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Lauren tried to alter the sound of her voice even as she knew anyone from her past would easily recognize her.
“Is this a Ms. Lauren…”
“Yes, this is Lauren.” She didn’t want to fill in that blank. There was no denying that Smith was one of the most obvious aliases on the planet.
“My name is Dr. Kenner, I’m the chief of staff at county general. EMT Jessandra Locke told me that you saved the life of one Mr…” He paused to look at the chart, Lauren assumed. “Hank Winkleman.”
“I was wondering if you would be so kind as to come to the hospital and discuss his condition.”
Condition? He just said she saved his life, what’s there to discuss?
“Can we speak now?” she asked hoping to both be saved the trip and stay as far off the radar as possible. Hospitals were very public places.
“Well, Ms. Lauren, as I’m sure you know hospital policy prevents me from doing so.”
Yes, she did indeed know that; no matter how long its been since she’d actually stepped foot into an actual hospital. “What’s the address?”
She scribbled it down, thanking the good doctor before disconnecting the line. This was it; she should definitely bolt, especially if the doctor’s tone was any indication. While the praise of the EMT may be have effusive, she wasn’t a doctor. There may have been some complication, infection, anything. The last thing Lauren needed was an investigation of her medical qualification in regard to endangering someone’s life.
There was a nagging curiosity, though. Lauren was sure she’d done an okay job, considering the circumstances. The size of the town ensured the speedy response of the EMTs. What could Dr. Kenner want to talk to her about?
In the end curiosity won and Lauren found herself wandering the corridors of County General Hospital. Locating Dr. Kenner’s office, she was led in by a pleasant—if not morbidly obese—woman and made to wait. She had to wonder about the health education of the town. It wouldn’t be until later that she remembered she was in the U.S., a country not known for its restraint.
“Ah, Ms. Lauren, please excuse my absence. We are down an ER attending and I’m responsible for picking up the slack until the position is filled.” A tall, middle-aged man with a head full of flaming red hair and a dusting of freckles across the bridge of his nose that made him look to be a giant five year old, extended his hand. “I’m Dr. Bruce Kenner, a pleasure to meet you.” He was slender save for a tell tale spare tire around his waist that made Lauren rethink her age assessment.
“Lauren, nice to meet you.”
“Please, have a seat,” he said kindly as he rounded the desk. “Can I get you anything, coffee?”
“No, thank you. I’d really just like to know why you need to see me.”
“Straight and to the point, I like that,” Kenner smiled. “Well, frankly that emergency tracheotomy you did for Mr. Winkleman was…”
Lauren held her breath, no matter which she treated, human or fae, she always wanted to be on top of her game.
She laughed only when he did.
“I mean, I’ve seen some, ‘fly by the seat of your pants,’ medical work, but what you did was simply poetic.”
Lauren blushed. Poetic was a bit much.
“Jess told me you did that with a hunting knife?”
“Yes. It was that or a pair of dull scissors. I’ve never been so happy to know someone participated in such an barbaric sport.”
Dr. Kenner laughed louder, his already ruddy cheeks positively glowing now. “And opinionated, even better. Well, Mr. Winkleman is going to be just fine, I’m happy to tell you. The incision was so neat I doubt there will even be much of a scar.”
“None to be found thus far, though it is a little soon to tell.”
Lauren agreed, but she had to know something.
“We’ve got him on some antibiotics, just in case, and issued a tetanus shot, but…I don’t think any of that will be necessary.”
“Well, I’m just happy that he’s going to be okay.”
Kenner sobered. “That brings us to why I’ve brought you here today.”
Lauren again felt her nerves set themselves on edge. Being a slave for so long had given her serious issues with authority, she hated to admit.
“If you ask me, what you did with Mr. Winkleman is one of the best darn job applications a candidate could ever file. As I said, we’re a man short in our emergency medicine department and I think someone with your ingenuity and gumption is just what this hospital needs. And frankly, sleep is just what I need,” he smiled. “You say the word and the position is yours, no questions asked.”
“Oh, Dr. Kenner, I—
“Wait,” he held up a hand. “Don’t answer just yet. Please, just think about it. I know you’re staying at the motel and supposed to be passing through, but we have a great little town here and the salary would be competitive. I don’t know if you have roots anywhere, but I’d be honor if you’d consider laying some down here.”
He rose from his seat and Lauren followed him toward the door. “I’d love to show you around, maybe sell you a little on the facilities and the people. I’m not above a little good natured bribery.”
Lauren smiled. She had to admit that Dr. Kenner’s affect was comforting, fatherly even.
“Dr. Kenner to bay two. Dr. Kenner to bay two.”
“Crud, that’s the emergency bay.” He stopped short. “Are you licensed?”
“Wonderful. It’s been a pleasure Ms…”
Lauren hesitated. If she gave her alias she’d never be able to accept this job she knew she shouldn’t take. Offering her real name would risk exposure.
“Lewis, Lauren Lewis.” In the end limiting her opportunities was not in her best interest and no one said she had to stay here. Truth was being on the run was expensive; her coffers could defiantly use the refill.
“Lewis, got it. I hope we’ll be in touch, Ms. Lewis,” were the last words Dr. Kenner said before disappearing around the corner.
“And here I was about to congratulate you.”
Lauren found an inquisitive EMT looming behind her.
“I take it you’re the one that’s been telling my story.”
“More like singing your praises, Lauren.” She extended her hand. “Jess, by the way.”
“Jessandra, yes I heard.”
Jess cringed. “Please, don’t call me that. Jessandra’s my grandmother.”
“Well I think the name is—”
“Old, I know,” Jess rolled her eyes.
“I was going to say beautiful.”
Lauren thought she saw what could have been a blush, but it quickly disappeared.
“What do you say I buy you a cup of terrible coffee to celebrate your new job?”
“I didn’t accept,” Lauren protested even as she followed Jess toward what she assumed would be the hospital cafeteria.
“I have a good feeling about you.”
It was soon after they found a table that Lauren learned how serious Jess was about the coffee.
“It’s like tar,” she winced.
“I told you it was bad. I would have offered to take you to Remy’s down the block but I’m on call.”
“This is fine. I can’t stay long.”
“Yes, you have to get back to the motel and do some thinking. Though, you should really consider getting a place if you’re going to be working here. There are some really great condos a little ways away. Doctors and nurses get rent reductions. They don’t extend such luxuries to we lowly medical personnel.”
Lauren could detect a hint of bitterness. “Why aren’t you a nurse or doctor? I saw how you worked on Hank, I’m sure you’d be great at it.”
A shadow crossed Jess’s face that she quickly chased away with a smile. “I thought about it, a long time ago, but I liked the freedom and regulated schedule that being an EMT offers. When I’m off the clock, I’m off the clock.”
Couldn’t have been that long ago, Lauren placed Jess in her late twenties, tops.
“I can understand that,” she commiserated. As a doctor she knew that another doctors personal problems became a problem for everyone on their staff.
“Besides,” Jess added. “How would I get a chance to meet new and interesting people that I can recommend for jobs?”
Lauren’s smile faltered. In that instant, with Jess smiling at her over her cup she knew why Jess seemed so familiar, with her dark hair and almost electric blue eyes. Even their height, build and weight were similar except Jess’s shoulders and arms were stronger, no doubt from hours of loading people on and off ambulances. Lauren simply couldn’t shake just how much Jess favored Bo and her immediate attraction to her was disconcerting.
“Lauren, are you okay?”
God, even their concern was the same.
“Yes, I’m sorry. You just remind me of my ex…” Lauren faltered not sure if she wanted to share this bit of herself. Hiding who she is was not an option either. “My ex-girlfriend.”
“Christ, not now,” Jess said with an eye roll as she tilted her head.
Lauren was prepared to offer a scathing retort when the walkie on Jess’s side crackled to life.
“Yes, I know,” she said cutting off her partner.
“How did you know that was…”
Jess’s eyes refused to meet Lauren’s when she said, “It makes a little noise right before it goes off. And I know where my partner is, the heads up isn’t necessary.” She quickly rose to her feet. “Look, I have to run, literally.”
“I understand,” Lauren smiled.
“I hope I get to work with you again sometime. Oh, and Lauren….” Jess bent down speaking quietly into her ear. “I have an ex that looks just like you too.”
With that the EMT was quickly through the double doors of the cafeteria and Lauren was left with even more decisions to make.
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