The Doctor's Choice(9)

By: J. D. Faver


What was it about her that turned him on? She was a very pretty woman, but he’d been around plenty of pretty women who actually liked him and wanted him to open doors for them.

He’d promised Silky that he would take care of her and that was what he was bound to do, if she stayed. He couldn’t help it if she went scampering back to Houston and to the arms of her new fiancé. Damn! He hadn’t counted on that. If she had a fiancé, why hadn’t he at least had the decency to accompany her to the funeral? What kind of man left his new fiancée to go it alone through tough times?

#

Cami jumped when the doorbell rang. She felt a lightness in her chest. Breck came back.

She hurried to open the door. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to be so rude.” Her smile froze as she gazed at the bewildered face of T-Bone Mullins, Silky’s foreman. He nodded and touched his hand to the brim of his weather-beaten felt hat.

“Yes’m, if you say so,” he said.

“Oh, please come in.” Cami had to laugh at his confused expression. He crossed the threshold cautiously.

“I just come to see if you need anything.” He eyed her warily.

“Yes, as a matter of fact I do,” she said. “I would like to invite you and Frank to dinner. There are some matters we need to discuss. How about six-o-clock?”

“Yes’m. We’ll be here.”

He escaped quickly and she watched him trudge to the barn through the crust of snow.

She laid a new fire in the fireplace. Soon the warmth of the flames chased the chill from the large room. She sat close to the fire. Closing her eyes, she thought of Clay. He assured her they had a great future together. She believed him. He was charming and stable. He might not be the most exciting man on the planet but he offered security.

She was sad that she hadn’t had a chance to share the news of her betrothal with Aunt Silky before her death. She wondered if Silky would have been happy for her, or if the news that she planned to stay in Houston would have made her sad.

Punching Clay’s work number into the telephone, she waited to be transferred to his extension.

“Clayton Tremont here,” he said.

“Well, Cami Carmichael here,” she mimicked his pompous tone.

“Cami, dear one. How did it go?”

“The funeral was sad, the burial was frigid and I’ve never felt so incredibly alone.”

“You’ll be right back home tomorrow. How about the reading of the will? Did the old girl leave it all to you?”

She fought the choking sensation in her throat. “Please don’t talk about her that way.”

“Oh, you know what I mean. It was just an expression.” She heard him sigh and speak to someone as an aside. “Where were we?” he asked when he returned to their conversation. “Oh, yes.’ What about the will? What did she leave us?”

“Nothing,” she said.

He paused for a long moment. “What? I thought you were the apple of her eye?”

“I am. I was. It’s just that she decided she wanted me to stay here. In order to inherit, I have to live here for a year. After that I could sell it all.” She waited for some assurance that she was doing the right thing.

“Old people get strange ideas. How much land are we talking about, anyway?”

“I don’t know exactly. The lawyer said it was worth thirteen million dollars.” She heard a low whistle.

“That’s not too shabby.”

“No, it’s not. But we’re talking about my life. We’re talking about my career. I’d never get another chance at a fellowship in immunology. I can’t give that up.”

“Cami, Cami, Cami,” he crooned into the receiver. “As an immunology researcher you could never make that kind of money. Don’t be an idiot. Just stay there. We’ll work something out.”

Amazed by his words Cami stood frozen, gripping the receiver with both hands. “Clay, I can’t believe what I’m hearing. You actually want me to live here in the middle of nowhere for a year?” A rush of righteous anger flowed through her.

“It won’t be so bad. We can visit each other. The year will be over in no time.”

“I don’t think so,” she said, coldly.

“Cami, I have to meet with a client right now. I’ll call you back later.”

He hung up abruptly, the dial tone humming in her ear.

Cami clung to the receiver, as though it might offer some reassurance of Clay’s feelings. Replacing it in the cradle, she sat for some time staring into the fire but drew no comfort from it.

The sky darkened rapidly. She forced herself to reheat the food brought by Silky’s friends. Surprised when the doorbell rang, Cami had thought the men would come to the back door since the bunkhouse was behind the house.