tagRomancePlaying Doctor Ch. 01

Playing Doctor Ch. 01

byWine_Maker©

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Sandy Craig is a busy young woman. Her life is all about her work as a reconstructive surgeon and medical partnership. She doesn't have time for a personal life, much less love. Keven Braddock is a well-to-do artist on the rise like the space shuttle. Women throw themselves at him and life is his oyster, but something is missing. When they meet, something in their lives changes

Now if only things would stop going wrong and getting in the way of them finding happiness. This has a real plot and three-dimensional characters. It's more than just a wanker story.


Chapter One: An unexpected meeting

I had just gotten comfortable in front of the television set and was digging my spoon into a bowl of double fudge delight ice cream when my cell phone rang. Hitting pause on the remote, I froze the episode of House with the main character making some rude comment to one of his patients. I don't know why a character that abrasive, sarcastic and flawed appealed to me so much, but his biting sense of humor always made me laugh.

A glance at the phone confirmed my worst fears. It was Danny, and that usually meant something had gone wrong and almost certainly meant that House and my ice cream were going to have to wait. I flipped the phone open and launched right in. "You're at an art gallery. What could possibly go wrong while you're buried in conversation with groups of long-haired men that only bathe when their muse tells them to?"

"Plans have changed," Danny said. It wasn't hard to hear the difference between Danny and his alter ego, Doctor Hammerstein. It could happen in the blink of an eye and the cheerful, fatherly man I loved to death would turn into the physician I hoped to be when I grew up, calm and professional when everything was coming apart around him.

I felt the cold chill as adrenaline dumped into my system. I jumped up, the fattening ice cream and entertainment forgotten, as I jogged into my bedroom, already shedding my tee shirt. "Where do you need me?"

"Holly and I are on the way to Mercy General. They have a woman and child enroute. A damned car crash and it sounds bad, so Holly will work on one while I work on the other. What I need from you is a favor. A really big favor."

I buttoned my pants and paused, suddenly confused by the direction of the conversation. "Wait, you don't need me in the operating room?" I asked, my confusion bleeding through.

He chuckled. "No, you already performed yeoman's work today, and I don't want to totally disrupt your schedule tomorrow. Relax, go to the show and have a glass of wine instead. And while you're there, review the pieces for me. I need to know what you think of the art and, maybe just as importantly, the artist."

That stopped the dressing process completely. "You want me to go drink champagne and look at paintings with a bunch of art snoots? I don't know anything about art."

Danny laughed. "Sell that to someone who doesn't know you. Remember, I know about all the museums and galleries your mother dragged you to when you were growing up. If you really cared, you could snoot with the best of them. Look, we'll be at the hospital in a minute so I don't have time for the full explanation, but going to the show is exactly what I need you to do. Mix, look at the art and meet the guy the show is all about. His name is Keven Braddock. I want to know what you think about him and his work. It's important, or I wouldn't ask you. Will you do it for me? Pretty please with double fudge delight on top?" Danny knew me way too well. Then I remembered the ice cream melting in the living room and took a moment to put it in the freezer for later.

I looked at the clock on my counter. It was a bit after seven PM. I sighed. "Okay. What time does it start?"

"Seven-thirty at the Pendel Gallery. And it's black-tie."

Shit! There was no way I was going to look worth a damn and still make it on time. "Damn you, Danny," I sighed dramatically, "I'll go, but you owe me, Danny boy. Good luck and I'll find out how the surgery went tomorrow. Bye now."

I hung up on him and tossed the phone on the bed. Stripping naked, I stood and stared at my closet. What to wear? I finally settled on a dark green cocktail dress. If I was supposed to make a good impression, this was the dress to do it. Besides, I hadn't had a chance to dress up in over a year. I'd just have to be fashionably late.

Ten minutes and a quick shower later, I slipped on a thong and then squirmed into the dress. I stood in front of the mirror and adjusted myself, pushing my boobs where they belonged and smoothing down the sides of the dress. Turning myself left and right, I frowned as I decided that I'd picked up a couple of pounds since I'd last worn the dress. It hugged my body before, but now fit like a glove, accentuating me in ways that probably shouldn't be seen outside my bedroom.

I almost pulled it back off, but a look at the clock told me I didn't have time to dither. What the hell, I thought. It wasn't like I knew anyone there or would ever go back to the gallery. Taking a deep breath for courage, I pulled my one pair of fuck-me pumps out of the back of the shoe rack and slid them on.

Turning my back to the mirror, I looked at my legs. Jeeze, I was going to have every guy in the place staring at my ass! That brought both a blush and a smile. Maybe it was okay, this one time, to be a tease. Let 'em drool.

A single strand of pearls completed the look, subtly drawing attention to the generous swell of my cleavage. I teased my long, red hair and styled it in place across the soft spray of freckles that graced my shoulders. Not bad for a woman in her mid-thirties, I thought with a saucy grin.

Grabbing my cell, I tossed it and my wallet into a small purse, grabbed my car keys and headed for the door.

-----

It was closer to eight when I pulled up in front of the Pendel Gallery. I stepped out of my sole indulgence, a fire engine red Porsche 911 convertible, and handed the keys to the valet, who was having a hard time deciding whether to stare at the car or at me. I smiled at him and walked into the building, feeling his eyes caress me as I exaggerated the sway of my hips. I felt heat rising from my face, but it didn't stop me from acting the temptress.

The interior of the gallery was already packed with people. With a shrug, I guessed it was no longer en vogue to be fashionably late. The crowd was made up mostly of either balding grandfather types or long-haired ex-hippies in suits, each matched up with universally younger women; in some rare cases, the men were better looking. A few really good-looking women in their twenties were mixed in. They looked like models and they had an air about them - the imperious air of someone that feels they are a couple of rungs higher than you on the social ladder.

The walls and easels sported paintings of people and landscapes. Taking a flute of champagne from a server, I strolled over to the nearest display and gave it a really good look. Despite what Danny might think, Mama's 'rounding out' of my education never really took, as all those trips to the museums ever did was bore me to tears. Still, for a moment, I tried to remember what she'd taught me, and reached inside to see how my soul reacted. I found myself smiling. It was surprisingly good, in my unenlightened opinion. A pair of children, a boy and a girl in their early teens, racing bicycles down a dirt road between some trees. I could almost feel the breeze on my shoulders and shivered just a little. You could feel the raw determination radiating from each of them, their faces fierce, hair streaming behind them. They were neck and neck and neither one of them was going to concede victory to the other. The vitality of the painting took my breath away.

When I forced myself to look away, the room seemed more drab than it had a moment ago, the people less real. I felt shaken by my response. I'd expected some kind of new-wave art, something so abstract I wouldn't know if it was supposed to be good or not, much less care what it was supposed to represent. Even though I didn't know the technical aspects of art, I could see that this somehow wasn't like taking a picture and copying it to canvas. The background led the eyes toward the people, and the natural lines took the eye from object to object subtly. Not all the items in the background were done in meticulous detail, but the focal points were amazingly clear.

The people, though they weren't larger than they should be, seemed larger-than-life. The colors being used were subtly different than what you might see in a photograph, too. Not enough to jar, but more than enough to add an intense vibrancy to the scene. In my mind, I could hear the children shouting playfully at each other behind me.

I sipped the champagne to clear my throat and started circling the room, looking at the paintings closely. People and nature were blended seamlessly together in every painting. All ages and genders were represented, though I noticed that there were more women than men. That was natural, I supposed, since the artist was a man. The paintings were garnering intense attention from the people looking at them. I heard muttered comments like "Totally unique," and plenty of "I've never seen anything quite like these," and from the number of people writing notes frantically, I suspected the reviews would be incredible. I heard one man say that it was "the finest and most unique representation of man and nature that he'd ever seen."

The more paintings I looked at, the deeper the pieces drew me in. As I ventured further, the people slowly changed, becoming younger and better dressed. Or at least more expensively dressed. I looked back and saw what I'd missed earlier. There was a definite series of strata of people in this large room. I wasn't sure who fell into what category, but it was obvious that I had been moving from one group of people to another as I wandered deeper into the gallery.

A blonde in a firecracker red designer dress, flaunting her assets even more brazenly than I, stood on the other side of a painting I was moving toward. She was looking at me, not the canvas. Over her glass, her expression was haughty and dismissive.

"You're wasting you're time, you know," she said off-handedly. "There's no point in trying to display the goods when you showcase it in something so out-of-date. Especially in a knock-off from Taiwan from two years ago. Or is it three?" She cocked her head at me.

While I had no idea who she was or why she felt the need to attack me, I wasn't going to take it lying down. I felt my lips curve in a smile as I met her challenge, the memory of that first painting coming to mind.

"You're lop-sided," I said matter-of-factly.

"What?" she said, surprised at the unexpected comment.

"You're top heavy, your breasts are too big for your frame, and one is noticeably larger than the other," I said critically. "Whoever your surgeon was, he was second rate. You really shouldn't have gone for the lowest bidder. Cost savings are fine in some things, like your hair for example," I said, gesturing to her head with my glass, "since that god-awful cut will eventually grow back out, but those mismatched domes make your temple look like a bordello, and a cheap one at that. If I were you, I'd sue the hack."

Her eyes glittered dangerously and her whole body tensed. "Keven won't be interested in talking to you about modeling. You're too old, those freckles make you look like a leper, and that bottled hair makes you look like Bozo the Clown. Pack it up and hit the road, you has been. Just sashay your elderly ass out of here."

I laughed right in her face. I knew I shouldn't, but I just couldn't help myself. Hell, I had the temper to go with my red hair, and it isn't bottled, thank you. People in a bubble around us stared at the growing confrontation with mixed expressions of interest and amused horror. Either this didn't happen very often or it happened a lot.

"I'm not here to model for anyone," I said contemptuously. "I have better things to do with my life and my time. Not to mention a hell of a lot more self-respect than some people."

The woman glanced at the attention we were getting and paled. The mood of the watchers seemed predatory, but I didn't feel like they were hunting me. She tilted her nose up in the air and whirled around without another word, walking toward the front of the gallery.

I stood there and laughed at her retreat, shaking my head. What the hell had that been all about?

The crowd started moving again, now that the show was over. One young man leaned over with a grin. "That's telling her. And don't let her talk worry you, she and Keven broke up almost six months ago."

Focusing my attention on him, I cocked my head. "Keven Braddock? The guy that painted all these? That was his girlfriend?"

"Karen Galloway, his ex-girlfriend," the young man emphasized. "Though you'd never know it from the way she acts. This is the first show he's had since they split, and boy is he going to be furious when he finds out what she did. Don't worry about her screwing up your shot at the model's gig. I think you'd be much better, much more interesting and certainly more talented, than Karen ever was."

I grinned back at him. "Really, I'm not here for any modeling job but thanks."

With a shrug and a wave, he moved back off into the crowd, and I mustered my willpower and moved further to the rear of the building. I wasn't going to let that hag run me off or ruin what had been a surprisingly good evening.

The very back of the room had a few final pieces, including several of the now identified Karen. I sniffed and examined her body in the painting closely. Either the surgery was new, which I doubted, or the artist had adjusted her to mask the imperfections in her form. It was like she was in a soft-light picture, her innate inflexibility diffused.

When I looked up, I saw a man standing in the very back corner who struck me speechless for a moment. He was half-turned away from me, talking to a small group of older men in suits, but he stood out from them like the sun surrounded by spotlights.

Long, lustrous black hair swept to his mid-shoulders, black silk that fell across his black silk shirt. I'd always considered men wearing leather pants to be the equivalent of women wearing spandex. A privilege earned, not a right. On him, it was more like my privilege.

I flushed when I realized my mouth was open and I snapped it closed. I had no idea how long I had been staring. What was wrong with me? You'd think I'd never seen a good-looking man before! Oh, please! Sandy, get a grip on yourself. I shook my head and smiled wryly at my own foolish behavior.

Shaking my head, I walked back to look at the last few paintings more closely. More of Karen. That earned another headshake. The artist had to be a genius to make her look good. In spite of Mama's best efforts, I didn't know art, but I did know what I liked, and I genuinely liked his work. I had to find out how much that first painting cost. It would be perfect for my living room, and was probably as close as I would ever get to having children in my home.

I shook my head at the morose thought, and glancing at my watch, I clucked at the time. It was almost ten PM, and I had a procedure early the next morning. Time to ask around for our host, give him my compliments and find out how to get that painting. When I looked up, the man in black was gazing in my direction. Staring at me, his own mouth slightly open, with an expression like he'd been whacked over the head.

Without even saying anything to the man who was carrying on self-importantly about something, he strode away from the surprised suits and was at my side in seconds. His face was much more controlled by the time he was in speaking range.

I opened my mouth to say something, but fell silent when he took my hand and raised it to his lips. The combination of his lips on my hand and his eyes looking deeply into mine lit off a simmering heat inside my stomach.

"How do you do? I'm Keven Braddock," he said, holding my hand and smiling. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you."

My neck heated, but I forced myself to ignore it and smiled brightly at him. "Sandy Craig, Mister Braddock."

He shook his head. "Just Keven. May I call you Sandy?" At my nod, he turned and led me back toward the corner where all the suits were. At a wave, they dispersed and left a bubble of space for the two of us.

"You didn't need to run off your friends to talk to me," I objected.

His dark, angular face looked both rugged and handsome, especially when he smiled like that. "They're hardly friends. Those were wealthy men wanting to bankroll a show in New York for me."

I was aghast. "Then you shouldn't have sent them away! Business is much more important than talking to me."

"Oh, I don't think so," he said simply. "Shows come and go, just as backers come and go. Trust me, they'll still be eager to finance me, and make a hell of a lot of money off of me, when I call them tomorrow. Right now, talking with you is much more important.

"Much more important?" I asked incredulously. "Why?" I demanded. I suddenly felt out of control, this whole conversation upsetting my balance. I'd never had anyone else affect me this way, but then again, I'd never had someone look at me this intensely, much less drop everything to focus on me. "This is your show and you're an important man. The important man. I'm just a visitor."

"Because it feels right," he said with a grin. "I don't suppose you'd consider modeling for me?"

"What? I..." This was so confusing, I felt flummoxed. With a dozen or so words, this man made me feel more like a confused child than my mother's hour-long tantrums ever had.

"Wait," he said, his fingers covering my lips. It was like a spark jumped between us. "Let's talk about it over coffee. I know a little place nearby that makes the most fabulous latte."

"But the show," I protested weakly. "You're the artist, the star, the man everyone here wants to meet. You can't just leave!"

"It's my show," he said, his smile blinding, "and that means I can do as I damned well please."

He was so gung-ho, it was a little frightening, but a huge part of me was weakening fast. My head was telling me "one cup of coffee can't hurt anything," but the little girl voice was so innocent it set off alarms, frightening me.

I was saved, if you could call it being saved, by the arrival of his ex-girlfriend. The motion of someone approaching fast made me turn my head and there she was, barreling up behind Keven with a champagne bottle raised high!

"Look out!" I shouted, pushing him out of the path of the oncoming bottle. That shove unfortunately sent him right into Karen, and they fell to the floor with a crash, limbs entangled. She beat ineffectually on the top of Keven's head with her fist, having dropped the bottle.

I tried to figure out the best way to get him out of that mess, but the crowd beat me to it, streaming forward and surrounding the fallen ex-lovers. I quickly lost sight of them as the tide forced me back. Cursing under my breath, I tried to get back to his side, but finally decided it wasn't going to happen.

As I took a deep breath and watched the chaos, the heat that had started inside me cooled, fear and common sense took over. I didn't really know him and going out with him would likely mean all sorts of complications in my life. Yes, I conceded, there was chemistry there - boy, was there chemistry - but I was a doctor, busy and focused. I didn't have time for dating, or romance. I'd replaced men with battery-powered plastic years ago and I knew that going back was almost certainly the wrong choice.

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