Head Start, Cedar Tree, Book Seven

Kendra Schmitt puts most of her time…

into the new clinic in Cedar Tree, which is now almost running full time. With her schedule a bit more predictable, she finally considers a personal life and concedes to a disastrous blind date. Always the responsible one in her family, she has avoided any kind of entanglement. In particular with a certain young investigator.

Junior member of the GFI team, Neil James, has seen and experienced more than most at his age. When his team becomes part of a task force investigating a series of murders in the area, his protective instincts kick in. The victims’ profiles closely match that of a certain physical therapist.

Neil has been trying unsuccessfully for over a year to get closer to Kendra. Now that she might be in danger, he’s determined to break through her resistance and goes all out to win her trust.

Especially now that the killer’s focus appears to zero in on Kendra.

“No, Karly, I’m not going on a singles’ cruise with you.”

I roll my eyes at Naomi who is chuckling as she walks by the front desk. Naomi is Doc Waters, technically Dr. Morris since she married Joe, but everyone still knows her as Doc Waters. We opened this clinic in Cedar Tree over a year ago. Already Naomi is almost at capacity with patients, and I’m at a point where I’m here almost full time as well. Just two shifts a week left at Southwest Memorial in Cortez. Most of my regular physical therapy patients have

already followed me here to Cedar Tree.

Two weeks from now, I’ll be moving out of my beloved apartment in Cortez and into a cute rental here in town. Actually the house belongs to a friend, who is happier renting it out than selling it. The rent is actually slightly less than what I pay for my apartment so it wasn’t a particularly difficult decision. Not to mention I will have a backyard, a great L-shaped living/dining room and two good sized bedrooms and a bath. The place even has a swing on the porch and I’m really looking forward to drinking my morning coffee there. And the best of it? I can walk to work every day. I love walking.

The grating high pitched sound of my sister’s lament drags me back to the conversation.

“Why not? It’s half-price, one of those short notice deals.” My sister resorts to the pre-adolescent whine that gets our Mom to cave every single time. Unfortunately, Karly hasn’t yet figured out that it does the opposite for me.

“Because those things are like floating sausage fests.”

“You’re such a stick-in-the-mud. Mom said she’d come too.”

Oh my God. Like that is enticement. I have to swallow hard to bring the content of my stomach back down where it belongs. I automatically turn my back to the waiting room when I hear the tell-tale ding of the door opening. “Not helping your case, Karly. Just sayin’… I’m not into quick, convenient fucks. Especially when most of the guys on those trips are looking to score as much and as many as they can manage in the shortest possible time frame. Not keen on being the dessert buffet for a bunch of young idiots, hopped up on Viagra. Besides, as I told you a month ago, I’ll be moving house in two weeks so I can’t come. End of story. You and Mom have fun, but count me out.”

By the time I get my nympho sister off the phone, my eyes have rolled heavenward a few more times. I should have spared one eye-roll to confirm it actually was my next patient coming in. It wasn’t. A familiar face with a toothy grin is leaning on the damn counter, right behind me. Instantly my German ancestry betrays me with the robust blush I feel burning on my cheeks. Fabulous.

“What can I do for you, Neil?” I say none too kindly. One of his heavy eyebrows lifts all the way up, and the grin slips into a smirk.

“That, is a loaded question,” he teases, “especially given the tantalizing conversation I just overheard.” The heat on my face has now reached my hair line while I curse myself six ways to Sunday. “By the way, I like that color on you,” he mumbles, tapping me on the cheek.

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