Three weeks earlier…
Watching Dr. Andrew Douglas roll out of bed, Rachael sipped the vodka she’d poured thirty minutes before. Blinking back tears, she wished for a high to make her forget how far she’d fallen—sleeping with her ex-husband, Nash’s, father. No amount of mind-altering pills could achieve that magic. They were a convenient pair. She knew what he brought to the table, and craved it as if it were air in her lungs, but all she had to offer him was herself. Andrew had always said that everything had a price, and for Rachael it was her sex. Having no intentions of being alone with her thoughts and vices, she threw back the drink and flung the sheet off, baring her breasts. “Stay awhile, Andrew?”
Glancing over his shoulder at the young woman trying her hand at seduction, a small laugh escaped his lips. “Maybe next time, Rachael. Ari wants me to grill tonight,” he said, buttoning his white dress shirt.
He wasn’t the oldest man she’d ever been with, but he was the strangest. Rachael found that Andrew’s public persona as Chief of Surgery at River City Medical Center was quite different from the man dressing before her now. In their six month affair, he’d never kissed her on the lips or held her afterwards. They undressed and dressed like a surgical procedure—meticulous and well-thought out.
“Room’s paid for and you’re welcome to it,” he added, rolling up his sleeves to fasten the silver cufflinks that had been a twenty-fifth anniversary gift from his wife. Rachael’s eyes darted around the room. Andrew always provided excellent accommodations. This Northshore bed and breakfast overlooking Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell was no exception.
“Andrew,” she whined, a perfect pout on her face. “It would be better, if you stayed.” Sliding her arms over his shoulders from behind, she kissed his neck and unbuttoned the top of his shirt.
Spinning around, his mood snapped from hot to cold. “You refer to me as Dr. Douglas, Rachael,” he fired back. “I told you, I have to get home to Arianne. Your prescription is on the bedside. Now, for God’s sake, put some clothes on.”
Dejected, Rachael turned toward the nightstand and spotted the small piece of paper. Immediately, she recalled why this tryst was taking place and started dressing.
“That script is for three months. See if you can stretch it longer this time. Arianne will take Gracie for a full month, starting tomorrow. Have her ready in the morning by eight, please. You are not to have contact with her per our agreement. Don’t pack anything. We have everything she needs,” he said, snatching his keys.
“Tomorrow? I can’t talk to my daughter for an entire month?” she squealed. “She’s my child. I’ve never been away from her that long.”
“She’s eighteen months, Rachael. You only have one-way conversations with her anyway. She’ll be fine, and so will you. Seems there’s plenty to keep you occupied,” he said, a touch too defensively. “Arianne will take better care of the child than anyone. Enjoy your free time, hon. Do you know how many young women would love to drop their kids with their grandparents for an entire month? Go out with girlfriends. Hell, go to the Caribbean. Graceanne will have a great time with her Mémère. And you, my dear, can return refreshed and revitalized.” Andrew opened the hotel door, absolutely certain he’d convinced her.
Reaching for the pills and vodka, Rachael forced a half smile and thought maybe he was right.
Donning his sunglasses, Andrew rushed to his black Tundra. If the traffic cooperated, he’d be on time to his next appointment. With his truck in gear, he glanced at his phone. Two missed calls—both from his best friend, Dr. Gregory Adams. Clicking Gregory’s name and the “send” button, Andrew turned the radio down before speaking.
“Hey Andy,” Gregory said. “Meetings go good today?”
“Yeah. Real good. Headed to my last one with Bob right now.”
“Thought you were supposed to save the best for last… not the worst,” he joked.
“No doubt, buddy,” Andrew agreed, excluding the real reason for the meeting and drinks with Bob O’Malley. “You know he’s the single largest contributor to the Hope Foundation, other than Doc Caissy.”
Gregory laughed. “Well, that’s because they’ve been in a forty-year competition to outdo each other.”
“Got a point there. Hey, y’all still coming tonight, aren’t ya?”
“I am. But I don’t—”
“Hell, Greg,” Andrew interrupted, “don’t pull rank on me because you’re Chief Medical Officer. I’ll call Human Resources to get the girl’s number so I can invite her myself.”
“Greg, bring her. This would be the fourth time you’ve made excuses for the poor thing, and I know Ari is dying to meet her. What’s her name again?”
“Tiffany,” Gregory muttered. It wasn’t that he didn’t want his friends to meet his girlfriend. He did, but meeting his friends meant meeting Andrew’s wife, and Gregory wanted to delay that introduction as long as possible.
“It’s time, Greg. Gotta meet us before you take her to your mama,” Andrew teased. “You know Arianne is a good judge of whether or not your girlfriends meet Atlee Adams’ qualifications.”
Reluctantly, Gregory conceded, “Okay… okay. We’ll be there.” Tonight would be the night that the love of his life met the other woman.
“I just pulled up at Lochlann’s, but I’ll see you… and Tiffany, at seven.”
“Yeah, man… Seven.”
Lochlann’s Ole Ale House was bustling wall-to-wall with the happy hour masses. Grumbling to himself, Andrew wondered why the hell Bob chose a public place to conduct such private business.
“Andrew.” Dr. Robert O’Malley stood from a corner booth and waved. Taller than Andrew, Bob towered over most people, and he was as crooked as his nose, which was rumored to have been broken by his first wife. Prone to violent and rage-filled outbursts, Bob had been dishonorably discharged from the Marines fifteen years ago when he broke his commanding officer’s jaw. He wasn’t Andrew’s favorite person, but he had money… and power… and today—a proposition that might be difficult to refuse.
“Hey, Bob.” He extended his hand to the older man. “Good to see you.”
“You too, Andy. How’s that gorgeous wife of yours?” he asked, fantasizing about Arianne’s long legs wrapped around his body.
“Good. Thanks. Getting ready for the Hope Benefit next week.”
“You know, I’ve always wondered how a roughneck like you managed to get two of the most beautiful women in South Louisiana to marry him.”
“Stroke of good luck… both times. How is Millie?” he asked. “Been a while since we talked.”
“Hmph,” Bob grumbled. “I’m still trying to convince her to marry me. Any pointers?”
Andrew paused, formulating an answer. Thinking about his ex-wife keeping company with such a deplorable person sent chills down his spine, but he knew that a man would only hit Millie Douglas once. Since Bob sat before him now—it was safe to say, he never had. “Hate to burst your bubble… but Mills, she’ll never marry again.” Taking a long drink of beer, he leaned back, head against the booth. “My mama had to convince her to marry me.”
Bob glared at Andrew Douglas, hatred boiling below the surface. Stealing Millie all those years ago was only the tip of the iceberg. Flashing a strained smile, he replied, “Well, nevertheless I will keep trying. Now, first off—put me down for ten thousand for the Hope Foundation.”
“Doc Caissy gave twelve this year,” Andrew lied.
“Dammit. Fifteen then. But my name needs to be mentioned before Jamie Caissy’s at the benefit.”
Andrew grinned, certain Arianne would be pleased with Bob’s contribution. “Absolutely.”
“Secondly…” He narrowed his crystal blue eyes and lowered his voice. “Our proposal.”
“Yes?” Andrew leaned in, excited to hear more about what his eldest son, Nash, had called the chance of a lifetime.
“As I said on the phone last week, discretion is imperative,” Bob said.
“An old friend of mine from Missouri, Stephen Mullins, asked if I would be interested in investing and participating in a market… for organs. He’s Chief of Surgery at Jefferson City Medical and has masterminded a plan he calls the ‘Operation.’”
Andrew’s eyes widened. “Well, that’s not what I expected. But please, continue.”
“Say I have a patient with abdominal pain. You know our patients. They don’t ask us why we order labs or tests.” Both of them laughed together at the blind trust most people had in their doctors. “And based on his results, I deem it necessary to order an exploratory surgery. Well, I’ve already done a liver panel work-up and established that his liver is healthy. I also know the real problem is gallstones. So, I extract the stones and what I need, poke around, and close. Document the biliary stone removal and send our liver piece on its way to wherever.” Bob hesitated as Andrew took in the basic idea of their “Operation.” “What do you think?”
Shaking his head, he crossed his arms over his chest. “There’s a shit-ton of problems that could go wrong, Bob. You know that, don’t you?” Andrew said. As interested as he was, he still needed answers. “Do we have specific surgery teams? What about security… funds? I don’t know… It sounds good, but shit… bringing in Rivers… I don’t know.”
“It’s a chance, but the payday is huge. Stephen’s team of docs up in Jefferson City average from $200- to $300-thousand a month. Each.” Pleased to see the younger man’s mouth drop, Bob knew Andrew’s greed would get them inside River City Medical Center. “Of course, we wouldn’t start out with that much. Maybe fifty to a hundred thousand.”
“Are you kidding, man?” he said. “That’s unfucking real. But still, what about everything else?”
“No, Andy, I’m not.” Millie had warned him that Andrew would be resistant, and she told him exactly how to counter his argument. “Take a day or two. Think about it. But Millie says she’d better get her white roses when you say yes and we start making money.”
“White roses, huh?” Andrew chuckled. He should have known his ex-wife would use that information to her advantage. “Well, you can tell Millie her roses are on their way.”
“Does this mean?”
Bob raised his beer in celebration, their amber bottles clinking together. “To our little ‘Operation.’”
“Yeah…” Andrew breathed, hoping for more success than his last botched business endeavor. “To the ‘Operation.’”
– Rachael’s name was originally Molly. After a suggestion that Molly sounded too much like Millie, we decided to change it to Rachael because what would The Waiting Series be without Millicent Douglas? Rachael is actually named for one of my dear friends who’s been so supportive with reading and offering feedback for the book.
– Since I’m a nurse , the whole “Operation” setup fascinates me. If you think about it, most patients have blind trust when it comes to their healthcare. A word of advice…DON’T. Of course, trust them with your well-being, but make them work for it. Ask your doctor ‘why am I having this test? Make your nurse tell you why she’s giving you that pill. I don’t care if she’s giving you baby aspirin, she should know why she’s giving a medication. Rant completed!!
– Marie chose both Gregory and Millie’s name. Fits them perfectly.
-Bob O’Malley wasn’t intended to be the main antagonist. He wasn’t even supposed to have a very big part beyond being Millie’s sometimes lover, but OH BOY, did he surprise me??? I know most of you hate him, and rightfully so, but I’ve loved exploring his psyche. When I write him, I see James Spader, but my editor will argue me down tooth and nail!! She loves James Spader and hates Bob. I expect her to chastise me for putting this idea in y’all’s head.
– Lochlann’s Old Ale House is loosely based on a tiny pub in a nearby city.
– When I wrote the very first poor, pitiful draft that will never see the light of day, I wasn’t prepared for the revelation that Ari and Greg had an affair… or that their love was sooooo strong.
That’s all for now!!
P.S. Marie and I have a Thanksgiving surprise for y’all next week. STAY TUNED!!!!