I is for Ian - Page 29


“Are you sure?” Carl asked. “I wouldn’t want to put you out.”

“Nonsense,” he said. “Both of you, please. The staff have their own quarters and hidden areas they like to dig into. I can use a cot in there if I need to, or I can sleep on the couch in the office area if I need a short nap. But there is a room that’s a living quarter, and it has a bathroom and a bed. A proper one. I could probably wheel a cot in there so both of you have something to sleep on.”

“I would appreciate that,” Carl said. “My back would, for sure.”

Dr. Sutton handed a key to me, and I took it.

“Thank you,” I said, shocked.

“Honestly, between us, I think it’s ridiculous the whole thing upstairs,” he said, lowering his voice. “I understand that it’s a prestige thing, and that it makes the hospital look good, but I don’t need a third of a floor up there. It’s so much space. It was all the board’s idea, not mine. I was happy with my tiny office with a cot and a bathroom. All this fancy stuff is just that—fancy stuff. I only care about the work.”

“Thank you, Dr. Sutton,” I said. “We both really appreciate this.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll have someone deliver another cot into the bedroom in a bit. If I need a nap, I’ll use the couch. I don’t foresee myself sleeping more than an hour at a time, and I don’t like getting in a bed unless I’m getting more than three hours.”

With that, he walked away, and Carl and I looked at each other. We were both in complete shock.

“Well,” Carl said, “What the fuck was that?”

I laughed and nodded.

“Exactly.”

17

MINA

It was getting extremely late, and my eyes were having trouble staying open. Even walking around wasn’t doing much to keep me awake as every time I stopped for any reason, my body took that as a cue to start shutting down. Leaning against a wall was a recipe for disaster. Sitting in a chair would be tantamount to giving up.

Forcing myself to the coffee machine over and over throughout the evening, I kept plying myself with caffeine to keep going. It was artificial, but it was something. I would have to pay for it eventually. That was how caffeine was. You didn’t really get extra energy. You just borrowed from energy you would have later.

Now, as the clock kept plowing through the single-digit hours, I felt myself reaching the end of where I was going to be functional enough to keep going and not make mistakes. The hospital had gotten so quiet with only a handful of patients and the two doctors besides me. It left the whole building feeling eerie and like at any moment I was going to come across a ward of vampires or zombies, rising up to take over the fractured, postapocalyptic earth.

Perhaps I needed to lay off the late-night horror movies for a bit.

This wasn’t the first time, not by a long shot, that I had been there during a snowy late night. The mountains of Tennessee often afforded me the opportunity to be holed up inside those walls while Jack Frost battered the towns surrounding us, including my home in Ashford. Often, I wasn’t able to even get home until some of the snow would have already melted off my roof and caused my gutters to begin leaking like someone had turned on a hose.

So, while the place was weirdly quiet and empty, it wasn’t like what I was doing was wildly out of the ordinary. I had to keep that in mind. This was all basically normal. No reason to get freaked-out at all.

Those shadows on the wall of the breakroom were totally normal.

I walked by the hallway leading from the ER to the triage surgery unit and glanced out of the windows. The window overlooked the mountains leading down the east side of the state, heading toward North Carolina. I stopped and stared for a moment; the irrational fears gone.

It was gorgeous.

There were times that I questioned why I stayed in Ashford. Times when I wondered if maybe moving to a place with more people and more things to do might make me happier. I had always been a pretty simple girl who enjoyed hiking and camping, but there was an allure to big cities and bright lights at times. But this, this was worth staying for.

The sky was dark and heavy, and snow was swirling down in heavy clumps. The mountains peeked through the white, barely visible except as shapes, but they glistened in what little light was available from the night’s sky. For all the danger that the snow presented, for all the chaos it had caused the hospital already, there was a humbling nature to the vision of white fluff piling high in the valley below the window and the mountains across.


Tags: Natasha L. Black Romance
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