Home > Just For Us (The Cherry Family Novella #4)

Just For Us (The Cherry Family Novella #4)
Author: Abbie Zanders


Chapter One—Sofia


“Incoming!” one of the new first years called out from the emergency room doors as yet another ambulance pulled up.

A fire at the nearby assisted living facility had kept us hopping all night. Thankfully, most of those we’d seen so far had sustained only minor injuries that could be quickly treated and released. The biggest problem was, they had nowhere else to go.

“How many?” I asked, stripping off my gloves as I finished one assessment and prepared for the next.

Our ER wasn’t equipped to handle that many people at once, and we’d had to pull every free bed on wheels down and turn the waiting area into a triage center. Every gurney and every chair were occupied.

“Just one. One of the firefighters.”

My blood turned to ice. A cold wave of panic washed over me as my gaze lifted to the doors. My brother Dom was a firefighter, and my heart knew with certainty that he was the one in that ambulance.

My fears were confirmed when I recognized the cop rushing in ahead of the EMTs. He was another brother of mine, Vinnie.

His eyes scanned the room and locked on to mine. He looked concerned, but not scared, and that calmed my nerves somewhat. If the situation were really bad, I would have seen it on his face.

It’s Dom? I asked silently with my eyes.

He nodded once.

The gurney came out of the ambulance, and I met the EMTs just inside the doors. They rattled off stats—pulse, oxygen, heart rate, BP, et cetera—and I processed them like the seasoned ER doc I was. Cool, calm, professional. On the inside, however, my gut twisted at the sight of my brother’s face, covered in black soot, eyes closed.

“Exam 4,” I commanded, moving briskly alongside them. “What happened, Vin?”

“They thought everyone was out,” Vinnie said. “But then one of the women started screaming that Mildred was still inside.”

“And Dom went back,” I finished knowingly. My brothers, all four of them, came from a long line of chivalrous, protector alpha-male types. “Did he get her out?”

Vin smirked. “Oh, he got her out all right.”

We reached the exam room. The attendants lifted Dom from the gurney onto a bed, then stepped back to let me do my thing. They didn’t go far, however. I could sense their hovering presence, waiting to hear what I had to say about Dom’s injuries.

I lifted Dom’s lids and shone a penlight into his eyes, pleased to find them responsive. His pulse was strong, his heartbeat steady. Feeling my chest loosen a little, I gave him a quick once-over. He presented with the symptoms of mild smoke inhalation. Nothing overly worrisome for someone in as good a shape as he was.

“Is he going to be okay, Doc?” asked one of the guys who’d followed us in. The lot of them looked at me expectantly.

“He’s going to be fine,” I assured them, positioning the tube below his nose to deliver pure oxygen straight into his nostrils. “I’ll order some tests and keep him overnight, but there’s no need to worry.” I offered Dom’s buddies a smile. “Go on now. I hear the cafeteria’s got free coffee and cookies for first responders tonight.”

They grinned back at me. Our cafeteria had free coffee and cookies for first responders every night. Our community took care of our own.

They nodded and walked away reluctantly.

“You too,” I told Vinnie, knowing his shift had ended and his woman, Haven, was waiting on him at home. “Get outta here. I’ve got this.”

“I know, but I’m going to stick around until he’s ready to go upstairs.”

I nodded, unsurprised.

“What about the woman he went in to save? Mildred?” I’d seen more than two dozen seniors over the course of the last hour, but I didn’t remember any of them being called Mildred.

“Mildred’s just fine,” Vinnie said, amusement in his voice.

I looked to Vin and raised my eyebrow, sensing a story.

“Mildred is a cat,” he explained, his lips quirking.

Well, that was a plot twist I hadn’t seen coming. I looked down again at Dom’s soot-smudged face. “Let me guess. He used his mask on the cat, didn’t he?”

Vin nodded and held up his phone. On the screen was a picture of Dom exiting the burning building with an animal cradled in his arms. The creature was barely visible beneath the mask.

“A kitten in fact. It’s already trending.”

I rolled my eyes. As a popular model in my cousin Lucia’s annual charity calendar, Dom already had half the female population of Cecilton sighing and swooning. As word of this spread, he’d shoot up to the top of the most eligible bachelors list, if there was such a thing.

“God help us,” I said. “They’re going to be camping out on his doorstep now, aren’t they?”

“Probably,” Vin agreed.

“Just what we need,” I said on an exhale. “I hope the fire chief has a bigger helmet for him. Dom’s going to need one to wrap around that inflated head of his.”

Dom began coughing, though I think it had started out as a laugh. “Jealous, Sofe?”

I was kind of jealous. I was in a dry spell, and with my work schedule, I had zero time for a social life. Oh, I suppose I could’ve popped into a supply closet for a quickie like so many others, but I tended to be rather particular. Good sex was like good food, in my opinion. It should be savored and not rushed.

Vinnie laughed and shook his head. “Sofe’s doing just fine. A half-dozen EMTs and firefighters came back with you, and it wasn’t to make sure you were okay.”

I ignored him. He was just teasing, and Dom’s firefighter buddies were a flirty lot by nature.

Dom reached up to pull the tube away from his nose. I stopped him.

“Keep it there for a little while, okay? You’ve got a mild case of smoke inhalation, and I don’t expect any issues, but I’m going to order a chest X-ray, just to be sure.”

“I’m fine,” he insisted.

I gave him my sternest look. “I don’t tell you how to fight fires, do I? Don’t make me stick a needle in your ass, Dominic.”

“I’d listen to her if I were you,” Vin told him. “Besides, I hear the new imaging tech is pretty hot.”

Dom’s eyes brightened. “Yeah?”

I hid my smile. The new imaging tech was good-looking but also male and, therefore, not my hetero playboy brother’s type. I wondered if Vinnie knew this. From the smirk he gave me, he did.

“Hey, Doc, got a sec?” One of the first years peeked around the curtain, looking half-cocky, half-terrified. “I’ve got a question about ...” Her voice trailed off, and her eyes widened slightly when she saw my brothers.

I sighed, recognizing the starry look in her eyes. I’d seen it so many times over the course of my life. I supposed my brothers were kind of good-looking, but they were my brothers, so ew.

“Yeah.” I took her by the arm and led her away, out of immediate eye-assault range. “What’s up?”

She pointed to a laptop on a raised rolling stand. “I’d like to call in an ortho consult on this.”

As the senior resident in the ER, it was my job to review orders until the newbies found their rhythm. Cecilton wasn’t a massive medical center, so we didn’t get as many as some, but it was still a huge time suck.

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