The Doctor's Fake Fiancée

By: Victoria James

“Mommy,” Christopher cried and then coughed. He needed to get out of the car. She needed to save her baby.

“Christopher, it’s okay, Mommy is here,” she said, willing her voice not to waver. The man’s head hunched close to hers. “Just get my son out, okay? I’ll be fine. Get him out,” she pleaded.

“I’m getting you both out,” the man said, his voice rough and sure. There was strength in it.

“Get him out. Promise me—”

He ignored her plea and pulled on her seat belt again. It finally unlatched, and she felt his sigh of relief. “Got it. I want to wait for the paramedics to get here before I move you, but I don’t know how long we have. Your car is sitting right under the truck.”

Panic swam through her body. The smoke grew thicker, and she began coughing. Everything ached, and she fought desperately to stay awake.

“I’m going to get you out of here, sweetheart,” the man repeated, and there was that comfort in his voice, something that made her want to believe him.

Maybe she could close her eyes for a minute. Just a minute.

Seconds later, minutes later, hands were lifting her. People were talking. She listened for the man. There were different voices. Something about a fire. And getting out. Grace struggled to break through the fog in her head and the sleep that was drowning her, the heat that was stifling her ability to speak. Christopher. Where was Christopher? The man?

“Christopher,” she tried to yell as her body landed on something soft and cool.

“He’s coming,” a woman said as she placed something hard against Grace’s neck.

Her son’s shrill, distraught scream, mingled with a man’s roar of pain shot through the haze she was engulfed in. Her eyes sprang open, and a striking blaze of orange was all she saw until darkness claimed her.

Chapter One

Dr. Evan Manning hung up the phone and cursed loudly inside his empty office. There was no way around it: if he wanted to restore his position at the top, he needed to find a wife. Or fiancée. By next week.

But first he was going to have to deal with a full day of patients. He scowled at his computer screen and fought the urge to jam his fist in his mouth. His eyes glazed over as he read the roster of upcoming appointments:

9:00 a.m.—Eunice Jacobs: Toe fungus

9:20 a.m.—Crystal Boon: Warts

9:40 a.m.—Jeremy Morris: Hemorrhoids

He stopped reading and dragged his hands down his face with a loud groan. There was precisely one month left of this monotony. These were the kind of medical issues he’d never had to deal with in the ER. There was no adrenaline rush in prescribing hemorrhoid cream and more fiber. When his mentor, the doctor that he’d admired as a child and had stayed in close contact with professionally and personally, had suffered a mild heart attack and had asked Evan to fill in for him for a month to six weeks, Evan had readily agreed. The timing had been ideal, really. He was about to make a major career move, and the dead-crawl pace in Red River would give him the extra time to ensure he got what he was after.

But small-town, family practice was definitely not what he’d expected: it was much worse. People in Red River were all about long conversations and getting into everyone else’s business.

A short, quick rap on the door reminded him that he was a professional, and small-town horror or not, he had a job to do. He composed himself and swiveled on the worn chair to look at Sheila, the receptionist standing in the doorway. Her tightly curled gray hair seemed to stand on end as she frowned at him. He attempted a smile, but her glower only deepened. He took a deep breath and pretended he was a patient man.

“Dr. Manning, this is my official notice of resignation,” she announced with a huff, walking forward and slapping a letter on his desk. He tore his gaze away from her angry face to the envelope on his desk. He had been here less than a week, and the receptionist of almost thirty-five years was quitting.

“Sheila, you can’t resign—”

“I can, and I will. You may be easy on the eyes, young man, but I’m past the age where my hormones will respond to those baby blues of yours. In all my years working with Dr. Chalmers, I have never been so patronized or overworked—”

“I didn’t patronize you. I know you’re an invaluable part of this practice. As for being overworked, I’m sorry, but I just noticed that there were many files and systems that needed updating. I thought it would be nice to get this place up to speed before Dr. Chalmers returns from his sick leave.” Actually he thought the way this entire place was run was archaic and without any kind of discipline. Judging by her herculean stance, she wasn’t in the mood to be criticized.

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