Devin Shaw was bored.
She supposed that particular state of affairs wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in her current role as substitute attending physician at the Lake Haven Hospital emergency department. While a juicy trauma might be professionally stimulating and serve to break up the monotony, she adored all her neighbors in Haven Point and the greater Lake Haven area too much to wish that sort of stress and pain on anyone.
Better to be stuck at the nurses’ station of the small emergency department trying without success — and not for the first time, alas — to learn how to knit.
“No. Your problem here has to do with the amount of tension on the working yarn,” Greta Ward insisted. “If you don’t have the right tension, you’ll end up losing control and making a huge mess you will only have to undo.”
The scarily efficient charge nurse of the emergency department at the Lake Haven Hospital leaned over her and tugged the yarn around her fingers in some kind of complicated way that Devin knew she would never be able to replicate.
“There. That’s better. Try again.”
Devin concentrated, nibbling on her bottom lip as she tried to work the needles that seemed unwieldy and awkward, no matter how she tried.
After her third time tangling the yarn into a total mess, Devin sighed and admitted defeat. Again. Every time they happened to be assigned to work together, Greta took a moment to try teaching her to knit. And every time, she came up short.
“People who find knitting at all relaxing have to be crazy. I think I must have some kind of mental block. It’s just not coming.”
“You’re not trying hard enough,” Greta insisted.
“I am! I swear I am.”
“Even my eight-year-old granddaughter can do it,” she said sternly. “Once you get past the initial learning curve, this is something you’ll love the rest of your life.”
“I think it’s funny.” Callie Bennett, one of the other nurses and also one of Devin’s good friends, smirked as she observed her pitiful attempts over the top of her magazine.
“Oh yes. Hilarious,” Devin said dryly.
“It is! You’re a physician who can set a fractured radius, suture a screaming six-year-old’s finger and deliver a baby, all with your eyes closed.”
“Not quite,” Devin assured her. “I open my eyes at the end of childbirth so I can see to cut the umbilical cord.”
Callie chuckled. “Seriously, you’re one of the best doctors at this hospital. I love working with you and wish you worked here permanently. You’re cool under pressure and always seem to know just how to deal with every situation. But I hate to break it to you, hon, you’re all thumbs when it comes to knitting, no matter how hard you try.”
“I’m going to get the hang of this tonight,” she insisted. “If Greta’s eight-year-old granddaughter can do it, so can I.”
She picked up the needles again and concentrated under the watchful eye of the charge nurse until she’d successfully finished the first row of what she hoped would eventually be a scarf.
“Not bad,” Greta said. “Now just do that about four hundred more times and you might have enough for a decent-sized scarf.”
Devin groaned. Already, she was wishing she had stuck to reading the latest medical journals to pass the time instead of trying to knit yet again.
“I’ve got to go back to my office and finish the schedule for next month,” Greta said. “Keep going and remember — ten rows a day keeps the psychiatrist away.”
Devin laughed but didn’t look up from the stitches.
“How do you always pick the slowest nights to fill in?” Callie asked after Greta left the nurses’ station.
“I have no idea. Just lucky, I guess.”
It wasn’t exactly true. Her nights weren’t always quiet. The last few times she had substituted for the regular emergency department doctors at Lake Haven Hospital had been low-key like this one, but that definitely wasn’t always the case. A month earlier, she worked the night of the first snowfall and had been on her feet all night, between car accidents, snow shovel injuries and a couple of teenagers who had taken a snowmobile through a barbed wire fence.
Like so much of medicine, emergency medicine was all a roll of the dice.
Devin loved her regular practice as a family physician in partnership with Russell Warrick, who had been her own doctor when she was a kid. She loved having a day-to-day relationship with her patients and the idea that she could treat an entire family from cradle to grave.
Even so, she didn’t mind filling in at the emergency department when the three rotating emergency medicine physicians in the small hospital needed an extra hand. The challenge and variety of it exercised her brain and sharpened her reflexes — except tonight, when the only thing sharp seemed to be these knitting needles that had become her nemesis.
She was on her twelfth row when she heard a commotion out in the reception area.
“We need a doctor here, right now.”
“Can you tell me what’s going on?” Devin heard the receptionist ask in a calm voice.
Devin didn’t wait around to hear the answer. She and Callie both sprang into action. Though the emergency department usually followed triage protocol, with prospective patients screened by one of the certified nurses assistants first to determine level of urgency, that seemed superfluous when the newcomers were the only patients here. By default, they automatically moved to the front of the line since there wasn’t one.
She walked through the doorway to the reception desk and her initial impression was of a big, tough-looking man, a very pregnant woman in one of the hospital wheelchairs and a couple of scared-looking kids.
“What’s the problem?”
“Are you a doctor?” the man demanded. “I know how emergency rooms work. You tell your story to a hundred different people before you finally see somebody who can actually help you. I don’t want to go through that.”
She gave a well-practiced smile. “I’m Dr. Shaw, the attending physician here tonight. What seems to be the problem?”
“Devin? Is that you?”
The pregnant woman looked up and met her gaze and Devin immediately recognized her. “Tricia! Hello.”
Tricia Barrett had been a friend in high school, though she hadn’t seen her in years. Barrett had been her maiden name, anyway. Devin couldn’t remember the last name of the man she married.
“Hi,” Tricia said, her features pale and her arms tight on the armrests of the wheelchair. “I would say it’s great to see you again, but, well, not really, under these circumstances. No offense.”
Devin stepped closer to her and gave her a calming smile. “None taken. Believe me, I get it. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on.”
Tricia shifted in the wheelchair. “Nothing. Someone is overreacting.”
“She slipped on a patch of ice about an hour ago and hurt her ankle.” The man with her overrode her objections. “I’m not sure it’s broken but she needs an X-ray.”
At first she thought he might be Tricia’s husband but on closer inspection, she recognized him, only because she’d seen him around town here and there over the past few years.
Cole Barrett, Tricia’s older brother, was a rather hard man to overlook — six feet two inches of gorgeousness, with vivid blue eyes, sinfully long eyelashes and sun-streaked brown hair usually hidden by a cowboy hat.
He had been wild back in the day, if she remembered correctly, and still hadn’t lost that edgy, bad boy outlaw vibe.
In a small community like Haven Point, most people knew each other — or at least knew of each other. She hadn’t met the man but she knew he lived in the mountains above town and that he had inherited a sprawling, successful ranch from his grandparents.
If memory served, he had once been some kind of hotshot rodeo cowboy.
With that afternoon shadow and his wavy brown hair a little disordered, he looked as if he had either just climbed off a horse or out of some lucky woman’s bed. Not that it was any of her business. Disreputable cowboys were definitely not her type.