Too Close For Comfort

Too Close For Comfort
Eve Gaddy

$11.95 October 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61194-046-6

Winner of the 1998 Golden Quill Award for Best Romantic Suspense

Winner of the 1997 Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards for Best First Series Book
Our PriceUS$11.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

He kidnapped her in her own keep her alive.

Dr. Marissa Fairfax is a calm, cool trauma surgeon.  Police officer Jack Corelli is a tough cop who's been assigned to protect her until she testifies at a murder trial--whether she wants his help or not. 

Jack's more than willing to enforce the mandatory protection order, but he's got his work cut out for him.


"…an entertaining police procedural romance starring two obstinate resolute enemies falling in love." -- Klausner’s Bookshelf



The mother of all Monday mornings began with a 12:30 a.m. overhead page.

"Dr. Fairfax. Dr. Fairfax to the ER, STAT!”

Marissa Fairfax swore silently, tying off one last blood vessel before she turned to the assisting surgery resident. "Good timing. Close for me, John.”

She took the stairs down to the first floor, quickly stripping gloves, cap and bloodied surgical gown as she went. The chief resident met her at the bottom to fill her in on the available details.

"There’s a gunshot wound to the chest on the way to the ER. Supposed to be in critical condition,” Pete Yerber told her, handing her a fresh pair of gloves.

"Crazy tonight, and it’s not even a Saturday.” Thin latex snapped against her wrists as she pulled on the gloves.

"Doing nothing but getting worse, too. It’s raining like stink and,” he paused as thunder sounded in the distance, "I hear there’s a tornado warning.”


She met the victim as his gurney came flying through the doors leading to the Surgical Emergency Room, gaining her first impression at virtually a dead run. Spilling details in a rapid spate of words, the paramedic spoke loudly to be heard above the din in the ER. "Blood pressure is eighty over fifty. Heart rate one hundred thirty and respiration is twenty-four per minute. The bullet appears to have entered the chest.”

Seconds later they reached Trauma Room One. "One, two, three... here we go,” Marissa said as the group of doctors, nurses and techs transferred the patient to the table. Positioning her stethoscope on his chest, she listened briefly. "Breath sounds are diminished on his left side.” Not good, not good at all.

"Somebody hang some O negative blood. Get an arterial line started and draw blood gases,” she snapped, glancing up at one of her residents. "Put in a central line, too.” The victim was in bad shape, a fact she didn’t have to tell anyone in the trauma room.

"Oh, good, Gina, you’re here,” she said, spying one of her most promising fourth year residents. "As soon as the lines are in you can put in a chest tube.”

"Yes, Dr. Fairfax,” she said breathlessly. "Things are crazy tonight or I would’ve been here sooner. Is there a full moon? The ER sure looks like it.”

"Tornado warning. Same effect.” Marissa took the scalpel the resident handed her. "Hurry up with those lines,” she told the other resident. "We don’t have all night.”

An intern appeared with the blood Marissa had ordered. "Man, he’s bleeding like hell.”

Marissa threw him a quelling look. "We can see that, Conrad. Don’t state the obvious. And next time don’t stop for coffee.” Grimacing, she admitted silently that he was right. A train wreck if she’d ever seen one.

The patient thrashed around until Marissa placed a restraining hand on his shoulder. "What’s your first name?” she asked him in a gentler tone.


"Okay, Frankie, we need to put a chest tube in so we can drain some of the blood that’s making it hard for you to breathe. It looks scary and it’s going to hurt, but we can’t put you under anesthesia because it affects your breathing. Understand?”

Since she didn’t have time to worry about it, she took his grunt as a sign of assent. Quickly, she sliced the scalpel through the wall of his chest. Blood poured out in a thin stream.

"Can’t breathe!” Frankie shouted. "I’m dying!”

"You’re doing fine, Frankie,” Gina told him. "You can’t talk if you can’t breathe.”

Marissa spread the opening with the forceps so Gina could plunge the plastic tube into the chest cavity. Frankie screamed, cursed, and screamed again before he lost consciousness. Oh, crap, his blood pressure’s dropping, she thought, glancing at the monitor hooked up to the central and arterial vein lines.

Gina sutured the tube in and applied a sterile dressing while Marissa silently ran through a list of possible causes for the patient’s loss of consciousness. She didn’t like anything she came up with.

"Let’s go, people, move it. God, what a mess,” she added under her breath.

Another glance at the monitor gave her the patient’s vital signs. He was tubing, ready to crash at any moment. If she didn’t work quickly she’d lose him. Calmly but rapidly, she continued the diagnosis aloud. "His pressure’s dropping and he’s got a paradoxical pulse—I think he’s developing pericardial tamponade. Probably has a cardiac injury. This one’s an elevator case, people, but before we can take him up to the OR I’ve got to do a pericardiocentesis.”

Outwardly calm, her stomach twisted with nerves and anticipation. As a trauma surgeon she had many cases where nothing she did could save her patient, and she hated those cases passionately. Failure, even when unavoidable, ate at her guts. This case wouldn’t be one of those—she’d make sure of that.

"Prep his chest,” she told Gina, waiting impatiently while the resident swabbed it down with Betadine. Rapidly inserting the long needle to his sternum, she watched the red fluid fill the syringe. Immediately she aspirated sixty cc of blood.

Hot damn, I was right, blood in the pericardial sac.

Another glance at the monitors showed sudden improvement in his systemic blood pressure. Exhilaration, intense satisfaction spiraled through her as the patient slowly regained consciousness. In the span of minutes, death retreated and life took over. Trauma surgery at its best—and most exciting.

Betraying none of those feelings, she spoke calmly. "Get him to the elevator, STAT. He’s ready for the OR now.”

"Am I gonna die?”

Frightened now that he’d regained consciousness, Frankie’s voice sounded hoarse, faint, and she had to bend over to hear him.

"No, you’re going to be fine,” she told him. "We’re taking you to the Operating Room right now.”

He clutched at her sleeve as they wheeled him out of Trauma One. "Wait. Gotta talk. Wait.”

"We don’t have time. You’re seriously injured, you can talk later.”

"Now!” Jerking on her sleeve, he yanked her shoulder down so her ear was closer to his mouth. As they rushed to the elevator, he started talking incoherently. "Phoenix ring... I can give... Roth... real estate... money laundering... goes through him... land development... Roth... records...”

His pain and the amount of noise in the hallway made most of what she heard unintelligible, and she only half-listened to what he said. "Phoenix, Roth knows the Phoenix... Jerome skimming... Let them know... he shot me... Don’t let me die!” Drivel from a critically injured man. "Jerome skimming... from Phoenix.”

His hand slid down her upper arm, his fingers dug sharply into her forearm while he lifted his other hand and pointed a shaking finger. Gaining sudden strength and coherency, he shouted, "That’s him! Jerome!”

Following the line of Frankie’s trembling hand, she gazed at the two men approaching. The uniformed cop left no impression. At first glance she might have dismissed the man beside him, too. Medium height, brown hair—physically nondescript—yet he exuded waves of near tangible malice.

"Bastard! You’ll get yours! You’re dead meat, Jerome!” Frankie screamed. "You didn’t kill me! I’ll live to tell everything, every—”

In frame by frame, cold-blooded sequence, Marissa saw Jerome’s arm cross his body, his fingers touch the gun at the policeman’s side. Paralyzed, she watched black steel and cold death clear the holster and slash the air, watched fingers squeeze tight on the trigger as the sound of destruction exploded beside her.

Blood—red, glistening, viscous blood. Death running like a river undammed. Frankie... Oh God, it’s his... No operation would save him now. The bullet had drilled its way through the front of his skull to emerge out the back, blowing open that part of his head.

Instinctively, she shut her eyes, her usually cast-iron stomach heaving violently at the sight. Body parts and blood gave her no qualms, but naked violence, the slaughter of a human being, burned a horror in her mind. She had watched it happen; she wore his blood and bits of his skin and bone on her clothes, on her skin. A man whom she had saved from death only minutes before.

Another shot jerked through sudden silence. Marissa opened her eyes to the cop hitting the floor. Before she could react to that, the gunman was upon her. Arm around her neck, he choked her, holding the gun pointed to her temple.

"Get back!” he shouted, savagely squeezing her throat. He dragged her back into the same trauma room she had so recently vacated. "Anyone comes near me and I swear I’ll shoot the bitch.”

The gun dropped away from her face. Reacting with a training she hadn’t needed in years, Marissa turned her neck into the crook of his arm and sent an elbow jabbing into his solar plexus.

Her attempt at self-defense served only to infuriate him. "Wanna die, Blondie?” The muzzle of his gun pressed close, and she felt the metal whisper of death against her temple.

"No,” she said, forcing the word out in a shaking voice. Oh, God, he was going to kill her.

"Good. Then you do like I tell you, and if you’re lucky, I’ll let you live.” He removed the gun and forced her to the door with him. "You pigs out there hear me? I want a chopper, on the roof, ten minutes. Don’t give me no crap that you don’t got one, neither.”

"Let the woman go, Jerome,” someone said. "Let her go, man, it’s not worth it.”

"Bull. Chopper on the roof or the bitch dies.” He laughed, sounding gleeful, held the gun to her temple again and spoke to her. "What did Frankie say to you? What did he tell you?”

Steel twisted against her skin, nausea twisted her stomach. She forced herself to answer him. "If you’re talking about my patient, he told me that you shot him. That’s all he told me. There wasn’t time for more.”

Her sigh of relief as the pressure left her temple turned into a cry of pain when his fist crashed into her mouth, snapping her head back.

"Liar! I heard him. Enough to know he spilled his stinkin’ guts to you. That little loser gave you everything.” Again, he slapped her. "Didn’t he?”

The copper taste of blood filled her mouth, she felt the skin over her cheekbone split and more blood flow down her face and neck. Staring at him now, she realized he was young—mid-twenties, at most. But his dark eyes were old—and alive with malevolence.

"Tell me what Frankie spilled and I let you go when we get up to the roof. Don’t tell me, and you be dead,” he snapped his fingers in front of her, "like that. Got it?” He wrapped his arm around her neck and pulled her back against him.

"Yes,” she whispered, hating the fear forcing her to obey him. Sweet Lord, she was a dead woman. She couldn’t remember a word the man had said. Then she realized it didn’t matter, she was as good as dead already.

"Drop the gun, Jerome. Let the doctor go.”

Deep, husky, baritone. She recognized that voice. Commanding, calm. He stood in the doorway, his large frame taking up most of the space, the pistol in his right hand pointed directly at her captor’s head.

Corelli. Detective Lieutenant Jack Corelli of the Fort Williams Police. An insufferably arrogant pain in her butt since the day she’d come to Texas to head Trauma Surgery at Fort Williams Central Hospital. She could have kissed him. If he got her out of this alive, she just might.

"Hey, man, shoot me and she’s dead.” Jerome’s arm jerked and tightened, making her gasp with pain. Fetid breath, hot against her cheek. "You can’t do nothin’ to me.”

A smile flickered across the rough features of Corelli’s face. "Sure I can, Juju. You know me.”

You idiot, she wanted to say, gratitude deserting her instantly. Don’t bluff him—oh, God, he’s not bluffing, he’s going to shoot—don’t—

Jerome heaved her into Corelli’s arms. A shot rang out as her captor ran out the door of the trauma room.

"Son of a bitch!” Corelli threw her aside and leapt through the open doorway.

"Don’t shoot!” Marissa shouted and dived out after him. There were probably fifty people standing in the corridor. She wasn’t about to stand around like an autopsy waiting to happen while desperate criminals and gung-ho cops played shoot-’em-up in the hospital corridor.

She was a pace behind him when he slipped. Attempting to stop, she skidded, crashed into his back and both of them went down with Corelli landing on top of her. Two-hundred-plus solid pounds of muscle delivered straight to her diaphragm.

Corelli struggled to sit, momentarily placing the full balance of his weight upon her. His voice reaching her from a distance, she didn’t quite pass out. "Go after him, Edmonds! Call for backup! Get the bastard before he takes another hostage.”

"Are you all right?” he asked her, leaning over her to feel her pulse. Marissa managed to shake her head. "What hurts? Have you been shot?”

You’re the one who killed me, you jerk, she thought, and passed out.

Damn,she caught a bullet, was Jack Corelli’s first thought, but a quick inspection proved him wrong. Irritably, he looked around, wondering why, in a hospital the size of FWC, there didn’t seem to be a doctor or nurse rushing to his aid.

"Judas Priest, can’t somebody help me here?”

One of the people standing frozen against the wall of the corridor while the drama took place came over and knelt beside him. Yerber, Jack remembered. He knew the chief surgical resident slightly from prior meetings in the same ER. "No bullet wound that I could find,” Jack told him. "What’s wrong with her? Did she faint?”

Quickly, Yerber patted her down, poking, prodding, apparently checking for entry wounds, even though Jack had already done that. Other than the cuts on her face that were bleeding like hell, she didn’t appear injured.

After a moment, the doctor looked at him. "Well, I’m not positive, but I think you knocked her out when you landed on top of her.”

"What did I slip on?” Glancing around, he realized they lay in a pool of blood. "What kind of lousy hospital are you running here that you let blood collect on the floor of the hallway?”

The chief resident met his accusation coolly. "It’s your guard’s blood, Detective. The cop who let that maniac get hold of his gun lay there and bled while Dr. Fairfax became a hostage. If it hadn’t been for the quick thinking of one of our lousy hospital’s nurses, your cop would have bled out in about five minutes. We haven’t had time to clean up the mess.”

Jack had the grace to flush. "Sorry,” he mumbled. Damn it, he hated it when he was wrong. And more, when he had to admit it. "Will she be all right?”

"She’s regaining consciousness now.”

"Right. I’ll be back. Don’t let her out of your sight until I’ve had a chance to talk to her.” Jack rose and limped painfully toward the door at the end of the hallway, praying the backup had picked up Jerome as he fled.

Forty minutes later, Jack trailed back into the hospital, his butt dragging lower than a snake’s belly. Frankie Lemont’s death was a disaster. Two years of work. They were close, so close and now nothing. Zippo. Nada. Not even the punk who’d shot him. Juju Jerome had disappeared, nearly slitting a nurse’s throat as he’d made his escape.

If Jack could salvage something in his interview with Dr. Fairfax... Jerome had suspected she knew something, judging from the conversation Jack had overheard. But the way his luck was running tonight, she’d be in shock from being held hostage. He stopped at the door to the exam room and watched Yerber take care of her.

Even beat up, the split skin over her cheekbone held together by butterfly bandages and the side of her mouth swollen, she was pretty. Jack had never seen her tousled, with her short blonde hair looking like she’d just woken up, and fear and pain making her steel blue eyes huge in her face. He hadn’t known that she could look like that.

Jack’s job had sent him to the FWC Emergency Room a number of times, not only in pursuit of criminals but to bring in wounded comrades, most recently his own partner. In the five or six months since Dr. Fairfax had joined the staff, they’d tangled almost every time they’d met. Apparently, she didn’t much care for the way Jack did his job.

A self-possessed control junkie. That’s how he thought of Dr. Marissa Fairfax. Stubborn, opinionated, bossy and aggressive—the epitome of the kind of woman he disliked. Professionally, he admired her logical mind, her cool head in a crisis, her assertiveness. On an instinctual, purely male level, however, he couldn’t stand the type. Marissa Fairfax was as hard, and driven, as they come. And Jack liked his women soft.

This wasn’t an ordinary day, though. She’d changed into clean pale blue scrubs, he noticed. He’d have changed too if he had a man’s brains splattered all over him. No longer the cool professional, at the moment she looked vulnerable. A victim who needed his help.

"Is Dr. Fairfax up to answering a few questions?” he asked Yerber as he stepped inside the treatment room.

Professional replaced victim in a nanosecond. "Dr. Fairfax is perfectly capable of answering for herself,” she said. "One of my nurses required extensive emergency surgery, thanks to the criminal who’s been running free in the halls of the hospital. I’m going to check on her before I answer anything. And then I have a few words to say to you before I’ll consider answering your questions.”

Aware that the scorn lacing her voice was at least partially deserved, he gritted his teeth. Jack hated it when cops screwed up. He hated it when anyone screwed up, but especially cops. No way should Jerome have been able to pinch a gun. How Jerome had managed it didn’t matter. A suspect should never have been allowed access to a weapon.

"Did you catch him?” she added, staring at him critically.

Scratch hostage shock theory. "No. During the, ah, incident with the nurse he managed to get away.”

She didn’t say a word, merely looked at him like she’d never seen a more incompetent idiot before turning pointedly away from him.

"I’ll wait here for you,” he told her, and watched her walk out of the room.

Yerber laughed, then tried to cover it with a cough. Jack smiled sourly at him. God, he hated it when the cops came out looking bad. Cops were the good guys, they shouldn’t lose face. "Is she really okay?” he felt compelled to ask.

"Says she is.” Yerber shrugged. "I’m not about to argue with her. It would take more than a gun held to her head to make Dr. Fairfax break a sweat.”

Hero worship, Jack thought, wondering about Dr. Fairfax and her ability to inspire awe. "Yeah, she’s a cool customer, all right.”

"They don’t call her Dr. Ice for nothing,” the resident said, and left Jack alone.

Dr. Ice.

Jack smiled at the nickname. It suited her—both her cool, blonde beauty and her reserved, professional demeanor. Not for the first time, he wondered if the doctor was as icy in bed as she was out of it. Her touch-me-not aura prompted him to find out the answer, but he’d never gone beyond speculation. Tonight, professional ethics interfered.

Dr. Marissa Fairfax was a crime victim, possibly a witness in a case he’d been working on for years. He had no business thinking of her in any other terms than professionally.

Besides, she wasn’t his type.

An hour later, having driven her to the station, he led her into his office and shut the door. Before he could get a word out, she rounded on him.

"You’ve given me trouble from the day I met you, Corelli, but even by your standards this latest maneuver—”

"Excuse me, Dr. Fairfax? I’ve given you trouble? I’m not the pain in the ass, here. The way I remember it, the day we met you did your best to ruin my case. You were the one who wouldn’t let me talk to that suspect when he—”

"That suspect was in critical condition!” Her blue eyes blazed steely with anger. "He was barely more than a child, not that you seemed to notice. I was protecting my patient, doing my job.”

"Bull. You were throwing your weight around. Threatening me with expulsion because I needed to talk to a suspect about his part in shooting a ten-year-old boy? Give me a break, Doctor.”

"Give you a break?” She glared at him. "Why the hell should I?”

Corelli gritted his teeth, attempting to take hold of his temper. "We aren’t here to discuss our personal opinions of each other. I’m on a case, and I need to take your statement.”

"Do you? Fine, but first tell me something, Detective. What gives you the right to place a bet with my life as the stakes?”

Confused, but not about to say so, he stared at her.

"You don’t even know what I’m talking about, do you? Of all the arrogant, stupid, criminal—”

She was calling him a criminal? "The criminal was the punk holding a gun on you.”

"Exactly. Still in the dark? Let me give you a clue. ‘Sure I can, Juju. You know me,’” she mimicked, her voice frigid, contemptuous. "You arrogant fool, you would have shot him, wouldn’t you? Did it even occur to you that if you had, I’d be dead, too?”

His brows lowered, his mouth thinned in anger. "It was a bluff, and it worked. If Jerome had gotten you to the roof, you’d have been dead, anyway.”

"Damn it, don’t you think I realize that? But you were bluffing with my life.”

"In my professional assessment of the situation, it was necessary. Sorry I didn’t handle things to suit you. Should I have just let the guy kill you without attempting to stop him?” Jack was a good cop and he knew it. His actions were perfectly reasonable, perfectly defendable.

Silent, she turned her back on him and strode to the window, standing with her arms crossed over her chest and her head bowed. Smooth move, Corelli. The lady’s just been held at gunpoint and you’re yelling at her. Some protector he was. He felt like a total jerk.

His voice was too harsh to sound very sympathetic but he tried. Touching her arm he said, "I’m sorry I frightened you. And, uh—” he floundered for a moment and added, "Sorry I yelled at you, too. You have a right to be upset.” He waited a few seconds, then dropped his hand.

No tears marred her cheeks when she turned to face him. Her back straightened; he could see the mask of chilly reserve settle over her like a layer of frost. No anger, no passion haunted the hard blue of her eyes. "Ask your questions, Detective.”

The drill began. She might have been discussing a TV show, and a boring one at that, for all the emotion she showed. Jack knew she’d been scared spitless. She was far too smart not to have realized how close she’d come to dying. How could she be so calm, so collected? Like ice.

"Was Jerome right? Did Lemont tell you something important?” A long shot, Jack thought, but worth a try.

"Frankie Lemont was critically injured. He babbled. Something about Phoenix and a ring. Roth knowing Phoenix.” Frowning, she added, "Money and real estate and land development. Oh, he said Jerome was skimming Phoenix or skimming from Phoenix. I’m not sure, it was hard to hear and he didn’t make much sense at the time.”

Not make sense? Holy Mary and all the saints! Frankie Lemont’s deathbed confession. Jack’s case was back on again, courtesy of the woman sitting in front of him.

"Does this amuse you, Detective?” she asked, her tone dry and irritable.

He’d probably been grinning like he’d just gotten laid. "Not amused, Doctor. Happy. This confession is evidence in a case I’ve been working on for a long time. I want you to write down everything Lemont said, no matter how unimportant it seems. You understand you’ll be called upon to testify in court, don’t you?”

"Testify? But you don’t have Jerome in custody.”

"Not yet. But your testimony in this case will be the deathbed confession Lemont gave you. I’ll give you some time to put down what you remember.” Now to set the wheels in motion for the arrest of J. Rutgers Roth, real estate mogul and Jack’s key to cracking the Phoenix ring wide open.

Half an hour later, Jack walked back into his office to find his witness pacing the floor.

"Here.” She slapped the paper into his hand. "How much longer do I have to stay here?”

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Doctor. There’s one more thing to discuss. We need to put you in protective custody. Just until the trial,” he added.

"Protective custody?” She gave him a sharp, suspicious look. "What exactly does that entail?”

"Probably the easiest thing would be to find you a safe house. We do it all the time, it’s no problem.”

"Protective custody means I can’t go to work, doesn’t it?”

"Well, yeah, you’ll have to take off work for a while. For your protection.”

"No.” She straightened her shoulders and said bluntly, "I won’t do it.”

"Doctor, you don’t have a choice. Your life is in danger.” But maybe she didn’t understand that. Try reason, he told himself. She’s a surgeon; she’ll understand logic and reason. "This case involves the Phoenix ring. Are you aware of what kind of an organization that is?”

"I read the papers, Lieutenant. Youth gangs, I believe.”

"Have a seat,” he told her, taking one himself. "That’s right. Phoenix controls several gangs in the area, supplying them with everything from guns to drugs. Frankie was a part of Phoenix. He was this close,” Jack held his thumb and forefinger a scant quarter-inch apart, "to giving up the ringleaders. That’s why Juju Jerome was told to kill him. And you, Dr. Fairfax, heard Frankie’s deathbed confession. A confession that ties J. Rutgers Roth directly to the Phoenix ring.”

"Roth?” She frowned and rubbed her forehead. "Didn’t I read something about him lately? Some... land development deal or something.”

"Right the first time. Half the rich folks in Fort Williams are involved in Roth’s real estate deals. Frankie told you Roth is laundering money for the organization.”

"But no one except you and I know about Frankie’s confession.”

"Jerome knows it, which means his bosses will know it too.”

"You’re assuming quite a lot, aren’t you?” Almost casually, she leaned back, crossed her legs and contemplated him skeptically.

"I’m assuming nothing,” he told her, trying not to grit his teeth. "I’m going on past experience with scum like this. They’ll view you as a threat, so you need to disappear. And even if Jerome’s bosses aren’t worried about you, Jerome is.”

"You think he is,” she interrupted, "but you have no way of knowing that for sure.”

"Frankie Lemont told you Jerome was skimming from the operation. Stealing from his bosses. If we find Jerome and put him on trial for Frankie’s murder, he’s got a chance in the courtroom.” Slowly, carefully, so she couldn’t help but pay attention, he leaned forward and added, "But if you give up what Lemont told you in open court, no lawyer can save Juju Jerome. He’s dead. In jail, out of jail, it doesn’t matter.”

That gave her pause, but she remained stubbornly silent. Jack pressed the advantage. "If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your family. Surely you don’t want to put them in danger.”

Her lips curved upward as she shook her head. "Sorry, Detective. No family.”

Startled, he asked, "None?”

"No one. I’m divorced, childless, parentless. No brothers, sisters or even a cousin. So you see,” she spread her hands, "Jerome and his bosses have only one thing to threaten me with.”

Steepling his fingers over his stomach, he leaned back in his chair and studied her silently. "Dying is a pretty big threat.”

She took a moment before responding. "Understand this, Detective Corelli, I’m needed at the hospital. My work is important, to me and to others. It’s hard enough to live with myself when I lose a patient I’ve done my best for. How can I live with myself if someone comes into the emergency room needing trauma care and dies because there isn’t enough staff? Dies, because I was too frightened to come to the hospital? Because I was hiding out at some safe house?” Slowly, she shook her head, her gaze steady and determined. "No. That’s my final word.”

With a reasonable idea of how many people went through that ER in a twenty-four hour period, Jack knew that Head of Trauma Surgery was no fluff job. Dr. Fairfax was needed, all right, but the stubborn female couldn’t see that she wouldn’t do the hospital any good dead.

Her hand shook. Not obviously, but when she raised it to brush her hair away from her face he noticed the tremble. Her face ought to hurt like hell. He rose and walked to the water cooler, as much to give himself a chance to manage his temper as to bring her a cup of water and some aspirin.

A smile pulled at her mouth. "Three?”

It just might be the first smile he’d seen on her face. He hoped it wasn’t the last. Jack shrugged. "Had my face busted up before. Three work better.”

"Thanks.” She swallowed the pills and stood. "Could someone give me a ride to the hospital? So I can pick up my car?”

"It’s at your apartment by now.”

Her eyes narrowed. "How did it get there?”

With a slight smile, Jack answered. "The advantages of being a cop. Hospital administration told me where you live. While you were getting patched up, one of the nurses found your keys. One of the other detectives drove your car for you. I’ll take you home.”

Her gaze hardened. "One of your men drove my car. Without my permission.” The dead, quiet sharpness of her voice made it plain she was mad as hell.

Jack frowned. "You were in no shape to drive.”

"In your opinion.”

She was a lot more rattled than she let on, he suspected, and didn’t like it a bit. "Yes, in my professional opinion. Most people get a little upset when they think they’re going to die.”

For a minute she stared at him. "I’m not most people.”

Jack checked his smile and answered solemnly. "No, I can see that. Forgive me for presuming you might be upset over something as trifling as a hostage situation.”

Reluctantly, she smiled. "Point taken.”

"Come on, Dr. Fairfax, let me take you home.”

"Suit yourself. I’d ride with Genghis Khan if it meant getting home.”

Damn, she had nerve. He liked that. With a grin he asked, "Meaning I’m a barbarian?”

She pushed the door open and cast him a speculative look over her shoulder. "You said it, not me. Now that you mention it, though...”

With that, she walked out the door.


Please review these other products:

On Thin Ice
Eve Gaddy

$11.95 August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61194-049-7

*Winner of the 1998 Kiss of Death Contest for Best Short Contemporary Romantic Suspense

*Eve is an RT Series Storyteller of the Year

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