The Reckless Secret

By: Alexa Wilder



When she sat, he rose from his chair, walked around the desk to perch on the end of it, and stared down at her. From this angle, he was relentlessly formidable.

“Where were you at four p.m. yesterday?”

She swallowed thickly. “I was here, sir. Working.”

“Yes,” he said conversationally, rubbing a thumb along his jawline. “And again on Monday afternoon, correct?”

“Yes…”

He let silence hang between them, staring at her while she tried not to squirm, not to panic, not to blurt out something wholly inappropriate and land herself in a world of trouble. She’d wait it out.

She didn’t have to wait long, it turned out.

“Someone is stealing drugs from the nurses’ store cupboard in your department, Ms. Emerson, and I’m sure it’s no surprise for you to hear that right now it’s all pointing to you.”

The screech of her chair scraping back registered before she knew she was moving, and once on her feet, her pulse hammering in her ears, she found the voice she’d kept subdued since entering this office.

“Are you accusing me of theft, sir? What do you mean, it’s no surprise to me? Are you suggesting—because let me tell you—”

“You’ll tell me nothing,” he said calmly, straightening a cuff. “The matter is under investigation, and for now you’ll return to work until such a time as we have more substantial evidence.”

“Evidence…” Her mouth ran dry, and she cast about wildly for the thread of her composure. “Evidence. What evidence?”

“That’s confidential at the moment.”

“I think I have a right to know!” she said, waving a hand in his general direction. “Considering I’m the one in the frame here.”

“Are you?” he said, narrowing his eyes. “Would you put yourself in the frame?”

“Oh, for God’s sake.” She let out a billowing huff of a breath and shoved a hand into her hair. “This is insane. I’ve never stolen anything in my life!”

“Well, I’d hardly expect you to admit it, would I?” He sniffed again, then gave her a long, appraising look from her feet to her head. She felt naked all of a sudden, and she resisted the urge to hug her arms around herself. “Still, I wanted to give you the opportunity to come clean. Pity,” he added delicately. “You can go now. We’ll talk about this in due course.”

She stared at him, entirely gobsmacked—watched him walk back around his desk and take a seat, pick up his pen and examine his document like he hadn’t just tipped her on her ass.

“No.”

He looked up at her, eyebrows raised. “No?”

“No.” She folded her arms, making an attempt at hardening her expression. “I’m not leaving until you tell me why I—out of everyone in this hospital—am the one accused of stealing drugs.”

“Like I said, Ms. Emerson, it’s currently confidential infor—” The beeping of his pager cut him off and he looked at it, muttered under his breath, and then stood. “I don’t have time for this now,” he said to her, reminding her of her brother’s abruptness not thirty minutes ago. As mornings went, this one wasn’t her best.

She watched, entirely helplessly, as he swept past her, unable to stop him and demand more of his time when the pager was no doubt calling him out to perform some kind of life-saving procedure.

He paused in the doorway, framed by the hustle and bustle of the corridor behind him, his weathered face highlighted by unforgiving neon lighting. When he looked at her this time, he made no effort to mask quite how much the very existence of her displeased him.

“Call it a hunch,” was all he said, the hint of a smirk on his face. And then he was gone, leaving her in a solitary panic.

Because it wasn’t a hunch. He had evidence. And that meant everything she worked for, everything she’d put ahead of her family’s wishes, all her years of hard work and dedication and her lifelong desire to help people—all of it, every last moment of it, was in danger.

And with Dr. Stevens refusing to tell her the evidence, to give her any information at all, the whole situation was completely out of her control.

Which was the most terrifying thing of all.





2





Maggie





It happened again. No one said so, but the vibe in the air was knowing. People whispered; the girls at reception eyed her strangely when she came off her rounds. At one point, Maggie thought she caught sight of a police officer slipping into Dr. Stevens’ office. Her entire insides twisted with anxiety.

It wasn’t her—of course, it wasn’t. And yet, once again, it had happened on her shift. But she wasn’t the only one who worked this shift. How could Dr. Stevens be so sure she was the culprit? How could so many of her colleagues give her such accusing glances?

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