The Doctor's Choice

By: J. D. Faver

~Badlands: Book One~



CHAPTER ONE



It snowed the day of Aunt Silky's funeral. The bone-chilling February cold suited Camryn Carmichael just fine. Her mood was as dark as the slate-colored, north Texas sky.

Her gaze flicked over the tall man observing her from the opposite side of the coffin.

The lawyer. Stud in a Stetson. Please! She could feel his attitude from where she stood.

Cami pulled up the collar of her coat to block the biting wind. She couldn’t feel her toes any more. The group of mourners who stood by Silky Carmichael's grave shivered and shuffled their icy feet, but the pastor droned on, oblivious to their discomfort.

Breckenridge T. Ryan, Aunt Silky's lawyer, had made the call to inform her of Silky’s death. Now, he seemed to be assessing her, his dark eyes taking in every detail. He might be considered handsome if he ever smiled. He probably thought her an idiot for wearing her all-weather rain coat and suede pumps in a blizzard, but it rarely snowed in Houston. She certainly couldn't afford a new wardrobe on a resident's meager wages, even for her last living relative’s funeral.

She hadn't visited Moonshadows, her great aunt’s ranch, since high school graduation. Her parents had been killed in a car crash the summer she turned fifteen. Aunt Silky stepped in to keep her in the prestigious Dallas girl's school. She lived at the ranch during summer vacations and holidays. Silky called her every week when she was away, relating stories about her testy old foreman, "T-Bone" or the younger hand, Frank.

The two men stood huddled together against the piercing wind, their faces set in grim tribute to their former employer.

Now Aunt Silky was gone and her obnoxious lawyer was staring hard. Damn him anyway!

Cami’s pumps were ruined. Snowflakes feathered her hair. By the time the pastor intoned his final prayer, her eyes were teary and her nose red both from grief and the bitter

cold.

People filed past, expressing condolences and pumping her hand. She willed them to hurry so she could escape from the slashing wind and mourn in private.

“Miss Carmichael?”

She turned to find the lawyer extending his hand. The cordial smile didn’t quite reach his dark, unreadable eyes.

“Y-Yes. I’m Cami Carmichael.” As he wrapped her hand in his, she shivered and it wasn’t entirely from the cold. “Actually” She struggled to recover some of her dignity. “I’m Doctor Camryn Carmichael.”

He raised an eyebrow and smiled. “I see. Well, I’m Breckenridge T. Ryan, Esquire, but Silky called me Breck.” Her hand remained firmly entrapped in his.

The other mourners scurried to their vehicles. Doors slammed and motors growled in protest as they were awakened from their sleep. Billows of white smoke rose from exhausts as they bid a chilly farewell. The grim parade retraced its route to exit the small cemetery, leaving Cami and Breck alone with employees of the funeral home who were anxious to cover Silky’s casket with earth and return to their homes.

“Can I give you a lift back to Silky’s place?”

“No, thank you. I brought Aunt Silky’s Lincoln.” She nodded to where the candy-apple red vehicle was parked and took a step in that direction to give him the hint.

“Fine,” He gave her hand a squeeze before releasing it and donning his black Stetson. “Call me tomorrow morning and we’ll get together.”

She felt a constricting sensation where her heart should have been. “Excuse me?”

“The will. Except for some minor bequests, you were Silky’s sole beneficiary.”

“Oh.” Cami swallowed hard.

The reality of the death of her only kin had been difficult to bear. This pronouncement only reinforced her isolation.

She longed to return to Houston and the comfort afforded by her fiancé, Clayton Tremont, IV, and by her upcoming fellowship in immunology. She wanted the familiar muggy Houston weather and not this dry north Texas blizzard that was freezing her toes off, among other things.

She accepted the card Breck offered. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” Tucking it into her pocket, she headed for the Lincoln.

#

Breck watched her walk away. He shook his head before climbing into his extra-cab pick-up truck.

Silly woman doesn’t have a clue.

Silky’s great-niece was a major disappointment. Camryn Carmichael was a beauty, but she had no common sense. She didn’t know how to dress for the weather and she didn’t seem to appreciate the significance of the events that were about to unfold in her life. Perhaps she was just some private school debutante and all this wealth was nothing extraordinary to her.

He started the diesel engine and listened to its deep rumble.