Be Careful What You Wish For–Part 8

(previous)

It was nearly eight before Josie left Sam’s bedroom. She’d Leaned on her enough to keep her awake while she ate all of the breakfast Jeb brought up, but now her sister was curled up in her bed sound asleep.

Wish I could do the same, Josie thought through a haze of exhaustion. Soon, she told herself. Look in on the others first. They had to have heard all the running around earlier. Make sure they’re taken care of and tell them not to worry. After that, go see if Tim needs anything, and then you can sleep.

She made sure her face was cheerful before opening the door. The boys were sitting in a circle on the floor, playing cards. Sandy had Maggie on his lap and was explaining something to her, but every eye looked up as Josie entered the room.

Sandy spoke first. “Is Ellis okay? Jeb said Dr. Tim was working on him.”

“He’s doing better. The operation is over and he’s sleeping peacefully,” she said truthfully, and put as much reassurance into her words as she could manage. A small cheer erupted.

“Can I see him now?” Maggie wanted to know.

Josie had to smile at the little girl’s devotion. “Not yet, sweetheart. Soon though. I promise.” Please, let me able to keep that promise.

Maggie seemed to accept that, and turned her attention back to the game.

“Does anyone need anything?” Josie asked.

“Nope,” Sandy told her cheerfully, eyes glued to his cards.

“Jeb said he’d bring us breakfast here in a bit,” Lewis said.

“So we’re good for now,” his twin finished.

“Now, Mags,” Sandy told his little sister, pointing to the cards in his hand. “Tell me: is this a good hand, or should I fold?”

Poker. They were teaching their baby sister how to play poker. Josie just shook her head. Why am I not surprised.

She stumbled next door to Ellis’s room. The curtain was drawn against the bright morning sunlight, leaving doctor and patient in shadows.

“How is he doing?” she asked softly.

She could barely see Tim’s tired smile. “As well as can be expected for a kid who has a deadly toxin running rampant through his body and who is currently breathing through a rubber tube,” was the dry answer.

“I’m sorry,” Josie said, staring at the floor. “I should have thought of Sam before this. She may be only eleven, but Mama says she’s as strong a Healer as any she’s known. If I’d—”

Tim interrupted, standing up and coming closer. “You did fine, Josie. I also knew she had a Talent for Healing, and I forgot as well. You remembered when it mattered most, and that’s all that’s important at this time.”

Unexpectedly he chuckled and said, “You know, if you ever decide to make your own way in the world for a time, I’d hire you as a nurse in a heartbeat.”

Josie blinked, unsure whether he was serious or not.

“A nurse?” she asked hesitantly. “But I have no Healing Talent.”

“Trust me, you don’t need it.” He gestured toward her stained gown. “You’ve no fear of blood or other bodily fluids, nor of hard work. You learn quickly and don’t mind taking orders. You have steady hands, an almost-encyclopedic knowledge of medicinal plants, and your ability to keep your patients calm is nothing short of miraculous.”

“A nurse?” she repeated. “I guess I’ve never thought of pursuing anything of that sort, since Mama and Sam have always held the monopoly on the healing arts.” She fell silent, trying to think over this sudden new idea, but her mind really wasn’t working properly at all.

“Well, they oughtn’t, because you’re a natural.” At her continued silence, he added, “I wasn’t joking about the job offer, Josie. I truly want to work with you.”

“But . . . why?”

“Because your Talent brings out the best in me,” was his frank reply. “I’m an excellent consulting physician, but the role of surgeon is often difficult for me. I become far too unsure of myself. Today, however, despite everything that was going wrong, I felt calm and confident and able to handle anything that came my way, and that was because of you.”

He didn’t seem to realize that he’d taken her hand and now held it tight. “But it’s not just about what you do for me. It’s you yourself. You are utterly amazing, Jo. You really are. Calm, steady, dependable: a true heroine, facing down danger. Any doctor would be lucky to have you at his side.”

She stiffened suddenly. “A true heroine.” That’s what I wished for. And Gran warned me . . . “Oh mercy,” she whispered.

“Josie?”

“This is all my fault.” The words tumbled out before she could stop them.

“What?”

“I was the one who wished for something to happen. Right before you drove up. I even said I didn’t care what it was.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You didn’t cause this.”

“How do you know? Papa and Will can weave Air, Jeb can control ice. Mama and Sam can heal the dying. I can control people with my mind. Magic is very real, too real, and very powerful in my family, so how do you know that it wasn’t my wish coming true that has nearly killed my cousin?” She could hear her own voice rising hysterically.

“Because Maggie was already ill by the time you made that wish.”

Logic. Maybe it would help my perfect cousin. It doesn’t help me. The tears she’d held in all week broke out in a flood, choking her.

A finger on her lips. “Shh, Jo. It’s okay.”

It wasn’t okay, and she couldn’t shush. All she could do was sob uncontrollably, giant hiccupping sobs. Far in the distance she could hear Tim talking at her, but couldn’t make out the words.

The finger left her lips, and hands took hold of her, shaking her a little, but still she couldn’t stop. Her body screamed for air, but she couldn’t take a deep enough breath. Her head felt light, hazy, like it wasn’t connected to her at all.

Unexpectedly, the hands pulled her tight against something warm and solid. Then there were lips upon her own, firm and insistent. Josie was no stranger to being kissed, and Dr. Timothy Scott was apparently an extremely proficient kisser. She could feel herself responding automatically, her body becoming pliant, willing, in his embrace. Her mind, able to only focus on him, gradually settled.

Finally his lips released hers, but his arms still encircled her, keeping her upright. “That’s better,” he said in a gentle, soothing tone. “Are you calmer now?”

She managed a single nod, but remained leaning up against him, too tired and overwhelmed—and content—to pull away from his comforting presence.

“Good. Then let’s have no more of that line of thinking, okay?”

“I’ll try,” she said in a low voice. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to fall apart like that. Maybe I wouldn’t make such a good nurse after all.”

He pushed an escaped curl behind her ear. “My dear, you’ve been working for over six days straight with very little sleep, plus the added stress of fighting to save the family you love. I’m rather surprised you’re still functional at all.”

“You care about my family as well and you’ve slept even less than I, yet you’re as calm as always,” she pointed out.

“But I haven’t been using a Talent that drains me physically, mentally, and emotionally as you have all week, and all the more today. Small wonder you’re not thinking clearly.”

Leaning was horribly exhausting. “I’d forgotten about that.” She yawned into his shoulder. “Oh, pardon me. Still, it won’t happen again.”

He was silent for a moment, then asked, “If for some reason it does, do I have permission to kiss you again?”

She slanted a look up at him, once more unable to tell if he was teasing her or not.

“It did seem to work well in calming you this time,” he stated in a matter-of-fact voice. Then his smile became wistful. He fingered her lips tenderly and admitted, “And, truth be told, I’d dearly love the opportunity to kiss you again, Jo.”

Her cheeks grew warm. “I . . . I think I might like it as well,” she heard herself say above the pounding of her heart.