Love at first sight? Cassie Michaels thinks that notion exists only in the movies. Until she meets Peter Chapman and finds herself in deep, that is! He's gorgeous, charming and very determined to see where this attraction can go. So even though the small-town E.R. where they work has a no-dating policy, it's not long before she's seeing him after hours.
But the rush of this affair takes a backseat when Cassie receives a serious diagnosis. How can she focus on a commitment with Peter when she needs to focus on recovering? Still, he proves his worth when he doesn't walk away so easily .
About the Author
Kathleen lives in south Florida, loves to swim with dolphins, dances to any music that moves her, sings karaoke and is a social media junkie. Most of all, Kathleen loves to write and hopes her stories bring you back to what matters over all: the power of love.
Read an Excerpt
Peter Chapman's pickup crested the hill leading into Montauk Point, revealing his first glimpse of The Endthe very tip of New York's Long Island. The sunrise bursting over the Atlantic Ocean shone straight into his gut. Rays of gold illuminating the clouds lifted his spirits higher than the seagulls soaring overhead.
Exhausted from the long drive, he lowered the window, letting the brisk morning air rouse him awake. Peter whistled softly into the headset attached to his cell phone. "I made it, Gil. I'm home."
"Well done, bro! I feel like I've arrived with you."
Peter chuckled. Keeping one hand on the wheel, he rubbed his dry, itching eyes with the other. "You did, Gil. You stayed up all night, talking when I got tired. You shared the driving."
"Just making sure you're okay."
Gilbert did stuff like that, as a friend more than an older brother. Though only eleven months his senior, the older status didn't really count. They'd always been there for each other.
Peter steered the truck into the valley of the next rise, anticipating the view from the hilltop. He wanted to imprint this new vista in his mind every time he closed his eyes instead of seeing the accusing hurt in Melanie Chapman's gaze, which had haunted him the entire ride here. Five days on the road from Los Angeles hadn't erased the guilt of his last moments with his mother before leaving.
"The way Mom looked at me tore my heart out, Gil."
Gilbert scoffed. "We went over this already. She's messing with your head, as always. I don't know why you let her get to you." His voice dropped. "Besides, you had no choice. Even Uncle Michael said so. She'll be fine where she is."
Peter had spent a lifetime protecting his gentle-spirited brother from their mother's depressive state. It felt good to have the tables turned with Gil supporting Peter's choice to leave home. Peter had also shielded their mother's sporadic substance abuse from prying eyes, learning quickly as an adolescent that if he let his mother sleep off her weeks, sometimes months, of depression, it freed him up to run the household and keep their world as normal as possible without outside intervention. Once his brother moved to San Francisco, Peter's job of holding the family together was over. Uncle Michael, his mother's brother, had been there for the boys when he could, but knowing Peter had carried the brunt of the responsibilities through the years, Michael insisted that there was nothing more Peter needed to do. Right now, he didn't want to think about it.
"So, I guess you're ready to catch some sleep," he said to his brother. "I should let you go."
Gil yawned into the phone. "Yeah. Feels like I pulled one of your all-nighters studying when you were in school."
"Couldn't have made the grade without you and Rudy backing me up."
Gil chuckled. "After two years, he's still telling me how great you looked in your nursing uniform at graduation."
Peter laughed. "I'll send a set of scrubs anytime you want."
Peter had busted his tail to get through nursing school, and had loved his two-year stint in the E.R. in Los Angeles. Gilbert and his partner, Rudy, were the only ones who supported him from graduation until now, and still cheered him on. They were all the family he needed, but staying around L.A. wasn't an option any longer. When the opening for the emergency room nurse in Montauk appeared, he had grabbed it and run.
Anyplace that touted itself as The End was exactly where he wanted to beas far away as he could get from the fact that he'd failed his mother. In his heart, Peter believed he had caved and threw in the towel, despite Uncle Michael insisting that a twenty-eight-year-old man needed to pursue his own life.
"Well, I'm as far away from Los Angeles as a man can get while staying in the good old U.S.A."
"No, bro." Gil gave an exaggerated sigh. "You could have gone to Maine."
"Too rocky to surf and the water is freezing." He'd researched Montauk, and the surfing had capped the deal. Seems the remote fishing village had some of the best waves on the East Coast. Locals even surfed through the winter with the proper gear. Arriving in Montauk now, he'd have time to adjust to the area before the traditional surfing season.
"A nursing career and surfing? We might not ever see you again."
Peter glanced through the rearview mirror at the bed of his pickup, which carried his few belongings. Three surfboards and a trunk with some household basics, his clothes, the LEGO he'd loved as a kid. Maybe one day he'd have a kid of his own to pass them on. After he outgrew LEGO, he had discovered the water, and surfing had become his saving grace. When Mom wigged out, he put her to bed and hit the beach where he didn't have to think about anything but the next wave.
Cresting another hill, Peter slowed the truck way down. A woman riding a mountain bike glided from the center to the side of the road. He wanted to pass her safely. Besides, the flash of her long-sleeved T-shirt and tight biking shorts made him want to see more. He pulled up beside her, slowing enough to enjoy the view, especially that trim butt. A mass of blond curls fell down her back. Sunglasses and a baseball cap shielded her eyes. Hey, no bike helmet? He'd like to give her a lecture on biking safety. Any excuse would do to pull over that beauty and engage her attention. What a great mouth and just enough determination to that chin. All in a glance. She was his type of girl. He was gawking like a schoolboy and couldn't stop himself.
She glanced his way then did a double take. She must have liked what she saw because her frown turned into a smile that nearly floored him.
Not wanting to look like a jerk, he sped up. "Nice!" The move to Montauk kept getting better and better.
"What is?" Gil asked.
"Bro, I gotta go. Riding next to some local wildlife and she looks promising."
Gil laughed. "Why don't you stop her and ask for directions?"
"Great idea. I'll call later. Love you, bro."
Not wanting to ogle the woman, he passed giving her enough room for safety. She waved her thanks. He smiled but really wanted to whistle. He'd keep an eye out for her around town. Meanwhile, he became so preoccupied watching this awesome female in the side mirror that he swerved to miss a deer darting into his path from the woods across the street. Glad to miss it, he didn't expect a buck following the doe to bolt in front of the truck. He yanked the wheel too hard, veering off the road toward a shallow ditch. No room to maneuver. "Damn!"
The truck nose-dived into the narrow embankment. Impact stopped his truck, but not before Peter's head smacked the steering wheel. The clatter of his surfboards flying around the flatbed filled his ears.
"What the ?" His forehead stung. Wet warmth trickled into his eye. His vision began fading, and he realized he was bleeding and blacking out. He couldn't stop the sensation. Almost as an afterthought, the air bag released to catch his fall.
Buzzing in his ears grew louder. An antiseptic scent invaded his nostrils. Hospital. Familiar. Peter tried to open his eyes, but the light hurt. He closed them once more.
"Well, this is a fine way to introduce yourself to new coworkers."
The laughter and warmth in the woman's voice made him want to see the person coaxing him awake. An odd satisfaction filled him. The calmness in her voice tugged at his awareness until he could no longer resist.
Peter opened his eyes. In the few seconds it took to focus, he was pretty damned sure an angel stood over him. A halo of honey-gold hair framed clear blue eyes and the most beautiful smile he'd ever seen. Surely he'd died and gone to heaven. "Who are you?"
Her smile widened. "Cassie Michaels. Your ID says that you are Peter Chapman. You passed me on your way into town. Good thing I was there when you ran off the road."
Ahh. The beautiful wildlife of Montauk on the road. Sans hat or sunglasses. Man, was she pretty.
"You shouldn't ride without a helmet."
She winced. "I know. I know. I broke my helmet in my last fall. I'll take care of that."
"Your last fall?" He closed his eyes. If he had any say, she'd not ride again until properly equipped.
"Am I at Mercy Hospital?"
"Yes. We were expecting you next week. Thought you'd walk through the door instead of arriving early by ambulance."
"You were expecting me?"
"I work here in the E.R. Today is my day off."
His new coworker? Could it get any better? He managed to grin. "I like to make memorable entrances."
She laughed. "I'll bet you do."
Despite his throbbing head, he didn't miss that she spoke with just enough emphasis to be flirting. He liked that. He also liked the way she rested her bombshell blue gaze on his. Oh, yeah. This one had keeper written all over her. He glanced at her left hand. No wedding ring.
"Did I hurt the deer?"
"No. They got away."
"Thought so." He closed his eyes, but the vision of her burned in his mind. He opened his eyes to find her staring at him. She was smiling, and he wanted to die. "You were the first local I saw, and we're meant to work together. That's a coincidence."
"Not really. Montauk is a small town." She looked around the room with a satisfaction that seemed soul-deep. "I hope you like it here. I've worked at Mercy full-time for three years now. My mother retired and I took her place. I've been haunting these halls since I was a little girl."
"I guess you like your job."
"You could say that." Her affable gaze turned serious. "So, how do you feel?"
He closed his eyes again to assess the damage. "Bit of a headache, but I'm okay."
Her voice grew quiet. "You have a black eye, which will probably swell more. You were out for a while."
Her concern zapped right through him. "I probably needed the sleep. I drove through the night." He touched the tender spot on his forehead. Bandage. Tape.
"You took a few stitches," Cassie explained.
"That's it?" He didn't really hurt anywhere else, but his throbbing forehead held his attention.
"Otherwise you're fine. We did a pan scan." Full-body X-ray. Standard procedure. Check.
"Good news. My truck?"
She laid a reassuring hand on his. He must be delusional because he felt a tingle, like electricity, where her fingers rested. "Towed to the station. Jack, one of the local police, is making sure your possessions are safe. He was a great help. I left you in his care once the ambulance arrived so I could ride the bike home and get my car."
"You're welcome. We take care of our own here."
Our own. She'd already included him in the community. Nice. Inhaling a deep breath, he rested, absorbing the sounds of his new workplace. A ringing phone. Call for a doctor over the intercom. The squeaking of sneaker-clad feet moving down the hall. Nurses chattering at their station. The E.R. seemed to be moving smoothly for a Tuesday.
"So you're a surfer."
The curiosity in her voice was as sexy as her mouth. He caught the tilt of her head, the friendliness in her eyes. Damn. She was sweet. He couldn't believe his good luck.
"Yeah. Love to surf. Do you?"
"I ride a mean boogie board."
Oh, man, that smile! "I hear the waves are good here."
"The locals like to keep a low profile." She leaned in conspiratorially. "One of our best secrets is that a very popular musician known for his songs about the tropics surfs his long board at Ditch Plains regularly."
He slowly sat up. Cassie reached to prop a pillow behind his back. She smelled great. Baby powder and something sweet like honeysuckle and incense. Made his chest tighten, so he inhaled deeper.
"You have an excellent bedside manner."
She blushed and took a step back, giving him a chance to take in her slim, lithe body with curves in all the right places. Oh, yeah. Great curves in those biking clothes.
"I think you've recovered, Nurse Chapman. Let's get you released. I'll introduce you to Dr. Bailey then we'll get you to wherever you are staying."
He was naked under the hospital gown. "Not sure I want to meet my new boss undressed. Tips the balance of power from my favor."
Her grin grew wider. "You two have already met."
He glanced at the plastic bag on the chair holding his bloodstained clothes. "Who cut off my shirt and shorts?"
"Doc Bailey. The other three nurses wanted to insure that you hadn't sustained any further injuries."
A sense of humor. He liked that. He liked her. His new job already had its benefits. Carefully, he swung his feet over the side of the bed. He wondered what his new boss, John Bailey, thought about his odd arrival. He wanted to make himself more presentable as soon as possible. "I'll need clothes."
She opened the small closet. His satchel stood on end in the narrow space. "Jack figured as much and brought this for you."
"That's great. Gotta love the local police."
Feet on the floor, he stood to test his equilibrium before covering his exposed rear end. She didn't seem to notice.
He shook his head. "No. Hungry."
"Where are you staying?"
"Booked a room at the Oceanside Resort."
She pulled his satchel from the closet. "That's pretty close. Do you need help dressing?"
All sorts of inappropriate answers flew through his mind. "I think I can handle it."
"I'll be happy to drive you to the Oceanside."