“Wow. Who would’ve thought the old man would go out like that?”
Mike Delany glanced at his younger brother. They could have been twins except Scotty’s hair was a lighter shade of brown.
“Yeah.” Mike shook his head. “I can’t believe he killed himself.”
They were standing over their father’s casket, the public viewing ending and the wake about to begin .
“It was so unlike him. Remember the way he used to tear through the nursing staff? Not to mention how he used to treat mom.”
“Yeah, let’s not mention that.”
Mike closed his eyes. Too many bad memories. The last thing he wanted to do was go through the list of his father’s shortcomings, but what his brother said was true. Although he’d gotten several awards and commendations from his peers and the small, but fast growing community of Northland, Florida, his private life was quite different.
Controlling, arrogant, and just plain mean was the general consensus at the Delaney household. But everyone not living with him touted his brilliance as a physician, his genius as an administrator and his innovation as a community leader.
“Well, at least one of us made him proud,” Scotty said with dry laugh.
Mike shook his head. “It’s not like he gave a damn about either one of us.” But inside he knew what his brother said was the truth. Mike had gone off to college as the dutiful son, gone to med school at the University of Florida, then to Miami to do an eight-year residency and cardiac fellowship. Board certified invasive cardiologist, he had joined his dad’s practice right out of his fellowship. Now, with his father gone, he not only had to face a confused community, but run one of the busiest practices south of the Mason-Dixon Line , see to his father’s estate, and satisfy family obligations as well.
“You know that’s a lie,” Scotty said. He grinned, and for a moment, Mike saw his brother at age six. At that time he’d worshiped Mike as a god, and being a good big brother, Mike had done the best he could to look after the younger boy. But, even then, their father had started showing his disdain for his youngest son
“I don’t blame you for leaving,” Mike said. “I mean, after the scandal and all.” Closing his eyes, Mike pushed down the memory of the night their first house had burned to the ground. Even though it was seventeen years in the past, Mike still felt the shame as if it’d happened yesterday .
“Dude. Nobody blames you. For god’s sake. You were seventeen, Mike.”
“I blame me,” he said. He waved his hand. “But, this isn’t about me.”
Scotty laughed. “Okay, bro. Whatever yu say. Anyway, I called dear old dad before I left LAX, and he said I could stay in the guest house .”
Mike sent him a sharp look. “Really? Sounds uncharacteristically generous of him.”
Scott shuffled his feet. “Okay, he said I could hang out if I did some work around the house and cleaned the pool. Turns out he had to fire some of the house staff. Again.”
“And, I’m guessing you have other plans?”
“Come on.” Scotty laughed. “You really don’t expect me to work for my room and board, do you? It’s not like I’m sixteen earning my allowance.”
Mike shook his head. “Of course not. Just move into the guesthouse for now. We have to go through his things anyway. Sort stuff out.”
Both men turned to see their sister enter the room. She’d spent the afternoon consoling patients and seeing to the staff. Her loyalty to the family practice and their father was unwavering. She turned to them and the depth of her loss was clear in her expression.
“Hey, Care Bear,” Scotty said.
“Carolyn,” Mike echoed.
Two years younger than him, and three years older than Scotty, their sister had his fair coloring, but unlike the boys, she favored her mother’s features and petite size.
“I can’t believe it.”
Of the three siblings, Caro had been the most reclusive. Since their mother had died twenty years earlier and their father had been too busy with his all-consuming work, she’d stepped up into the role of parent.
“Sorry, sis,” Scotty said, pulling her into a warm embrace.
Mike could only stand there, watching the two of them. He was glad that his brother and sister had stayed close over the years. Glad that they had each other. Carolyn turned to him. “So, what were you doing while dad was killing himself?”
Mike bit his lip. Of course she blamed him. It was his fault Robert Delaney locked himself in his six-car garage, got into his Porsche, turned on the engine and sucked up all that carbon monoxide.
“I was at the clinic,” he said.
“Somewhere else. Like you’ve always been when your family needed you. Like when the house burned to the ground and Mama died?” Her bitterness burned in her words like brush fire across a field of kindling.
Mike swallowed hard, nodded to Scotty, then turned on his heels and practically ran out of the chapel.
It was a sunny Florida October evening, seventy-six degrees, with no hint of fall in the air. Somewhere, someone was cooking barbecue and enjoying a crisp fall night. Mike let out a breath he’d been holding for the last fifteen years.
“Excuse me, Dr. Delaney?”
Looking up, he saw a beautiful brunette walking toward him. She could have been a model, her long brown hair tumbling down around her shoulders, high cheekbones, Elizabeth Taylor violet eyes, petite nose and lush, red lips. Five foot eight inches, she was made up of soft curves with long, slender legs. Hers was the kind of beauty that men dreamed about.
“Hi. I’m Shannon Kinsey. You’re new partner.”
His breath caught in his chest. “Uh, I don’t remember hiring you.”
Her perfect smile faltered and she took on a puzzled expression. “I don’t know what to say. I spoke to you on the phone only yesterday. Well, actually, I spoke to your voicemail. You’d contacted my agency about a temporary contract. I signed the paperwork last Friday.”
For a moment, Mike stood unmoving. In the last forty-eight hours he felt like someone had taken out his brain and replaced it with sludge. He shook his head when realization finally dawned on him.
“Oh, wait, you think I’m Dr. Robert Delaney, right?”
“You’re not him?”
Mike laughed, relieved that some of his deductive capabilities had returned to him.
“No, that was my father. I’m Mike Delaney. Sorry for the mix up.”
“It’s okay. It’s just that I landed in Orlando Airport this morning on a red-eye. My rental car order got mixed up and then when I did make it to Northland, it turned out my agency was lax in finding me a hotel. I’ve been told there’s not one available in a hundred mile radius. Something about ‘biker’s week?’”
Mike nodded. “I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad time of it. My office will compensate you for your time and trouble. Since my father has passed away, we’re not in able to bring on anybody new.”
“You’re going to break my contract? Send me packing back to Chicago?”
“You make it sound really bad. Forgive me, but I just lost my father. I’m really not in a mood...”
“Dr. Delaney. I’m a board certified cardiologist, just like dear old dad.”
She took a breath. If he were not grieving his father’s death, dealing with difficult family issues and seriously considering closing his father’s practice and moving to Fiji, he could have really gone for a woman like Shannon Kinsey. As it was, however, she was a wrinkle that he just couldn’t deal with at the moment.
“I beg your pardon,” she said with the exaggerated patience one uses with an unruly six year old, “but Dr. Delaney, I have a contract with your father’s practice. I sold everything I own--my apartment, my car, and a butt load of furniture to come here.”
“I’m sorry. These things happen.”
“Oh.” She clasped her hands together. “Please accept my condolences at the loss of your father. I know this must be a hard time for you. I guess I’ll be going. Uh, just so you know, my attorney will be contacting you.”
She started to turn away, but Mike grabbed her arm. “Wait. You’re suing me?”
Dr. Kinsey have him a curt expression, her gaze going to the spot where he held her arm. Suddenly feeling like he’d grabbed the lit end of a torch, Mike let go.
“I don’t have a choice. You’ve cost me travel expenses, time, and a loss of income. I don’t even have a room for the night and I’ve not slept for thirty-six hours.”
Mike cleared his throat, “I told you’d I’d pay for your inconvenience.”
“Oh.” She laughed. “You’ll pay, all right.”
“My father entered into a contract with you. He’s dead. Therefore, the contract is now null and void.”
There, he thought. That’s the end of that.
Except the smug expression on her lovely face said otherwise.
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken. The contract I entered into was with your practice. The header on the document is Delaney and Delaney. I believe you are the second ‘Delaney’ on this?”
Reaching into her Dooney briefcase, she pulled out the contract and handed it to him. That’s when he saw it. His signature.
His father always had him signing one damn thing or another.
Mike’s stomach clenched. His dad’s practice--no, now his practice--had agreed to employ Dr. Kinsey for three months.
Damn it all! When was dear old dad going to tell him about this?
“Right. Well, um, you’re welcome to stay for now. However, next week I’m meeting with my legal counsel and I’m probably going to end up dissolving the practice.”
“You can do whatever you wish with your practice. However, you do realize that it takes time to dissolve a business? Until you do, you’re going to need help caring for your patients. And, we do have this contract…”
She did have a point, Mike thought. When it came to legalities, things could get messy. There was also his sister’s stake in the practice to consider. A nurse practitioner, Carolyn had been given part ownership of the practice as well.
“I suppose we could use a hand until I get things taken care of. Welcome to the Delaney and Delaney Cardiology group.”
She smiled and Mike could have sworn the day got brighter.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish