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Missing: Luke's Story

Missing: Luke's Story

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Missing: Luke's Story

Length:
345 pages
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 16, 2013
ISBN:
9780991874811
Format:
Book

Description

New York City doctor moves to small town in Montana for a temporary position. She’s planning to move back to the city.
The Montana doctor loves his town and family and won’t move away.
Love hits, but is there a solution.
Plus there are notes threatening a kidnapping.
Who is the possible victim? And the body count is mounting.
Publisher:
Released:
Dec 16, 2013
ISBN:
9780991874811
Format:
Book

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Missing - Beverley Bateman

out.

CHAPTER ONE

Why did I agree to this, even temporarily? Before arriving in Duster, Montana Dr. Alexandra Parsons had driven for miles without seeing anything but cows.

When her friend and mentor from med school had asked for her help, he’d neglected to mention the remoteness of Duster compared to the civilization Allie was used to.

Following the directions on her GPS she pulled her vehicle up to the curb and switched off the ignition. There it was. The gray brick building across the street, situated between a pharmacy and a small, Montana State bank.

The square wooden sign across the front of the building read Duster Medical Clinic in neat, black letters. Blinds, tilted half open across the windows on each side of the door, allowed a partial view of several patients sitting in the waiting room.

Allie laid her arms across the steering wheel and stared at the clinic and the occupants.

How did a small town medical clinic function?

The New York clinic hadn’t looked anything like this one. Nothing in New York looked like this place.

On her way down the street, she’d passed a gas station, a small beauty salon, a general store and a real estate office. She’d seen the local sheriff’s office and two banks. No large grocery store or box store anywhere in sight.

Surely the people didn’t shop in these little stores?

A few people wandered in and out of the bank and the general store. Several trucks and a few cars rumbled along the street.

A man; medium height, skinny, wearing a dark baseball cap, worn jeans and a faded green t-shirt, caught her eye. He lurked in the shadows outside the clinic, trying to peer inside. If he anyone approached he’d turn his back and pretended to walk away. A few minutes later he’d be back.

She watched him for several minutes trying to figure out whether he was a nervous patient or spying on someone in the clinic. She expected him to finally go inside, but he disappeared between the buildings.

No sense sitting here any longer. She should go meet the doctor she’d be working with for the next month or two. With any luck he’d find a permanent replacement quickly. If only she hadn’t signed that contract...

She wondered what he’d be like. If he’d met her mentor, Dr. Angus, in med school he’d probably be older, maybe with white hair and a slight paunch. He might even be thinking of his own retirement in the near future.

Damn. She should have asked for more information, about everything, including the population of the town. From what she could see, more people probably inhabited her apartment building back in New York than lived in Duster.

Why had she been so eager to get away from New York? The image of jumping off the edge of the mountain into a volcano sprang to mind.

She reached into her designer bag, pulled out a lipstick, touched up her lips, smoothed her hair back behind her ears, and opened the door of her new, metallic blue Explorer. Compared to the other vehicles on the street, mostly older trucks, it stood out like a neon sign in the middle of the desert. She shouldn’t have splurged.

Back in New York it had seemed like a good idea. A four-wheel drive in ranch country made sense. A four-wheel drive might have been okay--but not a brand new, bright blue one.

She opened the SUV door and slid down until her low heels touched the ground. The late summer heat blasted her, but it was a dry heat, different from the east coast. She adjusted the skirt of her conservative navy suit. This morning it had felt casual, but professional. Now she felt overdressed. Like her vehicle, she stood out like a neon sign. She might as well been wearing a mini-skirt, see-through blouse and fishnet stockings.

Number one on her list after introducing herself to her new boss--go shopping and buy comfortable slacks and casual tops.

She pulled herself to her full five feet four inches before she walked across to the door of the clinic. With the first step, her foot hit a rock. Her ankle rolled and her shoe turned on its side. Grabbing at the vehicle hood, she managed to prevent herself from falling on her butt. As she straightened up, her leg brushed against the fender causing a snag in her nylon.

Damn. Heels, even low heels, and nylons, were certainly out from today on. Flat shoes went to the top of her shopping list.

She trudged carefully across the street. The snag turned into a run and raced up the side of her leg with each step.

Terrific.

What was the doctor’s name? She’d made a note of it this morning. She searched her memory, but drew a blank.

Great, the day was going downhill and fast.

***

Bobby drove the older sedan he’d stolen into Duster. The tires were bald and it stalled periodically, but it would do for a couple of days. He’d also picked up a Raven Arms MP 25 caliber semi-automatic and some duct tape. Duct tape always came in handy.

He drove slowly past a bright blue SUV parked across from the clinic.

A woman sat inside staring out the window. Maybe a tourist who got lost? The truck was certainly out of place in this tiny ranch town. Nice though, maybe he could boost it.

He passed the clinic, slowed the vehicle and turned at the next corner. He parked a few blocks off the main drag and walked back. The blue elephant was still there and so was the occupant. Was she afraid to get out?

He crossed the street and glanced through the clinic window. His goal was to get an idea of the doc. He wanted to know if he was he good dad. Did the guy deserve to keep his daughter? If he abused her or mistreated her in any way, Bobby might have to take care of him.

Right now, though, he needed to find out where the doc and his daughter lived. And why wasn’t there a Mrs. Hawkins? Why would a single man adopt a little girl?

Bobby had first planned on taking pictures of his daughter and leaving. Over the course of the last week he’d decided to kidnap her for money. He’d changed his mind again and considered keeping her, even after the ransom was paid. There were so many options. He’d have to choose one soon.

Hollis didn’t need to know all the details. Bobby hadn’t even figured them all out yet.

***

Allie pushed open the door to the clinic and stepped into the small, crowded waiting room. The slight scent of antiseptic tickled her nose. She stopped.

Silence crept across the room. One by one, heads turned toward the door.

It might be the novelty of a stranger, but more likely it was the novelty of a stranger in fancy city clothes with a run in her stocking. She threaded her way through the patients to the reception counter. Patients watched her. A few of them put down the magazines they were thumbing through.

She’d bet a month’s salary those magazines were three or four years old. The furniture in the waiting room had seen better days, but it was serviceable.

The men and women stared at her, probably wondering who the heck she was. Several patients smiled at her. She managed to return the smiles. At least no one laughed.

A man stood behind the counter, tall, broad-shouldered, and maybe thirtyish He had curly dark hair, a strong, square chin and he caught her attention right away. His cobalt blue eyes, under long dark lashes, latched on to her as she walked toward him. Even partially covered by his lab coat, his muscled chest strained against the white t-shirt.

If he was the doctor he was definitely not the old geezer she’d expected.

A few feet from the counter, she stopped. His electric blue eyes locked on her. She couldn’t look away. Sensuality oozed across the space between them. Her breath hitched into an irregular rhythm, kicking her pulse up a notch.

Good, you finally got here. I thought Jean would send someone a little faster. His rich, smooth voice rolled over her. Look, we’re backed up. Patients’ files are over there and the appointment book is on the desk. Check them in, pull their file, and put the file in the slot by the examining room door.

Excuse me? She stared up at the man snapping orders at her. She’d run away from one tyrant and had no intention of putting up with another overbearing one, even if he was knock-down gorgeous. His firm abs, linebacker-type shoulders and muscular body did not compensate for his attitude.

Who did this jerk think he was?

Her back stiffened. She assumed he was the doctor, but his manners confused her. If staff and working partners were expected to put up with this, no wonder they hadn’t been able to find another doctor.

You’re not going to make me repeat all that are you? I have a room full of patients. When I asked Jean to send a temp over from the hospital, I thought she’d send someone with training and at least a vague idea of what they were doing. A sigh slipped through his lips and he rolled his eyes. The look he gave her placed her one step above an idiot.

He pointed to a huge pile of folders. The patients’ files are...

Allie pulled her shoulders back, raised her chin and tightened her lips together. Excuse me. I believe you’ve made a mistake. First of all, I’m not stupid. Second, I’m not your damn temp. I’m a doctor, Alexandra Parsons, M.D. I understood you were expecting me.

You’re the new doc? Shoot. I didn’t expect you today. The heart-stopping man stared down at her. His full lips drooped in apparent disappointment.

The disappointment could be her or the fact he still didn’t have a temp. She couldn’t tell.

I arrived early, so I could acquaint myself with the town and find a place to live. I dropped by to introduce myself.

He focused on her, drawing his eyebrows into a frown. You’re the new physician? I should have known by that fancy outfit, it screams big city.

Sorry. I’ve just arrived and haven’t had time to get my jeans and plaid shirt yet. I’ll move that to the top of my list, so I’ll fit in.

A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, but he controlled it, as he ran his fingers through the tangle of dark curls. Look, I’m sorry. I mean...my mistake. Donna, my receptionist, quit this morning with no notice. She ran off with some truck driver. I’ve got a room full of patients and a long list of messages to return. The phone keeps ringing, and yes, I desperately need another doctor. However, right this minute, I need a receptionist to sort this mess out.

I see.

I also desperately need another doctor. My day is not going well, as you can see. I’m Luke Hawkins by the way. He stuck out his hand.

She wiped her hand on her skirt before extending it. He immediately encased it in strong fingers.

And I suppose the receptionist is expected to be a female?

Wha...? He dropped her hand.

She shook her head. Forget it.

Allie stepped behind the desk and opened a bottom drawer. She dropped her purse inside, before glancing at the appointment book. Mrs. Douglas?

A woman in her late forties and about twenty pounds overweight nodded and stood up. In her shapeless cotton dress, graying hair pulled back in a bun, she reminded Allie of a loving mother. Not her own, of course.

Mrs. Douglas, let me take you back. Allie picked the file off the top of the pile of folders on the desk and continued down the hall.

Stopping at the first exam room, she stepped back to let the older woman enter first. What are you seeing the doctor about today, Mrs. Douglas?

It’s my heart. I’ve been getting palpitations. Sometimes it seems to go too fast to even count. My father died of heart trouble, you know. And this--it scares me.

Allie nodded. Of course, it would. How’s your energy level?

I don’t have any. I can’t get up off the couch to do anything around the house.

Hmm, Allie picked up the woman’s wrist, counting her pulse. It is a little fast. Do you have any history of thyroid problems in your family?

Why, yes. Come to think of it. I believe my aunt had a thyroid condition. She had to take medication for it. Do you think that’s what I might have? Maybe it’s not heart trouble at all?

I’m sure the doctor will run some tests and let you know. He’ll be in shortly. Try not to worry too much until the tests results come back.

Allie closed the door, made a note on the front of the chart and popped the file into the slot on the wall before she walked back to the front desk.

She picked up the next chart. Mr. Almeara?

Yah. A man, probably in his late seventies, stood up and limped forward. He might have been over six feet in his younger days, but now, with a stooped back, he looked about five feet eight or nine inches. He had a fuzzy gray fringe with a receding hairline and a long gray beard.

She saw a definite twinkle in his brown eyes.

Follow me, please. Allie led the way down the corridor.

Yah, I follow you anywhere, you sweet thing.

Ouch. She jumped, turning around to stare at the man who had just pinched her backside.

Winking, he nodded. You got a nice patootie there. You got a fellar that appreciates it?

The initial anger dissipated. A smile crawled up from the inside. She tried to look forbidding. Mr. Almeara, please don’t do that again.

Ahhh, you could make an old man very unhappy if he couldn’t appreciate a good lookin’ woman.

You may look, but, please, don’t touch. Allie tried to hide the laughter busting to get out. She opened the next door and stepped to one side so he couldn’t touch her as he went past.

In here, please. What are you seeing the doctor about today?

I...I got problems with the water works.

I see. That’s common with men in your age bracket. The doctor will talk to you about it. Don’t worry.

Really, are you sure?

Not for sure. The doctor will have to run a few tests first to find out what the problem is. Have a seat. He should be right in.

Her lips still tugged at the corners as Allie closed the door behind her.

Dr. Hawkins entered the hall. Are you smiling at a private joke?

Sort of, she had no intention of sharing that pinch with him. He might think she couldn’t handle the patients if this sort of thing happened in the first few hours after she started work. She had no idea of his ideas on harassment. Besides, she found it more funny than upsetting.

Your next patient’s ready.

Thanks. You’re doing a great job. I really appreciate you doing this.

She nodded and went back to reception to pull the next patient file and answer the ringing phone. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a compliment on her work. And this one was for her work as a receptionist.

Every time she passed him in the corridor, his closeness, his masculine musky scent and those hypnotizing eyes had a startling affect on her.

Duster didn’t appear to be so depressing any longer. However, he could make working together a challenge.

They needed to keep things strictly professional. He might be sexy, but she had no desire to get involved with any man right now.

Why would he have chosen to practice medicine in this godforsaken place?

An hour later, a young woman, maybe twenty-one, with brilliant orange-red, spiky hair, black lipstick and a nose ring, leaned across the desk. You the one who wants some office help?

Sorry? Glancing up at the young woman, the first thing Allie noticed was the nose ring. Can I help you?

I’m here to help you. Heidi Knowles. You called for a receptionist?

You’re the temp. I am glad to see you. The files are over here, the appointment book... Allie indicated the large open book on the desk. Have you done this before?

Yeah, sure, I’m good at what I do. The girl joined Allie behind the counter.

Allie forced her face to remain expressionless at the short black leather skirt, the large clunky black shoes with huge silver buckles, and torn black fishnet stockings. She looked as out of place as Allie did.

Maybe there was hope for Duster after all.

Great. Let me show you around. Hiding another smile, Allie hurried down the hall. Have you made up examining rooms before?

No. I haven’t done that, but it doesn’t sound too hard. The girl clunked along behind Allie.

It’s not. Depending on what the patient is complaining about, you may need to ask them to slip some of their clothes off and put on a gown. If you’re not sure about whether they need a gown, ask me. Clean gowns are in that drawer under the examining room counter. You tear off the paper covering the exam table after each patient and pull down new paper.

Cool. I can handle that.

Good, then let’s get to work. I’ll get you a lab coat to wear over your clothes.

Heidi looked quizzically at Allie. So who are you, another secretary?

No, actually I’m the other doctor.

Oops, sorry, I guess you should never trust first impressions, especially if it’s, like, labeling according to stereotype. Heidi grinned at her.

Allie grinned back and extended her hand. Dr. Allie Parsons and you’re quite right about first impressions. It’s also my first day.

Cool. Well, let’s get this place rockin’ and take care of all these people. Heidi grabbed the next file and stepped out into the waiting room. Howard Warkenton?

In the staff lounge, Allie located a couple of oversized lab coats, obviously meant for the male doctor. She pulled one on and rolled up the sleeves, taking the second one out to Heidi.

With Heidi settled Allie glanced around the room before seeing the next patient. She noticed someone, probably a man, in the far back corner, with a newspaper in front of his face. Was he the same man she’d seen outside hovering around the clinic window? She couldn’t tell. He wasn’t wearing the baseball cap, but he did have on worn jeans and what she could see around the paper looked like a green t-shirt. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but he didn’t look like a patient. She’d check and see who he was if Heidi brought him to the examining rooms.

Allie headed back to check and see which room had a chart outside the door. She picked up the first chart and skimmed over it before she opened the door.

Amanda? I’m Doctor Parsons. I’m assisting Dr. Hawkins. You’re here for your prenatal check up?

Uh huh.

The thin waif with a cloud of dark hair glanced up, not making eye contact.

How far along are you?

Dr. Hawkins says almost seven months. I’m glad you’re the new doctor and a woman.

Doctor Hawkins is a good doctor. Now let’s talk about you. How old are you, Amanda?

I’m almost seventeen. Why? I’m old enough to have a baby.

Yes, you’re definitely old enough to have a baby, but are you old enough to be a parent? Are you sure you know what it’s going to be like to care for a baby, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?

I can do it. The tiny, pointed chin stuck out defiantly. I’ll make it work. I can keep going to school until the baby is born.

Allie wrapped the blood pressure cuff around the emaciated arm.

Blood pressure is good. Now I want you to get a blood test and see me in two weeks. If you’re going to have a healthy baby, the first thing we’re going to do is make sure you’re healthy. This is a food guide. Make sure you follow the serving guide for pregnant women. Heidi will make an appointment for you after school gets out.

Okay. Thanks, Doctor. Look, I really want this baby. I’ll make sure she’s healthy. I don’t want anybody takin’ her away from me because they think I’m too young.

That will be up to you, and your parents.

Allie moved to the next patient, relaxing as the afternoon progressed. Her family practice skills worked fine in a rural community.

Before she knew it, there were no more charts in the slots. She hadn’t seen the person from the corner of the waiting room. Maybe Dr. Hawkins had.

Heidi popped her head around the corner.

That’s it. You guys have seen them all. Can I go now?

Allie glanced at her watch. Six-thirty, I had no idea. Thanks, Heidi. You did great. Go home.

I’ll come in early in the morning and straighten up the charts and get things organized, if you still need me.

I’m sure you’re going to be needed, so yes, we’ll see you in the morning.

Cool. I’ll let the hospital know I’ll be working here again tomorrow. With a wave in Allie’s direction, Heidi clomped toward the door.

Allie rolled her shoulders back a few times. She could do with a full body massage right now.

Yeah right, like they would have massage therapists here.

The reception area was silent for the first since she`d walked through the door. The blinds allowed shards of evening sun to skitter across the empty room, over the chairs, and the tables piled with outdated magazines. She picked a couple up and checked the dates. Uh huh, like she thought, one was three years old and the other was from four years ago. She dropped them back onto the chair.

A lot had happened in the last few hours. She’d met a lot of people today, including Mr. Almeara and his pinch. That had been a first for her. She chuckled. It had been a good day.

She realized she didn’t have a place to stay yet. Maybe Dr. Hawkins could recommend a hotel. Hopefully, Duster had a decent one.

Thanks for your help. What are you laughing at?

She spun around.

Luke Hawkins leaned against the door jamb, watching her. His eyes strolled over her body. He appeared to see her for the first time.

Nothing, I enjoyed the afternoon. Her heart thumped loudly. She struggled to appear cool and professional.

Good. I’m glad you’re here. I really do need a second doctor. Luke flashed a brilliant smile in her direction.

Why did this man affect her like this? Carter never had. Nor had any of the other good-looking doctors she’d worked with. It must be working in a small town, and not having eaten since breakfast.

What other reason could there be?

CHAPTER TWO

Allie swallowed several times, to loosen up her vocal chords.

You’re welcome. Heidi did a good job. She’s a quick learner. I sent her home and told her to come back in the morning. I hope that’s okay.

Luke nodded. Good decision, thanks, but what about you?

What about me? A shiver of anticipation wrap around her like a silky shawl. She looked up at the man who sent her heart racing and heat flooding through her body.

I should probably get a little information on you, sort of a hiring interview, although you already have the job. You do have a license to practice in Montana, right?

Yes. With help from an agency I hired, I managed to get it in six weeks.

Good, how about malpractice insurance?

I extended mine with the company that already carried my professional liability insurance in New York.

You’ve been doing a residency in family practice in New York City and just completed it. So, you`ve had no experience working on your own?

No. I was looking at options when Dr. Angus called and I’ve spent the last two months preparing to move here.

Good old George. I met him when I was doing a residency. I gotta remember to send him a thank you and a good bottle of scotch. So it was because of him you chose to move to Duster, even if it’s only temporary?

That’s right.

Luke stared at her.

You had no other reason for taking such a leap from big city to the very small town of Duster, even if it is only temporary?

No, I didn’t. She had no plans to share her life history with him. Being treated like a child, double checked on everything she did and being put down continuously by her father had dissipated her confidence in her abilities. Until she’d studied family practice. She had never been able to please her father and when he took the side of her two-timing, unfaithful fiancé...

"When George mentioned he’d pressured some poor suck--soul into helping until we found a permanent replacement for

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