A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace

He raised a brow. “Near as you can guess?”

Okay, the man was definitely an attorney; Patience felt she was on trial with all the questions. Of course, that could also be her guilty conscience bothering her. “I was in the dining room polishing the silver. I heard Ana cry out, but by the time I got there, she was already on the floor.” She shuddered, remembering. The image of Ana crumpled at the foot of the stairs, moaning, wouldn’t leave her soon.

Ana’s nephew didn’t respond other than to stare long and hard in her direction before turning back to the admissions nurse. “I’d like to see my aunt, please,” he said. It might have been said softly, like a request, but there was no mistaking the command in his voice.

The nurse nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Finally, they were getting somewhere. “I’ve been trying to get an update on Ana’s condition since we arrived, but no one would tell me anything.”

“Nor would they,” he replied. “Privacy laws. You’re not family.”

Well, wasn’t somebody feeling territorial. Never mind that she was the one who’d brought Ana in and filled out the admissions paperwork. Anyone with two heads could see she cared about the woman. What difference did it make whether she was family or not?

She had to admit, Ana’s nephew wasn’t at all what she expected. Ana was always talking about how sweet “her Stuart” was. Such a pussycat, she’d coo after hanging up the phone. The man standing next to her wasn’t a pussy anything. He was far too predatory. She could practically smell the killer instinct.

Apparently, his singlar request was all they needed, because less than a minute passed before the door to the treatment area opened, and a resident in pale green scrubs stepped out.

“Mr. Duchenko?” He headed toward Stuart, but not, however, before giving Patience a quick once-over. Patience recognized the look. She folded her arms across her chest and pretended she didn’t notice. The trick, of course, was to avoid eye contact. Easy to do when the man wasn’t looking at your eyes to begin with.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” the doctor continued. “We were waiting for the results of your great-aunt’s CAT scan.”

“How is she?”

“She’s got a bimalleolar fracture of her left ankle.”

“Bi what?” Patience asked, her stomach tightening a bit. Hopefully the medical jargon sounded more serious than it actually was.

The doctor smiled. “Bimalleolar. Both the bone and her ligaments were injured.”

“Meaning what?” Stuart asked the same question she was thinking.

“Meaning she’s going to need surgery to stabilize the ankle.”

Surgery? Patience felt horrible. She should have been paying closer attention. “Is it risky?”

“At her age, anything involving anesthesia has a risk.”

“She’s in terrific health,” Patience told him, more to reassure herself than anything. “Most people think she’s a decade younger.”

“That’s good. The more active she is, the easier her recovery will be. You know, overall, she’s a lucky woman to have only broken her ankle. Falls at her age are extremely dangerous.”

“I know,” Stuart replied. For some reason he felt the need to punctuate the answer with a look in her direction. “May we see her?”

“She’s in exam room six,” the doctor replied. “We’ll be taking her upstairs shortly, but you’re welcome to sit with her in the meantime.”

Exam room six was really a curtained area on the far left-hand side of two rows of curtains. Stuart pulled back the curtain to find Ana tucked under a sheet while a nurse checking the flow of her IV. The soft beep-beep-beep of the machines filled the air. Seeing Ana lying so still with the wires protruding from the sleeve of her gown made Patience sick to her stomach. Normally, the woman was so lively it was easy to forget that she was eighty years old.

“We just administered a painkiller, so she might be a little out of things,” the nurse told them. “Don’t be alarmed if she sounds confused.”

Stuart stepped in first. Patience followed and found him standing by the head of Ana’s bed, his long tapered fingers brushing the hair from the elderly woman’s face. “Tetya? It’s me, Stuart.”

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