From the author of the St. Fleur series comes a fun tale of finding love in the emergency room.
Nurse. Mom. Daughter. Natalia Kruze wore many hats, but mom was the role she was most proud of. As a single mom, she couldn’t be everywhere at once, but she had been blessed with a patient son and helpful parents. Dating wasn’t high on the priority list, so it was safe to say it had been years since she’d experienced any kind of electrifying spark from a man.
With her defenses low after missing another soccer game, a patient catches her eye. Sexy and decidedly stubborn, Wes Wilkins succeeds in leaving his ER visit with her number.
Had they finally found the love they deserved, or will they put their dreams second to their kids’ needs?
“Jeremy!” I yell and stare at the pile of clothes next to the hamper.
My eyes narrow on my son’s beautiful face, and I remind myself how much I adore him. “Excuse me?”
I nod. “Were you working on your basketball skills and failed?”
Jeremy looks from me to the pile I’m still pointing at. “Oh.”
I exhale with exasperation. “Look, honey, we need to work like a team. Please clean up. I need to get you to school so I can start my shift. Don’t forget I won’t make it to today’s game. I’ll be home right after, so grab a ride with Mrs. Sanders if Grandma and Pops aren’t there.”
After kissing his temple, seeing as I can no longer reach the top of his head, I rush to plate the breakfast I threw together for us. This is my life. It may not have turned out like I dreamed, but I wouldn’t trade Jeremy in for the world.
I was a young mother at twenty-one—not quite a teen pregnancy but still hard. Jeremy’s father decided rather quickly fatherhood wasn’t for him and left us the moment two lines appeared. Thankfully, my parents stepped in and helped us. I managed to finish my Bachelor of Science in nursing with their assistance. I can’t count the number of times I showed up to class with spit-up on me. I’m sure if they swabbed my clothes in one of my labs, they would have found all sorts of new-mother fun.
After fourteen years of doing the parenting gig on my own, I can safely say it’s still a challenge. Dating is rare, and my parents are still around to help. I don’t ask for a lot of help now that Jeremy is older, but they still have us visit often.
Jeremy runs into the kitchen, backpack in hand, and picks up the fork on his plate. In a matter of moments, the plate is devoid of the eggs and toast I put on it. My kid looks up at me and to the stove, looking for the pan I already put in the dishwasher. “No more?”
“Grab a banana. We gotta go,” I tell him and toss my wallet into a small bag.
He grunts and carries his plate straight to the dishwasher without rinsing it. I sigh but don’t say a word. Over the years I’ve become better at picking my battles, and this isn’t one.
When we get to his school, we exchange “I love yous,” and I pat his thigh good-bye. When he leans over and hugs me, I smile. Squeezing him, I enjoy the rare treat of a teenage hug at school.
My next stop, after watching him walk up the steps, is coffee. Thursday mornings are my designated java pick-up days. I rattle off four different orders and drive the last few blocks to work once I have them.
“Thank God!” Jenna cries and plucks her order from the carrier.
“One of those mornings?” I ask and set the rest on a table.
“One word. Puberty.” Jenna drinks a healthy gulp of joe.
I nod and lock up my things. “Gotcha. I’ll be missing yet another of Jeremy’s games if it makes you feel any better.” Jenna shoots me a meaningful look. She may not be a single mom like I am, but she misses her own share of activities. “Well, here’s hoping today is an easy one.”
Later that evening, I look at the clock and sigh. Jeremy’s game is halfway through by now, which means my guilt is high and I’m almost through with my twelve-hour shift. I hate missing so many of his games. These are moments I know I can’t get back. It hurts the worst when I see understanding in Jeremy’s eyes versus anger or frustration.
He’s a great kid. He does well in school, gives me very little attitude, and is talented in sports. I’m hoping if he keeps it up, he can earn a scholarship for college, but we have a few years left to really worry about that.
“Hey, stop that!” Jenna scolds.
“Stop what?” I ask and set down the marker I was using.
Jenna waves her hand around my face. “That. Honey, I know you hate missing his games, but he understands, so quit beating yourself up about it.”
“That’s the problem, Jenna.” I sigh. “He’s only a boy. He shouldn’t have to be this understanding about all the games I miss.”
“No, he shouldn’t, but life isn’t fair. You’ve got a great kid, girl. No matter what you think, you’re doing really well by him.”
“Natalia?” Kara, another nurse on shift, calls out.
“You’ve got a live one in room one.”
I nod and squeeze past Jenna who pats me on my back. “On my way.”
Pulling up the patient’s admittance tab on the computer, I read the notes and frown. Forty-year-old male with testicular pain. Walking down the hall toward the triage room, I sift through my knowledge of all the possible things responsible for testicular pain.
Once I learned I was having a boy, I put in extra focus into male anatomy and physiology. I was determined to keep my boy safe and healthy to my best ability. This thankfully helped me tackle those not-so-fun talks about puberty.
Any other words centered around good bedside manners blank in my brain the moment our eyes meet. Crap.
His crew-cut hairstyle highlights his strong jaw. A light smattering of hair grows along it, and my hand itches with the need to see if it will feel soft or rough along my palm. His jaw twitches, and I find a sheen of sweat on his brow. The pain reflecting in his hazel eyes pulls me back from my fog.
I clear my throat and hope I’m not blushing. “What brings you in this evening, Mr.—”
“Wilkins. Call me Wes. I don’t suppose there’s a male nurse on staff?”
My brows knit at his tone. “Sorry, there’s not,” I say. “What’s bothering you that a female nurse can’t help you with?”
“No, it’s not—” He attempts to sit up, and he grunts in pain.
I move to his side. “Lie back down,” I tell him gently.
“S-sorry. Don’t mean to be an ass.”
Concern fills me at his words and the way his eyelids lower in pain. “Talk to me. There’s no reason for you to suffer any pain. I assure you I can help even if I don’t have the same parts as you.”
“Definitely don’t have the same parts,” he mumbles. He draws in a deep breath and clears his throat. “My testicles hurt, and they’re swollen.”
“Okay, did you sustain an injury to them?” I ask reassuringly.
He looks away, and his words are too soft to hear.
I place my hand on his shoulder, and a weird sensation travels up my arm at the contact. He turns toward me, and I see he felt whatever just happened. “I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me,” I say, ignoring the strange event and removing my hand.
“I had a vasectomy yesterday.”
“Okay.” I think of common complications that could occur with the procedure. “Swelling and discomfort are common in the first forty-eight hours—”
His lips pull into a hard line. “It looks like I have three testicles.”
My eyebrow raises. “Three?”
“Okay. We’ll look at it in a second. What have you done in the last twelve hours?”
His eyes dart away again, and I realize whatever he’s been doing was not what his doctor ordered. “Come on, fess up. If your testicles are this swollen, you weren’t lying down and resting like I’m sure your doctor ordered,” I say in my mom voice.
“I was at my kids’ baseball game…”
The way he says it leaves me thinking there is more. “Mhmm… sitting on the stands?”
He shakes his head. “No, coaching.”
“I see. Did anything happen, since I expect you weren’t sitting in a chair relaxing while you coached?”
“One of the boys fell. I, um, helped him up, and that’s when I stumbled in pain.”
“I don’t suppose you coach toddlers?” I ask, knowing he’s going to say no.
“Definitely surpasses the ten-pound weight restriction.”
His eyebrows snap together. “Look, I wasn’t going to miss the game!”
I raise my hands in the air. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any offense. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been here all day, and I missed my son’s baseball game tonight. One of many.” I whisper the latter and turn away. “I’ll go see if the doctor is available to perform your exam.”
“Wait!” he calls out when I reach the door.
I stop but don’t face him. I can’t. If I do, he’ll see the tears forming. I’m never this short with my patients. I chalk it up to my emotions after missing out on another event in Jeremy’s life.
After a moment, he apologizes and I walk out. This handsome stranger has pressed more conflicting buttons than I care to admit. Ignoring the fact that a man hasn’t managed to fluster both me and my lady bits in… well, ever, he’s a patient and therefore off limits.
I received this book from the author for an honest opinion/Review.
After falling crazy in love with Jason and enjoying Joshua, when AJ offered me book 3 I was alllll on board!!!
I gotta say the way the characters are meeting in this series is KILLING ME!! Wes has some issues with his “business”” and nurse Natalie is there to assist the doctor. *Snickers* The chemistry between the two characters is tangible and makes you want to see how or when they meet up again.
I will admit I WONDERED if Wes going to be who I thought he was and loved the story line. The two are very interested in each other but must worry about how their kids will take seeing their parent date. Natalie’s son has never seen his mom really dating. Reece’s dad just got divorced so dating could be odd.
I loved how the boys were always to #1 in both parents’ minds. They worried and wondered if dating would be a good idea or cause issues with the kids all the while dying to be with the other one.
The epilogue is perfect and made me super happy for where these characters have been, and we can see their future.
AJ Renee is the author behind the St. Fleur series, Beauty Unmasked, Winter’s Surprise, Surviving Paris, and Finding Love at the Falls…. She’s a military wife and mother to three young girls. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with her Masters of Science in Criminal Justice and a Bachelors of Science in Psychology while working at the library.
She loves to write steamy romance with suspense and a happily ever after. When she isn’t writing or interacting with her readers, you can find her spending time with her family or reading. AJ enjoys traveling, researching family history, and all things New Orleans.
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