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By Design
By Design
By Design
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By Design

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Nurse Evie Dalton succumbs to the temptation of a lot of money and a chance to work with the attractive Dr. Adam Marsden. She accepts a position at an isolated hospital. On arrival she finds an onsite animal farm attached to the hospital and mysterious limos arriving in the dark. There are screams in the night. People disappear and turn up dead. There’s no way to leave the hospital and area once you start work there and no communication outside the small town. 

Dr. Adam Marsden left his past behind. Now he thinks has it all; a great job, money, and a chance to buy his own hospital. But he hadn't counted on Evie Dalton breaking through his tough emotionless shell. Now, because of him, she’s at risk and might be the next victim. Depending on his decisions, they could both be running for their lives. 

Release dateMay 31, 2017
By Design
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    By Design - Beverley Bateman

    This book is dedicated to Kristina, my wonderful daughter, friend, and a very special person.

    Chapter One

    What the hell have I got myself into?

    Evie Dalton pulled the soft green cotton uniform top over her head. She’d arrived in Preston last night, excited about her new job; looking forward to meeting new people, learning new things.

    By the time she had reached Ophidian, the stark white hospital in the isolated northern woods of California, concern had replaced excitement. Besides the remoteness, her less than altruistic motive had her rethinking the decision as well.

    In the room, classical music played quietly in the background. She’d tried to find the switch to turn if off last night, but there didn’t seem to be one; different stations but no off switch. She’d have to ask someone how you turned the bloody thing off before it drove her crazy.

    She checked her blonde hair in the mirror, pushing it back behind her ears to make it look neater.

    It had been almost two years since she’d been home. Suddenly she had an overwhelming desire to be there right now, close to her mother and father, and brothers. Jiggs, the family terrier would be racing around her, wanting Evie to pet her. That’s where she wanted to be, home, where she would be safe and loved, not in this desolate place.

    Everything inside her screamed get out. She’d never really made a mistake before, not a big one. This felt like the big one. But then she’d never made a decision based purely on money before, either. She’d been raised in a small mid-west town where money hadn’t been an important part of her life.

    Evie paused to stare out the only window of the tiny suite she would be calling home for the next six months, according to her contract. In front of her stood the sparkling white building where she would be working.

    The architecture reminded her of something from the thirties or early forties that she’d seen on an episode of Poirot one time, not a hospital. It was squarish with kind of rounded corners, smaller than most hospitals and a brilliant white.

    She could see a one-story wing up front and a two-story wing out the back that angled about forty-five degrees off from the front wing.

    Last night when she had arrived it had looked like a white monolith. Today it just looked cold, sterile, and remote. A shiver climbed down her spine. She pulled her arms tightly around herself. Something didn’t feel right. She shook her head, turned from the window, and grabbed her white cardigan off the chair.

    She’d never even heard of Preston, California before Dr. Marsden had told her about it. It took four different maps before she even found it. Now she would be living and working several miles outside of Preston in the bloody wilderness.

    God, she was an idiot. On the positive side, there had to be a positive side. Maybe she’d learn something from the experience. She had never felt loneliness before but after only a few hours here she felt she was beginning to experience it.

    Her supervisor at the crisis center where Evie volunteered had said Evie needed to learn compassion and understanding. Maybe working in this place, she might develop a better understanding of others. Her own feelings were likely going to go through some sort of metamorphosis here. Good had to come out of it somehow. Right?

    She squared her shoulders. She’d make it work. Evie pulled on the cardigan, did a quick check of her room, locked the door and headed downstairs.

    Good morning.

    An attractive young woman in her late twenties fell into step beside Evie. You must be new. I’m Donna.

    Slightly taller than Evie’s five foot four frame, with shoulder length dark hair, Donna tramped along, her shoulders rounded and hunched forward. She had a slight limp. She never made eye contact.

    Evie let her eyes skim briefly over Donna, taking in her hair, posture, and the limp. Donnas’ left shoe had been built up about an inch and a half.

    Donna held the door open and Evie passed in front of her out into the crisp morning air.

    Ohh, Evie shivered. Evie Dalton. Yes, I got in last night. Ohh, it’s chilly.

    Brisk. Donna replied. I enjoy the short walk across to the hospital. Being so close to the mountains, the morning air is fresh and crisp. It wakes you up and makes you appreciate being alive.

    I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this cold. Evie wrapped her arms tightly around herself, trying to stay warm.

    It warms up by the afternoon. You’ll find it quite comfortable then. You won’t even need a sweater when you walk back to residence. In a few weeks, you’ll find it gets very hot during the day. Where are you from?

    Los Angeles, where May is warm, even in the mornings. How about you? Where are you from?

    Las Vegas. I guess that’s why I’m used to the cool mornings. The desert gets very cold at night.

    Evie strode quickly toward the side door of the hospital. Right now, I just want to get inside

    You’ll get used to it. You might even like it. It’s safe here. Where will you be working?

    Evie yanked the door open.

    Donna nodded to Evie and reached for the door. You first.

    Evie didn’t argue and slipped quickly through the door. The air inside clothed her with its warmth.

    Thanks. I’m in the operating room assisting Dr. Marsden. I’m not sure what else.

    The door automatically closed behind them. He’s good. I’ve assisted him a couple of times. He’s also very good looking.

    Evie grinned. Yeah, he’s not too hard on the eyes.

    I imagine you’re supposed to report to Nurse Byrne first. She’ll give you the usual welcome speech and the tour.

    You’re right. She’s the person I need to find. Evie hesitated. They stood in a hospital corridor, pretty much like the one she’d just left in Los Angeles.

    Her office is to your left, at the end of the hall. It says Hospital Administrator on the door. You can’t miss it.

    Thanks. Where do you work? Evie asked.

    Donna hesitated for just a second. Her eyes scoured Evie’s face, as if searching for some hidden meaning to the question. Ask no questions.


    I kind of float. I go wherever I’m needed. Have a good day. We’ll probably see each other later. Crossing the hall, she turned to her left and quickly disappeared out of sight.

    Thanks. Evie replied to the empty hall. Donna moved very quickly, despite her limp.

    Typical elevator music, the kind Evie hated, played quietly in the background. She edged slowly down the hall, nodding to an older woman in pink pants and a matching floral top, carrying a breakfast tray into one of the rooms. A cleaning woman sloshed water on the other side of the hall. Her bucket rested up against the wall. Both woman regarded Evie cautiously.

    They certainly weren’t overly friendly here, except for Donna. She seemed okay.

    Finding the sign that said Hospital Administrator, Evie tapped gently. No answer. She rapped a little louder.

    Come in. It was not an invitation but an order that cut through the air like a command from an army drill sergeant

    Evie pushed the door open and found herself in a large, office. She noticed the over-stuffed, dark green leather chairs tucked in one corner with a wooden straight-backed chair to the left of a large dark oak desk on the far side of the room. Behind a transition counter on the side closest to the door sat another small desk with an office chair behind it. The room was quiet. No music played in here.

    A tall woman with iron gray hair pulled back into a severe bun marched in from a back room, a folder clutched in her left hand. She stood several inches taller than Evie. Her age was indeterminable.

    You must be Eve Dalton?

    Yes. Evie edged backwards as the woman stopped in front of her. She had no intention of correcting this woman to say she preferred to be called Evie.

    A white, starched uniform covered with a heavily starched, white apron covered her ample body. A starched nurse’s cap perched on top of her bun. Her pale, insipid blue eyes glared down at Evie.

    Almost invisible thin lips parted to reveal yellowing teeth. I’m Grethe Byrne the hospital administrator. You can address me as Nurse Byrne. I also assist Dr. Rebawlski in surgery. Is your room adequate?

    Why, yes. It’s quite comfortable. Evie’s nose twitched at the faint scent of something she couldn’t quite place, something she hadn’t smelled for a long time.

    Good. And you have everything you need?

    I…I think so. Except… Evie hesitated.


    I noticed there wasn’t a phone in my room or anywhere in the residence.

    Old Spice, that’s the scent. My God, Nurse Byrne wears Old Spice.

    That’s right. Phones lines are difficult to get installed out here. Besides they can be a distraction to your work. You’ll have to depend on letter writing.

    I see.

    She didn’t, but Evie felt this might not be the time to discuss it. She’d ask Donna about it the next time she saw her. She swallowed a couple of times.

    The scent of Old Spice hit her again and she had an irresistible urge to giggle. She struggled to control it.

    Nurse Byrne glared down at her. Dr. Marsden said you were an excellent operating room nurse. He spoke very highly of you. I assume you won’t disappoint us. You will be assisting him when he performs surgery. He only works a few days a week so you will assist some of the other doctors as needed. We also expect you to work in the recovery room.

    Of course.

    Good. Nurse Byrne flipped through the folder she held. You signed a six-month contract I see.

    Yes. I thought I’d like to see how I liked it here before I committed to a longer contract.

    Evie suddenly wondered if Nurse Byrne shaved her legs. Anybody that used Old Spice might go au naturelle. Evie gave herself a mental kick to pay attention and not let her mind wander. That could get her in a lot of trouble here.

    Mmm. What about family? Husband? Children?

    No, no one here. My family are all back in Iowa.

    Do you visit them often?

    No. Actually I haven’t been back for a couple of years. I’m hoping to go home for a visit when my contract here is finished.

    Good, very good. And what do you know about our facility?

    Not much, just what was in the brochure and what Dr. Marsden told me. It’s a private hospital for the rich and the famous. It’s a place where people who can afford it, have complete privacy for any surgery they are having. You specialize in plastic surgery, making people look young again, helping them maintain their youth or improve their body.

    A replica of a smile flitted across Nurse Byrne’s face. Yes, we do our best here to meet the needs of those who can pay for what they want. And we expect complete loyalty from our staff. You are not to talk about anything that goes on here. Will that be a problem?

    No. I mean I’ve never discussed patients by name at any time. It’s not professional.

    Good, but here we don’t even want you to discuss the type of surgery people are having. Everything is completely confidential. Records and patients are by numbers, not names. Do you understand?

    Evie nodded. Not being able to even talk about the surgeries seemed a little odd, but for the salary they were paying her she wasn’t going to quibble.

    Good, good. Now I need you to sign this oath of confidentiality. Just sign here. Nurse Byrne placed the folder on the desk and pointed to a dotted line. She pulled a pen from the breast pocket of her uniform and handed it to Evie.

    Evie skimmed over the document. It seemed straightforward. She scrawled her name on the line Nurse Byrne had indicated.

    Nurse Byrne produced another piece of paper, dropping it on top of the first document Evie had just signed. And you’ll need to sign here and here as well. She indicated two more lines with her finger.

    Evie began reading the form

    It’s just a standard document.

    This is an application for a new account at the Preston City Bank. Evie stifled another urge to giggle as she thought of Preston having a city bank. It wasn’t hard to stifle that giggle as concern replaced it.

    She looked up at Nurse Byrne. I already have a bank account in my bank in Los Angeles. I’d prefer to deposit my checks to that account.

    We do direct deposit. You don’t get a check.

    Then I’d like to have it deposited directly to my account in Los Angeles.

    That’s not an option. All our employees deal with the Preston City Bank. It makes it easier for our finance person. It also helps the economy of Preston. If we didn’t all use their bank, the bank would have to shut down, leaving the townspeople without any local banking establishment.

    A sigh escaped from Evie’s lips. It made sense to help the community. She didn’t like the idea of having to change banks. How did she even know this one was solvent? She’d heard of banks going bankrupt.

    Once you leave of course, you can have your account transferred anywhere you wish. For now, it’s not an option. The money goes into the local bank. Sign here. Byrne jabbed at the paper.

    Evie glanced at Byrne’s face and decided acquiescence was the better choice right now. She scribbled her signature in the two places and put the pen down.

    Nurse Byrne snatched the papers, inserting them in the folder and popped the folder into a desk drawer, locking the drawer and slipping the key into her pocket.

    Good, now come along and I’ll give you a tour of our facility. Then we’ll put you to work. Oh, and you have an appointment this afternoon for a blood test.

    A blood test? Why?

    It’s routine. All our employees have a pre-employment blood test. That way if you’re in an accident, we don’t have to worry about cross matching you for blood type. We already have it on file. Nurse Byrne smiled at Evie. A smile that stretched her thin lips even thinner, but didn’t leave that part of her face.

    Evie stared at her for a second. She was beginning to feel like the lobster being held over the pot of boiling water.

    I…don’t understand. I’ve never had to do that at any other hospital. Besides I already know my blood type. She took a step back.

    It’s policy. We prefer to do our own tests. If we have your blood type on file, we can also use you if we need blood for someone else. We also screen it to make sure you don’t have anything like hepatitis or Aids that could cause a problem if we needed you to help out with, say, a blood donation.

    I see. I’m quite sure I don’t have anything like that.

    Is this going to be a problem for you? The smile left Nurse Byrne’s face.

    Evie’s mind raced. Why did they want to do this? And what was she worried about? It was only a blood test for heaven’s sake and with the salary they were paying her why should she be upset if they had a few different policies? Then again, maybe she shouldn’t have been so eager to jump at this job. This was the first time she’d let money influence her decision and it was damn well going to be her last.

    Well? Nurse Byrne interrupted Evie’s train of thought. Is it going to be a problem?

    No, of course not. I’m just surprised. Where do I go?

    I’ll show you on the tour. Follow me. Nurse Byrne smiled again. We have a cafeteria and a gym for our staff to use.

    A gym? That’s great. I like to work out.

    Good. I think you’ll find it state of the art. We like to keep our staff healthy. As reception is poor we have taped music piped into both the hospital and the residence for the enjoyment of the staff. I’m sure you’ve noticed it already. You’ll find you have an option of five different tracks in your room.

    Oh great, she was going to have to listen to that bloody elevator music everywhere she went.

    I’d also suggest you don’t go outside alone, particularly at night.


    Wild animals. We’re close to the forest and the animals could come onto the grounds. You’ll hear them occasionally. It’s a good idea to stay inside.

    I see.

    Trailing along behind Nurse Byrne Evie felt like Hansel and Gretel following the wicked witch into the woods. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any breadcrumbs to leave so she could find her way out.

    * * *

    Adam Marsden extended his latex-gloved hand, palm up.

    Evie slapped a scalpel against his palm.

    Adam’s fingers closed around the handle, then proceeded to make a neat incision in the abdominal area. Sponges were applied immediately.

    Miles Davis played quietly in the background. Adam preferred the jazz track.

    He enjoyed working with Evie Dalton, an intelligent, efficient nurse. From working together in Los Angeles, he knew once she removed the sterile gown, an attractive figure, slim and rounded in all the right places would be revealed. He would enjoy exploring it. He was hoping to enjoy it even more if his plans worked out.

    Her deep green eyes watched him carefully over her mask, as she anticipated what he would need next. He smiled under his own mask. He was pleased she had accepted his suggestion to apply at Ophidian, although his motives had included more than just assisting him with his surgery.

    He’d never asked her out when they’d worked together in Los Angeles, even though he’d wanted to. City hospitals were pits of gossip and rumors. It could have caused problems for both of them. Besides he wasn’t looking for anything serious. His lifestyle didn’t have room for any long-term commitment. When a relationship between two people who work together ends it makes the working relationship very awkward which wouldn’t be a good thing for him.

    Since he was spending a lot of his time here now, it would be nice to have Evie close by. The fact that there wasn’t much to do here made it more likely she’d respond to his advances and less likely that she’d rebuff him. He liked to stack the cards in his favor. Yes, this had been a very good move on his part. Of course, he’d make it perfectly clear up front that is was just casual, nothing serious.

    Thanks Evie. Good job. Adam pulled his mask down. Then he moved across to help lift the woman onto the stretcher. Keep a close check on her vitals and her circulation.

    Of course, Evie replied.

    She barely reached his shoulder. He fought the desire to reach out and touch her strawberry blonde hair. It had a natural curl that gave it a tousled appearance. It probably looked the same when she first got out of bed in the morning. He’d like to check that out for himself. Maybe he’d get the chance now she was here. His fingers twitched as he restrained them from winding through her soft curls.

    A faint pink blush slipped up her neck and colored her cheeks. You’re staring. Have I got something on my nose? Her hand brushed the tip of her nose.

    What? No. Sorry. I guess my mind was on something else. He looked away, but not before noticing the fine sprinkling of freckles that dusted her nose and cheeks. She didn’t wear much make up. Her skin had a fresh, healthy look. She certainly didn’t need cosmetic surgery to improve on that face. And she blushed. He didn’t think women did that anymore.

    I’ll get the orderly.

    Don’t bother. We can take her over. Adam replied.

    Together they slid the woman onto a stretcher. They pushed her down to the recovery room where another nurse took charge of the patient.

    Thanks Debby. How’s it going? Adam flashed one of his famous smiles at the older woman. She’d worked here for several years and lived in town with an unemployed husband.

    Fine, thank you. She returned the smile, much like an eager puppy.

    That’s nice. Adam turned back to Evie, leaving Debby with a disappointed look on her face.

    How are you liking it here so far?

    They headed back to the change rooms.

    I’m not sure. I only arrived last night. From the little I’ve seen the countryside is beautiful. I can’t believe how cold it is in the morning.

    You get used to the cool mornings but the rest of the day is great. There’s fresh air here, not smog like Los Angeles. You can actually breathe without worrying about polluting your lungs.

    I’m sure I’ll learn to appreciate that. Right now, I already miss the people and the noise of the city.

    It’ll grow on you. How do you like Ophidian itself?

    Well… Evie hesitated, the hospital is great. The part that I’ve seen seems to have everything you’d need. I can’t believe the high-tech equipment I saw. They’ve got machines here they didn’t even have in Los Angeles.

    With their clientele, they can afford it.

    Yeah, I guess.

    But… Adam waited.

    But what?

    There was an implied but at the end of your sentence. Adam paused in front of the change room doors. The facility is well equipped—but?

    Oh. Well, it’s so isolated. We’re in the middle of nowhere. I had no idea where Preston was, or how small it is. I mean they have a population of less than fifteen hundred and most of them work at the hospital. If something happened to the hospital, what would these people do?

    Nothing’s going to happen to the hospital.

    I know patients want privacy but I think this is overkill. I’m surprised they can even find it. There’s also a lot of secrecy around here. Parts of the hospital are off limits. I don’t understand why. All I was shown is this small wing up front. I could see quite a bit more extending out back from the window in my room this morning. There’s at least another full, two-story wing back there.

    Don’t worry about the back part. You probably won’t be going there anyhow.

    Yeah, well usually when you get an orientation tour you’re shown the whole hospital. Then if for some reason, you’re sent on an errand you have some idea where you’re going. Evie turned to face him.

    You won’t be sent on any errands. I’m sure you’ve been shown everything you need to know. Adam felt irritation creeping into his voice.

    She was too damn curious. He didn’t want to cause her any more concerns and he sure didn’t want any more questions, so he put his arm up against the wall. He leaned in slightly, not quite touching her, and fixed her with what he considered his most engaging smile.

    And what else is there? What’s in the two back wings that I don’t need to know about?

    Damn she was persistent. Adam continued to smile. He reached toward her, put his finger gently under her chin and tipped it up slightly. He gazed deep into her eyes.

    There is a lab back there, but you won’t be asked to go find it. It’s for research. And sometimes there are special patients who want complete privacy and they may be admitted to the other back wing. You’re a beautiful woman Evie Dalton.

    Evie hesitated. She took a deep breath and appeared to be focus somewhere past his left ear. Complete privacy, that’s what you call it. I call it isolation, not privacy. Believe me, no reporter is going to bother coming all the way out here for a story about someone’s butt lift. Nothing could be that important.

    Aw jeez Evie, I can see how you’d think that, but believe me, it’s necessary. Now quit worrying about things like that, work hard and you’ll be fine. I can think of a lot of other things I’d like to discuss with you now. I said you were very beautiful. Adam put his hand on her cheek and stroked it. Evie seemed immune to his charm. He was running out of ideas.

    Evie met his eyes and stopped talking. Then she smiled. Thank you. I did hear you the first time. And I know you’re trying to change the subject. Okay, if you say so. I’ll trust you.

    Good. Adam flinched inside. Trust wasn’t exactly what he wanted. It wasn’t something people usually associated with Adam Marsden. Ask anyone.

    That patient you just finished doing the facelift on, was that really Marie Mason, the television actress?

    Yes. She’s worried about losing roles to the younger women coming along.

    But she’s not even forty yet. I thought she looked great before the surgery.

    To the average woman, she did look great. When your face is your income and you’re on television, you worry about every line. After thirty years, thirty-five tops, the camera isn’t always kind and the parts start going to the younger women. She’s willing to pay to keep looking thirty. That’s why our job is important. He grinned at her. That’s why they pay the big-ticket price to stay young.

    It’s not fair. You shouldn’t be judged by your physical appearance.

    Maybe, but name one movie star or famous person who’s ugly.

    Evie sighed. There aren’t any, but it doesn’t seem right. You should be judged on who you are and the person inside.

    In an ideal world, it might work like that but not in the real world. You can’t be that naïve.

    There’s just so many other things that woman could do with her money.

    "You may think so, she doesn’t. She’s afraid if she begins to age she won’t get the big parts anymore. Her career and public acclamation are very important to her and worth more than the money. Besides if she doesn’t get

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