Men Made in America
Only a few hours old, the infant scrunched her eyes and yawned,
oblivious to the humming noises of the nursery and the rows of
bassinets around her. With the tiniest of wriggling motions, she
nestled into Dr. Jane McKay’s arms.
Jane’s heart squeezed. She’d delivered three babies this
morning, including this little angel. If only one of them were hers.
She did have time to bear a baby of her own. Just not a lot
of time, with her thirty-fifth birthday little more than a month away.
After that, as Jane often informed patients, fertility rates
declined sharply with every passing year, and the risk of pregnancy
complications increased. Of course, modern medicine offered almost
miraculous advances and some high-tech alternatives to the
conventional route of man, marriage and motherhood.
She still hoped, in her more optimistic moods, that she would
find the right guy to have a family with. Sure, she met plenty of men,
but no one she felt she could share her life and future with. So as
the months and years ticked by, she’d been giving more and more
thought to having a baby on her own.
Scary, exciting thought.
Jane returned her attention to the small, alert face with its
rosebud mouth. How utterly innocent this baby girl looked, how warm
and responsive and…
While she knew the infant’s unfocused eyes couldn’t see
into the hallway beyond the observation window, Jane glanced curiously
in that direction. On the far side of the glass, framed by the red
hearts the North Orange County Medical Center staff had posted for
Valentine’s Day, appeared a pair of broad shoulders and a head of
perfectly styled golden-brown hair.
She didn’t immediately recognize the man. But her body
flushed instinctively, and out of the past popped a name.
Oh, who was she kidding? No woman ever forgot Luke Van Dam. Not
even Jane, and heaven knows, she’d tried.
He stood half-turned away, talking to someone. For a weak
moment, Jane enjoyed the sight of the sexiest man she’d ever met,
while her memory filled in the details. A cleft that flashed in his
left cheek at rare moments. Gray eyes that on closer inspection
revealed rays of violet. A hard mouth that could soften into a
She hadn’t seen him since they’d been classmates and
members of the same study group at UCLA’s medical school. The last
she’d heard, he’d been practicing in Los Angeles, an hour’s
drive from her home here in the town of Brea. Only an hour, but a
What was he doing here?
When he shifted position, she glimpsed a slim brunette nurse
absorbed in conversation with him. Judging by her rapt expression,
Jane could see that the passage of time hadn’t diminished the spell
Against Jane’s shoulder, the baby uttered a contented sigh.
Oh, honestly. Her happiness couldn’t have anything to do with
the great Dr. Van Dam, even if his classmates had teased him about
being the ultimate babe magnet.
Irked by her reaction to the man, Jane tucked the baby into a
bassinet and checked on the other infants she’d delivered. Although
their welfare was no longer her responsibility, she enjoyed this
chance to observe the little people whose hearts she’d been
listening to and whose tiny forms she’d been studying via ultrasound
for so many months. Plus an extra pair of trained eyes never hurt.
Only last week she’d spotted a developing case of jaundice so new
even the nurse hadn’t yet noticed. Treatment with phototherapy had
cleared it up.
Nurturing women and their babies had been Jane’s dream from
an early age. She wanted to be there for them, using her talent and
training to improve their lives and, sometimes, even save them. And
she was living that dream.
In the anteroom, the clock read 3:15 p.m. Jane shed her
protective clothing, washed her hands and went out. She’d had to
postpone a couple of appointments due to today’s deliveries, but
she’d still be able to keep her four o’clock and four-thirty. Jane
hated inconveniencing patients.
No sign of Luke in the hall. Perhaps he’d dropped by to see
his younger cousin, Sean Sawyer, who was Jane’s medical partner.
She’d almost forgotten the men were related. Both turned female
heads wherever they went but, despite Sean’s good looks, he’d
never quickened Jane’s pulse.
Who could account for taste? Jane wished hers didn’t fall
into line with that of so many other women. Luke had always held an
almost magnetic attraction for nurses, fellow medical students and
plenty of other women. And Jane.
For their first three years as study partners, she’d been his
friend, and in some ways, as they bolstered each other through medical
school, she’d come to know him better than almost anyone.
Then, one night when they took a break from hours of studying,
she’d foolishly acted on her feelings. Big mistake. Not that Luke
had behaved like a jerk, exactly. He’d made it clear he’d had a
good time and wouldn’t mind a rematch.
A rematch! Like an idiot, she’d been hoping he’d feel a lot
more. Maybe even as much as she did. Upset with herself as much as
with him, Jane had kept her distance.
That was ten years ago. She only wished seeing him again
hadn’t thrown her into a state of confusion.
She exited the hospital via a side door and set out on foot for
her office a block away. Along the walkway, calla lilies and pansies
bloomed in the late-afternoon sunshine. Jane still relished Southern
California’s splendid February weather even though she’d moved
here over a decade ago from her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
A dental clinic and an optometry office flanked her medical
suite, which she entered through a private door. In the changing room,
she donned a fresh white coat and ran a brush through the
shoulder-length light-brown hair that she’d been growing out for the
past eight months.
After checking with her nurse, Rosemary Tran, Jane approved
several refill prescriptions. Rosemary also reported a couple of
non-emergency calls from patients. Pregnant women craved reassurance,
and, besides, an apparently minor symptom could indicate more serious
problems best nipped in the bud.
Jane returned both calls before her four o’clock patient
arrived, an older woman recovering from a hysterectomy. Her situation
called for extra time reviewing such issues as her sex drive, hot
flashes and bone density. All seemed in order.
The four-thirty appointment cancelled, so the extended
discussion didn’t inconvenience anyone. En route to her private
office to dictate her notes, Jane spotted receptionist Edda Jonas,
whose round, freckled face glowed even pinker than usual.
“Have you seen … oh, I wish they’d explain what … well,
I guess they’re waiting for you,” Edda babbled.
“Excuse me?” Jane tried in vain to sort out this burst of
“They’re in Dr. Sawyer’s office. I didn’t think anybody
could be better looking, but … well, he’s, he’s just ….” A
deep breath barely saved Edda from a meltdown.
No question who had inspired that burst of feminine enthusiasm.
“I assume you’re referring to Dr. Van Dam.”
Edda nodded mutely.
Clearly the man had taken her breath away. “I’d better go
“Is he … he’s not wearing a ring, but I wondered…”
“I have no idea if he’s married.” She’d purposely
avoided asking Sean anything about him.
As the receptionist departed, Jane wondered if this visit had
anything to do with the recent death of Sean’s great-aunt. Last
week, he’d attended her funeral in Santa Barbara, north of LA.
Perhaps the cousins had rekindled their friendship when they met at
the funeral, but if so, why didn’t they get together on a weekend?
She ducked into the restroom to apply lipstick. Silly to worry
about such a thing, but she needed a moment to prepare for seeing
She’d worked hard to recover from her misplaced attraction
years ago, but her response at the hospital made it clear that she
hadn’t entirely succeeded. Really, Jane told herself sternly,
they’d both moved past that incident. There was no reason for any
discomfort between them – or any primping on her part, either.
Drawing herself to her full five-foot-seven-inch height –
make that five-nine in pumps -- she proceeded down the hall. As she
raised her hand to knock on Sean’s door, deep laughter drifted out.
A tingle ran from the soles of her feet up to her earlobes.
Get over it, McKay.
She rapped. A moment later,
the door swung open to reveal Sean’s welcoming smile.
“Good! You’re here.” He ushered her inside. “You remember my
Instantly, his heady masculine scent made her feel like a
first-year med student, trying not to gawk at the gorgeous man who’d
somehow joined her study group His
mere presence reshaped Sean’s office, recasting the angles and
sharpening the colors. A hint of cragginess had replaced the
smoothness of youth in his strong-boned face, yet she caught a
startling flash of vulnerability in that violet gaze.
He was almost irresistible. The key word being almost.
Jane extended her hand, which he enfolded in his. “Of course
I remember him,” she said briskly. “In fact, I saw you at the
hospital, Luke. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hello.”
“It’s a terrific facility.” He released her with a trace
of reluctance. Chalk that up to his instinctive bedside manner. “The
new birthing center is impressive.”
“You sound as if you were evaluating it. Surely you’re not
planning to practice here,” Jane commented more tartly than she’d
intended. When he blinked, she realized her words might sound
unfriendly. “I mean, our little med center can’t measure up to the
facilities in LA.” He’d always been ambitious, and the last
she’d heard, he’d been affiliated with a major teaching hospital.
The men exchanged looks. Something was definitely afoot.
“Actually, Luke’s doing me – doing us both – a
favor,” Sean blurted. “Jane, I just found out that Aunt Mattie
left money to discharge my student loans. I’ve been talking your ear
off about working in an impoverished area. Well, I can finally afford
to do that.”
Jane struggled to absorb this turn of events. She’d long been
aware of, and admired, Sean’s dream of going overseas to help poor
women. But they’d both assumed it would be years before he paid off
So his Aunt Mattie had left him a legacy. That was wonderful,
both because he could now reach for his dream and because Jane
understood the relief of climbing out from under crushing debt. She
would always be grateful to her own mother for making sure that, after
her death following a long illness, the insurance was enough to pay
off Jane’s loans and provide a down payment on a house. Nothing
could replace her mother, but Jane didn’t miss those sleepless
nights worrying about her financial burden.
Then the rest of her partner’s statement sank in. Luke’s
doing me – doing us both – a favor. He planned to work here,
Good heavens. Not that she couldn’t deal with the situation.
Jane had long ago left her coltish insecurities behind. But why on
earth would Luke, who hungered for major research projects and
challenging surgeries, want to move to a small town?
The men stood watching her, obviously awaiting her reaction.
“Congratulations,” she told Sean. “When do you think you’ll
“At the beginning of March.”
That was two weeks away. “How’d you find a position so
“I already planned to work at a mission in Central America
for a few weeks this summer, remember?”
“Well, sure.” He’d mentioned traveling with an
international group that brought its own medical equipment and
“After I learned of Aunt Mattie’s bequest, I called the
mission see if they could use a doctor on a long-term basis.”
Excitement tinged Sean’s voice. “It turns out they just got a
grant to open a full-service clinic and they need a director,
preferably an ob-gyn. Luke’s offered to fill in here for a year.
Isn’t that fantastic?”
“It sure is.” Finding a replacement of Luke’s caliber was
a stroke of good fortune. “But how can you relocate on such short
notice? And why would you want to?”
“That’s my Jane,” Luke said fondly. “Blunt as ever.
Glad to see you haven’t changed.”
His Jane? She hadn’t imagined he ever thought of her that
way. Or that he thought of her at all.
You’re making too much of this, McKay.
“That isn’t an answer,” she replied calmly. “What’s
“I’ve been looking to move to north Orange County for
personal reasons.” Luke offered no further explanation.
Personal … well, he had a right to his privacy. Jane, too,
preferred to keep this relationship strictly professional. “You’re
starting in two weeks?”
“That’s the plan,” he said. “If it’s okay with
“No problem. Glad to have you on board.” No problem except
that, against her will, her body vibrated with his nearness. Plus the
fact that she’d felt uneasy around him ever since that night, even
though he hadn’t seemed to notice. “Transitions can be hard on
patients. Who’s going to notify them? Pam?” Pam Ortiz was Sean’s
“I’ll phone them myself,” Sean promised. “We’ll make
this as smooth as possible.”
“I’m sorry you’re leaving, although it’s for such a
good cause.” With complete sincerity, Jane added, “I’ll miss
Although they’d never socialized, they’d shared a vision
for their practice and their community. When brush fires destroyed
homes in nearby Yorba Linda and turned the Brea Community Center into
a temporary shelter, the two of them had spent most of the weekend
counseling evacuees and offering medical services. Fortunately,
there’d been no fire-related injuries, but a couple of pregnant
women had thanked them for the attention.
When Sean gave her a hug, he felt solid and comforting.
“It’s been great working together.”
“You’re not kidding.” Realizing she hadn’t exactly
welcomed Luke, Jane turned to him. “I’m sure we’ll make a fine
“I know I can count on you,” he told her. To Sean, he
explained, “In med school, when the rest of us were freaking out
about exams, she always kept us focused.” Late-afternoon sunlight
softened the chiseled planes of his face and the slight crookedness of
his nose. An old football injury, she recalled.
“Jane’s not only one of the best doctors around, she’s
also a font of wisdom on all sorts of subjects,” Sean remarked.
“Did you realize she worked her way through college as a nanny?”
“Before medical school,” Jane added in response to Luke’s
puzzled expression. As a med student, she’d found hospital-related
She’d never mentioned the nanny position because there’d
been a subtle jockeying for status among the future doctors. Many had
come from wealthy or professional families, and being the daughter of
a truck driver had already put Jane at a disadvantage.
Luke raised an eyebrow. “Sounds like a good way to learn
about mothers and their needs.”
Sean went on praising his partner. “And she knows practically
everything about Brea. She’s a great resource.”
“As a matter of fact” – Luke’s velvet gaze fixed on
Jane – “I need to find a rental, and Sean’s apartment is a bit
small. Any suggestions?”
“You should talk to Oliver Armstrong at Archway Real
Estate.” Oliver and his wife, Brooke, lived next door to Jane and
had become close friends. “The last I heard, he was looking to rent
a condo he owns about a mile from here.”
The unit lay within walking distance of shops, cinemas and a
comedy club. It ought to be perfect for a bachelor who entertained hot
and cold running women. Make that hot, exclusively.
Unless Luke was married. To her annoyance, she had to fight not
to glance at his ring finger. But then, Edda had already mentioned he
didn’t wear one.
“Archway Real Estate,” he repeated. “I’ll get in
They shook hands and Jane went to her office. Since it was
after five, she dictated her notes quickly and departed.
As she drove the short distance to her Harmony Circle
neighborhood, her thoughts sparked against each other. Unbelievable.
Luke the Duke, as the female med students used to call him, was going
to be her partner.
She intended to take the situation in stride. But right now,
she wasn’t sure whether that meant walking sedately, loping for an
exit or running for her life.