After his car accident, Whitehorn's ruthless bank president Max Montgomery had no memory and even less patience. To some citizens, the "Young Scrooge" had gotten his just deserts. Or had he...? Trussed up like some Christmas goose, the handsome loner had to endure days of private nurse Samantha Carter's torture--strenuous physical therapy, wicked massages and baths, and the heart-stopping view of her mile-high legs and laughing green eyes. The kind of torture that could bring this confirmed bachelor to his knees. Max actually liked himself around Samantha, and knew his real anguish ran deeper: would she still care for him when the "old" Max returned?
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September 01, 2009
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Excerpt from Rich, Rugged... Ruthless by Jennifer Mikels
Voices intruded on a dream. Max grappled to hold on to it, but it fluttered away and left him with the sounds, an annoyed masculine voice and a more worried, feminine one. Slowly he opened his eyes for the second time that morning. His head ached, as though someone had taken a hammer to it. He blinked, struggling for coherence. Through slitted eyes, he took in the room, painted a soft blue.
He was in a hospital, he remembered now. Earlier when he'd awakened, everything had been fuzzy. He'd learned then where he was. He'd been in an accident, the doctor had told him. Max remembered jerking on the steering wheel, seeing a tree looming, a deer running. But not much more. The panic he'd felt then returned now. He'd be damned if he could remember his name or how old he was. And who these people in his room were.
He focused on the woman, a pregnant woman, who was standing at the foot of the bed.
"Max, thank God." Pretty, with dark brown hair, she rushed to the side of the bed.
Who the hell was she? He turned his attention to the man. Tall, somewhat portly, he had raven-black hair. It was too black for a man his age. Max guessed he was in his late fifties and using something to cover his gray. His face was angular, his eyes blue.
"Max, we've been so worried about you," the woman said.
He looked down as she grabbed his hand. Was that his hand? It was large, strong-looking. The nails were trim and clean. It was the hand of a man who didn't do manual labor. He raised the hand and stared at it, turned it to examine the palm. The other arm was in a cast to below his wrist.
"We know everything is confusing, Max."
How did she know? He barely knew what was happening. The doctor had told him his name--Max Montgomery. He rolled it over in his mind. He could have gotten worse. Okay, so he knew who he was. But who was this woman? Wife, fianc�(c)e, cousin, sister, friend? He wanted to close his eyes.
"Max, don't close your eyes again," she practically pleaded.
He felt a gentle grip on his right forearm.
"Max, please." She shook his arm. "Please, stay awake."
Max opened his eyes because she sounded so anxious, so caring. "What's your name?" he asked, and swallowed hard against the dryness in his mouth. "Who are you? My wife?"
In a flash, hurt rushed into her dark blue eyes. "Rachel. I'm Rachel." She mustered up a smile. "I'm your sister. And you're not married."
"He knows that. Don't you, Max?" the man insisted, taking a place on the other side of the bed.
Now what? Another face? Another person he couldn't remember. "Who are you?"
Instead of hurt as he'd seen in the woman's face, the man's expression delivered a message of annoyance. "Damn. This is impossible. We can't have this. Rachel, we have to do something about this." He fixed another stare on Max. "I'm your father. I'm Ellis Montgomery."
He could have been saying, "I'm the man in the moon." Max didn't know him. He wasn't too sure he wanted to know him. "I'm tired." Anger and fear had him in their grasp and he wanted only to be alone. His mind was so empty. He'd tried to remember a day, a minute from his childhood, but nothing came to mind. Nothing. He swallowed down the pressure tightening his throat. He needed these people to go before he did something stupid, before he lost it. "Just leave me alone, damn it."
Standing by the nurses' station, Samantha Carter heard the raised, angry male voice. She knew it belonged to Max Montgomery. She'd hung out at the Medical/Surgical Unit, waiting to talk to the doctor of one of her patients and had listened to the gossip. Max Montgomery had regained consciousness after two days.
Rich. Handsome. Arrogant. Hard-as-nails and ruthless in business. Impossible. Those were the words people used to describe him. A few more could be added since his accident. He'd broken an arm, and while medication kept the pain at bay, he'd no doubt be ornery with the cast on his arm hindering his every movement.
If he was difficult now, she figured he had a right to be. She'd heard that he also had amnesia. That sometimes happened after head injuries. She assumed it was a temporary condition. Regardless, it wouldn't be easy for a proud, controlling man to ask for help.
Samantha noticed the sister scurrying from the room. Poor thing. Quite pregnant, she looked ready to burst into tears. Often the problems of illness proved just as difficult for family members as for the patient.
"He could be the town's most eligible bachelor," one of the nurses gushed. "So handsome."
Samantha agreed. She remembered seeing him at the bank. With chiseled good looks, raven-colored hair and broad shoulders, he had only to walk into a room for people to notice him. He held himself tall and strode with an air of arrogance as if he knew he was right--always.
But Samantha hadn't expected their paths to ever cross. He was Mayor Ellis Montgomery's only son.
She was Samantha Carter, Teresa Carter's love child. He'd attended the finest schools; she'd gone to the one across a field from the trailer court where she lived. Theirs were completely different life-styles.
Turning, she found herself the object of Shirley Cassidy's attention, though the head nurse was talking to Rachel Montgomery Henderson.
"She doesn't knuckle under easily?" Rachel asked.
"Not that one," Shirley assured her, and gestured in Samantha's direction.
Sam laughed and started toward them. "Are you talking about me?"
Shirley met her halfway. "I heard you're between jobs."
Sam had considered applying for a position as a physical therapist at Whitehorn Memorial. Therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation was her specialty, but if she could find something with a more flexible schedule, she would prefer it to the ten-hour hospital shift. "Did you hear about something?"
"Rachel Henderson is looking for a private nurse for her brother," she said, pointedly looking at Rachel, who was only feet away now. "I'll leave you two to talk."
"Thank you, Shirley." Rachel turned the smile on Samantha. "Shirley said you've lived here five years."
"Yes, I've been around. Sometimes I work in Big Timber or Billings." Sam wasn't certain Rachel had heard her, because as the town's mayor came out of his son's room, her attention shifted.
Known as an affable and loquacious man, he delivered a good morning to a nurse passing by. A politician above all else, he would present a public face no matter what was happening in his personal life. "Rachel," he called to her.
Rachel answered with a nod. "Be right there." Her gaze returned to Sam. "Perhaps I could meet you at the Hip Hop, and we could talk."
"Fine." Sam brushed back strands of her curly red hair. She had planned to leave the hospital in a few moments, anyway, to stop in at a former patient's house. "One o'clock, Mrs. Henderson?" she asked, to give herself time for her plans.
"Perfect. And please call me Rachel," she insisted.
As Rachel joined her father, Sam waited to say goodbye to Shirley.
She was nearby completing a conversation with Gavin Nighthawk. A good-looking Native American, the doctor turned the heads of several nurses as he strode to the elevator.
Slipping her purse strap over her shoulder, Sam waited another moment for Shirley to finish making a notation on a patient's chart, then waved and gave her a "See you." She headed to her car and made her way through town, her thoughts on her former patient.
Billy had needed extensive physical therapy after an accident had caused him to be tossed from the bed of a pickup. He had endured several operations and months of physical therapy. But at thirteen, Billy was unstoppable.
Within ten minutes Sam was braking at the curb in front of his parents' house. Pleasure swept through her the moment she heard the thumping sound of a basketball. When she neared the house, she saw Billy outma-neuvering his brother to the net. Moments like this, when she witnessed a patient resuming his life, gave her the most joy in her work.
"Sam! Hi!" he yelled when he spotted her. "Come on and play."
Smiling, Sam crossed to him.
At five minutes to one and in good spirits after her visit with Billy, Sam entered the Hip Hop. Janie Austin, the caf�(c) manager, waved before the door closed behind Sam. Janie, a slim woman, was in her twenties, married to Deputy Sheriff Reed Austin. Her blond ponytail swinging, the pretty manager hustled toward the cook's counter to place an order. Sam wandered past several tables before spotting Rachel Henderson in one of the booths.
"As I told you at the hospital, my brother needs a private nurse," Rachel said once Sam had ordered a cup of coffee. "You heard he has partial amnesia?"
There was love here between brother and sister, Sam decided. Although from all she'd heard about the town's bank president, he was as stingy with affection as he was with the bank's money. "Yes." Everyone was talking about Max's amnesia. They always talked about the Montgomerys. And someone with amnesia wasn't an everyday occurrence in Whitehorn.
"Fortunately he's intellectually the same. He was always so bright," she said with pride. "I'm glad he didn't lose that. But he has lost so much more. He doesn't remember anything prior to the accident."
Sam offered encouraging words. "In cases like this, amnesia is usually short-termed."
"Yes, we've been told that. We were so scared for him after the accident." Worry laced Rachel's voice. "When we learned he was okay and he was out of danger, I--we expected him to be in a foul mood."
Sam felt for the woman. Clearly she loved her brother, but didn't know how to reach him. From what Sam had heard about Ellis Montgomery's indifference to his children, she assumed he wasn't much help. This woman with the kind eyes was on her own.
Rachel twisted the napkin in her hands. "With the head injury, he shouldn't be alone until he recovers his memory."
She had a major problem. Sam easily guessed what it was as she detected a hint of desperation in Rachel's voice. Because of her brother's reputation as difficult and demanding, she was worried she wouldn't find someone to take the job.
Rachel spoke words that almost verified Sam's thought. "Quite honestly, he's not an easy man. He's distant. Solitary."
Sam could have told her no explanation was necessary. She'dheard the talk abouthim. "What man is easy?"
"Like I said, he's not." Affection blended with the amusement in Rachel's tone. "But he's a lovable pain."
Sam wished she could reassure her, could tell her that she understood men. Thanks to her mother, plenty of them had wandered through her life. One thing she'd learned early was that a man didn't handle illness well. She had no doubt that Max Montgomery wouldn't be any different.
"His housekeeper quit the day before he had his accident, and...and the cook left a few weeks before that. I don't know why. But that means you'd have to cook, too." Rachel rushed the words. "I promise I'll try to get someone hired as quickly as possible." Momentarily distracted, Rachel's gaze suddenly shifted toward a nearby booth, to the fortyish, rather slender woman with graying blond hair. "Hello, Kate."
Judge Kate Randall Walker smiled back. "Hi."
"Has father talked you into running on the ticket with him?"
Faint lines crinkled at the corners of the judge's eyes with her smile. "I'm not interested in a political career or being attorney general. How is your brother?"
"He's doing better."
"What he needs is a good woman to sweeten up his sour disposition. But what woman in town is bold enough to try?"
Rachel may have laughed with her but, Samantha noted, the seriousness never disappeared from her eyes. "There you are, Samantha," she said, resuming their conversation. "You've been warned about him. Do you want the job?"
Sam wasn't concerned. Her specialty was handling ornery patients. "I'll take it."
Sam had planned to meet Max Montgomery before his discharge date, but the two times she'd stopped by his room, he'd been off somewhere for tests.
So their first meeting came on the day he was to go home. While the doctor checked him out one last time, Sam waited at the nurses' station with a wheelchair. When the doctor left the room, she wheeled the chair into it.
It was one thing to see Max Montgomery from a distance--in the bank, he'd looked formidable in his gray banker's suit--but up close, he tongue-tied her. Six-feet-plus, lean and muscular, he was drop-dead gorgeous with an aristocratic nose and high cheekbones. Quite simply, he had movie star good looks.
Rachel was standing in front of a portable table near the bed, packing personal items into a bag. "Father should be here," she said.
Sitting on the bed, Max stared blankly out the window, toward the statue of Lewis and Clark outside the hospital entrance. A second passed before he rounded a look at his sister. "I might have lost my memory, but it doesn't take much to get the picture. You're about to make excuses for him, aren't you? Did you always do that?"
Sam thought she noted a flicker of hope enter Rachel's eyes as she looked at her brother. As if she recognized his abrupt, no-nonsense attitude as a familiar one for Max, making him seem like the man she knew.
"No, we never tried to fool each other about him."