From New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels comes a heartbreakingly beautiful standalone story about letting love in.
I’m losing myself trying to save everyone else...
As a doctor, I walk a dangerously delicate balance of being compassionate but not overly invested. The same is true in my personal life--love is a luxury I can’t afford.
It isn’t until Dr. Westin Grant breaks down all my walls and offers me a future, I find myself wondering if I’m brave enough to risk my heart.
When who I was and who I’ve tried to become collide during my clinical trial, the fate of one patient changes everything.
In a single moment, everything I’ve worked for is jeopardized. My integrity, my career, and even my relationship with Westin.
He loved me once, I just hope he can love me always…
Release date: June 29, 2021
Publisher: BAAE Publishing
Print pages: 289
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Listen to a sample
You Loved Me Once
Today has been a remarkable day. It’s the kind that every doctor lives for. I kicked ass today. All of my surgeries went perfectly, no big surprises or complications. Two chemo patients got to ring the bell, indicating they’re done with treatment, and I only had to deliver bad news to one person.
That is a good day. Being a gynecological oncologist doesn’t grant me many of them, but this . . . this was one.
“We have another surgery lined up in about an hour. I’m going to check on another patient and then I’ll see you back down here,” I explain.
Martina gives me the look that says I’m micromanaging again. “We’re prepping the room now. Don’t worry, we’re on top of it.”
“Good. I would hate to have to find a new nurse.”
She laughs. “You will never get rid of me.”
“I agree, you’re lucky I love you enough to deal with your crazy!” Martina yells as I’m walking away.
“Feeling is mutual!” I reply over my shoulder.
She is truly the best nurse I’ve ever worked with. Her patients come first, and she isn’t afraid to piss people off to get things done. Which is pretty much how I live. My patients are my world. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to help a patient fight this horrible disease.
I enter my favorite patient, Mrs. Whitley’s, room.
“Well, I thought you weren’t going to stop by this morning.” Her smile is bright and warm.
Mrs. Whitley has become almost like a second mother to me in the last four years. Since she moved to inpatient care this month, I have begun coming here each morning to catch up with her and tell her more than I should. Today, though, I couldn’t get here as early as I normally do.
“I had an emergency.”
She scoffs. “Oh, please. I know you’re a busy doctor and don’t have time to sit with a dying woman.”
“You’re not dying today. You’re too ornery to drift off peacefully.”
She’s the patient that med school professors warn you about—the ones you grow attached to and start to look at as something more than just a number.
I’ve done my best to keep her at a distance, but she’s warm, funny, kind, and very alone. I see myself in her more than I care to admit most days. The way she’s pushed her family and friends away when she lost the love of her life. How she struggles with forgiving herself for not doing enough.
But most of all, she reminds me of my mother. Which is really the worst part. “Now, tell me about your doctor beau.”
I roll my eyes because most patients want to talk about themselves, but not her. She got wind of the gossip a few months ago and hasn’t let up since.
“Westin is good.”
“Just good? Then the boy isn’t doing it right.”
I laugh. “He’s wonderful, but you know I’m not going to get serious about anyone, least of all another doctor who is far too busy for a relationship. Whether he thinks he is or not.”
This earns me a pointed finger. “Now, you listen, Serenity, you are not immune to love because you have a career. My Leo was a great businessman, but he had room for me and our son.”
She is also the only patient I allow to call me by my first name.
I never correct her and I can’t help but smile at how just the mention of her beloved husband causes her eyes to go soft. Leo died of a heart attack about five years ago. All the signs were there, but he pretended everything was fine, like my mother.
I knew better and if I had pushed her harder, maybe she would’ve lived.
I shake that off because I can’t get wrapped up in nostalgia today, I have surgeries, and then tomorrow . . .
“I know that look . . .”
“What look?” I ask.
“The one where you’re thinking about what tomorrow is and not the man we were discussing. Don’t think I don’t hear the gossip, missy. I know it’s your big day and you’re refusing to talk about it to anyone. Superstitions aren’t a good thing.”
“I’m not superstitious, I’m being cautious. Big difference, and aren’t you supposed to be on my side?”
She shakes her head. “I wouldn’t be doing my part if I agreed with you. Besides, you have a handsome doctor who I’m sure does that.”
Back to Westin again. She’s nothing if not persistent. “I assure you, he loves to argue with me.”
“All men do, but do let him win once in a while, it helps the fragile male ego,” Mrs. Whitley’s voice drops to a whisper on that last part.
“I’ll do my best.”
Then she laughs. “I doubt that, but still. I wonder if John will stop by for a visit today.”
My heart breaks for her just a bit.
Years ago, when I asked what kept her fighting the cancer, she told me she was fighting for more time to try to make amends with her son. She wanted him to love her again. She told me how after Leo’s death, she had a hard time being a mother. She loved her child, but he was a constant reminder of her husband. By the time she pulled herself back together, it was too late. His anger had taken root and grown.
But she fought, and still fights for him to come back around. A mother’s love is the strongest bond in the world. My mother would’ve done anything for her kids.
“I hope he does.”
“Me too, but if not, there’s always tomorrow. And tomorrow is a day for miracles, Dr. Adams. I just know it.”
Tomorrow is the big day. The chance to try a new way to fight cancer. So much could go wrong, but then again . . . it could go right. I try to focus on the possibilities rather than the failures.
This could be an answer to someone’s prayers.
“Well, I have a surgery to get to, and you have an appointment with the phlebotomist,” I tell her.
“Off you go then, no need to sit with me when you have people to save.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She smiles a wide grin that makes me feel like a child who pleased her mother. “Tomorrow, when you do great things.”
I wink at her and leave, trying not to feel like I’m floating on air.
A few minutes later, I’m in the scrub room while my patient, Claudia, is prepped, and being wheeled into the operating room. I stand here, scouring my hands and arms, playing through the partial hysterectomy surgery in my mind. I’ve done this surgery over a thousand times, but I believe complacency is the mark of death. I won’t allow myself to get comfortable when someone’s on the table.
Once I’m fully scrubbed, I walk backwards through the doors and everyone goes into motion. My hands are covered, mask tied around my neck, and I walk over toward the patient.
“All right, Claudia,” I give her a comforting smile, but the fear in her eyes is clear. “Do you have any last questions before we begin?”
“Just . . .” she shivers “. . . want to make sure . . . I’ll be okay.”
Her teeth are chattering. “You’re going to be fine,” my voice is warm. “You’re going to take a nap, and when you wake up, I’ll have taken the tumor out. All of this is good, and you need to let me do my thing, okay?”
She nods, still with terror in her eyes. “Okay.”
I can’t let her be this afraid. I remember a few days ago, she told me she was a singer who toured for a long time before moving back to Chicago. I thought it was really cool that she knew so many of my favorite singers. “You know, before each surgery, we play music once the patient is asleep. I find that it really calms the room. How about this time, we start a little early, and you can listen to the music? Do you have a favorite song?”
She tells me the name and I nod to the nurse. The music fills the air and I watch her release a deep breath along with some of the anxiety. “This is helping.”
“Good.” I grin.
Claudia begins to sing, her soprano voice ringing out with each word. I let her go for a few more bars, and all the nurses sway and sing along. Her voice is beautiful, and I almost wish she wasn’t going to pass out soon, but I watch the anesthesiologist push the drug into her IV and I know she’s got just a few more seconds.
When her voice trails off as she falls asleep, I clear my throat and the surgical team moves into action. They know the drill. The nurse switches the iPod to my surgery playlist, and Bruno Mars fills the air, indicating that it’s time to begin.
I go through my ritual. I stand on the left side of the patient, closest to her heart, lean my head back with my eyes closed, and count backwards from five. Five patients I’ve lost during surgery. I think of them, of what went wrong, and then I say their names.
Then I remember a few of the successes. I stand here, thinking of the cases no one thought I could win, and I smile. I replay the faces of the families when I told them I’d gotten all the cancer or that we were able to avoid the terrible outcomes they’d been preparing for.
The faith those families had in me was a gift. One I’ve never taken for granted. I say Claudia’s name last and ask for a little help in ensuring she gets added to the column of successes.
I drop my head back down and open my eyes. I see Martina across from me, trust shining in her eyes.
I hold out my hand, and say the word that brings me back to reality. “Scalpel.”
It’s always a good day to save a life.
Martina places the blade in my hand and my heart swells with pride.
God, I hope I never have to count to six.
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