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Hearts on Fire 7: Claiming Catalina

By:Dixie Lynn Dwyer


“You are going to do that 10K race in two weeks, aren’t you?” Shayla asked Catalina Shay as she stopped her bike next to where Catalina stood, her hands on her knees as she caught her breath.

Catalina was up to fifteen miles, but she wasn’t sure it was good enough for the 10K race through and around Treasure Town and Fairway, the town over.

“I don’t know. I’m still kind of slow, and I would hate to do it and not come in somewhere in the top ten.”

“I think you will do fantastic. You’ve been training for it. Just sign up already. I’ll even go with you to the Y so you can register today.”

Catalina stood up and smiled at Shayla. She was a nurse at the Fairway General Hospital, too. She stretched out and Shayla got off her bike.

“Are you coming out with us tonight or what?” Shayla asked her.

She shrugged, not really feeling too enthusiastic about hitting the Station again. Although most of her good friends hung out there, she wasn’t quite feeling like going.

“I don’t know. This is my only night off for the rest of the week.”

“All you do is work. You even cover other people’s shifts all the time. You’re going to get burned out,” Shayla told her as they strolled down the walkway and through the park.

“I don’t have anything better to do, and I love working in the ER.”

“I know, and you’re great at it, too, but you also work the burn unit sometimes and help out other days and even nights. You’re the one who said you had no social life.”

She exhaled. “I don’t.” She thought about Jeremy Jones and his brothers Cody, Don, and Cooper. She’d met them months ago at the hospital when Sophia had been abducted and seriously hurt. Jeremy and his brothers had helped to save Sophia’s life. She had been surprised when she felt the instant attraction to the four brothers. It was obvious that they’d liked her, too, but they didn’t live in New Jersey. They were also pretty secretive about their lives, especially Jeremy. He had been whisked off by some federal agents a short time after, and she’d never seen them again. That was just her luck, to finally meet men she was attracted to, but they weren’t attracted to her. It would never work out. Being a workaholic was her life.

“Are you even listening to me?”

She looked at Shayla. “Yes, of course I am. I’m just tired from running fourteen miles. I think I’m going to head home to shower and then do some food shopping and clean up the townhouse.”

“Oh, that sounds like loads of fun. How about I pick you up at six? We can meet MaryAnn and Destiny at the Boathouse for dinner before we check out the hot, single guys at the Station.”

Catalina felt that nervous sensation hit her belly. It was as if she was losing her self-confidence when it came to men. There were plenty of guys that hit on her, but no one she felt attracted to.

She began to decline when Shayla shook her head.

“No, no, no. I will be at your house at six, and you better have your ass ready.”

Catalina shook her head and exhaled. “Fine,” she replied, and Shayla smiled wide as they got to the parking lot.

When Catalina finally got home after hitting the supermarket, she was feeling exhausted. She glanced at the clock and she knew she wouldn’t have time to clean the condo. It wasn’t as though it was dirty, but it gave her something to do on her days off. A glance around the room once she put away all the shopping and she saw that it really didn’t need cleaning at all.

She headed to her bedroom and then grabbed a towel and her robe. She could lie down for a couple of hours and then fix her hair and makeup. She wasn’t in the mood for this tonight, but it was better than sitting home alone. Lately, anything, even working, was better than sitting home alone. Tonight, like every other night, would be a waste of time. She’d rather focus her energy on the things that made her happy and were fulfilling, like being an ER nurse. That was worth her time and even giving up her days off.

* * * *

“Why is it so crowded tonight, and who the hell are all these guys?” MaryAnn asked then took a sip from her sangria.

“There’s some sort of training going on in town for the next few weeks. Firefighters from across the country are here learning about new types of equipment and things. It’s at the large convention center,” Destiny told them, and then checked out two guys who walked by and winked at the three of them.

“Jesus, we can so get lucky tonight,” Shayla stated, and they chuckled.

“You said three weeks? We can be pretty damn happy for a few weeks’ worth of sexy men who aren’t from around here,” MaryAnn said to them, and they laughed.

Destiny looked at Catalina. “Did you hear about the new position in the hospital for an LPN? I caught wind of it today at work. Fantastic salary and a regular eight-to-four shift, off weekends, and paid vacation time and holidays off.”

“No, what the hell kind of position is it?” Shayla asked her, and Catalina sat forward to hear, too.

“The requirements list a series of things from ER experience, the burn unit, critical care, pediatrics, and some certificate most people don’t have. I heard from Mary Lang that the hospital offered the paid certificate classes to everyone, but only one nurse took advantage of it. So whoever that was, if she has the other experience, she would be the perfect candidate.”

“Shit, well, there goes me applying. I didn’t take that course. It was over a year ago and on Sunday nights. By Sunday, I’m trying to recover enough from Saturday to work Monday and the rest of the week. I sure didn’t want to take some lame, boring class,” Shayla said.

“It wasn’t boring. It had a lot to do with medical financing and getting grants that could be used for individuals, as well as the hospital as a whole,” Catalina told them and then took a small sip from her glass of wine.

“You were the one who took the course?” Shayla asked, sounding shocked.

“Oh my God, Catalina, I thought of you when I saw the requirements listed. You have most of the things and that certification no one else has. You should apply for it,” Destiny told her.

“You totally have to. Do you realize how much of a normal life you could have working the day shifts and no more weekends or even midnights? Jesus. You should have made me take the course with you. Why didn’t you tell me you were taking it?” Shayla asked.

“You were seeing Rourke at the time. Need I say more?” Catalina asked as she raised one of her eyebrows at Shayla. Shayla shook her head and then took a sip from her glass.

“He was ages ago, and I was stupid,” Shayla said.

MaryAnn touched her arm and gave her a sympathetic expression. “You thought you loved him, and he was a manipulative asshole like most men.”

“Yeah, we wouldn’t remind you about how you gave us up for him and how he made you stop talking to us for over a month,” Destiny added.

“Okay, there’s no need to bring this up now. As I said, that was ages ago. So what’s the salary for this job, and are they looking to hire from within, or are they considering transfers from out of state?”

“They’re considering anyone that has all the requirements, Catalina. You should check it out and apply,” Destiny told her.

“I don’t know. I love working the ER. Some of the craziest times are during the night shifts, and the holidays are always nuts. I like to keep really busy and feel like I’m truly helping,” Catalina told them.

“You work so damn hard. You deserve a great job and the salary starts at ninety thousand. There are bonuses and then raises as well, based on job performance. I bet if you were to get those grants and work out bringing in money to the hospital, you would get paid even more.”

“You’d be crazy not to do it. If you did meet some guy or guys you liked, you wouldn’t have to worry about your work schedule and trying to make time for them,” Shayla said to her.

“Well, my luck with men has not been great, and considering that I haven’t dated a man since college, I’d say I don’t need to use having time for a guy as incentive to apply for a job, but thanks for the vote of confidence.”


* * * *

They all turned to look up, and Catalina’s mouth dropped, and her heart instantly began to race. Cooper, Jeremy’s brother, was standing there, and a huge smile broke out on his face as she locked gazes with him.

“Cooper? What are you doing here?” She stood up. He smiled as he gently placed his hands on her upper arms and leaned forward to kiss her cheek. She was stunned at the sensations she felt and couldn’t help but to look around for his brothers.

He stepped back and placed his hands in his pockets. He looked like some sexy Ralph Lauren Polo model, but with extra-large muscles and a sexy, flirty grin.

“Don and I are in town for the next few weeks doing this training thing at the convention center.”

“Oh, great,” Catalina said and then heard Shayla clear her throat. She turned to look at them all smirking and waiting for an introduction.

“Oh, Cooper, meet my friends Shayla, MaryAnn, and Destiny.”

Copper smiled and shook their hands, and her friends ate him up with their eyes. He was that damn sexy. She felt the twinge of jealousy, and then her friends stood up.