The Murphys, Book 3
Megan leaned against the tile and groaned as the spray hit her stiff neck. Thank goodness there was hot water. The resident’s locker room was notorious for its lack of amenities, and she’d been the recipient of ice-cold showers a couple of times since her residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital began six weeks ago. She needed to move it. Her nephew’s baptism was in less than an hour and she could not be late. Ugh. These forty-eight-hour shifts were killing her. She loved emergency medicine, and knew within the first week that she’d made the right decision on the ER residency program, but she wasn’t sure she’d survive the three years it would take to make her an ER physician. Tiredness permeated her bones. Every time she’d gone to the resident’s lounge to catch some shuteye they called her back. Just a few minutes more of this heated bliss and she’d move it.
The sound of a locker slamming snapped her back to awareness. What happened? Holy cow, she’d fallen asleep. Never in her life had she dropped off standing up. Wow. She turned off the water and toweled dry. A glance in the mirror revealed a nightmare vision. Eek! Who was that? The reflection she gazed at could not be her own. Dark circles had set up shop under her eyes. Blood shot sclera and lines of fatigue adorned her face. Well, Dr. Murphy, aren’t you a vision? Hard to believe she was only twenty-six. Oh well, no point moaning about what couldn’t be fixed. Since there was no way to pack sixteen hours of sleep into the next fifteen minutes, she’d have to let Revlon do the work for her.
Ten minutes later she was finished. Better but not great. Her hair was almost dry and she finger combed the short curls. She slipped on the sundress stowed in her locker and the matching flats. Scrubs and underwear were the only style of clothing she’d worn since the previous weekend. Guess she wouldn’t have to worry about her wardrobe budget for the next three years.
A walk through the room revealed another resident sitting on a bench in the corner with her back to the open area. The sound of sniffling reached Megan’s ears. It was Brooke Harper and it appeared she was crying. “Hi, Brooke. Are you okay?” The woman jumped a foot off the bench.
“Shit! You scared me. I’m fine. Just tired. Nothing sleep won’t fix.” Brooke was the only other female first year in the ER residency program, but they hadn’t clicked. She was from a wealthy family, many of whom were physicians. Most of the other ER residents thought she was a snob. Megan had tried to befriend the woman on several occasions to no avail. She’d finally given up.
“Yeah, I hear you on the sleep deprivation. I dozed off standing in the shower. I guess we’ll get used to it after a while. Try and get some solid sleep. Take care.” Brooke didn’t respond and Megan walked out of the room. Whatever.
* * * *
St. Leo’s loomed into view with fifteen minutes to spare. She parked her ancient Toyota Corolla, grabbed her purse, and headed inside the church. The entire family stood in the vestibule in an alcove off to the side. Her brother Dan and sister-in-law Kate were looking at the bundle in Kate’s arms. Her mom, dad, brother Ryan, and sister-in-law Jenn rounded out the family group. She approached Dan and Kate, and looked down at her nephew. James Patrick Murphy was sleeping, peacefully unaware of the hullabaloo surrounding him. Megan’s heart filled with love as she looked down into his sweet face. He was adorable. At only three months old she could tell he was going to be a heartbreaker, an aunt knows these things. His mouth was smooshed up and his little button nose begged to be touched.
Dan gave her a hug and leaned back to give her a once-over. “I was worried you weren’t going to make it. You look more tired than we are, and I didn’t think that was humanly possible. How’s it going?”
“It’s brutal but I love it.” She bent down and gave the infant a gentle kiss on the forehead. “You know I wouldn’t miss Jamie’s big day.” She chuckled. “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”
“No,” Kate answered. “With the breastfeeding his tummy empties faster and he gets hungry quicker.” She looked at Dan with love in her eyes. “Daniel feels guilty because he can’t help nurse, so he stays up with me. Which is ridiculous. Both of us don’t need to be sleep deprived.” Kate rolled her eyes at her husband, and he leaned over and kissed her on the temple.
“We’re a team. Come on. Time to get this show on the road. Godparents? Grandparents? Let’s roll.”
They all walked together into the main area of the church and Kate glanced over at Megan. “Love the Coach bag. Is it new?”
A flush of guilt crept up her face. “Yep. I’m a bad girl. I saw it at the outlet and couldn’t resist. That store is bad juju for me. I’m incapable of browsing in there.” Megan shrugged. “Oh well, I guess there are worse vices.”
They entered the nave and walked down the main aisle taking their usual place in the third row. Megan brought up the rear and was the last one into the pew. They all slid over and waited for Mass to begin. The baptism would be a part of the regular church service, and Ryan and Jenn were Jamie’s godparents. Organ music reverberated through the building, and Megan let it wash over her. She turned her thoughts inward and began to reflect on the previous week. This was something she did every Sunday before the church service began, thinking about all the things that happened and how she could be a better person. She was jolted from her thoughts by a wall of solid muscle sliding onto the bench seat next to her. It was Zachary Jones, Dan’s police partner and best friend. Zach leaned over and shook Dan’s hand over Megan’s lap, grazing his forearm against her stomach in the process. A shiver coursed through her body at the contact. Good grief.
Dan spoke in a low murmur. “Glad you made it, Zach.”
He whispered in reply, “Wouldn’t miss it, Dan.”
Oh, jeez. This man made her nuts. She’d been lusting after him for ten years. Pathetic. He’d never given her a second glance and never would. She stared straight ahead but her traitorous body flooded with warmth. Her pulse was beating a tattoo and she knew if he looked over he’d see her carotid artery doing a tap dance. Everyone to her left slid over a smidgeon, but it wasn’t enough and Zach was pressed up next to her, thigh to thigh. The warmth of his leg seeped through the thin fabric of her sundress. She took a deep inhale and attempted to regain control over her raging hormones. A peek at him from the corner of her eye revealed all that gorgeous masculinity. Even sitting down he towered over her. She wasn’t a shrimp, but at five-four she felt height challenged against his six-three build. And what a build it was. The man made her drool. He wore his blonde hair cut short, and he had the fair skin and long narrow face of a Nordic prince.
Jeezaloo. She was beyond pitiful. It was time for her to get over him and move on. He would never see her as anything but Danny’s baby sister, and no amount of daydreaming on her part was going to change that fact. She gazed up at him and cornflower blue irises stared back at her intently.
“You cut your hair?”
What? That was unexpected. She reached up and ran her palm over the shorn locks. “Umm, yeah. Two weeks into my residency I decided I needed something low maintenance.”
“Too bad. I loved your hair.”
What in the world? He loved her hair? This was the first time he’d given an inkling that he’d even noticed her appearance, let alone that he loved something about it. Bizarre.
Wow. Megan looked totally different with short hair, older and more mature. Her long dark ringlets had been gorgeous, naturally wavy and thick. It was a shame she’d cut it, he was partial to long hair, but the shorter look was more sophisticated and mature. There was something else different though. “Where are your glasses?”
She looked up at him in surprise and grinned. “I got contacts. I didn’t want the hassle of glasses falling off when I’m working.”
“Oh. Okay.” He stared down at her in befuddlement. He’d never realized how beautiful her eyes were. They were a blue-green color that reminded him of the Caribbean Sea. Her hair was almost black, like her brothers. The contrast of the dark hair and vivid eyes was striking. He shook his head to snap himself out of the reverie. Where were these thoughts coming from? This was his partner’s little sister after all, and he was waxing poetic over her hair and eyes? He snorted and she squinted up at him with a perplexed look on her face. He couldn’t blame her. He was feeling a bit confused himself. Thoughts of her had zipped in and out of his mind over the last year. She’d stitched his head up after a mishap during a touch football game last fall, and he’d looked at her in a different way ever since. For the first time he’d seen her as a woman, not just his partner’s kid sister. She was a beautiful lady, sweet and caring. Regrettably, she was the marrying kind and he didn’t do marriage, or relationships for that matter. Not for ten long years anyway. There was a sobering thought. Ten years had gone by and the only thing he’d committed to in that time was work. He skimmed a look over at Megan again. Of course, he hadn’t met anyone worthy of commitments. Not that he’d been looking. Best to keep it brotherly and friendly with her. He didn’t need Dan and the entire Murphy clan coming down on his ass.
The service began and Dan’s mom was giving them the stink-eye to shut up. Better step in line. He didn’t want to be on Nora Murphy’s bad side.
Six Months Later
Megan leaned over her patient with straight arms and held pressure on the gunshot wounds with gloved hands. “C’mon. Stay with me,” she murmured to the kid. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen.
Glazed, uncomprehending eyes stared at her. “What’s happening? Am I gonna die?”
“Nope. Not today. I’d say you have another seventy years to go.” She smiled at him in encouragement.
Dr. Chris Thompson, her attending, continued his assessment while she held pressure. “He’s shocky but we’ll need to get him in the OR stat. This abdominal wound is a mess. I can’t tell how many bullets he took or what they hit. Goddamn gang bangers.” He grimaced and turned to a nurse. “Call the GI surgical team on call stat.” He glanced around the room and yelled, “Dr. Harper? What the hell are you doing? I told you I needed a peritoneal aspirate. Where’s the tray?” Megan glanced over and saw Brooke standing in a corner of the ER trauma bay. Frozen. The nurse grabbed the tray and handed it to Dr. Thompson. He looked at the nurse. “Take over holding pressure for Dr. Murphy. Megan, do the aspirate.” She’d done two of these procedures before and proceeded without hesitation. The results of the test would help pinpoint the bleeding, and the surgeons would need the information as fast as possible. She made quick work of it and handed the syringe off to a tech for the lab. “Good job, Megan. Switch places with the nurse. Let’s go! Climb up on the gurney and keep holding pressure.”
She kneeled on the narrow bed and pressed on the wound. The boy was slipping in and out of consciousness. She spoke to him in a firm voice. “Look at me, stay focused on my eyes.” He stared at her and she held his gaze. “Hang on. We’re taking you to surgery. When you wake up it will be over and you’ll be feeling better in no time.” The transport team pushed them down the hallway to the OR suites. The kid had IV bags and blood hung and running into his veins. Would it be enough?
* * * *
Megan pulled off her gloves and bloody gown. She moved over to the sinks and stepped on the foot pedal to start the water. Her hands and arms were covered in soap and she began scrubbing with a brush. The sudsy water circled the drain but the only thing she could see was the boy’s terrified face. It was up to the surgical team now. Brooke Harper stood at the basin next to her in complete silence. What on earth was wrong with the woman? They were seven months into their residency but she still couldn’t pull it together. She was tentative and unsure on all but the simplest cases. Perhaps she needed to rethink her specialty. They never became friends, as much as Megan tried, and the woman remained cool and aloof with the entire staff.
Dr. Thompson walked into the room. In a stern voice he said, “In my office now, Dr. Harper.” Brooke followed him out. Yikes. This was not good. She donned fresh scrubs and a clean lab coat, and headed back out to her ER. After seven months it felt like her ER.
She went to the nurse’s station and saw her friend Lydia delivering patient charts. “Hey, Lyd, what’s on deck?”
“There’s an abscess in room five and an abdominal pain in room eight for you. Have fun with the abscess, it’s on the gentleman’s right butt cheek.”
“I’ll be sure to have you come back and assist. Let’s hope the rest of the day is calmer. That trauma was intense.”
“Yep. Sometimes the ER feels like a war zone. I better get back up front, but how about joining me for a bite to eat after the shift?”
“Not today. I’m wiped out. I have a handsome gentleman to visit and then it’s off to bed.”
“Ooh, girl. Will you be off to bed with the handsome gentleman? Lordy, it is about time. I was starting to think you were destined for spinsterhood.”
Megan grimaced. “Umm, no. The gentleman is my eight-month-old nephew. I haven’t seen him in a while and he’s growing fast. The bed will be a solo mission. My spinster status is in no danger.”
“Oh. Sorry about the spinster crack. You know I’m only kidding, right?”
“Yes, Lydia. I know.”
“Why won’t you let me set you up again?”
“The last blind date I endured at your hands was a disaster. The guy was totally intimidated by the ‘MD’ behind my name. It was awful.”
“I’m sorry, but ya gotta go through a few lemons before you get the lemonade.”
“Uh-huh. Thank you for those words of wisdom. I have patients. Later.” She shook her head and walked away. Lydia meant well but the dating pool was shallow for a female physician. Men asking her out were few and far between, and the miniscule number of dates she’d been on lately were spark-less. No fireworks whatsoever. She grabbed the chart for the abscess patient and got to work.
The rest of the shift went smooth and was much quieter. Thank heaven. She checked with recovery, and the boy with the gunshots pulled through and was stable. When Megan poked her head into ICU to confirm he was doing well she saw his family at the bedside.
On her way out she stopped at the ICU nurses station to check the boy’s chart. According to the charge nurse the police had come and gone already. They managed to piece together what happened from witness accounts. It was a gang related drive-by shooting, but the kid wasn’t a gang member. It was a case of the wrong place at the wrong time. Why would people choose to live that way? What was the purpose? Yes, there was poverty in the city—it existed everywhere—but to shoot innocent people you didn’t know for kicks? Senseless violence. She couldn’t wrap her mind around it.
It was nearing quitting time and Dr. Thompson approached her. “Hey, Megan, do you have a minute before you leave?”
“Sure, Dr. T.” He walked toward his office and she followed. As she entered the room he shut the door behind them.
“Have a seat.” She complied and waited to see what was up.
He gave her a big smile. “Good job out there today on the trauma.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Obviously, we had a problem in there and you picked up the ball like a pro. You are a true team player and I want you to know it doesn’t go unnoticed. Keep up the good work.” He chafed his beard shadow with his palm and took a deep breath. “I would appreciate it if you kept what happened in there to yourself. I’m walking a tightrope with Brooke Harper.”
“Of course, sir.” He stood and she got up to leave.
“Enjoy your evening off, Megan.”
“I will.” She walked out the door. That was weird. What did he mean about walking a tightrope with Brooke? As she went into the locker room to get her stuff she saw the woman in question sitting on a bench in the lounge area. Her face was expressionless and set in stone. “Are you all right, Brooke?”
“Umm, no. I’m not. I’ve been placed on probation. One more screw-up and I’m out of the program.”
Oh dear. Not good. “I’m sorry, Brooke. I know we’re not friends but if you need a shoulder I’m available. You can always talk to Dr. Weinstein, too. As Chief Resident it’s part of his job.” The woman sat in mute silence. Megan hesitated but forged on. “I know it’s none of my business, but it seems to me you don’t have your heart engaged in ER medicine. Not everyone is cut out for the pressure of the ER. Have you thought about a different specialty?”
“No. I can’t do that. I started a first year surgery residency last year and it didn’t work out. I switched to emergency medicine this year. It’s do or die for me.” She looked up at Megan with dead, emotionless eyes. “Do you know who my family is? My father is Chief of Medicine at this hospital. My mother is an oncologist and my brothers are cardiovascular surgeons. I cannot fail.”
“Well…if you change your mind about talking, I’m here.”
Brooke sneered and turned her back on Megan. “I think I’ll pass. The last person I need a pep talk from is Dr. Perfect.”
Jeezaloo. Where’d the animosity come from? “I am far from perfect, Brooke. I’m struggling as much as anybody else. There’s a ton to learn and we are in the same boat. If you changed your attitude maybe things would be going better for you here. Being a doctor requires compassion and a desire to care for people, that includes your coworkers as well as the patients. You don’t seem to get that.” Brooke opened her locker and began rummaging around inside it, blatantly ignoring Megan. Fine. She’d tried to help. No sense beating a dead horse.
* * * *
Zach sat on his partner’s basement sofa and sipped a beer. Now this was a man cave. Of course, Zach’s entire house was a man cave since he lived alone, but there was a cave-like quality to a basement media room. Maybe it was the lack of windows. His basement was unfinished; maybe he’d put in a media room down there.
Little Jamie Murphy wiggled around on the floor looking cute as a button. The little guy had recently figured out the roll over trick. It was fun to put him on his back and watch him flip onto his stomach. Since the kid wasn’t crawling yet it was easy to keep track of him. He was doing an inchworm thing but wasn’t getting anywhere. Zach patted him on the head. “Hang in there, buddy. You’ll get it eventually.” Dan was mucking around behind the seventy-two-inch TV screen and he’d put Zach on baby duty while he worked. “What are you doing back there?”
“The surround sound wasn’t hooked up to the Xbox yet. I want the big sound for gaming.”
“It’ll be loud. Might scare Jamie.”
“I know. I’ll take him upstairs to Kate when we start playing. This new Halo game looks awesome.”
“I bought it but haven’t taken it out of the package yet. Work’s been brutal. No time for fun.”
“I know, me too. Between work and family, not a lot of spare time for gaming.” Dan gave him a wry look. “I know we’ve been preoccupied at the station, but that’s never stopped you from entertaining the ladies before.”
“I know. I guess it’s gotten old. I haven’t been interested in the partying scene for a while now.”
“Hmm. Finally growing up at thirty-six? It’s about damn time, Zach. You need to settle down. Find yourself a wonderful woman like I did.”
Zach frowned at his partner. Dan didn’t understand. A change of subject was in order. Kate and Dan’s black cat sat perched on top of the media center. “How’s Pye adjusting to Jamie?”
“Fine. She’s been indifferent for the most part. We kept a close eye on her when he first came home from the hospital, but she never showed any signs of jealousy.” He chuckled. “She’s our diaper alert system. She shoots out of the room like a bat out of hell every time he fills his pants. Sensitive nose, I guess.”
Dan stepped from behind the TV and grabbed the controllers, handing them to Zach. “All finished. Let me take Jamie upstairs and I’ll be right back.” He scooped up his son and held him high overhead. The baby giggled and squealed. “Come on, little man, let’s go see mama.”
At that moment, Megan Murphy waltzed into the room. “Hi, guys.” She zeroed in on her nephew and made a beeline for him. “Let me at that baby.” In a singsong voice she spoke to the boy. “Where’s my Jamie? Where is he?” She took him from her brother and blew raspberries on his stomach, earning high-pitched squeals from the little guy. “Oh, there is nothing like holding a baby to make all the bad stuff go away.” She kissed his head and inhaled a breath. “Mmm, sweet baby smell.”
Dan grinned at her. “Yeah, he smells sweet until his diaper’s full. Bad day at the ER, Dr. Murphy?”
“Yep. I love helping people but some days the pointless violence gets to me.”
Zach nodded at her in agreement. “You’re preaching to the choir, Meg.”
“What are you guys doing?”
“We’re about to play Halo and it’s going to get loud. I was taking Jamie upstairs.”
“Good idea. His hearing is delicate. I’ll take him up for you.”
“Thanks, sis. Are you on your way home from the hospital?”
“Yep. I have a solid twenty-four hours off and I plan on spending most of it sleeping, but I needed a Jamie Murphy fix before I did anything else.” She was making silly faces at the kid and speaking even sillier gibberish to him.
“How’ve you been, Meg?” Zach inquired.
“I’m good. A wee bit tired but otherwise doing fine.”
She glanced at him and those gorgeous eyes connected with his. Yep, color of the Caribbean Sea. The scrubs were thin and hugging all her pieces and parts. Why hadn’t he noticed her figure before? She was built but always dressed to hide it. Wonder why? She wasn’t skinny, but curvy and lush in all the right places. The shirt was tucked into the scrub pants. They were drawstring and he’d never realized how tiny her waist was. They accentuated her voluptuous hips, which flared out invitingly. He scanned her form from top to bottom and felt a rush of blood to points south. Good thing he was seated on the sofa, better to hide his current physical state. Interesting development. What was happening here? He hadn’t been interested in anybody for several months now, but two minutes in the presence of Dr. Megan Murphy had his dick standing at attention?
He’d only seen her a few times since last summer. She’d been extremely busy with her residency and missed a fair number of Sunday breakfasts at the Murphy abode. Zach had a standing invite for the Sunday morning nosh at Dan’s folks’ house. Even though he wasn’t Catholic, he’d go over after church and eat with the Murphy horde. It showed him what family was supposed to be, what it could be. Not the cold, sterile home he’d grown up in. Ten years ago when he and Dan were rookies on the police force they’d hit it off, forged a bond. Their friendship, and later police partnership, was unbreakable. He had never been exposed to what a real loving family was like until Dan had hauled him home for Sunday breakfast with the Murphys. They included him in all their family celebrations: Christmas, Easter, and birthdays. Nora and Patrick always made him feel like one of the family, the fourth kid in their brood. They were good people.
His vision refocused on her, and he had a sudden urge to keep her close. “Do you want to play Halo with us? There are extra controllers.”
Dan laughed out loud. “Megan? Play video games?”
She gave her brother a sassy grin and looked at Zach. “I don’t play video games, Zach, but thank you for asking.”
“She doesn’t even own a TV,” Dan said in mock horror.
“Really? Wow. Why not?”
“I’ve been in school for a while now. It’s time consuming and there are only so many hours in the day. I get my news from the paper and the Internet. Besides, I find reading more pleasurable than watching television.”
Zach stared at her, and Jamie let loose a shrill wail. Pulled from his contemplation, he glanced away from Meg to Dan. His partner was eyeballing him with suspicion. That wasn’t good. Zach didn’t need Dan getting in his business, not until he decided where he was taking things anyway. He pointed the Xbox controller at Dan. “Time to play.”
Megan walked toward the basement door with Jamie in her arms and said over her shoulder, “Later, guys.” His gaze lingered on her sweet ass as she sashayed up the stairs.
Megan mounted the steps with her fussing nephew. The door opened to the kitchen and her sister-in-law Kate stood at the sink staring out the window. “Hey, Kate, I think he’s hungry. His diaper is clean and he was fine up until a few minutes ago.”
“You are correct. He’s due to nurse.” She stretched her arms out for her son, and he immediately began rooting against her chest. She unbuttoned her blouse and the baby latched on. Kate took a seat and motioned for Megan to do the same. “How are you doing, hun? You look tired.”
“Yep. That about sums it up. Just came off a long shift. How about you guys? You and Danny look more rested. Is Jamie sleeping through the night?”
“He is, for a couple months now. He sleeps about six hours straight. I nurse right before bed and first thing in the morning. I’m pumping my milk since I returned to work and we added cereal to his diet, which fills him up. We seem to be over the sleep deprivation hump.” She smiled at Megan. “It sounds like residency is similar to having a newborn, eh?” She snickered.
“I think you’re right. I definitely don’t have the time or energy for anything else but work.” She stared wistfully at Jamie as he nursed. She had two and a half years left of residency. No time for a relationship or even dating. By the time her life settled down she’d be well into her thirties. No husband. No kids. A feeling of melancholy swept through her.
“What was that expression for?” Kate reached over and placed her free hand on Megan’s.
“I saw a look of sadness sweep across your face as you watched Jamie. Are you okay?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself, and jealous if you must know. Work has me consumed. I don’t remember the last time I was on a date, let alone had sex. I guess I’m feeling lonely.”
Kate smiled at her. “Hmm. What about the man sitting downstairs in my basement? The one you’ve been crushing on since I’ve known you?”
She looked toward the stairs and lowered her voice. “Oh, please. He’s a man-whore and you know it, a different woman every weekend. We’ve been over this ground before, Kate. You’ve seen the bimbos he goes for. He likes them sexy and stupid. I am neither. The word ‘wallflower’ has my picture next to it in the dictionary. In addition to those facts, he continues to see me as Danny’s kid sister. If I thought there was even a remote chance, I would be all over him, but he’s never given me a second look.” She shook her head and stood. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sleep deprived. That’s all.” She leaned over and stroked Jamie’s head. “Bye, handsome. I’ll see you soon.” Perhaps she was destined to be the doting aunt instead of a wife and mother. “Bye, Kate. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
“Bye, hun. Call me if you feel like talking.”