Authors: Celya Bowers
Anything but Love
Genesis Press, Inc.
An imprint of Genesis Press, Inc.
Genesis Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 101
Columbus, MS 39703
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, not known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission of the publisher, Genesis Press, Inc. For information write Genesis Press, Inc., P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.
Copyright© 2009 Celya Bowers
Manufactured in the United States of America
Visit us at www.genesis-press.com or call at 1-888-Indigo-1-4-0
This book is dedicated to my mother, Celia Mae Bowers Shaw Kenney, and a very dear person I recently lost, Falice (Fay) Lee.
As always I would like to thank my mom for having been a dynamite woman. I know the stars shine brighter in heaven because you’re there.
To my family, the best support system in the world: Darwyn Tilley, Jeri Murphy, William Earl Kenney, Sheila Kenney, Kim Kenney, Celya Tilley, Yolanda Tilley, Rod Kenney, and Shannon Murphy.
To my great niece, Kennedy, you are my heart.
To all my BFF’s: Cherry Elder, Erica Black, Eulanda Bailey, Sharon Hickman-Mahones, Roslin Williams, Dawn Moore, Kenneth Portley, Lester Brown, DeAndra Garrett, Melody Alvarado, Judy Brown, John Brown, Donna Lefear, Beverly Cofer, Lewis Stewart, and Lisa-Lin Burke.
To Eddie Lee, it was an honor meeting you and I’m so glad I did.
To my readers and new fans: thank you for letting me into your heart.
To my old college friends: Alice Pollock, and Nalen Busto, thanks for looking me up!
To my critique group, the Sizzling Sisterhood: Diane O’Brien-Kelly, Angela Cavener, and Vanetta Chapman.
To Celya’s Corner: Paula Washington, Pam Washington, Mattie Washington, Christine Washington, Clara Washington, Brenda Washington, Lisa Peters, Ingrid Johnson, Lesley Paine, Gail Surles, Winston Williams, Northa Hollins, Jessica Kenney, Kathy Solsberry, Shaunette Smith, Darlene Ramzy, Kerry Elder, Stacey Plummer, Sherry Ramsey, Tammy Hill, Shirley Washington and Kim Williams.
If I forgot anyone, please forgive and charge it to my head.
Thank you for keeping me in your prayers.
For some women, it was frilly underwear. But for her it was stilettos. Dr. Kendall Matthews sat in her corner office at Briarwood Hospital, relishing a few quiet moments before having to pull emergency room duty for the afternoon. She propped her stiletto-clad feet on the desk, crossed them at the ankles, and relaxed. Most of her colleagues thought she was crazy for wearing those shoes to work, but it was part of her style.
She loved showing off her legs. Perhaps it was vanity, but she didn’t really care. She loved looking and feeling like a woman.
She picked up her stereo remote and clicked on her favorite classical music CD. Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” filled the room, instantly calming her frazzled nerves. After such a hectic morning, her eyes drifted closed.
She heard her office door open. Since no one knocked, she knew it was her physician assistant, Max Cork. Everyone else at the prestigious hospital valued their job too much to enter her office without knocking first. “Kendall, we’ve got a problem in the emergency room and need your diplomatic skills.”
She opened her eyes and sat up straight. “I’m not due in the ER until one. It’s not even eleven. Get someone else.”
Max closed the door and strode to the desk, apparently not paying attention to the tone in her voice. “Look, Kendall, do you know Coltrane Highpoint, the best-selling author?”
She did, she knew the African-American author and had had a secret crush on him all those years ago, when she was too young to know better. “Yes, I went to school with his greatness, back when he couldn’t construct a simple sentence properly.”
“I thought you were only approaching the big 4-0?”
“Okay, he wasn’t in my class. He was a little older. He knew my brother Charlie, and he was always at our house. He should be about forty-five. Charlie told me he moved back last year and was working on his next bestseller.”
Max shook his head at her. “Whatever. Get to the ER.”
Kendall smiled at him. Max was the only person in the hospital she let talk to her like that, and she allowed it for one simple reason: He was her best friend. That was saying quite a bit since Max had blond hair, blue eyes, and was a man. At a time in her life when she was very pro-black and pro-woman, Max had stormed his way into her life just as he had her office that morning.
Knowing that Max wasn’t leaving until she did, Kendall stood and walked to the door. “Okay, okay. I’m going.”
Max let out a breath. “Thank God. Dr. Phillips is about to pop an artery ’cause this guy is ranting about the poor level of service he’s getting.”
“Just great,” Kendall whispered. “His cocky attitude hasn’t diminished in twenty-five years.” She turned toward her friend. “Come on, Max, let’s go open a can of whup ass.”
* * *
“Mr. Highpoint, if you would just calm down, we can wrap your ankle,” the nurse pleaded, hands planted on her hips.
Coltrane Highpoint looked at the mature woman and immediately moved his foot out of her reach. “Not if you’re going to move it and make it hurt more than you did when you took the X-ray. As a matter of fact, I want that doctor back in here. Your bedside manner is deplorable.”
She stood with her hands on her plump hips, ready for battle. “Mr. Highpoint, if you would just sit still, this would already be over and you could be on your way home. I told you we had to get pictures from several different angles to make sure there wasn’t a break, and you refused pain medication.”
“You didn’t tell me you were going to try to take my foot off in the process!” Cole crossed his arms over his chest in defiance. “Unless someone dressed in a white jacket and with a nametag that says ‘doctor’ comes in here, you’re not touching my foot.”
“Will I do, Coltrane?” A tall, slender African-American woman with the most beautiful dark chocolate skin he’d ever seen walked into the tiny examination room. Not paying him any attention, she headed to the X-rays on the vertical lighted table. “I don’t see a break.”
“And you are?” He noticed her purple dress was much shorter than her white lab jacket. He also noticed the dress was molded to her slight form, but he wasn’t going to complain about that.
She finally tore her gaze away from the X-rays and walked toward him. “I’m Dr. Kendall Matthews. I’m on call this afternoon. Now I do recall you saying something about someone being in a white lab jacket with a nametag. I believe I meet your criteria.” She nodded at the nurse. “You can leave now. I’ll take care of Mr. Highpoint.”
Coltrane watched the other woman scurry out of the room. He turned his attention back to the attractive woman before him. “Do I know you?”
“Vaguely. I’m Charlie Stone’s youngest sister.” She touched his ankle gingerly.
Coltrane watched her carefully as she probed his ankle. Amazingly, it didn’t hurt. She had a delicate touch. “You’re little Kiki? My goodness, it’s been what, twenty-five years since I last saw you?”
He took a closer look as she rummaged through the cabinets, obviously not at home with the contents. For some reason, he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off her legs. They seemed to go on forever. He cleared his throat. “I talk to Charlie pretty often and he keeps me up on the happenings around Arlington. He mentioned you married a while ago and were now divorced.”
She didn’t face him as she answered, “Yes, about four years ago. I was tired of being ‘the young Stone girl,’ so I kept my married name.” She located the wrap for his ankle and shook it at him. “Shouldn’t hurt.”
He knew she didn’t mean that. It was probably going to hurt like hell, and he probably deserved it and more for the scene he’d caused earlier. “Look, I know you’re probably here so I won’t sue for the horrible service I got, but don’t worry.”
Kendall stopped cold. “Coltrane, I’m here because you were in here screaming at everyone like you were in labor. It’s just a sprained ankle. You’ve gotten the highest level of care in this hospital and it was your choice to deny painkillers. We treat all our patients the same. No one is better than the next. No matter how many best-selling novels you’ve written, you’re no better than the construction worker, accountant, mayor or whoever walks through those doors. Briarwood has a reputation for excellence, and you will not detract from that.”
Apparently he’d struck a nerve. He hadn’t meant to upset her. In fact, the more she talked the more he admired those full lips. His gaze went to her long legs and stopped at the stilettos. He’d never seen a doctor dress so sexy.
“Would you like me to model for you?”
“No, I was just admiring how much you’ve changed.”
Kendall shook her head at him. “How about let’s wrap your ankle so you can get on with your writing and someone else can use the table.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you, Kendall. You have to remember the last time I saw you, you must have been fifteen or so.”
“Yes. Lie back please.”
Had he missed something? Why was she being so short with him? Granted, he wasn’t the most ideal patient, even if it was his friend’s youngest sister.
He reclined on the table, determined to suck it up and not yell when the pain became too much. But oddly enough, his mind wasn’t on the pain as he watched her delicately wrap his ankle.
He inhaled her scent. It was a clean scent that only reminded him of how long it had been since he’d been on a date. Having just celebrated his forty-fifth birthday, and with his life somewhat settled down, he probably just needed a little companionship.
“There. All done.” She smiled at her handiwork. “I’ll get Max to bring you some crutches. It’ll probably take a few weeks to heal. Try to stay off it as much as possible. I’m sure your mom will be happy to have you at her house for a few weeks, or I can give you the name of a service that can also provide for you while you’re recuperating.”
“Thank you, but I just signed the closing papers on my house yesterday. I have everything under control,” he said. “I’d like to catch up on your life when I’m a little more mobile.”
She smiled. “Thanks, but no.”
Kendall started picking up the materials she’d discarded and pitched them in the trash can. “No, Cole. I know a man as good-looking as you isn’t used to a woman not falling at your feet. You just want to know if those hazel eyes can work on me. They didn’t work then, and they don’t work now.” She left the room.
Cole looked at the swinging doors, wondering what the heck had just happened. He was usually more in control with women. Granted, he’d had his share of willing females. He had just never had one throw him back.
* * *
Kendall leaned against the wall near the emergency room. What happened to her brain? After all this time, Coltrane Highpoint still jumpstarted her heart. She’d had a crush on him when she was a teenager and he was too old to consider her anything but his best friend’s baby sister. She’d hoped the last twenty or so years would have dulled the ache she had for him, but she was wrong. So wrong.
She couldn’t go back in that room and face those hazel eyes again. Couple those eyes with a dazzling smile, athletic build, and nice legs, and she was just like every other woman on the planet. She was done for.
After a few deep breaths, she walked to the nearest phone and paged Max over the intercom system. A few minutes later, Max called her back.
“Max, Coltrane Highpoint is going to need some crutches, and then he can be dismissed. You might need to write him a script for pain meds.” Being a PA, Max had the authority to do just that.
“Hey, I thought you like seeing your patients to the door? Especially with him being a brother and all,” Max teased.
“Not this time. You can have the honors. If I ever see that man again, it will be too soon.”
Max walked into the recovery area of the emergency room expecting to see a very pompous celebrity waiting to be pacified in every way possible. What he actually saw was a man deeply confused, obviously Kendall’s latest victim in the man-woman war.
The large African-American man was sitting on the examination table, his bandaged ankle on the table, while the other dangled off the end. He was shaking his head, probably trying to figure out what he’d done wrong and coming up empty.
Max realized Kendall’s earlier call was out of character. She’d never asked someone else to take on any of her responsibility. She made it a policy to see every patient out the door personally. This man had rattled a woman famous for never being rattled.
This was a match made in heaven if Max ever saw one. However, neither Kendall nor Coltrane Highpoint knew it yet.
“Mr. Highpoint, my name is Max. I’m Dr. Matthews’s physician assistant.” He nodded to the crutches in his hand. “She said you might be needing these. I also have your dismissal papers and your prescriptions for your pain medication.”
Coltrane nodded at Max. “I guess that means she’s not coming back in here, right?” He made a move to stand on his healthy leg.
Max stopped his patient before he made the costly mistake of thinking he could manage on his own. “A wheelchair is on its way. Is there anyone that can come get you?”
“Yeah, too many people,” he answered cryptically. “How about you call me a cab or something and I can get out of your hair, too.”
Man, Kendall had done a number on this guy, Max thought. The famous author’s ego was shattered. “Dr. Matthews isn’t actually used to nurturing men right now. She deals mostly with pregnant women. But there’s no rush about you leaving.”
Coltrane looked at Max. “Don’t you know who I am?”
Max nodded. “Right now you’re a patient of this hospital, and that’s all I’m concerned with. You have a sprained ankle and you’re going to need some help getting into the car.”
Coltrane laughed. “That put me and my celebrity status in place. Please call me Cole. I’m sure Kendall’s recollections of me in my youth weren’t good, but that was then.”
“Okay, Cole.” Max glanced at his watch. Kendall would kill him for what he was about to do. But what was life without a little death threat every now and then? “Look, Cole, it’s almost my lunch time. Why don’t I give you a lift home? I have an SUV, so there’d be plenty of room in it for you to stretch out.”
Typical, Max thought. People with Cole’s kind of status weren’t used to someone doing something for nothing. “Look, man, I don’t want anything from you. It sounds like you don’t really have anyone to call, and I was just trying to help you out. I know what it’s like to be in a place where you don’t really want to be.”
Cole nodded. “Sorry. I’m just used to dealing with a certain type of person. I have to remember I’m back home and not everyone is trying to get something from me. In New York, you don’t know how rare that is. I would very much appreciate a ride home. I’m actually not that far from here. My house is in Biscayne Meadows.”
Max couldn’t help grinning. Looked as if destiny was already at work; Kendall’s house was in that same upscale subdivision. “Yeah, I know the place. A friend of mine lives there.” He didn’t mention that the friend was Kendall. “It’s very secluded.” Not to mention the very high price tag of those custom homes and the armed security guards.
“Yeah, that was the main reason I bought it. I love privacy and don’t like everyone in my business.”
Max snickered. “Sounds like my friend.”