“This doesn’t make any sense.” Callum dashed a hand through his hair as he paced the small waiting room in the Rambling Rose Medical Center emergency room. “In all my years of construction, I’ve never had something like that happen on one of our projects.”
“We’ll figure out what caused it,” Wiley said from where he sat on a patterned chair situated against the far wall. “But first we need to make sure Grace is okay. She’s the priority right now.”
Callum nodded. “You’re right. But what if it had been a hotel guest or one of the kids on that balcony when it collapsed? Can you imagine if there were people on the patio below?”
Wiley understood his brother’s train of thought but felt oddly defensive at the subtle suggestion that the accident wasn’t as catastrophic because a mere employee had been injured.
As if sensing his irritation, Callum held up a hand. He wore dark slacks and a button-down shirt that was covered with dust from the rubble of the mess that had been made when the balcony collapsed. “I’m not insinuating that Grace is disposable. I would never put her or any employee at risk. You know that, Wi.”
“She was unconscious,” Wiley muttered, his nerve endings pulling tight at the memory of the EMTs lifting her limp body onto a stretcher. “She could have died in that fall.”
The thought of losing her before he got to know her felt like a punch to the gut.
“But she woke up in the ambulance.” Callum continued to pace back and forth. “She was obviously in shock but seemed lucid. Her ankle was in bad shape, but I have to believe that’s the worst of her injuries. We need to believe Grace will be okay.”
Callum had shared the woman’s name with the first responders when they arrived at the hotel mere minutes after Nicole made the 911 call.
In the chaos that ensued after the balcony’s collapse, Callum had been designated to accompany Grace to the hospital while his brothers and sisters dealt with things on-site. Wiley couldn’t explain why vehicle, but he couldn’t seem to release the impulse to be near Grace, even if she didn’t want or need him there.
“You better hope she’s okay,” Wiley muttered.
Callum stopped directly in front of him, his eyes narrowing. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Wiley drew in a breath. How was he supposed to explain the fierce protectiveness he felt toward a woman he’d only just met? He didn’t understand it, so there was no way his brother would.
“The hotel bears a responsibility for the accident. If the construction was faulty or the building materials subpar—”
“Are you kidding?” Callum’s jaw tightened. “You know I don’t cut corners, Wiley. Everything I build is rock solid.”
“Other than the balcony that just collapsed with a woman standing on it.” Wiley rose from his chair to stand toe-to-toe with his brother.
“I’m going to assume you’re playing devil’s advocate because you’re an attorney and concerned about the family’s liability. I sure as hell hope you aren’t suggesting that we didn’t take all the necessary steps to ensure proper construction.” Temper flared between them, and Wiley wanted to kick himself in the family jewels for goading his brother at a time like this. The thought of Grace’s injuries made him want to lash out at anyone and everyone.
He gave a tight nod. “I’m sorry, Callum. You’re right. I’m worried about your employee and I’m concerned about the hotel’s responsibility and the potential negative press of this kind of accident. There’s no doubt about the quality of the work you do. I don’t want a single incident to tarnish your track record in town.”
Callum eyed him for a moment longer, then stepped away and began to pace again. “We won’t let it. Of course we’ll take care of any medical bills that aren’t covered by Grace’s insurance and continue to pay her salary while she’s recovering. Once she returns to work—”
“You don’t even know the extent of her injuries,” Wiley felt compelled to point out.
“I can help with that.”
They both turned as a tall man in light blue scrubs entered the waiting room. Callum strode forward and shook the man’s hand, reminding Wiley of his brother’s ties to the town.
“Mark, how is she?”
The man threw a glance in Wiley’s direction.
“This is my brother Wiley. He’s in town for Larkin’s party.”
“Quite an event,” the other man murmured, which to Wiley’s mind was the understatement of the new year.
“Wiley, this is Dr. Mark Matthews.” Callum gestured to the doctor. “Becky says he’s one of the best emergency room physicians she knows.” He turned his attention fully to Mark. “I’m glad you’re on duty tonight. How is Grace?”
“Good, given what she’s been through.” The doctor looked past Callum and Wiley to the empty waiting room. “Have you called her family?”
Callum nodded. “Ashley tracked down her parents’ number and spoke to her mom. They’re on their way here.”
“Can we see her?” Wiley demanded, crossing his arms over his chest when both men gave him a strange look.
“I suppose that would be all right,” Mark agreed almost reluctantly. “We’ve moved her to a room on the third floor for the night.”
“How bad are the injuries?” Callum asked as Dr. Matthews turned toward a bank of elevators.
“You’re not family, so I can’t share any details.” Mark jabbed at the elevator’s button. “Grace will decide what she wants to tell you. She was awake when I left, but if she’s fallen back asleep I don’t want you to wake her. She’s in room three sixty-five. I need to check on another patient, and then I’ll be up.”
Callum nodded. “Thanks, Mark. We won’t disturb her if she’s resting.”
The elevator doors swished open as the doctor turned away. Wiley followed his brother into the small space.
“I appreciate you being here,” Callum said as he pushed the button for the third floor. “But you don’t have to go with me to see her.”
Wiley kept his gaze on the carpeted floor. “I’ll stay.”
He could feel Callum studying him but didn’t answer. Let his brother think that his interest in Grace Williams was due to concern over the hotel’s liability for the accident.
It made sense, and not only because of Wiley’s career as an attorney. He’d never gotten particularly involved in the details of the lives of his siblings, at least as much as he could help it. After years of being part of such a large family, his identity as a separate individual meant the world to him.
He couldn’t figure out why Grace had changed that in a split second, and he wasn’t ready to examine it now.
(C) Michelle Major, Harlequin Special Edition, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
The Fortunes of Texas: The Hotel Fortune #1
Can you fall head over heels
And land on your feet?
When Grace Williams topples from the balcony at the soon-to-open Hotel Fortune, the last thing she expects is to find love with her new bosses’ brother. Wiley Fortune is visiting from Chicago, and the polished attorney has looks, money and charm to spare. But Grace’s past makes her wary of investing her heart—and risking her job. Do a small-town Texan and a city sophisticate really have a chance?
From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.
The Fortunes of Texas: The Hotel Fortune
Small Town | Romance Series | Romance [Harlequin Special Edition, On Sale: January 1, 2021, e-Book, ISBN: 9781488075216 / eISBN: 9781488075216]
Michelle Major is the best selling, RITA award-winning author of over twenty sexy and sweet contemporary romances. She loves second-chances love stories, smart heroines, and strong heroes. A midwesterner at heart, she's made the Rocky Mountains her home for over twenty-five years and is thrilled to share her books with readers. Connect with her at www.michellemajor.com or on Facebook and Twitter (@michelle_major1)
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