Solitary Kate hadn’t been invited, though she knew that if she stopped by the charge nurse would offer her a piece of cake. She turned the other way, down the hall, toward the patient rooms. The kernel of doubt hadn’t gone away. It swelled under her breastbone, a small, indigestible lump, a tiny hot spot that upset her stomach and her concentration.
She wasn’t on call tonight. Roberts, the attending, had taken the four o’clock rounds. She had no real reason to drop her sliding stack of paperwork and squeak down the brightly painted, dimly lit floor like a ghost in orthopedic shoes. No reason. Only a burning in her gut. Quietly, she depressed the handle to Jack MacNeill’s room and opened the door.
A pale rectangle of light spilled across the bed to the raised footrest of the recliner on the other side. Between the tall metal guardrails, Jack sprawled with little-boy abandon, covers pushed down and arms and legs every which way. A teddy bear with a limp bow and well-loved plush supported his bandaged hand. In the chair, facing his child, slept Patrick MacNeill.
Even relaxed in sleep, he looked hard and male and faintly dangerous. His wide shoulders crowded the oversize recliner to its limit. Ignoring her reaction to that long, well-muscled body, Kate slipped to the foot of the bed to check Jack’s chart. But she couldn’t dismiss the queer twist of her heart at the sight of Jack’s face turned confidingly to his father, or the way Patrick’s large hand protectively spanned his son’s knee as they slept.
Don t let it get to you, Katie Sue.
She forced her attention back to the patient chart, angling it to catch the light from the door. Blood pressure, temp, intake and output all looked normal. Good. Stepping to the side of the bed, she reached for Jack’s swaddled hand.
And then something made her look up, across his out-flung legs, into the deep-set, dark blue eyes of Patrick MacNeill.