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Colton Under Fire
Cindy Dees

“Of course,” Liam said quickly, stepping away.

She whipped through a daunting stack of medical history and personal information and then hurried back to Chloe’s room. The nurse looked up when she slipped inside. “The doctor has already been in to take a peek at your daughter. He’d like you to try to get a bottle laced with some medicine down her.”

Sloane nodded.

Chloe still didn’t become fully alert when Sloane picked her up and popped a bottle in her mouth. Little Bug only glanced around the strange room, then closed her eyes and turned her cheek to Sloane’s chest.

She looked up at the nurse in worry. “This is totally unlike her. She’s usually wide awake anywhere new. Wildly curious. Full of questions.”

“She’s a sick little camper. You did good to bring her in when you did.”

“Any idea what she has?”

“Not yet. There has been a nasty virus going around, though. We’ve seen a half-dozen kids with it in the past couple of weeks.”

The doctor came back in a few minutes, and Sloane laid Chloe on the bed. He did the usual doctor things—listened to her breathe, took her pulse, and looked at the chart where the nurse had written down Chloe’s vitals. He looked up at Sloane. “I’d like to do a quick CT scan of Chloe’s abdomen. Also, her temperature is continuing to spike, and we need to get control of that.”

Sloane frowned. She knew in her gut that he wasn’t telling her everything. “What do you suspect?”

“Nothing yet. I’m just eliminating various possibilities.”

“Look. I’m a lawyer. I deal much better with blunt than tactful.”

“Okay. Your daughter’s belly is painful to the touch. But her reaction is generalized and I can’t pinpoint a source of pain. Could be her spleen. Could be appendicitis. Maybe something else altogether.”

“Worst case?” Sloane bit out.

The doctor shrugged, and she didn’t like the evasiveness that entered his eyes. He answered, “Worst case, we admit her and watch her.”

“You’d make a lousy poker player, Doctor. Wanna try that, again?”

The guy sighed. “I administered a massive dose of a broad spectrum antibiotic in that bottle you fed her. Based on what the CT shows, we may need to put her on an IV drip and throw more antibiotics at her. If her fever doesn’t start responding to the meds soon, we’ll have to take measures to cool her head and protect her brain from injury.”

Sloane nodded stiffly, too scared to do much more. Still, she would rather know what they were up against than not. The nurse wheeled Chloe’s bed out of the room, leaving Sloane to wait. And worry. And imagine the worst.

A need to do something overwhelmed her, and she jumped up. The room was too small and too crowded with machines for a good nervous pace, so she went out into the hall to stride back and forth.

“We have to stop meeting like this.”

She looked up, startled, as she all but face-planted against Liam Kastor’s chest. Again. “I’m so sorry.”

“How’s your daughter?” he asked, cutting off her apology.

“They don’t know. Sick. Her fever’s not coming down.”

“What can I do to help?” Liam asked quietly.

“I have no idea. She’s never had a bad fever before.”

He smiled gently. “I was talking about you. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Oh!” The idea of a man lifting a finger to take care of her was a completely foreign concept. “Distract me. Keep me from panicking.”

“Do you want me to call Fox?”

“God, no! He wouldn’t know what to do and would call Mara. And she would call everyone in the whole blessed Colton clan.”

“There is that,” Liam replied dryly. “When’s the last time you ate?”

She frowned. She hadn’t gotten around to eating because she’d been more concerned with taking care of Chloe. And earlier, she’d left The Lodge before dinner had arrived. “Lunch, I guess.”

Liam asked a nurse at the station in front of Chloe’s room to call him as soon as Chloe was brought back, and then he whisked Sloane down the hallway. “Come with me. Cafeteria’s this way. Food’s terrible, but the coffee’s outstanding.”

“How do you know that?” Sloane asked. Did he work here? The nurse had clearly known who he was and had his phone number. “Are you a doctor?” she blurted.

“Me? Never.”

“What brought you to the emergency room, then? Do you have a loved one here? I’m sorry to be so insensitive. I’m such a mess right now—”

He stopped just inside the door to a small lounge with linoleum-topped tables, plastic chairs and institutional fluorescent lights. Gently, he laid a fingertip on her lips. “I’m a police detective. We were shorthanded at the station tonight, so I volunteered to transport a prisoner who got sick in the drunk tank.”

“You’re a cop?”

He grinned and steered her over to the coffeepot.

“How was law school?” he asked over his shoulder.

How—Fox. Of course. “It was hard. But fascinating.”

She scrutinized him as he studied the self-service line. She supposed some people might call him boyishly handsome, but she sensed a quiet strength in him. Mature. Reliable.

Funny, but a few years ago, she would’ve called Liam boring. And then she went and married an exciting man who took her straight to hell. Boring was starting to look pretty darn good these days. It was amazing how time and life changed a person’s point of view.

“How do you like your coffee?” he asked.

“As black as my soul,” she replied dryly.

“Do tell,” he replied mildly. One corner of his mouth turned up sinfully, though, for just a moment. “Tuna salad okay with you?”

She picked up the cups of coffee and carried them to a table while he went to a vending machine and bought two sandwiches in triangular plastic packages, two bags of chips, a packet of baby carrots and a bag of apple slices.

He dumped his haul on the table and slid into the seat opposite her. “I haven’t seen you around Roaring Springs since you left for college. What have you been up to since then, Sloane?”

She ripped open a sandwich package and bit into the day-old bread and nearly dry tuna. Not that she cared what anything tasted like at the moment. “After I graduated from law school at Colorado State, I moved to Denver and got a job as a criminal defense attorney at Schueller, Mangowitz and Durant.”

Liam whistled under his breath. “That’s a high-powered firm.”

She rolled her eyes. “The women there call it Chauvinist, Misogynist and Douchebag.”
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