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by Peggy Gaddis
Description: A Vintage Romance from Peggy Gaddis, the queen of the Nurse novel. A young girl in doctor's office soon learns the naked truth men, women ? and passion! "We can't go on like this ... wanting each other so damnably..." His arms enfolded her as she burst into tears. His face was gray and haggard. "Christie, listen to me. Don't you see we can't go on like this, being together, wanting each other so damnably, without taking each other? There's not much future in that. " "It's the only future I want, Ross," she told him huskily when she had controlled her tears. "I want to belong to you, Ross. I want to be yours completely any time and all the time. If we can't be married for a while it doesn't matter ... Ross, I love you. I'll never love anyone else ... Never! Never!" Recklessly, Christie offered her gorgeous, fresh young beauty to the man she loved, knowing it was all she had. A young nurse in the employ of a cynical, world-weary doctor, she knew from experience that only passion could hold a man who lived as this doctor did, pampered by women! Christie's life was about to be turned upside down when murder comes to pay an office visit! First published in 1952 by Peggy Gaddis writing as Sylvia Erskine.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/w,
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [218 KB]
Reading time: 141-197 min.
Christie Cooper stood hesitantly in the office doorway, her young body a picture of the touching grace of all young things obviously poised for flight. Her lovely face, framed by chestnut-brown hair that fell in soft natural curls, was flushed, and her brown-gold eyes were uncertain.
To the tall young man who looked at her with frank delight but with a question, too, she extended a slip of paper, asking anxiously, "This is 410, isn't it?"
"It is, indeed," said the man, obviously pleased to answer in the affirmative.
Relief touched her lovely face, and she said radiantly, "Then I'm the girl you sent for."
Ross Kennedy's handsome, young face reflected his bewilderment, but his voice conveyed only a note of pleasure. "Well, hurray for me," he said and accepted the slip of paper, and then his expression altered sharply.
"You are Dr. Hamilton, aren't you?" she asked anxiously.
"Definitely not," he told her. "This is 410 Medical Arts Annex. Dr. Hamilton's office is around the corner on Peachtree in the Medical Arts Building."
The girl's disappointment was obvious, and Ross grinned. "Dr. Hamilton is a very successful and famous psychiatrist," he told her. "I'm Dr. Ross Kennedy, a general practitioner who is neither successful nor famous, as yet."
"But you will be, I'm sure," Christie told him earnestly. "I don't suppose you'd like to hire a receptionist or a typist?"
"I'm afraid not," admitted Ross, and his eyes narrowed slightly. "Aren't you pretty young to be a nurse? You can't possibly be more than nineteen."
"Eighteen and a half," she admitted. "And I'm not a nurse, or even a secretary, though I type a bit. The employment office sent me to see Dr. Hamilton to be an assistant to his office nurse."
Ross was baffled. "But if you're neither a nurse, nor a secretary, what help could you be to Dr. Hamilton's nurse?" he wondered aloud. Then he flushed and added quickly, "Forgive me. I'm being inquisitive."
Christie laughed. "I'm just as surprised as you are," she confided. "But Dr. Hamilton's nurse came to the employment agency looking for a girl, and she was the only one who would even talk to me for more than about a minute. When the other prospective employers found I couldn't take dictation, or type very fast and that I had no experience, they just brushed me off. In fact, Miss Quill, the woman in charge of the employment agency, wouldn't even send me out on interviews no matter how badly an employer needed a hired hand."
Christie smiled ruefully at Ross Kennedy and continued. "Miss Quill said I could sit there, and if anybody came in wanting a completely inexperienced girl like me, she'd let them talk to me. So Miss Michaelson--she's Dr. Hamilton's nurse--came in, and she scared me silly at first. She's so sort of stern and efficient and all. She asked me about a million questions, and finally she said I'd do, but of course I'd have to talk to Dr. Hamilton before it was all settled. And I'm to see him at four o'clock."
"Then you'll have to step on it; it's five minutes of four now," Ross assured her.
Christie turned to go and then looked back at him. "You're sure you don't need a receptionist or anything?" she asked. She tried to keep the desperation out of her voice but failed.
Ross laughed wryly and indicated the tiny waiting room with two offices opening off from it, each wearing a shiny new name plate. "I'm quite sure," he told her. "I share these sumptuous quarters with another fellow as newly fledged in medicine as I am. Between us we just barely manage to scrape up the office rent and the telephone bill. At the rate we're going, we'll have long gray beards down to here before we can afford a receptionist."
"I'm sorry," Christie said and smiled shyly. "I'll have to hurry. Goodbye."
She went quickly down the hall to the elevator, and Ross Kennedy watched her until she disappeared. Christie was conscious of his eyes upon her, and the thought made her blood tingle in a strange and wonderful new way. Too bad he wasn't Dr. Hamilton, she thought.
Christie hurried out of the building and around the corner. She was out of breath when she reached the office that wore its number on a ground glass door beneath the name of Dr. Elwood Hamilton. Timidly she opened the door on a lavishly furnished reception room, empty at the moment.
As Christie closed the door behind her, another door into the private office opened, and Jane Michaelson, middle-aged, horse-faced and rather terrifying in her starchy uniform, glared at her. "You're three minutes late," she said sternly.
"I'm sorry," stammered Christie. "I got lost."
Jane thrust open the door into the private office and motioned to her to follow.
"She's here at last, Doctor," said Jane as though Christie had been three hours rather than three minutes late.
The office was larger than the reception room and was furnished more like a luxurious library in a fashionable private home than an office in a downtown business building. There was a wall-to-wall carpet of dull sage-green into which Christie's feet seemed to sink as she waded, rather than walked, across its expanse towards the big antique desk behind which sat Dr. Hamilton. The two tall windows had floor-length draperies made of hand-blocked linen. The most prominent item in the room was a luxuriously cushioned couch set between the two windows.
The man who watched Christie as she came towards him was perhaps forty, not too tall and showing a tendency to plumpness. A tendency no doubt rigorously fought by diet, exercise and massage, though Christie was much too unsophisticated, as well as much too concerned with a job to have had such a thought. His hair was thick and streaked with grey and crisply curling with a deep wave that nine women out of ten would have sworn was carefully cultivated. Though that, too, was a thought beyond Christie at the time.
"The girl from the agency, Doctor," said Jane. "This is Dr. Hamilton. Her name is Christie Cooper, Doctor."
"Thank you, nurse," said the doctor without taking his keen blue eyes off the girl. He made a slight gesture that sent Jane out of the room, closing the door very gently behind her.
Dr. Hamilton waved Christie to a chair, picked up a typed paper from his desk and studied it for a moment, while Christie listened to her heartbeat and hoped it did not sound as loud to him as it did to her.
"So you're an orphan from a small town in the southern part of the state." He seemed to be reading aloud from the typed notes. "I believe you're living with a friend of your family?"
"With an old friend of my aunt's," said Christie. "I lived with my aunt, and I took care of her until she died three months ago. I came to Atlanta because I thought it would be easier to find a job here. I went to see my aunt's friend, and she had a small room which she rented to me. She keeps a boarding house, you see."
Dr. Hamilton had been studying the lovely young girl sharply as she spoke, and when she finished, he asked, "You have had no business training at all?"
"No," Christie admitted, and her heart fell because it seemed now she was not going to get this job after all. "I nursed my aunt, but then she didn't really need a lot of nursing. She was blind, and I couldn't leave her alone to take a business course after I finished Junior High. She lost her sight two years ago."
Dr. Hamilton seemed to be studying the notes again, and she saw the slight frown that drew his brows together and clenched her hands tightly in her lap to control their trembling. She had been so hopeful that this time she was going to get a job. Miss Michaelson had seemed sure of it.
"Just what was your purpose in coming to Atlanta from your home town, Miss Cooper?" Dr. Hamilton's voice broke in on her mounting uneasiness.
"Well, my aunt had a small pension. It died with her, of course, and there was a very small amount of insurance. It's enough to pay for a business course but not enough to live on while I study. So I thought if I could get a job and go to business school at night it might be wise."
Dr. Hamilton nodded, and now the frown was gone. "I like a girl with ambition," he said briskly, and she glowed. "There's only one thing more. Emotional entanglements."
Christie looked her bewilderment, and there was an almost sardonic gleam in his eyes.
"Are you engaged to be married?" he demanded bluntly.
"Oh, my goodness, no!" she gasped, color flaming in her face at the total unexpectedness of the question.
"In love?" He smiled at her and added pleasantly, "Surely a girl as pretty as you must be surrounded with would-be suitors. Surely you have a boy friend, or two, maybe more."
"I never had a chance to meet boys after I finished school, because my aunt needed me," she told him quietly, with a touch of dignity that made him look at her more sharply. "My aunt had looked after me since I was a baby; she was all the family I had. She was a schoolteacher, and they don't make very much money especially in small-town schools. That's where her pension came from. So when she lost her sight I was only too glad to stay with her constantly and try to repay her for a little of what she had done for me. There was no time for boy friends or dates."
Dr. Hamilton lowered his eyes as though unwilling for her to catch the gleam of satisfaction in their depths. "Very commendable of you, I'm sure." His tone was dry. "Well, Miss Michaelson seems to think you can do the work she wants done. You'll take your orders from her. She'll tell you when to report for work."
The doctor stood up, dismissing her, cutting short her stammered thanks, and Christie found Jane behind her, waiting at the open doorway. Christie had not even heard the door open, but now she went through it quickly, without catching the meaningful glance Dr. Hamilton exchanged with his nurse. Nor, of course, would she have understood it if she had.
"Be here at nine in the morning, Cooper," Jane told her curtly. "And when I say nine, I mean nine. Not a quarter after, or even five minutes after. Get that straight."
"Yes, ma'am," said Christie eagerly.
Jane stared at her sharply. "What's this 'yes, ma'am' routine?" she snapped. "Yes, Miss Michaelson, will be quite sufficient."
"Yes, Miss Michaelson," said Christie happily. "And thanks!"
Christie had noticed, when she came around the corner from Dr. Kennedy's office, that there was a cafeteria in the basement of the Medical Arts Annex. She knew it was extravagant for her to eat her dinner there when it was already paid for at the boarding house; nevertheless, she went in search of the cafeteria. After all, she had a job, and surely a celebration was in order. Besides, Christie was starved, and it was a long way across town to the shabby suburb where the boarding house was located.
She was early, and the cafeteria had just opened so there were only a few customers ahead of her. She could take time to choose frugally from the tempting array before her. She carried her tray to a table for two, and settled down with the hearty, unashamed appetite of youth.
Halfway through her meal, as she watched the growing line in front of the counters, and contemplated the different people, she caught her breath, and her large and lovely gold-brown eyes widened. Dr. Ross Kenny had just come in. He was not alone; a rather chubby young man, scrubbed and clean and blond, was with him, and they were talking with obvious interest as they moved slowly along the counter.
As the two men filed past the cashier's desk, Christie saw that they were going to pass close by her table. She watched Dr. Kennedy with a shining, eager expectancy that the blond young man saw first. He grinned and nudged Dr. Kennedy who looked down at Christie, and then, balancing his tray with deftness, he smiled at her.
"Well, hello there!" He seemed as pleased to see her as she was to see him.
"Hello!" Her voice had a breathless note as she added, "I got the job!"
"You did?" He seemed surprised, but the next moment he apparently realized that his surprise was not flattering. "May I join you? See you later, Bob!"
The blond young man smiled at Christie and drawled, "Much later, I imagine," and went on his way.
Dr. Kennedy arranged his food with the air of one well accustomed to eating in cafeterias, and when he had seated himself, he said, "Now tell me all about it."
"You're surprised they took me, aren't you?" said Christie frankly. "So am I. That's why I'm celebrating by having dinner here instead of going back to the boarding house."
"Well, of course," he said as though anybody could understand the need for a celebration of such an event. "But, frankly, I still don't get it. I mean if Michaelson needs an assistant, and I don't doubt she does, why should she accept one who not only isn't a nurse but who can't even do secretarial work? Nor interview patients."
"I know," admitted Christie humbly. "I'm just as puzzled as you are. Only I'm so darned glad to get a job that pays thirty-five dollars a week I'm not asking 'how come'!"
Dr. Kennedy's keen eyes narrowed. "They're paying you thirty-five dollars a week?"
"Isn't it wonderful?" she nodded. "I'll be able to go to night school on the insurance money and live like a queen and have fun. I've never had a whole lot of fun." And then she flushed, ashamed of the confession.
She waited for him to tease her, to make fun of her apparent naivete, but it was plain that Dr. Kennedy was thinking thoughts he did not care to put into words. He roused himself from those thoughts after a moment to smile at her. "It's a wonderful break for you, and I'm tickled to pieces for you," he said, smiling. "And, at that, I imagine you'll have a very soothing effect on the overstuffed old gals who hand over fifty dollars an hour to Dr. Hamilton for the privilege of lying on his couch and telling him about their bad dreams and their maladjustments to life in general."
Christie said quietly, "You don't like Dr. Hamilton, do you?"
"Let's just say I'm eaten up with envy for his success and let it go at that, shall we?" he answered. Then he added quickly, "Let's not talk about Hamilton. Let's just talk about you."
They dawdled over dinner until the bus boys snatched the dishes from under their eyes and gave them repeated looks that indicated the place was filling up fast, and other people needed their table.
"I'll drive you home, may I?" suggested Dr. Kennedy when they came out into the warm, still May night. Of course, to Christie that was the superlatively perfect finish for a day of rising excitement.