Dax struggled to keep his mind on his patient. This wasn’t like him. But when he’d come in to work today and noticed that Patty’s name was nowhere to be seen on the whiteboard, he’d frowned. She’d been quiet on the ride back to the hospital two days ago, but then again, so had he.
Knowing she’d kept his picture all these years had been a shock. And a jolt of some weird emotion he later identified as hope had rocketed through him before she brushed it all away by saying she’d simply forgotten about it.
Why the hope? After all, hadn’t he kept the engagement ring he’d bought all those years ago? He’d told himself he was too embarrassed to take it back to the store. Then he’d justified it by saying if he ever got engaged, he could still use it. Except that was a lie as well. He would never put Patty’s ring on someone else’s finger. Not that he’d ever come close to that point.
Hell, he’d never actually asked Patty to marry him. Had never gotten the chance. But he’d loved her. Had been devastated when she walked away from him.
Drawing his mind back to his patient, he finished placing tiny stitches in the last of the grafted veins that made up the triple bypasses, checking everything over carefully. It looked good. But the real test would be when they took the patient off the cardio bypass machine. “Okay, let’s switch him over.”
The perfusionist began adjusting dials on his board and restored blood flow to the heart. This was the part of the surgery that always made him tense. Usually the blood would stimulate the heart to start doing its job again, but if for some reason it didn’t, they would use the defibrillator to shock it back into rhythm.
Five long seconds went by as the patient’s heart remained static and still. He drew a breath, and then a ripple of movement happened, followed by a strong beat. The another. Soon the patient was in sinus rhythm.
Hell, he’d second-guessed himself almost this entire surgery, and if it continued, he was going to have to do something about it. Things at the Island Clinic were going well, and Nate had offered to increase his workload if Victoria Hospital could spare him.
Was that what he wanted?
Right now, he didn’t know what the hell he wanted. Seeing Patty’s name scrubbed from that board had done a number on him. Because it reminded him of another time—a time when she’d scrubbed herself from his life just as suddenly. He’d let her get away with it back then. And now?
Dammit! No, he wasn’t. If she’d left the hospital, he was going to find her and demand an explanation.
That was a question he wasn’t ready to answer. Not quite yet.
Once he was sure the patient’s vitals were stable and that there were no leaks in any of the vessels, he quickly closed up the chest and made sure the man was stable.
“Good job, people. Thank you for your help.”
He started to strip off his gloves to leave the room, then turned to the nurse who’d handed him his instruments during surgery. The young man had been sure and competent and had anticipated many of his requests.
“Thanks for your work.” He hesitated before asking the question that was on his lips. “Is Patty Cohen on vacation?”
“No. You haven’t heard? Patty transferred to maternity, starting today.” The nurse shook his head. “It was kind of a shock. As far as I knew, she loved it here.”
So she had walked away. Again. Except this time, he knew what he had to do.
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