Welcome back! I hope the last few weeks have been kind to you. It's still a bit hectic in the Ryan household, but there's finally light at the end of the tunnel as they say. I've had a few messages from folks looking for the next installment in my romantic suspense novel Dangerous Medicine. Wait no longer. It's here!
Chapter five finds our heroine Miranda Jacobs at the hospital waiting to hear more about her brother's condition. He'd been slipped a potent veterinary drug in his beer at a fraternity party. Unfortunately, he suffered a seizure from it and had fallen down a flight of stairs. He's currently in a coma while his family holds vigil in the hospital waiting room.
Our hero, Jake Martinelli appears to be well known by the Jacobs family—much to the bewilderment of Miranda. Not only has she found herself fiercely attracted to the sexy police detective, she figures out her family may be doing a bit of matchmaking on her behalf. If it was any other time, she'd go with it, but not while her brother's life hang in the balance.
For those of you who need to catch up, here's the links to the previous chapters.
Now let's continue on with Dangerous Medicine...
The doors of the elevator opened and Miranda stepped out into the hallway with Jake close behind her. She bit her lip, unsure where to go to find her family.
He placed his right hand on the small of her back and gently guided her toward the waiting area to their right.
“The neurology patients have their own wing and waiting area.”
She’d initially stiffened at his touch, but then relaxed as if the two of them together was the most natural thing in the world. It was as if knowing he was there with her—for her, gave her renewed strength. “Thanks. I have to admit I didn’t hear one word of the directions from the nurse on the first floor.”
“It’s understandable. You have a lot on your mind.”
“Aunt Randi!” Her eldest nephew, Billy, ran toward her with his arms wide. “I knew you’d come. Nobody’ll tell me what’s going on with Uncle Matt. They treat me like a baby.” Billy squeezed her waist with his arms and locked his fingers together behind her back.
She loosened his death grip and then knelt down to his level. She gazed into the seven-year-old’s hazel eyes. He appeared frightened and torn with his need to be held and to be treated like a grown up. “Hold on there, cowboy. We’re all worried. No one’s keeping things from you. The doctor’s haven’t told us what they found on his last round of tests yet. I’ll help explain everything as soon as I know. Okay?”
Billy nodded and threw his arms around her neck. As she stood up, she lifted him into her arms. “Let’s see about finding your parents, huh?” She looked over her shoulder and noticed Jake grinning from ear to ear.
He shook his head. “You continue to surprise me, Doc.”
“Is that good or bad?” She searched his face for some clue as to what he meant by his comment. “I hope you’re prepared, Detective. You’re about to be mobbed by a very emotional, loud, but loving family. Did I mention loud? Can you handle it?”
Jake chuckled. “We’re about to find out. By the way—it’s a good thing.”
Miranda’s cheeks burned. “I’ll keep that in mind, Detective…uh, Jake.”
“There’s my girl.” Michael Jacobs Sr. stopped his pacing and strode over to where she and Jake had been consoling Billy. “I was about to send out a search party and then remembered you were with Jake. Had to remind your mother you were safe if you were with him. How are you, son?”
Jake smiled and shook his hand. “As good as can be expected. How are you and Madeline holding up?”
“Ah, you now the Missus. She’s the strong one of this family. It would take World War III to rattle that woman’s revolve. It’s something my dear daughter here picked up.” Mr. Jacobs hugged her before she had a chance to protest.
Jake nodded and smirked. “So I’ve noticed.”
Rattled by the turn of the conversation, she’d forgotten to ask how the hell Jake fit into her family. They talk as if they’ve known each other for years. I’ve been away for far too long. The fact it had taken a family tragedy to open her eyes filled her with guilt. She patted Billy on the back and hugged him again.
“There’s my mom now.” He squirmed out of her arms, grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the woman in question.
His mother, Marah, the second born of the Jacobs clan, greeted her with a bear hug. “I’m so glad you’re finally here. If anyone can make sense out of this thing, you can.”
Marah ruffled Billy’s hair and shooed him back toward his grandfather. “He drove the rest of the kids to McDonald’s. Billy here didn’t want to go. No sense arguing with him when he gets like that. He’s as stubborn as you and Ma.” She laughed in spite of the tears that threatened to spill down he rosy cheeks. “He’s been such a brave boy through this whole thing. He’s helped out with his brother and sister and the cousins. We’re so proud of him.
“It’s going to be all right. It has to be. Hold on to that for Ma and Pop.”
As they settled back in the chairs to wait for more news about Matt, Miranda glanced around the room and counted heads. Michael Jr., the third born, appeared to be in deep conversation with Jake. She raised her eyebrow and made a mental note to talk to her brother later. The whole idea Jake suddenly stopped by her parents’ house took a different twist if her brother or father had something to do with it. That’s the more likely story. As at ease as he is with my folks, he would’ve known they were here holding vigil.
Michael’s wife, Jennifer sat quietly on a large couch and nursed her baby. Next to her was Miranda’s youngest sister, Melody. She and her fiancé, Philip were expecting their first child. They were to be married that Christmas, but knowing the young couple, they would postpone it if need be to be there for the family. They’d already done so twice because of the passing of Phillip’s father the year before. Those two need some happy family event. They’ve already put their lives on hold too many times.
Miranda excused herself from Mara and joined the other ladies. “How are you guys holding up?”
Melody rubbed her very pregnant stomach. “As well as can be expected at the moment. The baby is kicking the hell out of my spleen—at least that’s what I think it is. She’s going to be athletic like her Uncle Matt. I think I’ll sign her up for soccer lessons now.” She giggled and grabbed Miranda’s hand to place over her stomach.
Three more swift kicks pummeled her hand. She leaned over and whispered toward Melody’s stomach. “Hey there, sweetie-pie. It’s your favorite aunt. You had better let up on your ma’s spleen for a while. How about going for her bladder? You know how she loves to get up fifty times an hour to go to the bathroom.”
Melody slapped Miranda’s arm. “You devil!”
“Phillip go with Bill to McDonald’s?”
“Yes. As you know, hospitals aren’t one of his favorite places to be so he jumped at the chance for a change of scenery. He didn’t think one man should be left alone with four kids all under the age of six. You should have seen them. They left here singing ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’. It was quite a site. Phillip loves kids and can’t wait to be a dad.”
“Well, he’ll get lots of practice before your daughter comes into the world. What is it? Less than two months away now?” That old familiar stab of jealousy pierced her heart. She’d wanted a family of her own more than anything, but even now she found it hard to admit to herself she’d give up all hope of being a mother while she was in vet school.
Melody placed her hand over Miranda’s and squeezed. “I know that look. There’s still time for you yet. Just because you didn’t get to experience this first as our big sister, doesn’t mean it will never happen.”
“Have to have sex for that to happen.”
Melody laughed. “Well that’s the fun way to do it, but there’s always the turkey baster.”
Miranda snorted. “There’s always that!”
Madeline Jacobs, the family matriarch, walked into the room. Her normally porcelain complexion appeared ghostly white. She tried to be strong in front of her children, but Miranda could tell she was barely holding on. Madeline caught her daughter’s eye and attempted to smile.
Miranda stood and crossed the room in four strides. She embraced her mother and struggled to hold her composure.
Madeline pulled back and brushed the hair from Miranda’s forehead. “Stop blaming yourself, girl. You couldn’t have prevented this even if you tried. You know your brother. He’s always in the thick of things.
Did you know he wanted to be a police officer?”
While her mother’s soft Scottish brogue normally eased her anxiety, this time the words she said raised more questions. She hated being so far out of the loop where her family was concerned, but she only had herself to blame. She’d moved away. She’d made her career her focus and made less time for the people that meant the world to her. No more. I’ve missed so much. Phone calls and hit or miss weekends just aren’t enough. “When did he decide on that? The last time we spoke he still hadn’t settled on a major.”
“Not too long ago, darlin’ He’s been working close with our friend, Jake over there. He’s been a good influence on your brother and kept him out of trouble as best he could. Like you, Jake’s feeling guilty over not being able to protect him from this.”
Miranda’s stomach churned. The bitter taste of bile hit the back of her throat and she swallowed several times to force it back down. “What do you mean? I thought his accident happened at a frat party. How would Detective Martinelli been able to prevent it from happening?”
Madeline’s green eyes blazed. “Well, it seems your brother was going off to do his own investigative work on a case. The police believe someone deliberately tried to harm him because he had been snooping around. If I ever get my hands on the low-life who did this—”
“Stop, Ma. No point getting all fired up before we know for sure. We have to let the police handle it.” She’d said the words out loud for her mother’s benefit as well as her own. The urge to strike out and make someone pay for hurting her brother grew to frightening levels inside her. Calm down. No need to make things worse. You need to be strong and keep a cool head for the family.
The doors to the waiting room opened and a group of doctors approached. Miranda scanned their faces in an attempt to read their mood, but came up empty. This can’t be good.
Miranda took her mother’s hand and together they joined her father, her brother Michael and Jake. The rest of the family gathered around them. Madeline found her voice first. “Well, what did you fine gentlemen determine with all your fancy tests? Is my son going to be all right?”
Dr. Moriarity, the Jacobs’ family physician, cleared his throat. “We have found the swelling of Matt’s brain has stopped and is in fact decreasing. It’s occurring much faster than we had originally anticipated, so there’ll be no need for surgery at this time. You’d asked me to be straight forward and not sugar coat anything for you.”
“Go on, Doctor. We can take whatever you have to say.” Madeline’s grip tightened on Miranda’s hand to the point she lost feeling in her fingers.
“We have no idea how much damage the brain tissue sustained from the fall. The fracture in his skull is stable and shouldn’t contribute to any further trauma to the delicate tissue. As far as we can tell, Matt had an allergic reaction to the Ketamine itself. It triggered the seizure center of his brain and caused him to lose consciousness before he fell down the stairs. I wish we had more for you, but we won’t know the full picture of what happened until he wakes up. If he wakes up.
Miranda held her tongue long enough. “Are you saying if he doesn’t come out of the4 coma soon, there may be a chance he’ll never do it?”
Dr. Provost, the neurosurgeon, shook his head. “Not exactly. Even if he wakes up within the next hour, he may still be mentally and or physically impaired. I’m sorry, but we can offer very little hope at this point other than to wait and see. We simply can’t determine anything more at this time. We’re doing all we can. The rest is up to him.”
She refused to acknowledge the words ‘no hope.’ “Is he on a respirator?”
“No. He’s breathing well on his own. He also responds to some stimuli at this point. Quite a few of his reflexes are intact, but slow.”
Her analytical mind took over and kept her rooted to the spot when all she wanted to do was jump for joy. There is hope! “Thank you. I’m sorry to be so abrupt with you. I know you’re doing everything you can for my brother. I need to see him for myself to believe this is actually happening.”
Dr. Moriarity’s brown furrowed with concern. “I must prepare you. He’s hooked up to a lot of machines. I could come as a shock—”
Her blood boiled. “You’ve known my family for over thirty years and you know me. I won’t waste time reminding you I’m still as stubborn as I was when I was a teen. I need to be alone with him for a few moments if you don’t mind.”
He nodded and gestured for her to follow him.
Miranda moved to join him but stopped short because of a gentle touch on her arm from Jake.
“I’ll be right here if you need me.”
Her stomach jolted at his unexpected kind words. She’d forgotten he was there. She had so many questions for him about his relationship with her brother, but what really caught her by surprise was her desire to rush into his arms and forget about everything except the two of them. Good Lord! Get a grip. You just met the man.
Instead of acting on her fantasy, she put her hand over his. “Thanks. Would you mind sitting with Billy for a bit? I think he could use you a little more than me at the moment.”
“Sure, anything to help, Doc.”
She smiled. “Randi.” Although the way he says Doc, I could get used to it.
* * * *
Jake squeezed her hand once and pulled his away. “You got it, Randi.” He watched her square her shoulders and fall in step behind Dr. Moriarity. Their footsteps echoed down the hallway. Jake turned back toward the lounge and found Billy off in the corner by himself, crying.
He approached the boy and sat next to him. “Hey, your Aunt Randi asked me to talk to you while she goes in to see Matt. We know more about what happened. Do you want to hear it?”
Billy looked up. Tears streamed down his red cheeks. “You don’t think I’m too young to understand?”
“Nope.” Jake reached out. Billy turned and collapsed into his arms. He pulled him onto his lap and rocked the boy until his sobs slowed. He waved off Marah and signaled the two of them were okay. “You see, someone put a drug in Matt’s drink at a party. They did it to hurt him. I know you probably can’t understand why someone would do that, but there are some very bad people out there; people who don’t care if they hurt anybody else or not as long as they get what they want.”
Billy wiped his eyes with the handkerchief Jake handed to him. “I know there are bad people out there. I know Uncle Matt is a good person and doesn’t deserve to have things like this happen to him. Grandpa said you’re trying to find the person who did this. Are you?”
Jake hugged the boy to his chest. “You bet. I’m not going to stop until I find out who did this and make sure he goes to jail for a long, long time. Okay?”
“Now you know Matt is in a deep sleep. They call it a coma. That means he can’t wake up on his own yet because his body had to work so hard to heal itself. What the doctors just told us is they don’t know when he’s going to work up.”
“I’m scared he won’t ever wake up.”
“Me too, Billy. It’s okay to be frightened, but you have your family to help you be strong. We have to do the best we can and send happy thoughts to Matt. I believe he can hear us when we do that.”
“Even if we can’t tell him in person? They won’t let me in to see him.”
Jake nodded. “Our prayers are taken to him right away. It’s like your mind is connected to his. He can’t answer back yet, but he hears every single word. How about we say a prayer together for him?”
“Can we do a family circle?”
Marah approached. “I think that’s a great idea, honey.” She beckoned the rest of the family. All joined hands with Billy and Jake. They prayed to give Matt the strength to come back to them.
Jake added his own silent prayer to theirs. Please help me find the people responsible for this so no other family has to go through this kind of pain ever again.
* * * *
All Rights Reserves ©Stephanie Ryan 2014