Cinderella Dances

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None of this was supposed to happen.

Accomplished spinal surgeon Dr. Li feels that about a complete stranger, Elaine Crowley. When she arrives in his operating room after being hit by a car, his world is turned over as he races to see her well again in the hopes that, one day, Elaine could stand up and dance.

Author's note

The polished story will be available on Wattpad starting in the next few months, with plans to have paperback and ebook publications, as well. I'll be keeping readers updated as I know more!
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8. The Storm

  "Oh, my gosh, Li?!"

  Oh, hell.

  I spun on my heel, lost for a course of action as I was torn between the impulse to flee and the need to stand my ground to wait for Elaine to be released.  I was only five minutes early.  Five minutes!  What were the chances she would be here?!

  In the end, I settled for trying to smooth things over nonchalantly, "Annette!  Lovely to see you."

  The replying grin from my petite fiancee was that of a madwoman. "What are you doing here?!  I thought you were a busy hotshot doctor or something."

  Or something? "Surgeon.  And I am, I'm just here on behalf of a patient."

  "Really?  Which one?  How long?"  Her inquisitive nature was nothing short of grating.

  "That's all confidential."  Goodness gracious, we were going to be married!  Couldn't she allow me what little freedom I had left?

  "Right, right," she sighed, smiling with humor at her own ditziness.  I couldn't believe this was an heiress to an empire. "I hope they're improving, at least.  Daddy takes pride in his medical centers."

  "I'm aware," I replied dryly.  I pursed my lips.  Annette was being an admittedly good sport about my overall detachment regarding our engagement.  Perhaps a small bone thrown her way wouldn't hurt? "She is, actually.  Improving, that is."

  "Oh, that's great!"  She grinned with such earnest fervor, I wondered how she didn't drive herself crazy. "Just remember to make time for our planning sessions, too."

  "If my schedule allows it," I agreed reluctantly.  Then again, I was extremely busy these days.  She couldn't exactly plan our wedding without me entirely, could she?  It was certainly a tempting notion to see how long I could delay things.

  "Sir?  Ms.Crowley is being discharged now," called the receptionist at the desk.

  I smiled politely, realizing with a flash of panic that I needed to dismiss Annette so that I could discreetly handle the transaction for this appointment.  Thinking quickly, I decided to take advantage of her overly helpful nature and simply make it up to Elaine later.

  "Annette, I need to handle her paperwork for a moment.  Would you mind checking on El--Ms.Crowley for me?"  I caught myself quickly, but I could still feel this charade unraveling with every word I spoke.

  "Sure!"  She bounced off as Elaine was brought into the waiting area.  I watched her closely, waiting to see that she had taken the bait and was fully engaged in introductions with Elaine.

  Hurrying through the payment of the appointment, I felt a heavy weight settling over me.  This was too close.  This was dangerously precarious.  Mark was right.  I needed to stop this.  Elaine was ready to start physical therapy, if she hadn't already today.  I stared at the empty line that needed my signature, that realization hitting me harder with every passing second.

  It was time for me to go.

  "Sir?"

  I signed hurriedly, finishing the transaction and feeling like I had just finished a marathon.  My heart and lungs were aching from the strain of keeping my composure.  I turned back to the women chatting near the exit.  Poor Elaine looked absolutely exhausted, and I was certain that Annette wasn't helping.

  "Hey, Li," greeted Elaine tiredly when I approached.

  I smiled carefully. "How are you feeling?"

  She shrugged. "Like I just did the start of a montage."

  "Well, I should get you home to rest, then.  Annette, thank you, it was good to see you."

  "Oh, I was happy to help!  You just feel better soon, okay?" she told Elaine with a friendly smile.  Annette waved farewell as I stepped behind Elaine, wheeling her out of the building.  As much as I had hoped for relief, that heavy weight didn't leave me as I left the office.  Something had clicked, and there wasn't anything I could do to change it back.

  "Annette was very sweet.  I hope we see her next time."

  There were so many things I needed to address in that innocent comment.  Where could I hope to start?  As I opened the front passenger door for Elaine, I looked into the face of the woman I had so desperately wanted to help.  She was smiling.  It was genuine, too, and hopeful.  Elaine was hopeful.

  "Oh, I started physical therapy today," she told me excitedly.

  Not today, I decided in an instant.  Helping her into the car, I knew I had to tell her--talk to her, and soon--but not today.  Elaine was getting better, and she was hopeful.  We'd both worked too hard to help her reach this point, and I wouldn't ruin it now.

  Soon, just not today.

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