important as you think it might be. I love you for the woman you are.”
“That’s sweet of you to say, but I want to give you one last chance to change your mind. You may not need to see this, but I need to show you.”
by Jessica Matthews have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes