Colton Baby Homecoming(4)

By: Lara Lacombe

But what did you feed a baby? There was definitely nothing in his pantry suitable for an infant. And he couldn’t very well run down to the grocery store for formula—he had no idea what kind to get, nor did he have any bottles. He was hopelessly out of his depth here. Time to bring in a professional.

He tucked her back into the car seat and carried her out to the truck, dodging the big fat raindrops beginning to fall from the sky. Not about to be left behind, Penny followed him and hopped onto the floorboard of the passenger seat, keeping a watchful eye on the now red-faced and squalling baby.

“So much for my quiet night,” he muttered to himself as he threw the truck into gear. “Hang in there, little one,” he said, a bit louder. “We’re going to get you checked out, and I’m pretty sure they have baby food at the hospital.” And maybe, just maybe, he’d get lucky and there would be a record of her birth there, too.

Stranger things had happened.


Doctor Darcy Marrow leaned forward and tied off the last stitch, then offered her patient a smile.

“You did a great job,” she assured the little boy.

He stared up at her, his blue eyes wide with amazement. “I didn’t feel a thing!” he exclaimed.

“That’s good,” she told him, pushing back from the bed and setting her tools on the nearby metal tray. “That means the medicine worked.”

“Am I going to have a scar?” He sounded hopeful about the possibility, which triggered a sigh from his mother.

Darcy hid a smile as she started gathering up empty wrappers and used instruments. “Maybe,” she said. “It’s important you keep the stitches clean and dry for now. And I can promise you, once the medicine starts to wear off, your arm is going to ache.”

“That’s so cool!”

She met his mother’s gaze and shrugged slightly. “You’ll want to take him to his pediatrician in a week, and they can remove the stitches. In the meantime, if he starts to run a fever or the wound looks infected, bring him back in.”

“Thank you,” the woman said. She was clearly exhausted, and no wonder. She’d come home from work and had started to cook dinner, only to be interrupted by the crash of the glass coffee table breaking into a million pieces. Apparently little Johnny had decided to practice his karate moves while waiting, a decision that was all the more mysterious seeing as how the boy hadn’t taken a single karate lesson in his life.

“No more kung fu movies for you,” his mother said as the pair shuffled out of the exam bay.

“But, Mom,” the boy protested, their voices growing softer as they walked away.

Darcy shook her head and silently wished them well. The injury itself hadn’t been too bad, but given the boy’s enthusiasm and appetite for adventure, it probably wouldn’t be his last scrape.

She pulled the curtain back and stepped out into the main bay of the emergency room. The facility was shaped like a giant U, with the exam rooms set up on the periphery to orbit a large central workstation where the nurses and doctors could order tests, access lab results or maybe even drink a cup of coffee when things were slow.

Like now.

One of the nurses gave her a friendly smile when she sat down. “I take it Johnny is all fixed up?”

Darcy nodded. “He’ll be back in action in no time, which I’m sure will drive his mother nuts.”

The woman laughed. “He is a handful.”

“Is it just the two of them?” She didn’t remember seeing a father’s name listed on the chart, but then again, she hadn’t really been focused on it.

“Yeah. Her husband took a job out in Odessa when the oil boom got started a couple of years ago. Called her up a few months later and said he wasn’t coming back. As far as I know, she hasn’t seen or heard from him since.”

“That’s terrible,” Darcy replied, feeling even more sorry for the beleaguered woman. No wonder she’d looked so tired! “Is there anything we can do to help her? Maybe some kind of babysitting program, or something like that?”

The nurse eyed her curiously. “She’s on a wait list for an after-school care center. But I have no idea how long it’ll take before Johnny’s name comes up.”

“Maybe I can call them and get it bumped up a little,” Darcy mused.

“Maybe you could,” the nurse agreed. “But I didn’t think you were sticking around long enough for things like that.”

Darcy felt her face heat at the observation. It was true, she was only filling in at the Granite Gulch Regional Medical Center for a few weeks as a favor to her father. He was the chief of staff at the hospital, and when he’d found out her position in New York didn’t start until May, he’d suggested she moonlight in Granite Gulch for the time being.

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