In the Nick of Time

Karen Whitmire has little to no faith in men after seeing her mom put in the hospital by the
hands of her stepdad. In need of comfort, she throws caution to the wind and has a
one night stand...a night that, nine months later, results in a baby girl.

Dr. Nick Chandler is still getting over his ex's suicide when he runs into Karen at a bar.
He didn't plan on spending the night with her, but the strong connection between them
is undeniable. A year later when their baby winds up in his ER, he is determined to prove
to Karen their love can work, and they can be the family that their daughter deserves.




Tears fell in a silent rhythm down Karen Whitmire's face.

"Hello," the drowsy voice on the other end of the phone said.

"Dr. Peterson? This is Karen Whitmire. I'm sorry to awake you, but Sierra is running a fever of a hundred and three and I can't keep it down." She looked down at the lethargic bundle in her arms, whose cherub face was flushed with fever. Even after a lukewarm bath, heat radiated through her baby's sleeper. "I get her cooled off, but then her fever goes back up. I've tried everything from a fever reducer to lukewarm water. What should I do?"

She paced back and forth across the tiny kitchen as she waited for the doctor's reply. Glancing down at Sierra fevered face, her worry increased. She tried her best to
stay calm, but panic rose in her throat, almost choking off her words. Karen's heart wrenched at her baby's soft cries.

Slightly less groggy, Dr. Peterson sighed and said, "It's not normal for a baby that young to have a fever. Carry her on to the hospital, Karen. I'll call and let them know
you're coming. They have a great pediatrician on staff and I'll have him keep me informed of what's going on."

"I'm on my way." She punched the off button; cutting off anything more the doctor could've said. Karen headed out the door, barely remembering to grab her purse and diaper bag. Thunder roared in the distance, the sound ominous. After making sure Sierra was fastened in her car seat, Karen started the car and pulled out of the apartment's parking lot. She turned her beat-up, but reliable car towards the hospital and drove, pushing the speed limit.

What she wouldn't give for a supportive shoulder right now. It was hard raising her daughter alone, but what choice did she have? Mom and dad are out of the question
and Sierra's daddy has no clue she exists. She should've tried harder to find Nick. Who am I kidding? I was too scared of what he might think. He probably would've thought she was just after money or maybe trying to pass someone else's child off as his. That's what her father had always accused her mother of doing. Even though it wasn't true.

"I shouldn't have let things turn out like this. I know I should've told your father I was pregnant, but I didn't know how to find him or how he'd react. I didn't even
bother to get his last name." How was I supposed to know the condom would fail? She choked back a sob. What kind of mother am I? How could I do this to her?

As if it wasn't bad enough she'd grown up with a drunk, abusive father, now she was allowing her daughter to grow up without a father at all. It wasn't fair to Sierra.
"Please let my baby survive. Sweetheart, I promise to find your father if it kills me. Please be okay." She turned her thoughts heavenward. Please, God, don't punish her for my mistakes. She hoped with all her heart that she'd be given another chance to make things right. Everton Hospital loomed into view. Fluorescent lighting brightened the midnight sky, giving the parking area an eerie glow. The big building stood forbidding against the sky. Karen had a sinking sensation that this was going to be a long, difficult night. The parking lot overflowed with cars, a telltale sign of a busy night in the ER. She hoped there wouldn't be a long wait. Parking in the space closest to the emergency entrance, Karen jumped out of the car, almost falling in the process. Lightening cracked across the sky, increasing the tension building inside
of her. She eased Sierra out of her car seat and ran into the ER. The sterile odor of the rural hospital hit her like a tidal wave, churning her stomach in its intensity. A nurse met her halfway to the triage area.

"You must be Ms. Whitmire. Dr. Peterson called and said you'd be on your way. I'll let the doctor know you're here." After the nurse escorted her into a small cubicle
and taken Sierra's vitals, she disappeared. Karen hoped it wouldn't take too long to find the doctor.

She cradled Sierra close to her heart, wishing she could take away her baby's pain. Her tiny baby had never been so quiet, so still. Tears streamed down Karen's fear-chilled cheeks as she hugged Sierra's small fevered body tenderly to her breast.

The doctor entered reading the chart the nurse had left on the door. His blond hair reflected the horrible hospital lighting. The standard-issue white lab coat fit snugly
across the expanse of his chest. As he turned to pull the curtain, Karen got a good look at his profile. It was model-perfect except for a tiny, almost imperceptible, bump on his nose. She blinked the tears from her eyes. This can't be! Acid churned in her stomach, bile threatened to rise along with her thudding heart into her throat.

Damn it! Just when I thought the night couldn't possibly get any worse.

Still looking at his chart, he said, "Ms. Whitmire, I'm Dr. Chandler. Dr. Peterson called saying that little Sierra has a high fever. The nurse said it was one hundred and
two point five degrees when she checked it. How high was it before you left for the hospital?"

"One," she cleared her tightened throat, "one-oh-three."

Nick Chandler raised his head to look at her, a bright flash of recognition lit his green eyes. Karen jumped when the metal chart clattered to the floor.