Special Agent Andrew Paxson approached the woman sitting at the nurses’ station. “Excuse me, Nurse.”
Camille Bastille, MD, neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, continued working on her medical chart from an earlier surgery. The nurses’ station was quiet for once; everyone seemed to be busy elsewhere. Which was good for Camille, since she was able to grab a seat at an empty computer to do her charting.
A knocking on the counter of the nurses’ station interrupted her again. “Excuse me.”
Camille looked up in annoyance at a handsome man wearing a pink dress shirt; pink, silver and black-patterned tie; and black sports coat. An unexpected jolt went through her system as her green eyes met his warm brown ones. “Yes?”
“Are you the head nurse on duty?”
“No.” Camille went back to her charting.
The man blinked in surprise at her rudeness—and her beauty. “Well, I need to speak with someone about a patient.”
Camille bit back a sigh; she hated to be interrupted when she was charting. “What do you need?”
“I need to speak with a doctor, since the nurse is not available.”
“I’m a doctor. A neurosurgeon, to be more precise.”
Andrew was taken aback by the coolness in her voice. “I’m here to check on a patient named Ward Shelton. He was brought in due to an accident. I was told he was in surgery.”
“Are you a family member?”
“Then I can’t tell you anything.”
Andrew pulled back his sports jacket to reveal the blue-and-gold shield of the DEA clipped to the waistband of his black dress slacks, and a holstered gun on his left hip. “Ma’am, my name is Special Agent Andrew Paxson of the Drug Enforcement Administration. This is a DEA matter so yes, you can tell me something, or direct me to someone who can.”
Camille regarded the well-dressed man, even as he stared down at her with barely concealed impatience. While her hospital was no stranger to law enforcement personnel as patients, this was the first time in a long time that she’d dealt with them on the federal level. She silently cursed the head nurse for choosing this time to take a smoke break; Camille didn’t have time to deal with high-maintenance non-family members. She saved what she was working on and went to the main menu of the hospital intranet for medical personnel. “Name?”
Camille typed in the name and scanned the screen. “He’s still in surgery. His family is probably down the hall in a waiting room.” She pointed her ink pen to her left.
“Thank you.” He turned and walked down the hall with an almost military bearing. The heels of his shoes echoed with each step.
Camille resumed her charting. She knew she had been rude, but it irritated her when people automatically assumed she was a nurse because she was female and wore scrubs. Not that she had anything against nurses—her mother and one of her younger brothers were nurses, and damn good ones at that.
Camille had had to contend with sexism all her life, especially because of her looks. While she caught the medical bug early on as the daughter and granddaughter of surgeons, she chose neurosurgery as a means to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was more than just a pretty face. Her elder brother, Grant Bastille, was a general surgeon, so she chose a more difficult specialty. Her research on neurological regeneration had been written up in three prominent medical journals, and helped land her a coveted position on staff at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She even got to scrub in once with the esteemed Dr. Ben Carson.
Excellence was expected of a Bastille.
Camille finished her notations and signed out of the computer screen. She rose, stretched, and looked around the nurses’ station, hoping for a box of donuts, cupcakes, cookies, or anything sweet and non-nutritional. She’d been in and out of the surgical suite since six a.m. and breakfast was a fond memory, and she still had to do evening rounds before she left for the day. Unfortunately, there were no snacks to be found, which meant a trip to the cafeteria. Camille brushed a strand of hair out of her face, adjusted her long, light-brown ponytail, and headed to the elevators.
Camille approached the elevators with her mind on whatever might be the daily special in the cafeteria. She saw a neatly dressed figure standing there, who turned at her approach. It was the guy from earlier, Special Agent What’s-His-Name from the DEA.
“Hi again,” Andrew said with a tentative smile.
Camille nodded a greeting and punched the elevator button, as if that would make it go any faster. Hospital elevators were notoriously slow.
“What floor is the cafeteria on?”
“Second.” Camille crossed her arms and stared at the elevator doors. Her clog-shod foot beat an impatient staccato against the industrial-tiled floor.
Ohhhkay, Andrew thought. Doctor Gorgeous obviously wasn’t much for conversation, or else he’d pissed her off more than he thought during their earlier encounter. He hadn’t really noticed before, since she’d been sitting down at the time, but she was tall; at least six feet tall. Andrew was
6’2″ himself, so tall women didn’t bother him. He gave her a surreptitious once-over; he didn’t notice anything beneath the slightly wrinkled, green surgical scrubs with the hospital name scattered across them that would be a deterrent to his interest. He tried to get a peek at her ID badge, but her crossed arms made that impossible.
The elevator arrived and they both got in. Camille saw that the second floor had already been punched, so she moved to the side so others could get in. Andrew followed and stood rather close to her. Granted, the elevator was crowded, but still…she was acutely aware of the muscles beneath his sports jacket and a magnetic flutter in her belly. She was also aware that she was able to look him straight in his deep brown eyes. Camille stood six feet tall in her bare feet, so tall men appealed to her. He was in very good physical shape, judging from the way his slacks molded to his muscular thighs.
Someone bumped into him from his other side, which caused him to bump into Doctor Gorgeous. “Excuse me,” he apologized. She ignored him and kept her eyes trained on the floor indicator.
Camille was very glad when the elevator reached the second floor. Special Agent Man’s toned physique reminded her of what she was missing at home. She joined the wave of bodies that spilled out and advanced toward the smells of meatloaf, that day’s special.
Andrew followed Doctor Gorgeous’s swaying hips and bouncy ponytail as she strutted toward the cafeteria. The way she moved reminded him of a supermodel, although her temperament was more Naomi Campbell than Tyra Banks. By the time he reached the cafeteria, the woman was already in line at the hot food station. Andrew grabbed a tray and got behind her. “So, what’s good here?”
Camille turned and shot him a cool look. Seeing the look, Andrew explained, “I figured that since you probably eat here a lot, you could steer me toward the least poisonous fare.”
Camille pushed her tray forward. “The meatloaf, please, with mashed potatoes and green beans,” she addressed the server behind the steam table.
“Make that two,” Andrew added.
Camille continued to ignore him as she took her tray and added a small tossed salad, chocolate cake, and a medium soda cup. She paid for her lunch, got her drink at the soda fountain, and found an empty table near the microwaves. She bowed her head and said a silent grace before finishing with the sign of the cross. When she opened her eyes, she wasn’t entirely surprised to find the DEA guy sitting two chairs down and across from her.
“I admire a woman who says grace,” he commented as he dug into his food. “Are you Catholic? And this meatloaf is pretty good.”
Camille just stared at him. “Who are you?” she asked incredulously. The hospital was full of weirdoes and she just had to attract one today, and a federal law enforcement weirdo at that. But he was a cute, well-dressed weirdo, with his deep-set brown eyes framed by bushy eyebrows, and close-cropped hair. Which once again reminded Camille of how long it had been since she had the pleasure of a man’s company, both in and out of the bedroom.
“I’m not usually that forgettable,” he joked. Camille only offered a blank stare. “Look, I know we got off on the wrong foot earlier. I was just trying to find out what happened to one of my field agent trainees.”
Camille swallowed a mouthful of food. “You were rude.”
“So were you.”
Camille inclined her head in acknowledgment of her behavior.
“Let’s start over, shall we?” He stuck out his hand. “Special Agent Andrew Paxson, Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore district office.” He stuck out his hand.
Camille shook it warily. “Dr. Camille Bastille, neurosurgeon.” Her pager went off and she looked down at the display. “Dammit! Look, I gotta go.” She looked down at her mostly untouched lunch. “Here. You can have this.” She pushed the tray toward him and rushed out of the cafeteria. Andrew stared after her, and then stared back at her full tray thoughtfully as he finished his lunch.
Much later, Camille once again updated patient charts at the nurses’ station. She’d been in back-to-back surgeries for the past six hours; her lunch had been interrupted by a multiple car collision and she had various brain and limb injuries to deal with. She nibbled on a stale bag of potato chips from the vending machine, since she was planning to go straight home once her charting was done. Maybe she’d order some Chinese food, and made a mental note to call in the order as she was leaving the hospital.
“Oh, Camille, I forgot to tell you that this was dropped off for you.” Firenza Mazzatera, one of the floor nurses, plopped a plastic bag of Styrofoam takeout containers in front of her.
“For me?” Camille was puzzled as she opened the bag. “Do you know who it was?”
“Some kind of cop, but a well-dressed one. Probably federal, since local doesn’t dress that good, even on a Sunday. Blazer, dark slacks, pink shirt. He left this up here about thirty minutes ago.” Firenza craned her neck to see the contents of the bag. “And he had the body of life under those clothes. I tell you what, though: he could search and seize me anytime.”
Camille chuckled even as she silently agreed. Special Agent Andrew Paxson was as fine as frog’s hair, as her sisters used to say. He probably was off-the-charts hot in uniform, and a vision of him in a tight, black T-shirt with black cargo pants, combat boots, and a gun strapped to his thigh made her want to salivate. Instead she popped the lid on the topmost box to reveal the garden salad she’d added to her lunch—a fresh salad, with a plastic cup of creamy Italian dressing resting atop it. The next box contained the chocolate cake and the largest box held meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
“He brought you lunch? Or rather,” Firenza checked her watch, “dinner? That’s so sweet!”
“No. I mean, yeah. I mean,” Camille struggled to explain in the face of Firenza’s interested look. “I had just sat down to lunch when I got paged, and he was at my table. I told him he could have it; I didn’t expect for him to bring it back to me.”“Well, that was a very nice thing for him to do. The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.”
“Isn’t it ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’?” Camille teased.
Firenza shrugged. “I’m Italian. We don’t believe that food is gender-specific when it comes to love.” She grinned and walked off to answer a patient’s call bell.
Camille looked down at her leftovers and smiled. Even if it was courtesy of the hospital cafeteria, it was nice to be taken care of. Maybe Special Agent Andrew Paxson wasn’t so weird after all.
The next afternoon, Camille heard her name on the overhead speaker and went to the nurses’ station. “Someone had me paged?”
The nurse pointed to the desk phone. “You have a phone call, Dr. Bastille. Line three.”
Who would be calling me on the hospital phone? Camille picked up the receiver and punched the blinking button for line three. “Dr. Bastille,” she answered.
“Special Agent Paxson.”
Despite herself, Camille smiled. “How did you get this number?”
“Well, I wish I could tell you that I flexed my computer magic and hustled some government databases, but the truth isn’t that exciting. I called the nurses’ station and asked them to page you, since I didn’t have your pager number. “
“Ingenious. Why did you have me paged?”
“I was hoping you’d have dinner with me.”
Camille’s mouth dropped open from shock. Investigator Paxson wanted to take her out on a date?
“Hello?” Andrew tapped his phone playfully. “Microphone check, one, two, one, two.”
“I’m here,” Camille finally responded. “Just surprised, that’s all.”
“Why so surprised? I’m sure you get asked out all the time.”
“All attention isn’t wanted.”
Andrew was intrigued by the rancor in her voice. “Well, if you turn me down, I’ll just keep it moving. You’ll stay in my heart, but my heart will go on.”
Camille tried to figure out why those words sounded so familiar. “Wait…are you really quoting lyrics from the love theme to Titanic?”
“Near, far, wherever you are,” Andrew intoned in a playful monotone.
Camille couldn’t help but laugh. Andrew was a bit of a nut.
“So does this mean you’ll allow me to take you to dinner?”
“I should probably leave well enough alone, but why?”
“Why do you want to go out with me? I mean, I haven’t exactly been nice to you.” Camille was fed up with men who wanted to be seen with her in order to boost their pathetic egos, as if she were a Birkin bag, or whatever the male status symbol equivalent of a Birkin bag would be. She was no one’s trophy. If Andrew was one of those men, she needed to know now so she could dismiss him and be done with it.
There was a hint of challenge in her question. Andrew instinctively knew that if he answered incorrectly—as in, made some comment about her insane, model-quality looks—Camille would curb him so fast, he’d get a ticket for a moving violation. “Tall, crabby women in surgical scrubs are hot.”
Camille tried to hold back a grin but failed. Seemed like self-help author Sherry Argov was right: men really do love bitches. She fidgeted with the half pack of donuts in her lab coat pocket. “My schedule is pretty crazy…”
Andrew cut her off. “When’s your next day off?”
“Tuesday.” Six days away, but it seemed an eternity when you’d been working fourteen-hour days for the past three days.
“Let’s plan for Tuesday evening at seven. Is there anywhere you’d like to go in particular? What’s your favorite food?”
Camille’s restaurant experience had been limited to takeout and delivery lately, though she loved to treat herself to new places on her rare days off. “Well, I heard some of the doctors raving about this new seafood place in Ellicott City, although I can’t remember the name offhand. I love seafood.”
“I’m a DEA Agent; I think I can track it down. I’ll make reservations for Tuesday evening. So baby, what’s your phone number? How can you be reached on a lonely night?”
Camille shook her head and tried to bite back a smile. “Morris Day and The Time? Are you serious?”
“Yeah, but don’t forget that they are called The Original 7ven now. Just don’t tell me your number is 777–9311. If you don’t like it, you can slap my face.”
They exchanged numbers, and Camille saved his into her hospital-issued cell phone before dropping it back into her lab coat pocket. “Well, I won’t hold you,” Andrew said. “I’m sure you have people to cut, sutures to sew. So I’ll simply say so long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, goodbye.”
This time Camille laughed out loud. “The Sound of Music?”
“Hey, I’m a Renaissance type of guy. Later, Camille Bastille.”
Camille hung up the desk phone and went about the rest of her day with a smile on her face. The smile returned a few days later when she came out of a surgery to relieve pressure inside the brain of a patient who’d been in a car accident. She noticed the brightly colored arrangement of flowers sitting atop the rear counter of the nurses’ station. “Who got flowers?” she asked as she pulled up the patient’s chart on a computer.
“You did,” one of the nurses grinned.
“Me?” Camille frowned in confusion. “Who would be sending me flowers?” The last time she got flowers was on her birthday in September, and they were from her parents.
“That’s what we want to know. We’ve been dying for you to come out of surgery,” another nurse added.
“We were tempted to steam the envelope open over a humidifier, or take it down to Sterile Processing,” a third nurse added.
They all watched with greedy eyes as Camille approached the bouquet and bent to sniff the colorful blooms. She loved flowers and kept fresh ones around her house as often as possible. She dug around to find the envelope stuck in a long plastic fork. Her fingernails were too short to rip the envelope open so she unbent a paperclip and used it as a makeshift letter opener. She removed the card and read the message:
Girl, you must have lost your way from heaven. Could it be for me, you came so far? —Andrew
“Angie Stone and Calvin Richardson,” she murmured as a bright smile crept unbidden across her face.
“What did she say?” Nurse Two asked.
“I think it’s from a guy named Calvin,” Nurse One replied.
Camille simply shook her head and tucked the card inside the breast pocket of her scrubs. She kept her Kool-Aid grin as she finished her charting. When she was done she sent Andrew a text, since she figured he was busy doing whatever he did for the DEA.
Thx for the flowers. Gorgeous! I’m the envy of Surg Dept. — CB
She got a reply seconds later.
A real man knows a real woman when he sees her…
Camille felt a flutter in her belly as she remembered the rest of that lyric from the popular Alicia Keys song: …and a real woman knows a real man ain’t afraid to please her.
Want an autographed copy? Go over to the website and take advantage of the Holiday Hangover sale (use code HANGOVER2015). Paperback version only. Sale ends January 31, 2015.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
TIFFANY M. DAVIS is an award-winning writer who has previously contributed to three published anthologies and various literary publications. A graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, DC and a former chef, she currently resides in the Atlanta, GA area.