Love with Me Page 1

In loving memory of Henry and Lucy.


“You could have given me notice,” Joy, my best friend of more years than I can count says from the passenger side of my little Audi as I drive us toward the party being thrown tonight for the hospital. “Do you know how hard it is to find someone to cover for me at the clinic in less than forty-eight hours?”

“I’m sorry, I thought I’d mentioned it before,” I reply with a sigh. “You didn’t have to come if it was a pain in the ass.”

She huffs, then taps my shoulder, and I glance down at her. Those green eyes of hers smile up at me.

“I’m sorry for flipping you shit. It’s been a week.”

“Me, too.”

“I’m seriously so proud of you, Jace.” She reaches over to squeeze my hand. “Being named the head of cardiothoracic surgery in your mid-thirties? Dude, you’re a rock star.”

I smirk, but her words mean the world to me. Joy has been my best friend since my freshman year of undergrad. She’s been with me through everything.

I pull into a circular driveway and give my keys to the young kid manning the valet, then Joy slips her hand through my arm, and we walk up the steps toward the party. “You look really pretty. I like this dress.”

“It’s my favorite,” she says with a smile, looking down at the little red number she’s wearing as we enter the ballroom. “And these heels will likely kill me, you’ve been warned.”

I laugh and pass her a glass of champagne, choosing a bottle of water for myself. “Seriously, thanks for coming with me. You never let me down when it comes to these things.”

“Getting dressed up is kind of fun,” she admits and sips her bubbly. Joy is as tall as my shoulder in her heels. Her honey-brown hair is wavy and styled perfectly, and she has minimal makeup.

Because she doesn’t need it.

She’s pretty and funny, and she’s the best friend a guy could ask for. Which is why we’re just friends.

I don’t need to fuck up a good thing with my libido.

“Also, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I’m surprised your family isn’t here.”

I shift on my feet, looking around the room. All of the board members are here with their spouses. Colleagues from my department. People I respect and admire.

“They would have come,” I reply with a shrug, “but the family will have a private celebration next week. You’re invited, of course. What made your week bad?” I ask as we make our way to a long table set up with a spread of finger foods.

“A guy brought a carrier full of mice into the clinic, and they all got loose. It was chaos. One of the little suckers was elusive for two days.”

I laugh, picturing Joy chasing mice around her veterinarian clinic.

“It’s funny now, but at the time? Not so much. What about you?”

“Busy,” I reply with a sigh. “Very busy.”

“Because you’re the best cardiothoracic surgeon there is, proven by this shindig thrown in your honor tonight,” she replies with pride in her voice. “Of course, you’re busy. You should take a vacation.”

I snort. There will be no vacation for me for the foreseeable future. With this promotion comes a lot more work. We’re interrupted for the next two hours by colleagues and administrators, wanting to chat and network. Joy is intelligent and charming, another reason I take her to every formal function we have.

I’d be bored to tears without her.

“Congratulations, Jace,” Mick Leamon, my medical director, says as he approaches with his wife, Elizabeth.

“Thank you, sir. You remember my friend Joy Thompson?”

Joy shakes Mick’s hand with a smile, but he looks at me with confusion.

“Of course. Hello, Joy. Still nothing more than friendship here?”

“Oh,” Joy says with a laugh, waving him off. “No, Jace and I are old friends. I’m proud to be his date tonight.”

Mick relaxes with a smile and nods, slapping me on the shoulder with a wink.

“Good. Not that I can say this officially, but not having the entanglements of a young family will only benefit you in your new position as chief, Jace. If you thought we demanded a lot from you before—”

“I know,” I reply, already anticipating what he is about to say. “I should just sell my house and live in my office.”

We all laugh and settle into an easy conversation about the hospital, and the evening goes by quickly.

Exactly three hours after we arrived, after dinner and my speech and all of the well-wishes, Joy gives our it’s-time-to-leave sign.

She pulls on her earlobe, Carol Burnett-style. It’s our safe word for events like these.

Once we’re settled in my R8, and I’m driving back toward her house, she sighs.

“Another successful event. Are you working tomorrow?”

“Bright and early,” I confirm. “Tomorrow is full of routine surgeries. There shouldn’t be any surprises. I also have a couple of meetings. How about you?”

“I have surgeries in the morning as well, and appointments in the afternoon. I’m on call tomorrow night.”

“So, basically, I won’t see you again until it’s time to get dressed up for another frilly party.”

She laughs and shrugs. “This is just what we do, especially now that you have a fancy new title. But I’m always around if you need me.”

I was wrong. Today has been anything but routine.

“His blood pressure is dropping,” my lead nurse announces, and I know we’re fucked.

“Clamp that,” I order as blood continues to flow over my hands. “Stop this fucking bleeding.”

“Yes, sir.”

Maroon 5 is blaring through the speakers of the room, singing about maps. I love music while I work.

But now, it’s distracting me.

“Cut the music,” I order. My voice is hard, and I’m focused on keeping the man on my table alive.

Twenty minutes later, the heart monitor is a steady beep, signaling that he’s crashed.

I step back and take off my mask. The room goes silent as the machines are quieted.

What the fuck just happened?

What was supposed to be a routine valve replacement turned into utter chaos.

“Time of death, 4:33 p.m.,” I say at last. “I’ll go out and talk to the family now.”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Crawford.”

I nod and walk into the scrub room, wash up, then make my way to the waiting room for a conversation that I absolutely despise.

“Mrs. Walters?”

“Can we see him?” the woman in her fifties asks. She’s surrounded by her children and their spouses.

“Can you come with me, please?”

“Of course.”

I lead the family to an empty room nearby, shut the door, and turn to six hopeful faces.

“I’m very sorry, but Mr. Walters didn’t make it.”

Tears. Anger. Anguish. Confusion.

It’s thirty minutes of hell as I recount what happened in the operating room, and what I think went wrong. But no explanations are enough because it won’t bring their loved one back.

“Mrs. Walters, I’m so very sorry for your loss.”

It’s another hour before I can return to my office, shut the door, and stare out of the windows to the Seattle skyline. Mr. Walters was my last surgery of the day, and only the fifth time in my career that I’ve lost a patient under my knife.

I’m in the business of saving lives, and I failed today.

I brush impatiently at a tear on my cheek and reach for my phone. I don’t want to go home to an empty house tonight. I’ll make myself crazy.

But I’m not in the mood for my family. I love them, and they mean well, but I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to be.

So, I text the one person in the world that I trust the most.

Hey, Joy. I need you.


“Dr. Crawford, Dr. Leamon has asked to see you in his office.”

My nurse’s face is impassive as she takes my charting laptop from my hands. She’s tired. We’re all exhausted after the seven-hour surgery we just came out of.    

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