The vase of vibrant red roses were placed in Dr. Jensen's hands by a grinning
nurse, who couldn't resist making a teasing a comment to the flustered young intern.
Dawn blushed furiously in response as she gently brushed aside the fragrant petals
in search of a card.
Hidden behind a column, Nikolas watched her. He had instructed the florist to include only one line, "Let's start over," without adding a signature. And, as Dawn slowly read the card and mouthed the words, he knew that his orders had been followed. Deciding that it was now safe to reveal himself, he moved from around the column and strode to her.
Upon his footsteps, her gaze traveled from the roses to his smiling, bruised face. Waving a white handkerchief in his hand, he said, "Truce?"
"These are from you?" she asked in a husky voice.
He was stunned as her eyes suddenly sparkled with a mixture of shyness and desire. His breath caught in his throat and it took a second before he could respond. "Y-Yes… I wanted to see if we could…"
"Start over?" she asked, looking up at him through her long, thick lashes.
Mesmerized, he simply nodded.
"I'd like to apologize for what happened and for what didn't happen."
Confusion freed him from his stupor. "I don't understand. What didn't happen?"
"I didn't call you…later, and I should have. I let anger dictate my behavior. I was rude, and I'm sorry. How's your face?" She tentatively reached out her hand to touch his cheek.
Nikolas closed his hand over hers, allowing her softness to ease the lingering pain for just a few moments before he released her hand. "It feels much better now."
"I'm sorry that Frank hit you."
"I'm fine. I hardly felt it," Nikolas remarked with a shrug. Feeling his temper rise as he thought of Frank, he shifted the conversation to a more interesting topic. "I have missed you this past week. Do you think that we could catch up over dinner tonight? I realize that it's short notice, but I can't help but hope that you will agree to dine with me."
Dawn inhaled the blossoms and smiled at him. Regret shone in her brown eyes as she shook her head. "I can't tonight. I'm on call. I wish that I could. Maybe we could do it some other time…?"
Nikolas shook his head. "The offer was just for tonight-"
"-Oh," she interjected with disappointment. "I see."
"I am not sure that you do," he said, a smile forming on his lips. "I knew that you were on call tonight. I thought that we could have dinner together during your evening break."
"I don't really get breaks when I'm on call. It's more like grab a bite when you can." She took a step back in the direction of the staff lounger. "I appreciate the thought, though. I'll see you around-"
"Tonight!" he said more sharply than he had intended. He joined her as she moved towards the lounge. "I have no pressing engagements. I can grab a bite whenever you can tonight. I really would like to do this tonight."
"You're rather persistent about tonight," she commented as they reached the closed lounge door. Pausing to look up at him, she asked, "Is there something going on that I need to know?"
Heat rushed to his face, turning his cheeks pink. Taking a deep breath, he ignored the betrayal of the blush and answered her honestly. "Just that I don't want to waste another evening. I want to make up for the time we lost. So, yes," he said with a sheepish grin, "I guess I am rather persistent about tonight, but I won't ask again. Dr. Jensen?"
Dawn moved the vase to the crook of her arm and then took a step closer to Nikolas. Standing on tiptoe, she stretched to lightly touch his lips with hers. The kiss was over as quickly as it had begun and she then answered him. "I don't want to waste another evening either. Dinner tonight would be fine."
Defiance glittered brightly in Stone's bright eyes. The muscles in his jaw worked
as the heat of anger flushed his face. Dr. Jones, Robin and Sonny stood staring
down at him, discussing him and he was irritated. He didn't like the doctor's tone
of voice when he spoke to him. He didn't like the way the girl's eyes became watery
when she looked at him. And he certainly didn't like much of anything about Sonny.
Keesha had told him that they all cared about him, but being around that trio did
not feel right to Stone.
"Are you sure he's okay to go home?" Robin asked, plaintively. Upon the sound of her voice, Stone released a loud audible sigh and her hand reached out to cover his. Under her touch, he twitched slightly but otherwise, remained still.
"He can't stay here forever," Sonny reminded her. "Being out of here will do him some good. He needs to be around people who care about him."
"Of course, things may be difficult at first," Tony admitted. "Everything is new to him. And I do mean everything. There will be a period of adjustment and you should also prepare yourselves for disappointment. He's not the Stone that you all knew-"
"Tony, please," Robin cut him off. "You've said that before. We're prepared to get to know the new Stone."
"I don't see how he's changed that much," Sonny added. "Sure, he's finally gotten a haircut, but other than that-"
"He's not the man you knew. In fact, he's not even a man-"
Tony looked at first Robin and then Sonny. He glanced at Stone for a brief second, who responded by staring back at him. Tony then quickly directed his gaze to Robin again. "I meant what I said. He man look like a man on the outside, but mentally, he's a child. I know that you love him, but the love you feel for him is something he doesn't understand. It's something that he may never understand. I'm not saying this to hurt you, Robin, but this something that you have to realize-"
"I realize that you may not believe in miracles, but I do," she said, jutting her chin out. Squeezing Stone's hand, she said, "You didn't think he'd survive the accident and he did. His life is living proof that miracles do happen. Stone's in there and in time, he'll come out again. You'll see."
Perspiration glistened on Jason's forehead and trickled down the side of his face.
He paused for just a moment to wipe it away with the back of his hand. Taking a
deep breath, he balled up his fist and drove it into the waiting punching bag. Matt,
who was holding the bag, gave Jason a long hard look.
"Just hold the bag," Jason advised him.
"That's what I'm doing," Matt responded.
"Good." Jason pounded more punches in rapid succession. The two men worked together in silence until thirty minutes had passed and Jason was finally spent. As they toweled off and gulped Gatorade, Jason felt Matt's eyes on him. "What?"
"Funny, I was about to ask you that." Matt tossed his empty bottle into the trashcan. "What's up?"
"Just working off some steam," Jason said, shrugging. "We all have to at some point."
"Does this steam have a name?"
"You're fishing," Jason said. He swallowed the remaining thirst quencher and turned his back on Matt as he threw his empty bottle into the trash.
"I thought we were friends," Matt began.
"We are," Jason said, turning around to face him, "but some things are better left unsaid."
Matt nodded. "So this is about Keesha…"
Jason's warm blue eyes turned icy. "Like I said, some thing are better left unsaid. I'm working off some steam. That's all it is."
"Dr. Ward," Dr. Ellen Burgess called out, "I'd like a word with
"Yes?" Keesha said. She set her patient's clipboard on the counter as she looked at her supervisor and mentor. "You sound serious. Is something wrong?"
Ellen looked around the Nurse's Station. There were several nurses milling around the area. Chris was within earshot as well. Ellen tapped her favorite swivel pen against the palm of her hand as she looked at Keesha again. "I'd rather discuss this in private. Let's go to my office."
"Okay," Keesha said. She grabbed the clipboard and then followed Ellen down the hallway. After the office door was closed behind them, Keesha asked, "Have I done something wrong? Is this about a patient?"
"Not exactly," Ellen began. She waved toward a guest chair as she sat down behind her desk. "Please, sit down. I'm sure that you are aware of the emphasis I put on professionalism-"
"I have been unprofessional!"
"I wasn't speaking about you…exactly," Ellen responded.
"If not, me… Who are you talking about and why does it concern me?"
"Jason and you are involved," Ellen said, with a pointed glance at the ring that sparkled on Keesha's finger. "I am by no means attempting to pry into your private affairs, but I sense that something has happened between the two of you."
Keesha moved to the edge of the chair. "Neither Jason nor myself have ever allowed our personal relationship to interfere with our work. Furthermore, I don't see how what happens between us is any of your business-"
Ellen raised her hand to silence the rest of Keesha's impassioned speech. "Under normal circumstances, I would agree with you. I certainly would not want anyone commenting on my personal life, and I would not comment on yours if not for the complaints I've received."
"Complaints?" Keesha repeated in a whisper. "About me?"
"About both of you," Ellen corrected her.
"What kind of complaints?" the younger woman asked as a worried frown marred her brow. "From patients?"
"The patients have remarked that both your and his bedside manner is not as personable as it has been in the past. Actually, the complaints have been from your colleagues. While I cannot repeat what was said to me in confidence, I will suggest that you two work out whatever it is before it causes any harm."
Shaken, Keesha mumbled, "Thank you, Dr. Burgess." She clutched the clipboard in her hand as she rose from the chair. "Dr. Burgess?"
"Have you spoken to Jason about this?"
Ellen shook her head. "I haven't, yet. I intend to speak to him when he comes on this evening."
"Okay," Keesha said, quietly. "Thank you, Dr. Burgess."
Keesha slipped from Ellen's office with her mind deep in thought. Every day she felt herself drifting farther away from Jason, but she had never suspected that her deepest feelings would affect her work performance. "Do no harm" was a vow that Keesha took to heart. Goosebumps covered her arms, as she feared that she might inadvertently break that promise.
She knew that Ellen had been right. Keesha and Jason needed to talk and putting the conversation off wouldn't help either of them in the long run.
With her mind made up, she headed back to the Nurse's Station. When she reached the counter, she asked Grace to hand her the roster. As Grace gave her the roster and turned away, Keesha suddenly felt a tingling sensation sweep over her body. Without turning around, she knew that someone was staring at her.
Pulled by magnetic energy, Keesha's eyes were drawn to the silent figure whose gaze was unwavering as he looked at her. Warmth spread through her as Stone offered her a faint smile. She returned his smile and for a moment, time stood still as they simply looked at each other.
Then all too soon, the moment was lost. The elevator came and Stone left. It was only after the doors had closed that Keesha realized that Stone had not been alone and that Robin and Sonny had been with him. Embarrassment came over her in waves and she didn't know which hit her the hardest.
…Not noticing Robin, one of her best friends? Or noticing the effect that Stone was beginning to have on her?
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