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Night's Sweet Caress

Night's Sweet Caress

Posts : 46
Join date : 2009-10-13
Age : 56
Location : North Carolina

PostSubject: Affairs of the Heart   Sat 17 Oct 2009, 11:43 pm

Author - Night's Sweet Caress

Rating - Mainly "R" but could be NC17 in spots

Disclaimer - I don't own anyone in this story. It's a work of fiction.

Summary - Love has a way of derailing the best of plans. Two women with nothing in common but a shared passion for surgery clash at every opportunity, especially when matters of the heart are suddenly at stake. Can these two strong willed women overcome their differences and find love? Or will their ambition to succeed keep them apart?

Chapter 1:

The instant Kellie Waters ducked through the archway into Perelman Quadrangle she was accosted by a wall of sound so overwhelming she nearly turned around and left. The block-wide flagstone square flanked on all sides by the Collegiate Gothic and High Victorian brick buildings that typified the University of Pennsylvania, was jammed with three hundred fourth-year medical students medical students. With music, beer, and convivial shouts, the members of the graduating classes from Philadelphia’s four medical schools boisterously celebrated the most important event of their professional careers to date. Match Day was the long-awaited day when a computer program….having factored the variables of student rankings, interview results, and residency choices into a complex formula….ultimately assigned each fourth-year medical student from every medical school in the United States to a single residency position. At least 95 percent of the fourth-year students matched, and the other 5 percent were left to scramble madly for the final unfilled positions or go without a job after years of grueling study.

Early May evenings were still a little cool, and Kellie wore a pale yellow cotton sweater over a white Oxford shirt, khaki chino, and docksiders. Terminally preppy, she’d often been told. It wasn’t so much a style statement as how she felt most comfortable, so she generally ignored the good-natured, and sometimes not so genial, comments of her friends. She definitely wasn’t in the mood for a party and hadn’t bothered to change after a day spent on the wards. In fact, she barely felt as if she belonged with the revelers. Before she could dwell on the odd sense of detachment that had befallen her the moment she’d been handed the envelope containing her match results, the jostling, shouting mass of students magically shifted out of her way. Now that she could see more than the back of the neck of the person in front of her, she made out at least a half dozen kegs of beer, all tapped and dispensing foamy brew nonstop, and twice as many catering tables set end to end and littered with half-empty bottles of liquor and soda. Somewhere, a rock band competed with the human voices through speakers that must have been fifteen feet tall, if the blaring decibels that beat against her tympanic membranes were any indication. Everyone was celebrating, or drowning their sorrows.

Kellie didn’t yet know which fate awaited her, joy or anguish. The envelope that held the key to her future, or at least the next five years of her life, was tucked into her back pocket. She was on the verge of escaping; having decided that she would rather share this moment with hundreds of others. Particularly when she expected to be disappointed.

“Hey!” A wiry African American man a dozen years older than her own twenty-three pushed his way to her side. “You made it. I thought you were going to bail.”

“Rounds ran late, and then two packed subway cars passed me by.” Kellie smiled at Mike Johnson. It seemed like only days, and not three years, since they had introduced themselves over the white plastic-shrouded form of their cadaver. Although they had initially had little in common other than their desire to be physicians, the many Saturday afternoons they had spent alone in the eerie lab, bent over the desiccated, foul-smelling remnants of what had once undoubtedly been a vital human body, surrounded by death as they struggled to understand the mysteries of life, had forged the bonds of true friendship. She squeezed his arm and forced excitement into her voice. “So? Tell me. What did you get?”


“Just like you wanted.” She threw her arms around his slim shoulders and kissed his cheek. “That’s terrific. I’m so happy for you. Where?”

His smile, already brilliant, widened, and with shy pleasure, he tilted his head toward the towering visible above the campus Commons. “Right here.”

Kellie struggled not to let him see her reaction, which was a mixture of jealousy and disappointment. He’d gotten one of the best positions available in a highly competitive field. His dreams were about to come true. But it wasn’t Mike’s fault that she hadn’t been able to pursue her dream with the same freedom that he had. She was truly happy for him, but her heart hurt. She forced a smile. “University Hospital. That’s…that’s the best news, Mike. What did your wife say?”

Mike laughed. “Jackie said I better not stay too late. She wants to take me out to dinner.”

“Then you should probably get going, buster.” Kellie frowned and tapped her Casio. “It’s already after seven.”

“I will. I will. But what about you?” He turned sideways, pressing close to allow a gaggle of excited students to shoulder past. “Did you get surgery?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?”

She shrugged sheepishly. “I haven’t looked yet.”

“What? What are you waiting for?”

You wouldn’t understand if I told you. I don’t understand it myself.

She was saved from answering when Mike’s cell phone rang. He pulled it off his belt and pressed it to his ear, shouting hello. A moment later he closed the phone and bent close to her.

“I have to go. Jackie got a babysitter and says I’m to come home right now.”

“Then you’d better go. Another month and you won’t have that many nights to spend with her.”

“Call me,” Mike said as he eased away. “Call me tomorrow and tell me what you got.”

She nodded, realizing as she lost sight of him that she was surrounded by strangers. She didn’t know the students from the other schools and rarely socialized with those from her own. She’d been part of the accelerated combined BS/MD program at Penn State and had begun her clinical rotation at Jefferson Medical College off cycle with the other students. Unlike her classmates, she’d preferred to study in her Center City high-rise apartment and not the medical school library. During her clinical years, she spent her days in the hospital, took night call every third or fourth night, and had rarely repeated a rotation with the same group of students. She had acquaintances but few friends, at least not in the medical community. Now with Mike gone, she had no reason to stay. I shouldn’t have come. I’m not even a part of this.

Suddenly angry, she turned abruptly, intent on leaving. Her head snapped back as her chi slammed into the face of a chestnut-haired woman, and when her vision cleared, she found herself staring into stunned brown eyes. At almost five-two, Kellie was used to be shorter than a lot of women, and she wasn’t surprised to be looking up at the other woman. What surprised her was the brunette’s lip was bleeding, and by the sudden pain in her jaw. “God. Sorry.”

“Ow! Christ.” Katharine McPhee brushed a finger over her bruised lip. It came away streaked with blood. “Score one for your team.”

“Oh no.” Kellie reached out automatically. “You split your lip.”

Katharine caught Kellie’s wrist and held her hand away from her face. “It’s okay. Forget it.”

Katharine surveyed her assailant intently. She didn’t know her, because she was certain she would have remembered had they met. A few inches shorter than herself, straight, longer than shoulder-length blonde hair, and sapphire blue eyes. With her fresh features and clear complexion, she was a walking J. Crew ad. “You’re going to have a hematoma on your chin.”

“Feels like it.” Kellie agreed, fingering the already palpable lump. “We both need ice.”

Katharine grinned, then winced. “Lucky for us there’s about a ton of it here.” She held out her hand. “Come on. Follow me.”

Kellie stared at the outstretched hand. The fingers were long, capable looking. A strong looking hand. It suited the woman, whose swimmer’s build was obvious beneath her tight navy T-shirt and low slung faded jeans. Her brown hair, which fell over her shoulders in waves, framed a heart shaped face. She looked like a model, or possibly a dancer than a soon-to-be doctor. Kellie took the hand, and warm fingers closed around her own. Then, she was tugged none too gently into the crowd. In order to avoid playing human bumper cars with those being forced out of her path, she pressed against the back of the woman leading the way.

“What’s your name?” she shouted.

The brunette half turned in her direction. “Katharine. You?”


“Stay close, Kellie.” Katharine clasped the blonde’s hand more tightly and pulled it around her middle, drawing Kellie near as she faced forward and kept moving. “Wouldn’t want to lose you.”

Kellie felt firm muscles rippling beneath her palm as the brunette twisted and turned and forged ahead. She was equally conscious of her own abdomen pressed to Katharine’s backside. It was oddly intimate, and wholly unlike her. She was neither impulsive nor prone to letting others take charge. But here she was, being led….no, dragged… along by a stranger. She hadn’t felt like her usual self-sufficient self for far longer than she wanted to admit, so she told herself that was the reason she didn’t resist. Plus, she was curious. Curious about the woman who so confidently cut a swath for them as if she owned the Commons.

“Hey, Katharine,” a man called out. “You’re bleeding.”

“No shit,” Katharine called back. “Brilliant. You must almost be a doctor.”

Raucous laughter followed them, until Kellie jerked the brunette to a stop. “Hey! Hold on a minute and turn around.”

Surprised by the strength in the arm encircling her waist and the command in the smooth voice at her ear, Katharine halted and angled around in the crowd. “What?”

“Did you ever think to ask if I wanted to go where you’re going?”

“Nope. I’m a take-charge kinda person.”

“Well, so am I.” She extracted her hand from Katharine’s grip and studied her lip. “And he’s right. You’re bleeding pretty briskly. Do you have a handkerchief?”

The brunette laughed. “Come on. Do you?”

Kellie smiled and shook her head, then tapped a young red-haired woman in a scrub suit on the shoulder. “Can I have that napkin, please?” She pointed to the paper square beneath the woman’s plastic cup.

“Huh?” The red head gave them a curious look, her eyes widening as she focused on the brunette’s face. “Oh Katharine. Baby. Look at you. What happened?”

“She hit me.” Katharine stated matter-of-factly, nodding toward the blonde.

“Now wait a minute.” Kellie protested as she watched the red head’s expression change from surprise….jealousy. Jealousy? She took a good look at the brunette….at the way she tilted her hips forward suggestively while smiling at the red head, the way her eyes unconsciously flickered over the woman’s mouth, at the lazy grin. She’s seen that look before….on men. Oh. So that’s the way it is.

The red head visibly bristled. “What do you mean, she hit you?”

Kellie edged away. Time to get out of the line of fire.

Laughing, Katharine reached out and reclaimed the blonde’s hand. “It was an accident, Mary.” She took the napkin and dabbed at her face, then looked at Kellie and indicated her lip. “Better?”

The petite blonde assessed the damage, ignoring the red head. “It’s slowing down, but you still need ice. It’s probably a branch of the labial artery.”

“Yeah, probably. Come on, almost there.” The brunette was about to turn away when Mary grasped her arm.

“Where did you match?” Mary asked, adding almost petulantly, “As if I didn’t know.”

“University.” Katharine replied, her eyes narrowing dangerously. Then she pointedly slipped her fingers through Kellie’s and pulled her against her side. “Let’s go.”

The blonde couldn’t move away as the crowd automatically shifted to fill the slightest available space. “Look, I have to….”

“You’re not going anywhere fast,” Katharine said, “and your face is swelling.”

“Fine. Go.”

It took another five minutes of determined effort, but eventually they reached the tables where the drinks were being dispensed. Huge coolers lined the sidewalk. The brunette collected two plastic cupfuls of ice and handed one to the blonde. “Better hold one of these against your chin. You’re getting a pretty good bruise.”

Experimentally, Kellie worked her jaw from side to side, noting the tightness just in front of her ears. She sighed. “It looks like I’m going to be wearing my bite block for a week or so too.”

“TMJ?” Katharine wrapped the napkin around an ice cube and held it against her lip.

“Yes, but not too bad. Just every once in a while my jaw reminds me that I landed on my face too many times when I was a kid.”

“Climbing trees?” Somehow the brunette couldn’t see Kellie playing contact sports. She looked more like the tennis type. A good workout in a country club where you didn’t get dirty, barley worked up a sweat, and had lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant after your set was finished. She knew, because it had been her mother’s favorite pastime.

The blonde laughed, thinking of how much she had wished for tennis courts and a chance to play when she’d been young. “No, ice skating. I started when I was two, and I can’t tell you how many times I landed on my face while trying to do triple axels.”

“Olympic aspirations, huh?” Katharine could see her on a rink, a trainer nearby, choreographed music coming through the speakers. Yeah. That fits.

Though the brunette’s tone was teasing, for some reason, Kellie didn’t mind. She shook her head. “Nope. Always wanted to be a doctor. You?”

“Yeah. Pretty much always.” Something dark passed through Katharine’s eyes, making them dark, nearly black, and then was gone. She glanced at her free hand, which was streaked with dried blood. “I should go wash this off.”

The blonde recognized when a subject was off-limits. “I’ll go with you. I want to get a look at your lips once you get it cleaned up. You might need stitches.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, we’ll decide after we see it.”

The brunette grinned, ignoring the pain in her lips. She wasn’t used to letting anyone else call the shots. It was neither her nature nor the reputation she had acquired in the last four years. And because of who she was, others expected her to lead. It was refreshing to find someone who didn’t seem to care who she was. “Okay, Doc, whatever you say.”

“Very good.” Kellie said with an approving laugh. “But since you seem to be good at it, I’ll let you navigate.”

Once more, Katharine clasped the blonde’s hand in a motion so natural; Kellie barely gave it a thought. They stayed close to the buildings, skirting the crowds, until they reached Houston Hall. When they slipped inside the student center, the noise level mercifully fell.

“Oh, thank God.” The smaller woman murmured. “I might actually be able to think in a minute.” She glanced around the high-ceilinged room with its ornate carved pillars and marble floors. “These old buildings are amazing.”

“Where did you go to school?” The gorgeous brunette asked.


“Ha. We’re rivals.”

Kellie stopped, extricated her hand from Katharine’s grasp, and regarded her appraisingly. “Penn?”


The two medical schools, a mere twenty blocks apart, had sustained a rivalry since the eighteenth century. Over the decades, the competition had become more theoretical than real, but the students of each still claimed superiority.

“Well, then you better let me decide how bad the problem is.” The blonde said with utter sincerity.

“I might,” Katharine allowed, “if I didn’t care what my lip looked like when it was healed.”

They regarded one another, eyes locked in challenge, until their smiles broke simultaneously and they laughed.

“Let’s go upstairs,” the brunette suggested. “The bathrooms down here are going to be too crowded.” After years on campus, she knew the out of the way bathrooms that were never occupied, and quickly guided Kellie through the twisting hallways and up a wide flight of stone stairs. “Here we go.”

Katharine pushed the door open and held it for the blonde, who preceded her inside. There were three stalls, all empty. Kellie ran cold water in one of the sinks and pulled paper towels from the dispenser. She soaked several, folded them, and motioned for the brunette to lean over the sink. “I guess I don’t have to tell you this is going to sting.”

“I can do it.”

“I’m sure. But this way I can see what I need to see before you stir up the bleeding again.”

McPhee quirked an eyebrow. “You don’t have much faith in my skill.”

“Well, considering where you trained….” She carefully loosened the crusted blood below the pink surface of the brunette’s lip. “Damn. This goes right through the vermilion border, Katharine. You probably should get stitches.”

“Let’s get a look.” The taller woman leaned toward the mirror and squinted. “It’s not too deep. A Steri-Strip will probably take care of it.”

“And if it doesn’t, you’re going to have a very noticeable scar because of the color mismatch.” Kellie said pointedly.

“Jeez, you sound like a surgeon.”

“I hope so. That’s the plan.”

“Really? Where are you going?” It was the most common question of the day, but for Katharine, the day had held little excitement. She knew where she was going. She’d always known where she was going. Suddenly, she was much more interested in where Kellie would be going.

Embarrassed, the blonde sighed. “Actually….I don’t know.”

“Oh. Shit. Sorry. Look,” Katharine said hastily, “maybe I can help out. You know, with finding places that still have openings.”

Kellie frowned, trying to make sense of the brunette’s offer. Then, suddenly, she understood what she was saying. “Oh, no. It’s not that I didn’t match. Oh well---maybe I didn’t match, but…I just haven’t looked yet.”

“You’re kidding. You got your envelope three hours ago, and you haven’t looked yet? Why?”

Because I know it’s not going to say what I want it to say. She didn’t want to admit the truth, especially not to this woman, and struggled for an explanation. “I was tied up in rounds. I didn’t get a chance.”

Unexpectedly bothered by the blonde’s obvious discomfort, Katharine didn’t push for further explanation. “Do you have the envelope with you?”

Kellie nodded. “Right here.” Patting her back pocket.

“Well, come on. Let’s see it.”

For the first time, she actually wanted to know, and she wanted the brunette to be the one who shared the moment with her. It didn’t make any sense, but she felt it all the same. With a deep breath, she pulled the envelope from her pocket and opened it in one unhesitant motion. She slid out the card, and then without looking at it, passed it to Katharine.

The brunette looked down, read the words, and hid the swift stab of disappointment. “Surgery. Yale-New Haven.” She met the blonde’s eyes. “Good place. Congratulations.”

“Yes.” Kellie said, not surprised. Her tone was flat. “Thanks.”

“Well. Let’s see to the rest of you.”

“What?” the blonde asked, still trying to decipher the odd expression on Katharine’s face. For an instant, she’d looked sad.

The brunette handed the card back and cupped Kellie’s jaw with both hands. She saw the blonde’s eyes widen in surprise. “Open,” she said placing her thumbs over each temporomandibular joint. “Slowly, but go as far as you can.”

Kellie was aware of a rush of butterflies in the pit of her stomach and her face flushing. Katharine’s hands were not only strong, but gentle. They stood so close that their thighs brushed.

“Feels okay,” the blonde murmured as Katharine carefully circled the joints. Feels….wonderful.

The brunette slid her fingers along the border of the blonde’s jaw and over her chin. “Sore?”

Kellie shook her head. She couldn’t feel her chin. All she could feel was the heat of the brunette’s skin. She was breathing fast. So was the taller woman. Katharine’s eyes had gotten impossibly dark, so dark the pupils blended with the surrounding irises, creating midnight pools that she was absolutely certain she could drown in.

“Katharine.” she whispered. Whatever was happening, she couldn’t let it. But as she slipped further into the brunette’s eyes, she couldn’t recall why not. She forced herself to focus. “Don’t”

“Hmmm?” Katharine lowered her head, intent on capturing the hint of spice that was the blonde’s scent. She slid her hand around the back of Kellie’s neck as she very lightly kissed the tip of her chin where the bruise shadowed it. Her lips tingled and she tightened deep inside. “Better?”

“Much.” Kellie said teasingly, hoping to make light of the moment.

“It gets better.” The brunette said, her lids half-closed, her mouth closing in on the blonde’s.

“I…Katharine…wait…” Kellie’s cell phone rang, impossibly loud, and she jumped. She fumbled for it, unable to look away. Katharine’s mouth was an inch from hers when she whispered, “Hello?” She listened, staring at the pounding carotid in the brunette’s throat. “I thought you weren’t coming. Okay. Fine. I’m in the bathroom. I’ll be right out.” She closed the phone. Her voice was thick. “I have to go.”

“Why?” Katharine kept her hand on the back of Kellie’s neck and caressed her softly, tangling her fingers in the blonde’s hair. She knew what she saw in Kellie’s eyes. She’d seen it before, but it had never stirred her quite like this. “Got a date?”

“No.” Kellie said as she gently backed away, escaping Katharine’s grip, if not her spell. “It’s my husband.”

Standing absolutely still. The brunette said nothing as Kellie stepped around her and hurried out. When the door swung closed, leaving her alone, Katharine bent down and retrieved the forgotten white card. Kellie must have dropped it. She ran her thumb over the type, then slid the card into her breast pocket.

Goodbye, Kellie Waters.
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Avenging Angel

Avenging Angel

Posts : 22
Join date : 2009-10-15
Age : 30
Location : Alabama

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Sun 18 Oct 2009, 11:22 am

Totally fell in love with this story the first time around. We know that it will be just as awesome reading it again. Very Happy
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Cupid's Crooked Arrow

Cupid's Crooked Arrow

Posts : 42
Join date : 2009-10-13
Age : 26
Location : North Carolina

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Sun 18 Oct 2009, 3:43 pm

I adore this! It is so sweet, but also shows how a chance meeting can affect two people. Since i lived in the Philadelphia region for a time, I do know where this tale takes place. Having never read this before, I cannot wait until the next chapter is posted, to see what happens next. I love you Very Happy
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Wiccan Muse

Wiccan Muse

Posts : 12
Join date : 2009-10-14
Age : 39
Location : Somewhere in NC

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Mon 19 Oct 2009, 6:36 pm

I've always said that this story reminds me so much of Grey's Anatomy. I'm so glad that you decide to bring it over here, along with many of your other stories. Very Happy I love you cheers
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Wolf's Lonely Cry

Wolf's Lonely Cry

Posts : 15
Join date : 2009-10-15
Age : 40
Location : Mississippi

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Tue 20 Oct 2009, 7:56 pm

All right! You brought Affairs of the Heart over, Robyn! Love this amazing story and eagerly await reading this one again. I love you Very Happy
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Voice In The Darkness
Voice In The Darkness

Posts : 88
Join date : 2009-10-07
Age : 51
Location : California

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Tue 10 Nov 2009, 7:58 pm

One of your gifts is your writing. One of the gifts you give us is in sharing your writing. Thank you, NSC. This is an amazingly well written story, and has always been one of my favorites. I think it accurately portrays the reality of meeting another by pure chance. From the dialogue to being able to genuinely relate to the characters I commend you on a job well done. cheers Very Happy I love you
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Posts : 2
Join date : 2009-10-21

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Wed 11 Nov 2009, 12:01 pm

Bump! Update soon, please?
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Voice In The Darkness
Voice In The Darkness

Posts : 88
Join date : 2009-10-07
Age : 51
Location : California

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Sat 14 Nov 2009, 11:49 pm

I second that, update please wave smile
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Night's Sweet Caress

Night's Sweet Caress

Posts : 46
Join date : 2009-10-13
Age : 56
Location : North Carolina

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Sun 15 Nov 2009, 2:09 pm

I thank everyone for their wonderful comments. I know many of you enjoyed this story on IFF. I hope that you will continue to enjoy it over here. thanks

Chapter 2:

Four Yours Later

Just as Katharine pulled her robin’s-egg blue 1967 Thunderbird convertible into the parking garage on South Street next to the University Museum, her beeper went off.

“Shit,” she muttered as she tilted the small plastic rectangle to check the readout. Five a.m. and the chaos was starting already. The number, however, wasn’t one of the nurses’ stations in the twelve-story Rhoads Pavilion, which housed most of the surgical patients. It was the chairman’s office. And at that time of the morning, it wasn’t his secretary calling. It was him. “Fuck.”

She pulled the classic car into the angled slot in the far corner of the first floor next to the security guard’s tiny booth. It was a reserved space and one for which she paid premium rates, but she wasn’t about to let some idiot dent the vehicle that she had spent countless hours restoring. She knew all the guards would keep an eye on it. She tipped them every month in thanks. “Hey, Charlie,” she called as she climbed out.

“Good morning, Doctor.” The pencil-thin retired cop said. He wore his security guard uniform with the same pride with which he had worn the Philadelphia Police blues for thirty years. “Might better have left the baby home today. The news is calling for rain later. Could be snow if it gets a little colder.”

“I’ll leave the car here until spring, then.” She yelled as she jogged toward the street. Her cell phone wouldn’t work in the parking garage. And it wouldn’t matter to her if it rained or snowed, because she was on call for the next twenty-four hours and wouldn’t be leaving the hospital for at least thirty. “You take good care of my girl, now.”

Charlie laughed and sketched a salute as she disappeared up the ramp.

Once on the sidewalk, she thumbed the speed dial and punched in the number. When it was answered by the voice she anticipated, she said, “McPhee.”

“Would you stop by the office before rounds this morning?”

Although framed as a question, it wasn’t a request.

“Yes sir. I’m just outside the hospital.”

“Come up now, then.”

Katharine didn’t have time to reply before the call was cut off. Fuck.

She ran through the list of patients on the chairman’s service, wondering if something had gone wrong that she didn’t know about. The junior surgery resident who had been on call the night before knew that he was advising her of any problem, no matter how small. But other that several routine questions about transfusions and antibiotic coverage; she hadn’t gotten any calls of note. Despite the fact that her family home was only forty minutes away in Bryn Mawr and she could easily have had her own wing of the house and all the privacy she required, she lived in an apartment in West Philadelphia so that she could make it to the hospital in less than fifteen minutes. She did not like to be surprised by problems in the morning, and a call at this hour to be the chairman’s office could only be a problem. Fuck.

The elevator was empty when she got in. It stopped at the second floor to admit a bedraggled blond with dark circles under her eyes, a bloodstained Rorshach on the left thigh of her scrub pants, and a crumpled piece of paper in her right hand that she studied as if it was the Holy Grail. Katharine knew it was “the list”…an inventory of all the patients on the service to which the resident was assigned, with coded notations as to each patient’s admission date, date of surgery, procedure performed, most recent lab tests, and outstanding test results. The work of the day…or night…centered around the list and, if an attending surgeon were to call for an update on one of their patients, everything the resident needed to know was on that single piece of paper. Even though every resident carried a PDA and there were computers at every nurses’ station, the “list” still prevailed as the source of all vital info. Without it, more than one resident had found himself giving incomplete or incorrect information, and in short order, had been looking for a new job. At least once a day, some frantic resident could be seen rushing through the halls asking all and sundry, “Have you seen my list? I lost my list. Has anyone seen my list?”

“Hey, Tam.” Katharine said. “How you doing?”

Tammy Donaldson looked up from the page, blinking as if she had awakened from a dream. Then she smiled slowly, some of the fatigue leaving her eyes. “Hey you. I haven’t seen you at O’Malley’s recently. Have you been hiding, or has someone been monopolizing all your time?”

“Neither. But I’m senior on the chief’s service, and it’s been busy.”

“I know which service you’re on.” She moved a little closer in the elevator and put her hand on the brunette’s waist. She circled her thumb oh Katharine’s pale green scrub shirt, massaging the muscles underneath. “I pay attention to where you are. And you’re never too busy when you want something.”

The brunette moved back out of touching range, aware that they were slowing for the fifth floor. She didn’t want the doors to open and someone to see them. And she didn’t want Tammy’s attentions. At least, not right at the moment. “I gotta go. Take it easy, okay?”

“Call me. I’m on the onc service this month.” Tammy called as the brunette stepped off the elevator. “I could use some of your medicine, baby.”

Katharine lifted a hand in a parting wave, grateful that there was no one waiting in the hall who might’ve heard the comment. She didn’t care what her fellow residents knew or thought of her, but she preferred that her private business not become the topic of conversation among the administration. Well, at least not by her own invitation.

She walked along the maroon-carpeted hallway toward the large corner office. The staff surgeons’ offices were clustered in one corner of the fifth floor with the surgeons’ lounge adjoining them and the operating suites taking up the rest of the floor on the opposite side of the building. This arrangement enabled the surgeons to wait in their offices, working, until their cases were ready to go. Since it was a matter of routine for cases to begin late, it prevented lost time, something that every surgeon loathed. The secretarial spaces, separated from the hallway by waist-high partitions, were all empty. The office doors were closed. The administrative work of the day would not begin until eight thirty, and by that time, most of the surgeons would already be in the OR. She enjoyed the quiet, empty warren, and likened the stillness to the calm before the storm. She glanced at the yellow face of her Luminox sports watch and grimaced. Five fifteen. If this took more than a few minutes, she would be late meeting the other residents, and that was a bad precedent to set. As the most senior resident on the service, she organized the daily work schedule, assigned the more junior residents to assist on cases, and oversaw the night call rotations. She was always on time, of not early, because her behavior set the tone for her service, and she expected everyone to be prompt. She expected a lot of things, and if she didn’t, there was hell to pay.

She was the ultimate authority over all things resident-related on the chief’s service, the busiest of the general surgery services. The only individual in the hospital with more power within the resident hierarchy was the chief surgical resident, and he was in charge of his own service and outpatient clinic….for all practical purposes functioning as a junior attending with only minimal supervision from the attending surgeons.

“I hope this is quick.” She muttered as she approached the closed door to the chairman’s office. An unassuming plastic nameplate next to the door announced his name. Daniel McPhee, M.D., Chairman.

She knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

His desk was situated in the far corner of the room, angled so that he sat with his back to the two walls of windows, as if the outside world were a distraction or, at the very least, of no interest to him. It also allowed him to look at his visitors with the sun at his back, and in their eyes. He knew how position himself to advantage.

“Katharine,” he said, gesturing to the two armchairs in front of his broad walnut. The dark furniture and thick area rugs lent the room a traditional air, heavy and rich, and suited his style.

“Sir,” she said as she sat. The last time she’d seen him had been the previous afternoon when she’d assisted him on a low anterior colon resection. They’d said nothing to one another during the case, other than when she had provided him with the pertinent patient history and he had asked her to outline the plan for removing the constricting carcinoma that was lying in the patient’s pelvis. She’d answered succinctly and accurately. He’d said nothing until and hour and a half later, when he’d stepped back from the table and said, “I have a meeting. Close her up.”

He’d left without waiting for her reply. Now, the sound of his modulated baritone brought her back to the moment, and she realized she’d missed the first part of his sentence.


Katharine straightened, her forearms resting on the wooden arms of the chair. She was careful not to grip the armrests and allow him to see that she was nervous. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t get that.”

He frowned, his eyes raking over her. “I said, we’re adding a new resident.”

“In January?” The residency year ran from July to July, and it was very unusual for anyone to start off-cycle. In fact, she couldn’t remember ever having seen that happen.

“We’ve had an empty third-year slot since Elliot decided he couldn’t cut it. Now we have a body to fill it. Are you complaining?”

“No, sir, but why is he switching programs in the middle of the year?”

Daniel McPHee smiled wryly. “She.”

Katharine flushed, knowing that he would enjoy her inadvertent confirmation that surgical residents were usually men. She knew it was his opinion, and that of most of his contemporaries, that they should be men. She was one of the few exceptions in the program, and despite the fact that more female surgeons were trained every year, the specialty remained the last bastion of male privilege within medicine. She said nothing, wishing to avoid another trap.

“She’s technically a fourth-year, but she missed six months because of some….personal issues. Spent a few months in an emergency room, apparently.” His tone was both dismissive and disdainful. “But she has good credentials, and I know the chairman of her program. He says she has good hands.”

Coming from a surgeon, that was the highest compliment another surgeon could receive. It was better to be the most technically proficient than to be the smartest. Brains didn’t help much when you were face with a bleeding vessel and twenty seconds to stop it before the patient bled to death. The only thing that mattered then was the steel in your spine and the skill in your hands.

“When is she starting?”

“She should be here at seven.”


“Problem, Dr. McPHee?”

“No, sir.” She said quickly, reshuffling the day’s priorities in her mind. Every night before she left the hospital, she double-checked the surgery schedule to make sure that nothing had been changed without her knowledge. Nothing made a staff surgeon angrier than showing up for a case and discovering there was no resident available to assist him. Unfortunately, sometimes the secretaries cancelled or, worse, added cases without informing the resident in charge, and it was the resident who paid for the miscommunication. She’d already assigned today’s cases to her team, and she had no one who could orient the newcomer. “Uh, could Connie take care of her this morning, until I’m done with aneurysm?”

Connie Lang was the departments chair’s admin, and the go-to person for anything that the residents needed.

“Call Dzubrow and tell him to assist on the aneurysm. Whatever he’s doing in the lab can wait.”

She bit back a protest. An abdominal aortic aneurysm resection was a major case, and as the senior resident on service, it was hers. She needed every major case she could get if she wanted the chief surgical resident’s position the following year. Henry Dzubrow was her only real competition for the position among the other fourth-year residents, and he was supposed to be spending the next six months working in the shock-trauma lab. It seemed to her, though, that he was showing up in the operating room at every opportunity.

She stood, because she knew if she stayed much longer, she was going to complain about Dzubrow’s preferential treatment. And that would surely doom her. A surgery resident did not complain about anything. Period. She could still remember her first day and her father standing in front of the auditorium where the twenty-five new first-year residents sat nervously awaiting his instruction. His expression had been unreadable as his eyes had swept the room, passing over her face as if she were just one of the indistinguishable bodies. She could remember his words and knew that he’d meant them.

If you’re not happy here, all you need to do is come to me and say so. There are fifty people waiting for every one of your positions, and I can guarantee they will be happy to take your place. Never forget that being here is a privilege, not a right. He’s looked over the room one more time, his gaze settling on hers just a moment longer, it seemed, than on the others. Privileges can be lost.

“What’s her name?” she asked.

The chairman looked down at a folder on his desk. “Pickler.”


He said nothing, and she left, closing the door behind her without being asked. She took a deep breath and let it out, forcing down her anger and the frustration that always accompanied any kind of interaction with her father. The only time they ever seemed to be comfortable together was in the operating room. She probably should be used to it by now, but she wasn’t.


“Having a rough day already, Katharine?”

The brunette jumped in surprise and spun around. Connie Lang stood behind her balancing two cups of coffee in cardboard containers and a Dunkin’ Donuts bag.

“The usual.” Katharine said. “You’re starting a little early, aren’t you?”

Connie nodded toward the closed door. “He’s got a budget meeting at six thirty.” She smiled; a predatory gleam in her eye. “He knows the desk jockeys can’t think clearly this early in the morning, and he has a much better shot at getting exactly what he wants this way.”

“Doesn’t he always?”

Wisely, Connie said nothing. “He told you about the new resident?”

She nodded.

“She’s downstairs at the admissions desk. I heard her ask for directions to the surgeon’s lounge.”

“Jesus. Already?”

Connie smiled. “She’s eager. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Oh, sure. Can’t wait.” With a sigh, the brunette started toward the elevator. “I better go find her. What does she look like?”

“A few inches shorter than you. Nice looking. Just past the shoulder length blond hair. She’s wearing navy scrubs.”

“I’ll find her.” Katharine said, wondering just what Connie meant by nice looking. She was getting tired of dating the usual suspects…..nurses and other residents. She didn’t date anyone for very long and didn’t have much time to look elsewhere for new prospects, so new faces, especially pretty ones, were welcome. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

The brunette turned the corner toward the elevators and caught sight of a woman in navy blue scrubs at the far end of the corridor heading toward the surgeon’s lounge.

“Hey, yo!” She sprinted down the hall. “Are you the new---“ She skidded to a halt, her voice trailing off as she looked into the face she had not expected to see again. Kellie’s face had lost the soft fullness of youth and taken on the angular lines of full-blown womanhood. She looked tired, but that was to be expected. She looked leaner than the brunette recalled, too, as if she had taken up running in the intervening years.

“Are you….Pickler? We met…”

“Yes.” Kellie said quickly, not wanting to bring up the specifics of an interaction she still didn’t understand. She had expected to run into Katharine at some point, because she remembered her mentioning where she had matched. She just hadn’t expected it to be so soon, and not this way. “Katharine, right?”

“That’s right.” The brunette said, trying to fit the pieces together in her mind. The match card had said Kellie Waters. She knew, because it was still stuck in the corner of the mirror over her dresser. Why she’d never thrown it away, she wasn’t certain. Married name, she thought with a jolt. Pickler must be her married name.

“I, uh…I’m starting today.” The blonde said into the silence.

“I know.” Katharine tried to hide her shock. It didn’t matter who Kellie was. Didn’t matter that for just a moment four years ago they’d shared…something. She needed to stay on track, needed to regain control of the situation. “I’m your senior resident, and we’ve got two minutes to make it to rounds. “Follow me.” Then the taller woman turned and pushed through the fire door into the stairwell at the end of the corridor. Kellie hurried to keep up.

The senior resident? God, we’re going to be working together everyday for the next four or five months. She could only imagine what the brunette thought of her. She’d practically let Katharine….a total stranger….kiss her, in the bathroom of all places. And then, to make matters worse, she’d just walked out without a word. Could you have been any more stupid, or more unkind? She’d thought of those moments often over the years. It was a night she’d regretted ever since, for a multitude of reasons. With a deep breath, she put the memories of that brief interlude out of her mind. That was the past and had nothing to do wither current situation. There were much more important things to deal with now. “We’re on McPhee’s service, right?” Kellie asked of the brunette’s back. “The chief’s service?”

“Yeah.” They reached the bottom of the stairwell, and Katharine shouldered open the door, belatedly holding it open for the other woman. Reluctantly, she started her orientation spiel. It was the last thing she wanted to do at any time, but especially not right before rounds when it was going to cost her a great case. “Did Connie give you the breakdown of the services?”

“Not exactly.” She said, pulling even with the brunette, who had picked up her pace again. “This all happened kind of fast, and I only interviewed with Dr. McPhee a couple of days ago. Connie walked me through getting my ID, parking sticker, payroll information, and my employee health physical yesterday afternoon. Then she just told me I’d start on McPhee’s service today and that someone would pick me up at seven.”

“Did you meet any of the residents?”


Katharine clenched her jaw. It was perfectly within her father’s right as chairman of the department to hire anyone he wanted, but it was very unusual to interview a new resident without soliciting the input of at least one of the senior residents. He had obviously known for a few days that Kellie would be joining the service, but he hadn’t said anything to her. She’d been cut out of the loop, but then, no one ever said the hospital was a democracy.

“You didn’t know anything about it, did you?” the blonde said quietly. No wonder she’s peeved.

“Doesn’t make any difference.” The brunette stopped and turned to face her. The hospital was waking, and nurses and other personnel hurried through the halls around them, preparing for the shift change. They stood like an island in the sea of white, ignoring the passersby. “We’ve been down a resident since September---one of the third-year guys decided that he wanted to go into anesthesia. We carry fifty patients on the service and it’s every third night.”

Kellie blanched. “Every third? That’s rough.”

Katharine grinned and feral look came into her brown eyes. “We do things here the way they’ve been doing it for sixty years or so. We don’t cross-cover at night. Every surgical service has its own residents in house. I guess Connie didn’t tell you that, huh?”

“I’m sure it never crossed her mind.” Kellie said steadily. She’d gotten her balance back. She was being tested, and she didn’t intend to show weakness. “And if it had, it wouldn’t had made any difference. I was just surprised.”

“Yeah, well, like I said. It’s not the norm, but it’s the way we do it here.”

“No problem.”

“We make dry rounds every morning in the cafeteria at five thirty. That means you have to see your patients before then. We need a rundown of vital signs, I and Os, updates on lab tests, that kind of thing.”

The blonde nodded, mentally doing the math. If she needed to be at the hospital by five, she’d need to be up at four. She could handle it. She had to handle it. She didn’t have any choice.

The brunette made a sharp left, and they descended a set of stairs into a basement cafeteria. The found tables in one half of the room were filled with residents and students, most of them in scrubs and white coats.

“Let’s get some coffee.”

“Amen.” Kellie murmured.

As they made their way through the cafeteria line, Katharine said, “There are five of us on the service, counting you. Two first-years, a second year, and me.”

“You’re acting chief?”


“The other fourth-years are either in the lab, on the other two general surgical services, or on vascular.” The brunette grabbed a bagel and a plastic container of cream cheese, then filled a twenty-ounce Styrofoam cup almost to the brim with coffee. “We only have one chief resident slot. The other fifth-years get farmed out to the affiliate hospitals in the system.”

Kellie could tell by the tone of Katharine’s voice that anyone who didn’t finish their final year of training at the main hospital as the chief surgical resident automatically qualified as a loser in the brunette’s mind. She could understand the sentiment. You didn’t give up five years of your life to come in second. She’d already lost one year of training because she had to accept a third-year slot or give up surgery. She felt the anger rise and quickly pushed it aside. What was done was done. All she could do now was go forward. “If there’s five of us now, why are we taking call every third?”

Katharine had a ten to the cashier and said, “For the both of us.”

“You don’t have to---“

“Tradition.” She looked over her shoulder at the blonde. “Chief buys. And as far as the schedule goes, on this service, you and I back up the first-years—so we’re on every third and the second-year fills in the blanks. The chairman doesn’t trust the first-years alone with his patients.”

Kellie ran the night call schedule in her head. Two first-year residents and a second-year, also technically a junior resident. Then Katharine. It didn’t jive. “So who’s been backing up the other first-year if you’re the only senior resident on service?”

“Me. We have to stagger the call now so I can cover them every other night.”

“Every other?” The blonde tried not to sound appalled. Twenty-four hours on, twenty-four off could get old really fast. She’d only ever done it for a day or so when another resident had a family emergency or had been to ill to get out of bed. She remembered one of the first rules of surgery she’d been quoted. The only reason for missing work is a funeral. Your own. “How long have you been on every other?”

Katharine shrugged. It didn’t matter to her if she was officially on call or not. She was always around. She had to be. She knew what she wanted and what it took to get it. “A while.”

“Okay.” Kellie decided it was not prudent to bring up the newly instituted eighty-hour rule. In theory, house officers…all the residents in any specialty…were prohibited by law from working more than eighty hours in one week, were required to have one day off out of every seven, and were supposed to be allowed to go home after twenty-four hours in a row on call in the hospital. Surgical training programs, however, often interpreted those rules very loosely. The dictum was that surgery could only be learned in the operating room, and if there were cases to be done, the residents needed to be there, no matter what time of the day or night. Residents who questioned their hours often found themselves being assigned to the least interesting cases, or worse, being cut from the program. Pyramid programs like the one at University took more residents during the initial years of training than they could finish, knowing that some would quit or be cut before their fifth and final year. She couldn’t afford to lose her position. If she needed to work a hundred hours a week, she would. She’d just have to make some adjustments in her personal life.

“There’s the team.” Katharine nodded toward a table where three young men waited. “I bring reinforcements, guys.” She said as she sat. She did not apologize for being late.

Kellie took a seat between the brunette and a rangy Asian who looked to young to be a doctor. Must be on of the first-years. She nodded to each man in turn, fixing a name with a face, as the other woman introduced them in rapid-fire sequence. Liu, Kenny, and Bruce. They acknowledged her with a range of grunts and clipped hellos. It wasn’t hard to tell which one had been on call the night before, because he was unshaven and he smelled like he could use a shower. It didn’t bother her, because she’d gotten used to the familiarity bred by shared stress and the camaraderie that made it tolerable. She was exquisitely aware of the brunette just to her left, radiating energy that warmed her skin. She could still remember how hot Katharine’s hands had been. All these years later, the memory burned as brightly as the touch.

“Bring us up to speed, Kenny, and then you can get out of here.” The brunette said.

Kenny, despite his weary appearance, shook his head. “I want to stay for that lap chole that Miller is doing. I’m up for the next one, right?”

“There’s one on the schedule tomorrow.” McPhee replied. “You can have that one. You’re supposed to be off at eight. The rest of the day’s light. Take advantage of it.”

He didn’t look happy, but he nodded. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it, and began his morning litany. “1213, Constantine, fem-pop bypass, postop day four. Tmax, 101. Temp 99.9. I pulled his drain and wrote for him to be out of bed to a chair TID.”

“Pulses?” Katharine asked, making a note on the clean sheet of paper where she had written the information just relayed to her.

“Plus four in the posterior tib.”

McPhee raised her head. “What about the dorsalis pedis?”

“I couldn’t feel it.”

“It wasn’t there or you couldn’t feel it?”

The brunette’s expression made him squirm. “I…don’t know the answer to that.”

“Go back and find out. Next.”

The blonde leaned close to the other woman. “Got another piece of paper?”

Wordlessly, Katharine slid a second sheet out from beneath her fresh page and passed it to Kellie, who began to make her own list.

It took another twenty minutes to go through the fifty patients on the service, the other two residents chiming in with information on the patients assigned to them. They finished at six fifteen.

“Liu, you’ve got the mastectomy at eight with Frankel. Bruce, you’re with Weinstein for the amp, and Kenny, you’re out of here. Pickler and I will take the floors.”

Kellie noted the use of her last name and knew it was a subtle reminder that she was not yet part of the team. She had to earn that right, although none of them would actively exclude her. She simply would be invisible until she had shown that she could do the job and not make more work for them.

“What about the chief’s aneurysm?” Liu asked.

The brunette carefully folded her list and slid it into her breast pocket.

“Dzubrow will take it.”

The three men looked at each other, but no one said anything.

“Okay, hit the floors and get your notes done before the OR. I don’t wanna have to clean up behind you.”

The blonde waited until the three men gathered their paperwork and cleared their breakfast remnants before she spoke. “I guess I lost you that case, huh?”

“You didn’t.” Katharine slid her smart phone from the case on the waistband of her scrubs where it kept company with her beeper and the code beeper. The weight of her various electronics pulled her scrubs down over her hips to the point where it seemed like she was about to lose her pants. “Got one?”

Silently, Kellie slid her PDA from her shirt pocket.

“I’ll beam you my cell phone, my beeper number, and the other guys’ beeper numbers. Connie can get you the departmental numbers that you need to know.”

“What’s the chief’s number?” the blonde asked as they synchronized their data via the infrared beam.

Katharine grinned. She’s expected the blonde to be smart. That had been apparent even as a medical student. The one critical number you always wanted to answer promptly was the chief’s. “3336.”

What’s yours?”

The second most important number. “7120.”

“Then I’m all set.” Kellie said with a small smile.

“I guess it’s time for the grand tour, then. Let’s make rounds, and I’ll tell you about the attendings.”

“How many are there besides McPhee?”

“Five, but only two are really busy.”

“What about him? Most chairmen don’t really do surgery.”

The brunette shook her head. “Not him. He does four or five majors, three days a week.”

“Jeez. How?”

“He runs two rooms from eight until finishing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”

The shorter woman groaned. “Friday?”

“Yeah. That sucks. Especially if it happens to be your only night off for the whole weekend.”

“Two rooms.” Kellie noted. “So a senior in both rooms?”

“You got the system down. You and I start and close his cases. He’ll bounce back and forth between the two rooms for the major parts. That satisfies the insurance requirements because he’s there for the critical part of the case.”

The blonde didn’t want to ask too many questions too early in the game, but it seemed that the taller woman was willing to provide the kind of inside information that was going to make her life a lot easier. So she persisted. “Does he let you do anything?”

“It depends. Are you any good?”

“What do you think?” The question was out before she could stop it, and she wasn’t even sure why she’d said it. First days were always tough. And now she was starting all over again in a new place and needing to prove herself yet again. She hadn’t expected to see Katharine, not today, and not like this. It rattled her. It rattled her to think that she’d be seeing the brunette every single day, and every day she’d be wondering if the other woman remembered those few minutes alone when something so intense had passed between them that the rest of the world had simply faded away. She remembered, even though she had no place for the memory.

“Well, you were right about my lip.” The brunette said softly.

Kellie studied the other woman’s face. A faint white line crossed the junction of the pink and white portions of Katharine’s lip, and where the scar had healed unevenly; there was a notch in the border. “I told you, you needed stitches.”

“Yeah, you did.” The taller woman suddenly stood. “Let’s get going.”

“Sure.” The blonde said, standing as well.

“Hey, McPhee.” A male voice called. “It’s going on seven. Don’t you have any work to do?”

The petite blonde didn’t hear the reply over the buzzing in her ears. She stared at Katharine as the pieces fell into place. She saw the nameplate by the chairman’s door. Daniel McPhee, MD.

“You’re related to the chairman?” she said in astonishment.

“He’s my father.”

“Nice of you to tell me.” Kellie snapped, trying to remember if she’d said anything negative about him. “Jesus.”

The brunette appraised her coolly. “What difference does it make?”

“It would have been nice to know, that’s all.”

Katharine leaned close. “Kind of like knowing you have a husband?”

Before Kellie could reply, the brunette turned her back and walked away.

Oh God, she thought, she hasn’t forgiven me. But then, she hadn’t forgiven herself, either.

“You don’t usually make floor rounds, do you?” she asked as she matched her stride to the brunette’s. The attending surgical staff delegated routine daily patient care…..changing bandages, removing sutures, ordering lab tests, renewing medications, and dozens of other tasks….to the residents. The most senior resident on each service ensured that the work was carried out by the more junior physicians. Katharine should be exempt from such menial tasks.

“I see every patient on the service every day,” Katharine said, “but the juniors do all the scut. I just make sure they don’t miss anything.”

As they hurried along, Kellie tried to set landmarks in her mind so she wouldn’t get lost the first time she was alone. The University Hospital was a labyrinth of interconnected buildings that had been erected at various times over the last hundred years, and to the uninitiated, it appeared to be a haphazard jumble of walkways, bridges, and tunnels. Despite having a good sense of direction, she was already a little disoriented.

“Thanks for showing me around.” She was starting to huff just a little as the brunette made a sharp right and directed her into yet another dark, narrow stairwell. I won’t gain any weight on this service if this is her normal pace.

Katharine shrugged, taking the stairs two at a time. “Part of the job.”

But it wasn’t, she knew. Many other residents wouldn’t have bothered, leaving her to fend for herself in a strange place with a heavy load of brand-new patients. Nor would they take the time to double check on the patients the way Katharine apparently did. Even though she barely knew the woman, McPhee’s professionalism didn’t surprise her. She remembered the way Katharine had cradled her face, examining her jaw, her eyes focused but compassionate, her hands….

“Oh!” Kellie exclaimed as she caught the toe of her shoe on a tread and plunged headlong toward the railing. She thrust out her arm to break the impact and landed in Katharine’s arms instead. They went down in a heap on the stairs.

“Umph.” The brunette grunted. “Jesus Christ. What is it with you?”

“Believe it or not.” Kellie gasped, “I’m usually very coordinated.”

She took stock of her various body parts, uncomfortably aware of the brunette beneath her, sprawled on her back, Kellie’s arms and legs tangled with hers. The pain in her left kneecap did nothing to mitigate the sensation of Katharine’s tight, lean thigh between her leg. The brunette’s heart hammered against her breast, and warm breath teased her neck. “Sorry. Are you hurt?”

“Hard to tell.” McPhee muttered. All I can feel is you. She kept her hands carefully at her sides, because any movement at all would only increase the unintentional intimacy of their position. The blonde was soft in all the right places, and every one of them seem to fit perfectly into her body, as if the two of them had been carved into mirror images. It’s been too long since I’ve gotten laid. That’s all it is. “Any chance you can get off of me? I’m going to have a permanent groove in my back from this stair.”

“Oh God, yes, sorry.” Kellie braced both hands on the next stair, bracketing the brunette’s shoulders, and pushed herself up. Unfortunately, the movement lifted her torso but pressed her pelvis even more firmly into Katharine’s. She heard a swift intake of breath just as the rush of heat along her spine took her by surprise. “Oh.”

“Something hurt?” Katharine asked, managing to keep her voice steady. Two more seconds of this full-body contact and she wasn’t going to be able to keep her hands to herself. As it was, her thighs were trembling and her stomach was in knots. “God you feel good.”

“What?” the blonde asked, through a haze of unanticipated and inexplicable sensation.

“Hurt.” McPhee mumbled, fighting down her arousal. “Anything hurt?”

“Oh, no” Kellie said quickly. Just the opposite. She wondered fleetingly if Katharine was always so warm. She could feel the heat radiate from her even through their clothes. The brunette’s body was firm, but so unlike the angles and hardness she was used to. But then, it had been so long since she’d been this close to anyone that perhaps her memory was distorted. As carefully as she could, she rolled away until she was lying on her back next to the other woman, staring at the watermarked, yellowing paint of the ceiling. “What’s the damage?”

Other than the fact that I’m going to be turned on for hours with no relief in sight? Katharine sat up and rested her elbows on her knees. She rubbed the back of her neck where a muscle had knotted when she’d tensed to keep her head from striking the stairs. Then, she carefully rotated her back from side to side. “Everything seems to be in working order. You?”

“I gave my patella a pretty good crack.” The blonde admitted, realizing that the gorgeous brunette had probably prevented her from sustaining a really serious injury. Gingerly, she extended and flexed her legs. “Thanks.”

“Pull your scrubs up so I can see your knee.”

“It’s okay. Just bruis—“

“Let me decide. We might need to X-ray it.”

“Look. We need to make rounds—“

“Jesus,” Katharine said irritably, “are you going to argue with everything I say?”

“I’m just trying to save time. We’ve got patients to see.”

“And we will. As soon as I check this out. Now pull up your pants.”

Considering the fact that Katharine was standing over her and she had nowhere to go, even if she were able to gracefully extricate herself, Kellie complied. A four-inch abrasion extended over the upper portion of her tibia to her kneecap, which was swollen and discolored. When the brunette instructed her to straighten her leg, she did, watching Katharine’s fingers press and probe her knee. Good hands, in every sense of the word. Certain, proficient, and gentle. The dance of flesh over flesh, no matter how innocent, was nevertheless an intimate exchange. She was always aware of the trust bestowed upon her when she examined a patient, and now felt it in the other woman’s touch.

“Hurt here?” Katharine asked, palpating first the medial and then the lateral ligaments surrounding the joint.

“No, feels stable. I’m sure it’s fine.”

The brunette glanced up, her eyebrows coming together as she frowned. “You’re a lousy patient.”

“So I’ve been told. Can I get up now?”

“Slowly.” The brunette straightened and extended her hand. “And don’t full weight-bear right away. Put your other hand on my shoulder until you test the knee.”

She took Katharine’s hand and allowed herself to be guided upward, but she resisted the instruction to lean on the other woman. She’d had quite enough bodily contact for the moment, and she needed to reassert her independence. She’d be damned if she’d let Katharine think she was anything less than capable in all regards. She gradually settled all of her weight onto the injured leg. “All systems go.”

“Good.” The brunette noticed Kellie’s reluctance to touch her and chalked it up to the usual reluctance of straight women to get too close to her, even when they weren’t bothered by her being gay. Somehow, they were still uncomfortable. Usually she didn’t care, and the ripple of disappointment she felt at the blonde’s avoidance was a surprise. She dropped Kellie’s hand. “One more flight.”

“No problem.”

She waited for the blonde to set the pace and followed this time, carefully assessing the shorter woman’s gait. She was pleased to see there was no evidence of a limp. The stairwell led into a short corridor that ended at a plain brown metal door. She nodded when the blonde gave her a questioning look. Kellie hit the door bar and together they stepped into a brightly lit hallway opposite the surgeon’s lounge.

Kellie looked around, frowning. “Damn. I could’ve sworn we’d be on the fourth floor.

Katharine leaned a shoulder against the wall, fiddling with the tie on her scrub pants, rhythmically drawing the string through her fingers. She grinned, enjoying the role of tour guide. She didn’t question why. “We were….in the Malone building. Except that the fourth floor of that building connects to the fifth floor of this one. Don’t ask me why.”

“You’re putting me on, right?”

Slowly, Katharine shook her head.

“Oh, I am in so much trouble.”

“No, you’re not. It’s my job to see that you aren’t.” The brunette pushed away from the wall and walked a few feet to the elevator. She punched the up button. “Usually we walk, but I’ll give you a break.”

“Don’t bother. I can handle the stairs.”

“Maybe I can’t.”

Kellie snorted, but smiled. “I feel like I should be drawing a map or dropping breadcrumbs.”

“Pay attention, and in a few days, you’ll know all the secrets to this place.”

“Really?” She watched Katharine’s face, searching for some hidden meaning. They’d been alone for close to an hour, but they hadn’t really talked about the last time…the only time…that they’d been alone together. They should clear the air. She knew they should. But she didn’t want to bring it up. She didn’t want to know that the brunette had been angry with her all these years. Or perhaps she didn’t want to know that Katharine had never thought of her at all.

“It’s not all that complicated.” She turned away from Kellie’s probing gaze. She didn’t know what might show in her face, but she didn’t want the blonde to think that those few moments’ years before meant anything now. So many things had happened since then; it might have been another life. She was certainly a different person. The elevator bell rang and saved her from thinking about it any longer. “Let’s start from the top.”


Several minutes later, they stepped out into a dimly lit corridor and Katharine pointed. “Two wings on each floor. The lower numbers are to the left, the higher to the right. Main surgical floors are twelve, ten, nine, and eight. Intensive care units are on six.”

Kellie groaned. “The ICU is one floor up from the OR? I hate transporting postop patients in the elevator.”

“Me too.” The brunette agreed. “But there wasn’t enough room for them to expand the number of OR suites and still keep the intensive care units on the same floor.”

“How many OR rooms?”

“Twelve general surgery, four GYN, four ortho, and a few unassigned.”


“Oh yeah.” Katharine started down the hallway on their left and indicated the first room. “This is an DM patient---“

“Wait a minute.” Kellie said, frowning down at her list. “DM?”

“We tend to identify patients by their attending’s initials. This one is McPhee’s.”

“The colon resection from yesterday, right?” Kellie asked, still scanning the patient names. “McInerney.”

“That’s the one. We finished at six last night, routine case. She still has a drain, an NG tube, and an IV.”

“Is it weird, working with your father?”

“I wouldn’t know.” Katharine said flatly. “McPhee is the chairman. That’s the only relationship we have in here.”

Kellie was surprised by the absence of anger or much of any emotion at all in Katharine’s voice. Nevertheless, she recognized the finality of her tone. She wondered if it was the subject matter or the fact that she was asking that bothered the brunette. Either way, she had clearly stepped out of bounds. What was it about Katharine McPhee that made her forget the rules? “I’m sorry. That was none of my business.”

“No problem. I get asked it a lot.” The brunette pivoted and walked into the first patient’s room.

It took a moment for Kellie to recognize that the discussion was closed. She hastened after the other woman, and for the next fifty minutes they moved from one patient to the next, reviewing chart notes, pulling drains, updating orders, and generally coordinating each patient’s care. They didn’t speak except to discuss care and treatment plans until everyone on the list had been examined. They worked quickly and efficiently. Comfortably together. Kellie wasn’t surprised. From the very first they’d had a natural rhythm, even when they were sparring.

“Ready for another cup of coffee?” Katharine asked as they sat together at the eight-floor nurses’ station finishing the last of their chart notes.

“Oh yeah.” The blonde replied. She hadn’t had much sleep the night before. The week had been a whirlwind of activity what with the packing and moving, worrying about her new position, and trying to anticipate all the difficulties inherent in her new life. She was beat. A sudden thought occurred to her as she and Katharine started down the stairwell yet again. “Am I on call tonight?”

“New residents always take call the first night. You know that.”

She did, but she still hadn’t planned for it. Foolish.

The brunette put both hands on the push bar of a door that sported a large red sign proclaiming Fire Door---Do Not Open. “Let’s get some air.” She gave it a shove.

“Why not.” Kellie said, glancing at the time. She needed to make a phone call.

“Something wrong?” Katharine asked, checking the sky. The rain in the forecast was nowhere in sight. It was thirty degrees outside, a clear crisp January day. Neither of them wore coats. The street vendors, as usual, were undeterred by the weather. Their carts, pulled into position each day behind trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles, were lined up in front of the hospital and throughout the entire campus, dispensing every kind of food from hot dogs to hummus.

“No.” Kellie said quickly. “Everything’s just fine.”

“Actually, I’m on call tonight. The brunette walked toward the third stainless steel cart in the row. The small glass was partially closed and steamed from the food warming inside. “But I want you to stay and get used to how the service runs. You’ll be on tomorrow night.”

“Fine.” The blonde had no choice, and it really wasn’t an unreasonable request. She’d be expected to shoulder some of the responsibility for running the service as quickly as possible, and in order to do that, she had to be familiar with the procedures and protocols of the new institution. Even if she had disagreed, it was the senior resident’s call. That was the nature of the hierarchy, and she accepted that. Time to claim her place in it. She edged in front of the brunette and ordered. “Two coffees.” She glanced at Katharine. “Want anything else? It’s on me.”

“In that case, I’ll take a street dog with chilli and mustard.”

Kellie winced. “It’s ten thirty in the morning.”

Katharine grinned. “Then I’ll take two.”

“You’re sick.” The blonde muttered and then relayed the order. She paid and collected the brown paper bag, turning to the brunette. “I suppose you want to eat outside?”


“Not at all.”

“Uh-huh, sure. You’re shivering from the thrill of it all.” Katharine laughed at Kellie’s muffled expletive. “Come on, I’ll show you my hideaway.”

“Is this one of those secrets?” She watched the brunette’s expressive eyes turn inward, wondering if she’d once again tread on forbidden territory, but then she saw the smile flicker and flare. The tiny scar did nothing to detract from the lush beauty of Katharine’s lips. In fact, the irregularity made her mouth all the more appealing, and Kellie had the sudden urge to touch the less than perfect spot with her fingertip. She tightened her grip on the paper bag, afraid of the impulse. She’d never just wanted to touch someone for no other reason than to feel their skin.

“You never know.” The brunette replied, taking one of the coffee cups from her. Her fingers brushed over the top of Kellie’s hand. “It might be.”
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Join date : 2009-10-21

PostSubject: Re: Affairs of the Heart   Mon 16 Nov 2009, 9:59 am

Night's Sweet Caress wrote:
I thank everyone for their wonderful comments. I know many of you enjoyed this story on IFF. I hope that you will continue to enjoy it over here. thanks
Count me in! wootwave I have always been a sucker for love stories, but it's so rare to find a romance story that can touched you on various levels. This story has had a special place in my heart for a while, I am eager to see what you do with the next chapter.

It's an amazing story that definitely needs to be continued... So I really look forward to seeing some more development in the story line! yes

Now where's Chapter 20?!??! kickass

Just kidding! lol!
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