I’m so excited! This is the very first sneak peek excerpt of Informed Consent Book 1 of Diagnosis: Love. If you’ve been reading the serial Pretend You’re Mine, you already got a little taste of St. Agnes Hospital and Dr. Girard . . . but in this section, the new naturopath doctor meets the sexy guy in charge. But who’s really the boss?
“Oh, my God. Why didn’t you tell me he was back?” Darcy’s eyes went round as she whispered to the nurse next to her—I couldn’t remember the other woman’s name. Addy? Abby? Something like that.
“I didn’t know. He wasn’t scheduled to be here until Monday.” Both women’s eyes were fastened somewhere over my shoulder, and I had the irresistible human urge to twist in my chair to see the object of their excitement, even though I had a hunch that I already knew the answer. With a sense of fatalistic resignation, I ventured a glance down the hallway.
The man who stood outside of Angela Spencer’s room, reading from her file, had a . . . presence. I wasn’t sure why that was my first impression of him, but it was true. I could only see him profile, and the corridor was dim, since we hadn’t yet switched the lights to full brightness for the day shift, but even from this angle, I made out the breadth of his shoulders and the way his dark gray T-shirt hugged his chest. I noticed that his hair was longer than I’d expected it to be; the way everyone in this hospital talked about the revered Dr. Deacon Girard, I thought he’d be perfectly coiffed, with hair like my Ken doll used to have. Of course, old Ken’s ‘do had been molded plastic . . .
Dr. Foxy, I thought, remembering Jenny’s confidences with a smirk.
As though he felt the weight of my stare, Dr. Girard’s head turned slightly. I couldn’t tell for sure from this distance, but I thought maybe he was looking at me. My face grew warm, and I hoped like hell my cheeks weren’t flaming red.
With no little effort, I bent my head over the keyboard again and tried to remember what I’d been doing a minute ago. Frowning at the screen, I dragged my attention back to Mr. Crew’s latest bloodwork report.
His voice was deep and nuanced, with just the faintest hint of the south woven into it. The eyes that rested on me were an almost shockingly bright green, framed by long, dark lashes. His nose was straight, his jaw strong and his lips were surprisingly full.
I realized that he was waiting for me to respond. Unfortunately, I was afraid I might have forgotten how to speak.
“You are Dr. Carson, aren’t you? Our new naturopathic doctor?” He leaned his folded arms onto the counter in front of me, gazing down over the computer’s monitor.
I cleared my throat. “Yes. I’m Emma Carson.”
He chuckled softly. “That’s a relief. I’m pretty sure I know most of the people working on this floor, but I was taking a risk by assuming the person I didn’t recognize was the naturopath.” He extended his hand. “I’m Deacon Girard. I’m sorry I wasn’t on hand when you arrived.”
“No problem.” I slid my fingers into his, squeezing slightly. “I heard you were off saving the world while the rest of us were back here slogging away.”
The moment the words left my mouth, I knew they were wrong. I wanted to bite off my tongue.
Dr. Girard’s eyes took on a decided chill as he pulled his hand away. “I don’t know about saving the world. I was working with a group in South America—an organization that’s trying to eradicate childhood hunger. The doctor who’d been scheduled to work that tour was in a car accident, and they needed a last-minute substitute. If they’d been able to get anyone else, I wouldn’t have left. Going away two weeks after we opened this wing wasn’t exactly part of my plan.”
“I didn’t mean to—” I began, anxious to walk back my mistake, but Dr. Girard ignored me.
“I landed in Tampa a few hours ago and drove home. I planned to sleep all day today and come in here on Monday morning after I had the weekend to catch up, but then I read the messages from Mira. She said the new naturopath was trying to completely re-do Mrs. Spencer’s care plan. So instead of going to bed as I’d planned, I took a shower, got dressed and dragged my ass in here to make sure you weren’t screwing up all of my work.”
The embarrassment I’d been feeling morphed into indignation. “Hey, I’m not screwing up anything. I have no idea what Mira might have told you—” I gave her name special emphasis. “But I didn’t re-do anything. I just added my own recommendations and made some adjustments to her dietary plan.” I paused. “And we discussed some alternatives to some aspects of her treatment. Nothing that will affect the outcome.”
“And just how the hell can you be sure of that?” His jaw clenched. “You’ve been here for what . . . a week? And you think you know better than the doctor who’s been managing her illness for months?” He pointed a finger at me, like I was a child who’d misbehaved. “I’ve known Angela since she was diagnosed. She was referred to me by her primary care doctor, and I’ve been working with her out of the Calumbra Center until this wing opened. You had no right to make any changes without going through me.”
“Dr. Girard, with all due respect—”
He snorted and rolled his eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to haul off and clobber him. Instead, I pushed my chair back and rose to my feet, stiffening my spine and narrowing my eyes.
“It was my understanding when I took this position that my role would be as a full partner in the planning and implementation of treatment for the patients here. That’s how it usually works. I don’t know what your experience is with naturopathic doctors, but we don’t exist to do your scut work. We’re not window dressing to make your facility look like it’s forward thinking and innovative. I’m here to make sure the patients have every benefit of both worlds—of science and nature, of traditional medicine and natural remedies. That’s how this works.”
Dr. Girard’s eyes glittered with something akin to fury. “Dr. Carson, this is my hospital. My wing. My town. I’m the one who calls the shots. I’m the one who says how things work, and I’m here to tell you that the kind of partnership you envision is only possible if there is mutual respect. And that sort of respect begins with not making arbitrary decisions about care.” He smacked one palm flat onto the counter, making the two nurses who were staring at both of us jump. “This morning, I’ll be explaining to the Spencers that until such a time as I see the need for change, Angela’s chemo will proceed exactly as I originally prescribed. In the meantime, you will stay away from her unless I give you express permission to participate.”
I was so angry, so supremely pissed off that my head began to spin a little. Still, I held it together as I leaned forward and spoke in a tone my friends and enemies would’ve recognized as deadly.
“The hell I will. You may be the guy who made this wing possible, and you might be the big man on campus in this town. But you’re not my boss, Dr. Girard. You’d do well to keep that in mind before you go around issuing ultimatums and directives.” I eased back slightly and pasted an icy smile on my lips. “And until such a time as the board tells me otherwise, I’m going to keep on doing my job. So you can take all your bullshit superiority crap and shove it right up your fine ass.”