Authors: Cassia Brightmore
“Wait, you were in the OR? Today? Like during a surgery?” Athena tried and failed to keep the jealously out of her tone.
“Damn right. Motor vehicle accident. Woman came in with multiple fractures and lacerations and some major damage to her abdomen. Smith was running the ER today and took us in with him. It was fucking awesome, Athena. You guys gotta get in on a surgery,” Clarence was definitely riding the adrenaline of his first experience and although she wanted to remain envious, deep down she was happy for him. It gave her hope that not all the residents and attendings’ thought they were wastes of space and would actually teach them. Oscar even cracked a grin and nodded to back up Clarence’s story. Apparently the experience had even affected him.
“Not fucking fair. I was down there and Armstrong pulled out the damn nail file instead of going to surgery,” Sabine complained, brushing Dick’s arm away when he came up behind her and tugged on a lock of her hair. “Hands off, slimeball.” Dick smirked and turned his attention to the group.
“You’re looking at the first intern to be hand-picked to be at O’Reilly’s side during his bypass surgery. Sorry, suckers, but you weren’t here two hours before shift like I was to get in on that case.” He drew in a breath through his nose as he hopped up onto the nurse’s desk and looked down at all of them. “O’Reilly obviously is smart enough to know which one of us is the best intern in the class.” Athena rolled her eyes and turned to walk away from the babbling idiot, only to collide with a hard chest.
“Oomph,” she breathed out, almost losing her balance. Strong arms came up to steady her, encircling her waist. She had a second to breathe in the man’s scent, as her nose was pushed up right against him, and it did funny things to her insides. He smelled clean, spicy and a little bit...dangerous? There was something about his scent that set off alarm bells in her head and longing in her pussy. Whoever it was that she’d nearly plowed over, he was a damn contradiction, that much was certain.
Chancing a look up, she was horrified to see it was Cian. He stood almost a foot taller than her at 6’4”, why hadn’t she noticed before how tall he was? His gaze was locked on hers and those dark eyes once again pulled her in, making her forget everything; including her own damn name. The man was a walking felony, it should be illegal for someone to look and smell as good as he did; especially considering he was such an asshole.
“Uh—I’m sorry,” she apologized lamely, stepping back out of his arms. She looked around and flushed, noticing that their scene had caught more than one curious eye. Sabine was practically panting, encouraging her with her eyes to continue their display. She glared at her and looked back up at Cian.
“I didn’t see you, Dr. O’Reilly. I’m sorry if I hurt you.” Cian let out a chuckle that sounded rusty to her ears, but pleasant all the same.
“You barely come up to my shoulder, Dr. Payne. You didn’t hurt me,” he looked past her to Dick, pinning him in place with a hard glare. “So, you think you’re the best in the program, do you? Tell me, what are you going to do if your patient develops a clot during surgery? Or begins to bleed profusely from the graft site? What’s your approach going to be, doctor?” With each word he took a step closer to Dick until he was directly in front of him, an inch away from where Dick was beginning to cower. “Well? Are you going to sit there frozen like you are now and let your patient bleed to death? Is that what the best intern in this program would do?”
The hallway had gone deathly still as passerby’s stopped to take in the scene. Dick’s shoulders slumped and he rubbed the back of his neck frantically, his blue eyes darting back and forth.
“Yes. I mean, no. I mean, I would of course not let that happen, Dr. O’Reilly. I’d well, um...” he trailed off looking panicked, his mind clearly going blank under the pressure.
“You’d isolate the clot and call for a transfusion, examine the graft to see if it could be salvaged and if not, patch it up until another surgery could be booked to save the body any additional undue stress.” Athena found herself speaking out of nowhere, something that was becoming a habit in Dr. O’Reilly’s presence.
Cian’s head swiveled slowly towards her and he regarded her with approval. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest it felt like a set of drums were banging behind her ears. Had she really just blurted out the answer like that? Sure, surgery was a cutthroat profession and it was every man for themselves, but had she really just made a fool of one of her own in front of everyone? It appeared she had as the glances she was receiving were a cross between respect and resentment.
She shifted from foot to foot and twirled the diamond stud earring at her ear in an effort to calm her nerves. They were her favorite pair, a gift from her father on the last birthday he’d been alive. A prized possession of hers, she never took them off, wearing them daily felt as though she carried a piece of him everywhere she went.
“You’re in.” Cian pointed at her. “You, you’re out. Go find your brains and some balls and then we’ll talk about you “assisting” in my OR. I catch you shooting your mouth off like that again and I’ll make sure the only sharp object you touch this century is a No.2 pencil.” He finished his chastising of Dick just as Bianca and Webster joined them; Bianca’s arms weighed down with charts.
“Surgery in ten minutes. Get scrubbed,” he ordered Athena as he passed. She didn’t miss the subtle brush of his arm against hers, although she fought like hell to suppress the spark of electricity it sent tingling down her spine.
Sabine barged over and grabbing her by the upper arm, dragged her to the waiting area. “Oh, my God! Thene!” she squealed. “First, I fucking hate that you’re getting in the OR before me. Second, you little whore, you totally want a piece of him!”
“Shhhhh, oh, my God, would you shut up? I do not want a piece of him,” she hissed back, face on fire.
“You do. I saw the chemistry, the connection. Jesus Murphy, it’s like the rest of us in this hospital ceased to exist when you two were staring into each other’s eyes,” she batted her eyelashes for effect.
“Shut up. I banged into him that’s all and had to apologize. Then that idiot, Dick couldn’t answer a simple question and I seized an opportunity. I didn’t mean to make him look foolish, but if I want to get in on these cardiac surgeries, I have to jump when opportunity knocks.” Athena tried to justify her actions not only to Sabine, but to herself. Covering her face with her hands, she sighed.
“It was epic. I love that being here is starting to bring out the badass side of you that I always knew was hiding in there.” Sabine pulled her hands away and steered her towards the elevators. “Now go. This is no damn nail file case, this is your first time in a surgery, Thene! Go get some action,” she winked at her making sure she caught her double meaning before the elevators doors separated them. Athena stood staring at her own reflection in the stainless steel doors, pulse racing and skin tingling in anticipation.
“I’m so screwed.”
HERE’S A SWEET spot of time in the hospital when all is quiet and peaceful. You never know what time of day its going to happen, but when it does, it’s as though the whole place recognizes that a few minutes of serenity are needed to keep things flowing. Patients rest more comfortably, bickering among co-workers is silenced, phones and pagers cease beeping and letting out shrill rings. It’s the sweet spot and when you’re in it, nothing can touch you; not even death. Cian had never paid attention to the rumblings about that particular superstition, but over the past month since the new crop of interns integrated his hospital, he’d found himself buying into it more and more. And the reason was very simple—Athena Payne. Her innocence, her optimism was starting to affect him in a way that was unsettling. Now on the eve of the twenty-third day, he found himself more distracted with thoughts of her than focused on the patient they were bringing in that night.
She was quickly becoming a star in her own right. Every attending requested her on their service and Webster and Murphy couldn’t shut up about her. Her disastrous start was long forgotten and instead the bright, shining career she was going to have as a surgeon was all anyone talked about. Even her co-workers looked at her with admiration as opposed to envy, which was a feat in itself. Except for that dumbass, Dick. That douche gave her a hard time every chance he could, but Athena seemed to take it all in stride.
He finished closing up his patient, and peeled off his gloves as he exited the OR to scrub out. His mind drifted back to the first time she’d stepped into his OR, the same day they’d crashed into each other and he’d got a feel of that lush little body of hers. Her breasts had been smashed into his chest and the top of her head had been at the perfect height for him to inhale the scent of her fragrant hair. Something had passed between them that day in those few moments she was in his arms; he knew she felt it too.
When she’d stepped into the OR a short while later, gowned, gloved and scrubbed, it felt right. As though she belonged as a part of his team. He didn’t allow her to touch any instruments that day—she was still an intern after all—but he was still impressed with the way her intelligent eyes tracked not only his every move, but every move of the the nurses, residents, and other doctors involved in the surgery. A good surgeon knew how to anticipate, who to rely on and what each of their team member’s strengths were. With the way Athena absorbed every tiny detail in that room, he knew she would be a pro at that particular part of the game in no time.
Her confidence might not have been the highest, but she was starting to come out of her shell. She observed the procedure with a watchful eye and answered every question he threw at her, even ones beyond a first year intern’s comprehension. When they’d finished, he caught up with her in the scrub room.
“You did well. I hit you with some tough questions,” he commented.
“I’ve been studying and reading, tracking down research articles on all of your cases. I want to learn; be prepared.” she answered without looking up.
“My cases? I assume you have an interest in cardiothoracic surgery then.”
“Yes. It’s what I want to specialize in, I’ve dreamed about this chance for years.” A slow grin formed on her face and lit up her eyes. “I know this is going to sound unprofessional, but God, I loved it in there! The rush, the adrenaline, the feeling of power pumping around the room. I may have just stood there but I was actually in a surgery. With you—Dr. O’Reilly. I can’t tell you what this means to me. Thank you,” her voice was filled with sincerity and she was looking at him with such awe. Innocence such as hers didn’t have any place around someone like him. The depraved soul that lived beneath the exterior he showed the outside world would devour her in seconds, feeding on her purity until she was destroyed. And worst of all, he’d find pleasure in every second of it.
Shaking himself back to the present, he paged Reynolds to the attendings’ lounge. Grabbing a quick cup of coffee while he waited, he debated whether he had time to coax one of the Pediatric nurses into an on-call room to help him relieve some of the stress that had him wound up. Before he could make a decision one way or another, the door opened and Reynolds entered, looking frazzled.
“Sorry, Cian. It’s been a bad luck shift. Lost two on the table.” He made his way over to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup. “Fuck, I wish this was scotch.”
“Is everything set? I’m ready to leave now to get the package.” Cian cut right to the chase, eager to get started. He needed this, to hunt, to kill. The desire was starting to unfold in him; working its way up from his toes until it consumed every inch of him. His skin was singing in anticipation as he relished the thought of what was to come. This man, this piece of scum they’d marked for death had no idea what was coming for him.
“We’re set. See you in the OR in thirty.” Reynolds knew Cian well enough that when he slipped on the mask of his alter-ego, there was no talking to him. He became something else; something sinister and dark. His rage was a living part of his soul that he didn’t bother to harness. Instead, nurturing it and letting it flourish into what he was now. A cold-blooded killer. God help anyone that ever got on his bad side.