The Doctor's Fake Fiancée

By: Victoria James

“Well, I do not appreciate working under a dictator. Maybe this kind of thing is acceptable in the city where you’re barking out orders in the ER, but this is Red River. Here we take the time to say good morning and ask about your family and talk about the weather. I will remind you, Evan Manning, that I knew you when you were running around in diapers, trying to keep up with those older brothers of yours.” She paused for a moment, and he sincerely hoped it was the end of her tirade. But then she puffed up her chest, and he braced himself. “You were much sweeter then.”

For chrissakes. The constant reminders that everyone knew him when he was a child drove him nuts. He’d been back for all of one week, and he was ready to enter the witness protection program to ensure no one would ever find him again. Her voice screeched on, and he glanced over at his computer display, wondering if there was a way he could switch the screens and get to his email account without Sheila noticing. He nodded seriously at her, when he heard the words “settle down,” and slowly placed his hand on the mouse, his eyes not leaving hers. And then she swatted him with a medical file.

“Are you even listening to me? This is what I’m talking about—I refuse to work for a person who can’t even be bothered to make eye contact with me.”

He looked at her, squarely. “I have been listening to you.”

Her eyes narrowed to little blue slits, and he braced himself for another unsolicited opinion. “Do you know what’s wrong with you, Evan Manning?”

Sheila seemed to think that because she and his mother had been friends, and that she’d seen him in diapers, she was qualified to give him life advice. He stretched his legs out in front of him, forcing his muscles to relax and his mind to numb. “Please tell me, Sheila. What’s wrong with me?”

“You need a wife. A family.”

Exactly right. Had she been eavesdropping on his phone conversation? When his Good Samaritan stint in Red River was over, he would hopefully be on his way to running North America’s most exclusive plastic-surgery clinics. All he needed in order to seal the deal was to convince the head of Medcorp that Evan Manning was a family man, the ideal choice to oversee the network of clinics for the wealthy, family-owned company. Then his career would be back on track. Sure, his surgery days were over after the accident, but he’d be at the top again. And that was the most important thing.

You need to be the best. You are bigger than this small town. Don’t disappoint us, Evan, not like Jake. Stay focused on your goals. Evan frowned. He hated when his father’s voice popped into his head without warning. Especially since he now knew the truth about his father.

“Well,” Sheila prodded, effectively drowning out his father’s voice.

“Maybe you’re right. So why don’t you stay, point out my flaws, and then when the month is up, you can go on vacation? Just think, how will Dr. Chalmers feel when he returns to find that you’ve retired? I’m only here for four more weeks. He’ll be recovered and back at work, and I’ll be in Toronto—I’ll be nothing but a memory to you.”

“More like a nightmare,” she said, her chest inflating like a rooster again. “I’m sorry, but I’m leaving. Life is too short to be wasted here. I’ve booked myself a Mediterranean cruise. I have left instructions and detailed notes on my desk for whatever poor, unsuspecting receptionist you coerce into taking my place. So, as the Italians say, ‘adios.’”

Evan rubbed the back of his neck, and flipped open the file. “Actually, it’s ‘ciao’ or ‘arrivederci.’”

“Excuse me?”

He flipped through the file and nodded. “The Spanish say ‘adios.’ The Italians say, ‘ciao’ or ‘arrivederci.’”

Sheila let out a choked sound and then whirled on her beige, rubber-soled shoes and marched out of the small office.

Dammit. So now, he needed a receptionist, a wife, and a freaking prescription for high-blood-pressure medication.

Five minutes later, Mrs. Jacob’s high-pitched squeal rattled the silence of the small office. Good God. This was going from bad to catastrophic. Evidently, Sheila hadn’t bothered to lock the door behind her. He was going to have to get through this day without a receptionist.

He pulled out Mrs. Jacobs’s chart as her heavy footsteps approached at a rapid, ominous pace and stood, the sudden movement causing his swivel chair to glide across the spotless linoleum floor and bang into the examination table. He tried to mentally prepare himself for the inevitable onslaught of nonsensical questions from the elderly woman. He opened the door, ready to face the most eccentric patient of the day, only to have her barrel though the door like a bushel of apples.

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