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For disclaimers see Part 1.

Part 4

Exhausted after working thirty hours straight, Ann was finally able to trade her lab coat fora casual jacket but it didn’t stop her mind from continuing on with her job.

“Hey, Davis, did you see the patient in trauma seven?”

“Uh, yeah,” the resident continued typing into the computer. “She agreed to voluntary admission.”

“Thank you.” Ann heard someone moving behind her and turned to see the ER head nurse.

“Hey Danni”

“Hi Doc, are you taking off now?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty beat” Ann stretched her arms above her head. “But you won’t miss me cause I’ll be back tonight for another shift.”

“Night shift again?” Danni furrowed her brows in fake confusion “Gee, what’s the point of being the boss then?”

“Funny, but we’re short staffed.”

“Taylor’s still out of town?”

“Yes…” Ann watched a hasting nurse cross the desk and crouch behind it fussing with some boxes.  “Lily, when is Taylor coming back?”

“Next Monday, I think” the nurse replied picking up a chart and a pair of latex gloves.

“Where did the nurses’ favorite attending go?” Davis smirked obnoxiously without even taking his eyes off the computer screen.

“He went to visit his dad in Ohio.” Lily glared at the resident before circling the desk.  Without altering her course a step or two, she dodged the doctor entering the ER.

Abruptly halted, his narrowed eyes followed Lily’s retreating form.  “We need some traffic signs in here.”  He turned to greet his co-workers.   “Good morning, ladies and gentleman.”

“Hi, Morgan,” Ann replied.

“Hey, Ann, what are you still doing here? I thought you were off at three.”

“A bus crashed on Central Park West.” She tied her hair back and tucked in her scarf.

“How many did we get?”

“Six.” She erased a few names from the board “Three went up to the OR. Two didn’t require surgery as of yet and are at the Neuro ICU and one's waiting on a monitored bed for a 23 hour observation.” 

 “Sounds like a full day,” Morgan commented.

“Add to that spending the last three hours trying to keep the board running. Yes,” Ann turned to survey her realm, “it was a very full day.”

“What happened to the new attending that started last week?” Morgan questioned furrowing his brows.

“Couldn’t keep up the pace,” Lily said as she darted across the staff area.  “He moved to Seattle.”

“Smart guy” Morgan muttered as he straightened his backpack over his shoulder, his gaze falling on the young resident at the computer.  “Davis, are you still on psychiatric rotation?”

“Yep and it’s keeping me busy.”  He stood up and proceeded to move past Ann, offering her an obviously flirtatious wink.  “But I can’t wait to come back down here.”

Unimpressed with his schoolboy tactics, Ann rolled her eyes and turned to address her relief.

“Alright Morgan, these are the critical ones.” Ann handed him several charts.  “I signed out the rest to Rosenberg.”   She turned to the only nurse at the desk. “Danni, will you give Mr. Jones a dose of Amoxicillin and discharge him, please?”

“Can do,” Danni said flashing a confident smile, then walked off.

“Thank you.” Ann took a final glance around the ER and headed for the door “Alright, I think I am out of here.  See you guys at six o'clock this evening.”

“No rush chief, I’ll cover for you.” Morgan offered.

***

Ann had barely exited the ER door when she heard her name being called out. She turned to see Danni coming toward her.

“Hey Thomas, I got us two tickets for the Knicks on Saturday. Do you think you can dodge dull boy?”

“Danni,” Ann cautioned.

“Sorry.” Danni’s lips curved cynically.  “Do you think you can dodge your lovely fiancé and have some fun?”

“I don’t know.” Ann bit the inside of her lip considering her options.  “I kind of stood him up last night. I’m actually on my way to his office now to do some damage control.”

“Damage control?”  A look of shock registered on Danni’s face.  “You’ve got to be kidding me, Ann. Are you seriously considering marrying this guy?”

Ann’s attempt to reply was cut off by Danni’s raised hand.

“No, you listen to me. Think before deciding anything and for God’s sake, don’t rush to come to any sort of conclusions until your heart has a chance to speak its mind,” Danni pled. “I know that you have been together for a long time and feel really comfortable around each other bla, bla, bla…”

“But,” Ann interjected only to be over wrought again.

“I don’t feel any sparkles around you.  It’s like you two are not meant to be more than good friends.”

Ann looked stunned. “So you’re saying we’re no more than good friends with benefits?”

“Trust me, Ann, he’s not the one.” Danni tried to reason with her friend.  “Answer me this, Ann.  Does he haunt your dreams?  Is he constantly creeping into your thoughts?”

“Is he my soulmate?”  Ann supplied the next question.  “Danni, you’ve been my best friend since high school. You know I never believed in that soulmate stuff. For me, love should be a consequence of a well developed friendship and Joe and I…well, we have such an easy way around each other.” 

“Easy could be taken two ways, Ann.”  Danni cocked her head to one side. 

“And I suppose you would know that, wouldn’t you?”

Danni rolled her eyes.  “Could you please for once in your life get out of that doctor mode, Ann?  You’re thinking too logically for love. An ‘easy way’ around each other is not enough reason to marry someone and move across the ocean.”

“Danni, I am a doctor.  It’s what I do.  It’s who I am.”

“No, it’s not.  There’s a living, beating heart in there.”  Danni pointed to Ann’s chest.  “I’ve seen it.  All I’m asking is for you to think with your heart. Please, consider your options before accepting his proposal.”

Ann looked away.  “What if I’ve already said yes?”

The nurse threw both hands in the air and shook her head in exasperation.

“I’m not giving up that easily and you shouldn’t either,” Danni warned as Ann started to move away. “The right person for you is out there somewhere,” she raised her voice to ensure that Ann heard her.  “And I’m not resting until I put the two of you together.”

***

Ann didn’t even bother to turn around as she heard the words been shouted at her. Instead, she simply lifted a hand and waved with her back turned to her friend.

“Sparkles,” Ann snorted “what am I, an electric wire? Give me a break.” she muttered under her breath “I’m a woman of science. I don’t buy this soulmate corny talk. My relationship is fine.”

He’s not the one…not the one. Danni’s voice kept echoing in her head.

“Humph!  How can she know that? How do you know someone is ‘the one’ anyway?”

But…do you love him…love him…love him?

“I feel warm and comfortable around him.” She answered her inner voice. “Isn’t that what love is supposed to feel like?” Ann sighed deeply as she nervously ran a hand through her hair.  “Besides, it’s a trick question based on a quantitative answer. I don’t know why I keep listening to Danielle. She never liked Joe anyway. He’s a good man and would make a great husband.”

But would he…would he…would he?  This time it wasn’t Danni’s voice that was nagging her, it was her own.  Ann sighed, deciding to ignore it.

“I’d better go and apologize for standing him up.”

***

 Ann knocked softly before poking her blonde head through the door.

“Hi”

“Hey stranger” Joe stood up and moved to the front of his desk, leaning against it as she walked towards him.

“I came to see how much you hate me.” Ann flashed him her best apologizing smile.

“You know too well I could never hate you.” Joe slipped an arm around Ann’s waist and pulled her close. “I love you too much to even stay mad at you.” He kissed her deeply.

Ann pulled back pleased. “Good, ’cause I hate when people stay mad at me.”

“Smart ass!” He dove in for another kiss. “I missed you last night”

“Sorry. Yesterday was hectic.” Ann broke their embrace and moved to the couch. “We had all sorts of cases: stabbings, gun shot wounds, and even a bus crash.”

“Wow, a pretty exciting day by your standards, huh?”

“You betcha!” Ann snuggled against him. “We got a police officer, who threw herself in front of a bullet to save a colleague.”

“Really? That is very heroic for a woman.” 

“What do you mean, for a woman?” Ann challenged with a raised brow. “I’d say for anybody. You don’t see many people going superman to save a friend.”

“Easy there tiger, I didn’t mean to offend the gender.” Joe lifted his hands in surrender. “So, is the hero alive?”

“Yes.” Ann narrowed her eyes at his sarcastic tone but decided to let it slip. “She arrived pretty much lifelessly but we manage to get her back before we sent her to the OR.”

“Nice work on your part.”  Joe studied the doubtful look on Ann’s face.  “But something is bugging you.”

“I can’t seem to overcome the feeling that I’ve met her before. I can’t remember seeing her anywhere though. I think I’d remember if I’d seen her.” The sentences came out almost in one single breath.

“Boy, she sure did a number on you.”

Ann stared curiously at her fiancé.  “Why are you saying that?”

“Cause you’re babbling. You only babble when you’re nervous or excited.”

“Right, but I’m neither. I’m chalking it up to being really tired, that’s all”

“Why don’t you go home and get some rest?” He suggested tenderly.  “I’m sure that it will help refresh your memory.”

“I’m not gonna argue with your logic, Mr. Senior Accountant.”

“Alright, but promise me that you’ll find some time for me this weekend?”

“I promise.” Ann gave him a chaste peck on his lips and left not even bothering to stifle her yawn.

***

The hot shower worked miracles on Ann’s tensed muscles.  She could feel her body finally relaxing, although her mind kept working in full speed. Danni’s words had affected her more than she was willing to admit.

“Let it go, Ann” she said aloud while rinsing her hair “since when do you care about other people’s opinion?”

Maybe she has a point.

“No she doesn’t” she fought her rambling thoughts while stepping out of the shower.  “Joe is not a ‘friend with benefits’. I have feelings for him.”

You have sex with him, her inner voice stated as a matter of fact.

“It’s not just sex!” She shot back looking into the mirror. “There is more to it than that.  We’re…” Ann stared at her reflection searching for some evidence that would prove Danni wrong.  Nothing came to mind except the reverberating echo of her friend’s proclamation.

He’s not the one.

Ann’s sigh only emphasized the point that she was too tired to argue the subject any further.

“I’ll deal with it later.  I need to get some sleep.” She retreated to her bed not even bothering to put pajamas on.

***

At 5 pm the alarm on Ann’s cell phone went off, reminding her that she should be at the hospital within one hour. “Damn! I should have been a chef.” She dragged herself out of bed. “But then again, I can’t cook.” She moved straight to the kitchen for her daily infusion of coffee.

“That’s why I’m a doctor and taking the night shift again.” She mumbled grumpily.

Mindlessly going through the motions of making coffee, Ann reviewed her past day’s events where more than once, Danni’s words ran through her mind.

“Why is this bothering me so much?” She poured a cup of steaming coffee and proceeded to get dressed.

“Maybe it’s my fault that my relationship isn’t…sparkling.” She put on a pair of jeans and a blue sweater then moved to the door. “Maybe I should dedicate more time to Joe.” Ann’s lips turned upward in a naughty smile as she pondered her next step carefully.

“Screw it!  I’m the Boss.”  She reached for the phone.  Greeted by a male voice, she hastily set her plan in motion.  “Morgan, I’m taking you up on the offer. You and Peter can hold the fort tonight. I hope you two have a good night in my place.”  Ann quickly terminated the call with a sultry smile.  “I know I will.  First stop though is the Sushi Bar.  Nothing tastes better than raw fish while basking in an after glow.”

***

Joe came from the kitchen carrying two glasses of wine, boastfully exposing his naked body.

“I have to admit I was quiet surprised when I saw you coming through the door tonight.”  He joined Ann who was seated on the floor by the coffee table wearing nothing but a super sized t-shirt.

“Good surprise or bad surprise?” Ann appreciated his figure as she fed him a piece of sashimi. Who needs sparkles when you have this abdomen to look at?

“Fantastic surprise,” he admitted before sipping at his wine.  “So was the sushi.  If you ask me I think you had this all planned out.”

“More like on the fly.  I changed my shift with Peter at the last minute.”  Ann placed a delicate kiss on his lips.  “Secretly, I think he’s dying to be chief,” she declared with a chuckle.

“So the position will be open?”

“Joe,” she cautioned.

“I don’t mean to push, but I need an answer, baby.” He caressed her hair tenderly. “I’m flying to London next week, and the company is pressuring me for a decision.”

“Joe, something this big,” Ann hesitated still hearing Danni’s words ringing in her ears.  “I can’t rush into anything. I’d have to give up everything I’ve built here, my friends, my career…my life.”

“Sweetheart, I know it’s a lot to ask, but it’s a huge change for me too. I’ll be the CEO of my division in Europe and within six months they’ll be considering me for the vice president post at the parent company.” He had a gleam of pride in his eyes.

“What about my career, Joe? I’m heading the busiest emergency department in the country. It wasn’t easy to get there, especially being a woman.”

“I know that, but there are hospitals in London, Ann. With your resume and your looks, you can get a job in no time,” he explained logically. “Besides, I have connections. Why, I was talking to your father just the other day…”

“What?” Ann jerked back indignantly.  “You’ve been talking to my father about me behind my back?”

“No. He called me and the subject…Well, the subject just came up.  He knows people, Ann.” Joe tried to reason with the fuming woman opposite him. “He’s the best neurosurgeon in America and he’s more than pleased to help you get a position in London’s biggest hospital”

“I can’t believe you.” Ann shot up and began pacing the room. “You know damn well my father and I have,” she hesitated searching for the right word as she paced, “issues.”

“Nonsense, you’ve always been dad’s little girl.”

“Except for when I refuse to do, what he wants me to.  I don’t want to become a three-million-dollar surgeon like my father, Joe. I’m happy living my life in the trenches surrounded by common people. I’m happy doing what I do.” She stopped pacing and took a deep breath. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation again. I never used my father’s influence. That’s why I moved from LA and you know that.” She looked straight into Joe’s eyes. “I wanted to make it on my own, and not because I ‘had connections’.” Ann used her fingers to form quotes around her spoken words.

Joe’s shoulders slumped in defeat.  “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.  It was stupid.” He moved closer and slipped an arm around her waist. “I think I’m too anxious to start a life with you. Forgive me.” He pulled her into a tight hug. “You’ve always been an independent woman…” his words trailed off.

Ann pushed back and stared at Joe.  “And?”

“Quite frankly, it scares me sometimes,” his words were little more than a whisper.

His honesty and sullen mood melted Ann’s heart.  “You don’t have to be scared,” she said gathering him into her arms. “We’re friends, Joe.  I’d never hurt you intentionally.  I…” Ann sighed. “Well, you know me. I like to think things through. Just give me some time and I’ll give your answer soon, I promise”

“Of course, I’m sorry.” He cradled her in his arms and planted kisses on her neck. “I can’t wait for you to become Mrs. Joseph Green.”

Each touch of his hot tongue stoked Ann’s libido, melting her frustration away. She closed her eyes only to find herself staring at a strange yet familiar pair of blue eyes.

What the hell?  Ann stiffened and tried to pull away but Joe’s strong arms kept her in place. His attentive ministrations leading her down the path to arousal, forcing her to retreat behind closed eyes again.  Instead of her usual warm rush of hypnotic colors, haunting blue eyes met her once more.  Shocked by the odd reoccurrence, she hastily extracted herself from his arms as gently as she could.

“So, what are the plans for the weekend?” Ann did her best to sound casual even though it was all she could do to gain some sort of even keel.

Confused by the sudden turn of events, Joe answered with a quizzical look on his face.  “I got two tickets for the Austrian Ballet Company presentation on Saturday.”

Ann pondered for a moment, before casually looked away.  “Aren’t the Knicks playing on Saturday?”

“Since when do I care about basketball?” He started collecting their dishes from the coffee table. “I thought we could go to the ballet and then have dinner at a fancy restaurant.  It could be a very elegant night, especially if you give me your answer.”  He wiggled his eyebrows playfully.  Seeing Ann’s doubtful face, he quickly added, “Not that I’m trying to push you.  What do you say?”

Ann's shoulders slumped.  She willed her voice to silence although she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs: Ballet? Seriously, I just want to cheer madly and have some beer.

“I have the night shift on Saturday, Honey, sorry.” Ann dodged his offer deciding to take Danni’s advice.  I need to have some fun.

“Oh!  Well, no worries,” he shrugged, heading toward the kitchen.  “I’ll invite my mother instead.”

Alone in the room, Ann closed her eyes and fought to regain her footing.  Blue eyes greeted her again sending a jolt through her system as if she’d inserted her finger in an outlet.  Ann crumpled onto the couch.

“What the hell just happen?” She threaded her fingers through her blonde locks in an attempt to clear her thoughts. “Where the hell did those eyes come from?  I’m losing it.  I must be losing my mind.”

To be continued…

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