I’m so excited! This is the second 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 . . . and if you read the first excerpt, you know there are fireworks between Emma and Deacon. But now let’s check out Deacon’s point of view . . .
The sun was setting as my truck bumped over the dirt road that my navigation app claimed was taking me to Emma’s house. I had my doubts. As far as I was aware, this area was completely undeveloped. I was all too familiar with the fields out this way. Unless she’d built a cabin in the woods that no one knew about, I would’ve heard some kind of buzz about it.
But I didn’t see anything . . . except, off to the east, an old trailer was set up among the weeds and grass. That couldn’t be it. Or could it? Squinting, I spied a blue sedan parked alongside the mobile home. There was definitely someone living there. It might be our naturopath . . . or it might be an anarchist with an arsenal who didn’t want to be disturbed. I figured I was going to have to take my chances.
I drove closer and squinted through my windshield, checking out the situation. There were curtains on the windows, and a small deck outside the trailer’s door boasted a bunch of potted plants. Yeah, this was a chick’s place, for sure. Anarchist, as a rule, didn’t care much about the niceties of life.
Still, I moved cautiously as I parked the truck and climbed out. And I stood near the front bumper as I called out before approaching.
“Emma! Uh, Dr. Carson!”
There was movement within the trailer, and within a few seconds, the door opened. Emma stuck her head out, and even from that distance, I could see her scowl.
“What are you doing here?”
I stalked over toward her, plowing through the weeds. “Is this where you live?”
She stepped outside onto the deck, closing the door behind her and crossing her arms over her chest. For just a moment, I let my gaze wander down her body. She’d changed from her work clothes into denim shorts that had definitely seen better days. But I wasn’t complaining since they showed off miles of long, tanned legs above an old pair of Keds. And the blue T-shirt she wore on top hugged her breasts like a lover.
“Hey. Eyes up here.” She pointed to her face. “What’re you looking at?”
“Sorry.” I dragged my focus up where it belonged. “Uh, I’ve just never seen you undressed. Not dressed, I mean. For work. You’re usually . . .” I made a gesture toward her legs. “You know. Fancy. Professional.”
“Good to know, because fancy professional is what I’ve been aiming for.” Her tone was arch.
“Do you really live here?” I repeated the question that she hadn’t answered.
She rolled her eyes. “No, this is my summer place. I come out here to get away from the hustle and bustle of my townhouse.” Sarcasm oozed from her words. “Yes, I really live here. I own this land. I’m in the middle of planning the house I’m going to build, which I hope to have started shortly.”
“Why here?” I knew it sounded wrong even as I said it. But I just didn’t get it. Why the hell would someone with her resources choose to live in a shack in the middle of nowhere? Housing wasn’t exactly plentiful in Harper Springs itself, but there were some decent neighborhoods in the nearby towns.
Emma’s tongue darted out to swipe across her lips, and I realized that I was making her uncomfortable. “I have plans.” She spoke softly but clearly. “I want to grow my own food, raise herbs and the plants I need for the oils and supplements I want to offer my patients . . . I want to put all of the research and learning I’ve done over the past years into practice here. I want this place to be a haven—not only for me, but for others.”
I could hear the banked passion and earnest longing coming through what she was saying. It was the first time I’d seen such vulnerability in her, and I was taken aback.
“The land’s good.” I cleared my throat and turned to stare off into the distance. “The soil . . . it won’t need much help.” I pointed toward the tree line. “I grew up on a farm just a mile or so over that way. My grandparents still live there. They grow tomatoes and corn and strawberries—it’s not a huge operation, but we did okay.” It had been enough to help me get through college and medical school, and for that, I’d always be grateful.
“I never would’ve pegged you as being a farm kid.” Emma sounded amused now. “Matter of fact, speaking of being out of uniform . . .” She paused and very intentionally trailed her eyes up and down me in an obvious imitation of how I’d checked her out. “Who knew that the impeccable Dr. Girard owned a pair of jeans?”
“Funny.” I took a step closer and braced one hand on a nearby patio chair. “Most folks around here are more surprised to see me in a suit, even now.” I angled my head down and peered through one of the trailer’s windows. “Do you have electric in that thing?”
Her eye twitched. “Not yet. Just gas and kerosene lights. I’m working on getting utilities out here, but I’m given to understand that it’s a process.” She gave the word air quotes and then shook her head. “Anyway, that doesn’t matter. What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you about Angela Spencer.” I dragged the chair back a little. “Can I sit down?”
Emma shrugged. “Sure. The bugs are going to get vicious pretty soon, but you’re probably okay for now.” She sank down to perch on the step, her eyes staying on me as though she expected me to make some kind of unexpected move. “What about Angela? If you hauled your cookies out here to yell at me again about the PICC line, you could’ve just waited until tomorrow.”
I eased gingerly into the porch chair, not quite certain it would support me. The wicker groaned a little, but I didn’t end up on my ass, so I decided I’d probably be okay.
“I didn’t come about the PICC line deal. Or—yeah, I guess I kind of did, but it was to tell you that I think you were right. I know I fought you about that whole thing, but I was wrong.”
Emma’s eyes widened dramatically. “Oh, my God, and here I am without a witness. The great and powerful Dr. Girard was wrong about something? Is this a first? Should I be filming it for posterity?”
I gritted my teeth. “I’m not the arrogant asshole you seem to think I am. Believe me, I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. I freely admit to that. And when I do, I own up to them.”
She stared at me, her expression inscrutable. “Okay. Good to know.” She shifted, leaning her hands back to rest behind her and stretching those endless legs forward. “Did you seriously drive out here to tell me that, or was there something else?”
There was something else. As a matter of fact, there were a couple of things I’d driven out to discuss with Dr. Carson tonight, but as twilight drifted over us and the crickets began to sing, I was tempted to just sit here with her and savor the peace for a little while. None of what I’d planned to bring up was going to make her happy. Maybe for once, it would be all right for us to enjoy a détente, no matter how tenuous and short-lived it might be.
As I brooded over this, Emma tilted her head, watching me, waiting for my response. A movement to her left caught my eye, and without stopping to think about it, I leaped to my feet and grabbed her arms, pulling her up and away from the trailer. Taken unawares, she teetered off-kilter, her hands gripping my shoulders to keep her from falling over.
I became painfully aware of several things at once. Emma’s long, lithe body was pressed up against me. Her full breasts rubbed my chest as she sucked in a quick breath. Her face was tilted up to stare into mine, and her lips were slightly parted in surprise.
And I wanted to kiss her more than I’d wanted anything in a very long time.