Welcome back to Through Stephanie's Eyes. I'm excited to share the next chapter of my debut romantic suspense novel, Dangerous Medicine. If you're just joining me this week, you can catch up on CHAPTER 1 before you move on to Chapter 2 below.
To recap: Dr. Miranda Jacobs received devastating news about your youngest brother. He had been slipped a drug in a drink at a party and was now in a coma. The doctors aren't sure of the extent of his injuries yet. She's on her way to the hospital to be with her family at his bedside.
Jake Martinelli is a narcotics detective and works closely with the local DEA agents. He's a friend to Miranda's brother. He too is getting ready to head up to the hospital to check on his friend and hopefully find some clues as to who put the boy in the hospital in the first place.
Miranda found Leigh Ann waiting for her when she finally returned. She didn’t bother to hide the worry that filled her eyes and furrowed her brow. Miranda knew Leigh had good reason to look the way she did. Miranda had never lost her composure at work and must have freaked out the rest of the staff as well.
“Doc, you need to sit back down and get yourself together before you do anything else.”
Miranda had started to protest, but Leigh Ann already had a hold of her elbow and guided her through the doorway of the office. Thank God! Someone removed all traces of food. I don’t think I’d be able to make it back to the bathroom if another wave of nausea hit. “I have to get out of here now. My family needs me.”
The other woman raised her hand to silence Miranda. “Already got it covered. Dr. Marks and Dr. Carron will be in within the hour to take over your caseload and see the new patients today. Dr. Overland is due at any minute so you can talk to him about your leave of absence. I’m sure there won’t be a problem, but he’d take all of this much better if it came straight from you. He’s always had a soft spot for you.”
Miranda smiled. “He puts up a good front, but he’s just a big teddy bear.”
“Only with you. Now sit back and relax until he gets here. You’ve trained all of us well. We know what to do and can handle anything thrown at us.”
“Thanks, Leigh. You guys are fabulous. What would I do without you?”
“Let’s hope neither of us has to find that out any time soon.” Leigh Ann squeezed Miranda’s shoulder as she left the office and quietly closed the door behind her.
Instead of taking it easy, Miranda immersed herself into the patient files on her desk. Within two hours she’d completed her notes for each case, reviewed them with her staff and the other cardiologists, and arranged for an indefinite leave from the hospital. Dr. Overland was more than happy to agree to her request. After all, she’d practically lived at the hospital for the last three years. He told her it was the least he could do for her and made her promise to let him know if she needed more time.
Miranda had worked hard to achieve her current status at the Michigan Veterinary Specialty Center. Her plan had been to sit for the board exam for certification in June—only nine months away. With all her dreams so close to being realized, she had to wonder if there was some evil plot out to ruin her life. Of course, the logical part of her brain dismissed the ridiculous idea, but it was a hell of a lot easier to believe than the truth. Matthew’s condition was senseless and her scientific mind wouldn’t accept it. She had to have an answer. Why my brother? What did he ever do to deserve this?
She blamed herself and her obsession with her career. If she’d only been there for him when his friend was attacked, maybe he’d be home playing with all his nieces and nephews right now instead of lying in a hospital bed. At thirty years old, Miranda was the youngest veterinarian to achieve the recognition as one of the best in her field, not only in the state, but in the country. She’d thrown her entire being into her career, often at the expense of any personal life. Her only escape had been her ever-growing family. They brought her great joy—and sadness at the same time. Her siblings had the things she lacked—marriage, children and the family life.
She was the eldest of five children. All the others had gone on to raise families of their own except Matthew. His life had only just begun. Now it appeared as if he might lose it before he reached his twenty-second birthday. Miranda pushed the thought to the back of her mind, gathered up her personal belongings and left the busy hospital behind.
* * * *
Jake strode through his cluttered apartment to his bathroom. He stripped out of his street clothes. Seeing his reflection in the full-length mirror on the door startled him. He’d always hated the way other officers and DEA agents had looked after coming off long undercover cases…all strong out and rough around the edges. That’s exactly the vision that stared back and it wasn’t a pretty picture at all. What the hell’s happened to me? How did I let things get this bad?
He turned on the shower to warm it up a bit and then set himself down to the task of removing the beginnings of a grizzly beard from his face. He laughed as he remembered the first time he met Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs. It was at an alumni barbecue before the Saginaw Valley State Homecoming game a year ago.
Jake smiled as Mrs. Jacobs checked him out from head to toe and shook her head.
“Go home and shave that sorry excuse of a beard you have trying to grow there.”
Matthew choked on his drink and nearly spit it all over them. “Ma! You just met the guy. Maybe you could give him a few minutes to get settled in on the bleachers before you start telling him how to change his appearance.”
Jake laughed. “It’s okay, Matt. Go ahead, Mrs. Jacobs tell me how you really feel. Anything else I should change?”
“You can keep the long hair and your earrings. I’m a bit partial to those, but that beard has to go!”
Matthew had warned him she was blunt, but Jake hadn’t minded at all. From the moment he heard her voice, she’d reminded him of his own mother who had died ten years earlier. Rosa Martinelli had fought a long, hard battle against breast cancer. She had gone into a five year long remission before the cancer had returned and ravaged her body in less than six months.
Jake had been by her side the entire time, and had refused to abandon the one person who had been a constant in his life. Rosa had been the only one there for him after he found his ex-wife, Amy in bed with his childhood friend, David.
Rosa had put up the bail to get him released from jail after he was arrested for beating David to a bloody pulp that night. David had never pressed charges. He had claimed he didn’t want to hurt Jake any further.
Amy was a different story. She’d blamed Jake for the affair. She was lonely and he was never there; same old sob story excuse people give for cheating on a spouse.
It had been all well and good when his long hours as a rookie cop brought home the income to pay the bills for everything she’d needed to make their house a proper home. She had never complained when he was promoted to detective and then transferred to the Narcotics Division because it had meant more money. Lord knows she hadn’t wanted to work to work outside the home to help out.
Jake had encouraged her over and over again to try out some classes at SVSU so she could finish the degree she’d started before they were married. She’d refused, always quick with an excuse to avoid it. She had worked several different part-time jobs; none of them had lasted more than six months. Her reason for quitting all of them had been the same each time. She had become bored with them.
It had been an ailing Rosa who had stuck by Jake through the entire messy divorce and settlement that had lasted nearly two years. Amy had tried to claim she had given up her chances at a degree and career when she’d married Jake in order to put him through school. The judge had seen through her fabrications but it was Rosa’s testimony that had finally ended the entire mess. The judge had ruled Amy wasn’t entitled to any alimony and could only receive thirty percent of the proceeds from the sale of their home.
Of course, that had only infuriated Amy further. She’d tried to tie up everything in court with appeals, but eventually it had all ended. Jake had found himself single, more than a little bitter, and betrayed by his best friend. Less than two months later, Jake had become an orphan.
After his mother’s funeral, Jake had thrown himself into his work. He had preferred the most dangerous undercover operations, those that allowed him to completely forget who he was and that he was all alone in the world. Weeks of restless nights and dreams of his mother telling him to snap out of it had eventually worn him down and he change the direction of his career once again.
He had requested to be assigned to head up the investigation of the drug dealing rings in Bay City, Saginaw, and Midland—The Tri-County area. Jake enjoyed his new position and now felt he made a difference each time he brought down a dealer. He knew his mother would have been proud of his new lease on life.
“I’ll find who did this to you, Matt. I won’t stop until I do. Momma would expect nothing less of me.”
* * * *
Miranda had barely held her composure while she weaved in and out of the afternoon traffic. Somehow she had made it to her apartment in one piece. Her cats, Hercules and Xena, greeted her at the door as usual. Seeming to sense her distress, they followed her around and watched her every move, careful to stay out of her way to avoid being stepped upon.
While she threw a few pieces of clothing into her overnight bag, she allowed the tears to fall. “You’ve got to get a grip on yourself. If you can’t keep control in private, how the hell are you going to do it with the family?” She brushed the tears from her face and resumed her packing.
A knock on her door interrupted her and brought her back from the edge. She squinted through the peep hole to find her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Turner.
“Dr. Jacobs? Are you all right dear?” Mrs. Turner was a retired nurse who had befriended Miranda right after she’d moved in. She lived alone and enjoyed Miranda’s company from time to time. Miranda had come to think of her as a dear friend, one she needed right now.
Miranda opened the door and Mrs. Turner immediately embraced her. “Come over to the couch and sit down, honey. Whatever has you so upset? You’re never home this early and you left your keys in the door. That’s not like you at all.”
“It’s my baby brother. He’s in a coma. Someone slipped a drug into his drink. I got the news at work. I don’t know any other details about Matt’s condition.” She took the tissues Mrs. Turner offered her and wiped her eyes. “I can’t stand to be so far away. I feel useless. I hate to ask you this but—”
Mrs. Turner patted Miranda’s hands. “Don’t you worry about a thing. I’ll make sure your little rascals are well cared for. Lord knows they brighten my day watching them run about. Your place is with your family now. Come on, let’s finish packing and get you on the road. You know how traffic can be this time of day, and your family has enough to worry about without you trying to kill yourself speeding along the interstate.”
After one last hug and a handful of tissues from Mrs. Turner, Miranda jogged down the steps and out to her car. She tossed her bags into the trunk and finally slid behind the wheel of her red Saturn. She wanted to get through the city and on Northbound I-75 as fast as she could before four o’clock—the peak of rush hour in the Down River area. If she could then get past Royal Oak by five, she would make good time. However, getting through it all in time before vising hours ended was going to be a challenge.
Four red lights, five tail-gaiters, and two near collisions later, she expertly changed lanes and merged with the high-speed drivers on the interstate. She glanced down at her hands and realized she was white-knuckled from gripping the steering wheel. She’d driven this stretch of road hundreds if not thousands of times, and had never been so worked up with fear. The pain in her gut reminded her of what she wouldn’t allow her mind to comprehend. No matter what she did, how fast she drove, she was going to be too late, and she’d lose Matt forever without being able to say goodbye one last time.
She wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand and then reached to turn on her CD player. She cranked up the volume as Nirvana boomed through the speakers. The disk was a birthday gift from Matthew. She’d never really like the band before, but at his insistence, she’d tried it out. She had been surprised to find she enjoyed it—especially while driving. As the fast-paced guitars and booming back beat filled her ears, she stepped on the accelerator.
Before long, she had passed the exits for the Palace of Auburn Hills. The sun was at a point in the sky now it created a glare off the semi-truck in front of her, and heated up the left side of her body. As she slowed down just enough to change lanes, she noticed the hills surrounding the freeway. The leaves had started to turn and revealed small bursts of brilliant reds and yellows.
As the miles flew by, and the colors intensified, he mind flooded with childhood memories. She had forgotten how much she and her family enjoyed this time of year. Matt had played football since he was nine years old. The entire family had gone to every game to cheer him on. A nasty knee injury in the homecoming game of his senior year in high school had ended his hopes of a football scholarship to the University of Michigan, but not his love of the game. He was an assistant coach at SVSU now. Her parents still never missed one of the games, often taking their grandchildren to cheer for their Uncle Matt’s team.
The persistent chirping of her cell phone brought her out of her reminiscing. She hoped it wasn’t her office calling. She’d told them she was going to be unavailable that evening. She kept her eyes on the road and pushed the button on her ear piece to pick up the call. “Okay, this had better be good. I’m right in the middle of major traffic nightmare.”
“Is that any way to answer the phone?”
She laughed out loud when she heard the gruff and gravelly voice. “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m not really in a terrific mood at the moment. Traffic has slowed to a crawl now. What can I do for you?”
“Well, your mother wanted me to call and tell you not to race up her in order to get to the hospital to sit with Matt. He’s been taken down for another CT scan or MRI or whatever the hell they call it. Just be careful and get her in one piece.”
She smiled and shook her head. She knew it was her father who worried about her driving. She held back a giggle. He would deny he called her all on his own. Her mother knew Miranda could take care of herself.
“What about visiting hours? Don’t they kick everyone out at eight?”
She heard her father’s rumbling chuckle loud and clear through the mild static coming through her blue tooth.
“They can just try to kick us out. You know your mother. She’s already made up the bed next to Matt’s and has refused to leave his side for one instant. The rest of the family is arriving now. We’ve got the staff outnumbered by at least a dozen.”
“I get the picture. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Do you need anything from the house? I’m about five minutes from there now. I could get off at the next exit if you want me to.”
“That would be great, Randi. If you could bring up a change of clothes for your mother and some toiletries, we should be fine. We’ve all had dinner, so you make sure you raid the fridge while you’re there too. I know you haven’t eaten. Don’t try to tell me any different, young lady. Okay then, now that that’s said, I’ll let you get back to driving recklessly.”
She hung up, quickly changed lanes and exited the freeway. She rolled down her window to let in some fresh air and immediately regretted it. Her nose was assaulted with the pungent aroma of pig manure. She laughed. She had forgotten it was time to coat the fields with the fertilizer. This was definitely one thing she didn’t miss after she had moved out of her parents’ home ten years before.
* * * *
All Rights Reserved ©Stephanie Ryan 2014
Thank you for stopping in today. I hope you enjoyed this installment. Next week is Chapter 3 and we get to learn more about Jake and Matt's relationship and Miranda gets to meet Jake face to face. Will sparks fly or will something come between them right from the start? Stay tuned!
Until next week,